The Addiction Of Freedom


Hell is, as Lewis says, “the greatest monument to human freedom.”

the-great-divorce-cover

So noted Pastor Tim Keller in a 1997 article in Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal, “Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age.”

Interestingly, Pastor Keller identified a shift in attitude regarding freedom in the postmodern era akin to the attitude C. S. Lewis ascribed to those destined for hell in his classic work The Great Divorce.

The attitude is one that puts freedom above all else.

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that the people on Lewis’s bus from hell are enslaved because they freely choose to be. They would rather have their freedom (as they define it) than salvation. Their relentless delusion is that if they glorified God, they would lose their human greatness (Gen. 3:4-5), but their choice has really ruined their human greatness.

I couldn’t help but think of atheist Christopher Hitchens and his dread of “celestial tyranny.” How sad that he did not realize the tyranny of his own desires. Unfortunately, he was not so different from the majority of people in western culture.

Freedom, we cry, let us voice our opinions, choose our own path, chart our own life. So we legalize abortion and a good deal of pornography. We outlaw spanking and prayer from school and tell parents Johnny needs medication, not discipline.

And then we wonder why children no longer respect authority, why tolerance is the end-all of our society, why child abuse is on the rise, and human trafficking is rampant, why greed runs Wall Street and corruption keeps cropping up in Washington, or City Hall.

Somehow we’ve missed the connection points. Freedom, when it becomes more important than salvation, enslaves just like any other idol. Freedom to pursue sex without consequences makes a person addicted to lust. Freedom to pursue wealth without restrain makes a person addicted to greed. Freedom to pursue unbridled power over others makes a person addicted to bullying and manipulation.

If we would open our eyes, we would see the trap to which the pursuit of freedom can lead. It held Christopher Hitchens tightly in its jaws. No one, most certainly not God, was going to tell him what to do with his life, not even in the last hours of his life. Why?

Because he wanted to enjoy humanity.

Sadly, he’s chained himself to the ephemeral rather than to the eternal. For, yes, the option to unbridled freedom is also slavery.

But what a difference. Rather than slavery to that which would destroy, becoming a bond-slave of Jesus Christ is freeing. Ironic, isn’t it. Freedom that leads to slavery, and slavery that leads to freedom.

What a contradiction, but that’s in line with what we learn from Jesus. If we lose our lives, we’ll find them. If we are last, then we’ll be first. If we become His slaves, He’ll set us free. Then, and only then, will we be free indeed.

This post is a revised and edited version of one that first appeared here in October 2010.

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.
    Refrain:
    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)

Government Intrusion


assault_rifleFor reasons that are far too numerous and complex to delve into in a blog post, the US government is becoming increasingly intrusive. So has the California state government and the County of Los Angeles, so we can probably just sum it all up as Government intrusion.

In a country that used to pride itself on its freedoms, we now have more and more regulations designed to save us from ourselves. Every time there is a crisis, pretty much anywhere in the world, our government officials start talking about how they can protect us from that same eventuality.

Consequently, after another school shooting, there has been, as predicted, a great deal of discussion about how to regulate guns. In all this, I’m more troubled that the number of gang deaths, often from guns, doesn’t rile the country up in the same way as the Sandy Hook deaths. In 2010 alone, there were over 2000 gang-related homicides (see the National Gang Center). I suppose to qualify as a game changer, however, a shocking number of deaths would need to occur at one time.

That’s why the tragedy in the Brazilian night club triggered another round of discussions about safety measures and regulations in similar venues here in the US.

surveillance droneOf course, nothing unleashed more regulations than the attack in New York on 9/11. From surveillance cameras to body searches at the airport to electronic eavesdropping and tracking to drone surveillance, measures designed to keep Americans safe have clearly reduced privacy. It is this Government intrusion that seems especially to bother a good many people.

In response, there’s been a growth in the number of libertarians who want to see a reduction of regulations–or more precisely, as little Government as possible. For example, in 2012, the Libertarian Party candidates for President and Vice President received more than twice as many votes as their 2008 counterparts.

I know a number of other conservatives who are doing considerable hand-wringing because of the recent increased Government intrusion. Many reason that this Big Brother watchfulness will one day be turned on Christians to impinge upon our freedom of religion.

And that might actually be true. But here’s the thing. If a person isn’t breaking a law, then he has no reason to fear the Government watching him. Unless the Government outlaws worshiping God. But if that happens, is the answer to continue to do so privately, secretly, out of view of those who want to regulate it out of existence?

I think of Daniel, confronted with the same situation. The sudden outlawing of worship of any but Babylon’s king did not dissuade Daniel from continuing to worship the One True God, and to do so without hiding. He didn’t flaunt his decision by praying on the palace steps, but neither did he go into his closet where the watching eyes of hostile government officials couldn’t see.

When I was a kid, we sang a song in Sunday school or Vacation Bible School that contained the line, “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone.” I tend to think there well could be a time when Christians in the US will need to make a stand similar to Daniel’s. We won’t be alone in the same way, but we well may be without the protection of the Government preserving our religious liberties.

Perhaps our concern now shouldn’t be so much in fighting Government intrusion as it should be in preparing to face the consequences when that Government intrusion is turned upon us. How prepared are we to keep praying if someone in Government says to stop?

Peter gives us the perspective we need:

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:13-15)

Christians And Politics


When I was teaching, I used to feel somewhat resentful that teachers were not allowed to voice their opinion in their classroom about things like whether or not they believed in God or if they opposed same-sex marriage and the like. Granted, I taught in a Christian school, so I did have the privilege of saying what I believed, though I’m sure that’s because my beliefs aligned with my school’s.

But seriously, I thought, this is America where we have the Bill of Rights, with the protection of both free speech and freedom of religion, right there in the first amendment, and teachers can’t stand before their classes and say, I believe in God?

Slowly that restriction on a person’s freedom to express an opinion seems to be spreading, to the point that just recently a Christian agent felt compelled to apologize for stating political opinions in the articles he wrote for his agency blog. I suppose if there was some confusion that his opinions represented those of the organization, then there might be justification in refraining from making a statement about his beliefs, but I can’t help wondering where this trend will end.

I mean, those lining up at Chick-Fil-A this summer were accused of hate speech. And I’ve been in a discussion on line at a public forum in which someone says Christians have no business voicing their opinion on public policy if their religion informed their beliefs. That’s crossing the line between church and state, this person claimed.

Really?

Christians are now to be seen and not heard, even when talking primarily to other Christians, all for the fear of offending someone? I have to admit, I’m astounded by this and equally dismayed.

On the other hand, I don’t think Christians should be offensive in the way we talk to or about other people.

There’s a way to speak that is demeaning by its sarcasm or condescension and I don’t think Christians should speak that way–not because I don’t like it, but because Scripture calls us to speak with grace so that we will know how we should respond to each person (See Colossians 4:6). We’re supposed to honor all people (1 Peter 2:17), love others, and not be a stumbling block that causes someone to turn from the gospel.

However, it’s a mistake to think we should correct our way of speaking by holding our tongue altogether. What will set us apart from the world is not our closed mouths. It’s our willingness to say what we believe in a manner that puts our content front and center rather than our expression of it.

Take Clint Eastwood, for example. Many people talked about his “speech” (clearly it was a piece of theater, an ad libbed monologue) at the Republican National Convention. Those who disagreed with it found it bizarre; those who agreed found it clever. Not very many people talked about the ideas he expressed.

The Democrats worried about Bill Clinton in the same way. Would his powerful rhetoric overshadow President Obama?

In other words, in our day and age perhaps more than in any other, style has become the first measure of public discourse. Christians, then, should pay attention to how we say what we believe. And we should keep on speaking, because we live in a country that allows us to do so.

Published in: on September 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Addiction Of Freedom


Hell is, as Lewis says, “the greatest monument to human freedom.”

So noted Pastor Tim Keller in a 1997 article in Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal, “Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age.”

Interestingly, Pastor Keller identified a shift in attitude regarding freedom in the postmodern era akin to the attitude C. S. Lewis ascribed to those destined for hell in his classic work The Great Divorce.

The attitude is one that puts freedom above all else.

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that the people on Lewis’s bus from hell are enslaved because they freely choose to be. They would rather have their freedom (as they define it) than salvation. Their relentless delusion is that if they glorified God, they would lose their human greatness (Gen. 3:4-5), but their choice has really ruined their human greatness.

Once again I couldn’t help but think of atheist Christopher Hitchens and his dread of “celestial tyranny.” How sad that he does not realize the tyranny of his own desires. But unfortunately, he is not so different from the majority of people in western culture.

Freedom, we cry, let us voice our opinions, choose our own path, chart our own life. So we legalize abortion and a good deal of pornography. We outlaw spanking and prayer from school and tell parents Johnny needs medication, not discipline.

And then we wonder why children no longer respect authority, why tolerance is the end-all of our society, why child abuse is on the rise, and human trafficking is rampant, why greed runs Wall Street and corruption keeps cropping up in Washington, or City Hall.

Somehow we’ve missed the connection points. Freedom, when it becomes more important than salvation, enslaves just like any other idol. And freedom to pursue sex without consequences makes a person addicted to lust. Freedom to pursue wealth without restrain makes a person addicted to greed. Freedom to pursue unbridled power over others makes a person addicted to bullying.

If we would open our eyes, we would see the trap to which the pursuit of freedom can lead. It currently holds Christopher Hitchens tightly in its jaws. No one, most certainly not God, is going to tell him what to do with his life, not even in the last hours as he hurtles toward death. Why? Because he wants to enjoy humanity.

Sadly, he’s chained himself to the ephemeral rather than to the eternal. For, yes, the option is also slavery.

But what a difference. Rather than slavery to that which would destroy, becoming a bond-slave of Jesus Christ is freeing.

What a contradiction, but that’s in line with what we learn from Jesus. If we lose our lives, we’ll find them. If we are last, then we’ll be first. If we become His slaves, He’ll set us free. Then, and only then, will we be free indeed.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Comments (6)  
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