Religious Liberty Has Become an Idol

I think this has been something I’ve been trying to say for quite some time: the Constitution has become an idol among Christians in America. You can see this because they let things like the First and Second Amendments guide their lives more than they do the Scriptures. Bud Ahlheim makes it abundantly clear in his article Worshipping Religious Liberty: SBC Joins Mosque Building Effort.

Mr. Ahlheim shows how off track the Southern Baptist Convention is in its efforts to help Muslims build Mosques in New Jersey. To put this in biblical terms, it would be like Elijah helping the prophets of Baal build their altars to their false gods instead of confronting them and showing their gods to be false as they are.

There is no reason in the world for the SBC to be helping Muslims build Mosques anywhere in the world. This is so misguided its hard to imagine that we must make the case against it at all. It is like we are slapping Muslims on the back, trying to make their journey to hell more comfortable. What are the leaders of the SBC thinking? Wait, maybe that is the point. They are so given over to the idolatry of religious freedom that they are not thinking at all. Religious liberty has become their idol, and they worship the gods found at the foot of this ungodly altar.

Ahlheim writes:

Looked at in light of American Christianity, it seems incumbent that Christians vigorously defend religious liberty.  After all, they may shut us down if we don’t.  On the other hand, (Russell) Moore and others look to the government for the very thing they bemoan – interference that demands protection but not authoritarian coercion.  But looking to government, rather than God, for protection seems a woefully unfaithful form of obedience, does it not?  Is our God not faithful should persecution come our way?

In other words, the SBC is concerned that God might allow persecution to come our way if we don’t bend over backwards to help those in false religions. I tend to think that He might let persecution come our way because we do help those in false religions. But the truth is that persecution of the church will come when God decrees it, and our misguided actions with Islam will not thwart it at all. Since this is true, why not be faithful to the calling God has placed upon us: make disciples, worship God faithfully, preach the gospel and let the Spirit move in the lives of the people of God.

Moore should be concerned about preaching to the members of Islam, instead of helping them in their unbelief. I know that some will claim that Moore is building bridges with Muslims in order to share with them later, under the guise of being a good neighbor. The problem with this argument is that those who make it, and practice this principle, never get around to sharing the gospel. They spend all their time building bridges, which we are never called to do in Scripture. What does darkness have to do with light? Nothing at all. If Moore really wanted to help those lost souls in the mosques, he should actually preach the gospel to them, and not affirm their in their lost estate.

Just so you understand the problem, remember that these people are not on “another” road to God. Jesus told us that the broad road leads to destruction, and narrow is the gate that leads to eternal salvation, with Jesus being that gate. Moore and the SBC seem to have forgotten this truth. Ahlheim writes:

Indeed, American Christianity, as exhibited here by two SBC agencies, must worship the idol of religious freedom. Southern Baptists, led by Russell Moore and the ERLC, are increasingly vocal evangelists for this god, and they do it without clear Scriptural compulsion.  The compulsion they presume comes from the implied notion that America is particular to God, chosen by God, favored by God.  But, again, this notion glaringly lacks Scriptural credence.

The goal of the church should never be religious freedom. Religious freedom may come and go, but that is not a purpose of the church. The freedom that we should be concerned with is the freedom that Christ spoke of in His declaration to the Pharisees “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31).”

Jesus was not advocating a freedom of religion in His statement. He goes on to clarify that the freedom He is speaking of is freedom from sin and it’s eternal power over His disciples. This freedom only comes about by preaching Christ. It does not come about by making an altar to the false gods in gathering around a principle of religious freedom. The two ideas are in contrast to one another because those outside of Christ, are not free at all. They are slaves to sin (John 8:34). They are in bondage and bound by sin for eternal destruction.

Why would we, who have true freedom in Christ, ever desire to do anything that would affirm someone in that bondage? It would be like the abolitionists of the 1800s making sure slaves were comfortable in their bondage, but never taking any action to bring about their freedom. Only, in the case of Moore and the SBC, what they are doing is worse because the bondage of those in Islam is eternal in nature. Moore & Co., have the key to their freedom, but instead, hide that key away and serve the false god of religious freedom.

That is what happens when a good idea becomes an idol. Yes, religious freedom is a good idea. But it’s not something we need to serve, nor bow down to, at the expense of our religious convictions found in Scripture. Yes, religious persecution may come to the church. But that is God’s doing, not ours. Remember that Jesus led the perfect life, yet still suffered the ultimate persecution, therefore, why should we, as His disciples, expect anything less? We should not. So let us not die on the wrong hill, serving the wrong god, and the wrong ides. Serve the living and true God of the gospel, for as Jesus says “Therefore if the  Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

That truth stands even in the midst of governmental persecution.


4 thoughts on “Religious Liberty Has Become an Idol

  1. I found it appalling to read that the SBC (or any other genuinely Christian group) would be helping build a mosque. Then I looked up the actual story. They aren’t. They are saying that it is within the rights of Muslims to build mosques. Would you, Tim, stand up and say, “In America it is NOT within the rights of non-Christian groups to build their places of worship because their places of worship are false.”?

    I agree that American Christians are too closely tied to “freedom of religion” as they are to a sense that the Constitution or the American government should save us from problems. And I do wonder why Christian groups feel the need to say anything at all. A serious question. But I would not argue that it is a Christian’s duty to deny other religions their religious rights in America today. That would seem to me to be just as too closely tied to the government and legal system as those others.


    • Hi Stan,
      Looked over the links and my post again, and think my points are still valid. The SBC is submitting, or a part of, an amicus brief saying they side with the Muslims in the court agreement. Perfectly free to do so, but again, I question the message that it is sending. Are we more concerned about the rights of religious liberty over and above the call of the church? I feel that the SBC has crossed over the line on this one because of the message that it does sends. I’m not saying we work to deny them the right to build the mosque, but I don’t clear the land for them.


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