The perfect law of freedom

Abstract

‘The one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does’ (James 1:25). Freedom, in one sense of the word or another, is a central theme of the bible, the Old Testament as well as the New. During the Middle Ages, Christian theologians developed this theme into a doctrine of the natural right of freedom of the individual or natural person and made it into a moral and intellectual bulwark against the encroachments of the modern state. The classical liberal or libertarian tradition in Western political thought, from John Locke to the American Founding Fathers to Friedrich Hayek and Murray Rothbard, owes an immense debt to the likes of Thomas Aquinas, Jean Gerson, Francisco de Vitoria, Juan de Mariana and Batholomé de las Casas. Not coincidentally Christianity and classical liberalism together went into rapid decline towards the end of the nineteenth century and especially in the globalisation of European wars in the twentieth century. At that time, mass democracy and national expediency became the pretexts of choice to subvert constitutional limitations on the use of political power. The decline was not halted —was perhaps even accelerated—when Christians and liberals alike began to adopt ‘social doctrines’ and the advocacy of social policies that only confirmed the impression that there is no salvation outside the state. However, I do not intend to describe the historical linkages between classical liberalism and Christianity. Instead I shall try to explicate their relevant common concept of personal freedom and trace its role in some of the central stories of the bible, those that purport to be direct reports of the actions and words of God or Jesus Christ. I am not concerned here with the stories about the Jews or with the reports of what prophets and apostles said about the meaning and relevance of the divine words and actions. Important as they are for understanding the Jewish and the Christian traditions, they already are historical expressions and applications of religious beliefs rather than expositions of the story to which those beliefs refer..

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.Michèle Friend - 2013 - Les Cahiers D'Ithaque.

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