Hartmut Steeb

Hartmut Steeb

General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance in Germany

We are living in a world that loves freedom, and that is good. Everyone wants to decide for him- or herself on how to live and wants to determine their goals in life. One of the most common words in our time is “myself”, and this is even being used as a synonym for personal freedom. But we should consider that we cannot create ourselves the things that are really crucial in life.

Even though the word „myself“ is booming, and human beings in their hubris even want to decide when their life should end, I am pleading for a sober realism. Nobody among us has taken the most important decisions about life themselves. No one could decide in advance that he or she will come into this world as a human being. No one could decide on when and where, under which circumstances, into which family, and into which social circumstances they were born. We didn't choose our father and mother, nor our siblings. Nobody has put together his or her own genetic makeup. Nobody has imbued themselves with their talents. Therefore the abilities and achievements of a person are only to a little extent because of their own merit. It is essential to debunk the self-adulation of self-determination and self-development and to make it obvious that our “self” is by far not as able as we make it out to be. It is vital to bury the fantastic notion about self-determination that claims said self-determination is necessary for a life worth living. Nobody needs to worry about living too long, for up to now everybody has eventually died. That is dead certain. And if some have the impression that God has forgotten to take them – no worries. Everyone will have their turn. We need not – and must not – help with this!

Since we did not and cannot decide on the key circumstances of our lives by ourselves, it is important not to exaggerate the question of freedom. Our personal life already has a clear framework. Our social life also needs this clear framework. Freedom must not be confused with boundlessness. The individual freedom must continue to end where the exercise of it would limit others in their freedom. For this reason we need clear legal regulations so that a maximum of freedom can be granted, if necessary by restricting others in their freedom.

I am glad that you have chosen the immense topic of freedom for this congress. It is absolutely essential for our society to establish a clear definition of freedom. This is not least a challenge the legal professions need to meet. As you deliberate these issues in my hometown Stuttgart, I wish all of you God’s blessing and the courage to discuss fundamental principles.