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Lecture VIII: Freedom


This lecture, in position at the centre of Part II, is the centre-piece of the whole series. I have chosen the title ‘For Faith and Freedom’ because I believe that recognition of the importance of freedom is the clue which points the way towards making sense of all things, and that the finding and following of this clue is a matter of reasonable faith. In my fifth lecture I have tried to explain what I mean by reasonable faith, and have said what I can in justification of it. Now, in order to make good my position, I must give as careful an account as I can of what I mean by freedom, and of its origin, nature and prospects as I see them. For, as Mr. Weldon has pointed out, ‘freedom’ has long been ‘a word used merely to arouse emotion’. ‘“Promotion of freedom” and “restriction of freedom” are significant and useful phrases’, he remarks, ‘but they are also difficult and complicated to analyse’.1

I first approached the subject in my sixth lecture, when I asked you to consider our experience of what I called ‘freedom at its best, i.e. when, fully conscious of what we are doing, we make up our minds to do something and do it; when the explanation of why we have done it will be given in terms of the end we were aiming at’.2 I then went on to argue that this experience is not to be explained away as really being something else in disguise, that it implies the existence of two orders of events, the purposive and the causal, and that the purposive order implies a realm of genuine contingency which is intelligible to us through our experience of deliberately created chance.

For the exercise of freedom in purposive activity the causal order is as necessary as is a realm of contingency. If I am to be able to decide between this source of action and that, not only must it be open to me to do either one thing or the other, but the decision must be taken in a world in which I can weigh the consequences likely to follow in either case. The exercise of freedom is hampered by contingency in the field where certainty is required as much as by the reverse. I can decide to make myself a cup of tea because I can depend upon the stove to boil the kettle and the milk to come fresh out of the refrigerator. My freedom to plan journeys between Oxford and Glasgow may be limited by having to take into account such contingent events as strikes or snowstorms.

Whether or no the ‘causal sequence of things’ is correctly described by the use of the word mechanical is for our present purpose irrelevant. What matters is that it should be dependable, that events in it should be predictable. There have been pious Christians who have shuddered at hearing reports of progress in scientific research which widens the field within which events are discovered to belong to the causal order. It has seemed to them that the widening of the field of the causally determined involves a narrowing of scope for the exercise of freedom. Some Christian apologists have gone so far as to hail the advent of the quantum theory in strains which imply that to substitute indeterminacy for dependable causality in the world of physics would make it easier to believe in divine and human freedom. This is surely mistaken. Since for human beings the exercise of freedom requires a world of dependable causality, the wider the field of the causally dependable, the greater our power of control Over the events of the actual world we live in. So far from stunting it, scientific research may promote our growth in freedom by increasing our power of control. Progress in meteorology and radiophony have greatly increased our freedom of navigation by sea and air, and the study of psychology enables doctors to bring healing to mind as well as to body.

Mistaken as it may be for pious Christians to shudder at any widening of the field of the causally dependable, we must recognize that their underlying motive is probably fear lest that field should be on the way to being widened to include all reality, leaving no place for any real freedom either human or divine, requiring us to explain away our apparent experience of freedom as illusory. Enthusiastic materialists have indeed cherished hopes of being able to arrive at this conclusion. They stand at the opposite pole to those Christian apologists who cherish the thought of universal indeterminacy. Both seek to dispel the mystery of our experience by an undue simplification. Our problem is to make sense of a universe in which the occurrence of events is apparently due to the interaction of causation, purpose and chance. It is not to be solved simply by the elimination of any one of these.

Moreover, the notion that belief in God would be strengthened by an extension of the scope of indeterminacy in the created universe has its roots in a persistence of the deistic idea of creation.3 It presupposes the conception of the universe as a machine set in motion by its maker who then stands aside and only interferes from time to time when it fails to be working properly. The sciences are thought to study the independent working of the machine; belief in God comes from His revelation of Himself in His interferences, in events which do not fall within the causal sequence of things. God, as it has been said, is to be looked for in the gaps, i.e. the gaps in scientific knowledge. Hence shudders at tidings of the gaps being narrowed; hence rejoicing at rumours of indeterminacy in the stronghold of determinism.

The postulate we are examining has nothing to do with this idea of creation. For us, to think of the universe as God's creation means that He, who gives to it its existence, its various modes of behaviour, and its increasing richness and fullness of being, is continually active and revealing Himself in and through them all. Our method is to start from the empirical end of observing what actually exists and happens, to look for clues which may help us to see what is His will and purpose in it all. Prima facie out experience presents us with the interaction of causation, purpose and chance. Is it possible that as contributing to God's purpose they can be intelligibly related to one another, each really being itself? Or must we, in order to make sense of the whole, explain one or other of them as really being something else in disguise?

The point we have reached so far is that our experience of freedom, if in reality it is what we feel it to be, implies the existence of all three: it is the experience of purposive agents exercising their freedom of choice on a stage where causation and contingency both have parts to play. We must now examine this experience more closely in order to see whether it can really be what it seems.

The first thing to notice is that we use the word freedom in two quite different senses which are to be distinguished by asking with what they are contrasted. In the one sense freedom is explained by reference to the distinction between spirit and matter as those two words were defined in my last lecture.4 I then said that creatures should be thought of as material in so far as their behaviour is a passive functioning in accordance with forces acting on or through them, and spiritual in so far as it is the expression of their having made up their minds to do this or that. We use the word freedom to describe this ability of the spiritual being to act on purpose as contrasted with the inability of the material thing to do more than respond willy nilly to stimuli I shall speak of this freedom as freedom (a).

The spiritual being, free in the sense of being able to choose between different possible courses of action, may find that when he has made his choice he is unable to carry out his intention. The hindrance may come from some source external to himself, or from some internal weakness of character. Whatever the nature of the obstacle, it would be quite a natural use of the words free and freedom to say that on account of it the man is not free to do what he wants to do, that his freedom is restricted or possibly non-existent. When the words are used in this way it is taken for granted that the subject of discourse is a creature endowed with freedom (a). Freedom is not being contrasted with the natural state of material things but with the state of persons in slavery. I shall speak of freedom in this sense as freedom (b).

This distinction between the two uses of the word is crucial to the development of my theme.

The assertion by some idealists that their brand of determinism is compatible with freedom rests upon an equivocal use of the word which confuses the two. Their determinism springs from the fundamental principle that only what is rational can be allowed to be real. ‘Rational’, for them, does not mean falling within the causal sequence of things, but explicable either as self-authenticating in its goodness or as done for a good purpose. Whatever is apparently due to chance cannot really be so, for all apparent irrationalities must really be something else in disguise. What, then, is to be said to the plain man who is convinced that he is a free being and imagines that his freedom implies a realm of genuine contingency? He is shown (and shown correctly, as we shall shortly see) that freedom (b) is compatible with determinism of the idealist kind; that indeed freedom (b) will only reach its perfection when it arrives at the state of idealist determinism; that since this is the only kind of freedom that a wise man would think it worth while to be concerned about, and it needs no realm of contingency, he was foolish to be arguing for the existence of contingency in the supposed interests of freedom. This argument is an intellectual conjuring trick in which the plain man is entertained by a display of sleight of mind. He is distracted from his concern about freedom (a) by the suggestion that freedom (b) is the only kind of freedom he can really want. ‘No one wishes to be free from the compulsion of common sense and a fixed purpose’.5 For the trick to be successful he must fail to notice that while he has been under the spell of the suggestion the one has been substituted for the other.

From this it is clear that if the distinction between the two kinds of freedom is crucial for the development of my theme, the crux of the matter is the question of the distinct existence of freedom (a). This is denied both by the materialist for whom whatever exists must fall within the causal sequence of things, and by the idealist for whom the only possible kind of freedom is freedom (b). Yet it is the kind of freedom which the plain man thinks he has before the materialist and idealist philosophers get to work on him, and as often as not goes on believing he has in spite of them. Can we, on the hypothesis of the doctrine of creation, give an account of it such that it can be seen to fit in with the rest of our experience so as to make sense?

Freedom (a) apparently comes into existence at a certain stage in the creative process. Certain organisms, when they have arrived at a certain kind of complexity of constitution, find themselves conscious not only of being the subjects of the experiences that come to them through their bodies, but also able to choose between different courses of action in a world of causation, contingency and purpose. From the point of view of either materialism or idealism the element of contingency is an intolerable, an impossible irrationality; and things become worse when these creatures apparently use their freedom (a) to introduce fresh irrationalities by their stupidities and sins. Neither they nor their world can really be what they seem.

Now in studying the creative process we are studying (to use Collingwood's phrase) a process of scientifically knowable change. Collingwood, it will be remembered, contrasted our modern conviction that this is possible with the Renaissance and ancient Greek notion that only what will, so to speak, stand still to be looked at can be scientifically studied. The objection to contingency on the part of materialists and idealists seems to me to spring from their persistence in the outlook of the Renaissance and Ancient Greece. Here the postulate of creation may help to emancipate us from the shackles of bygone ages and help us to think more fully as men of our own time.

If there is scientifically knowable change, its phases cannot all be knowable in precisely the same way as objects of knowledge were held to be knowable before. When the object of our study is a process of development, we cannot at any moment take a cross section of it, isolate it from what went before and what will come after, make it stand still to be looked at, and then think that what we are looking at is the thing we set out to study. We set out to study an ongoing process; if we have arrested it in order to study it, what we have before us is a dead specimen, not the living reality. Let us grant to the idealist that ultimately only what is rational can be real, and that the criteria of rationality are non-contradiction and self-authenticating goodness. These must characterize the eternal Being whose existence we postulate in order to be able to evaluate what exists and happens in this world of space and time, and, being eternal, He can be said (if one may use the phrase without impropriety) to stand still to be looked at. But to assume that these same criteria can be applied as tests of what may be held to be real within creation is to beg the question raised by the discovery that within creation there can be scientifically knowable change. This is what we do if, taking a cross-section of the creative process at some one moment, arresting its development, we examine the dead specimen exposed to our view, find ourselves contemplating irrationalities, and conclude that they cannot really be what they seem.

I have argued, and am arguing, for the recognition of irrational elements as having a real existence in the created universe, as existing (to use the phrase quoted earlier from Dr. Hesse) ‘just as surely as chairs and tables and scientists and philosophers exist’.6 For the idealist distinction between degrees of reality I would substitute a distinction between modes of reality, contrasting the absolute rationality of God-in-Himself in His eternal perfect being with the incomplete rationality of the mode of reality which He gives to His creation.

This is no mere verbal change. When it is said that within creation chairs, tables, scientists and philosophers have a greater degree of reality than such irrationalities as evil and contingency, it is implied that these latter are to be explained by finding the point of view from which it can be seen that they are not what they seem, that they are the modes in which things with a higher degree of reality appear prima facie to our finite minds. The puzzle they present is one which is to be solved by thinking. In contrasting the reality of God in His eternal being with that which He gives to His creation, in saying that the created reality is such as to admit of the existence within it of irrationalities to be reckoned with as no less real than more rational elements, I am in effect denying that these, as they stand, can satisfactorily be explained by any process of thinking about them. It is not that we have see that they are really something else in disguise; they themselves have actually to become something else in order to become intelligible.

The created universe is an ongoing process in space and time. That is the fundamental characteristic of its mode of reality. Within this mode of reality creatures and circumstances change with changing times and places, and in changing may pass through irrational phases. These may be such that it is no good trying to find a point of view from which, as they stand, they can be seen to be rationally explicable. To demand this, and to complain that if it cannot be done, they cannot be what they seem, comes from failure to grasp the methodology of scientifically knowable change. Phases in a process must be studied in their context; some of them need themselves to be changed in order to become intelligible, their explanation must be sought in terms of the whole process in which they occur. And since we ourselves are living our lives as part of God's creative process, it may be that in our experience there will be things and events for the understanding of which we shall have to wait until the changes have been made.

I shall have more to say about this later. I want now to try to show how on the postulate of creation we can make sense of our actual experience of freedom, with all its irrational implications of contingency as well as of cause.


When the idealist says that if freedom is to be worth having it must be freedom (b), he is telling the truth. I am only concerned to argue for the reality of freedom (a) because I believe it to be a necessary presupposition of the existence within the created universe of freedom (b), for freedom (b) is the ability to carry out decisions which are made in virtue of our being creatures possessed of freedom (a).

Our actual experience is of freedom (b) in a very imperfect form. Not only is our control of the natural world, of events which occur in the causal sequence of things, very imperfect; we are hampered by defects of character, we may be the slaves of our passions or bound by the chains of our sins. I have already spoken of how progress in scientific research may increase our freedom by increasing our ability to control the forces of nature. I must now say something about our parallel need of increase in the ability to control ourselves.

It is a fact of experience that the more a man grows in goodness of character with its accompanying self-control, the more dependable and predictable he becomes in his actions. There has stuck in my mind an incident from a story which I read as a child. It was a story about the persecution of Christians in the early years of the Christian Church. The scene was set in the Roman Empire somewhere in the Balkans. Among those arrested for their faith were a husband and wife who were taken apart to be examined separately and persuaded, if necessary by torture, to sacrifice to the heathen gods. For a while the wife was left alone while her husband was being worked upon. Then her examiners came and told her that she might as well give in, do as she was bidden, and offer the incense prescribed; her husband had already done so, and it would save time and trouble for all if they need not apply to her the tortures under which he had given way. She indignantly replied that she would do nothing of the sort, that she knew they were lying because she knew her husband too well to believe he would ever do anything of the sort.

This kind of dependability is quite different from that of the causal sequence about which we were thinking a few moments ago, so different indeed that it deserves to be called wholly other. It is the same difference as that between the behaviour of a coin in the air and the behaviour of the sharper who has provided for the tossing a coin with two heads.7 The one belongs to an order of events which we observe from the outside, the other to an order of which we have a deeper understanding because we know it, so to speak, from the inside. There is all the difference in the world between not getting drunk because one is locked in a room with no possibility of egress to obtain intoxicating liquor, and not getting drunk because one is the kind of person who does not do that kind of thing.8

When we reflect upon our actual experience of imperfect freedom we find it to involve the apparent paradox that its perfecting would mean its development into the idealist's determinism, into St. Augustine's non posse peccare. The appearance of paradox is due to failure to distinguish between can't-because-won't and can't-because-prevented-by-factors-external-to-oneself. The extent of the difference between them becomes clear when we realize that the limiting case of the one is the perfection of freedom, of the other its complete absence.

Now think again of the whole sweep of the creative process; look at freedom as it comes into existence and develops in its spatio-temporal setting. It first appears as a characteristic of self-conscious creatures individualized through being the subjects of experiences that come through particular bodies. When such creatures cease to be moved entirely by a combination of external forces acting upon them and inherited habits of the species working through them, when they begin consciously to choose between different open possibilities of action, they have reached the stage in the evolutionary process at which creatures are endowed with freedom (a). In itself, as the idealists remind us, freedom (a) is not only irrational but worthless. We do not, however, isolate it and seek to evaluate it in itself; we think of it as a phase in an ongoing process of scientifically knowable change. Indeed, by the time that we become aware of it it is already developing into something further. It comes into our consciousness as involved in our firsthand experience of freedom (b) in its present imperfect condition. Here irrationalities multiply: contingency opens the door to stupidities and sins. But consciousness of the imperfection of our freedom enables us to form an idea of what it might be to have it perfected, and this prevents us from dismissing it as worthless. ‘If only’, a man might say, ‘If only I could completely control the world as now I can control it in part; if only I were free from the sloth, the cowardice, the selfishness, from all that in me holds me back from being always at my best.…!’ We know ourselves to be such that we can only find our own perfection in a life in which, freed from sins, stupidities and all irrationality, we of our own free will will inevitably express ourselves in acts of self-authenticating goodness.

Our understanding of the universe is that of finite minds who can only look at it from the point of view of their position within it. We have discovered it to be a process in which we exist at a stage in which it is given to us not only to live by the exercise of freedom (b), but also to reflect upon it with minds that can look before as well as after. We look back upon stages in which the whole creation appears to have moved in accordance with the causal sequence of things. We look forward to a stage in which there shall be creatures who realize their full potentialities as persons. We look back upon stages which conformed to the positivists' canon of rationality. We look forward to a consummation which will conform to that of the idealists. We ourselves come into existence and live our lives at a stage which is honeycombed with irrationalities, a stage transitional between the rationality of the past and of the future.

A few minutes ago I was saying that if we take seriously the conception of scientifically knowable change, we have to regard the objects of our study as themselves passing through phases of change, at any moment of their existence only explicable in the light of their past and their future. This is true of ourselves when, as now, we are the objects of our own study. What I am maintaining is that a man is to a large extent an irrational creature set in a world containing other irrationalities, that he and his world will both have to be changed in order to become intelligible in themselves. It is no good thinking that we can dissolve away these irrationalities by finding a point of view from which they can be seen to be something else in disguise. We have to accept them as what they are, and we can only make sense of them if we treat them as transitional phases in a purposive order, irrationalities allowed to exist for the contribution they can make towards the achievement of a rational end. In the creative process contingency, freedom, stupidities and sins play a part analogous to that of tossing up in the world of sport. Fair play is the rational and intelligible end to which tossing up is contributory. Can we discern anything analogous in our present situation which will throw light on its irrationality?

Put together three observations that I have made in reflecting on the actual nature of the universe, (i) To be spatio-temporal is the fundamental characteristic of its mode of reality, and this keeps bodies apart; (ii) creatures capable of exercising freedom come into existence as self-consciousnesses individualized through being the subjects of experiences mediated through particular bodies; (iii) the existence at this stage of imperfect freedom suggests the possibility of a further stage in which it shall exist in perfection. May we not conclude that our present condition, with all its irrationalities, is a phase incidental to the creation of individualized free persons? For this purpose the genuineness of the two factors, of the individuality and of the freedom, is equally important. The freedom must be genuine freedom, and it must be possessed and exercised individually by genuine persons. Tossing up is our answer to the question: ‘How shall we ensure fair play in our method of starting games?’ If without irreverence we may imagine God asking Himself: ‘How shall I enable creatures individualized as the consciousnesses of bodies, creatures which at present are behaving in accordance with the causal sequence of things—how shall I enable some of these to grow into genuinely free persons?’, we may go on to imagine His answer to be: ‘I will give their universe a mode of reality which will admit of the existence of the irrationalities necessary to provide the opportunities they need’.

Behaviourism has been described as a psychology based on the idea that for a scientific understanding of human nature the ideal observer would look down on the earth from a star as an entomologist contemplates a colony of ants. Imagine such an observer confronted per impossible with three objects of contemplation: a colony of ants, a community of human beings on earth, and a company of the blessed saints in heaven. I suspect that among the ants and the saints he would find an orderliness in glaring contrast to the confused muddle prevailing among ourselves. But his external standpoint, so far from giving him a better knowledge of his objects of study, would prevent him from understanding what is going on. He would not be able to see that the orderliness of the ants is due to each creature being moved willy-nilly in accordance with the co-ordinated habits of the race, while the orderliness of the city of God is due to the harmonious free co-operation of its citizens. The truth in behaviourism, and its value to the advertising profession, come from the fact that we begin our lives behaving like ants, and to a large extent continue to behave likewise in adult life. Its inadequacy lies in its failure to recognize that this life is our opportunity to grow into something different, into human beings and possibly into saints. The irrationalities of the present condition of our universe, the muddle and confusion with which we are surrounded, of which we are part, and to which we contribute, are incidental to our being created out of ants into saints.

Theories inadequate to cover a whole field may nevertheless have great value if, based on accurate observation of a part, they call our attention to factors commonly overlooked. Behaviourism may not satisfy us as a complete account of human activity, but we should be grateful to it for the light it throws upon our origin. So, too, with the pragmatism of William James. As I said at the outset, its espousal by F. C. S. Schiller led to his having to play a very lone hand in the Oxford of my youth.9 His contemporaries in the sub-faculty of philosophy could only see its inadequacy as an account of what is meant by truth, and he him-self, campaigning with the enthusiasm of the pioneer, was blinded to the limitation of the scope within which it embodied true insight. What I now want to suggest is that the pragmatism of James and Schiller and the instrumentalism of John Dewey call attention to a factor of real importance in the nature of things, but are misstated as theories of the nature of all truth. These thinkers had sensed the inadequacy of the classical and renaissance idea of the knowable for the science of knowable change; they realized that we cannot make sense of a changing universe by expecting it to stand still to be looked at, that we are often confronted by situations such that whatever meaning they have is in the first place a meaning for action which must be taken before they will become patient of rational definition and explanation. What explanation is possible at the moment is explanation of the action to be taken in order to achieve a rational end. Things must be changed in deed in order to become transparent to thought.

To look out on the universe at any moment in its history is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle turned out from its box on the table and partly put together. We believe that there is a picture to be discovered, but the pieces have to be put together before it can be seen. Meanwhile we have to do our best to find it out by study of the pieces before us and the fragments already assembled, for we have no finished copy on the lid of the box. In the present state of the universe its irrationalities are as real a part of its nature as are its jumbled pieces a real part of the puzzle.

From all these considerations it seems to me reasonable to draw two conclusions.

1. The universe, as it presents itself to us for our study, is more intelligible on the hypothesis of creation than in terms of either the materialist or the idealist metaphysic. Neither of these two have any room for the recognition of the irrationalities of our experience as really being what they are. By adopting a methodology suitable to a science of knowable change, and taking a hint from the pragmatists without subscribing to their whole theory of knowledge, we can accept them as phases incidental to the working out of a process, making sense as contributory to the achievement of a rational and intelligible end. We may believe and hope that in the long run the end will give satisfaction to both materialist and idealist—these two, like behaviourists and pragmatists, do good service by calling attention to real elements within the whole. From the materialists we learn to welcome the dependableness that obtains in the causal sequence of things, to respect the truth that nature can only be conquered by being obeyed. The idealist reminds us that we shall not find satisfaction for our minds until we pass beyond the acknowledgment of brute fact to the recognition of self-authenticating goodness. The truths for which both stand fit together and make sense in a universe which expresses the will of One who in Himself and in His creative purpose as a whole satisfies our canons of self-authenticating goodness, and for that purpose has given to His creation a mode of reality which includes the dependable regularity of the causal sequence.

2. The irrationalities which disrupt the orderliness of the creative process, which make it impossible to account for everything that happens either as falling within the causal sequence or as intelligible on grounds of inherent goodness, occur as incidental to the development of the exercise of personal freedom by finite creatures. It looks as though the bringing into existence of finite persons who shall be genuinely free is what the whole process has been leading up to. When we think of the process as expressing the will of its Creator we can use personal language and say that it looks as though this is what the process has been aiming at. My central thesis in these lectures is that to see the will to create genuinely free finite persons as the determining factor in our understanding of God's creative activity is the master clue to making sense of the whole.

Neither in revelation nor in creation is it for us to dictate to our Creator His method of action. Our part is to take as given what He has done and does and to try to understand it. Nevertheless, we can assert without irreverence or impropriety that God Himself could not give effect to this intention except by giving to His created universe a mode of reality which admits the existence of these irrationalities. If the finite creature is to be genuinely free as an individual person, his perfected freedom must be the expression of a character formed by the exercise of choice in a field of contingencies. A good man is not one who will go through the motions of goodness as a clockwork toy, when wound up, will go through the motions prescribed by its manufacturer. To demand that God should be able to make good men by some other method than that on which He is actually engaged, by some method more or less analogous to that of the manufacturer of clockwork toys, is like demanding that He should be able to make square circles.

Our part is to take as given what God has done and is doing and to try to understand it. When we study the universe of our experience we find it to be an ongoing process in space and time which up to date has issued in the existence of creatures who are growing in the exercise of freedom as responsible individual persons. I submit that, quite apart from any belief in God, quite apart from any hypothesis of creation, the facts of our experience should be enough to make us recognize the promotion of freedom as the end towards which the process is tending. This seems to me to be the conclusion to which one would have to come if seeking, like C. H. Waddington and J. S. Huxley, to construct on purely humanist lines an ‘evolutionary ethic’.10 But whether, at our human stage in the process, we could live up to the requirements of this ethic the events of this century make one very doubtful. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany have not been alone in demonstrating the power of forces which tend to dehumanize the individual man and reduce him to the status of a cog in the social, industrial or political machine, assimilating him to the clockwork toy, returning him to that condition out of which we Christians believe that God is seeking to create us into something more. This is one of the meeting places for natural and Christian theology,11 a point from which we look forward to the transition from the first series of my lectures to the second. A striking feature of the Gospel records is our Lord's respect for human freedom, the distinction implied in His ministry between human beings and creatures at the sub-human stages of the creative process. ‘He had no scruple about imposing His will upon loaves, storms and fig-trees, but with Peter and Judas it was different. The only kind of obedience He would have from them was a free response which could not be imposed, but must be won’.12 Consistent with this is His revelation of God's care for each individual man and woman, the hairs of whose heads are all numbered. Natural theology may teach us of the value to be set upon individual human freedom as implied in the direction taken by the evolutionary process; it may be that only devotion which springs from roots in Christian theology will enable us to live up to its demands.

We have so far been examining our two kinds of freedom mainly in relation to the question of what they are freedom from. We still have to ask what our freedom is freedom for. Confining ourselves to our present proper concern with natural theology, we can look for an answer in the implications of two factors we have already considered.

1. The evolutionary process, through which we are being created into individualized free persons, brings us into existence as selves whose self-consciousness is from first to last consciousness of self in relation to others. For any one of us our growth in freedom (b) may be hampered not only by our own stupidity and sinfulness, not only by forces of nature which as yet mankind is not able to understand and control, but also by the deliberate actions of other men and women at cross purposes with ourselves. I have argued that our present experience of imperfect freedom is such that from it we can grasp the nature of the perfect freedom to which we aspire. It must be freedom for unimpeded activity giving full expression to what we ourselves freely will. This can only be if we are living in a community in which the wills of all its members are united in harmonious co-operation towards a common end. We can only make sense of our present experience of freedom if we treat ourselves as in transition from the orderly behaviour of the ants in their colony to the orderly behaviour of the citizens of the City of God.

If to think of God's will to create free persons be the master-clue to our understanding of ourselves and our universe, we cannot stop short at the individualized freedom of ourselves in our present condition. When from the observation of what actually exists and happens we try to get some idea of what God is aiming at in the creation of it all, the answer will be a community of persons, each in the perfection of his freedom making his contribution to the common life.

2. We are in transition from can't-because-prevented-by-factors-external-to-oneself to can't-because-won't. It is a commonplace of ethical experience that certain lines of conduct give increasing self-control while others dissolve it away. The husband whose wife could rely on his integrity is at the opposite pole to a man who could be described as the slave of his passions. There is a dependableness about both, but one is the dependableness of advance towards the perfection of freedom, the other of its loss, of relapse into the kind of predictability proper to sub-human behaviour. The study of this contrast gives a clue for one of the puzzles presented in my third lecture, that of the variety of moral codes prevalent among men at different times and places.13 It suggests that for moral evaluation the fundamental criterion is whether or no a course of action promotes or retards growth in self-control. Moral theory may have to develop by the method of trial and error as indicated in my sixth lecture;14 we now have a basis on which to compare different experiments. It is, I think, true to say that in the circles which Mr. Urmson would regard as enlightened, the actions approved (whether or no consciously chosen for this reason) will be found to satisfy this criterion. Man has been experimenting with his freedom long enough for his experience to have taught him that the courses of action which promote it are those which subserve the values we commonly approve as moral or virtuous.

The word ‘subserve’ introduces a further consideration which points towards a clue for another of my puzzles. Our transition through freedom (a) to freedom (b) involves first our individualization as initiating centres of personal action, and then the development of our personality into the perfection of its freedom. The first phase is the emancipation of ourselves from constriction within the conditioned-reflex behaviour pattern of our subhuman origin. So we begin to become selves. But what are we becoming selves for? To play our several parts in making our contributions to the common life of the City of God. Now one thing which experience has taught us in the sphere of moral experiment is that what unites men in harmonious co-operation is joint devotion to some end beyond themselves. In the first phase of our development our energies are directed towards the distinction of ourselves from others, towards the assertion of our independence. But if we are to move onwards through the second phase we have, as it were, to go into reverse, to seek to find some end for which to live, to turn from self-creation and ask what the self has been created for. It is one of the paradoxes of human experience that growth in selfhood comes by forgetfulness of self. ‘When we pass from words to facts we are faced with a truth which, though paradoxical in words, is a commonplace in experience. Only that will satisfy man which is not sought because it will satisfy. What he needs is a cause objectively existent and greater than himself to which he can devote himself because, no matter what may become of him, its victory must be secured. Anyone who has ever played football knows by experience something of the truth of this, or at least has caught a glimpse of what that experience might be, could he conquer himself sufficiently to enter into it’.15 Such self-forgetfulness will minister to the growth of true community when devotion to the ends pursued is shared by various pursuers.

So we move on from the evaluation of acts to the evaluation of their ends. It was necessary to distinguish between the self-assertive character of acts proper to the first phase of our development and the self-giving character of those proper to the second. Now, among the causes to which we can devote ourselves in this second phase we have to distinguish between ends which will unite in fellowship those who pursue them in common and ends which will produce hostility between those who pursue them in competition.

This throws some light on the puzzle of the apparent contrast between devotion to persons and to things.16 If there are ends such that man's growth in freedom and selfhood is promoted by self-forgetful devotion to them, their maintenance as objects of devotion is for the benefit of all. The judge who administers impartial justice, the examiner who upholds the standard of the examination, these and others like them are not subordinating care for persons to care for things of lesser worth; they are maintaining standards essential to the personal welfare of all men, including those who have to suffer in the process.

What, then, is our freedom for? The summary answer, which needs a great deal of elaboration for which there is now no time, is that it is for the pursuit of those ends which give promise of uniting men in fellowship as citizens of the City of God. If we want to make sense of the universe of our experience we must think of it not only as the matrix of our individualized personal existence, but also as the environment in which we are given opportunities of growing in the exercise of our freedom towards a perfection which can only be ours as citizens of that city. We must remember that when we use the phrase ‘make sense’, we must give its full force to the word ‘make’. There are things in this universe of space and time which will only make sense when they have been made into some thing other than at present they are: they must be changed in deed in order to become transparent to thought. We can only make sense of the universe if we treat it as a challenge to action as well as to thought.


Hitherto in this lecture I have had to carry on most of my discussion in somewhat general, if not abstract, terms. It will help to make clear what I have been trying to say if I end by drawing out some of its implications for practice as these affect parents, ministers of religion, teachers in schools and universities, leaders of youth clubs—all who are engaged in education or pastoral care.

Our task is to be fellow-workers with God, helping His children to grow up into the perfection of their personal freedom. This means helping them to grow up into men and women who will shoulder the responsibility for their own decisions and actions. Often we shall be tempted to take the easier road of making up their minds for them: only too often they themselves will be our chief tempters. Our first duty is to remember that God is not content to create clockwork toys; He is not even content to create animals which function according to the habits of the race working through them. His will is to create real persons, and to this end we must follow His example in respecting and promoting the growth of the freedom with which He endows them.

Those entrusted to our care are in need of such knowledge and virtue as will set them free from all that hinders them from being and acting as their best selves, whether the hindrances spring from external circumstances or from their own weakness and sinfulness. Now growth in knowledge and virtue does not come without the disciplining of the kind of freedom we have to begin with—what I have called freedom (a). Freedom has to be both fostered and trained. Over and over again we have to be asking the question: ‘Is this particular person, at this particular moment, in need of being constrained to conform, so that he may learn what it feels like to behave in the right way? Or does he need to be left free to make up his own mind, to learn to take responsibility, even at the cost of making a mess of things?’

Because of this necessity of seeing in each particular case in each particular moment what kind of treatment is required, education is an art rather than a science. The same is true of all pastoral care. There is a scientific aspect: observation of what actually happens leads to the generalization that human beings have to pass on from freedom (a) to growth in freedom (b); that there comes a time when self-assertion must be exchanged for self-surrender; that in the first phase the besetting temptation is simply to let oneself go with the herd and never become a man, in the second to continue to behave like the allegedly typical Englishman, ‘the self-made man who worships his maker’; that there are two opposite types of arrested development, each relevant to its own phase. Such generalizations are of prime importance for the education of the teacher, but to discern in the light of them the need of a particular pupil at a particular moment is a matter of aesthetic perception.

Consider now the case of a man who has passed from the first phase into the second. In order to get as clear an instance as possible of what I have in mind, let him be a man whose vocation it is to be an artist, a man who knows in his inmost being that if he is to be true to himself he must be true to his calling, must spend himself in seeking to express in the medium of his art, in shapes or colours or words or sounds, that which it is given to him to express. He knows that for him the central temptation, the central sin, is to produce what he knows is trash because it will bring him popularity and wealth. He may be sorely tempted: it may be that the threat to his artistic integrity comes from no selfish desire for popularity and wealth, but from his duty to provide for the wife and children whom he has undertaken to support. Where shall he look for the understanding sympathy in his struggle if not to his parish priest and fellow Christians? Heaven help him if they take the line that so long as he does not get drunk or misbehave himself with women, God does not care what kind of pictures he paints. If he is helped to keep true at the centre, to see that his struggle to be true to his double vocation as artist and as husband and father is for him (to anticipate the language of next year's course of lectures) his sharing in the cross of Christ, there is hope that his conduct in matters of drink and sex may be brought into line. But if he goes to pieces at the centre, he goes completely.

An artist is a man with gifts that make him responsible for making a definite kind of contribution to the common life. There are other men and women marked out for particular vocations, in medicine, scientific research, education, politics or otherwise. But most of us are not troubled by the question of how to find scope for the exercise of our special gifts: our problem is that of making our very average abilities suffice to support ourselves and those dependent on us. It sounds well to exhort undergraduates to view their choice of a career as a matter of vocation. How can one do it when one knows that the choice before so many of them will lie between different dull and uninspiring jobs that happen at the moment to be on the books of the University Appointments Board?

If we look on the universe as the creation of our Creator who is creating us into citizens of His City, the artists and the rest of us have this in common, that our life here on earth is the opportunity of finding and doing His work in His world, and so fulfilling His aim in His creation of ourselves. It matters little whether we have gifts that make us responsible for making outstanding contributions, or whether our responsibility is simply that of being the best parents, neighbours, citizens that we can be in the humdrum circumstances that fall to our lot. This is God's world, in which God's work is waiting to be found and done. It is waiting, not only in potentialities of artistic creation as yet unactualized, but in every situation where good can be made to triumph over evil, where truth can dispel error, where beauty can replace ugliness, where love can conquer hate. It is enough that we have in common the conviction that the freedom we have been given to run our own lives is to be used in the giving of ourselves to the finding and doing of God's will.

  • 1.

    The Vocabulary of Politics, pp. 69, 159.

  • 2.

    Above, p. 136.

  • 3.

    See above, Lecture VI, p. 126.

  • 4.

    Above, pp. 164 ff.

  • 5.

    C. J. Shebbeare: Problems of Providence (London, 1929), p. 89.

  • 6.

    Above, Lecture VII, p. 156.

  • 7.

    See above, Lecture VI, pp. 138, 142

  • 8.

    I am assuming a case in which the maintenance of sobriety is due to strength of character and not to the inhibiting effect of psychological factors falling within the casual sequences. Cp. the distinction between rationalizations and genuine decisions referred to in Lecture VI, p. 137.

  • 9.

    Above, Lecture I, p. 4.

  • 10.

    C. H. Waddington: Science and Ethics (London, 1942); J. S. Huxley: Evolutionary Ethics (Oxford, 1943).

  • 11.

    See above, Lecture IV, p. 92.

  • 12.

    From my The Doctrine of the Atonement, p. 80.

  • 13.

    Above, Lecture III, pp. 58 ff.

  • 14.

    Above, Lecture VI, pp. 129 ff.

  • 15.

    From my Towards a Christian Philosophy, p. 119.

  • 16.

    Above, Lecture III, p. 48.