RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND TOLERANCE

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
(Galatians 5:13)

In one of my previous articles titled, “THE MENACE OF SECULARISM,” I admitted that religion (in the sight of men) can bring with it a whole world of problems. But I rejected secularism as a solution to the problems that can be brought about by religion. Secularism would only compound the problem we are trying to solve as it is not a neutral ground between the many religions. It is anti-religion and has no element of neutrality in it. It therefore can’t be a solution. In this article however I wish to present what is the actual solution to all the problems that can come about by religion.

In a world buffeted by so many religions and systems of beliefs the method of peaceful coexistence must be carefully studied to ensure that, while people coexist in peace, the essence of religion is not lost. Religion has been seen by many as the source of the majority of the world’s problems which has made some to say religion is bad, and for this reason they see it as the next important step to get rid of religion altogether. I believe this is very foolish for we live and exist by God and for God. How shall we then exist or find any purpose in existence apart from God? How do we know God and relate with him apart from the religion by which we believe we know, serve, and relate with him? Further, I am a Christian, and how shall a religion that teaches me to love my neighbour as myself be the source of the world’s problem? Faith in the One, True and Living God cannot be the source of the world’s problem. Rather the source of the world’s problem is false religion and misunderstanding. These must be handled independently and not be attributed to good religion. This misunderstanding brings about varying opinions about God and this indeed is capable of causing great problems.

We must, in trying to resolve the problem that comes with religious division, be careful not to pursue religious compromise to attain unity which is irrational and illogical. If I say I am a Christian, it simply means that I believe that Christianity is true and therefore all opposing views to Christianity is false. If one says he’s of another religion, it simply means that he believes that religion is true and therefore all opposing views are wrong. To say one is a Christian and say at the same time that opposing views are right synonymously, just for the sake of unity, is an irrational thing to do.

If I say a plastic container is white because I’ve seen it under a clear light and I’m convinced that it is white, and another say it is black because he’s seeing only the silhouette because of poor light and he’s convinced that it is black, it would be rather unwise of me, because I want to be in agreement with this other person say that the container is black. What I ought to do rather is just to let him know my opinion and why I hold such opinion. It is up to him to believe it or not. I mustn’t force him or inflict a punishment on him for not agreeing with me. If there is a consequence for not knowing the right colour of the container, then that is his problem. But to say the container is black would be absurd on my part. Or if to reach a compromise we both say it is grey, then that would be absurd in both our parts. This tells us that using compromise to reach a point of unity or accepting all forms of belief to be true are both absurdities.

We must not also fall for the trap of opinionism or perspectivism. That is to be able to see things from multiple perspectives. Rather, since we are talking about God, and since God is one, we must not labour to see things from the perspectives of this or that set of people, we must labour to see things from God’s own perspective. This must be sought by means of prayer and sincerity without pride or prejudice. I wrote more extensively on perspectivism and it’s futility in my latest book titled, “OUR HOLY CHRISTIAN DRESSING TRADITIONS AND APPEARANCE.” You can download the full book HERE. And the chapter in which I spoke about perspectivism is chapter 5. I strongly recommend it. It is only when we all forfeit our different perspectives to hold to God’s own perspective before we can attain absolute religious unity.

Now, to think that it is possible to attain absolute and universal religious unity is close to day dreaming. But we must know that peaceful coexistence is very possible and should be pursued by all well meaning people from all faiths and creeds. The way in which this can be attained is through religious freedom and tolerance.

 

Religious Liberty/Freedom

“And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.”
(Psalm 119:45)

What is religious liberty or freedom? It is simply the freedom to hold and practice ones own religion according to how his/her conscience and reason shall dictate. Should the world practice this fully it will naturally bring an end to all the problems that can come with religious division and the lack of our ability to come to a state of absolute religious unity. According to International Law, religious freedom is a fundamental human right. And that is common sense.

Here is a statement from “United Nations Human Rights Office Of The High Commissioner” website:

Freedom of religion or belief is guaranteed by article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.”

In Brill.com, it is written about the Nigerian constitution:

“Section 38(1) of the Constitution makes provision for the citizen’s ‘freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.’ Section 39(1), subsequently, provides that ‘every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference’, while Section 40 guarantees that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons.’ These are the granting clauses that give the citizens of Nigeria the constitutional right to engage in religious propagation within the shores of Nigeria among other rights; to associate and to hold opinions or to impart ideas without any hindrance.”

I believe most nations hold such views too though I’m aware that there are nations that deny their citizens such rights. However religious freedom is common sense and ought to be universally accepted. And this is how to attain peaceful coexistence despite the religious diversity of the world.

To wrap up this section I’ll like to present us with an assurance on the efficacy of religious freedom to maintain peaceful coexistence and manage religious diversity. It is written, “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:4 – 5). What is prophesied about here is the peace brought about by religious freedom and not universal unity and purity of religion. For in that it says “all people will walk every one in the name of his god,” it refers not the worship of the living God, but everybody would walk in the name of the god of his imaginations. But it goes on to say, “we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” This now refers to those who serve the living God in truth. So both they who live in the wickedness of idolatry and they who serve the living God in truth have a promise of living securely and in freedom and liberty. 

Sadly, I suppose that religious freedom is the best we could hope for in this world of sin. I’m one who strive for inerrancy of faith, and do so with the hope that we all, as humans, could come to the absolute truth and worship of the living God. I hoped to do my part to tackle all the damnable heresies plaguing the church of Christ. I hoped that even those who are not Christians could be brought to see and understand that only in Christ could they serve God in truth and in Spirit. And hoped that by this means the world could have a lasting peace and joy. However I suppose religious freedom is the best we can hope for. But the good news is we have an assurance of the efficacy of religious freedom to bring about a lasting peace in the earth. Let every well meaning person, nation, international body, etc. push for a universal religious freedom, for herein lies our hope for lasting peace.

 

Religious Tolerance

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:31)

This brings us to another aspect of how to peacefully coexist despite our religious diversity. This aspect is religious tolerance. For religious freedom to be well observed there’s the need for religious tolerance. Tolerance must be hinged upon the command to love our neighbours as ourselves. This also needs to be carefully understood.

William Henry Beckett, in his book, “The English Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century,” wrote, “… tolerance is not indifference. Tolerance has been well defined as, ‘The willing consent that other men should hold and express opinions with which we disagree, until they are convinced by reason that these opinions are untrue.” I believe this is a right view of religious tolerance. Not smiling away while others wallow in error and perdition. So it is good to share one’s faith with others, not for their mere information, as we see in many formal religious discussions, but for their conversion. But when this is done, you should have that willing consent that this person should still hold, if he or she chooses to, an opinion that you believe are untrue. This is religious tolerance done in good faith.

For this reason it is good that where possible dialogue can hold both casually and formally. It is good to note that this has to be done in humility and not with a sense of superiority. It is better to present points to the other person for his consideration if perhaps he may see things in a clearer light, not to show him how wrong or unwise he is to hold such views. Having presented such things for their consideration, should they wish to have time alone to ponder on these things, let that time be given, and when they choose to be converted it should be based on their proper consideration, conscience, reason, and conviction. Not by any form of cajoling or exertion, intimidation, etc.

It is true that Jesus our Lord said in a parable, “And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23). Though he uses the words “compel them,” it does not mean we should force people. The compulsion by which we are to compel is to be found in the force of truth and reason alone, to shed adequate light enough for the other person to see the truth as it ought to be seen. In fact what Jesus thought was that when we preach and the truth of our words is not received, we should shake of the dust from our garment, declare the truth that God’s Kingdom is coming soon and leave (Matthew 10:13-14). What Jesus commanded here is one and the same as religious tolerance. Herein is the very foundation of religious tolerance. So no form of force, physical, psychological or otherwise, should be used on any. The force of truth and reason alone should be used. One needs a thorough understanding of the truth and tact to be able to compel people by the force of truth alone.

This doesn’t mean that we should, in trying to be religiously tolerant, hold our faith with slackness and levity. What is religion without fervour. Richard Baxter wrote, “If all religion were a deceit, it were fit to be banished, and atheism professed, and men confess themselves to be but brutes. But if there be a God, there must be a religion; and if we must be religious, we must sure be so in seriousness, and not in hypocrisy and jest. It being no such small, contemptible matter, to be turned into dissembling compliment.” On no account should we slacken our devotion in the name of tolerance. So religious tolerance does not mean we should corrupt the religion we hold with levity.

We must be able to be open to what others present, at least to understand their thought system, for when we do we shall be able to present the truth with more force. Every system of belief have their challenges and every adherent to such beliefs has a moral duty to defend what they perceive as right. And should only change their view when, in the clearer light of a higher knowledge, reason and conscience advices them to.

 

Apostasy, Repentance, Conversion, And Resilience

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world…”
(2 Timothy 4:10)

What is apostasy? Apostasy is defined by the dictionary as the renunciation and abandonment of one’s belief. But this isn’t so accurate. If this were so, it would mean that apostasy and conversion were one and the same, of which they’re not, even though they are often misconstrued to mean the same thing. For apostasy is taking action contrary to reason and one’s conscience for the sake of gain of one kind or the other. It is written, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world…” (2 Timothy 4:10). Though Demas did not denounce the faith but only abandoned apostle Paul, in a case where a man leaves the faith having loved this present world, that is what you call apostasy. For it is not reason and conscience that informed their decision. Acting against the conscience and reason which one once held just for gain of some sort.

Now what is conversion? Is conversion one and the same with apostasy? Why then does conversion have such a rich reward? For Christ himself says, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). This confirms to us that without conversion there is no heaven. How then can conversion be equated with apostasy? Christ said to Peter, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32). We could go on and on with verses that show us what a wonderful word conversion is. Conversion therefore is good while apostasy is bad. Though they both involve a change, conversion is a diametrical opposite of apostasy.

Now, to better understand conversion we need to look at what brings about conversion. At every time we see conversion take place it is always preceded by repentance which is a golden word. Repentance is sincere remourse. This comes about when one realises his wrong. And this cannot be without reason and conscience. For with reason one realises and the realisation pricks the lively and undead conscience. And repentance follows. And repentance brought to perfection is conversion. This can only be a true answer to a lively conscience.

The Christian sacrament of baptism is an outward demonstration of conversion. To this apostle Peter says, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21). Conversion is the answer of a good conscience towards God.

It is expected of a devout person to hold on to that which his conscience and reason informs him is true. Jesus made boast of people with such virtue where it is written, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” (Revelation 2:2 – 3). Resilience in the right path is also the answer of a good conscience towards God. Failure to be resilient in a path of which one’s reason and conscience informs him to be the right path is apostasy. Whether it be for fear of harm or want of gain, or inability to reason properly, or simple ignorance, all forms of changing ones beliefs for these causes are apostasy. 

One can be an apostate even without changing his religion. In a case when one knows the truth, but for fear of harm or resistance, or for love of the things of this world, fails to practice that which he holds as true, he is yet an apostate. And one who practices within the same faith that which is contrary to the faith, probably by means of deception, is also an apostate, but not just an apostate but a heretic. We shouldn’t bring similarity between the shameful word called apostasy and the golden words called repentance and conversion.

Now concerning religious freedom, the act of renouncing one’s faith should not be termed apostasy. For while indeed there are acts of renouncing one’s faith that is apostasy, we cannot really tell unless we judge it from the perspective of whatever religion we hold. For if it be born of genuine repentance, it is not apostasy. If it is the answer of a good conscience towards God, it is no apostasy. And the conscience can only be examined by the person who owns the conscience.

We ought to know that there is so much power in names. There are these group of people that are called progressives in American politics and by this name alone they achieve a lot in furthering their sinister motives and designs. By the name “progressive” they make all dissenting views to seem obsolete and therefore unsuitable for the time we live in, as though they have made some progress in their own thinking that makes them draw the illogical conclusions they make, a progress others have failed to make. The views they hold are contrary to reason and virtue. They hold that people should have the right to abort children (right to murder), that not only should same sex marriage be tolerated but that it should also be propagated and taught to young ones, etc. They hold a number of views that are terrible and call themselves progressives and yet with this name they make dissenting views, which are the rational, logical, and moral views to hold, seem obsolete. So we must be conscious that there is power in names. Therefore names for each and every term must be carefully chosen wisely and rightly.

Now, in reading international laws, I sometimes read of things stated as “right of apostasy.” I believe this should be changed to “right of conversion.” There are two reasons for this. First, if it is written, “right of apostasy.” it would mean that such laws were in support of a bad thing, as if to say one wishes to defend the “right of stealing.” Secondly, there seems to be a sort of conundrum in dealing with the matter of religious freedom because it is quite sensitive with some countries placing a death penalty for what they call apostasy, which we have seen that apostasy is evil. Such laws therefore would be seen is designed to resist what is evil and should therefore be commended. That is if it were in did to resist evil. In such countries, it is often a change of religion from the dominant religion to a less dominant religion that is termed apostasy, something that is punishable by death. But should one choose to change from a less dominant religion to the more dominant religion it is not seen as apostasy. So one rule applies to one and another rule to the other. This is not a right method of judgment. In dealing with this conundrum, tackling the problem with a term like “right of apostasy” is like tackling hunger by advertising unaffordable food. It won’t work. Rather it would work against the purpose of defeating hunger. The defence of rights should be in favour of virtue and not against it, and this should be well spelt out in the terms that are used to define those rights.

So let it be seen as an act of conversion, not apostasy, even though there shall be acts of apostasy that shall be termed conversion. But this shouldn’t be an issue, for the real judgment, when the very hearts of men shall be tried, each person shall be judged for either his good deed of conversion, the answer of a good conscience towards God, or his wicked deed of apostasy, the denial of truth for the love of the mundane things of this transitory life.

 

Being Truly Converted

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”
(Psalm 19:7)

“Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”
(Psalm 51:13)

As said, many acts of apostasy shall be wrongly termed conversion. But we need to know how true conversion comes about. It is the word of God that brings about true conversion. Without it we shall be nothing but pagans. And when we come to it with a honest heart we shall both find repentance, conversion, and resilience in the path of truth. The psalmist makes us understand this when he wrote, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7).

The right teaching from the word also brings about true conversion. King David tells us this too when he said, “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” (Psalm 51:13). By means of his teachings shall sinners be converted to God.

Since conversion is good and noble, we should endeavour to share the word of God. Or at least ensure it is available to all. There are places that they don’t allow open preaching, which may have some good reasons, but at least the word of God should be made available to all. Also since the right teachings of his word brings about the good deed of conversion, it should also be ensured that people have access to such teachings.

Conclusion

“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted… ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 18:3)

In conclusion, total religious freedom is the lasting solution to all forms of problems that can be associated with religion. There ought therefore to be total freedom and tolerance in matters of religion.

Not all acts of changing one’s beliefs is apostasy. Without conversion we cannot see the kingdom of God. Let no one stand between people and heaven because of a faulty understanding of what conversion entails. To say conversion is apostasy is to close the one door by which men may be saved. We all at some point must be converted to be saved. Every man goes through three stages to be saved, generation, degeneration, and regeneration. Everyone that shall be damned go through these stages save one, which is regeneration. This important regeneration by which men are saved comes by means of conversion. “Except ye be converted… ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” says the Lord Jesus.

May God help us to pursue religious freedom and tolerance. And may we find lasting peace by this means. Amen.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we pray that you shall grant us both the wisdom and the genuine will to pursue absolute religious freedom. Help us also to have a lasting peace in this world full of troubles. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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