GOD’S FREEDOM: FREE TO BE BOUND
It is a rather undisputed fact that God is free. Things become more intriguing when we ask how God exer-
cises this freedom. The following essay answers this question by starting with the New Testament narra-
tive concerning Jesus Christ, who is believed to be the image of God (John 14:9). In Jesus Christ, God uses
God’s freedom to restrict Godself. God is free to be bound. Taking into account God’s covenantal relation-
ship with humanity and the act of creation, which can be interpreted as God’s free decision in favor of an
independent world, God’s self-restriction appears to be a generous act of giving, determined by God’s all-
encompassing attitude of faithful love. God’s free self-restriction is actually an act of self-fulfillment.
Among the attributes that usually are ascribed to God, freedom is a very special one.
Actually, freedom is a state of being rather than an attribute. If we say that someone
is free, we express that he or she lives under certain conditions. We do not say what
kind of person she may be – forgiving, generous, courageous or whatever. Rather,
freedom means that she has the possibility to live without much restriction the life
she wants to conduct – forgiving, generous, courageous, etc. One may even say that
freedom is the precondition for someone to live out attributes at all. A prisoner, of
course, has attributes. He may be a loving and attentive father. However, being
imprisoned and seeing his children very rarely, his possibility to give love and atten-
tion to them is very restricted. We usually do not like restrictions, and that is the rea-
son why freedom is so much cherished by us and, conversely, why imprisonment is
a hard punishment. The less freedom you have, the less opportunity you have to
live your own life and to flourish according to your personal vision of life.
Freedom is a state of being, not a state of mind.
Still, it can be called an attribute.
It makes a big difference for a person to be free or not. And it is crucial for the judg-
ment of a person’s attitudes and actions whether he or she thinks and acts in free-
dom, all possible degrees of freedom considered. A robot may be called ruthless,
and hence be accredited with an attribute. However, properly speaking, we should,
rather than saying that the robot is ruthless, say that it was designed to be ruthless
Bundeswehr University Munich, Werner-Heisenberg-Weg 39, D-85579 Neubiberg, GERMANY
I admit that there is something like a “free mind” in the sense of a liberal mindset. But then, the
appropriate attribute of the person would be “liberal,” and not “free.”
2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Modern Theology 34:3 July 2018
ISSN 0266-7177 (Print)
ISSN 1468-0025 (Online)