In the question from the Christianity Today interview about Tim Keller’s new book on marriage, the New York pastor explains a notion of freedom that if applied to ecclesiastical vows and relationships might put a crimp in organizations like the Gospel Coalition.
Q. One of the paradoxes you talk about is how the commitment of marriage actually produces freedom: the freedom to be truly ourselves, the freedom to be fully known, the freedom to be there in the future for those we love and who love us. Why do you believe that the commitment of marriage is viewed as largely anything but freeing today?
A. Our culture pits the two against each other. The culture says you have to be free from any obligation to really be free. The modern view of freedom is freedom from. It’s negative: freedom from any obligation, freedom from anybody telling me how I have to live my life. The biblical view is a richer view of freedom. It’s the freedom of—the freedom of joy, the freedom of realizing what I was designed to be.
If you don’t bind yourself to practice the piano for eight hours a day for ten years, you’ll never know the freedom of being able to sit down and express yourself through playing beautiful music. I don’t have that freedom. It’s very clear that to be able to do so is a freeing thing for people, with the diminishment of choice. And since freedom now is defined as all options, the power of choice, that’s freedom from. I don’t think ancient people saw these things as contradictions, but modern people do.
Here is how Keller’s answer might sound in the voice of a confessional Presbyterians (italics indicated changes):
If you don’t bind yourself to the practices of a Presbyterian pastor for eight hours a day for ten years, you’ll never know the freedom of being a Presbyterian churchman. I don’t have that freedom. It’s very clear that to be able to do so is a freeing thing for ministers, with the diminishment of choice to participate in parachurch organizations. And since piety is defined as possible in all sorts of pious environments, the power of choice, that’s freedom from. I don’t think the old Reformed clergy saw these things as contradictions, but evangelical Protestants do.