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The Victory of Reason: Christianity and Freedom
Breakpoint with Chuck Colson ^ | 6/28/2006 | Chuck Colson

Posted on 06/28/2006 1:59:44 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback

Last week, President Bush took part in ceremonies commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Hungary’s 1956 uprising against its Soviet occupiers. According to the president, the Hungarians taught the world that “Liberty can be delayed, but it cannot be denied.”

While the president was right, that still leaves the question: Who taught the Hungarians, or the West, for that matter, about freedom? What moved the Hungarians to give their lives to be free? Unfortunately, most Americans haven’t got a clue where this belief originated. If pressed, they might guess the American Revolution or maybe even Enlightenment figures like John Locke.

But as Rodney Stark tells us in his classic work The Victory of Reason, Locke and others built on a foundation laid by Christianity. According to Stark, Western ideas about democracy and equality stem from “the central Christian doctrine that . . . inequality in the most important sense does not exist . . .”

By the eleventh century, the Christian belief that we are all made in God’s image and therefore equal “in the eyes of God and in the world to come” brought an end to slavery in Europe. Slavery only returned after Christianity’s cultural influence had waned.

Another way that Christianity contributed to our concept of freedom was its stress on the individual, especially in the moral realm. The Christian idea of Free Will meant that, instead of being captives to fate, people were responsible for their actions and choices. As a result, people increasingly saw themselves as having control over their lives. Western ideas about freedom are rooted in this Christian understanding of the individual.

In addition to changing the way ordinary people thought about themselves, Western Christianity changed the way people thought about governance. The idea that there are limits to the sovereign’s power over his subjects is a distinctly Christian one. It became particularly clear during the Reformation that there were aspects of life over which the king had no legitimate authority. The Reformers called it “sphere sovereignty” – every sphere carrying out its own responsibility before God.

These limits on state power, as Stark tells us, weren’t limited to Church matters. Christianity insisted that “the state must respect private property and not intrude on the freedom of its citizens to pursue virtue.” This is one reason President Bush so frequently says freedom is a God-given gift to all humanity.

Sadly, this isn’t what’s being taught in our schools today. Instead, students are taught that freedom resulted from putting as much distance between us and our Christian past as possible.

This is what Stark calls the “myth” of the “Dark Ages.” Like many myths, it has little basis in fact, but it reflects what some people need to be true if their secularist worldview is to make sense.

This not only does violence to the past, but it also hurts the present. It leaves people unable to understand why “all men and women should be free.” Clearly as modern Western nations (including our own) continue to distance themselves from Christianity, they imperil their freedom. A sobering, cautionary thought for us as we prepare next week to celebrate our freedom.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: breakpoint
Proclaim liberty across the land...

There are links to further information at the source document.

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1 posted on 06/28/2006 1:59:47 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback
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To: 05 Mustang GT Rocks; 351 Cleveland; AFPhys; agenda_express; almcbean; ambrose; Amos the Prophet; ...

BreakPoint/Chuck Colson Ping!

If anyone wants on or off my Chuck Colson/BreakPoint Ping List, please notify me here or by freepmail.

2 posted on 06/28/2006 2:01:32 PM PDT by Mr. Silverback (Tell ya brother, ya sister & yo mama too, 'cuz we're about to throw down & you know just what to do.)
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To: Mr. Silverback

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1657302/posts


3 posted on 06/28/2006 2:02:08 PM PDT by BenLurkin ("The entire remedy is with the people." - W. H. Harrison)
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To: Mr. Silverback
Western Christianity changed the way people thought about governance. The idea that there are limits to the sovereign’s power over his subjects is a distinctly Christian one.

Chuck always manages to put a foot in it, crediting everything to Christianity. Going way back, most tribal chiefs ruled their tribes in their sovereign territory, yet did not hold absolute power, only wielding it by the will of the people.

4 posted on 06/28/2006 2:14:51 PM PDT by antiRepublicrat
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To: Mr. Silverback

BTTT


5 posted on 06/28/2006 2:30:00 PM PDT by Lion in Winter (islamics arn't religious, just set on on mass murder of non-muslims! NO FAT ISLAMIC broads!!)
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To: Mr. Silverback
I agree almost wholeheartedly with your post, but take minor exception to the following:

[In addition to changing the way ordinary people thought about themselves, Western Christianity changed the way people thought about governance. The idea that there are limits to the sovereign’s power over his subjects is a distinctly Christian one. It became particularly clear during the Reformation that there were aspects of life over which the king had no legitimate authority. The Reformers called it “sphere sovereignty” – every sphere carrying out its own responsibility before God.]

I would argue that the Catholic Church was the first to question the concept of "a sovereign's power". No one Church of Christianity can be totally credited with the honor of this truly Western enlightened view of the limits of sovereignty. The obvious implication of this world view is that a truly Christian society would be more apt to question the likes of a Hitler or Stalin as it would conflict with their definition of God's law, individual rights and moral values. It cuts to the heart as to how man views himself in relationship to God and each other. Anyway, I'm not a writer, but I think you get the idea.

Saint Sir Thomas More gave his life in protest to the abuse of sovereign power of Henry VIII of England. Btw, his feast day is June 22. Please read the following for a brief but telling synopsis.

St. Thomas More

(1478-1535)

His belief that no lay ruler has jurisdiction over the Church of Christ cost Thomas More his life.

Beheaded on Tower Hill, London, July 6, 1535, he steadfastly refused to approve Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage and establishment of the Church of England.

Described as “a man for all seasons,” More was a literary scholar, eminent lawyer, gentleman, father of four children and chancellor of England. An intensely spiritual man, he would not support the king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church in England, breaking with Rome and denying the pope as head.

More was committed to the Tower of London to await trial for treason: not swearing to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. Upon conviction, More declared he had all the councils of Christendom and not just the council of one realm to support him in the decision of his conscience.

Comment:

Four hundred years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint of God. Few saints are more relevant to the 20th century. The supreme diplomat and counselor, he did not compromise his own moral values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority wants. King Henry himself realized this and tried desperately to win his chancellor to his side because he knew More was a man whose approval counted, a man whose personal integrity no one questioned. But when Thomas resigned as chancellor, unable to approve the two matters that meant most to Henry, the king had to get rid of Thomas More.
6 posted on 06/28/2006 3:22:34 PM PDT by khnyny (Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.- Winston Churchill)
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