Archives For Freedom

Karl Barth and Roger Scruton make unlikely conversation partners. Barth, was a Reformed Swiss theologian, who held up the distinction between theology and philosophy, and Scruton, is a British philosopher, who talks theology, but knows his limits on the subject.

The meeting between the two takes place in Barth’s On Religion and Scruton’s, The West and All the Rest. Together they provide a telescopic view of modern religio-politics and the socio-political landscape of the West.

One big theme for Scruton is the relationship between the ‘social contract’ and Creed communities[i] (or communities bound by religious law). One clear example of a Creedal Community is a community living under Shari’a law.

Shari’a is held up by the Muslim community as unchangeable divine law. ‘The gate of itijiahd is closed’, meaning that the divine law, the Shari’a, can no longer be adjusted or added to, but merely studied for meaning that it already contains.’ [ii]

Within Islam, salvation comes through the law. Routine obedience to both ritual and law ‘makes and unmakes a Muslim’s relationship with God.’ [iii] Islamic ‘communities are not formed by doctrine, but by obedience, established through ritual and law’. [iv] There is no objective political body such as is created, in the West, by the separation of the Church and State.

‘Like the Communist Party in its Leninist construction, Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state […] Islamic jurisprudence does not recognise secular, still less territorial, jurisdiction as a genuine source of law. [v]

Scruton asserts that Western foundations were laid by Judeo-Christian doctrine and Roman law, where ‘law is defined over territory [territorial jurisdiction]’. Jesus’, “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s” (Mt.22:21). From the two, emerged the so-called “social contract”. This consists of the rights and responsibilities of free citizens, lived out, and governed within the boundaries of classical enlightenment liberalism and its ‘’culture of toleration’’.

Scruton explains that even though in the Western sphere, ‘religion is the concern of family and society, but not of the State’ [vi], the “social contract” has an undeniable foundation in the Judeo-Christian experience, which advocates love for God and love for neighbour, whether that neighbour be a Jew, Christian, Muslim or neither. Neighbour serves neighbour, just as that neighbour would serve himself (Leviticus 19:9-18, Deuteronomy 6 & Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31).

This implies personal responsibility, which functions under the covering of this basic agreement. An agreement that works for social and political cohesion; a ‘common loyalty to a single [secular] political culture’ [vii], within in a diverse, vibrant and free society.

Rather than within a coercive society or politik grounded in allegiance to one overarching ruler, party or carefully structured narrative.

In other words, the “social contract” exists within a house where freedom is governed responsibly; it cannot exist in a house of slavery, where freedom is squashed by opposing extremes such as Islamism,  Nihilism, subjective relativism,  or communist/Marxist doctrine.

Barth’s major theme meets Scruton’s precisely where Barth asserts that religion, when it’s abstracted from God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, becomes idolatrous and toxic.*  E.g.: Works righteousness; where the focus is not on what God has done, but on what man and woman do, and how they can reach God, without God.

Scruton and Barth, present a tangible argument for the importance of recognising the dangers of severing the “social contract” from the Judeo-Christian experience.To do so, is to lose its unique critique and affirmation.

Responsible freedom and civics (the “social contract”)  facilitate true freedom, because it understands that true freedom only exists when just limitations, are applied to protect freedom from the challenges which threaten its existence.

Such as post-enlightenment nihilism (manifested as militant secular humanism), cultural Marxism, Islamism and radical feminism, all of which, through revisionism and deconstruction theory, seek to sever society from tried and true, Judeo-Christian doctrine and experience, without regard for the anchoring of freedom that it provides.

For Barth, men and women act against God’s grace (His unmerited salvation). In man and woman’s quest to reach God, on human terms, his and her ‘erecting of towers of babel’, are faithless acts, built on flawed and faithless human arrangements.

These human arrangements are absent of any involvement or acknowledgement of or faith in the Divine. Barth points out that, as history proves, when one religion fades or is usurped, another inevitably takes its place.

Scruton appears to agree, stating that both Marxism and Feminism, share the ‘ambitions of a monotheistic faith [religion]’

‘It seeks to replace or rearrange the core experience of social membership and therefore has the ambitions of a monotheistic faith, [like Marxism] offering a feminist answer to every moral and social question…a feminist [and Marxist] [account of history], theory of the universe, and even a feminist goddess. It drives the heretics and half-believers from its ranks with a zeal that is the other side of the warmth with which it welcomes the submissive and orthodox.’  [viii]
‘…we should acknowledge that the worst forms of nationalism and socialism arise when their adherents look to them to provide the equivalent of a religious faith. –  an absolute submission that will sweep away all doubt, demand total sacrifice and offer redemption in exchange. This is what the latter-day Marxists are demanding.’ [xix]

This goal is also evidenced in the remarks of, György Lukács, one of the founders of “Western Marxism”, in Record of a Life:

“You cannot just sample Marxism […] you must be converted to it.” [x]

Scruton and Barth share a common protest. Connected to Barth’s discussion on religion without revelation, Scruton helps build a strong theological critique of Islamism, Marxism and Feminism. All exist as religions without the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

Just as religion without the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, is bound for destruction, so is Western political philosophy that jettisons its Judeo-Christian foundations; foundations that hold up a moral and faith basis for Classical Liberal enlightenment principles, such as the largely successful independent working relationship between Church and State.

In Islam there is no equivalent to a separation between Church and State. Like Marxism, the State is the Church (or Mosque). All moral opposition is treated as treason. (Exemplified by ex-Muslim & secular humanist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her book, ‘Infidel’ and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his 1971, Harvard address).

As neighbour betrays neighbour, family member betrays family member, all politically incorrect discussion or dissent [talk not approved by the State] is reported to organisations like the Morality Police (Gasht-e Ershad) or the Soviet Cheka, The Soviet Union’s equivalent to the Gestapo[xi].

Scruton makes it clear that, what is at work behind the scenes, in the West, is not a denial of religion, but a quest to replace it. Barth makes it clear that any religion completely absent or synthetically veiled with lip service to God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, is one to be resisted.

Like Barth’s admonishment of natural theology during the rise of Hitlerism and the Third Reich. Like his warnings of how faithlessness leads humanity towards inhumanity. Like Barth’s meticulous warnings of any religion which exists without the sublimating [raising to a higher status] of religion through the revelation of Jesus Christ [God’s unmerited salvation – grace], Scruton points a telescope towards a storm that’s been darkening the horizon, but has been dangerously dismissed, by far too many for far too long.


References:

 

[i] This term is attributed to Oswald Spengler, The Decline of The West.

[ii] Scruton, R. 2002 The West & All The Rest: Globalization & The Terrorist Threat ISI Books

[iii] ibid, p.21

[iv] ibid, p.103

[v] ibid, pp.6 & 66

[vi] ibid, p.63

[vii] ibid, p.63

[viii] ibid, p.72

[xix] Scuton, R. 2014 How to Be a Conservative: The Truth in Socialism, Bloomsbury Publishing (p.64)

[x] Scruton, R. 2015. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, New Thinkers of The Left. Bloomsbury Publishing

[xi] Another example comes from Alain Besancon, who wrote: ‘Muslim states, according to strict adherence to law, cannot authorize the reciprocal tolerance asked of them by Christian states. In calling for this, Christians show their ignorance of Islam.’ (Forward to Jacques Ellul’s, Islam and Judeo-Christianity).

*(Such as: any religion [claim to the way of salvation] that holds a veneer of revelation, but ultimately rejects both covenant and Jesus Christ as the promise and fulfillment of God’s revelation; God’s free choosing and acting in and through the covenant of grace.)

My summary introduction to mark the beginning of the journey through Exodus with our homeschoolers. We’ll miss Genesis and the long, warm discussions we’ve had about creation, evolution, science, history and Joseph; or as we’ve affectionately called him: “Joey-in-charge.”

‘Be not wise in your own eyes, fear [trust] the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh, and refreshment to your bones’ – (Proverbs, 3:7-8)

 

5th September 2016 034

 

C.S Lewis Doodle  is one of the best – if not the only – YouTube channel for visualising the writings of C.S Lewis. Each video rests more on the rare art of artistic exposition, than on an entertaining artistic expression of Lewis’ thought, and they work.

Powered by the voice of narrator, Ralph Cosham, the artistry and attention to detail which goes into producing these short videos are of an indisputable, very high quality. They are useful as a visual-aid, helping to unpack the depth of meaning, intent and context of selected material from Lewis’ many works.

I had recommended these just over a year ago and I am more than happy to do so again.

Kalman Kingsley, is the chief illustrator and has added some new material since then. So, if you’ve got a few minutes spare, they’re well worth your time.

‘The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind so long as we are subject to one law.
But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.’
– (C.S Lewis, ‘The Poison of Subjectivism’ in ‘Christian Reflections‘)

 

 

IMG_0456 I’m a big fan of Karl Barth’s wonder which is expressed in his teaching about the beauty of relationship, reconciliation and the seemingly paradoxical polar connectivity between a man and a woman.

Both equally unique, but finding a necessary limitation in freedom, in order that such freedom can remain true freedom.

How, ‘God sets us free to be free for Him and as a result free for each other – the man for the woman, the woman for the man, both free for God, who in Jesus Christ, chooses and has chosen to be free for both’ [i]

All of that can be summarised as: Love and responsibility; ‘freedom in limitation’ because humanity cannot have only one in isolation from the other, without destroying both.


Source: [i]  Barth, K. 1951, CD.III:4 (paraphrased) Tentative recommendation: Love & Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla [Pope John Paul II] Image is mine. Related post: When a Man Loves a Woman: Barth’s Freedom in Fellowship

Elshtain quote D_O_TThe following analogy illustrates the point that ‘good nature may be a great misfortune if we do not mix prudence with it’[i]:

”An old man and his young son were driving a donkey before them to the next market to sell. ‘Why have you no more wit’, says one to the man upon the way, ‘thank you and your son trudge it on foot, and let the donkey go light?’
So the old man set his son upon the donkey and continued himself on foot. ‘Why, sir’, says another after this, to the boy, ‘you lazy rogue, must you ride, and let you old father go on foot?’
The old man upon this took down his son, and got up himself. ‘Do you see,’ says a third, ‘how lazy old knave rides himself, and the poor young fellow has much ado to creep after him?’
The father, upon hearing this, took up his son behind him. The next person they met asked the old man whether the donkey was his own or not. He said, ‘yes’. ‘There’s a little sign on it’, says another, ‘by loading him thus.’
‘Well,’ says the old man himself, ‘and what am I to do now? For I am laughed at, if either the donkey be empty, or if one of us rides, or both;’ and so he came to the conclusion to bind the donkey’s legs together with a cord, and they tried to carry him to market with a pole upon each of their shoulders.
This was sport to everybody that saw it, inasmuch that the old man in great wrath threw down the donkey into a river, and so went his way home again. The good man, in fine , was willing to please anybody, and lost his donkey in the process” (‘The complete John Ploughman’)

The point of this analogy is clear. In some respects the father’s acquiescence is blind. His son also shows the same symptoms by his inability to challenge the father’s sedate tolerance which, because of a lack of assertiveness has led to absolute confusion.

Consequently, they were both paralyzed not just by fear, but also by indifference and indecision.  Something akin to moral failure or as penned by Carl Trueman, ‘moral abdication’.[iii]

They were unable to push back or challenge the wisdom behind what they were accepting because they were too eager to appease the commentary of their detractors.

Accommodating the high opinions of those around, and not wanting to offend, negated the very purpose of their journey, harming not only themselves but also the donkey.

In a comment related to this story, the blunt-talking, 19th Century Preacher, the Rev. Charles Spurgeon, stated with some clarity:

‘Put your hand quickly to your hat, for that is courtesy; but don’t bow your head at every man or woman’s bidding, for that is slavery…A person is not free if they are afraid to think for themselves, for if our thoughts are in bonds we are not free.[ii]

This is somewhat echoed in the words from theologian, Professor Marguerite Shuster:

 ‘Those who Jesus confronted most directly were as likely to want to kill him as to follow him. He seemed to not have the slightest inclination to make hearing and following him pleasant and easy…Truthfulness, in other words, is not determined by customer satisfaction surveys’[iv]

For the free citizen, Shuster’s words mark the very essence of what it means to be a ‘good citizen’ instead of a ‘nice citizen’; the ability to say “yes” and “no” with a ton of responsible care and a stack of well-informed conviction.

Spurgeon’s analogy also shows that the misappropriation of words in our society becomes one of the causes of the double mindedness. As the axiom reads: control of the language means control of the argument, and therefore control of the people. In true Machiavellian style all contradictions such as double standards and hypocrisy are either suppressed or ignored as acceptable, if the end justifies the means.

Accommodation and blind tolerance, in the forms of indifference and indecision, create the ground from which the late political scientist, and moderate feminist, Jean Bethke Elshtain unpacks her own concerns:

‘Western democracies are not doing a good job of nurturing democratic dispositions that encourage people to accept that they can’t always get what they want and that some of what they seek in politics cannot be found there’[v]

What Elshtain and Spurgeon are alluding to is the ”absolute feel-nice yes” with a notable absence of any ability to say “no” and have it respected.

For example: equality, fairness and freedom cannot exist in a truly democratic society when the people give unquestioning loyalty to the state, or the fashionable ideology propagated by some circles in academia, which promise much yet in practice, deliver little.

It is right to suggest that nihilism and its progeny, like utilitarian hedonism or totalitarian fascism, should be identified and resisted by the public when it comes to having a decisive influence on socio-political policy. It is wrong to not allow these to be reasonably argued against in the free marketplace of ideas.

Equally bad is a politics of appeasement which caves in to demands for unrestrained freedom or extremist forms of social justice for easy political gain. Such politics, and those who advocate it show, that they do not understand freedom, because for genuine freedom[vi] to be realised there must be responsible restraints.

Otherwise real mercy and justice are sacrificed for the sake of absolute freedom.

For instance:

‘Absolute justice is achieved by the suppression of all contradiction: therefore it destroys freedom. The revolution to achieve justice, through freedom, ends by aligning them against one another.[vii]

Absolute freedom is an illusion because of its innate contradictions. Such as absolute justice, which allows the mob-in-revolt to violently dictate and impose the rule of total law. Or allow a leader to take on emergency powers where, drunk with power, he or she, takes that ”one ring to rule them all.

The place where free citizens become subjects, and take on the lonely and confused, dire submission of Ralph and his faithful companion, who amidst the mad chaos and fire, stirred up by Jack, in Golding’s classic, Lord of the Flies, decide:

‘…under threat of the sky, to eagerly take a place in this demented, but partly secure society’. [viii]

It’s as Ronold Reagan said in his 1964 speech, ‘A Time for Choosing‘:

There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender.

In other words, a politics of appeasement leads to two choices, slavery or war. Appeasement, and its cousin, détente, end in an uneven politics of displacement.

This is a lesson learnt the hard way and one that still, eerily, echoes out from Neville Chamberlain’s ”peace in our time”. Something which, at the time, stood out as a so-called justification for the decade long charge of ”warmongering” howled out loud against Winston Churchill in the 1930’s [xix].

We need not look any further for more weight to this than Thomas Doherty’s assessment of that era in his 2013, book ‘Hollywood & Hitler’:

‘Aggression undeterred, is aggression encouraged. That is the lesson of the 1930’s’ [x]

Appeasement only benefits those who are being appeased. It rarely, if ever, benefits those doing the appeasing.

As exemplified by Kennedy’s resolve in the Cuban Missile crisis, Churchill, Reagan and Thatcher, under this freedom in limitation*, good leaders are those who direct us away from both slavery and war, but are not afraid to lead us, under just rules of engagement, into the latter for the sake of avoiding the former.

Like the donkey in a ditch, democracy will be abandoned and lay dormant, placed there by indifference and indecision. Denied, despairing and desperate for rescue, whilst those who chose appeasement, pledge allegiance to an altar of sinister ideologies, advancing by a list of lustful, lost and predatory activism.

Such an activism clings to historically destructive theories that say to humanity “you will only be free when you can liberate yourself from responsibility, and the life-giving source and order of that freedom.”

No longer are people citizens, free because their freedom is recognised as God-given, sourced from outside of themselves. They become thoughtless subjects of an ideology; pawns in the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.

In a direct challenge to French Communists Albert Camus highlighted this in 1951, claiming that people become subjects to a party, as ‘man takes refuge in the concept of the permanence of the party, in the same way that he formerly prostrated himself before the altar.’[xi]

They willingly march towards becoming the subjects (pawns) in the hands of an “elite” who worship at the altar of deified humanity, created by a ‘religion of [so-called] reason’[xii].

In today’s “post-modern” society we see this in the accommodation of blurred distinctions.

Our society tends to value appearance and reputation, over against the truth and the substance of real character.

The result seems to be a persecution of thinkers. In my case, Christians, who choose a thinking faith over a sedated polis; a faith which doesn’t just parade itself as righteous, but acts in righteousness because of the ‘freedom in limitation’[xiii] granted to humanity by its Creator.

With a large degree of venomous intolerance they are labelled as intolerant bigots and suppressed as an enemy instead of an opponent. Like Israel today, the very existence of Christians stands as a defiant, yet responsible “no” against any ideology that seeks to master and dominate others.

Christian theology is only political in the sense that it enters into conversation with politics. Theology never becomes political. It cannot or it’s no longer free. It’s no longer free to critique the politik and its ideology. It exists in relation to politics, not a substitute for it. Hence the working relationship – a very successful one – between Church and State. Something even Jesus talked about.

That critique is grounded on the conviction that ”Jesus is Lord”. It stands opposed to the worship of Caesar as lord. Therein lies the danger of a Christless Christianity or any Christless Christian West, in general. Absent of Christ. Man becomes god. Only Christ, God become man, stops this. Hence, the way, the truth and the life – true freedom. OR as the Old Testament teaches us, God’s house of freedom vs. man’s house of slavery. In sum, God saves man and woman from themselves, in Christ this authentic “no” has as it’s goal, which is an authentic “yes.”

It is not surprise then that Christians are subsequently forced, or sadly, sometimes surrender themselves into bondage to trends, bad theology, neo-tolerance and failed ideas, which lay waste to the existence of a free and responsible representative democracy, governed by faith, reason, mercy and justice.

Perhaps that old reminder stands as true today as it did then:

‘When we don’t apply a moral criteria to politics, we mix good and evil, right and wrong. Therefore we make space for the triumph of absolute evil in the world’
(Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1971, Harvard address[xiv])

Sources:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H.  2007 The complete John Ploughman Christian Focus publications

[ii] Ibid. This echoes the biblical call to pray: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach… because a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways’ (James 1:8)

[iii] Trueman, C. 2004 The Wages of Spin Christian Focus Publications Kindle Ed. (Loc.89)

[iv] Shuster, M. 2008 Truth and truthfulness in Performance in preaching Childers & Schmidt, Baker Academic

[v] Elshtain, J.B 1995 Democracy on Trial, Perseus Books Group (p.62) See also, Elshtain, J.B 2000 Who are we? critical reflections and hopeful possibilities (particularly chapter three) Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Grand Rapids Michigan U.S.A

[vi] Albert Camus, The Rebel 1951 Kindle Ed. (Penguin Classics, 2013)

[vii] Ibid, 1951

[viii] Golding, W. 1954 Lord of the Flies Bloomsbury House (p.167)

[xix] Gilbert, M. 1992 Churchill: A Life

[x] Doherty,T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939 Columbia University Press (p.368)

[xi] Camus, 1951

[ix] Camus, 1951

[x] Solzhenitsyn, A. 1978 A world split apart Harvard sourced from Columbia.edu

* The phrase ‘freedom in limitation’ is Karl Barth’s, not mine.

PDF of Reagan’s speech visit: “A Time for Choosing” (American Rhetoric)

Freedom and Responsibility_BarthAs promised. So delivered.

This makes up part one of three, five point summaries. Each highlighting quotes from my recent reading of Barth’s closing chapters in Church Dogmatics I.II

A few things to note before I begin.

Firstly, I have edited this more than a few times in order to maintain the integrity of Barth’s meaning.

Secondly, I’m really only posting these as a resource for my own future reference.

However, having said that, if you, the reader, find them interesting, I’d welcome your thoughts and comments about anything that should stand out to you as relevant.

Barth’s C.D.I.II is largely a call to read the Word of God ‘as it stands’[i]. This call moves Christians beyond the inerrancy debate because the bible does not have to be one hundred precent empirically correct in order for it to be true.

1. The Bible is ‘movement fulfilled in obedience, it exists as witness to revelation’[ii]. He adds, that ‘verbal inspiration does not mean the infallibility of the Biblical Word in its linguistic, historical and theological character as a human word’.

  • It means that the fallible and faulty human word is used by God and has to be received in spite of its human fallibility[iii]…the work of God is done through this text. The miracle of God takes place in the text formed of human words[iv]
  • ‘It is a matter of the event/s of the actual presence of the Word of God…the free presence of God, defining our recollection as thankfulness and our expectation as hope[v]
  • ‘Certainly it is not our faith which makes the Bible the Word of God…although it does demand our faith, underlie our faith, and that it is the substance and life of our faith…We have to understand the inspiration of the Bible as a divine decision continually made in the life of the Church and in the life of its members[vi]

2. According to Barth

  • ‘We, (the Church) share in the movement in which scripture was born and in virtue of which even today Scripture is not mere writing but in its written character is Spirit and Life[vii]
  • We ‘live in light of the Word of God’s decision about us[viii]
  • Consequently, ‘the Church for its part must allow itself to be set in movement through Scripture.[ix]
  • We stand in Church history, therefore Church history is lived’[x]

3. Having anchored his defence, Barth embarks on an offense, directing our attention to the freedom and authority of God which gives life to the freedom and responsibility of both man and woman[xi].  For Barth

  • What is at stake, or so it seems, is God’s authority and freedom.  This leads into a discussion about the ‘infinite qualitative distinction (Kierkegaard)’ which holds that God is heaven and man on earth, that God rules and men and women must obey, that the Word of God makes a total claim upon humanity.[xii]
  • We have had to learn anew to accustom ourselves again to these simple truths, in contradiction to a theological liberalism which would have nothing to do with them…[xiii]

4.They (theological liberals) can attempt to jettison authority in a fight for freedom, but ‘neither the origin nor the essence of the Church is to be found in the blind alley where man would like to be his own lord and law.[xiv]

5. At this point Barth brings up the issue of the Church and the Freedom of the Word of God.

  • ‘The Christian is not a stone that is pushed, or a ball that is made to roll. The Christian is a person who through the Word and love of God has been made alive, the real man or the real woman, able to love God in return standing erect just because they have been humbled, humbling themselves because they have been raised up[xv]
  • Barth asserts that when we are ‘confronted by grace…. our pride annihilated and our sin covered. We are, therefore, addressed by the name we received in our baptism and not by the title which might be given to us by others as an indication of who we are as individuals (personality) [xvi]

With all due respect to lists on blogs, this is definitely not an average one. It is a culmination of important statements made by Barth in or just before 1938. Inside the details, or rather woven into them, is a firm grasp on the reality of the socio-political context of Europe and in particular the Church, as its people gazed upwards towards the darkening sky trying to find light in the vicious ideological storm, that was to rapidly move across Europe a year later.

Behind Barth’s words rests the knowledge that

‘the struggle against the authority of the Bible is really the struggle against the freedom of grace.[xvii]

Along with an awareness of the fact that:

‘Where there is no genuine authority, so there is no genuine freedom. There is only action and reaction between a despotic arrogance and an equally despotic despair.[xviii]

Source:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Scripture as the Word of God Hendrickson Publishers, p.533

[ii] Ibid, p.671‘Freedom in the Church/The Freedom of the Word’

[iii] Ibid, p.533 (cont.)

[iv] Ibid, p.532 ‘Holy Scripture is also, in fact a human historical record’ (p.541); ‘God’s word comes to man and woman as a human word’ (p.699)

[v] Ibid, p.533

[vi] Ibid, pp.534-535

[vii] Ibid p.671 (cont.)

[viii] Ibid, p.704

[ix] Ibid, p.672

[x]  Ibid, p.595

[xi] This is not an ‘arbitrary freedom’, but a costly and decisive freedom ‘conferred by the Holy Spirit’ (p.667) and ‘worked out in obedience’ (p.661-662). Therefore the ‘Bible confronts us with the realisation our freedom’ (p.652)

[xii] Ibid, p.633 ‘Authority in the Church/Authority under the Word’

[xiii] Ibid, p.663 (cont.)

[xiv]  Ibid, p.668

[xv]  Ibid, p.662

[xvi] Ibid, p.704

[xvii] Ibid, p.559

[xviii]  Ibid, p.668 ‘The great defeats of the Church have been and are when it has wanted to honour its confession in theory but not in practice, when the living form becomes a mummy, and the mummy unnecessary lumber, and the gift of God is frustrated…the great danger in the inevitable conflicts against a confession of the Church is that it may be taken away from t if it yields to temptation and surrenders.’ (p.646)

 

(©RL2014)

True Freedom

February 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

Freedom Barth Free decision

We don’t always hit the ground running with Home-school scripture (devotions).

Today we did.

The message led us to review and discuss the final greeting in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church.

Our run through chapter five gave up a solid outline from Paul on how to ‘encourage and build up one another’, which is in itself a suitable title for chapter five, since the content flows in the general direction of most of Paul’s teaching on relationships.

Paul’s list (ESV & NLT):

Respect
Esteem
Love
Be at peace
Warn the idle
Encourage the anxious and insecure
Help the weak
Be patient
Assert justice (5:15)
Always seek:

Joy (rejoice) [Note: Joy is not to be misunderstood as happiness]

Prayer

Thanksgiving (gratitude)

Don’t stifle the Holy Spirit
Don’t despise prophecies
Test everything
Hold fast to good
Abstain from evil.

It is surprising that so much is packed into the final section of this letter.An area of focus for us today was exploring this list and its connection between what Paul also says in Ephesians and Corinthians about patient rebuke and patient correction[i], something we discussed last week.

After finishing devotions, I took some time to contemplate some of the deeper themes addressed by Paul through the text. For me the real point of today’s message rested in the themes of relationship and the free agency of the Holy Spirit.

When we read Paul’s command ‘do not stifle the Holy Spirit’ it is possible to hear depravity; a loss of freedom and relationship. Since ‘the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom’ (2 Cor.3:17), we deprive ourselves of true freedom and relationship when we cut ourselves away from the free God who stands in true freedom for us.

Such independence is false and unsafely grounded on the appearance of possessing ‘peace and security’ (5:3), not on any actual ownership of them.

God keeps us (read helps – empowers) as God destines us to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ. It could be said that the God who is free[ii], destines us to obtain true freedom.

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep might live with him” (1 Thess.5:9-10)

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely sanctity and keep you blameless” (5:23-24)

I like how Eberhard Busch explains it in his review of Karl Barth’s understanding of election, divine and human freedom:

‘God’s grace sets us free from sin…such freedom is given to us. We owe our freedom to our inclusion into the covenant of grace and to the fact that such freedom is carried out in accordance with the covenant. Our freedom, therefore, is autonomy within the conditions created by God. In these conditions, we choose that which God chose for himself and for us: existence within the covenant of God to which we belong by God’s determination prior to our own self-determination (II/ 2, 192f. = 175f.). Human freedom then is obedience in that it conforms to the use that God makes of his own freedom. Prayer is for Barth the characteristic act by which one participates as a member of the covenant. As the unequal partner of God, the human partner turns to God, petitioning him and responding to his mercy. But as God’s partner, a person does so in his own maturity[iii].

’our passivity is not in accord with his grace, but our active response is. And so Barth writes that the love of God “does not want to rule over puppets and slaves (or a mechanical force) but rather to triumph faithful servants and friends in their own free decision for Him” (II/ 2, 1942:178)[iv].


[i] ‘Speaking truth in love’ Eph.4:11-15
[ii] Primarily found in Karl Barth’s teaching on the Trinity.
[iii] Busch, E 2008 Barth (Abingdon Pillars of Theology) Kindle Ed. Abingdon Press (Kindle Loc. 1145-1150).
[iv] Ibid, (Loc 199-201) also see Barth,K. 1942, C.D. 2.2:178 Hendrickson Publishers