Dr. h.c. Frank Otfried July

Dr. h.c. Frank Otfried July

Regional Bishop, Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg


Recently, the philosopher Otfried Höffe noted: „Freedom is the  greatest possession of human beings, it constitutes their dignity.” This cannot be doubted from a theological, nor from a legal point of view, even within a pluralistic, democratic society, for, according to Christian tradition, the dignity of a human being is given by God.  

Freedom is nevertheless not only a constitutive element of being human, resulting in its free will, but also a challenge for a society in which coexistence is a free choice, yet needs to be lived out responsibly. The two venerable humanities – law and theology – approach this challenge of freedom in their own way and with their own respective traditions. Hence it is important to again and again enter into discussion about these individual approaches.

For three days during this year‘s congress of „Christ und Jurist“, you are devoting your time to discussing freedom, and therefore a fundamental aspect of Christian existence. In 1520, Martin Luther in the so called „Freiheitsschrift“ (freedom tractate) expounded on how much a Christian is determined by the two poles of servitude and freedom. „A Christian is an independent master over all things and subject to nobody“, and yet „a ministering servant to all, and subject to everyone”. For Luther, Christian freedom belongs to the face-to-face interaction with God and our fellow human beings.
Whereas love towards others is the highest commandment for human interaction, the gift of freedom is central in the interaction with God. He is the one who gives dignity and freedom: "It was for freedom that Christ has set us free”. (Galatians 5,1).

As law and faith interact, it becomes obvious that both are not about preventing, but enabling freedom. It is a freedom that adequately joins together both autonomy in and responsibility for the world in the context of their relationship with God. Theology deals as much with the limits of freedom of individuals as created beings among equally created beings as it deals with the affirmation that these same individuals were made in God’s image and are therefore to be committed to active responsibility.

Considering the enormous ethical challenges that have surfaced in the last years with regard to the debate about the legal revision of euthanasia, it is hoped that in the future theology and law will increasingly meet as partners in a constructive discourse. I wish all participants at the congress a stimulating and sustained involvement on the topic of freedom, inspiring  discussions, and the joyful experience of Christian fellowship.