From the Editor

By Matt Evans
July/August 2015

Absolute Freedom

Often called "The Mountaineer's Bible," Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills was first published in its current form in 1960. From basic knot tying to rapelling to alpine climbing, this book has been the source of inspiration for instruction for thousands of people heading out into the mountains for challenge and fun. The current edition even has a chapter on fitness.

However, even the concept of an instruction manual for freedom is a bit of a conundrum. The very existence of rules telling me what I can and can't do flies in the face of the idea that I am free to do whatever I want. As an outdoorsman, as an American, and as a human, I should be free to do whatever I want. Right?

The United States of America, the freest country in history, celebrates individualism and personal freedom, yet it employs a huge array of federal, state, and local laws that tell its citizens where the boundaries of those freedoms lie. In fact the old adage, sometimes attributed to Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (but probably stemming from legal opinions from the late 1800s), describes it perfectly: "your freedom to swing your fist stops when it reaches the end of my nose." Claim your absolute freedom long enough and you're bound to end up in court in America.

Well what about the outdoors. "I feel so free when I'm out in nature," is a common refrain. However, people who have run to the woods to escape the shackles of society's rules and regulations will tell you that there exists out there even clearer lines about what you can and can't do. Furthermore, the downside of breaking nature's laws tends to be much worse than breaking man's laws.

Just ask the skiier who ignores the rules of gravity, speed, and friction which all combine to normally keep you sliding happily down the mountain on top of the snow.


Or, ask the mountain biker who forgets about the laws of gravity, speed, balance, centrifigal force, and vector dynamics; which when kept in balance keep you and your bike zooming down the trail.


Or, ask the hikers who disregard the rules of time, distance, speed, direction, exposure, and darkness. All rules that when followed allow you to hike out into nature and experience amazing vistas and beautiful scenery and return safely roughly around the time you planned.

So, it stands to reason that since society requires you to follow rules in order to live peacably with your neighbors, and nature requires you to follow rules to enjoy and survive your outdoor experiences, then God giving us rules to follow to ensure a vibrant and fulfilling life doesn't seem so crazy. It doesn't seem so "suffocating" when you take into account that His general guidance for us that comes from the Bible outlines a pretty liberating way to live.

Consider that Jesus laid down the only two concepts we have to remember, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."1 Then, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that "all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up."2

When you take all that into account, it just makes sense that we feel so free when we're out in nature. Out there all things are lawful too, but not all things are helpful. I'm glad for it too, because what fun would it be if there was no element of risk. In the end, we actually do have absolute freedom to choose, we just have to remember that there are consequences for those choices we make: outdoors, in society, and as humans.


Pursue, Explore, Celebrate,




1 - Luke 10:27
2 - 1 Corinthians 10:23


About the Author

  • Matt_Evans's picture

    Matt Evans is a contributing editor for Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine. Matt loves to explore God's great outdoors and discover how God reveals himself in the majesty of His creation. He lives out his adventure in Alaska with his wife and three children. 

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