Apologeet.nlChristianity is against freedom of speech… Right?
This accusation is a wide spread, and often celebrated argument against Christians. True enough, we have seen examples in the past where people were not allowed to believe or to say what they wanted. Blasphemy, criticism and disagreement within the ruling church was a perilous undertaking. However, before I continue I would like to quote mister David Chilton:
“Freedom cannot be exported to a nation that has no marketplace for the Gospel.“i
That is a bold statement! Mister Chilton argues that the freedom we know so well in the West, is rooted in the Christian world-view. When we talk about Christian world-view, we must acknowledge that this world-view is rooted in the teachings of Christ. Christ was the One who taught His followers to be humble, honest and lovers of people. So, to get the argument of a tyrannical church out of the way. We can safely say that, when the church or the clergy acted in fascistii and tyrannical ways, they absolutely did not hold to the teachings of Jesus. And, unless someone comes up with a teaching of Jesus in which we can undeniably read that He promoted such thinking, I leave the whole ‘suppressing church’ thing behind me now.
So why did mister Chilton said such a bold thing?
Chilton understands the impact of the Christian world-view! As Christians, we believe that our faith in Christ frees us from the chains of slavery to sin in a wicked, corrupt, and fallen world.
2 Corinthians 3:17 states: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Also read my article: Why Mission Matters.iii
Christians have always been involved in defending liberties. It was not only freedom of speech but also other forms of liberties. You might also think in terms of slavery, religious freedom, and the freedom to have your own property. Throughout history, Christians always defended these rights. A Christian has the duty, no, I would like to call it holy duty, to disagree with matters that are evil. We are not only talking about personal sin but ‘evil’ in a broader sense like wickedness, and tyrannical behaviour from leaders, fanatics, politicians, kings and even from within the church itself.
When I say ‘holy duty’ I say this not only based on one text in the Bible. The Bible is literally peppered with commands of being defenders of freedom. What to think about Micah 6:8 “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (KJV), or in a more understandable translation: “The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.” (CEV)
When we look at the history of Protestantism, we see a lot of disagreement. Yes, you’ve got it! That’s why it is called Protestantism… Protestants are those who protested against tyranny. The Protestants wanted to live a life according to God’s word. Needless to say that this wouldn’t be possible without freedom of speech and freedom of religion. You can only be a Protestant when you are allowed to disagree and disagreement is only possible when there is freedom of speech. Just look around you and see what happens when countries start to show contempt and disrespect for those who do not agree. Many of us right away think about North Korea and the Communist Chinese Party, where they treat Christian dissenters with contempt and scorn.
But hold on a minute!! What about our own countries? I am in my own country, the Netherlands, at the moment. I am appalled when I see how much censorship there is in my own country. I grew up in this beautiful small country. A country in which freedom of speech was basically the number one pillar of our democracy. Sure, I wasn’t always happy with the things other people said. But I always say that when someone is allowed to dance half naked on a boat in Amsterdam while he is kissing his friend, I also, am allowed to preach the Gospel on the boat that is floating behind him. That is freedom and with freedom comes the risk of being insulted. But now that freedom is under attack. We even have the army to check on us. True! Recently the news headlines in Holland stated that the army used their abilities to follow certain websites and persons who were labelled as being critical or in disagreement with the governmental Covid-19 policy. A reporter received a phone call from the local police because they were informed about the fact that he interviewed people who disagreed with many things concerning the governmental decisions. The officer said that they were worried about the fact that he gave a platform for conspiracy thinkers. These are just two examples from the Netherlands, but I am sure you can think of some in your country as well.
Let me cite Chilton again:
“When the Puritans left England, they did not wander over the earth; God brought them into a land and made them rulers, and though the foundation they built has greatly eroded, it is still very much with us after 300 years. What will people 300 years from now say of the accomplishments of today’s shallow, retreatist evangelicalism?”iv
Looking back on the recent history of freedom we see people like Martin Luther and other reformers in Europe, the Puritans who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices. We also see William Wilberforce, who was an evangelical Christian and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. And of course the Founding Fathers who are well known in the US. They all had one thing in common, they were Bible-believing Christians who defended the freedom we sometimes take for granted.
A real Christian should realise that his or her spiritual battle is not much different from that of our forefathers. Sure, our forefathers didn’t have social media that could potentially discredit them… No, they ‘only’ had to get their message across by the written word and by actually going somewhere and talk in public. They faced kings, corrupt politicians and powerful clergy. Still, they never abandoned their holy duty to protect the freedom of speech.
Torba wrote an article about the big tech companies who misuse their position to silence disagreeable voices. He said:
“Christians must once again become Dissenters in today’s world, but in order to do so they must stop being wimps and rise up to the battle God is calling them to fight.”v
Christians shouldn’t back down when it comes to defend justice while preaching the Gospel of the Risen King. Keith Green sang “Oh, can’t you see it’s such sin? The world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can’t fight ’cause it’s asleep in the light.”vi Christians shouldn’t accept weak and compromised preaching. We have the truth in the Lord Jesus. Whenever this message gets compromised we end up with churches full of powerless individuals, who call themselves Christians but are in reality nothing more than the man who build his house on the sand. When the waves of political correctness come. Or when the wind of ‘tolerance’ begins to blow, their houses will crumble and collapse.
Again, Chilton explained this in his book:
“All heathen cultures have been statist and tyrannical, for a people who reject God will surrender themselves and their property to a dictator.”vii
Chilton uses 1 Samual 8 to expound. God gives a warning to the people. A people who rather have a human king. Not long after, they forgot about God and slowly but surely they found themselves under the rule of ‘freedom suppressing’ leaders who were not willing to accept any critical sound in their kingdom.
Practice what you preach and live it. Lead by example. Do what you can and expect to be persecuted like your Master (John 15:20). Don’t accept a watered down Gospel from a preacher who basically wants to propagate ‘tolerance’, ‘diversity’ and ‘acceptance’. Continue to speak the truth and support those who do the same in the public arena, be bold and not ashamed of the gospel of Christ “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NIV).
ii Contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy and the rule of elites, and the desire to create a community, in which individual interests would be subordinated to the good of the nation. Internet: [https://www.britannica.com/topic/fascism], accessed 24-11-2020).
iv Chilton, D., Paradise Restored: a biblical theology of dominion. Dominion Pr, 1985, Page 51.
v Torba, A., The Christian Crusade To Save Free Speech, Again. Internet: [https://news.gab.com/2020/11/17/the-christian-crusade-to-save-free-speech-again/] accessed on 17-11-2020.
vi Green, K. G., Asleep in the light, 1987 the Sparrow Corporation.
vii Chilton, D., Paradise Restored: a biblical theology of dominion. Dominion Pr, 1985, Page 50.