Does God's all-encompassing will restrict our freedom? Does God's ownership and mastery over us diminish our dignity? The fear that God is a threat to our freedom and dignity goes far back in Western thought. Such suspicion remains with us today in our so-called secular society. In such a context any talk of God tends to provoke responses that range from defiance to subservience to indifference. How did Western culture come to this place? What impact does this social and intellectual environment have on those who claim to believe in God or more specifically in the Christian God of the Bible? Professor of religion Ron Highfield traces out the development of Western thought that has led us our current frame of mind from Plato, Augustine and Descartes through Locke, Kant, Blake Bentham, Hegel, Nietzsche--all the way down to Charles Taylor's landmark work Sources of the Self. At the heart of the issue is the modern notion of the autonomous self and the inevitable crisis it provokes for a view of human identity, freedom and dignity found in God. Can the modern self really secure its own freedom, dignity and happiness? What alternative do we have? Highfield makes pertinent use of trinitarian theology to show how genuine Christian faith responds to this challenge by directing us to a God who is not in competition with his human creations, but rather who provides us with what we seek but could never give ourselves. God, Freedom and Human Dignity is essential reading for Christian students who are interested in the debates around secularism, modernity and identity formation.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This review is to encourage everyone to explore and diligently seek to understand oneself. I am convinced the only means of doing so is by examining yourself in the light of the holy and sovereign God of the universe. This can be a daunting task but one that we need not shrink back from. God, Freedom & Human Dignity provides a tremendously useful and accessible road map not only for discovering ones identity but for uncovering the deepest desires we hope to satisfy in answering the question: "Who am I?"
The "you" you would want to be if you knew perfectly the "you" you should want to be. If you are not asking this question you must. If you are, this book will assist you in finding the true answer!
Ron Highfield's "God, Freedom and Human Dignity" is an excellent analysis of the problems that Christianity faces in contemporary Me-Centered culture. Highfield has a superb grasp of important historical shifts in the theological/philosophical (and subsequently popular) conception of the self. Although he deals with a number of "heady" thinkers, he also writes in a very accessible manner--always deftly illustrating the broad strokes of those thinkers' ideas, without lapsing into needlessly jargon-intensive minutiae.
His basic premise--which I certainly think is valid--is that the Christian God is seen as a threat to a distinctly modern understanding of the self. Since the Enlightenment, we have been bombarded with narratives that spur us to believe our "self" is more authentic and possesses greater dignity the LESS we permit ourselves to be shaped by the will and values of external forces (institutions, authorities, communities, friends, etc.), and the MORE we adhere to our...
In our me-centered universe we define terms like freedom, dignity and God by looking inward. We understand freedom as our ability to act autonomously to achieve our own desires. Dignity describes our right to self-determination. Because we have made God in our own image, his freedom necessarily impinges on our own. He is like us, only more powerful and more present (more able to act with total freedom). When what he wants isn't what we want, He is free while we are not.
Ron Highfield, the Blanche E. Seaver Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University, provides an incisive look at this modern me-centered culture in God, Freedom & Human Dignity. Building on the works of Alisdar MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, Highfield describes the `inward turn' and the subjective self-understanding of contemporary culture. He describes our tendency to regard God as a threat to our own self-actualization. Contemporary people respond to God with defiance, subservience, or indifference (or...
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