Freedom, Ethics, Love

A Review of Helmut Thielicke’s The Freedom of the Christian Man

Anthony Draper
8 min readDec 29, 2022


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Freedom is never bestowed without having to pay for it. Even in a welfare state where spectacles and toothpaste are free, freedom will still cost something. It requires risk, venture, and willingness to sacrifice.[1]

John Doberstein, the translator of this book of Thielicke’s essays and lectures on freedom, opens his introduction with the preceding idea. This is an excellent, though ultimately imperfect summation of the depth of thought contained in the volume, and its inclusion is likely as a result of the times.

This volume was published in 1963 to an American readership terrified of communism and convinced of its anti-Christian consequences. Communism and Christ were antithetical.

Thielicke was a German who had lived through two World Wars and was now facing the very real divide between East and West, between communism and democracy. This is where the book falls short when reading almost sixty years later. Many English-language readers simply don’t face the same imminent threats that Thielicke did. To that end, a few of the essays contained therein are more interesting biographically than theologically and did not earn much of my attention during this first reading.

The essays contained in the volume are: [2]

  1. What is Freedom?
  2. Ideals in a Free Society
  3. The Threat of Modern Society to Freedom
  4. The Antithesis of Free Society
  5. What Will We Say to the Young Communists on X-Day?
  6. Freedom and Love of One’s Neighbor: A Critique of the Idea of “Human Relations”
  7. Freedom of Decision: The Impossibility of Casuistry in Ethical Christianity
  8. Man’s Freedom and God’s Rule: On the Meaning of History
  9. The Freedom of Preaching in the Age of the Masses
  10. The Freedom of Man and the Autonomy of Historical Process



Anthony Draper

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