Religious Freedom

Greg Strand – July 17, 2014 4 Comments

This is the time of year we think of the freedoms we have in our country (recently celebrating the 4th of July). We are grateful that we live in a country with freedoms. We acknowledge that as Christians we are citizens of two kingdoms, the heavenly and earthly, and though the heavenly trumps the earthly, we also live in the world even though we are not of the world. God has ordained government for the present time which is the context in which we live out our Christian lives faithfully on our way to the celestial city.

The Manhattan Declaration, a statement drafted by many representing numerous denominations and religious affiliations, identified three crucial moral issues in our day for which there ought to be a strong convictional stand: the sanctity of life, the integrity of marriage (biblically and traditionally defined as between a man and a woman) and religious freedom.

Timothy George, one of the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration, recently wrote about why religious freedom is one of the most pertinent issues for Christians today: “Let Religious Freedom Ring: Why It’s One of the Most Pressing Issues Today.” He writes,

Religious freedom is not merely political; it is pre-political. As a fundamental, “unalienable” right, it existed before the state. Religious freedom did not begin in modern times; it began when God brought humanity into existence. Rooted in the biblical understanding of human dignity and freedom, religious freedom is a part of what it means to be created in the image of God.

A just government is called to recognize and protect the religious freedoms that have been built into human nature by God. Christians know—even if secular theorists deny it—that religious liberty is grounded in the very character of God as revealed in the Bible, and in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ himself. But we do not claim religious freedom for ourselves only. It applies to all persons everywhere. That is why we affirm, on the authority of the Bible, religious freedom for all, even as we are prepared to defend such freedom in public life through arguments drawn from reason as well as revelation.

What do you think? Do you agree? Is this one of the more pressing issues for Christians today? How ought Christians address it?

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

4 responses to Religious Freedom

  1. chuck Carlson July 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Greg, thanks for this post. I feel this is a vital issue in our day. And if we are not diligent, our freedoms will be gone. There are forces in our society today who are working hard to see that happen. There are some who say that persecution is inevitable, so we just as well face and accept it. However, as I read scripture, I see God intervening and delivering His people even amidst persecution, and that we can and should pray for that intervention. I believe we are called to make an impact on our culture, and that includes fighting for religious liberty.

    • Thank you for your reply, Chuck. I agree – religious liberty is one of the most important freedoms we have. It is being challenged on many fronts today. Nonetheless, as believers we are to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16).

  2. craigspofford July 18, 2014 at 5:50 am

    I agree Greg. I would ask that we keep things balanced in the sense of how we treat those who disagree with us. I see many who alienate those with whom they disagree, not because they do not argue well, but because of the lack of humility and the spirit in which they fight the good fight. Our religious freedom is significant, but we cannot forget that over the ages many have not had it and yet the church endures. We must stand for these things to be sure. We must also remember that unless this is done in love, and by this I mean the whole fruit of the Spirit, then we do not sound melodic, we sound as gongs and cymbals.

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