Friday, June 11, 2004


More from The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, this time from "CHRISTIANITY AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: A Letter to the Reverend Kemper D. Smith," by Craig S. Bulkeley, ca. 1982:

We Christians may have some "religious liberty" today, but in the "liberty of conscience"/"religious liberty" system we will soon be excluded from any meaningful area of life, only because we as Christians find it impossible to lay aside our religion with its absolutes. Neither of us believes in mixing church and state; but I guarantee you, that one day we will not even be allowed to mix our religion with life, because it will be taken as "mixing church and state." It may not look bad now, K. D., but give it time. If we lose our true Biblical liberty of preaching the whole counsel of God, we will be able to say only that we lost the battle before we began, because we did not take God's liberty, but man's. We have to go back to God's law, K. D., and put Jesus before all men without apology, teaching everything that He commanded. If we do not do this, we will leave ourselves and all men in bondage. If we do, we will enjoy the true liberty that only God can give. (p. 273)

Bulkeley gives an informal yet fairly pointed assessment of the defense of "religious liberty" common among Christians in the U.S. He uses the historical example of Rhode Island under (Baptist) Roger Williams to highlight the inconsistencies and failings of this viewpoint. Weary of the rigid morality and theocracy of the New England Puritans, Williams formed the colony of Rhode Island to create a haven for religious tolerance, a place where all viewpoints were given equal legitimacy. In time, this "liberty" ended up undermining the entire colony. If all views were equally legitimate (a function of Williams' misguided beliefs on fallen man's capacity), then the governors of the colony had no standard to which they could appeal when viewpoints conflicted. This ultimately led to the rise of anarchists firmly convinced that the individual's liberty was so sacrosanct that no authority - ecclesiastical or civil - had any right to restrict it in any way. And of course, Williams' philosophical views would have to tolerate even these beliefs for consistency's sake. (Thank goodness for inconsistency.)

Bulkeley rightly notes that any desire for enshrining "neutrality" or "religious liberty" ultimately undermines the Lordship of Christ over all things. As he points out, true liberty can only be found in the Word of God.

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