Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Free Church

The “call to arms” that religious liberty is being violated in some way or form often fills my e-mail box. “The rights of Christians are under attack again! Our religious freedoms are slowly being taken away, mainly because Christians have not taken a stand! People of faith are being forced to remain silent while other religions are accepted in the name of tolerance”. Read

So I thought I would take pause to ponder about what I believe and to question whether or not religious liberty was being violated.

My education on religious liberty is derived form two sources, the public school and a Baptist church. The tenants taught by both were that there must be “a free state and a free church”.

“God alone is Lord of the conscience and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.” Read
Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7,24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11-17; 4:12-19.
Religious liberty says nothing about the truth of positions in God’s sight. As a political provision it is not concerned about the question of religious truth, “it only guarantees the opportunity to every man to seek the truth and to assemble with others in quest of it.” Bruce Shelley

I was taught and believe not to tolerate other faiths or religious differences. Toleration grants to others something that is not rightly due. To tolerate out of a spirit of generosity is to put me in a superior position and grants only inferiority to others. In religious liberty one is neither superior nor inferior. Before the law all are equally free. “A right for a Protestant is a right for an Orthodox is a right for a Catholic is a right for a Jew is a right for a Humanist is a right for a Mormon is a right for a Muslim is a right for a Buddhist--and for the followers of any other faith within the wide bounds of the republic.” Read

The above being my beliefs, where then should be my vigilance? Of course, the church, the church, the church! To make sure that the civil authority does not cross the line and nullify or abridge the church’s freedom, which is to practice faith and worship without any interference.

Now I believe there may be First Amendment violations and some of these violation bear strongly in the area of free speech and expression. When violations of our freedoms occur we are obligated to always confront the offender (peaceably and consistently, but confront). Religious liberty is a two edged sword that we have as a freedom. But civil law is the law, unless overturned by process. Too often civil law is “satanized”. I have never appreciated the act that first allowed the Ten Commandments to be placed in a court room. This situation was an obligation of the state to confront early on and it was neglected by the church.

My vigilance remembers the following which speaks volumes:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up. Read

I will however use my beliefs on “a free state and a free church” to evaluate and mull over what is taking place in so far as rights are concerned. I do not want to be schmoozed by some ill informed religious group, nor do I want to be duped by the state.


Coffee Snob said...

"Tolerance" is just one more word that has been hijkacked and had its definition changed in recent years. Historically, the word has meant "to endure without repugnance; put up with" "[to] put up with something or somebody unpleasant"

What does it mean in today's new politically correct environment? According to, to tolerate NOW means "To allow without prohibiting or opposing; permit" "recognize and respect (rights and beliefs of others)."

Quite a different story - not one I'm willing to tolerate!

Eutychus said...

Religious Pluralism, the latest Tabletalk from Ligonier Ministries should provide some more food for thought on this topic.