March 2008

Courtesy Mission Bay Community Church

Get beyond the eggs and rabbits this Easter:

Stairs to the lightSo, does Christianity rob you of your freedom? Yes and no.

This question is emotionally charged because Westerners typically value personal freedom above all else. However, maybe before we can really talk about "freedom" we should think a bit about what it means to "be free".

Dr Victor Shepherd comments regarding freedom:

Most people think that freedom is having several alternatives to choose from. A young person goes to an ice cream parlor and finds that there are twenty-seven flavors available … "What freedom," she thinks, meaning, "How fortunate I am to have so many choices." … What the child calls "freedom" – one choice among twenty-seven – is really indeterminism … that is, no power external to her is coercing her [to choose a particular flavor].

Consider the paradox of anarchy. Anarchy is sort of the most extreme version of this common conception of freedom (an extreme version of indeterminism): No rules. The paradox of anarchy is that a total lack of rules will often result in less personal freedom, not more. Think of most of the freedoms that you cherish: To be treated fairly, to have the right to speak and vote, to own possessions without constant fear of having them taken, to living a life of liberty "in pursuit of happiness". All of these are guaranteed and facilitated by having rules which restrict certain "freedoms" (like being free to steal other peoples' property or to silence others from speaking) in favor of others (like the right to own property or have free speech).

So then, while we can all agree that a dictatorship will encroach on a person's freedoms, going to the other extreme of anarchy will similarly result in loss of freedom. This freedom that is lost in both cases is just the type of freedom that Jesus promised. Dr Shepherd continues:

When the Bible speaks of freedom, however, it means something entirely different; it means the absence of any impediment to acting in accord with our true nature … The free person is simply the person for whom there is no impediment (inner or outer), no obstacle to her living as the child of God that she is by faith. (Victor Shepherd, Do you love me? And other questions Jesus asks, 35-36)

When Jesus said "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) he wasn't talking about indeterminism or anarchy. He was referring to how knowing the truth about God and His creation allows us to become truly free to become everything we were meant to be. Without knowing where we came from, where we are going, and who we are, we cannot achieve our full potential as human beings, and thus remain chained, unable to achieve full freedom.

If this makes sense, maybe it's time, right now, today, to reconsider the claims of Jesus and learn how the truth can set you free?

Tim Keller @ GoogleSorry that I haven't been posting lately … that "real life" thing has started eating up most of my free time now that I've actually started working (still part-time at this point) with TruthMedia and serving actively at my church.

Lately though I've been trying to get back into reading more often, and the current book I'm working through is Timothy Keller's The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. It was recommended by a couple different blogs that I frequent (independently of eachother) so I figured I'd pick it up. It's quite well written so far (I'm only about 20% done at this point) and I like the fact that it is sort of a reply to Dawkins/Harris/Dennet/Hitchens without actually being presented that way (as merely a rebuttal or defense). He brings a scholar's mind and a pastor's heart to his writing which helps to make it intellectually rigorous while at the same time compassionate and humble.

I recently also saw an interesting post about Tim Keller speaking at Google headquarters about his book. Apparently it was the largest turn out ever for a Google "Author Talk" event. Hopefully the talk will be posted on YouTube or something soon. Quote: "Weak faith in a strong object is infinitely better than strong faith in a weak object." Check out the book if you haven't already, it's good stuff.