By Edward Thal /
The Bible teaches the reality and identity of many-faceted Truth. Just as its revelations on morality are unique in their diamond-hard purity and brilliance, so too is a concept of Deity as supremely loving derived exclusively from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Religious gods are fierce and distant, or they may be capricious and detached; but Jehovah God alone is immanent, tangible, unchanging, loving and approachable.
Similarly, the fundamental social principles of liberty, freedom and equality derive not from the mind of man or from any ancient civilization, including the Greeks and Romans: their primary source is the Bible.
But just as the view of God as Love is only half a view (and a dangerous one at that, if His Holiness and Justice is ignored), so ideas about freedom and liberty are dangerous if viewed through a fog, and out of context. The biblical concept of liberty refers exclusively to the God-given gift of choice regarding obedience to God and submission to God (hence the term “soul liberty”). It is a rare and precious gift potentially either a blessing or a curse, for it will lead ultimately to freedom or enslavement. When we choose God we are set free from slavery to sin and from the fear of death. The purpose of this freedom is to enable the joyful worship of God and not, as some would suppose, to enable behavior according to the dictates of individual conscience. That, in the Bible’s view, would drive man back into slavery!
There was a time in history when these principles were clearly understood. When Thomas Jefferson invoked the concepts of freedom and liberty he was articulating truths that were very familiar to him and to others embarked on the grand adventure of establishing a new nation, under God. It is clear from his “Statute of Religious Liberty” (1785) that Jefferson understood that the inner duty of conscience towards the Creator was the ground of liberty – no other power was its source and no other power dared intervene in this fundamental duty towards God. In this view, obedience to God comes before obedience to society, state or family.
It is a matter of no small import to consider what the logical end would be of a society where obedience to God is viewed as the supreme good. Fortunately, we do not need to speculate too much or look too far. History shows that the societies that have actually achieved the greatest good for the greatest number of their people – though in manifold respects imperfect – have been the societies where Biblical principles were common currency; namely the ancient Kingdom of Israel, Great Britain, from, roughly, 1600 to 1900, and the United States of America, from 1776 to, say, 1956.
Conversely, perverse views of God spawn oppressive tyrannies like Roman Catholic and Islamic-inspired societies whose depravations are engraved on the historical record, while the blood-soaked self-declared atheist regimes vie with them from the pages of history. Fascists in Italy, Nazis in Germany and Communists in the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere have reaped a harvest of hundreds of millions of murdered and tortured souls. These latter tyrants rejected the dogma of religion as they splashed around in the bloodshed permitted by the ultimate relativism of all things, drawing comfort in their moral and physical depravations from the gospels according to Darwin, Marx and Nietzsche: the strong must survive and the weak must perish.
Dostoevsky got it right: “If there is no God, everything is permitted.”
We may add to that thought: If there is no God, true liberty is impossible.