Saturday, May 30, 2009

Christ & Culture Revisited: Cultural Forces - The Worship of Freedom, The Lust for Power


A high value on freedom comes, perhaps necessarily, with democracy. In fact, which is obviously problematic for Christians, is that freedom can be worshiped. It also raises a host of practical issues that we see played out all the time because there are tensions to freedom.

One difficult tension for the church rolls around each election season. Carson cites a sampling of liberal writers who see Christian conservatives voting a particular way as an erosion of democracy and voting for theocracy. (An insightful writer notes that if political evangelicals got their way (which he doesn’t seem to want) would put us back to the 1950’s, not make a theocracy.) It seems that theological considerations are considered disallowed by some in the working out of the democratic process. Carson seems to speak to this a little later in this section: “Thus every position that is angling for a greater say in the democratic mix is in some sense trying to ‘impose’ its will on others, in the sense that it is trying to build a majority voice, a consensus” (p. 133).

Another challenge with freedom is that the value of the individual is placed so highly that there seems to be no rights of groups to set their own values. When the group values are disallowed, it is simply the work of another group putting their values upon these groups – in this case, those who hold individual rights as superior to all else.

Yet another interesting, yet brief, observation about freedom is how its understanding has shifted in time. Initially it was something that was granted by God and the US sought to make sure the government did not encroach upon it, but it has shifted to entitlements that people expect and the government should grant those freedoms, according to Carson.

Another tension of freedom is that it is both good and bad is that it has to allow some things that we might consider destructive and yet others do not. He uses the example of pornography. Most think negatively of it, but are reticent to limit the freedoms of those who want it for fear the cost of pornography being available is preferable to the cost of losing freedom of choice in general.

Carson concludes with this tension clarified:

The democratic tradition in the West has fostered a great deal of freedom from Scripture, God, tradition, and assorted moral constraints; it encourages freedom toward doing your own thing, hedonism, self-centeredness, and consumerism. By contrast, the Bible encourages freedom from self-centeredness, idolatry, greed, and all sin and freedom toward living our lives as those who bear God’s image and who have been transformed by his grace, such that our greater joy comes in doing his will” (p. 138).


Carson didn’t spend much time here apart to say power is not inherently bad, but the fact that we are fallen people and all of us will be tempted to abuse power in the event that we get it. We should recognize, however, that power is always, from a Christian perspective, delegated from God. Not just for pastors, but for kings as well. It is a lust any would struggle with and we need to use it for good and in a good way if we end up having any at all.

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