Ask most residents of any “free world” country the question of whether freedom is a good or bad thing, and they will think that you are crazy. The common response would be: “Of course, freedom is good! Are you out of your mind?”
In many cases, however, freedom – at least the kind of freedom most people consider to be freedom – is a very bad thing.
For not all freedom is created equal. There are two distinct types of freedom: liberty and license, and people often get confused between the two. There is a very important distinction to make between these two types of freedom.
Liberty can be defined as the ability to do what is good and proper. More simply, liberty is “freedom of,” so to speak. It is the freedom to be virtuous, to do what is right without hindrance.
Liberty is true freedom. In the words of the famous saying, “Freedom is the right to do what one ought.” And freedom is impossible to achieve if one is impaired from doing what is morally right.
The nation of America was founded on the premise of liberty. The First Amendment guarantees the right of Americans to speak freely, to assemble, to petition, to publish, and most importantly, to practice their religion in peace, without government interference.
True liberty does not grant a man the right to be a menace to society. It does not grant a person the right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theater, to found a destructive cult that opposes the social order, and to publish lies and slanders in the press (well, not obvious ones, at any rate). The First Amendment does not give someone the power to do whatever he or she wants – one still must operate within the bounds of a moral order, even under a society that promotes liberty.
License, by contrast, means the ability to do whatever one wants. More simply, license is “freedom from.” It is the freedom from any restraint whatsoever.
License is false freedom. A total lack of restraint leads to anarchy and chaos, in any society. Imagine a city without traffic lights, stop signs, and policemen. Absolute chaos would ensue.
Now, of course, very few people would argue for complete license – because most people see that there have to be some rules in society. But moral license – the idea that one should be allowed to do and act as he or she pleases – is promoted in society by a host of virulent influences.
Because of these evil influences, modern society is based on the delusion that license is true freedom. Margaret Sanger’s infamous slogan “No Gods! No Masters!” is a perfect expression of the license that pervades our culture. Society rejects God and scorns obedience to any moral or natural law.
The irony is, license essentially enslaves one to sin. A person who cannot refuse his own out-of control desires is a slave, fundamentally unhappy and bound to a dark master.
Moral license leads to divorce, rampant STDs, illegitimate births, and many other societal ills. The fruits of moral license ultimately prove to be a drain on society and enslave their practitioners in a web of sin and sorrow.
But liberty – the true liberty that a Christian worldview provides – is fundamentally freeing. Kept within the boundaries of faith by Christ, the Christian is free to be truly happy as he or she explores the wonders of God’s creation, within the moral bounds which Christ has set. The Christian who follows God's commands is free - in a way which those who are slaves to their own desires can only dream of.