Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
This is the time of year we think of the freedoms we have in our country (recently celebrating the 4th of July). We are grateful that we live in a country with freedoms. We acknowledge that as Christians we are citizens of two kingdoms, the heavenly and earthly, and though the heavenly trumps the earthly, we also live in the world even though we are not of the world. God has ordained government for the present time which is the context in which we live out our Christian lives faithfully on our way to the celestial city.
The Manhattan Declaration, a statement drafted by many representing numerous denominations and religious affiliations, identified three crucial moral issues in our day for which there ought to be a strong convictional stand: the sanctity of life, the integrity of marriage (biblically and traditionally defined as between a man and a woman) and religious freedom.
Timothy George, one of the drafters of the Manhattan Declaration, recently wrote about why religious freedom is one of the most pertinent issues for Christians today: “Let Religious Freedom Ring: Why It’s One of the Most Pressing Issues Today.” He writes,
Religious freedom is not merely political; it is pre-political. As a fundamental, “unalienable” right, it existed before the state. Religious freedom did not begin in modern times; it began when God brought humanity into existence. Rooted in the biblical understanding of human dignity and freedom, religious freedom is a part of what it means to be created in the image of God.
A just government is called to recognize and protect the religious freedoms that have been built into human nature by God. Christians know—even if secular theorists deny it—that religious liberty is grounded in the very character of God as revealed in the Bible, and in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ himself. But we do not claim religious freedom for ourselves only. It applies to all persons everywhere. That is why we affirm, on the authority of the Bible, religious freedom for all, even as we are prepared to defend such freedom in public life through arguments drawn from reason as well as revelation.
What do you think? Do you agree? Is this one of the more pressing issues for Christians today? How ought Christians address it?