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Religious Liberty for All

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
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June 1, 2021 9:26 am

Religious Liberty for All

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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June 1, 2021 9:26 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Dr. Andrew Walker to discuss his new book, Liberty for All: Defending Everyone’s Religious Freedom in a Pluralistic Age. Dr. Walker shares why it is important for Christians to defend religious freedom for all different religions, and how broad religious liberties can help our nation thrive.

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Family policy matters and engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will fold better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters. Tracy Devitt Griggs thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters. Christians are often accused of only being interested in defending our own religious beliefs and freedoms at the expense of others, especially in the public square.

Will something Baptist theologian Dr. Andrew Walker argues for a more robust Christian epic of religious liberty helps the church to religious freedom for one will Dr. Walker is an associate professor of Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist theological seminary. He's executive director of the Carl F.

H. Henry Institute for evangelical engagement were grateful to have them on with us today to explore some highlights of his newest book liberty for all defending everyone's religious freedom in a pluralistic age. Dr. Andrew Walker welcome to family policy matters you so much. You will so let's just start off is religious liberty a constitutional right in our country will certainly come as no surprise to your audience, First Amendment historically considered the very first freedom itself an important component how I think about the Christian but even competition.

We speaking when we think about what the first freedom is therefore if it there to remind us that we do not owe our ultimate allegiance to the state. We owe allegiance to the state, but not an ultimate type of allegiance and rather the First Amendment is there to guarantee that individuals derive their ultimate meeting their ultimate sense of truth, not from the state but from God. And because our understanding our relationship with God becomes primary. That is the seedbed for how we understand all other rights, and in fact a lot of historians make the argument that when you ground right in God that more firmly secures our understanding of rights. I've heard Christians in the past say that our country is a Christian nation, and they use this to defend this idea of defending Christian religious liberties, perhaps at the expense of some of the other face. So why is it important for Christians to embrace religious freedom for all faiths why think we would we would want to talk about this notion of legal equality and legal equality is merely the idea that in a nationstate like our own with the rule of law for the rule of law could be consistent and to be applied fairly.

It has to treat everyone equally and in a constitutional framework like our own. All of our rights are bound up with one another.

The phrase I would use is there's a there's a type of reciprocal relationship. I want to go her rights and privileges that the law affords me.

I have to be willing to extend those rights and liberties as well. And so we talk about religious liberty as a legal rights as legal equality. That is not to say that all religions teach the same things. It's not a relative eyes.

The truth claims of various religions.

It merely means that, because as a Christian I think of a constitutional matter, the state is not designed to play the role of a theological referee and then takes religious authority outside of its authority, and allows individuals to determine what is religious truth in their personal capacity, not as a capacity handed down by the state. Very important distinction which you have outlined for us, then this broader vision of religious liberty that extends beyond the political to the heart of Christian understanding and in living yeah certainly so the whole the whole overarching thesis of my book is that religious liberty is not merely something that we should care about because the First Amendment religious liberty is at the heart of the Christian story of the storyline of Scripture. When you look at themes like the kingdom of God. The image of God and the mission of God. Ideas internal to the logic of religious liberty are present in all three of those categories and I'll just mention them briefly, very quickly. We think about the kingdom of God were talking about Christ as King that he has ultimate keying ship authority over the conscience and because he does that mean the state does not when you get to something like being made in the image of God. It means that individuals possess more reason and conscience and rationality, and in the desire to use their moral agency to live authentic lives and when we have language of the image of God. That's how we understand that were not simply material beings, we are in flushed beings with souls and that's a really strong foundation to to anchor a Dr. human right and we get to this notion of the mission of God when you think about the ability to both proclaim the gospel and receive the gospel and to organize your life in response to the gospel that's integral to both how we understand the need for religious liberty to provide us with the freedoms to not be coerced and not to be penalized for what we believe but can also to share, to share our faith freely and also to organize how we want to live our lives out in public and all of those realities have some type of political legal ramification and all of a sudden we have the kingdom of God. The image of God and mission of God implicated in this category of religious liberty that I've I've written this book about this idea of freedom of religious conscience good for our nation right.

This is essential to the public good.

Certainly, I mean we would say that freedom of conscience ultimately is a good but every right is a right up to a particular point in every society has a notion of the common good and where right become in conflict with the true notion of the common good. The long-standing jurisprudential approach to limiting rights because rights are absolute, but an important concept. Women think about religious liberty is that we have the presumption of liberty in this nation that we don't have to prove to the government what it is we want to do or how we believe organ a belief that is something that comes intrinsic to us and the government doesn't have authority over that and when the government does want to step in and override our our liberty if their burden on to prove when they have to prove or restrict our religious liberty. And so again, religious freedom, conscience, freedom of not protecting all viewpoints equal if simply giving views that are at least considered considering themselves to be oriented of the common good to have a space to compete for followers and believers of any given faith public discourse is so contentious and has been for four years now can defending religious liberty for our neighbors of other faiths help us find civility and commonality.

Do you think in the midst of all this disagreement. Certainly any that's that's one of the kind of a common grace component. Religious freedom is because ultimate matters of faith have been taken out of the government hands it, it leaves it in the hands of the citizens and the citizens are left to find peaceable, tranquil ways to solve disputes, I mean we think about world history.

The notion of religious liberty is actually the exception to the norm. The norm is religious oppression and making people second-class citizens were banishing them for some type of religious belief and will do that in America.

What we do in America is not to deny that religions really do disagree with each other but we take that away from the power of the government to decide and we put issues of, for example, when to restrict religious freedom in the hands of deliberative bodies like Congress or our state legislature which are supposed to represent us as a community that's an example of how we can achieve a more peaceful, tranquil society because were not resorting to figuring out or settling religious disputes. According to coercion or banishment, or any type of penalty or without resorting to violence.

Religious liberty is at the very foundation of figuring out what type of society were to have when societies are debating really really intensity matters think it's difficult or can be difficult for Christians in particular in our country to be able to grant this legal equality to everyone and yet not suggest that all religions are the same have to happily walk that line.

Do you think yeah I mean I think that's just where we had to be careful thinkers and understand the difference between what we would call a legal right versus a theological right, no one has a theological right to rebel against God and God. To be clear is going to bring all airing belief to an end in the book I write about how religious liberty is an interim ethic. It's an ethic for this particular age, but someday Christ will come back and he's going to judge all false belief rule can this broad approach to religious liberty has in helping the church engage in the public square. More effectively it it it stands as kind of one of the great presuppositions or pillars to our engagement in the public square. What I said a few minutes ago about this notion of the mission of God for us to engage in society at any measure from sharing the gospel to organizing our resources, or a pregnancy care center. For example, all of that assumes the ability to exercise one's faith and so I would say this is a call to the public square.

Because we want to advocate for the truth about what we believe to be the case as far as who would believe Christ is with and also we want to advocate for legal and political context that are prioritizing liberty and taking power away from the state over these types of matters. As I think that means it's an individual call to to care about the culture but it's also a political call that we need to vote for legislators who have this robust understanding of religious liberty enough to accommodate the irony of this is we're looking for the type of legislator who when they get in the office are understanding the burden of voluntarily remove themselves from certain forms of power and that power over religion.

For example, because we understand America is that government doesn't tell us every last detail of the common good. It doesn't it doesn't give us every last measure of what is true and good and beautiful the government has to have a commitment to some issues can't be agnostic about everything but we understand the government is there to secure rights, not tell us what is true and good and beautiful about every last measure of our life. You have legislation like the equality act. The equality act is a direct threat to religious liberty because Christians believe certain substantive true about what it means to be made male and female end.dimension. We believe that that truth is a cornerstone to society and we now have progressive coalition that not only disagrees with what Christians believe about these core foundational and civilizational truths, but are seeking to banish them from the public square. When you look at a bill like the equality act. It has in its language that individuals or religious individuals cannot appeal to the religious Freedom restoration act.

If there is ever a conflict over LGBT rights and religious liberty, and that's an example of the government putting itself in the place of determining every last measure of what orthodoxy is on matters of sexuality and gender. And I you it's a mistake to say that Christians believe what we believe around these issues is harmful or rational. That's completely not the case.

What we believe are on around marriage and family and sexuality and gender are integral to human flourishing and we need the space to make those truths as as widely shared and proclaimed as possible because we want everyone to flourish in our society. Religious liberty is only as useful insofar as you're using it to say, truthful things and so I want to use the procedural rights and constitutional mechanisms that we have in order to make good compelling argument.

If we are defaulting to religious liberty only as our only safe harbor that's basically retreating into our little enclave and saying we don't have good arguments. While I do have good arguments and I want to use my religious liberty to advance a good, not simply to be left alone for just about at a time for this week before Miguel Dr. Andrew Walker where listeners go to follow you work with the most visible is on Twitter simply at Andrew T walk Andrew T walk okay.

Dr. Andrew Walker, associate professor of Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist theological seminary and author of a new book liberty for all defending everyone's religious freedom in a pluralistic age. Thank you so much for being with us on family policy matters. You been listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plenitude, and again next week to listen to the show online insulin more about NC families were to inform, encourage and inspire families across North Carolina go to our website it NC family.award that's NC Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family

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