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Article published July 27, 2013
Free to believe
Ralph Joseph Slippery Rock
America is the land of the free — or so we would like to believe. But where does this freedom come from? There are only two answers: from the will of the governed, including government itself; or from the hand of Almighty God. The most popular of these two opinions is the first. One of the problems with that view is that if the governed, including the government itself, gives freedom, then it can also take it away — and we submit we are seeing this happen with a fair degree of regularity. For instance, the new health care law, commonly called ObamaCare, rides roughshod over the consciences of individuals, companies and even church-related institutions of higher learning with regard to the mandatory providing of abortion-related drugs. This restraint of freedom is also being found in the military where officers often are not allowed to place a Bible on their desks or talk about their faith outside of the their homes or churches, a policy which threatens the very work of the chaplains. The Bible informs us that freedom, however, is not man-centered but God-centered. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Now if this statement is true, then we need to search the scriptures to determine how freedom is to be exercised. On the other hand, if the statement is false, we have a bigger problem. We have an issue with the credibility of Jesus Christ — regarded as equal in essence with God the Father. If Jesus is wrong about freedom, then he is wrong about everything else, or at least suspect. One of the consequences of holding to this view is that, while our consciences are not infallible, they are given to us by God as part of our make-up and therefore should not be violated, even if that conscience is wrong. An illustration of the latter is our view of religious freedom in this country, i.e., we are free to believe in God or no God at all — contrasted to those in Islamic cultures where “if you do not believe as I do,” you can be executed as an infidel. It would seem, therefore, if we want to be truly a land of the free, we need to return to the understanding that freedom is God-given and not derived from the consent of the governed or from government itself.