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Thread: Religions of Freedom
04-11-06, 08:03 AM #1
Religions of Freedom
Religions of Freedom
April 11th, 2006
Jonathan David Carson
However often Jews and Christians have acquiesced in tyranny or even been guilty of it themselves, Judaism and Christianity are fundamentally religions of freedom. What we call progress is the fitful victory of the freedom at their core over the tyranny of the world into which they came and which frequently contaminates them.
In what way are they religions of freedom? Ultimately, both religions promote freedom because they begin at the beginning, in the Book of Genesis, which recounts how man freely chose disobedience to God and with it all the evils to which we are subject.
Why would a good and omnipotent God, many ask, allow the manifest evils that beset us? Because, say the Jew and the Christian, freedom is worth the high price in sorrow we have to pay for it. We are combatants in a grand cosmic struggle for the existence of creatures who freely choose good.Washington crossed the Delaware to take part in this war. Omaha Beach was a battle in it. And, yes, so is the fight in Fallujah.
We are all warriors. We fight for freedom or against it. “You’re gonna have to serve somebody,” says Bob Dylan. “It may be the Devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Laugh if you will, and call Christians the Taliban, but God is on the side of freedom, and the Devil is on the side of tyranny.
“The battle-line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man,” said Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I may be too old and decrepit to go to the Sunni Triangle, and too cowardly, but I can recognize the lack of charity with which I view my fellow man and lament it. I can put aside a guilty pleasure and think better of my neighbor. I can ask God for forgiveness for my ingratitude toward the men and women who protect me.
If we cannot reconcile divine omnipotence and divine goodness, we must choose between them. Islam has chosen divine omnipotence. It may praise God’s goodness and mercy, but because it holds that everything that happens is the direct result of God’s will, it must make God responsible for rape, murder, theft, adultery, deceit, and so on, even blasphemy; and if God is responsible for these evil deeds, then they must not be evil after all.
“If God did not want those people to die,” says the mullah, “why did he allow those airliners to crash into the World Trade Center?”
The opposite choice is made by “process theologians” and “panentheists,” who curtail the powers of God, most prominently by claiming that God does not know the future because the future does not yet exist, assuming without realizing it that God’s mode of knowing is the same as man’s: since we cannot know the future, God cannot know it either, they think.
One could of course reject both divine omnipotence and divine goodness, and the apparent contradiction between them offers perhaps the most successful argument against the existence of God: if God is so powerful and so good, how can the world be so full of evil?
Attempts to answer this question are at least as old as the Book of Job and ancient Greek philosophy. The traditional Christian answer, which is based on the sacred Hebrew texts Christianity shares with Judaism, is that sin and death are the result of Original Sin.
Therefore, God is not the source of evil, and one cannot excuse evil by attributing it to God, in the Islamofascist manner. One cannot argue that we have no choice but to act as we do, as both Islam and atheistic determinists assert.
A related explanation is that God allowed Satan to freely choose evil and later to tempt Adam and Eve and bring sin and death into the world because God makes use of evil to bring about a higher good.
John Milton has Satan say:
...If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labor must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;
And later Adam:
O goodness infinite, goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness! full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin
By mee done and occasion’d, or rejoice
Much more, that much more good therof shall spring,
To God more glory, more good will to Men
From God, and over wrath grace shall abound.
And thus good freely chosen wars against the perversion of obedience that is Islam and the perversion of freedom that is the license of the West.
Perhaps the traditional answer is incomplete or partially in error. The question is not easy. It does, however, protect our understanding of God from the disastrous implication that God is responsible for evil.
Such protection is vital in every age, but particularly vital in our own, which is the arena of a vast struggle between freedom and tyranny. The traditional Judeo-Christian answer says that God so values freedom that he allowed angels in heaven to rebel against him and allowed the chief rebel to deceive the first humans and bring sin and death to us and the world in which we live. The possibility of sin is the inevitable concomitant of freedom.
The entire cosmic drama, in which we ourselves play, is a struggle for true liberty, for the liberty of free creatures who freely choose good. The struggle for true freedom in the United States and the rest of the world takes place in the context of this drama and is part of it. Only in the United States have hundreds of millions of people been free. No other nation has ever received such great benefits—or so great a responsibility.
The two principal adversaries of the West and its traditions, Islam and what is inexactly called secularism, are, despite their superficial differences, shameful and ignominious retreats from the high and difficult quest to explain the evil we see in the world without implicating Nature or Nature’s God. They thus shift responsibility from man, where it belongs, to the natural world or to the creator of the natural world, and by doing so, they vastly increase the reach of evil.
Enormous harm has resulted and continues to result from confusion over the term secular, which is used in various senses without awareness of the variety. The word has many meanings, but the two most common ones are generally confused. Secular can mean either not overtly religious or actively hostile to religion. The confusion of these two meanings corresponds to the two meanings of separation of church and state: the state having no established religion and the active hostility of the state to religion.
Before these corruptions of our language, secular did not mean hostile to religion. There are even secular priests, those who do not belong to religious orders. A more familiar and striking example is the secular music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The Brandenburg Concertos are not overtly religious in the manner of The Saint Matthew Passion, but to call them hostile to religion would be absurd. They are not even indifferent to it. Bach did not cease to be a Lutheran when he sat down to write them.
So secular should not even mean neutrality toward religion, much less hostility to it. This mistake corresponds to the claim that separation of church and state means, if not hostility of the state to religion, at least neutrality between religion and irreligion, which was never the intention of the Founding Fathers, who advocated instead neutrality of the state in the conflicts among various Christian sects.
I can only begin to catalog the harm this confusion has caused. In Europe and the United States, it has resulted in the contamination of modernity by the New Age and the triumph of idolatry. Under the guise of separation of church and state, tolerance, multiculturalism, science, and progress, we have the virtual establishment of a new religion of scientism and the New Age, which are the latest incarnations of superstition and murder.
Our response to Islamofascism is similarly confused. Muslims correctly see that what is presented to them as secular is in fact a religion of sorts. Their mistake is to identify it with Christianity because it stems from the corruption and weakness of Christianity in Europe, that is, Christendom.
Freedom in the United States and the rest of the world thus requires the defeat of the twin evils of the corruption of freedom we see in Europe and the United States and the outright hostility to it we see in the Islamic world. These evils seem to be quite different from one another, even opposed, but they are united in theory and practice. Fortunately, neither is as powerful as it seems, and their alliance is the alliance of despair.
Jonathan David Carson, Ph.D., may be reached here. For more information, see his website Make Haste Slowly.
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