Areopagus Lecture 6
D. C. Schindler: “For Freedom Set Free”
In the Fall 2019 Areopagus Lecture, “‘For Freedom Set Free’: Retrieving Genuine Religious Liberty,” philosopher D. C. Schindler spoke about the Christian notion of religious liberty as a synthesis of the Jewish, Roman, and Greek traditions. In the Jewish tradition, one receives a theological understanding of freedom understood as freedom from bondage and from sin in order to more fully enter into a loving covenant with God. In the Roman tradition, freedom exists in relation to one’s membership within a polis and is established through legal codes. This objective political presence is internalized and personalized through the education of virtuous citizens. And in the Greek tradition, freedom is understood in relation to nature, on the one hand through membership in a tribe by kinship, and on the other hand, through participation in the Good, which is at the source of all being. Christianity, argues Schindler, is precisely the “receiving, healing, and transforming [of these] three distinct traditions” and Christian freedom is their “flourishing integration.”
Modern liberalism, by contrast, has stepped outside of the Christian tradition and its synthesis of Jewish, Greek, and Roman thought. While religious freedom as it is understood today gives the impression of being amenable to religious faith of all types by claiming neutrality, it does so only by making all religions matters of private faith and preference. Religion, which historically has made ultimate and authoritative claims about reality, is reduced within modern liberalism to mere opinion. Through institutional obstruction of ultimate claims, modern liberalism threatens not only our protection from coercion, but ultimately the very meaning of nature, human and otherwise.
When St. Paul tells the Galatians that “for freedom Christ has set us free,” argues Schindler, he is not only referring to freedom understood in moral or theological terms, but also to freedom that is political and historical, as well as natural and metaphysical. In other words, the freedom for which Christ has set us free encompasses all of reality and all of human experience. $4
D. C. Schindler on retrieving genuine religious liberty
“[W]e generally tend to take the conventional notion of religious liberty for granted as foundational and then we consider the Christian faith, or any other religious or even anti-religious conviction, from within the parameters of this conventional notion. But we need first to ask whether the conventional notion of religious liberty can do justice to the authentically Christian notion of freedom.”