Unlimited? The Challenge of Human Freedom

Os Guinness and Ravi Zacharias. June 18, 2015, Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech University.


I have taken these notes to help remember and think about what was said. I suggest you fill in as needed for your use. Tod Kennedy




Dr Os Guinness at 9 minutes in the program

  1. Choice and history come together.
  2. Gathered consequences for a nation. In the USA we have a crisis of freedom. There is a cry for liberty.
  3. Crisis of American Freedom.  At the American Revolution, “Always been free, to be free always.” Today, people do not know what freedom is.
  4. There is a need to clarify what freedom is. It is the capacity to do what one wants.
  5. What kind of freedom?
    • Personal freedom
    • Political freedom
    • National freedom
  6. Freedom is internal and external.
  7. Freedom is negative or positive.
    • Negative freedom is from restraint. This kind is unsustainable.
    • Positive freedom is for something, to be something. For this kind of freedom you need to know who you are.
  8. The paradox of freedom. The greatest enemy of freedom is freedom.
    • It can become permissiveness and license which will undermine freedom.
    • People want so much freedom that they surround themselves with security which undermines freedom.
    • To keep freedom there must be
      • Structure and organization like law and constitution (e.g. Montesquieu)
      • The spirit of freedom (e.g. habits of the heart, Alexis de Tocqueville).
      • Morality which provides the required self-restraint. Referred to Washington and Jefferson.
    • Winning freedom. Example 1776
    • Ordering freedom. Giving it a framework.
    • Sustaining freedom, perpetuating our institutions. Requires the continuing through the centuries. The American Founders put much thought into this.
  9. Antidotes to the decline of freedom. The golden triangle: Freedom requires virtue, a faith, freedom to choose one’s faith (Guinness).
    • Freedom requires Virtue (character).
    • Faith of some sort (not established faith, but atheism will not do it). To the founders it was mainly the Christian faith.
    • Faith requires freedom to choose one’s faith (no one faith politically established).
  10. We need to challenge people to think through which faith it is that grounds and guards freedom for individual, political, and national. Three main streams of faith: eastern, secularist, biblical faith. Bible indicates that freedom is a gift from the creator. It is grounded in truth. Christian faith is unique for its deep grounding of freedom.

Ravi Zacharias at 34 minutes in the program

  1. John 8.31-32. People do not know the context of that.
  2. Tree illustration. Laws are the roots; the trunk is the political system; the branches are the outworking, the culture and our expression. Question with this: what holds the roots together? Roots can only be held if there is a rich moral soil.
  3. Books. The Roads to Modernity by Gertrude Himmelfarb; Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. French, English, American revolutions.
    • Today the cultural revolutions are actually breaking us away from the shared meanings of the past. Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the joining of freedom and religion.
  4. Two conclusions. If morality is at the heart, truth and meaning then become the result of that.
  5. Russel Kirk traces our roots to four cities: Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and London. Jerusalem and the moral law is being expelled.
  6. At 51 minutes. What did the moral law serve in the founding of this nation? In the beginning there was one law. Do not eat… means don’t play God. Don’t become the definers of good and evil. This is what we are doing today. We are denying the transcendent God. We are deifying ourselves. 1. Moral law of God. 2. Then Abraham, man of the tent and alter, law of faith. 3. Then the Decalogue. No other Gods. This statement came after “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. The primary condition to which we are called is salvation and redemption. There cannot be a righteous nation until we are a redeemed nation. Transformation of the human heart first. The moral law comes after redemption. Redemption leads to righteousness and this leads to worship. Redemption, righteousness, worship. Why is redemption necessary? Because of sin.  In Adam’s fall, we sin all.
  7. Answer. There is no other worldview that takes you to a hill called Calvary. Savior is dying on two pieces of timber for his creation. Grace and Truth are center piece. Grace of God in his forgiveness and Truth of God that sin is a destructive thing and you and I desperately need a savior.
  8. Why can’t we disagree without being disagreeable? Why such bitterness? Why can’t we sit down and discuss. The cross gives me the story of grace and asks that I should extend grace to who disagree.
  9. Life beyond the grave. True freedom cannot exist unless it is rooted in morality; morality cannot exist unless it is based in transcendent truth of the Judeo Christian worldview. Life is precious because it is the gift of God.  It does not end with three score and ten. If we want to build our cities with truth, liberty, and righteousness we will need the transcendent perspective of what the law can do and cannot do. What the heart needs is regeneration, and the hope beyond the grave ultimately brings complete justice as well. Liberty is a precious gift because life is precious and is given to us by God.


Question and answer at 61 minutes in the program

Question. What should we actually be doing now to be agents of hope today?

Answer: Os. The times in Nazi Germany. Christian cowardice then and now. Need courage. Ravi. Bonhoeffer moment for the church. In our families and homes it is vital to engage these ideas in our homes. How to graciously deal with these ideas. Also ask questions in our families. Those who evicted God find out the cost of what it meant for their cultures. We have had the freedom and now we are evicting him and are now finding out the consequences of what this means. So, courage for this hour and carry it into your families, teach them what the Christian faith is all about, why it is coherent, and how to answer the questions they are being challenged with.

Question. How should be take this information about freedom to those around us.

Os. Break with generationalism. Pass on the faith. People need to know the Lord, have a calling, deep theology, well thought out biblical worldview, real fellowship not networking, identify the problem of abandonment of evangelism for social justice, the rise of cynicism. Analyze the generation, break with the worst, and pass on the faith like Paul did to Timothy.

Ravi Means of engagement is different today. Ravi is reader, not a watcher. Find means to gain gain their attention. The more you ask questions the more you open them up to their assumptions. This will not all come at once. Overseas, people are taken up with social causes. Appeal to their sense. But, the heart must be changed if charity is going to help.

Os. Need to understand the modern world not only in ideas. (people live 50% of day before the triple screen). Need greater understanding of modernity.

Question. Tension between security and freedom.

Os, Freedom of conscience. Total change in religious freedom and freedom of conscience now. LGBT revolution, made a zero sum game. Anything that contradicts their freedom should be over ruled. Former liberals who are now highly illiberal. The popular right now over rides the traditional rights and now rights are only a matter of power. Destroys all human rights. Can’t give a foundation for freedom and dignity. We want to defend a right (freedom of conscience) that is precious for all human beings. Tertullian spoke of freedom of religion. Freedom of conscience is not on the level of the gospel, but is a precious right that gives everyone the same freedom. Understand the issues, be a persuader, pray.

Question. How do politicians balance out views to get elected. Freedom to believe or not believe.

Os. Now worldwide problems of sectarian violence and oppression. In US was good system. Now those who argue for sacred public square or naked public square. We should favor civil public square, public common good.

Ravi. Need freedom to believe and disbelieve. Then in the dialogue be free to explain which position is true and why. Islam is the fastest growing enforced religion in the world. No freedom to disbelieve. The USA used to be that way. Now it is changing.

Question. Is freedom possible without the image of God idea?

Os. No. Sam Harris says freedom is an illusion. In Bible, freedom is the gift of God in which we most resemble our creator. We need leaders in our country.

Ravi. This tragedy is worldwide. Story about leadership needed in which Prince Raj said that youth need models for leadership. For youth. Temptation is all around you. Draw the lines in the right places and don’t cross them. Pleasure always comes at a cost. For the right kind of pleasure you pay the price before you enter into it; for the wrong kind of pleasure you pay the price after you have enjoyed it. To the youth, you are under attack. Draw the lines in the right places so that your life can be spent in the proper investment and you do not need to try to recover what has been lost in the years gone by. Youth and leadership.


Moderator. Pray for the country and pray for the future.