In Denial (but Towards Freedom)

Summer classes started today. Instead of doing homework, however, I read a good portion of Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart. I appreciated the following:

In the more classical understanding of the matter, whether pagan or Christian, true freedom was understood as something inseparable from one’s nature: to be truly free, that is to say, was to be at liberty to realize one’s proper “essence” and so flourish as the kind of being one was. For Plato or Aristotle, or for Christian thinkers like Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus, or Thomas Aquinas, true human freedom is emancipation from whatever constrains us from living the life of rational virtue, or from experiencing the full fruition of our nature; and among the things that constrain us are our own untutored passions, our willful surrender to momentary impulses, our own foolish or wicked choices. In this view of things, we are free when we achieve that end toward which our inmost nature is oriented from the first moment of existence, and whatever separates us from that end–even if it comes from our own wills–is a form of bondage…

This means we are free not merely because we can choose, but only when we have chosen well. For to choose poorly, through folly or malice, in a way that thwarts our nature and distorts our proper form, is to enslave ourselves to the transitory, the irrational, the purposeless, the (to be precise) subhuman. To choose well we must ever more clearly see the “sun of the Good”…and to see more clearly we must continue to choose well; and the more we are emancipated from illusion and caprice, the more perfect our vision becomes, and the less there is really to choose… As we progress we find that to turn away from that light is ever more manifestly a defect of the mind and will, and ever more difficult to do. Hence Augustine defined the highest state of human freedom not as “being able not to sin” but as “being unable to sin:” A condition that reflects the infinite goodness of God, who, because nothing can hinder him in the perfect realization of his own nature, is “incapable” of evil and so is infinitely free.

Not my favourite book, thus far in the opening chapters. But certainly a well put description of classic freedom, so different than our own modern understanding.

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