So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ”If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.“ They answered him, ”We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:31-36
Perhaps no concept is as deeply rooted in the soil of American ideals as the basic human right to liberty. We hold freedom as a self-evident right yet remain scarred and haunted by a history which contradicted those fundamental beliefs. Our past makes the discussion of slavery and liberty extremely difficult.
Slavery is no abstract idea divorced from life’s biases and prejudices. It is a fresh wound easily reopened to conjure up offensive images of a dark past shamed and soiled by blood, injustice, oppression and violence. 1
Slavery and freedom are not only cultural but also extremely theological. The issues are certainly not foreign to the Scriptures. Freedom and slavery are common biblical images and themes. We can even trace a trajectory from the shadows of Israel’s emancipation and exodus from Egyptian enslavement to the spiritual deliverance from the slavery of sin and Satan found in the gospel.
The reality of God’s rescue and redemption from slavery shines forth as one of the brightest lights of biblical revelation, a beacon to all who are enslaved and oppressed, beckoning them to the free shores of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, assumptions and ambiguity abound in conversations on the topic of theological freedom. Because there is no universally shared definition of “free will,” the conversation needs much clarification.
In this series of posts, I hope to wade through waters dark and murky to arrive at a biblical understanding of free will. Each day this week, I will dive deeper into this stream of theological conversation hoping to fathom the beautiful, mysterious and sometimes difficult depths encountered.
1 Those interested in the biblical view of slavery might consider reading “Slavery in the Scriptures.”