This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Slavery

It seems prudent to close our discussion of freedom with a few observations regarding slavery. This is because, as obvious as it may seem, the prevalent misunderstanding of human liberty leads directly to a misunderstanding of its opposite extreme. For example, because of the tendency to oversimplify freedom as the absence of restraints on personal conduct, then we inevitably reduce slavery to nothing more than an excessive restriction on one’s actions. Usually once this happens, the defenders of this misunderstood freedom begin to construe every limit to freedom as a step in the direction of slavery, which is obviously not the case at all.

However, if we take into consideration what has been said above, we see first and foremost that freedom consists in action in accordance with the true and the good, and that action in contradiction to truth and goodness is only the semblance of liberty. Thus, St. Thomas Aquinas, commenting on the words of our Lord, says the following:

“Everything is that which belongs to it naturally. When, therefore, it acts through a power outside itself, it does not act of itself, but through another, that is, as a slave. But man is by nature rational. When, therefore, he acts according to reason, he acts of himself and according to his free will; and this is liberty. Whereas, when he sins, he acts in opposition to reason, is moved by another, and is the victim of foreign misapprehensions. Therefore, ‘Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin.’ ”[1]

Leo XIII observed that even the pagans recognized this fact when they said that the wise man alone is free.[2]

Yet our study would be incomplete if we did not mention a second aspect of the Christian doctrine concerning slavery, which perhaps runs even more contrary to the modern way of thinking. Because freedom is often seen as an absolute good, then it is easy to draw the conclusion, unconsciously and automatically, that any sort of servitude is somehow subhuman and evil. But scripture and the constant teachings of the Church again offer a much different view. Since liberty lies in conformity with the good, then it is more accurate to say that slavery is only degrading to the person if he is enslaved to sin; but, on the contrary, slavery to God would amount to the highest realization of liberty.

And so we conclude with words of warning given by St. Augustine:

“In the house of the Lord, slavery is free. It is free because it serves not out of necessity, but out of charity… Charity should make you a servant, just as truth has made you free… you are at once both a servant and free: a servant, because you have become such; free, because you are loved by God your Creator; indeed, you have also been enabled to love your Creator… You are a servant of the Lord and you are a freedman of the Lord. Do not go looking for a liberation which will lead you far from the house of your liberator!”[3]

[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, On the Gospel of St. John, ch. 8, lect. 4, n. 3.

[2] LP, 6.

[3] St. Augustine, Enarratio in Psalmum XCIX, 7.

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