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Mar 4

Session 2 Recap: Walker, “Conscience and Religious Liberty: Why the Freedom to Believe is the Freedom to Flourish”

2016 | by Nathan Sherman | Category: Clarus 16

Editor’s Note: Grant Blankenship is the Preaching Elder at Cedar Springs Church in Cedar Crest, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Andrew Walker’s message from Friday evening at Clarus, March 4, “Conscience and Religious Liberty: Why the Freedom to Believe is the Freedom to Flourish.”

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In the second session of Clarus ’16, Andrew Walker framed his thesis that religious freedom is necessary for religious, societal, and human flourishing by asking five questions:

1. Is Religious Liberty Biblical?

According to Walker, there are explicit and implicit truths in scripture.  For example, even though 2 + 2=4 cannot be found in scripture it is inherently true.  Walker said, “God made us capable to read and listen and put meaning to what our eyes see and what our ears hear–to think, to reason and to be self-aware.”  And so we must recognize that religious liberty is implicit in scripture.  Walker proposed that religious liberty is implicit in the 10 commandments.  His reasoned that governments cannot usurp the role of God by dictating things that belong exclusively to Him.  “Institutions, movements and governments cannot determine who God is and how He should be worshipped.  These kinds of concepts are exclusively the domain of God.”

2. Why Is Religious Liberty Essential to Human Dignity?

God desires every human to make their own decision about God.  Even if one is wrong, God ordained that each individual decide on their own to believe.  The announcement that Jesus is Lord subjects all other authorities under him, but at the same time, no person can be coerced into the Kingdom of God. Walker qualified this by saying, “Please understand, this is not to say that all quests to find God are equal.  But we cannot understand who God is for someone else.”  If we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, we don’t need a state to back that up.

3. Then What is the State’s Role In Religious Liberty?

Walker showed how Paul explained in Romans 13:1-7 that any government’s role is limited by God. “The ideal government is one that operates within their God-given role.”  Walker explained that the ideal government is one that is neither hostile nor compulsory in any given religion.  The ideal government would allow any religion to present their beliefs freely and openly in the marketplace of ideas thereby allowing the conviction of religion to rest with each individual man.

4. How Is Religious Liberty Essential to the Christian Mission?

While its true that the Gospel does not need religious liberty, Jesus’ mandate to take the gospel into the world assumes a pathway to get there.  If we leave out the Great Commission, then we are missing the point about why Christians should be concerned about religious liberty. Our desire as Christians must be that people would have the liberty to make their own decision without pressure from an earthly authority.

5. Why Should We Not Give Up On Religious Liberty?

In Walker’s final point, he began by saying, “We must be careful not to romanticize persecution as a ‘better’ form of worship.  As Christians, we should be willing to die for our beliefs, but we shouldn’t look for persecution under the misconception that it makes our faith superior.”  Religious liberty is a tool like a machete to cut a path through the jungle of this world.  While Paul taught that we have a heavenly citizenship, he didn’t hesitate to assert his rights as a Roman citizen.  We don’t have the right to give up the fight for religious liberty.  At the core of our fight for religious liberty is the fight for individuals to make their own decision about God apart from the influence of worldly institutions.

If God requires man to make an individual decision about Him, then it is implicit that government should not usurp God’s divine decree.