Freedom And Authority

America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Freedom is what the US is all about, and freedom is what attracts so many immigrants to leave their homes and come here. And yet, A. W. Tozer says people aren’t actually free, not completely. Not even Americans.

From The Knowledge of the Holy:

There cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe, for sooner or later two free wills must collide. (pp 15-16)

His point is that God alone possesses certain attributes, those scholars refer to as incommunicable. These are not qualities that Man has even though made in God’s likeness. We are not, for example, omnipresent or unchanging. We are not infinite, nor are we sovereign. And there’s the rub.

If God alone is sovereign, then we are not free in the ultimate sense. Rather, His rule must supersede our liberty or He is not sovereign.

The incredible truth is, however, that God seems to give us free rein. We can choose Him or reject Him, we can bow to His authority or trumpet ourselves as the only one we trust. We can accept His revelation of Himself, or we can deny His desire to do so or His power or even His very existence.

It seems to me that true Sovereignty is the only One not threatened by another’s freedom.

Christians in America, both cultural Christians and those following Jesus, feel threatened because certain laws suggested by our current administration would certainly reduce the rights of some to hold to their religious beliefs, hence jeopardizing the religious rights of all.

Feminists in America who believe in abortion feel threatened because a Presidential candidate talks openly about his pro-life stance, thus potentially jeopardizing their “right to choose” should that person win and end up appointing another conservative justice to the Supreme Court.

Gays feel threatened and those advocating for heterogeneous, monogamous marriage feel threatened. Homeowners feel threatened and the rich feel threatened. Small businesses feel threatened and college students feel threatened.

At every turn, though living in a country not torn by war, not suffering from famine, not oppressed by a dictator, we still feel threatened. If anyone ought to feel safe and free, it is the American.

But we don’t because we aren’t actually free. Not even Bill Gates or the President himself. We all — every person on earth — live under God’s authority. He alone is free in the ultimate sense. He answers to no one and has no laws to abide by except those originating from His nature. He goes where He wants, does what He chooses, is how He wishes.

Man is not free in that way. And surprise, surprise, Man is constantly dissatisfied. We want to change our hair color or lose ten pounds or buy a new car or change jobs or churches or computers or friends or houses or habits.

Our wills are always colliding with other people’s wills because we are not in control. Some of us try to be. We work hard to create an environment we can order, but that’s a figment of our imagination — a sandcastle about to wash out to sea with the rising tide.

I liken God’s sovereignty to that of a teacher supervising a playground of children. She’s in charge, but they are free to do as they please under her watchful authority. If they obey her, they really can do whatever they wish — unless she asks them to help a new child or run an errand or stay away from where the big kids are playing.

A good teacher exercises her authority for the benefit of the children she is caring for. The obedient child submits, even giving up his ephemeral freedom because he is subject to the one in charge.

How good of the One True Sovereign to give us freedom under His watch care, to ask us to trust Him rather than forcing us to do so. How secure to know that His eye is on the sparrow and He’s watching me.

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for Heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
A constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches over me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

(Written in 1905, the words by Civilla Martin and music by Charles H. Gabriel)

Published in: on March 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm  Comments (4)  
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  1. It’s amazing that we are all feeling threatened. That reminds me of Psalm 28:1, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”

    But I think you are right about our fear and dissatisfaction being about the fact that we aren’t free. I have to think on this more. Good post.


  2. Great connection, Sally, to that verse in Psalm 28.

    It makes sense, when you stop and think about it. No position is more vulnerable than that of being in charge. It’s got the most responsibility and receives the most criticism and blame.

    Why wouldn’t we, then, feel fearful when we’re told over and over that the power is in us, that we can do it, that we are the source of our own happiness.

    Peace comes from resting, trusting, depending, not from self-assertion and striving after wind. When we don’t trust, rest, or depend, we’re constantly looking over our shoulders because we have to have our own backs. We have to assume there’s a lion in the streets because, what if there really is? We aren’t strong enough to fend it off, so better to try and create a lion-free zone.

    Thanks for broadening these thoughts, Sally.



  3. It’s interesting that you bring this up. I’ve been struggling lately with what it means to be an American and what it means to be a Christian. It’s been an issue for me since a couple of weeks ago during a Bible Study, when the book we are reading “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller, pointed out that Christianity doesn’t have a “culture.” Whereas other religions, such as Islam, are steeped in culture. It was a stunning realization to me.

    Freedom is often associated with being an American, as the American Flag in this article alludes to. The belief in Freedom and the right to be Free is part of our American Culture. But as a Christian we are called to be be servants of the Lord. To give up our Freedom to the One True Sovereign. But as American’s we chaff at the very thought of having to give up any Freedom. But if I were a Christian living in China or North Korea would I have the same concern? I would think not.


  4. I hadn’t really thought about the difference between Christianity and other cultures, Sam, but the point is well made.

    I’m not so sure, though, that it’s harder for Americans to accept the sovereignty of God.

    I think of the story about the little boy (before car seats) who was standing up in the back seat of the car. His father insisted that he sit down. This happened again and finally the father said he would pull the car over and spank if the boy didn’t stay in his seat. Sure enough the little guy sat down, but he crossed his arms and put on a serious pout as he muttered, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”

    My point is, before children are acculturated, they show the propensity all humans have to want to be in charge. Governments may make people sit down on the outside, but I suspect a host of them are still standing on the inside.



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