With Charity for All, Part 2 in a Series: Why God is a Libertarian

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time. Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America

The oldest story of the Bible is a story of God’s universal love and beauty as demonstrated in Creation. The second oldest story in the Bible (that is, Genesis chapter 2) is not a story of the human fall but of human freedom.

I grew up hearing the first two chapters of Genesis summarized as “Creation. Fall. Punishment”. Interestingly, and tellingly, this portrayal of the story of humanity left out an important chapter in the narrative. That is the story of how God chose freedom rather than compulsion as the context in which humans would learn to love and pursue God. It will be my argument here is that the true love of God, and the only true pursuit of moral goodness, must take place where human beings are free.

Genesis 1 tells a story of how God desires, in love, to bless every creature and to make every human being in God’s image. That is our true “home” and our primary nature. But God had several options for assuring that we would retain that nature and continue to be like Him. One option was to create us as robotrons, wired to only do as would please God. Another option was to create us as fallen creatures, but God could not do that and be true to Himself or have us in His presence. I suppose that God also could have created a Congress in the sky and told them explicitly to pass a law to force us to love Him and to His will on the earth, with fines and punishment laid out in frightening detail.

But God chose none of those. Instead, God chose to give human beings the freedom to choose their own way, and even the ability to not choose Him. Genesis 2:9 says, “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In other words, God chose to place a tree in the middle of the garden — in clear and enticing view — that would force human beings to choose between good and evil, between God and the Satan — with no compulsion except by the clear memory of what it was like to be beautiful, innocent and unashamed. That is still the clearest and truest longing of the human soul, and we all long to get back to the Garden where we can be that again.

But along the way, there are many “serpents” and much “fruit” that will entice us to substitute beauty for ugliness, to settle for lust when we could have love, to grab rather than to receive, and to desire fame or power over goodness and meaning. And so we go on a dark road that only gets darker until God’s light can then point us back Home again. We find our way back home, as the story of the Prodigal Son so beautifully demonstrates, not through compulsion or duty but by the attraction of the goodness of home, the embrace of the Father, and the transforming power of love. If we find truth, and even learn to put aside falsehoods, it is not because God forced us back Home, but a combination of desperation and memory taught us to recognize what is truly good so that we can finally embrace it, and finally to love the source of all goodness, God Himself.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, we exercised this freedom in a way that led us to sin. But God did not stop the human project or reverse the creation. God did not remove the tree of good and evil. God did not take away human freedom to choose.

That is because freedom is not the same as consent. God does not become complicit in our sin because God gave us freedom to sin. As God’s creation shows, it is possible to give freedom to others to sin without bearing the blame for their bad choices.

This seems to be a missing concept in Christianity in America, and it’s no wonder. It’s as old as the history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who sat out across the dangerous seas to enjoy religious freedom for themselves but then were quick to deny that same freedom to those with whom they disagreed. Many a woman and man hung from a tree branch because the Puritans did not understand that Truth usually wins out when people are free to pursue it, and free not to choose it.

Like my Sunday School teachers who quickly moved past the story of the tree and moved on to the fruit, much of Christendom today has overlooked, quite conveniently, that people must be free before they can seek truth, honor God, or love their neighbor. Love always respects the freedom of the “other” to choose. Then you just trust God for the rest.

Over and over again throughout Christian history, Christians have attempted to use violence, laws, fear and guilt to force people to believe the Christian faith or to live according to its moral dictates (or at least how those Christians perceived those demands). Every time, the result has been disastrous for human history. The result is even more disastrous for Christianity because Christianity, like most belief, tends to thrive best when it exists in a context where others have the freedom to remain fully pagan or to become fully Christian. In fact, it is rarely survived in cultures where the culture was forced to adopt Christianity or its moral precepts.

The political project of the Christian Right and Left to enshrine Christian symbols, language and morals into public policy has been disastrous. Americans and Europeans increasingly find themselves alienated from Christian churches that engage in this enterprise, and young people ages 18 to 24 especially find themselves seeking alternative communities where they can find and express their Christian faith because they are tired of churches that affiliate themselves with political parties and causes that alienate people. As one recent book, “Unchristian”, points out: some of the top reasons young Christians are rejecting their own faith is because they feel it is anti-gay, too political, and too judgmental.

Some Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals and fundamentalists of all stripes cannot comprehend how it is possible to give a person freedom to pursue a lifestyle that they deem sinful or inappropriate without also supporting that lifestyle. Is it possible to allow gay people the legal freedom to marry without endorsing the gay lifestyle? Is it possible to allow a single woman to choose contraception for pleasurable sex even when some might think that a single woman is sinning by having sex outside of marriage? Is it possible to give women in very desperate and complicated situations the right to choose to end an early pregnancy without becoming complicit in that woman’s choice?

I argue that it is. In fact, to use the Christian faith or the Bible as a weapon or defense for a proposition, law or amendment that takes away the freedom of others is to violate something very essential to Judeo-Christian faith: the freedom to choose, and finally to choose God.

The Truth does set us free. But first, we must be free to find the Truth.

To give another person freedom is to treat them as God treats them, to show them dignity, and then finally … to love. For their is no fear in love, “but perfect love casts out fear.”

If one goal of Christians is to persuade others of the attraction of Christianity, it will never happen as long as Christians are at the forefront of those trying to remove the freedoms of others. If Christians are going to take a political stand, it should be on the side of freedom while working in culture and church to persuade people of the attraction of goodness. Whether through political means or not, those who claim that Love is all that matters have to finally be on the side of Love and not compulsion.

That’s the only way to truly be free. True freedom begins in love, and we finally find love and freedom for ourselves when we are willing to give it to others. Even to those with whom we disagree.

God is a Libertarian when it comes to human freedom. Christians should be too.

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to read my follow-up posting in this series here.

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Comments
6 Responses to “With Charity for All, Part 2 in a Series: Why God is a Libertarian”
  1. YanxChamps says:

    Beautifully and wonderfully said!

  2. John says:

    Ok, why are murders different from gays? Both sins are condemned in the Bible, as you well know and cannot deny. So why is gay marriage ok and murder not? Whose moral standard is going to be written into civil law? Apparently not the majority in California. And what is this about the Constitution protecting us from the majority? Did I read that right?

    I like you Todd, and you are my brother. I hope we are on the same page here.

  3. Matthew says:

    I believe the Bible is a book. I don’t believe it has any meaning besides that of a work of fiction. Why should I be held to your beliefs, John? They aren’t mine. I live in the United States, which gives me the right to believe or not believe without persecution. It also gives me, in theory, the same rights as every other man. The right to marry is one of those rights. You cannot take that away from me simply because of your individual interruption of a book that you base your religious views on. It is needless to say that a lot of religious people who believe wholeheartedly in the Bible completely disagree with your assertions of what the Bible says about homosexuality.

    Your belief in “sin” isn’t the same as mine, John. Love is why God put me on this earth. And I do love. I care for my neighbors. I help those less fortunate than I. I respect people and humanity. I love my partner. And I believe with all my heart that God is happy with my life and that he doesn’t care the sex of the person I love.

    Take care.

  4. Lance Curtis says:

    “13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affectionsb and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

    ~ Galatians 5:13-26

  5. John says:

    God and the Homosexual

    God gives commands because He loves us. He created us, so He knows more about us than even we know about ourselves. If God issues a command in the Bible, it is because that behavior is best for us. God wants what is best for us since He loves us.

    If homosexualism is prohibited, which it is, then the avoidance of that behavior is best for us.

    God is eager to forgive the sinner because of His love. Jesus died so God could be consistent with His justice and forgive someone for something they couldn’t go back and “undo.” Jesus said He came to “seek and save that which was lost.” Jesus rose from the dead and is the Savior today of anyone who will give Him their life.

    When one says the Bible teaches that homosexualism is wrong, that is in the context of God’s love for the sinner and God’s eagerness to forgive and bless.

  6. Lance Curtis says:

    “24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator , who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another ; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet . 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient ; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

    ~ Romans 1:24-32

    Special attention should be paid to those last two verses, Todd.

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