A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount up to and including their life (Unknown).
As our nation observes Veterans Day (Nov. 11), IFWE would like to honor all those who have sacrificially served our nation to secure and defend our freedom. This blog features excerpts from top IFWE contributors on the biblical roots of freedom and the three essential components of a flourishing nation: religious, economic, and political freedom. Many have given their lives to preserve these freedoms, yet we can so easily take them for granted.
Military service is an honorable calling. In the words of one veteran, those who serve provide instrumental value by “bringing shalom to God’s kingdom on earth.” May we honor our military, not only on Veterans Day but throughout the year, and give thanks for the freedom and flourishing we enjoy in this nation.
On Biblical Freedom: ‘Freedom from’ or ‘Freedom to’?
Many people in our culture believe freedom to be a lack of norms, rules, or laws restraining us from doing what we want to do or be. You often hear the refrain “whatever is true for you is true for you, and whatever is true for me is true for me. Nobody can tell me what to do.”
People who hold to this view believe in “freedom from” any external values. This freedom is limited if God exists. In his film Crimes and Misdemeanors, Woody Allen portrays God as a cosmic eye who is always watching us. You can’t escape his gaze and his judgment of your life.
Jean Paul Sartre, the atheist existentialist, went so far as to argue that if God exists, we couldn’t be free. God would be like a cosmic voyeur, always looking through the keyhole watching every little thing in our lives.
This kind of “freedom from” something is not the biblical view of freedom, which is more of a “freedom from in order to be free to.” We need to be freed from bondage to sin in order to be free to serve Jesus. It is only in the latter state that we can know the freedom and flourishing that we were created to experience (Art Lindsley, “Alternatives to the Biblical View of Freedom”).
On Religious Freedom: Tracing the Roots of the Right of Conscience
[James] Madison’s concept of religious freedom did not arise out of Hinduism or Islam. It also did not originate, as some mistakenly believe, only from the enlightenment thinkers. Rather, it arose from the rich teaching of the holy scriptures as understood throughout the history of the church.
For example, Tertullian wrote to magistrates of Rome that Christians could not be coerced into sacrificing to pagan gods because “we stand immovable in loyalty to our conscience.” He also became the first person in human history to use the very phrase “religious liberty.” In 212 AD, he wrote to a Roman proconsul these astonishing words: “It is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions…”
…The seeds of religious freedom were sown by these early church fathers, grew in the rich soil plowed by the reformers, and began to bear fruit with the American founding fathers and the birth of a new nation founded in part by a desire for religious freedom (Hugh Whelchel, “Religious Freedom or Tolerance: Who Decides?“).
On Economic Freedom: The Proven Path to Flourishing
Economic freedom is a measure of the ability of people from any race, gender, or faith to trade and use their gifts and skills to serve others. It is the best-known path to unleash the creativity of each individual. …[It] allows us to better practice the lesson of stewardship from the parable of the talents by multiplying the resources we are given.
[Economic freedom] also gives us the best-tested chance to provide an opportunity society for all income levels, not just for the wealthy. In fact, if we are to live out our calling to care for the least of these, we should look more closely at economic freedom. If you care about life expectancy, child mortality, environmental performance, poverty reduction, civil rights, child labor and unemployment, you should care about economic freedom (Anne Bradley, “If Flourishing Is Your Goal, Then Economic Freedom Matters”).
On Political Freedom: Why It’s Essential for Other Freedoms
We need to be as free as possible to pursue our gifts if we are to be wholehearted stewards of them. We need high levels of freedom to go where God leads us. This was the tragedy of the central planning of the Soviet Union. In a world where dictators rule, the individual serves only to support the state and there is no freedom. The social result is less flourishing and more tragedy and violence. Every time we limit an individual’s right to choose and trade, we limit their freedom, and some amount of human flourishing is lost as collateral damage (Anne Bradley, “Three Essential Requirements for Flourishing“).
When we lack political, economic, and religious freedom, we experience bondage and slavery in whole or in part. When we are not free to fulfill our calling, frustration results. When millions of people are not free (in whole or in part) to fulfill their callings, there is poverty.
Without political freedom, economic freedom is precarious. It may be maintained for a while, but it is always in danger of being controlled at the whim of the ruling elite (Art Lindsley, “The Three-Legged Stool of Political, Economic, and Religious Freedom“).
Thank you, veterans, for your service to our country and for the sacrifice you’ve made to preserve freedom and flourishing.
Editor’s note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Nov. 12, 2018.