Tag Archives: freedom

Hell, Freedom, and the Predestinating Gospel


This has given me new angles on troubling questions, questions I have guessed were less about God and more about neo-Calvinistas in the U.S.A. I posed several of those questions in a previous post, “A Question About Christian Theology.”

Eclectic Orthodoxy

But what about HELL? This is always the first question posed when confronted with Robert W. Jenson’s understanding of the gospel as unconditional promise. If the Church is authorized to speak the Kingdom to all comers, does this not imply universal salvation? In his youthful systematics, Story and Promise, Jenson refuses to answer yay or nay:

What is the point of the traditional language about damnation? Two points only. First, damnation is not part of the gospel. The gospel is not a carrot and a stick: it is unconditional promise. Damnation is a possibility I pose to myself when I hear the gospel and instead of believing it begin to speculate about it—which we all regularly do. Therefore, this book, which tries to explain the gospel, has talked only about Fulfillment and will continue to do so. Second, damnation would be that we were finally successful in self-alienation from our…

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Religious liberty and thought crimes


When the mechanism for punishing conscience is established by law, any political power that takes control will use the mechanism to punish those with opposing ideas. The mechanism is neutral, and eventually, you’ll be on the opposite side of the controlling power. You could avoid this by not allowing the mechanisms for punishing conscience to be established by law. Has anyone ever changed another person’s conscience by coercion? Forced underground, conscience eventually re-emerges, angrier and stronger. Beware of well-intended mechanisms that can be turned against you when the center of power shifts. Beware of politically suppressing a group with which you disagree.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/62/A_protester_wearing_breathing_gas_mask._Clashes_between_protesters_and_interior_troops_persist._Euromaidan_Protests.jpg/640px-A_protester_wearing_breathing_gas_mask._Clashes_between_protesters_and_interior_troops_persist._Euromaidan_Protests.jpg

A protester wearing breathing gas mask. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

‘America has harsher [religious] restrictions than roughly 130 other countries,’ says The Atlantic


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is the first line of the first amendment in the United States Constitution; religious freedom was clearly a legal priority of the men who drafted the Bill of Rights. Yet, 225 years later, the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project has said the United States places a “moderate” level of restrictions on religious practice compared to the other countries in the world. According to Pew, the U.S. saw a marked increase in hostility toward religion starting in 2009, and this level remained consistent in the following years.

So begins an article by Emma Green in The Atlantic entitled, “The U.S. Puts ‘Moderate’ restrictions on Religious Freedom.”

The chart with the article is fascinating, allowing an interactive look at changes in religious liberties — or losses of religious liberties — around the globe.

To me, it’s a reminder: In every corner of the United States today, the First Amendment is under attack, including ridiculous attacks on student and faculty speech on university campuses as well as federal government assaults on individual conscience.

You ought to seek the most liberty for everyone, even people you dislike and disagree-with. The alternative? Liberties that alternate with the fluctuations of political power.

 

House Tea Party Caucus: traitors to their alleged cause of liberty


According to Forbes magazine:

CISPA, or the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing And Protection Act, passed the House yesterday. The bill is full of problematic intrusions into individual privacy and online liberty, and yet those members of the House who associate themselves with limited government were largely responsible for its passage.

Reason magazine reports:

The complete roll call shows 206 Republicans voting for the bill, 28 against. Democrats went 42 to 140 in the opposite direction. The Republican No column includes some fairly libertarian-friendly names, including Amash, McClintock and Rohrabacher (who also this week earned the honor of being bannedby vile Afghan kleptocrat Hamid Karzai). Voting for the legislation were great libertarian nopes Ryan, Flake and Duncan. The name Paul shows up in the not-voting lineup.

TechDirt.com reports:

The vote followed the debate on amendments, several of which were passed. Among them was an absolutely terrible change … to the definition of what the government can do with shared information, put forth by Rep. Quayle. Astonishingly, it was described as limiting the government’s power, even though it in fact expands it by adding more items to the list of acceptable purposes for which shared information can be used. Even more astonishingly, it passed with a near-unanimous vote. The CISPA that was just approved by the House is much worse than the CISPA being discussed as recently as this morning.

Those clowns in the House Tea Party Caucus should no longer be trusted. This is a complete violation of trust and betrayal of principle.

Conor Cruise O’Brien: A forgotten article


One of my favorite National Review pieces was the cover article for the April 22, 1996 edition. It was “Liberalism and Terror” by the late Conor Cruise O’Brien, who died last Thursday, and the article was an outstanding example of insightful and intellectually vigorous writing. In his honor, I offer two paragraphs from “Liberalism and Terror.”

Liberalism and terrorism appear as opposing concepts. But they have something in common. Both belong to the large and heterogeneous family of the devotees of freedom. Freedom is the most powerful and the most ambiguous of abstract ideas. There are two main divisions within the massive ambiguities. There is freedom combined with order and limited by law. This is the freedom of England’s Glorious Revolution and of the American Constitution. This is the “manly, moral, regulated liberty” which Burke defended in Reflections on the Revolution in France. This is the freedom of the mainstream liberal tradition in the English-speaking world. And it is also the freedom of the mainstream conservative tradition in the same world. In their philosophy of freedom, the common ground between the two traditions is more important than the differences. Edmund Burke belongs to both those traditions, and no one should seek to wrest him from one of them in order to monopolize him for the other.

Outside the zone of ordered freedom, now more or less coextensive with the Western world, the idea of freedom and the love of freedom take starker and more elemental forms. Freedom is thought of as the appurtenance and rightful heritage of a particular group of people defined by nationality, religion, language, ancestry, or territorial affiliation, and usually by some combination of several of these elements. Some other group or groups of people are felt to be denying freedom to us, who must have it. Freedom so understood is one of the most powerful of human motivating forces and the most destructive, impelling large numbers of people to risk their lives for it and to take the lives of others, the enemies of freedom. Serbs and Croats cut one another’s throats, and all for freedom’s sake.

Freedom begins within oppression: building a church in North Sumatra


The hardest thing in the world is to practice freedom where there are few (if any) freedoms allowed by the ruling class.

Compass Direct New reports:

Jakarta — Muslim extremists and local government authorities last week threatened to tear down a church building under construction in North Sumatra even though church leaders met requirements of Indonesia’s draconian law on worship places, the church’s pastor said. Emboldened by local authorities’ unwillingness to grant a church building permit to Protestant Bataks Christian Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan, or HKBP), some 100 Muslim extremists accompanied by government officials on April 29 tried to destroy the building under construction in Jati Makmur village, North Binjai, 22 kilometers (14 miles) from the provincial capital of Medan. The Rev. Monang Silaban, HKBP pastor, said about 100 members of the Islamic extremist Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defender Front), some armed with “sharp weapons,” arrived at 4:30 p.m. accompanied by Binjai municipal officials, who brought a bulldozer. Police met with church and Muslim extremist group leaders following the confrontation and reached an agreement that construction on the building would cease until the permit is approved – something that hasn’t happened in the two years since HKBP applied.

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Lament for the lack of liturgical libertarians


The Pope is visiting during an election year, and that’s got me thinking about the relationship between politics and religion. A NPR reporter this morning said that the Pope and the President like each other, even though they disagree with each other on some issues, especially and most currently Iraq.

Consider that a Christian in politics will tend to err, if he’s on the right, by advocating state power for the enforcement of behavioral codes (moralistic laws); if he’s on the left, by advocating state power to force people to be compassionate with their money (tax code).

Why not have some Christians in politics who advocate freedom?

I think there’s space for Christians, especially those of the old liturgical traditions, to support libertarianism, even in this year of Obama versus McCain (OK, maybe Hillary still has a shot). Not that we can find a candidate representative of liturgical libertarianism.

Think about the ways in which New Testament teachings match up with libertarianism:

1. True morality comes from within, from a person’s character, when an individual has the opportunity to do wrong, yet chooses to do right. When someone cannot choose to do wrong, and therefore does not do wrong, that is no reflection of morality. Jesus criticized people who prided themselves on externally observable rules when their hearts were rotten. The rule-obeying was white-wash. In a related passage — and one that certainly suggests that liberty is a good thing — he condemns the Pharisess by saying, “They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on other men’s shoulders, yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them.” I think of regulations, moralistic laws, and even taxes (reference Exodus 5:6-9 as an example of a state burdening people).

2. Libertarianism teaches that coercion is wrong, and the New Testament would seem to provide ample teaching for that view. In the New Testament, Paul writes that repentance comes from recognizing God’s kindness; God is not forcing people into conversion or submission. At one point in the Gospels, Jesus rebuked his disciples for wanting to call down fire on a city. Plus, we know the familiar phrases “turn the other cheek, bless those who persecute you,” etc., but how many apply that to a view of state power? (I don’t say that to nullify Thomas Aquinas’ just war theory; it seems to me that governments, from time to time, will have to use force to protect people from violent aggressors.) Consider that in terms of victimless crimes and the tax burden of imprisoning people who commit them.

Some will say, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” but can we really compare the U.S. to ancient Rome? Don’t you think the American people are supposed to be their own Caesar? “We the people,” democracy, and all that ought to de-centralize power, correct? The beneficiaries of de-centralization would be “we the people” in the U.S. For better or worse, we are Caesar. Or, maybe that’s too popular of a view. It’s probably better to say that we’re ruled by law, not by a king, and that the laws are formed within a representative democracy. We have a hand in creating our laws.

Of course, political libertarianism will be hard for many politically-active U.S. Christians to swallow, because whether they advocate state-enforced behavioral codes or state-enforced compassion, they believe the primary goal of the Christian faith is moral and ethical, so any means (including force) by which people will behave properly is good, when the actual goal of Christianity is for each individual to receive grace through faith, and then reflect grace to others.

No force involved, just freedom of conscience and freedom of expression.

-Colin Foote Burch

P.S. The Acton Institute has the right idea. Check out the Web site here.

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