In First Freedom: The Beginning and End of Religious Liberty editors Jason G. Duesing , Thomas White, and Malcom Yarnell have compiled a resource on religious liberty that should be in every Christian leader’s hands. While many are breathing a sigh of relief over the result of the elections, the truth of the matter is that religious liberty in America is ill-understood in the church and stands on precarious ground in our current cultural milieu.
The first section of this book addresses the historical background of religious liberty. Dr. Patterson demonstrates how religious liberty is entirely consistent with the New Testament doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ. In the historical context given it is readily evident that the rejection of religious liberty was one of the greatest shortcomings of the magisterial Reformers. What is made clear by White and Yarnell in their chapters is that religious liberty is a tenant inherent to the Baptist identity, and our republic has the influence of early Baptists largely to thank for the inclusion of this principal in our founding documents. The third section is particularly important in how thoroughly the contributors explain the meaning of religious liberty, which is particularly important as many are seeking to encroach upon individuals right to free expression of their religious beliefs, which is especially seen in the opposition encountered by those who are opposed to same-sex marriage. The third and final chapter addresses the looming challenges to religious liberty in contemporary America. The contributors address the dangers posed to religious liberty by the continuing encroachment of the progressive movement in regards to human sexuality, as well as implications to Christian schools,, and the bearing of international law on religious liberty.
What is the purpose of the religious liberty we strive to protect in America? Is it our own personal comfort and protection? Ultimately the purpose of our religious liberty is as Duesing says in his closing chapter, “the glory of God in salvation through judgment(256).” Our faith is a a faith that incorporates all of our life and currently we have been given great freedom to share the good new of the gospel with a lost and dying world to an extent that is truly unprecedented in human history. Read this book and let it remind you of the value and true purpose of religious liberty in bringing the gospel to those who need to hear it.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.