BULLETIN ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY ONE
You may ask, If you have covered the God-man aspect of freedom assiduously, why not add a little more on the admittedly subordinate area outside this, in ordinary life, in terms of freedom ?
In reply, one would note that in one sense, the biblical model provides a template, a prototype, a display of what it is about, why it is as it is and how to relate to it. Follow this and there is a standard, a set of principles, a co-ordinated approach to living which follows. If this were to be rejected, the names of the options are legion. You can follow a religion, a value, a system of values, a philosophy, an aim and purpose in life, which springs forth from the hot geysers of offence, the warm waters of contentment, the desire for vengeance - perhaps in one smallish thing, leading on to a progression of waverings and wanderings. You may marry for money, ignore the colossal shock of such imposture on the wife, or for éclat, social impact and wonder why the wife is less than enthralled with the seedy unspirituality involved, the selfishness which makes mockery of love itself.
You can follow a movement, a person, a guru, your inclination, some intimation which appeals to you and become a type of moral flotsam and jetsam, or cling to one or two or more mini-morals, but no moral system; you can lie till you life is a subterfuge and deceive yourself in your cleverness; and in all these things, you can be fanciful, harsh, unrelenting, light, even rather frolicsome, unrealistic because of being tired of realism, or because you don't think and do want some kind of change, making yourself vulnerable to deceit, desperation and dissatisfaction direct, as if they were guiding principles, or through the appeal of others.
Hatred can possess or even obsess you (Hitler was rather gifted at stirring it up) and false hopes can rumple your judgment, as if Russian World War I soldiers returning home from a not so admirable result, were offered land only to land into the dictatorial madness of mere humans directing your thoughts and actions .. or else, suffering death, torture: being unfounded and ungrounded and so subject to every notion and mood, when under stress or in an exalted frame of mind.
Freedom is a wonderful thing, but only when the lines of it are drawn on paper that is there, in minds that consider, in terms of all the aspects of reality that are there: and ultimately, in terms of the moral mandate of God delivered with, to and for the human race. With this is the existential need to have the overall personal defect, as if of not having your 'car' serviced, or even made ready to run from the first, simply driving it.
Force is far worse, and normally is so ludicrous, some virtual ignoramus directing what is to be done, enjoying his power and ignoring his responsibility in a profundity of ignorance that is staggering as to its cost, as the imperious flashes of desire lead millions, and in the 20th century, to death and wounding.
There is room for a wide variety of divine care and protection for man, and for constructional requirements, to prevent vulnerabilities maturing into virtual curses, which is the position on earth at present, starkly thankless and deceived liberty having severed from God, and pavilions of protected sin having operated with enormous, spreading complications for centuries, proceeding to doom and dismissal for the earth, at length. It is currently making an enormously close approach to unlivability as predicted (Matthew 24).
For a world set like concrete in its wicked ways there is no cure, so that Christ's word was, I do not pray ford this world. And again, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Matthew 24:35).
It is individuals within the world who may be redeemed, so that their freedom is contained in a template for operating grace and meaning, their power is augmented by regeneration, their purity gifted so that not capitulation but victory attends their opportunities and dangers, and moving within the scope of amazing liberty granted, our race may look in some parts, more like trained spiritual athletes, and less like the confusion of endless conflicts, humiliations, exaltations, oppressions, and in short, more like those fascinated by not the appearance, but the reality... made by God, for God and equipped with capacity for love, mercy, patience, wise obedience to divine specifications and law, and delight in the life He has given, even if illuminated by the angry spotlights of those whose aim is to bring down whatever flies, as if the whole world were enemy territory. Indeed, as I John 5 puts it, the whole world lies in the wicked one.
As to the dynamics within man in this pollution of heart, predicament of destiny and surging unbelief, Romans 2 provides a summary account. There is a turmoil within the unbelieving breast. Discounting merely formalistic religion, Paul speaks of informal religion for its part, neither reaching the necessary goal of grace that saves. Are then the Gentiles many as yet without Christ, a peaceful plateau of contented rest ? Scarcely. Paul speaks of the inward thoughts of such, accusing and excusing themselves. Yes, I did right there, that was desirable, I could not really have done otherwise and so on, in excuses. But on the other side, there are pangs of shame, or sham, or corruption, or thoughts of cancer of the principles, even hypocrisy and so on.
These may be expressed (as in some autobiographies) or repressed, but there is a sense of contest, variation, the obvious that is not met and the transparent which is violated, and this at best can make them in some measure, "a law unto themselves"; but of course it is subordinate to their basic state: unresolved, a sort of variability in heart, whatever may be the outward persona presented to the world, or even to themselves. They are rather like guided missiles which have lost their control mechanism, or communication contrivances to source.
But, Romans 2 advises us, all this clutter, clatter and contortion will meet its due judgment when the day comes, in terms of the Gospel of the grace of God (Romans 2:4-16). There are aspects as noted in Bulletin 164, such as found in John 15:21ff., and there is motive as exposed in Colossians 1:19. However, whatever may be the outcome, there is the whole realm of the Gospel and its provisions, and these will duly be applied, by the God of all grace and justice. There is one ultimate criterion in this Gospel of redemption and it is either taken or not. There is no other escape (Hebrews 2:1-3).