We are free yet bound to God

Dr. John McKenna
[Updated 7/8/2019]
Dr. John McKenna (deceased), former Grace Communion International doctrinal advisor and Grace Communion Seminary faculty member had a keen interest in the meaning and nature of the freedom that is ours in Christ. Here is an excerpt from a book he was writing prior to his death:
From time to time there has arisen in the course of human culture ways of thinking in which aspects of reality that are naturally integrated have been torn apart from each other, with damaging effect in different areas of knowledge. (T. F. Torrance, "The Mediation of Christ," p. 1)

We are free yet bound to God!

The concept of freedom is both complex and simple. With our thought and experience in this world, it possesses a certain simplicity and complexity. We explore the full range of the complex of freedom’s simplicity and complexity aware, perhaps profoundly, of the great diversity in our considerations of this concept. Freedom may mean something different to the various peoples among the nations upon the planet. What freedom means to the great diversity of humanity here is a study in complexity. To the Greeks, Philosophers and Scientists, the concept of freedom did not signify the same as it meant to the Jews and to Judaism. Freedom for an American Citizen of the United States is not the same as freedom is for Russians in this World. Indeed, what freedom means among the complex economies, religions, and governments among the nations is a subject that need to be explored in our time. But we do not seek to survey the significance of the concept of freedom here. We will seek to grasp, as best we can and as far as we may, the concept of freedom as expounded for us in the Revelation of the Biblical World that we may read in the Holy Scriptures of Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ, where freedom and law are bound up together with one another in a very specific or certain relationship the rationality of which is to be heard only in God Himself, the God of Freedom and Law in our times. We would thus attempt to articulate that concept of freedom whose unique and singular significance possesses that rationality we may understand as a prophetic Word: ‘We are free yet bound to God.’


The assertion of the premise that our freedom is bound to God and His Freedom with us is rooted in the belief in Him. ‘Unless you believe, you will not understand.’ There is thus something that is belief in the prophetic inherent in our premise. We are free to seek to relate human freedom to God as the God of Freedom. We will argue that the Freedom of God is the ground on which we may stand and learn to hear what freedom is between us, between God and Man in God’s Creation. Here He is divinely free to make Himself known as present with and even in us, in our thinking and experiences in the space, time, and movement in His World. We assert that we possess our existences and we breathe the air that surrounds the earth with a freedom that is the gift of God with us. Under the sun and moon and stars as His gift for our lives, we cannot assert our freedom is an absolute freedom.

Though our freedom belongs fundamentally to life and breath, our freedom is to be understood as a relative freedom. We are not free to live without breathing air. We are not free to live understanding our freedom as an absolute free will. We are free because He wills us to be free with Him. We will not allow this fact to escape our attention. We will embrace the prophetic dimensions of that rationality which is inherent in the Biblical Concept of Freedom. Our efforts in seeking to understand the actuality of the real nature of freedom in our times will seek to follow the Revelation of His Word with us today. We will seek to asset the truth of our proposition: ‘We are free yet bound to God.’

The power to understand the freedom inherent in who we are in our times is not rooted in the grounds of our own existences. Our freedom cannot be contemplated except in some real created and creative relationship with God. The Order of Truth in the nature of the Physics of the Universe belongs to the Freedom that is God, the Creator, with us in His Creation. Our freedom without the Order of Truth that we find in the nature of the World is lawlessness, an anarchy without verifiability here, without the possibility of the ultimate rational ability with the World. Our concept of freedom must embrace some real and rational relationship to Law and Order we discover in this World. If we discover and understand the lawfulness of the physics of the Universe, what is the relationship of this Truth to the freedom we possess in it? What is the function of free will in relationship to the Law and Order we experience here? Our prophetic assertion that ‘We are free yet bound to God!’ would embrace both freedom and law or order. We would deny with this prophetic dimensions any dualistic notion of an abyss between the two, law and freedom, inherent with the reality of the nature of the Cosmos of the World. We want therefore to penetrate as deeply as possible and as best we can into the very nature of the problem of the relationship between freedom and truth and God.

The Law is the term most often invoked in order to define the Revelation of God with us. This language has its origin in the Judeo-Christian Doctrine. But this language has been developed with the interaction of pre-Christian Judaism and the Greco-Roman World established with Alexander the Great and those who followed in his footsteps. This involved a history when the doctrine of God itself faced a great transformation. Even the nature of the World in general received a new impetus for understanding the nature of its space and time and matter. It is fair to say, I believe, that the profundity of these changes still continue to challenge our concepts today. We still struggle discover that integration of the dynamics of the nature of the physics of the Universe with the static and idealistic rationality of law and order in our times. The problem of the relationship between Law and Freedom, it is fair to say, moves among us yet unresolved in any definitive manner. Perhaps it is not meant to be so resolved.

When we turn to understand the concept of freedom in the Biblical World, we read there that the Law is that Gift of God’s Revelation in the way of freeing His People from their bondage to the false gods among the nations. With the Believer, freedom that is of God gives His People a certain freedom for following Him in His Creation. The experience of this freedom establishes for His People a whole new world of language, economy, government, and religion. To triangulate together the existences of God, Man, and the World is to possess the freedom to experience a development that is of the prophetic Word of God with His People in His Creation. To change our concepts of freedom with the apocalyptic power in these transformations is to challenge the very depths of the nature of who we are here.  It with this kind of history that the place of our beings in existence most deeply challenges our ability to explain the truth of freedom even in the laws and orders we find with Israel among the Nations in the Biblical World, where old concepts are confronted with new demands upon our humanity with God in this World. The Gift of Freedom is bound up here with the Gift of Law and Order in the Truth of God’s Being with us in our times. The Divine Call to Freedom is given with a profound challenge to be free with Him. Freedom in Him in this way is a prophetic challenge to Man among the gods of the Nations. It is given with a freedom that is the justification of what freedom is with God, Man, and the World.

We understand here that the Freedom of God and the Freedom of Man with the Freedom of the World as God’s Creation is the ground on which we may stand and know the depths of the value of freedom in our times. We cannot allow this concept of freedom ever to escape our attentions. We must overcome any dualistic split between what is and what ought to be to determine our knowledge of the wholeness of the nature of the World with God. The nature of time and space and motion we experience as the World is a Cosmos that is of God, the Redeemer-Creator. The attention we give to the Freedom of God with us in His Self-Revelation as the One He actually is, even in His Eternity, is vital for us today. Who He is with us now is not different from who He is in Himself then.

Here, the Gift of grasping the dynamic nature of the relationship between the uncreated nature of God’s Being and Acting with us in His World and the created nature of Man as His Call to be His Servant in the space and time and motion the World is forms our humanity as persons belonging to the Person He actually is with us and with Himself. What does the ‘Beginning’ of the ‘Whole’ and the ‘Parts’ in this case of the Cosmos that actually is what it is with us? What is the actual ground on which we may stand to grasp and know the One on whom it all depends?

It is in this way that we come to face the Face of God with us.  It is in this way that we become willing to allow Him to question us down to the very bottom of our ways of thinking and carving up the reality of the nature of our worlds. It is in this that we may become willing to forsake the dualistic manners we assume to appreciate the unique singularity that is the Rationality of God with us over our presuppositions about Him. The nature of Created Freedom, Law and Order, or Truth is ever dependent upon His Uncreated Freedom, Law and Order, or Truth. The real relationality between them demands the priority of His Love and Will over all that we are or think ourselves to be. There exists no ‘a priori’ manner for our knowing and being here, only the ‘a posteriori’ knowing and being that is only the creation of God with us in our times. It is in this way that we may appreciate what has been given us in our knowing and being for that which is quite beyond our knowing and being, yet even more with us than we are to ourselves here. He is ever transcendent and ever present with His Knowing and Being in the Way of His Love and Will so that we are made to be free, theoretically and experientially, principally and empirically to follow Him who has truly made Himself present in His command of us in our times.

A convenient way of understanding this relational veracity between God, Man, and the World is with the notion of the ‘open-structured’ theory of experience with us in the World. The idea is that all that we know and do not know possesses an ontology of being in existence here. We are free in time and space and the motion of the World with God. The dimensionality here belongs to a freedom where we are created creatively with an impact upon us that is given only by God, the Lord of all that is actual. The relational wholeness of given things, visible and invisible, experienced sensibly and thoughtfully, beyond the sensible, is the reality we must face now. Man possesses as a Gift of God his created freedom in a relational reciprocity the rationality of which is rooted with and in Him who is the One He is as our Creator. There exists a relational veracity between us that must not be allowed to escape our attentions.

As the Uncreated Freedom of God is both from beyond and from within the Nature of this World as His Creation, Man in his created freedom is called to serve the One who is both with him and beyond him. Man is given to know that which is beyond his knowing and being. Thus, two freedoms---the Uncreated Freedom of God and the created freedom of Man---together are bound up uniquely with one another in a singularity that forms the ground on which our concept of freedom is to be developed. Creation that is of God, the One who is who He is with us, is who He is truly with and for and in us according to the Good Love and Will of His Being and Acting with His Creation. We need to develop a full grasp of the nature of freedom, the meaning and significance of this freedom with us, Jew and Greek, among the Nations of this World. We are called to to become able to explain our concept of freedom among the peoples of the Nations in the Truth of our Freedom and the Freedom of our Truth in this kind of reciprocity between the Transcendent and the Experiential here. We need to understand the Truth of Freedom and the Freedom of Truth in our times in the kind of relational reciprocity providing us with the capacities to grasp what actually is with us in this way.

It is the same as breathing the air that surrounds our planet. Freedom is as natural to our existences as air is to our breathing here. Human freedom and breathing air is analogous in relationship with one another. They belong to our common sense of things. From birth, our freedom is with us in this way, Freedom is thus both simple and complex as a concept. Freedom with us is both the profundity and simplicity of what we own as common to all of us. The value, the meaning and significance, of freedom with us air-breathing creatures, of our concept of liberty and justice for us depends upon the open-structure of our thinking in real ontological relationship between us and what is ever transcendent over us. It has been said about our knowledge of time that ‘I know what it is, until you ask me to explain it. Then I don’t know what it is.’ The essence of freedom, like the essence of the air that we breathe is like that. When we are asked to explain it, then the complex simplicity of its nature as a concept becomes fundamentally impossible for us. For this reason, I will seek to root my considerations of freedom in a ground that is found in the Judeo-Christian Tradition of the Church of Christ with and for us in our times.

Americans are well acquainted of the concept of freedom. The history of the United States cannot be told without our grasp of freedom in our lives. Ever since General Washington crossed the river to win our freedom from the rule of the British Monarchy over us, we have raised time after time the flag of our freedom in this World. ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’ This is the motto we ever invoke when we raise the flag of our nation. Human imagination here is rooted in the ground of what freedom is to mankind in this World. Being human is being free. Being human is to possess the will to fight for freedom with our humanity, like breathing the air around us. We do not tolerate lightly the tyranny of the tyrant. We would rather die than live under him. The tyrant is to be defeated as our enemy. He is in our eyes against what humanity is meant to be. Our fight for freedom may not always be what it ought to be, but it is always with us. Without freedom we will not live. Freedom and air are essential for our lives. They are inherent in the nature of our lives. We do not exist on this earth without air and without the freedom with which we are born.

In this way, we understand the essence of freedom as both common sense simplicity and a profoundly complex concept with us. Freedom as conceptual truth is not readily grasped and explained. It is a concept that is rooted in a ground that is both with us and beyond us. We do not produce the air we breathe upon this planet. We do not provide the ground on which our freedom may be truly understood and practiced. Our histories belong to the truth that transcends our making of it. Without the freedom of this truth we do not rightly live in our times. We want to explore, then, as best we can and as far as we may the meaning and significance of our concept of freedom today. I believe that it is vital for us now, when so much mistaken use of the concept of freedom flourishes across the World.

Well known is the problem we have with our freedom of being in existence what we are not meant to be. We are very often who we are not meant to be. We are what we ought not to be. To explain the way which we cherish our freedom, in spite of our problems, is not ever easy. Both empirical and transcendent dimensions of being in our existences, integrated upon this earth, are demanded. What do we believe when we believe in our freedom is what it ought to be? We may discover the answer to these questions in the Witness of the Holy Scriptures we read in the Judeo-Christian Tradition among the Nations. The Witness to God that we read in the Bible is be heard in freedom only. We are free to breathe and be free as we ought to be and we are free to read the Witness of the Scriptures to the Freedom of God with us as the One He is for us, and not nor never another, The One who is who He is in His Freedom for us is to heard in opposition to the gods of the Nations, where tyrants rule among the peoples of this World. Here freedom is a created reality with us meant to make us able to follow the One who is who He is and not another.

We learn that the Freedom of God with us is an uncreated reality for the created reality of our freedom in our times. What is in the way of freedom here is actually the deep and profound relationship between the created freedom that Man is meant to be and th Uncreated Freedom that is God with us. It is the veracity of this relationship upon which our freedom depends in our histories. We need to learn to embrace this uncreated freedom with our created freedom in our times. The making of our being depends upon the relational reciprocity of these freedoms and their integration in our times.  I believe we need to embrace this challenge of this kind of integration of our freedom with God. Our freedom is what it ought to be when we choose to embrace the actuality of the Freedom of God to be who He is with us. I believe He is in fact the ground on which we stand and understand that we are meat to know what freedom is with Him.

I want to explore the meaning and significance of the prophetic revelation of this proposition that lies in the heart of what freedom is with us: ‘We are free, yet bound to God.’ This is a principle rooted in the ground of the actual Being and Acts of His Revelation as the Free God He is with and for us here. Why and how this is the case in which freedom serves in time and times the intent and purpose of the Word of this God, and no other, must become the real grasp we may obtain between God, the World, and our Mankind under the command of His Word. This is that for which we want to argue in our essay of the concept of freedom. We want to understand the Uncreated Freedom of God with us as the created freedom of His work and love and faithfulness resonating with us in our times, relating one another here as individuals and members of our communities, not as opposite ideas, but as in the created and creative wholeness whose rationality is established by God. We must not allow to escape our attentions this kind of relational wholeness with the particulars of our nature with the Divine Freedom His Word is for us here. With this principle embedded in the God of Freedom, then, we may understand ourselves as free individuals in communion with one another and with Him who is the root and ground of all being and interaction experienced in this World. In this way, we will find ourselves free, indeed, to choose to follow Him who is with us to call us onto the path of the glory of His Being here with us in our times.

For this reason, I have entitled my arguments in the chapters of this book ‘The Prisoner of Freedom’. We cannot know what freedom actually is except as prisoners, prisoners of a truth and authority that exists in the power of the Word of God and His Freedom to enter into the nature of His World as His Creation and into the nature of our being and existences here. A certain objectivity here can never be ignored. Without understanding in the Light of His Freedom the Truth in our times of His Relational Veracity for us, we will to misuse the gift of our freedom with us. It the Light of the Voice of Freedom here that frees us from the darkness in which we exist without Him and for the Path of His Glory for us in His Creation. It is on this path of the truth of freedom that we may walk in step with the making of our humanity in this World. Off from this path, the significance of His Speaking with us will continue to escape our attention, not without consequence for us. When we imagine to employ our freedom against His Purpose we commit our lives to a self-destructive tempo from which we may never recover. When we choose not to follow Him with our freedom in our times, we will our own destruction, something today people think they know too well. Without becoming prisoners of the Prisoner of Freedom, we would invoke the truth of our nature against His Intention with us as the One who is the Divine Freedom of God on the Path of His Glory in His World. We would seek to use our freedoms for that which has no place in Him. We will remain committed to a world that is elsewhere than the place He has made for us with Himself. We choose to walk a hard road home without Him. We will to be elsewhere over being with Him in the freedom that is truly freedom in our times.

But when we will not allow the real nature of the Cosmos of His Creation as our home as Mankind to escape our attentions, we remain but homeless wanderers here in our times. We would deny that we have been made to exist in His Creation as His Adam, in His Image and after His Likeness, in the Seven Days of His Creation Week. We would misconstrue the ‘Good’ He has called His Creation to be as His Home for us in our time. We would refuse to act as His Witnesses, the Priests and Prophets and Sages of His Royal Reign over all that He has caused to be. We would in fact deny His Being with us in His Freedom to be for us in this World. We would deny the Prophecy of the Prophet Moses. We would deny the Prophecy of the Prophets of Israel. We would deny the Prophecy of His Beginning of all that is the Heavens and the Earth. We would ignore the Arm and Hand and Voice He is with us.  We would deny Him His Spirit’s care of what has been given to exist outside of who He is. We would remain deaf to the Word He is with us here. Rather than turning away from ourselves and seeking to follow Him as the One He is on the Path of His Glory with and for us in our times, we walk in our lives with our faces against His. We oppose His Authority. We ignore His Freedom to be with us as the One He is, even as the Redeemer and Creator He is of all that His Creation. We refuse His Intention of us. We forsake His Purpose with us. We deny His Face with us, His Freedom to come face to face with us. We walk away from the call of the Prisoners of Freedom He is for us, and we seek to be what we were never meant to be in the darkness without Him.

Thus, freedom is given to possess a unique kind of singularity the objectivity of which possesses a certain nature in the Cosmos of His Universe created as a Home for Man with Him. At the heart of the movement of the Revelation of God with us in this World as His Home for us, we may discover that Divine Willingness able gain our attentions and to give is real knowledge of His Being and Acting in relationship to Man in His Creation. What once readily escaped our attentions will now captivate our minds and hearts with who He is for us here. Then, we would discover who we ought to be with Him here. I will argue that, as prisoners of the Prisoner of Freedom for us, we are given to hear the call of His Freedom to our freedom, freedom making us willing to follow Him as the One He actually is for us is our freedom, To be prisoners of freedom in relationship with His Will and Love as the Prisoner of Freedom with His Truth is to be willing to stand under Him and know who we are for the first time in the darkness of the World without Him. We will do well then to seek to understand Him as the Prisoner of Freedom He is for us, the One sent into this World with the New Song of God in His Heart as the New Man of God’s New Creation for mankind, the Messiah of Israel, the King of His Creation, the Holy Priest, the Faithful Prophet, the Sage of Wisdom as our Salvation and His Justification of all that has been given life and breathe with a Destiny that is to be followed on the Path of His Glory in His Creation. We in fact belong to Him who is this One and no other.