Ideas Have Consequences

Freedom: Can We Keep It?

July 22, 2022 Disciple Nations Alliance Season 1 Episode 32
Ideas Have Consequences
Freedom: Can We Keep It?
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Liberty is one of the most important values in the United States and now in many countries around the world. But it has come under threat from both internal and external sources. Freedom has been redefined to be choice without limit—and especially without reference to God, His created order, or moral law. Not only must our choices be unlimited, but others must actively affirm them. But freedom, virtue, and faith are inextricably linked, and when these bonds break, freedom dissolves. 

Scott:

You're either going to live as free people based in virtue or you're going to live in some kind of a tyrannical despotism without freedom. Those are really, at the end of the day, the only two choices you've got.

Luke:

Hi, friends, welcome back to another episode of Ideas Have Consequences. As Christians, our mission is to spread the gospel around the world to all the nations. But our mission also includes transforming the nations to increasingly reflect the truth, goodness, and beauty of God's kingdom. Tragically, the church has largely neglected the second part of her mission and today, Christians have little influence on their surrounding cultures. Join us on this podcast as we rediscover what it means for each of us to disciple the nations and to create Christ honoring cultures that reflect the character of the living God.

Scott:

Well, welcome to Ideas Have Consequences, the podcast of the Disciple Nations Alliance. My name is Scott Allen, and I'm here today with John Bottimore and Luke Allen. Excited today to be with you friends, to talk about a really important subject that we've talked about before, but I want to circle back around to it again, just because I feel like it's really, really vital that we wrestle with this topic right now. And that topic is freedom. I am going to start us out with a verse that many of you know, but I just think it's a super important verse for us. It is

Second Corinthians 3:

17, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Freedom is essential. It's an essential aspect of what it means to be a human being. God created us with freedom. And we can talk a little bit about why he did that. But he created us with freedom and his kingdom is a kingdom that is marked by, or one of the hallmarks of God's Kingdom is, freedom. And so for Christians, this is a really, really important subject. And I think there's a lot of confusion to in the church, on I think it's particularly important because we're living at a time in the 21st century, where freedom is under threat, the subject of freedom. There's different kinds of freedom. I'm as it's never been before, I think in my lifetime anyways. John, maybe you agree with that. Luke. It's under serious threat. Because I've lived in a free nation, the United States, all my life. It's easy to take freedom for granted. It's easy to assume that we know what freedom is. What makes it possible. It's easy to do a lot of assuming about freedom, just take it for granted. I think that's a mistake. I think when and if freedom ever is removed, and we no longer have it, we will wish we had done more to preserve it. So I think I'm concerned about the fact that we're living in a time where it's under threat in a way I don't think we've seen before. gonna define it here in a second, but before I do that, people talk about freedom in terms of different categories. So for example, a religious liberty is a kind of freedom, right? It would be the freedom to make choices about deeply held beliefs, to follow your conscience, the freedom to follow your conscience without being compelled or coerced to believe something against your well. So there's religious freedom, there's political freedom. This would be freedom that would allow you to, for example, choose elected representatives who are going to represent you in the government or even to speak, the freedom to speak or to assemble. Some of these Bill of Rights freedoms that we talk about in the United States. There's economic freedom. That would be freedom to buy and to sell and to trade freely, without being coerced or compelled. So there's a lot of kinds of freedom. define spiritual freedom is the freedom to do what is good. And that means it's freedom from sin, (which is this force inside of us in our fallen nature that kind of forces or compels us to do evil, to do what's wrong, what's disobedient to God and His law,) and from Satan as well. So spiritual freedom is super important. I think a lot of Christians are aware of that. We are aware of spiritual freedom. We talk about that it's part of our sermons very often because It's connected to the gospel. I know we sing about it a lot in the church that I attend in the worship time, there's a lot of worship songs now that talk about freedom. "Free, I'm free. My chains have been broken, I'm free." And so there's a lot of freedom talk in our worship, but it's spiritual freedom. And I think there's a big disconnect for a lot of Christians between spiritual freedom, and these other kinds of freedom. And I think that's, as we'll talk about in a second here, I think that's a consequence of the sacred/secular divide, right? Spiritual things are important. And things that are deemed unspiritual are not important. So freedom can be kind of divided in that way. We have a spiritual freedom that's important. Political freedom, religious liberty, economic freedom, all these are not spiritual, so they're not important. We don't need to concern ourselves with them. I think there's a lot of apathy in the church when it comes to these other kinds of freedoms. But freedom is freedom, and the Bible doesn't draw those divides probably as starkly as we would want to. It says, yes, there are these kinds of freedoms, including spiritual freedom, and that spiritual freedom is fundamental, but they're all important. They're all part of the creation. So anyways, I want to start by, I'm writing a chapter right now, in a book that I've been working on for some time now called, "Ten Words that Transform Culture." Freedom is one of those words. And what I do in each of these chapters is I define the word as simply as I can. The true definition or the Biblical definition, and then I define kind of the counterfeit. In other words, how is the word been redefined and how is it understood in the culture today, by and large? Especially by leaders in the culture and our institutions, and universities and whatnot, in the media? So let me just share with you what I've got here, guys, again, this is my best ability to put words to this. It's not obviously scripture here. This is just me, attempting to bring some clarity here to an important topic. So let me start with this, I have as the as the biblical definition of freedom, or the true definition, this, "Freedom is the capacity to self govern, or to act according to one's choices within God's created order, and under his moral law." So just a couple of things about that, before I talk about the redefined freedom, the most important thing, I think—two things, number one, that freedom is about choice at a very fundamental level. It's about being able to make choices, and make choices in a way that are not constrained, or constricted, or compelled. You could think of somebody who's in prison, for example, they don't have a lot of capacity to make choices about what they eat, or what they do. Their choices are very limited. Or a slave, you know, these are the opposite. The opposite of freedom is slavery, prison, bondage, captivity, tyranny, these kinds of things. People in those states have very limited choices, okay? Or, you know, none, Although, technically, we all have the ability at some level to make choices, even in prison. But it's this idea of choice, the ability to govern yourselves, in other words, to make the choices about how you're going to live your life, right? But the biblical understanding of freedom assumes that we live in a world that God created, right? It's God's world, it's his created order, right? And he created it in a certain way. It functions in a certain way. And we're only free to the degree that we submit ourselves to that limitation, if you will, right? And that order includes a moral order, right? So it includes an understanding of what's good and what's evil. So freedom is the freedom to live within that world that God made. Now, let me contrast that with how freedom is understood today or how it's been redefined. It's similar. But you'll notice a difference here. Freedom today, as it's understood, or it's been redefined, is the power or the right to act, to speak, or to think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. That actually, I pulled that definition straight out of the Oxford English Dictionary. That is the definition that's listed at the top of the list. They further expand on that, but that's at the very top of their definition of what freedom is. Let me read that again, "The power or the right to act, speak, or think as one wants—" So there's the choice thing so that's similar, "—without hindrance or restraint." That's what's different here, okay? It's this idea that we no longer—there's no reference here to God or to God's created order or to good or evil. What's at the center of the redefine freedom is me. It is us. It's human beings. It's our choices to do whatever we want, essentially. Or sometimes people will add a caveat, to do whatever we want, as long as it doesn't hurt someone else. Although I think that's disingenuous, and I'll explain that in a little bit. So, anyways, let me just read one more thing that kind of relates to these two definitions. So you've got a divide here, and on one side of the divide are those who affirm the truth that God exists, and that as his creatures that we flourish within the limitations of His creation. Here, freedom is circumscribed. That means it's limited by God's moral law, as well as his created order. Now, let me just explain that briefly—his created order. So let's say I believe that I can jump out of an airplane without a parachute, and I'll be just fine. And it'll be exciting and thrilling. So I'm going to essentially choose to ignore God's created order—in this case, the law of gravity, I'm just going to pretend it doesn't exist—so I'm going to go ahead and jump out of that airplane. That's an act of freedom. In other words, that's a choice. I'm free to do that. But that freedom isn't going to last very long, it's going to last as long as it takes to hit the ground, and then I'm not going to have any freedom any longer. So this is what it means by living within the limitations of God's created order, right? We're not God. And to be free means to respect those limitations that God has put into the universe. And when we do, when we live in that way, we are free. Now the other side of the divide, any kind of talk of limits at all is really intolerable for these folks. Rod Dreher once said the animating spirit of secularism is its rejection of limits. Or Nancy Pearcey put it this way, she said the sovereign self will not tolerate having its options limited by anything, that it did not choose even its own body. She goes on and talks about even our body isn't going to limit our choices. So for example, in the transgender movement, if I'm a biological male and I choose to be a female, that has to be respected. So in other words, the defining thing with freedom as it's been redefined is, there is no God. I'm on the throne. I get to choose anything I want. There's no limits. Okay, that's the big difference. There's no limits. One side says there is limits, there is a order that God made and that set some limits. The other side says no limits. The problem with this redefined freedom is when you get rid of limits, I think as we'll see here, you get rid of freedom. John, I want to bring you in and Luke as well. I'd love your thoughts or reactions to just those two definitions. And I'm still playing with these, I might change them, so love to have your thoughts on them.

John Bottimore:

Yeah, Scott, thank you. There's so much to unpack there. And I, as you said earlier, I think it really comes down to an understanding of the difference of the sources. In the secular definition, the source is the self. The source is unlimited thoughts, desires, wants, etc. In the biblical definition of freedom, you started out by reading, Second

Corinthians 3:

17. So it's very much linked to the Holy Spirit that lives in us. "Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." So there's a direct linkage between the Spirit of the Lord and freedom. That is not to say that someone who doesn't believe can't do things in good freedom, can't only sin, but the pattern of life is very different within those two definitions. So it comes down to a source. I think if we really want to understand where we're going, in not only our thoughts of freedom—but as importantly, if not more so—our actions of freedom. It was Lord Acton who said, "Freedom is the ability to do as one ought." And I don't think the secular definition of freedom will normally result in people acting in freedom as they ought. It will result in people acting in freedom as they want. So more of a license than a higher calling of freedom or a higher calling of liberty that only the Bible can engender. So those are my initial thoughts.

Luke:

Hi, friends, thanks again for joining us. We are so thankful for each of you for spending your time to learn about the practicality of biblical ideas and the profound consequences they have on our lives and the world. It's been fun to see the way God has grown this humble podcast and spread it around the world in the last six months. And a lot of those thanks to you guys, for sharing the podcast with your friends, churches, families, and neighbors. Let's continue the growth. If you'd like to learn more about the Disciple Nations Alliance and stay connected with us visit the link down in the show notes, down the description below where it says "Stay Connected," and sign up for our newsletter so that you can read about what God is doing in and through the DNA family today.

Scott:

Thanks, John. Luke, any initial thoughts from you on those definitions?

Luke:

Yeah, I think you set that up well, Dad, I really liked your definition. If you wouldn't mind, would you mind reading that again, just so I can build off of that?

Scott:

Yeah. So the way that I've defined freedom, true freedom, is the capacity to self govern, or to act according to one's choices within God's created order and under his moral law. And the redefined freedom, the one that's common today, and I think even a lot of Christians think of freedom in this way is, the power or the right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

Luke:

So one of the biggest differences there is the idea of restraint in order, that you seen one versus the other. Yeah, I think you did set that up really well, Dad, with those definitions. I think two reasons that freedom can be a difficult concept and also, for a lot of people today, just not really an interesting concept, which I think is really sad. One of the reasons is just a complacency, like you mentioned, Dad. We take it for granted. We've grown up in a very free country—and looking at history, a very, very free country—unlike much of world history, and we've just become apathetic to it. And then also, on this podcast, we've done so many episodes on hijacked this or that. Hijack justice. We did a hijacked freedom a while ago, we're circling back to that day. But with post modernism, secularism, relativism especially, there's been, as we can see, this real effort to take Biblical words, pull them away from truth, separate them from truth, and slap a new definition on it. And that just doesn't work. Because freedom is absolutely conjoined with truth. And as soon as you take those apart, you lose reality. And it becomes really confusing, convoluted, and you separate it from order, is what you really do. And it can just become very confusing. So when people start asking the question, what is freedom, you're gonna be met with a million answers. And at the end of the day, there is only one freedom. And no matter how many words you add before or after that—the new popular one is reproductive freedom. That has nothing to do with freedom, but they like to hijack that word and use it there. So I think it's important to know the definition and lean into it, and then recognize the counterfeits. And that comes with understanding the definition as well.

Scott:

Yeah, that's so good, Luke. I'd like to push in with you guys a little bit—because I don't think it's at all clear to people, including Christians. John, you talked about freedom is freedom to do what we ought to do. Right? And why can't we just be free to do whatever we want? I don't think that's clear to a lot of people. Why doesn't that work, if you will? And so let's explore that just a little bit. The secular idea is freedom to do whatever you want, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Right? I was thinking a little bit about this in relationship to a famous video that came out a few years ago from, I think it was the Washington State Family Research Council, or something like that. And it was this video of a young guy interviewing students at the University of Washington campus. And he was asking them questions about identity. And so he goes up to one of the students and says to the student, "Hey, what if I told you that I was a woman?" So he's a white young man, probably in his 30s, he's probably five foot eight or something like that. He's not particularly tall. But he says, "What if I told you I was a woman? How would you how would you respond to that?" And the student says, "That's fine. If you want to be a woman, that's fine." And I thought that was just so interesting, because to me, it kind of captured the way that we think about freedom. In other words, you're free to think of yourself in any way you want, you have no limit, right? So if you're born a biological male, and you want to be a woman, that's fine, I'll respect that, because you're free to do that. But then he wanted to kind of push the boundary of that a little bit. And he said, "Well, what if I told you I was a Chinese woman?" And you know, he went up to the next student and said, "What if I told you I was a Chinese woman?" And you could see the students struggling with that one a little bit right? "I don't know..." I don't know if you have the freedom, in other words, to say that you are a white man or a Chinese woman. But even there, they said, "Okay, as long as you're not hurting anyone, and if you think you're a Chinese woman, I'll respect that. I'll respect that." And then he pushed it even further. And he said, "What if I told you..." He goes up to a third student, "What if I told you I was a six foot four Chinese woman?" And this is where it really got hard. You know, like, "I don't think you can say that." It was just too much. But I share all that because I think that really captured, in some ways, the spirit of this kind of redefined freedom, which is, you're free to do whatever you want to do, again, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone, you can be anything you want to be. And my response to you in that, is to respect that. I have to respect that choice, free choice that you've made without limits. So I think it comes back to this question of what's wrong with that? You know, why can't we go with that, this kind of secular vision of freedom? You know, let's not assume that everyone thinks that's wrong or that's bad? What are your thoughts on that, guys?

John Bottimore:

I would rephrase the question as not a wrong or right statement, but a better or worse statement. Let's consider almost eight billion people on the planet now, everybody doing their own thing. Everybody's saying I'm six foot four, Chinese woman, or I'm a seven foot four Chinese woman or whatever you want. Just imagine eight billion different "do it my way" things. It's not necessarily a right or wrong, or that, but what do we build in terms of a society that can flourish or not flourish when we have 8 billion different individual, by definition, selfish thoughts of freedom? As opposed to a higher calling of freedom of, well, I certainly can be a six foot four Chinese woman, but is there something better that I can do to serve my fellow man? So I think the Christian calling of freedom is just a higher calling. It's not necessarily a right or wrong on a lot of issues—we certainly do believe there are rights and wrongs—but it's a higher calling as to how we ought to think and behave. It takes into account the others, and we can get into some verses that get into that in a minute if we want to, but it simply takes into account others higher than ourselves. And this isn't a definition of freedom, maybe it's more of a description, but I would say ultimately, freedom is a radical ability to forgive, love, and serve as Jesus did. And that's a fearful thought, that it's so radical, so high above our own ways and doings and getting out of ourselves. That might be one of the reasons why we don't look at freedom as as much as we should. But it's a huge encouragement if we would. Luke, your thoughts?

Luke:

Well, I just think of an example that is so good, because that's really the most popular definition, especially for people my age and it's so catchy—freedom is being the truest version of yourself or following the passions, your heart and so forth. Sounds great, you know, whoo hoo! We love it, we put it on T shirts. Buy it at Target. But when you actually live that out, if I went out and said, well, the truest version of myself is I'm the president of North Korea, and I'm gonna start acting like that. That's not gonna work. Or, you were already seeing it and people are accepting it—transgenderism and so forth. You're hurting yourself against the order that God has created. And the Bible is... you're always hearing the word sin conjoined with bondage, slavery,

like Romans 6:

6, "We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." There's a slavery to sin and we've been set free from that. So if we follow our heart and our passions and our desires, the Bible calls that the flesh, very often that are going to lead, we're going to run after sin, and therefore we're going to be in bondage to that. So following our heart often will just lead to slavery.

Scott:

Yeah, I want to push you in a little bit. I totally agree with that. And both of you guys are saying the same thing. And I think I just want to help people understand why that's the case, because I don't think that's at all clear. Both of you are saying and I think this is correct, if everyone defines what is real for them—six foot for Chinese woman, I'm the president of North Korea—what you're going to end up with is absolute chaos. And I think it's just quite simple. If your situation socially is chaotic, then there is no freedom. Freedom and chaos do not go together. Especially societally. Any kind of society that devolves into chaos, is not a free society. And it usually ends up in some kind of tyranny in the sense that somebody's going to come back—and part of this is we need order, right? I mean, God created us to just need a basic level of order in our lives. And he's created an order and we're most free when we live and respect the truth of that order, including the truth of who we are. Last week, you might have seen this video too, I was struck by a video that went viral, but it was a professor from Berkeley University in California. And she was on Capitol Hill for some kind of hearing. And she had this interaction with Josh Holley, a senator from Missouri. And she was talking about birthing people or something like that. And she was using this phrase that's now becoming more common, "birthing people." And so Josh Hawley said, are you talking about women? And then she said, you can have men who give birth, right? Men can give birth. And he was like, How in the world do men give birth? And what she was getting at was that you, a biological woman can now claim to be a man, right? Say, I'm transgendered and I'm a man, you could even have some level of surgery to kind of make yourself look like a man. And then we have a right, the rest of us around that person, have a right to respect that and to say you are a man, even though you're a biological woman, you are a man and therefore you can give birth as a man. So it's crazy. But where I'm going with this is where that conversation went after this. It's crazy. Because it's not crazy if you're starting from a, let's say, an atheistic worldview, where there is no God and there are no limits, therefore. And if you want to be a man or whatever, you can be that. But it's where it goes from there, and that's where that conversation went. The next thing that happened was she said to Senator Holly, your line of questioning is transphobic. And it's causing harm. It's actually harming these people, because many of them are committing suicide, because they're not being affirmed. That was her basic position. Because people like you are not affirming them, they're committing suicide. So you're essentially aiding and abetting in their murder, or their killing. And so what it was was essentially a power play on her part to say you can't say that. I mean, this is my words. You can't say that. If you say that, you're committing a heinous crime, essentially. And so what's lost here is a sense of freedom, freedom of speech, and that's where he went. Josh Hawley said, Are you telling me I don't have the freedom to question this whole ideology? And she more or less said no, you don't. You don't. So I think when people go in this direction and define... they basically say you can be whoever or whatever you want. Other people have to respect that, and if they don't, they'll be silenced. You can see how this goes in the direction of a tyranny. Of lack of freedom. So again, just another example from what's happening. But I want to come back to this guy's, why is it that freedom only can be sustained when we're pursuing what is true and what is good? Because the Bible makes that very clear, right? Freedom requires virtue. It requires people acting in a way that's morally good. Why is that? What's the connection between freedom and goodness? John, you've mentioned it more than once, but I just want to explore it. Why, you know?

John Bottimore:

Well, without freedom—or the right to exercise choice free from coercion, that's a precondition for virtue—so if we don't have that liberty, that freedom, we can't even choose virtue. But I would take it to the third point of the Golden Triangle of faith. So the faith is a precondition for virtue. We won't think virtuously or act virtuously. And we don't have freedom. If we don't have faith, we can't have that kind of virtue. If we don't have virtue, the type of freedom we choose won't be virtuous freedom, it will be self oriented freedom. So they're all three are linked to one another, and they naturally strengthen and back to one another.

Scott:

Let's talk about that, John, you're referencing what some have called the Golden Triangle of freedom. And it really is a biblical way of understanding freedom, Os Guinness is the one who brought it back into kind of contemporary thought and use in his book, "A Free People's Suicide," which is excellent book. Let me just explain that for people that aren't familiar with what's called the Golden Triangle of freedom. And this very much was the idea of freedom that America's Founding Fathers, I would say, adopted. This idea that freedom can't stand alone, it can't just be raw choice. It has to be rooted in virtue. So that's the first link. At the top of the triangle is freedom. But the the first side connects down to virtue. There is a relationship between freedom and virtue. And Benjamin Franklin, I've got a quote here, he put it succinctly on why that's the case, he said, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, because as a nation becomes corrupt and vicious, they have needed more masters." Okay, so in other words, he saw very clearly if people are lawless... just think about the opposite of virtue, right? You know, if they're going to be stealing, and if they're going to be murdering, and you're going to have all this kind of social chaos, then you're not going to be able to live free. You're going to have some heavy hand of government, some master that's going to have to kind of clamp down. So people, in other words, I think Franklin would say and other founding fathers, they need to self govern based on God's law, right? They need to do what's good. If they do it's good. If they govern themselves, then they can live as free people because they won't need somebody else to kind of impose that on them. So that's the first link. And then they went on and said, but virtue requires faith, or it requires religion, or in their case, it was very much Christianity. In other words, to be virtuous we need a couple of things. Number one, we needed to know what's good. Right? So our religion informs us. Christianity informs us what is good and what is evil. The 10 commandments tell us what is good and what is evil, for example. The royal law in the New Testament, love your neighbor as yourself. They tell us what's good and what's evil. So we need our faith to tell us what's good and evil. And then Christianity even goes beyond that and it gives us the And this is where I think the Founding Fathers clearly power to do what's good, right? Because this is the Christian gospel, in our fallen nature we really don't have the power to do what's good. It's not that we always sin all the time, but our default tends to be to sin. To be disobedient. To be vicious to lie, to steal, to cheat to act selfishly. That's a kind of a default that we all have in our fallen nature. We can't really overcome that. This is the Christian gospel, you guys, obviously, without help without power, and this is where the gospel provides all sorts of help and power. First of all, it kind of judicially says, Christ's perfect life, you can benefit from that. And then in exchange, he'll take your sin and he dies and pays the penalty for that. This is the amazing gospel. So you're counted judicially as sinless, as virtuous, on the basis or the merit of what Christ has done in his perfect life. But then beyond that, He gives us His Holy Spirit, and the fruits of the Spirit include love and joy and peace. And then the last fruit of the Spirit is self control, this ability to self govern based on what's good. So, the Golden Triangle of freedom, freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith. And in the case of the founding fathers, that was definitely Christianity. And then the triangle connects back to freedom and faith requires freedom. understood that. They understood our human nature. In other words, we are made free and they put that in the Declaration of Independence, we are granted in unalienable rights—God given rights—including life and liberty. So God made us free. And what that means at a basic level is that you can't coerce people at this basic level of their deeply held beliefs and their religious beliefs, right? That has to be something that they freely choose in order to be real, right? And I think we all agree with that. I can't force somebody to change their deeply held religious beliefs. I can try to pressure them and they can maybe act like they do. But we're dealing with people's hearts. People have to make a choice. And here I always think Luke. I think of you and raising children. John, you've got kids. You can do a lot to encourage faith, genuine faith in your kids. You can model it, you can teach it, you can encourage it, but you can't force it. I can't force Luke to be a Christian. I mean, at some point, he has to make a choice, right? That's in the realm of his sovereign choice, if you will, of his ability to make a choice about whether I believe this or not. And I think our founding fathers understood that. So faith requires freedom. And so you've got this cycle of freedom, virtue, faith, freedom, etc. So I'm kind of rambling on that a little bit. But I just think that's, John, that's so important that we kind of understand that at a basic level, that freedom is really connected to the Bible. It's actually a concept that makes no sense apart from the Bible. That really has struck me, as I've been writing this chapter, the Bible brings certain things to the whole discussion on freedom, that if you don't have those, you just weren't going to have free societies. So...

John Bottimore:

And that is so true and that discovery, if you will, back to Luke's point at the beginning, that people tend to be complacent or take freedom for granted, if they have the "Aha!" that you talked about, that freedom is such an important point and message it's the action, it's the point of the sphere. If we think about the Golden Triangle, the core is Christian faith, the values, the beliefs, are the virtues. The freedom is the acting out through words, actions, whatever, of all of that. And so that's something we should be excited about and not complacent about. It's, really a beautiful thing that we can choose and secular thinking can cannot really choose a life pattern by loving freedom. So another verse that ties well to this is Galatians 5:13. "For you are called to freedom brothers, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." And First Peter 2:16 is very similar to that. So that's the power, the beautiful power of freedom in action, that it's for the good. And not only the good of the self, it's not only a choice for self. It's great for the self too, but it's others thinking. So it's a really powerful and noble and high calling type of thing. And I think the founding fathers understood that. That's why they held freedom in such high esteem. And that's why, if we had some people on from socialist, communist, very coercive government type countries, I think they will have a much stronger connection to the thought of freedom than we might, since we take it for granted in our country. And we tend to think of it as something that's just, well, it's just what we have, and all. Not getting into the political side of things, or military or whatever, but we realized that people died for our freedoms as well.

Scott:

Yeah, absolutely, Luke, any thoughts from you on that?

Luke:

No new thoughts, just to sum up, the Golden Triangle is extremely important. And it really does make sense when you when you think of the opposite. If freedom isn't virtue, using your choice to choose a virtue, then the opposite is using your choice to choose evil. And immediately if you do that, you're going to lose freedom. You'd be in bondage to it.

Scott:

Yeah, that's right. At the level of a society, if everyone's doing evil, you can't have freedom, you have chaos. This is what we saw historically, for example, in the French Revolution. The French Revolution was near the same time as the American Revolution. The big difference was this, the American Revolution was based on the idea—they both wanted freedom. They both talked about freedom, liberty—but the Americans understood that freedom has to be a freedom to do what's good. And that doing good has to be rooted in a Christian faith. They weren't trying to impose Christianity. They knew Christianity needed to be freely chosen, but they were certainly advocating for it and saying we need a religious society. The founding fathers were all very clear about that. We need to have an active church and active religious society, in order for people to be virtuous so that they can actually be free. That's what the French revolutionaries didn't do. They essentially built their revolution on the redefined freedom that we talked about earlier, where they stripped God out of it. So the French revolutionaries were famously atheistic, they worship the goddess of reason and things like this. It was freedom from God. And when it became freedom from God, it also became freedom from doing what is right and good. And so you clearly saw that. You saw this societal breakdown, violence, the guillotine. But that doesn't last. What comes next? What comes next is Napoleon Bonaparte, some kind of a tyranny. And it comes next because you just can't live in a chaotic... You are either going to live as free people based in virtue, or you're going to live in some kind of a tyrannical despotism without freedom. Those are really at the end of the day, the only two choices you've got. There isn't this idea that we can just kind of do whatever the heck we want and sustain freedom. We're going to lose freedom if we think that way. This redefined freedom, as it turns out, isn't freedom at all, is I guess where I'm going with this.

Luke:

And John Adams recognize that at that time too, with his famous quote, that, "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to govern anything other."

Scott:

Without a moral people who could be trusted with freedom, you are going to end up with some kind of a tyranny. That's the only two choices that you see in world history basically. And free societies are very rare, actually.

Luke:

Extremely.

Scott:

The norm in our fallen world aren't free societies, those those don't just happen, they have to be really intentionally built, cultivated. The norm, the default, where we go without trying, is tyranny, right? Where you've got a powerful group of the, let's say, people at the top and they're going to treat everyone else, essentially as slaves or serfs or peasants or whatever it is for selfish ends. I mean, that's the norm, I would say, in our fallen world.

John Bottimore:

Yeah, source of government can enable and create atmospheres for freedom if they're right minded about it, but the source of freedom is not from government. That's where corruption and power overtakes freedom and so we want to live in societies, in government, that respect freedom, but realize that ultimately that personal freedom and liberty is given to each individual by God. And how it's exercised and chosen, as we've talked about here, is either in a licentious selfish way, or in a spirit led, other centered, biblical way. And similar to the "Freedom is the ability to do his one ought," there's also a quote that says, "Freedom exists, not in the ability to sin, but the ability not to sin." So again, it's that same spirit that enables us to live a life patterned by not sinning rather than a life patterned by sinning. The result of that is a much more flourishing, healthy, loving, other centered society.

Scott:

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah.

Luke:

I mean, when you think about... sorry, go for John.

John Bottimore:

One other thing. Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly," that abundant life can only happen in an atmosphere of freedom, and an atmosphere of loving one another, that flourishing life can only happen in that way. We don't have an abundant life when we are in bondage to our own ways, our own thoughts, our own sins. It's only with the Spirit of the Lord living in us can we really live that abundant life. And it's no surprise that a life lived abundantly is a life that's a great gift to others, as well, and it really shines a light for the gospel.

Scott:

Yeah, exactly. I think, John... Go ahead, Luke.

Luke:

Yeah, it's just so core. As I'm listening to you, I'm thinking about the greatest commandment, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. God didn't make us just wired to do those as robots, he gave us the choice to love the Lord our God with all our heart. He gave us the choice to love our neighbor as yourself, to seek the highest good. So really, behind those is this ability of freedom. And it's really what makes us human. It's a beautiful thing. And that is choosing life and life to the fullest is when we are walking in both of those greatest commandments.

Scott:

Yeah, it's so important. I love what you guys are saying to recognize that God made us free. In other words, that's part of what it means to be a human being. We all share that. Every human being around the world shares that. Which is why there's this deep longing to be free when people are not. When they're imprisoned, or they're enslaved, or they're in tyranny. They want to leave that tyranny and come to a free country, for example. That's because God made us free. And then the question is, well, why did he make us free? And I think Christians sometimes struggle with that question, because we've used our freedom to rebel against God and do all sorts of horrible evil things. Like maybe that was a mistake, right? God made a mistake in making us free. But as I was writing on this, a couple of things just really jumped out at me. Number one is that, what it means to be human beings, first and foremost, is to be made in God's image, right? That defines what it means to be a human being is that we're image bearers of God, which is an amazing, amazing thing. Well, in this case, God is free, okay? God is really ultimately free in the sense that nobody coerces, compels him. Nobody's going to enslave God. nobody's going to put God in prison. He does what he wants. He does what He wills. The only thing that constrains God is himself. In other words, his own character, which is holy and righteous and good. So his own character constrains him. But beyond that, he's free. So he then makes us in his image to be free. And so we're at our best when we're free. And there's a lot of reasons for that, like you were saying, Luke, one of the reasons is that God wants us to respond to him as a person responds to another person. Not as a robot responds to its programmer, or as a animal responds to its trainer. No, he wants us to respond to him as a person in love. I always think about when I was dating my wife Kim, and I fell in love with her before she fell in love with me and I wanted to do something that would force her to love me, but I couldn't. She had to make that choice on her own. I had learned that hard lesson, that love has to be freely chosen, right? So that's part of the reason God made us free. I think another reason is he wants us to have dominion and exercise creativity to do all sorts of amazing things in this world. To take the grapes that he's made and make wine and to create poetry, and music, and buildings, and art and all these things. He wants us to do that. And that's enabled through freedom, right? Does that make sense? Because, you know, I'm free to kind of express who I am, how God has made me, as opposed to somebody telling me you're going to do this. So freedom is really essential to being a human being. But at the end of the day, freedom is freedom to do what is good, as you often said, John, because that's what God does. He uses his freedom only for the good. And you see this, for example, in the story of Joseph. It's such a powerful story of Joseph's brothers in the Old Testament, they throw him into a well, in order to kill him because they're jealous. That's a choice, they made a free choice to murder their brother. We know the rest of the story, some slave traders come along and actually rescue Joseph out of the well, sell him into slavery in Egypt. Long story short, he's elevated after all sorts of trials and tribulations. He's elevated to Pharaoh's second in command, second in command of the most powerful nation on earth at the time. And God uses him in that role to save the world from famine, because he has this God given wisdom and insight about what's going to happen with this famine. His brothers come later, to Egypt to buy grain because they're struggling from starvation. They recognize Joseph and they're shocked. And Joseph then does this amazing thing of forgiving his brothers. And he says, You know, I forgive you. And then he says, something that's so powerful. He says, you chose. You used your freedom to choose to kill me. But God sent me here in order to preserve life on Earth. And you get this idea that God even works over and above our evil choices to do His good, His perfect will on Earth. I'd like to just kind of move as we conclude our talk here, guys, today, I'd like to change subject a little bit. We talked at the beginning about why I'm so concerned about this topic, one of the reasons is that I see us living at a time when there's incredible threats to freedom. And I just see often freedom as this kind of very delicate flower that it thrives when conditions are just right. But if those conditions change, it's probably going to die. And it can die kind of quickly, even in the span of a single generation. It has to be preserved and carried forward, and cherished and nurtured. And I see us living in a time when there's a lot of threats to freedom. We've talked about, one of the big threats is an internal threat. I'm speaking here as an American in the United States, we've redefined freedom, as license. It's freedom to do whatever you want to do. But as we've said, that's not going to sustain freedom, it's going to lead to chaos. And we're seeing that chaos, right? We're seeing rising crime rates, drug addiction, just moral chaos. You have to affirm that men can give birth to children, right? We're heading rapidly into kind of a degenerative chaotic time. And you're not going to be able to sustain freedom in that kind of chaos. But beyond that, you've got threats to freedom externally, as well. I look at, for example, the Chinese Communist Party as probably the most powerful tyranny in the world today. And they've got global ambitions, and they believe that it's their right to rule the world. They want to expand their empire, if you will, around the world. But you've got another group, these... I think of them as global elites, powerful, very wealthy businessman, business executives, political rulers. They meet in Davos, Switzerland, and they are very often, most of them are very secular, and I think they have this idea that we can create a perfect society if we can exercise our control and kind of rejigger, socially engineer society in just such a way, we'll preserve the Earth from climate issues and etc, etc. I think they're their thought is benevolent, but they don't fear God. They've kind of put themselves in the seat of God. And if we can get things just right, if we can get the power, the resources, the money together, we can manipulate society in such a way that it'll create this perfect idea of society. There's no room either in the vision of the Chinese Communist Party or this globalist elite for freedom. Individual freedom doesn't factor into that in either way. And so both of those groups are gaining power and influence right now. I see those as threats. So we've got internal threats, we've got external threats. The question then is, what do we do? Is it too late? I don't believe it is. But before I talk about what do we do, how do we respond, any thoughts on these threats that we're facing from your guys's perspective?

John Bottimore:

There are plenty of examples of present day threats in freedom of speech in all parts of our society and in the West. And it's always been that way in socialist communist states, but it's fairly new here, just in the last decade or so. And it's increasingly so. We see this in the university, perhaps more than in other parts of society, but it's increasing in other areas as well. So absolutely. These are the kinds of threats and if it starts limiting or compelling certain types of speech, who knows where it can stop. And it's usually used to stifle speech. It's not about exchanging ideas and let the best idea win. It's about stopping free speech, it's about stopping ideas, and it's about accusing and canceling and these sorts of things. And so, absolutely, this is a threat to an orderly society and a threat to a flourishing society when we have this type of thing on the march. So I agree with what you said.

Scott:

Yeah, John, you're talking I think about this kind of woke ideology now that's kind of dominating elite circles in the West. And one of the things that struck me as I really looked into that ideology, or that religion even, is that it doesn't value freedom. It doesn't have a value for freedom. And they talk openly about that. They'll even disparage freedom as kind of this white European Christian idea that is used by powerful oppressors to kind of get their way with their victims. So they'll openly disparaged freedom. Yeah, go ahead, John.

John Bottimore:

That's right because again, freedom properly exercised is a good, orderly, beautiful thing, and it results in flourishing society, so they rightly see the threat to their beliefs. And so that's why freedom has to stay strong, we have to continue to contend for freedom of speech and freedom of worship and the other expressions of freedom that you talked about at the beginning.

Scott:

Yeah, the highest freedom is, in their view, it's this "no limits." And this is where it runs and this is the rub, right? The rub is, I can do whatever I want and you have to respect that. And if you don't, then your freedom is, I'm going to take away your freedom. You don't have a right. You have to affirm. Okay, so for example, you saw this recently with the cake situation in Denver, Colorado, right? Not only am I free to have a gay lifestyle or to be married as a gay couple, but you have to affirm that even if you're a Christia. If you don't, I'm not going to respect your religious liberty. I'm going to force you essentially to affirm what I believe. And so it's this forcing, not allowing you to speak, forcing, compelling, you even see it in our education system. Now the kids have to learn a certain kind of curriculum, there's no respect for different people's beliefs in this anymore. This woke ideology is an anti freedom ideology. And that's because freedom again, is so closely linked to the biblical worldview. Anytime you pivot off of the biblical worldview, a biblical view of what it means to be a human being, a biblical view of the good, you lose freedom. So we're losing it in the West as this new ideology kind of takes center stage in a lot of ways. I'm sorry, Luke, I cut you off there.

Luke:

No, you pretty much said exact what I was gonna say. It's a perfect example of how when you leave behind God's definitions and God's order and immediately—not immediately, it very quickly will get confusing. It just stops making sense because on one hand, they're starting out with freedom—the woke idealogy often likes to start there, they might not call it that, but they want to be free to be whoever you want to be—so then someone will come along and be like, alright, I'm a female now, and I want to give birth to a kid, even though they're biologically a man. So they're following the "Follow Your Heart" kind of freedom. But then immediately after that, when someone else uses freedom to say, well, that's inaccurate, freedom of speech will contradict them, all of a sudden freedom's the enemy, right? You can't say that. So they start out wanting to be free and then right afterwards, like, wait, no, only I can be free. You can't be free too.

Scott:

Yeah, right. It's so confusing. Yeah, limitless freedom is really an oxymoron. It's never going to work. And so even to call it freedom is something I struggle with. This redefined freedom really isn't freedom at all. So yeah, we've gotten a lot of threats, guys. We've got internal threats. We've got external threats. I think more than any time in my life, we could lose it. We could. I shudder at the thought that my kids and grandkids would grow up in a totalitarian kind of society or situation. What grieves me is because I've known freedom and it's like, this idea that freedom would be lost in my adult lifetime just really grieves me, you know? Because I'd always wonder, did I not do enough keep it alive and to pass it along? Something that bothers me a lot, actually. So the question then is, what can we do? What can we do as Christians? And we'll end on this? Just this discussion of what do we do? How do we keep this flame alive and pass it down? Or do we just shrug our shoulders and say, now it's too late? What do we do, John?

John Bottimore:

Well, the same thing we do for a lot of things, which is, trust in the Lord. Pray. Contend for the things that we know are biblical truths. Again, seek that higher calling of freedom, we still have the opportunity to be salt and light in our society. So continue to preserve what is good, to the right calling of freedom and love and use that as the light. And let's let examples of Christian freedom, of healthy families, of healthy churches, of healthy neighborhoods do what only they can do. Be that example. And let people compare that to the compelled approaches of the dark side or contrived things of the state or whatever. And we just have to allow that to win out. And above all, continue to pray and continue to walk in a way that's pleasing to Him. I mean, I know these sound all very elementary. And they are basic, but they're straightforward truths that we have from scripture, and ultimately, in the end, we trust in the Lord.

Luke:

Yeah I think as we see in culture, this loss of freedom, in one sense, it's pretty easy to push back against, because like we've said, it just loses reason. So in a way, you can go out and debate someone pretty easily and point out that following a contradiction of freedom is not going to lead you anywhere. But I think what's more important to start in a church. It worries me to see this, the redefinitions of freedom and the slipping away from it, out in our culture and then looking to the church and not hearing much of an urgency and an emphasis being put on it. So I think we need to recognize that first. In the church, we definitely know what freedom is, but we maybe keep it too theoretical sometimes, or I don't know... "Freedom in Christ," we say that, but what does that look like? And I want to start exploring more really applicable applications of that. And once the church can grasp that and really recognize the importance of it and the centrality of it to the Gospel, then we can be living it out. It can start there. As long as we're standing on the truth and then promoting freedom. That's really what Christ came and died for, I

think of Galatians 5:

1, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand affirm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery." So Christians know that verse, but let's get specific and how we apply that.

Scott:

Just building on what you're saying, Luke, I think that in the church very often we talk a lot about freedom, but it tends to be limited to spiritual freedom. Freedom from satan, from sin. Our chains are broken. We've been set free. And we love that right? There's a lot of talk about that. But what isn't talked about is this Golden Triangle of Freedom that earlier generations of Christians in our founding fathers talked about. Because their focus went beyond just spiritual freedom—they didn't in any way diminish that. That's so important. That was the ability to live virtuously, because now we're free from Satan and sin, we can live virtuous lives. But they had something else in mind. They wanted to have a free nation. And I think this is where a lot of times, Christians today shrug their shoulders and they say, "Who cares? All that matters is I'm spiritually free. Now you're talking about culture politics, and these things aren't really interesting to me as a Christian." I think that's grievous. Because God cares about all of life. Right? There's a reason that free nations came out of a time in history where the Bible was open and the biblical worldview was blooming and flourishing after the Reformation. I mean, that's where you begin to see free nations come into being in some ways. There's a connection between spiritual freedom and political freedom. We should champion that. We should love that. And I sometimes wonder, do you want to have your kids live in a tyranny? Is that okay for you? To live in a brutal dictatorship? I don't. So yes, spiritual freedom is absolutely fundamental and essential, and that's core to our message. But we have to be champions of freedom beyond that. We have to be champions of religious liberty, freedom of speech, political freedom, free nation's, I believe. So I think that needs to happen for us to keep freedom alive. We have to recover this fuller understanding of freedom as the church. I think another thing... John, you mentioned families, and I just think families are so critical on this discussion of freedom, because families are where freedom is learned, actually. Actually, it's where virtue is learned. You could think about families, ideally, anyways, families should be the kind of the laboratory of the virtuous self governing life. So like, for example, when your kids are really young, they don't know how to self govern, they're just going to go off and do whatever, right? They're going to get into all sorts of trouble. And the job of parents over time is to help them to know what's right and what's good, so that they can be free to go out into society and to live a healthy flourishing life as a free human being. That requires some training and requires some discipline. And that happens in a family. Families are really essential to this whole process, because it's this training ground for virtuous living. It's no surprise that freedom has broken down in the society in the West, as the family is broken down. We see those two things running on parallel tracks. So when young people aren't being trained to live virtuous lives, if they get involved in crime and drugs and all sorts of things, then it's going to be up to the state. They're going to end up in jail, prison. There's going to have to be some kind of constraint that's put upon them later in life. That's not ideal. You want them to be able to learn that when they're young, in a family, with the mother and father that are doing the kind of correct biblical discipline that's necessary. So all that to say, I think, Christians right now, we have to kind of rekindle our own vision for families and for raising children that know the Lord, love the Lord, and actually can self govern in a virtuous way. I think that's an essential building block here to kind of recovering freedom again. We have to know freedom. We have to champion it. We have to live it. And we have to pass that on to the next generation, particularly in our families, in the way that we raise the children. So those are a few of my concluding thoughts. I'll turn it over to John and Luke for concluding thoughts that you guys might have as we wrap up here today.

John Bottimore:

Scott, I think yours was a great closing and it just made me realize when we talk about the delicacy of freedom, how it was won. This freedom was first won by death on a cross and burial and resurrection. And so it was hard won, and then just in a patriotic sense, freedom was also won in a hard sense through war and such. So it's a very delicate yet powerful and expansive idea. And we need to treat it as such. It's a beautiful thing that if we, starting in the church, starting in the family, can exercise freedom and demonstrated through this salt and light actions that we do in our homes, and our neighborhoods, and our communities, in our nations, then freedom can win against these kinds of challenges and threats. But it first comes by realizing where the source is from and how fragile it can be against the whims of humans and then the coercive power of the

Scott:

Just think it's such a great point, I just want to state. underscore it, John. One of the things that gives me hope that freedom can prevail is that, again, it's inbuilt. Right? People want to be free, right? At some deep level, right? It's very few people that want to live in prison, or in slavery, or in tyranny. I understand that there is a level at which that can be comfortable, right? If somebody's making all your choices in life, then... I always think of the Jewish people after they were set free from slavery in Egypt. They started complaining, because they were wondering, who's going to feed us now, right? I mean, there's a burden that comes with freedom, I understand that. But at the same time, people want to be free. There's this deep longing. And so I think that allowing that to kind of guide and direct us give some hope

Luke:

Yeah, and in a similar way, I mean, with your original too. definitions at the beginning of the podcast, Dad, one of the key differences between true freedom, biblical freedom, and in the counterfeit is order. And again, that's something interestingly, that all humans have a desire for. For order and structure, no matter how much people try to push against that and say they just want to run after their heart and whatnot, they're always going to come back to it. We all have a worldview that orders our lives. And that can be formed by a variety of reasons, but we just have that intrinsic value on our hearts.

Scott:

That is an inbuilt need as well, Luke, it's one of the most fundamental human needs is just basic order. So that's, that's exactly right.

Luke:

Yeah. And as a takeaway, Audience, after listening to this, I encourage you to look at the counterfeits around you and just play them out. Say where's this gonna go? Where's this going to lead? And it can sound good at first, as sin usually does. But in the end, it's going to lead to slavery, in bondage. And just continue to think about it. I think it's something that I definitely want to continue to learn about, I know I have a long way to go. We'll be getting more resources in this episode for you to dive deeper into this. It is such an important concept and one that I feel like we need to play catch up on.

Scott:

Critical time. A burden is falling on our shoulders. God knows the times that we're in, but I think it's up to us to step up to the plate and appreciate the hard fought battles, either on the cross or on the battlefield that have gone into winning our freedoms that we've taken for granted. But we've got to be the ones to step up to the plate now and to preserve the ideas of freedom, the truth the freedom and pass that along to the next generation. So anyways, guys, great conversation. Thanks for the time today. And for all of you listening, I hope this has been helpful and encouraging for you to get engaged and to keep this one alive.

Luke:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Ideas Have Consequences brought to you by the Disciple Nations Alliance. As I mentioned last week, make sure to take a minute to check out our landing page for this episode that I've linked in the description below. Again, that page has everything you need to know to continue to study each episode in further detail, including episode overviews, chapter summaries, the transcript, key quotes, and links to additional resources on the topic. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to click on that link below.

Defining Freedom
Consequences of Secular Freedom
The Golden Triangle of Freedom
A Life of Freedom
Threats to Freedom
How We Respond