Some time ago, I began a series of posts on Tim Keller’s book “Reason for God”, but then stopped because I gave my copy away. Now that I’ve got another, I’m excited about starting up again. Again, the goal is to grow in our ability to think intelligently about our faith so that we can honor God and interact wisely with others who may not share our perspective.
That said, we turn this time to the objection that “Christianity is a straitjacket.” This objection takes many forms, but the basic issue here is that the absolute truth Christianity espouses seems to be the enemy of freedom. Let’s interact with three variations on that theme here:
- Christianity declares that some beliefs are “heresy”, and some practices are “immoral.” This divides people instead of bringing them together.
- Christianity is narrow because it fails to recognize that other cultures have different perspectives on what’s true.
- Christianity enslaves you by telling you what to think and do. (35 in Reason for God)
First, does Christianity really divide people? In reality, each human community excludes some people because each holds to a set of (sometimes unrecognized) assumptions that many other human communities do not share. For example, Western cultures typically prize individual freedoms over community obligations, but most Eastern cultures take the opposite viewpoint. Since all cultures are exclusive, a better way to approach this issue is to ask, “What set of beliefs lead its members to treat those who differ from them with love and respect?” (40)
Second, Christianity is not culturally inflexible or an enemy of multiculturalism. To take one example, in 1900 9 percent of Africans were Christians, but today that number has risen to 44 percent. (41) Furthermore, the bible itself sanctions this type of cultural freedom in passages such as Revelation 21-22, which portray a perfect, renewed world where people of different backgrounds retain their distinct identities. (45)
Third, in response to the objection that Christianity enslaves us by telling us what to think and do, we need to take a more complex look at freedom. We need to examine whether freedom is really the absence of all constraints. (46) For example, to pursue one career you have to stop pursuing others. To marry my wife, I (very happily!) had to say “no, thanks” to every other woman. If accepting certain constraints, actually gives us great freedom in some areas, why wouldn’t we expect a parallel in the spiritual and moral realms? In reality, we do – for example, we all believe that certain things are wrong, regardless of how the person(s) doing them may feel. We believe that the right restrictions are liberating. (47)
It’s easy to feel like God gets to call all the shots, and that we simply orient our entire existence around Him. But Christianity isn’t like that – it teaches us that God in Jesus became a man(!), and that He even died for us. Seeing how He gave up His freedom for us gives us the courage to accept the loving constraints He places on us. When we do that, we find our freedom in Him. (50-51)