by Adam Tucker
We recently celebrated our nation’s 238th birthday with great pomp and circumstance, fireworks, hotdogs, and parades. With all the problems we have in this nation, I still believe we are one of the greatest nations in the world, and it is good for us to celebrate the freedom God has allowed us to enjoy. As Americans, we cherish our freedom. We sing “let freedom ring,” and we fight for the freedom of others.
Strangely, in the midst of celebrating and valuing our freedom we have begun to misconstrue what it means to be free. We tend to think of freedom as being free from something, and that is true to an extent. In our culture, however, we tend to equate being free from something with being free to do whatever I want because I am free from others’ oppressive and limiting views.
We see this everywhere now. The stream of buzzwords like “tolerance,” “equality,” and “choice” is endless. Slogans like, “Don’t like abortion, don’t get one,” “Don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one,” “Keep your opinion out of my bedroom,” etc. get thrown around as if bumper sticker phrases offer a significant rebuttal to deep philosophical arguments. Ah, but that’s the problem isn’t it? Where are those making the deep philosophical arguments regarding the cultural issues we face today?
The church, along with the culture, has lost the art of thinking well and it has often failed to remember that freedom is much more than being freed from something, even if that freedom is from sin. Ultimately, freedom means much more than this.
Before we can understand this deeper view of freedom we need to understand another very misunderstood word in our culture, good. What is good? It is not whatever I happen to like, choose, or decide. Classically, good means something very specific. Good is that which fulfills the end/purpose of something according to its nature, that is, according to what it is. Something is good to the extent that it is perfect, and a thing is perfect to the extent that it lacks nothing it should have according to its nature.
For example, the purpose of your eye is to hear. No? Oh, I’m sorry, it must be to taste then. Still not right? Very good. You’re well on your way to being a good philosopher. We all know that the purpose of your eye is to see. Thus, an eye that sees as well it should is a “good” eye. My friend is experiencing the early stages of glaucoma. Thus, his eyes do not function as they should. They are not perfect because they are lacking something they should have, thus his eyes are not as good as they should be.
Notice that in order to know what constitutes the good for some thing we must know what that thing is. We know what eyes are (they’re nature so to speak), thus we know what makes for a good eye. Note that this is completely objective. It doesn’t change regardless of what someone thinks their eyes should do or whether or not they like their eyes. All creatures, us included, desire whatever we take to be good for us. We seek our perfection. Hold on to that, as we’ll be coming back to it momentarily…
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