1 Peter 4:12-19
This week, America will pause for Memorial Day, a day when we honor those who have fallen in defense of our freedom. But Freedom is more threatened now than at any time since General Howe nearly defeated Washington’s army on the shores of Long Island in 1776. In an effort to protect us from a deadly virus, governors from all 50 states shut down their economies and issued stay at home orders to their citizenship.
Today, I want to illustrate the Christian faith as the foundation of our freedom. I will begin with two statements, followed by examples that explain and support those statements. The first statement is that America’s Freedom and Greatness is built upon a Christian Foundation. I understand that secularists decry this statement. They believe that our nation’s greatness is due to other factors such as geography, our laws, or our democracy. But other nations have all of those same elements.
Some might go so far as to say that religions contributed to our greatness. But again, look at other religious nations. In fact, look at the most religious nations in the world today, where Sharia Law is practiced, and you will not find greatness or freedom, you will only find oppression and poverty. Yet, here in America, greatness and supremacy in economics is powered and influenced, not by religions, but by its Christian foundation.
Think about the scene that took place on the North and South America continents, and in the Caribbean Islands during the 1500’s-1600’s. Portugese, Spanish, Dutch, German, and British explorers set out to seek the treasure and knowledge of the rest of the world, but everywhere they went, their technology and understanding of the world was hundreds of years ahead of the cultures they encountered.
Just 1500 years earlier, Rome was the world’s superpower, but the entire world experienced the same relative level of scientific advancement. Now, 1500 years later there are two worlds. Something happened that created powerful nations out of the rubble of ancient Rome.
Rodney Stark, a philosopher and scholar at Baylor University explains this in his book, “How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and the Success of the West.” Stark writes, “How had the nations that had arisen from the rubble of Rome so greatly surpassed the rest of the world?…. The most convincing answer to those questions attributes Western dominance to the rise of capitalism, which took place only in Europe… But, if one digs deeper, it becomes clear that the truly fundamental basis, not only for capitalism, but for the rise of the West, was an extraordinary faith in reason…… from early days, the church fathers taught that reason was the supreme gift from God and the means to progressively increase understanding of Scripture and revelation…. Encouraged by the scholastics and embodied in the great medieval universities founded by the church, faith in the power of reason infused Western culture, stimulating the pursuit of science and the evolution of democratic theory and practice.”
So, it was the desire to KNOW GOD and the SCRIPTURES that led to Western advances that are the foundation for modern civilization. Examples of this are found in the great universities like Princeton, Harvard and Yale, all of which started as theological seminaries.
Stark provides further example: “18th-century political theorist John Locke explicitly rested on egalitarian axioms derived by church scholars… from earliest days, the major theologians taught that faith in reason was intrinsic to faith in God.
As Tertullian instructed in the second century, “Reason is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing which God, the Maker of all, has not provided, disposed, or ordained by reason – nothing which He has not willed should be handled and understood by reason.” Consequently it was assumed that reason held the key to progress in understanding scripture, and that knowledge of God and the secrets of his creation would increase over time. Augustine went on at length about the “wonderful – one might say stupefying – advances human industry has made.” All were attributed to the “unspeakable boon” that God has conferred upon his creation, a rational nature.
Western advances in economics and personal and political freedom are rooted in Reason. Reason succeeded as the result of a quest to understand God’s Word and His world.
The second statement is that America’s Freedom and Greatness is Diminishing as we reject our faith in God. Again, secularists decry Christianity as the opponent of freedom. But True freedom is based on a proper understanding of things as they really are. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl had opportunity to experience what the loss of freedom was all about. After he survived the Nazi concentration camp, he wrote this concerning how distortion of reality contributed to the holocaust: “If we present man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present him as an automation of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instincts, heredity, and environment, we feed the despair to which man is, in any case, already prone.
I became acquainted with the last stages of corruption in my second concentration camp in Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment—or, as the Nazis liked to say, of ‘Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”
According to Frankyl then, distorting reality results in the loss of freedom. And I don’t have to convince any of you that America has been losing its freedom for a long time and most recently at light speed.
In 1976, theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer wrote this: “I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened. And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things. Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals – increasingly men and women are not stirred by the values of liberty and truth – but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence. They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least an illusion of them.”
Schaeffer’s insight would prove to be highly accurate. He saw America’s focus on a distorted reality of personal peace and comfort and rightly predicted that the loss of freedom would soon follow. And that is where we are today.
Contrary to the prevailing philosophy of our day, we as Christians know that true freedom is based on the knowledge of God. This is why the psalmist wrote: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. And in proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Without its Christian foundation, Freedom becomes Chaos, Chaos become anarchy, and anarchy leads to despotism.
Here is an example: According to the latest Gallop polling, 60% of American’s approve of gay marriage. The astounding part of this survey is NOT that approval went from 27% to 60% in 20 years. It is that 1996 was the first time Gallop EVER asked this question! It was unthinkable before then, which begs the question, how does the Supreme Court determine that something is a right when no one seriously considered this prior to the mid 1990’s?
Another example is the Court’s Legal approval of Same-sex Marriage. In his opposing comments, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent. As a result, the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?
But we do not have to rely on Justice Roberts to clarify this question. This has been settled since the beginning by God. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22, ESV)
Vigorous attempts are made to make same sex marriage the same as heterosexual marriage. Adoptions and artificial insemination are vain attempts to change what God ordained. The real issue is not one of sexual freedom or preference, but of defiance against God. Take for example Bruce Jenner. Consider the great lengths that he has gone through to achieve his perceived status as a woman – expensive operations, expensive and extended drug therapies, and a whole lot of make-up. But it will never change the biological distinction that made him a man.
People can claim that men can become women, that women can become men, and that same-sex couples are just the same as opposite sex couples. They can go to great lengths to compensate for the things that they consider wrong or inadequate with their created order. It’s like God gave us a Mozart symphony, with all of its intricate movements, themes, instruments, harmonies, rhythms and instruments. But In defiance we REJECT the symphony, and play CHOPSTICKS, bragging that we have created music. The real motive is not sexual freedom or marital freedom – it is the silencing of Christians.
We all know that the covid scare had its roots in Communist China, where there is no freedom. And I have to admit that there is a level of logic to the initial lock down. We didn’t know much about the virus when it hit our shores and the concern of it overrunning our hospital capacities was a real threat. We didn’t know how the virus would affect different populations. We didn’t know how to test for it. And because of all this uncertainty we willingly gave up our freedoms.
We here in Michigan were under one of the severest and illogical lock downs – some of which, thanks in part to the protests, have now been lifted. But as hard as all this has been, there are still freedoms to be found – and celebrated – in the midst of this pandemic. He may not get credit for it and history books likely will not record it, but our President, Donald Trump, achieved some incredible things through the process of freedom. When the virus first hit our eastern shores, brought in by infected European travelers, our president could have very well have instigated a nation-wide lock down, but no, he had the foresight to understand that the infection might well be a regional situation and so he left the decision up to individual governors. So, while we here in Michigan were under a severe lock down, folks in other states like North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas and Iowa were never under a lock down.
Another freedom our president granted, that resulted in our country being a front-runner in dealing with this virus, was by temporarily lifting some of the regulations impacting research and development facilities.
This allowed researchers to fast-track a virus test, which also allowed us to understand that many people who actually got the virus were totally unaffected by it.
Well, I for one am exceedingly glad that our freedoms are being returned to us, but in order for us to maintain our freedoms we must understand that a Spiritual revival must happen. Those opposed to Christianity, and true freedom, have been attacking us for many years and one of the first things many governors did was close down the churches, but that’s okay because revival often comes through persecution.
And Jesus said: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:12–17, ESV)
The world has been conditioned by the Satanic philosophies, but Jesus said: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn. 8:31-32 ESV) Choose freedom.