Liberty and
the Gospel
For many years I have encountered the attitude that the idea of religious
freedom came from phil...
18 •
the national religion. The problem is most acute in Islamic nations where
Shari’a law is implemented. Citizens of the...
• 19
state religion. Within a century of that change, Christian theologians and
church authorities sanctioned the persecut...
20 •
life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your
children may live’ ” (Deuteronomy 30:19)....
• 21
temples. When a Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus
answered the prayer without imposing any condi...
22 •
choose whether or not to serve Him. This seems to contradict its very raison
d’être—the church is supposed to have ma...
• 23
“Compel them to come in”
One of the biggest tragedies in the history of the Christian church is the
justification of ...
24 •
Christian theologians no longer support that interpretation of the parable.
They agree that Jesus never forced people...
• 25
are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, / for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when pe...
26 •
The constitutions of most countries now recognize religious freedom. The
number one superpower, the United States, ha...
• 27
good Samaritan to illustrate this point (see Luke 10:30–37). When some-
one is suffering or is a victim of injustice,...
28 •
Followers of Christ will reject the use of violence against believers because
of their faith. They will respond to th...
• 29
cause of their refusal on religious grounds to salute national flags or to participate in
various patriotic events.
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Politics and Prophecy Sample Chapter

Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Source: www.slideshare.net

Transcripts - Politics and Prophecy Sample Chapter

  • 1. 17 Liberty and the Gospel For many years I have encountered the attitude that the idea of religious freedom came from philosophers who were reacting against religious intol- erance and fanaticism. Many people believe that religion has been a root cause of intolerance, segregation, and persecution rather than a source of human rights and freedom. Sadly, there is some truth to this belief. Not withstanding the failings of religion, the Bible remains the primary source for the value of religious freedom. Those who have claimed that it justifies persecution have misunderstood and misrepresented its teachings. Histori- cally, it wasn’t the Enlightenment alone that contributed to the rise of reli- gious freedom; religious faith played an indispensable role. Believers saw an expression of their faith in human rights. The most widely accepted definition of religious freedom today, and probably the most elaborate one, is given in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with oth- ers and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”1 This definition lays down the principle of the freedom of choice, both for the individual and for the religious com- munity. Freedom to choose one’s religion may seem basic to those who live in democratic countries, but it is far from universal. Indeed, in the interna- tional arena, there is considerable resistance to recognizing even this most basic aspect of religious freedom. Many nations are identified with a par- ticular religious tradition, and citizens are expected to remain members of John Graz Chapter 1
  • 2. 18 • the national religion. The problem is most acute in Islamic nations where Shari’a law is implemented. Citizens of these nations have no right to change their religion. The laws give the state the legal right to put to death those who have converted to another faith.2 The American tradition of religious freedom has its origins, not in the Enlightenment, but in the separatist Puritan minister Roger Williams (1603–1683). Before the Enlightenment made its contribution to develop- ing ideas of individual rights, he constructed a mature theology of religious freedom on a strong biblical foundation. Roger Williams, not Thomas Jef- ferson, was the first to urge that, in his words, a “hedge or wall of protec- tion” be erected to protect “the garden of the church” from “the wilderness” of the state. He may have derived some of his ideas from the Anabaptists, who may have been the first to advocate the complete separation of church and state. They were such a universally despised and persecuted religious minority in Europe that they came to their appreciation of religious free- dom with good cause. The Enlightenment’s political ideas made a substantial contribution to the ferment that resulted in the American Revolution, but the seeds of liberty sown in the churches were just as responsible. A powerful spiritual revival, the First Great Awakening, blew through the American colonies in the 1740s and 1750s. The colonists were equally suspicious of religious and political tyranny, and their preachers fanned the fires of revolution in sermons throughout the churches. After the Revolution, it was the multi- plicity of churches born of the Great Awakening that practically necessi- tated the adoption of the First Amendment and its guarantees of religious freedom. However, the Christian tradition of religious freedom is much more an- cient than the American experience. Tertullian3 (a.d. 160–220), one of the early church fathers, was the first author to use the words religious liberty (libertas religionis). He wrote that every man has the right to freedom (ius libertatis). He also observed that “religion demands, by itself, the refusing of all kind of constraint in matters of religion,”4 and he argued that religious freedom ought to be the natural outgrowth of religion. Tertullian wrote at a time when Christians were still subject to intermit- tent persecution. About a century later, an intense decade of persecution ended with the Edict of Milan (a.d. 313), which was confirmed by Em- peror Constantine and published by his brother-in-law, Licinius. Constan- tine’s conversion to Christianity set the stage for Christianity to become the Politics and Prophecy
  • 3. • 19 state religion. Within a century of that change, Christian theologians and church authorities sanctioned the persecution of so-called heretics. The per- secuted became persecutors. In Jesus’ time, the government of the Roman Empire—which extended across many lands and peoples with many different religions—offered a good deal of religious toleration. The prevailing peace allowed for an expan- sion of trade and travel. As people moved about, they would change their religions or bring their own religions into new regions.5 Religious pluralism was a fact around the Mediterranean Sea. Even Judaism was given legal recognition in spite of being an exclusive religion. Christianity, however, was denied legal status, though at times Roman authorities protected Christians in disputes with Jewish authorities. Later, Rome persecuted Christians because they refused to be part of the emperor’s cult. Christianity was perceived as a rejection of Rome and its gods.6 Chris- tians became scapegoats, though they weren’t the only people whom the emperors persecuted for their religious beliefs. Religious freedom in the New Testament The life of Jesus, as well as His teaching, attests to the centrality of free will to the act of worship. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was led out into the wilderness, where the devil plied three temptations upon Him (see Matthew 4:1–11). He proposed a way for Jesus to gain control of the world and yet avoid the humiliation and torture of crucifixion. Jesus de- clined these temptations, choosing the harder path of obedience and faith- fulness. Again, a few hours before His crucifixion, Jesus was sorely tempted to choose an easier path. He chose instead submission to God’s will no mat- ter the cost (see Mark 14:32–41). The Son of God Himself was free to fol- low His Father or to choose some other path. Freedom of choice is at the heart of a relationship with God. He didn’t force His Son to obey Him, nor will He force any of His children to worship Him. God desires a relation- ship based on love, and without free choice, love cannot exist. That the principle of love functions as the basis of the relationship be- tween humanity and God is evident from the earliest biblical revelation. God granted Adam and Eve permission to eat of any tree save one. There was no coercion involved. Adam and Eve were restricted but weren’t pre- vented from eating the forbidden fruit. Later, when God established His covenant with Israel as they were about to enter into the Promised Land, Moses expressed God’s purpose for them. He said, “ ‘I have set before you Liberty and the Gospel
  • 4. 20 • life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live’ ” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Again, even though issues of life and death hinged on right choices and actions, these decisions weren’t co- erced. Israel was given the freedom to choose whether or not they would worship God. After Moses, Joshua led by example rather than by force when he declared to the nation, “ ‘Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ ” (Joshua 24:15). Following the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus began to gather dis- ciples. He didn’t compel anyone to follow Him. The decision to follow Je- sus couldn’t have been an easy one to make. Many of those whom Jesus called had businesses and families to care for (see Matthew 4:18–22). All of the disciples had good reasons to say no.7 However difficult the decision to follow Jesus, though, it was a decision freely made. In His teaching Jesus emphasized freedom as a profoundly spiritual prin- ciple rather than as a political right. He conveyed the idea of freedom from the penalty and power of sin, the freedom to do right. Jesus’ teachings were difficult, and at one point, many followers began to leave. This was a crisis point in His ministry. An opportunist might have manipulated the faithful, declaring, “We’re going to win. Stick with me, and you will make history.” Jesus could have resorted to working miracles to impress or terrorize the hesitant. Instead, He simply asked the Twelve, “ ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ ” (John 6:67). Perhaps the ultimate expression of free choice in Jesus’ life came in His dealings with Judas. Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. At the Last Supper, He indicated to Judas that He knew what Judas was about to do, giving Judas further evidence of His Messianic authority. Yet Jesus did so discretely, giving Judas the opportunity to reconsider his intended betrayal without accusing him publicly or restraining him in any way. Instead, Jesus told Judas, “ ‘What you are about to do, do quickly’ ” (John 13:27). By quietly revealing to Judas that He knew his plans, Jesus actually gave Judas the opportunity to make a better choice. Religious freedom means no coercion Jesus met people from other faiths. He shared the good news with them, but He never forced people to change. He didn’t preach with a sword in one hand and a cross in the other. He didn’t order His disciples to destroy pagan Politics and Prophecy
  • 5. • 21 temples. When a Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus answered the prayer without imposing any conditions (see Matthew 8:5–13). And when Jesus was traveling in the area of Tyre, a Greek woman asked Him to heal her little daughter. Jesus didn’t heal the daughter under the condition that the mother would become His follower. He saw someone suffering who believed in His capacity to heal. That was enough (see Mark 7:24–30). Consider the way Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman. She opened the debate and challenged Him. But though He could have argued with her about who had the right religion, He brought her the good news without coercion or harassment. He respected her opinion and simply shared His message with her (see John 4:7–42). A few days before Jesus’ arrest in Jerusalem, He decided to travel through the territory of the Samaritans. He sent His disciples to a village to find a place where they could rest for the night, but the citizens there refused to extend hospitality to Him. That is exactly what religious fanaticism has done for centuries and still does today. It refuses to welcome those who are differ- ent and destroys them instead. Two of Jesus’ disciples, John and James, became so furious that they wanted to pray that God would destroy the village (see Luke 9:51–56). “[Jesus] turned and rebuked [His disciples] and said, ‘You do not know what kind of Spirit you are of’ ” (Luke 9:55, NASB). Religious intoler- ance and violence are not part of His teaching. He told His followers what to do if people don’t accept the good news about Him that they preach: “ ‘If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town’ ” (Matthew 10:14). Luke concluded his story with the words, “They went to another village” (Luke 9:56). That is all. Jesus felt no need to curse or threaten the Samari- tans. They had made their choice, and Jesus respected it. He and His disci- ples went to another village where people would be happy to welcome them.8 That should have made it clear enough to all Christians that they should reject the use of force and violence in their mission. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defines reli- gious freedom as an individual right. In actuality, the right is also a com- munity right. The body of believers, the church, must also have the freedom to worship God as a group. In other words, the church as an institution may Liberty and the Gospel
  • 6. 22 • choose whether or not to serve Him. This seems to contradict its very raison d’être—the church is supposed to have made the right choice once and for all. Through the message to Laodicea in the book of Revelation, the risen Christ says to His church, “ ‘I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’ ” (Revelation 3:20). The One who received the kingdom, the power, and the glory doesn’t force Himself on the church. The church is free to choose, but people are equally free not to join it. This principle was underlined when John came to Jesus after having en- countered a man who was using Jesus’ name without being part of Jesus’ group. “ ‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us’ ” (Mark 9:38–40). Like the rest of the Bible, the teachings of Jesus are crystal clear about the consequences of our choices. For Him, and for Moses and Joshua, the choice is between life and death. Those who choose to obey God will be saved (see Deuteronomy 30:19). There is no salvation outside Christ: “ ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ ” (John 3:16). We are free to choose, but our choice has eternal consequences: “ ‘Who- ever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’ ” (Mark 16:16).9 The freedom we ask for ourselves and for everyone else doesn’t compel us to be silent about our beliefs. Believers have the right to say, “I have the truth. I bring you the truth. We are the only true church. Our religion is the only true religion.” That is their right, and other people have an equal right to disagree with them and to express such dis- agreement. Because free choice brings responsibilities and leads to eternal conse- quences, Jesus was never a neutral observer of the choices people made. He did His best to lead people to make the right choice. He called the rich man to follow Him (see Mark 10:17–22). He prayed for His disciples to stay faithful (see John 17:6–26). He was sad when Jerusalem rejected Him (see Luke 13:34, 35). He commanded His disciples to go and preach the good news to everyone everywhere (see Matthew 28:19, 20). In spite of His will- ingness to guide people to the right choice, Jesus never substituted His choice for their own decision. Politics and Prophecy
  • 7. • 23 “Compel them to come in” One of the biggest tragedies in the history of the Christian church is the justification of religious persecution and holy wars. At the beginning of the fifth century, St. Augustine (a.d. 354–430), one of the greatest theologians, used Jesus’ words to justify persecution of heretics.10 According to James Carroll, “it was the late Augustine who, no longer depending on the force of reason, justified the use of coercion in defending, and spreading, the ortho- dox faith: ‘in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might after- wards be influenced by teaching.’ ”11 St. Augustine was locked in theological combat with the Donatists, a sect regarded as heretical that had grown increasingly influential and power- ful in the East. In this conflict, Augustine made an unfortunate interpreta- tion of Jesus’ parable of the great banquet. A wealthy man organized a great supper and invited his friends. They declined the invitation. The man found this very humiliating—the dinner was ready and nobody was there to enjoy it. So, the man decided to send his servants out to the streets; they were to bring back with them all the people they could find. His order was, “ ‘make them come in’ ” (Luke 14:23). Anagkazo, the Greek verb Luke used in this verse, can be translated “to constrain” or “to compel,” whether by force or by persuasion.12 Augustine believed the Donatists were refusing to accept the truth and that it was acceptable for church authorities to use civil law to force them to accept the truth (orthodoxy). Their will, according to the great theologian, was in a state of ignorance and trouble. Their will and habits needed to be broken.13 Augustine opposed torture and the death penalty, but he consid- ered it appropriate to force people in other ways. He believed that physical persecution could help them to make the right choice. He wrote, “Let the heretics be drawn from the hedges, be extracted from the thorns. Stuck in the hedges, they do not want to. But that is not the Lord’s command. He said, ‘Compel them to come in.’ Use compulsion outside, so freedom can arise once they are inside.”14 To the Donatists, he said, “ ‘We love you, please accept the truth. We love you, but we want to correct you.’ ”15 He believed that correction in this world would save heretics from eternal pun- ishment in the next. Augustine’s view formed the basis of the doctrine and practice of the Middle Ages. It opened the way for the Inquisition.16 A few centuries later the great theologian Thomas Aquinas (1224–1274) went even further. He justified the death penalty for heretics. Liberty and the Gospel
  • 8. 24 • Christian theologians no longer support that interpretation of the parable. They agree that Jesus never forced people to believe in Him. He never in- structed His disciples or the apostolic church to use force. Jesus repeatedly counseled His disciples to avoid controversy and retaliation for grievances. (See, for instance, Matthew 5:43–47; 6:14, 15; 7:1–5; 10:14.) He has always been on the side of the persecuted and not on the side of persecutors. The examples of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas show how Jesus’ teach- ings may be misinterpreted to justify the use of civil power to defend ortho- doxy. Unfortunately, Jesus wasn’t personally present to rebuke Augustine and Aquinas—to say to them, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you are of.” Religious freedom and persecution Persecution is omnipresent in the New Testament. It began with the slaughter of the children two years of age and under in Bethlehem. It con- tinued with the beheading of John the Baptist, the crucifixion of Jesus, and the persecution of the apostles. It is interesting to notice that Jesus and the disciples didn’t react against persecution brought on by a denial of human rights as we do today. In His time, authorities used persecution, torture, and violence to maintain their power and the public order—and those who challenged the authorities also used these methods. Of course, the law brought some humane treatment, but most of the time the last word be- longed to the one who most effectively used violent force. The prince of this world is the devil, and Jesus’ disciples shouldn’t expect an easy time from him as they fulfill their mission of preaching the good news to everyone everywhere (see Mark 16:15; John 12:31). The world of- fers them not honor but persecution. Jesus often warned that those who follow Him would suffer persecution throughout their journey home. (See, for instance, John 15:20.) Persecution is part of the package that comes with choosing to be a Christian. Jesus didn’t hide that cruel reality: “ ‘Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me’ ” (Matthew 24:9; see also John 15:20). Disciples of Jesus will be persecuted by believers too: “ ‘A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God’ ” (John 16:2). This has hap- pened for centuries, and it will happen again. How should Christians react when they are persecuted? Activists may be disappointed by the answer Jesus gave to this question. He said, “ ‘Blessed Politics and Prophecy
  • 9. • 25 are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, / for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they per- secuted the prophets who were before you’ ” (Matthew 5:10–12). How are we to react when we are persecuted? By loving our persecutors! “ ‘I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven’ ” (verse 44). This doesn’t mean that Christians should provoke persecution. It isn’t good in itself; in fact, it’s the mark of the devil. Some people believe you need to be persecuted to be a good Christian. That isn’t true. Persecution was never a goal for Jesus. Often, He did what He could to avoid it, and He told His disciples, “ ‘When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another’ ” (Matthew 10:23). If Jesus didn’t recommend to His disciples that they react with violence when they are persecuted, how could He have justified using violence to persecute those who don’t want to follow His teachings? Though “Caesar makes himself God and persecutes God’s people who don’t want to wor- ship him, Christians must resist. For Jesus’ disciples during the three first centuries ‘took the form of martyr.’ ”17 Inspired by the teaching and the example of his Master, the apostle Paul told the Romans not to avenge themselves. (See Romans 12:19–21.) And he added, “Overcome evil with good” (verse 21). However, the apostle Paul knew his rights, and when his rights weren’t respected, he reacted. Once, in the Roman colony of Philippi, he was ar- rested, beaten, and put in jail. Paul took advantage of his Roman citizen- ship. “Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out’ ” (Acts 16:37). Paul’s demand worked. “They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city” (verse 39). On another occasion, when he faced an imminent beating in Jerusalem, he asked the centurion, “ ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?’ ” (Acts 22:25). His objection worked again. “Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The com- mander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Ro- man citizen, in chains” (verse 29). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights didn’t exist in Jesus’ time. Liberty and the Gospel
  • 10. 26 • The constitutions of most countries now recognize religious freedom. The number one superpower, the United States, has an Office for International Religious Freedom, an ambassador at large, and a commission that pub- lishes an annual report on international religious freedom.18 Countries that persecute believers are given the designation CPC—Country of Particular Concern. Europeans also have the Human Rights Convention, and Article 9 is dedicated to religious freedom. Countries that have signed the convention have to protect this freedom. People who are persecuted in these countries can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, and, if the country is found guilty, it will be sanctioned. Several countries have been sanctioned in this way. Jesus’ disciples should know their rights and responsibilities. Being a good citizen means respecting the law as long as it doesn’t contradict God’s commandments. It is always healthy to remind the authorities about the laws they’re supposed to observe. In asking that these laws be implemented, we protect not only ourselves but others too, including the authorities—we help them to act in a way that is consistent with their own legislation. A sign of a better world The beautiful and universal principle known as the golden rule provides evidence that Jesus expected His followers to respect people’s decisions. He said, “ ‘In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets’ ” (Matthew 7:12). The golden rule teaches us to respect the freedom of others to worship God in the way that makes sense to them just as we desire the freedom to make our own religious choices. Unless everyone is free to teach their children their own religion and to share their faith with others, no one is free. If the authorities can re- strict your religious freedom, then there is no security for anyone’s religious freedom, even your own. The golden rule forms the basis for human rights and religious freedom. When a teacher asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, He an- swered, “ ‘ “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” ’ ” (Mark 12:30). And He added, “ ‘The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these’ ” (verse 31). Jesus explained that our “neighbor” is any other human being. He told the story of the Politics and Prophecy
  • 11. • 27 good Samaritan to illustrate this point (see Luke 10:30–37). When some- one is suffering or is a victim of injustice, there is a human and a Christian obligation to help. Religion isn’t a criterion when people are in need. All human beings are children of God and should have their freedom of reli- gion protected. Why should Christians defend religious freedom for all people every- where knowing that persecution will happen anyway?19 One might just as well ask why we build hospitals when we know that people will eventually die anyway, and why we help the poor when Jesus said, “ ‘You will always have the poor with you’ ” (Matthew 26:11). Why do we defend religious freedom when we know that persecution will come again? Because persecution bears the signature of the devil.20 In Revelation 13, the apostle John describes the vision he had about persecution against Jesus’ disciples in the last days. They will be persecuted by a power called the “beast,” which comes out of the earth (see verse 11). What are the characteristics of this evil beast? Satan’s intention is that “all who refused to worship the image to be killed” (verse 15). That would imply a systematic persecution. “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name” (verses 16, 17). In that vision of what happens just before the end of the world, the antichrist coalition uses force to impose its worship on the people of the world. That demonstrates the fundamental difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil.21 Jesus’ disciples are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). They are to “shine before men” (verse 16). The apostle Paul used another image: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Being a “light” or an “ambassador” represents something else. These roles are signs of another world. Intolerance denies human dignity, and persecution is the product of intolerance—which, in turn, is the product of sin. Coercion is the opposite of Christ’s message, which respects freedom of choice. Those who would adhere to the teachings of Jesus will reject the idea that people should be forced to keep or give up a religion against their will. They won’t accept discrimination—including discrimination based on religion or belief. Nor will they allow an organization or a government to take the role of God, asking for their worship and setting the parameters of their consciences. Liberty and the Gospel
  • 12. 28 • Followers of Christ will reject the use of violence against believers because of their faith. They will respond to the cries of the voiceless, homeless, per- secuted, and poor. Those who do this walk in the footsteps of Christ. Moreover, persecution isn’t a sign of God’s kingdom; people who love their enemies in spite of persecution comprise that sign. Jesus consistently taught the value of human dignity. At Creation, God provided humanity with freedom of choice, and the atoning sacrifice of Christ enhanced this freedom. In the plan of salvation, the death of Jesus provides a means whereby all may choose to be saved. But God doesn’t compel anyone to believe. When as Christians we defend religious freedom, we do more than uphold a basic human right recognized by the international community. In defending religious freedom, we express our understanding of the char- acter of God as our Creator and Savior.22 Religious freedom is a funda- mental gift of a God who loves His creatures and respects their right to choose. Love and freedom are inseparable because love cannot be com- manded or coerced. God hasn’t given the gift of freedom merely to entice human beings to worship Him. Rather, He created humanity free, and then, when human beings lost their freedom, He restored it because it is in His nature and character to do so—because God is love, and love must be free. “ ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ ” (John 3:16). 1. UN General Assembly, Third Session, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by UN General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III), December 10, 1948. 2. About eleven countries have the death penalty for those who convert from Islam to another religion. See Tad Stahnke and Robert C. Blitt, “The Religion-State Relation- ship and the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief: A Comparative Textual Analysis of the Constitutions of Predominantly Muslim Countries,” United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, http://www.uscirf.gov, March 2005. 3.SeeRolandMinnerath, �����������������������������������������������������������“����������������������������������������������������������Tertullienprécurseurdudroitalalibertédereligion,��”� Mé- diterranées, Moyen ������������������������������������������������������������������Â�����������������������������������������������������������������ge chrétien et Antiquité, L’Harmattan, no. 18, 19 (1999), 33–43. 4. Ibid., 38 �����������������������������������������(����������������������������������������“���������������������������������������nec religionis est cogere religionem.��”� Ad Scapulam 2:2). 5. Ibid., 34. ���������� �������������������������������������������������������������“��������� �������������������������������������������������������������L’Empire était tolérant pour tous les cultes a condition qu’ils admet- tent par dessus tout le culte du pouvoir romain, sous la forme de la vénération de la déesse Rome et d’Auguste.�” 6. The first empire-wide persecution was in the middle of the third century. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have had a similar experience to that of these early Christians be- Politics and Prophecy
  • 13. • 29 cause of their refusal on religious grounds to salute national flags or to participate in various patriotic events. 7. “ ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ ” (Luke 9:23). “ ‘If’ ” means we have a choice. See also Mark 10:17–22: Jesus called the young man, but the young man declined to follow Him. 8. The story of the ten lepers is a good example. Jesus healed all ten, but only one came back and glorified God. Jesus didn’t use His healing to force them to follow Him (see Luke 17:12). 9. See also the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. 10. Tertullien, Origen, St. Cyprien, and Lactance were opposed to using force against heretics. See Michele-Marie Fayard, “Suz l’usage de la force pour la conversion des héré- tiques,” Conscience et liberté 13 (1977), 34–36. 11. James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword, The Church and the Jews (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001), 211. 12. See Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1984), 8:978. 13. Lib. arb. 3.18, 51, 52. 14. Garry Wills, “Sermones 112.8,” Saint Augustine (New York: Viking, 1999), 103. 15. Ibid., 109. 16. De Civit Dei, XXIII, 51. 17. Minnerath, 42. 18. Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2004, November 2004, Wash- ington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005. 19. It is a little easier for Baptists or Adventists than for others because both these communions have had a strong tradition in favor of religious freedom. Adventists have a prophetic mission to defend and promote religious freedom for all. Ellen G. White stated, “The banner of the truth and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel church and by God’s witnesses during the centuries that have passed since then, has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands.” The Acts of the Apostles (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press® Publishing Association, 1911), 68, 69. 20. “Any use of force or persecution in matters of religion is a policy inspired by the devil not by Christ.” Francis D. Nichol, ed., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald® Publishing Association, 1980), 5:810. 21. See the retribution the persecutors experience in Revelation 12:20. 22. “According to Jesus, religious liberty doesn’t have the same nature as human rights. It is a right that comes from a duty to act according to conscience—duty for which we are responsible to God, the abandonment of which will have eternal consequences.” Pierre Lanarès, “Jésus et la liberte de conscience et de religion,” Conscience et libérté, no. 40 (1990), 81, 82. Liberty and the Gospel

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