Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Take What You Like, and Pay For It

I am spending Wednesdays on the blog talking about my new book Idol Thoughts. Of course my nefarious intention in doing this is to persuade a few of my legions of blog readers (hah!) to part with a few coins to pick up a copy of said book. As it happens, today is also my birthday, so just in case you want to give me a nice thoughtful present for that happy occasion, be it known that there is nothing an author likes better than readers for his writings.

Ahem. Enough with the sales pitch. Today we are looking at what I go into in the second chapter of the book, "Objections, Overruled." The book is about the power of our thoughts to enslave us and the need for liberation from this slavery by our immersion in the mind of Christ, made available to us in part by the Word of God. This chapter deals with a couple of objections to that thesis, in the good old Thomistic style of argument where such things are front-loaded in any debate.

Since I do want you to buy the book, I won't give you the whole content of the chapter. However, one objection I cover is the common one today that concerns the nature of freedom. Freedom means that I do what I want, period. Freedom of the mind means I think what I like. Freedom of the body means nobody tells me what to do, buster. And so forth. So it is wrong and at least borderline offensive to outline eight 'thoughts' that are actually slavery and to argue that true intellectual freedom only comes from submission to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Isn't this just more Christian intolerance and judgmentalism? H8R. Bigot. Fundy. Etc. (So goes the usual level of argumentative discourse in our elevated intellectual times.)

The answer to the objection, in good old Thomistic style, lies in making distinctions between two kinds of freedom, intertwined for sure, but one at the service of and necessarily ordered towards the other. There is first the simple freedom of choice that the objection considers. Namely, I can go left or go right. I can vote for Donald Trump (!!?!) or Marco Rubio (well, neither, since I'm Canadian, but you get the point). I can write this blog post and publish it, or walk away from the computer right now.

Simple factual liberty working itself out in a thousand little decisions we make each day. Is that not freedom? What else is there to add to this? So why is the mind not free in simply thinking what it wants to think about reality? To answer this we need to understand the simple fact that very many people seem incapable of understanding today, and so get into one terrible mess after another.

We are free to choose to think and do what we like. We are not free to escape the consequences of those thoughts and deeds. Nor are we free to negotiate what those consequences are, either. 'Take what you like... and pay for it!' This old proverb has always captured for me exactly what our modern world seems determined to deny.

And so we have the second, more essential freedom, the freedom that the first kind of freedom exists in service of. Namely, the freedom to become a person fully alive, expanded to the utmost potential of human being and doing. Every choice we make, freely, is either making us more free in this second and more vital sense, or making us less free. I can choose to jump off a tall roof, but I'm not free to choose much of anything after I have done that thing.

And this extends to the thoughts. To anticipate a bit where I go in the book, I can choose to live by the thought of anger, to allow my grievances and grudges, hurts and disappointments, to become the most important and most gripping realities of my life. I am free to do that. What I am not free to do, if I do that, is... laugh, love, live, relax, enjoy the beauty of a sunset, walk in freedom of heart and lightness of spirit. I am free all right, to be angry. But my anger enslaves me in regard to just about everything else that is worth anything else at all.

And it is like that right down the line. Freedom only makes us free when it is firmly allied with truth. And truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in this case the truth of "Love your enemies, forgive those who have wronged you, turn the other cheek."

Anyhow, I have lots more to say about all that in the book, so hey! Here's a thought! Buy it. And have a great day of freedom and joy in the Lord's love while you're at it.


  1. Happy Birthday Fr Denis!
    My mom actually just bought your book for Greg and I as thank you gift for watching their dogs : ) Looking forward to starting it! May God bless you today! Renee


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