“Freedom” is a term we hear used quite a bit these days, especially in view of what’s taking place in many volatile regions nations throughout the world. I’m reminded of the oft heard expression, “Freedom isn’t free.” Yes, freedom is a tremendous gift that we, as Americans, are attempting to ensure and safeguard not only for ourselves, but also for individuals who live under the dictatorship of oppressive regimes.
There is, however, a theological understanding of the term “freedom” that many individuals have never really considered. I’m talking about the teleological, or goal-oriented nature of freedom. First, allow me to say that freewill, along with intellect, are gifts that have been freely given by God to human persons for a very specific purpose. These two rational faculties comprise what we often refer to as the immortal soul of man. Moreover, these two rational faculties are precisely what make us “persons.” A “person,” by definition, is a being who possesses the two rational faculties of intellect and freewill. Moreover, as far as we are aware, there exist at least three types of persons: human, angelic and Divine. Each of the Three Divine Persons of God are truly distinct Persons who share a common Divine Nature. Thus, while they are truly distinct from each other as Divine Persons, they are, however, perfectly One in the most perfect bond of supernatural, divine Charity. And while it is an absolute truth of the faith that God is perfectly free to do whatever He would like to do, it is additionally true that God cannot contradict His own Nature as Love. Thus, God could never command us to hate Him, for this would constitute a violation of His perfectly loving nature. Thus, we must understand that the attributes of God are not mutually exclusive. To further illustrate this point, most theists agree that God is all-powerful, or omnipotent. Further, most theists would agree that God is perfectly free to do whatever pleases Him. Yet, God’s freedom cannot be separated from His perfectly loving nature. Thus, as stated above, He could never perform an act that is intrinsically evil, or command one of His creatures to perform an act that is intrinsically evil. He is bound by His own perfectly loving nature.
When we come to understand the teleological nature of God’s Divine Will, we will better be capable of understanding our own freewill, which is an image and a reflection of God’s Will. The will of God is not arbitrary; rather, it is teleologically oriented to the good, which is always love. So too, the human will, in imitation of the Divine Will of God, is most perfectly “free” when it is choosing for the sake of the authentically good; that is, when it is choosing to love. Just as God’s freedom of will is not arbitrary, neither is human freedom, which has been created in the image of God’s perfect freedom, simply the ability to choose from among so many differing and varied options, good and evil amongst them. Certainly, as a most unfortunate consequence of the Original Sin of Adam, human freedom can, indeed, be exercised in a perverse fashion, and this is precisely the case whenever the person chooses evil and sin over love.
Having addressed this issue of the true nature of freedom, we are in a much better position to understand the theological reality that when a person dies and has been purified of all of his or her inordinate attachments to sin and has paid the price for sins committed and forgiven, a person’s freedom is brought to perfection in heaven. Due to the mistaken, secular notion of freedom as the mere ability to choose one from among several options, whether good or evil, many otherwise informed Catholics have this mistaken notion that the human person “Loses” his freedom in heaven because he is no longer capable of sinning. This line of thinking presupposes the veracity of the secular notion of freedom. It is quite the opposite; in heaven, our freewill is brought into perfect alignment with the Divine Will of God, making it possible for us to exercise the gift exclusively for the purpose it was given in the first place. Freedom of will was given to persons in order that they might freely choose for the sake of the good. Thus, freewill is a means to the end of choosing for the sake of the good. The secular definition of freedom proposes that freedom, rather than being a means to an end, is an end in itself. We would do well to disabuse ourselves of this latter, secular definition of freedom, for it detracts from the reality that God gave us this gift for the sake of choosing to love Him and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
At this juncture, it is possible to understand Crist’s salvific mission as one of setting the captives free; for, without Christ’s life, death and resurrection, it would not be possible to live according to the Divine Law as set forth in the Decalogue, nevermind attain the lofty heights of pure, unselfish agape and that divine perfection to which we have been called as adopted sons and daughters of the Father through, with and in Christ, as articulated in the Beatitudes.