(I'm reading through Tim Keller's book "The Reason for God" and taking my small group through a DVD study based on the book. Over the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about the book, the study, and the discussions occurring in my group.).
Is Christianity an oppresive religion? Is it a bunch of confining rules that stifle human freedom and flourishing? That was our topic of discussion for this week.
One of things we noted as we talked was that freedom is a bit more complicated that it first appears. For example, if I want to lose weight, I have to restrict myself from certain foods. Yet this restriction leads to a life of health. If I want to learn how to play a musical instrument, I have to restrict myself to practice, practice, practice. But this practice leads to an expansion of freedom of musical expression that would not be possible without restricting myself to a training regimen.
Granted, restriction alone doesn't lead to freedom. Discipline has to be congruent with one's nature and capacities. My wife is naturally gifted in artistic expression. Several years ago she confined herself to the island of Manhattan and for two years, she attended The Neighborhood Playhouse, where she submitted herself to a training regimen that brought to fruition the gifts and abilities that she possessed. If I had gone through the same process, the results would have been terrible! The restrictions my wife placed upon herself were congruent with her nature and thus brought her great freedom of artistic expression.
In light of this reality that freedom often comes through the right kinds of constraints, Keller posits that, "If we only grow intelectually, vocationally, and physically through judiciuos constraints-why would it not also be true for spiritual and moral growth? Instead of insisting on freedom to create spiritual reality, shoudn't we be seeking to discover it and disciplining ourselves to live according to it?"