Freedom. Few words conjure up more abstract connotations. Like love, in the name of freedom people have killed, been killed and moved to Portland. Enshrined in countless songs, ballads and stories, to be free, it seems, is a universal good. However, as fruitful as it is as a source of motivation and inspiration, and as much as we all want to “live free or die,” behind the scenes, philosophers and theologians have always doubted whether it exists at all. At the heart of the debate lies a very simple question: who is responsible? Are we more William Henley or Alexander Pope, the captains of our own souls or hapless “bubbles on the sea of matter”?
- So if you’re going to be ultimately responsible for what you do, you’re going to have to be ultimately responsible for the way you are — at least in certain mental respects.
- But you can’t be ultimately responsible for the way you are in any respect at all.
- So you can’t be ultimately responsible for what you do.
Indeed. With Egginton, theological questions over the “bound will” have rarely been about what actually transpires on a day-to-day basis, because most of us are clearly neither robots or puppets; however, Swanson’s argument over where to place blame in the absence of free will comes closest to the beating heart of the enduring argument, because as inveterate moralists, and as the literature can attest, the only question of any importance to people is how to make sure that everyone (except for me) gets what they deserve.
As he notes, the Reformation brought this issue back to the forefront of theological discussion, and it has, in many ways, remained there ever since, because all of the arguments you’ll hear about imperative vs. indicative, law vs. gospel, participatory vs. forensic, angels vs. demons, inclusive vs. exclusive, etc ad naseum, (almost always) have their root in the same moral, law-infused soil.
As you might expect, there is a lot to say about this issue, because the existence, nature, limits and constraints of our freedom affects just about everything. In light its complexity, and because I wore braces for 3 years in Middle School, I am forced to break this post up into three sections: God on the Hook; the Law of Freedom; and Bound and Determined. Stay tuned!