The prophetic case for freedom of religion and speech

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). And God said let there be light (Genesis 1:3) The word spoken. A gift given freely that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). The Word. Spoken. Free gift of life abundantly. The Liberty by which the Word of God has set us free. The truth that sets us free. It translates. Freedom is in the Word. Liberty as it is spoken. The Spoken Word is intertwined in freedom from the bondage of sin. And sin is bondage, oppression, The tyranny of evil. You see, freedom of speech is God given. The oppressor, in whatever form he takes, hates the spoken word of truth and spares no effort to quench this freedom.

The Bible is full of examples of those standing for religious freedom and freedom of speech as well as examples of “church” leaders suppressing such freedoms. Ezekiel was told by the Lord to “hear the word at my mouth, and give them [Israel] warning from me.” The Lord told Ezekiel that he needed to tell the people of Israel what the Lord said otherwise the consequences would be on Ezekiel’s hand. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship a false god, and were cast into a furnace for it, but God delivered them. Against an order of the King, Daniel prayed to God and was thrown in the lion’s den. Forbidden to speak of Christ by the Sadducees, Peter and the Apostles were thrown in prison. When they were released, they began preaching Christ again, saying, “We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).”

This oppression continued in other forms. For example, the Roman Catholic Church legislated that the Bible could not be translated into English. In 1401, the Council of Constance declared John Wycliffe a heretic for translating the Bible and ordered his works and body burned. Bible translator William Tyndale was burned at the stake by Catholic Church leaders for heresy. The Catholic Church website defends and excuses these acts saying that the church was protecting the sacred Scripture. Pope Pius VIII reasoned that translations other than the official Catholic version were “contrary to the Church’s laws” and referenced the Council of Trent in banning translations “contrary to that of the Church or the popes.” As with both examples of the Sadducees and Catholic Church, there was no separation of church and state during those times.

Church law was also government law. The founding fathers of America recognized there could be no guarantee of individual freedom without freedom of speech and religion. The book “Religious Denominations,” written in 1854 by Joseph Belcher recounts a trial of three Baptist preachers indicted by the King’s attorney “For preaching the gospel of the Son of God.” Patrick Henry arose on their behalf: “In a day like this, when truth is about to burst her fetters— when mankind are about to be raised to claim their natural and inalienable rights—when the yoke of oppression which has reached the wilderness of America, and the unnatural alliance of ecclesiastical and civil power, is about to be dissevered—at such a period,—when liberty— liberty of conscience, is about to awake from her slumbering and inquire into the reason of such charges as I find exhibited here to-day in this indictment!” He demanded their release.

It is this God-breathed unalienable right from Creation forward that there be freedom of spoken word and truth. And it is in this premise that bondage, whether it be sin or the oppression by men, “churches,” or governments, is broken by truth spoken. As is written in Galatians 5:1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” And Ephesians 6:20, “that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Tyranny depends on quenching the Word of God and the freedom to speak because truth spoken is the clapper on the bell of Liberty. Ring it across the land!

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Bill Wilson