One of the best sentences I have read in the last few months comes from Rufus Burrow and his Introduction to Personalism. Briefly, personalism and more specifically theistic personalism is a philosophical approach which considers the personhood of human beings as being rooted in the image of God who is the Supreme Personal Being. Human beings in whatever capacity they exist, are persons who possess infinite dignity and value. Our quality of being is not determined by social, economic, religious, or political qualities which change for a number of reasons. Rather, our quality of being is deeply rooted in a transcendent and personal Being.
As I have been rereading his work, I was struck by a concluding statement about the circumstance in which each human being has come into existence. Dr. Burrow summarized, each human being was created in freedom. We are created in freedom because God is a free being.
What does it mean to be free?
I suppose being free involves the experience of carrying out decisions which are in one’s best interest and brings about satisfaction. Freedom therefore involves freedom of thought, expression, movement, and participation. Reflecting back on God existing as the freest being of all beings, God is not restrained in thought, expression, movement, and participation. If it were at all possible, God’s freedom would be restricted if there were present any principle or idea which restrains God from freely pursuing self-interest and satisfaction. This leads to my next question, “Does being free mean doing anything I desire?”
We can do anything we desire to do if we possess the capacity and human capital to do as such. At the same time, I understand freedom which aligns with and affirms the dignity of the being requires carrying out activities which are corresponding to human dignity. Human beings are most free when thoughts and actions affirm the best of who they are as persons and affirm the dignity of others as well. Again, God as the Supreme Personal Being exists in freedom and acts freely for self-interest and satisfaction by acting within our reality and guiding human beings towards actions which reflect freedom and support the dignity of human beings. I may desire to silence a person because they have demonstrated violence against me. My desire actualized will meet my self-interest and satisfaction because the purveyor of violence is now unable to continue his or her action towards me.
Is this thought and action in line with true freedom?