Barth: Obedience is true freedom

The decisive point is whether freedom in the Christian sense is identical with the freedom of Hercules: choice between two ways at a crossroad. This is a heathen notion of freedom. Is it freedom to decide for the devil? The only freedom that means something is the freedom to me myself as I am created by God. God did not create a neutral creature, but his creature. He placed him in a garden that he might build it up; his freedom is to do that. When man began to discern good and evil, this knowledge was the beginning of sin. Man should not have asked this question about good and evil, but should have remained in true created freedom. We are confused by the political idea of freedom. What is the light in the Statue of Liberty? Freedom to choose good and evil? What light that would be! Light is light and not darkness. If it shines darkness is done away with, not proposed for choice! Being a slave of Christ means being free.

—Karl Barth, Table Talk, 37.


God bless the Reformed theological tradition, and God bless Karl Barth for providing such a succinct and compelling statement of the Reformed understanding of freedom as not freedom 'from' but freedom 'for.'
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Romans 6:15-23
J said…
"Being a slave of Christ means being free."

A beautiful paradox.
Bro. Bartleby said…
In real life, one doesn't hand in 'free will' in exchange for anything else, for free will is part and parcel of the package of humaness, and although one can speak of slaves and being slaves and I suppose slave masters, I think God through Christ does not extinguish free will, for that seems either wishful thinking or simply some sort of denial of or a redefinition of freedom. Perhaps I just don't like the use of the word 'slave,' for its real life reality has few, if any, redeeming value.