I Samuel 8 is a critical text in understanding a Biblical ideology of freedom. Why? Israel at this time (circa 1,050 B.C.) was in a degenerative state. For the moment it had a godly prophet leading the nation in the person of Samuel, but the nation had moved religiously away from God; they had shifted their allegiance. They demanded of Samuel, “…appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations” (v.5). God’s commentary to Samuel on this was that
…they have not rejected you, but they had rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day-in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods-so they are doing to you also (v.7-8).
We must learn from this that when individuals and nations abandon God, their perception of everything begins to deteriorate. They tend to stumble from one disaster to another, because having rejected the truth about God, they can no longer comprehend the truth about anything. The Bible teaches us that “…just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave then over to a depraved mind…” (Ro.1:28).
A truly Christian ideology of freedom then, will only be accepted and take root in a nation which believes in God, and is prepared to accept God’s Word (the Bible) as the first rule of society. But when a nation is explicitly or implicitly hostile to God and His Word, it abandons all hope of freedom.
This explains the disasters of the French and Russian Revolutions, along with the Third Reich in Germany, and the Chinese Communist Revolution. In each case the existing regime was overthrown, but soon enough the new government made every attempt to rid the nation of all vestiges of the Christian faith, particularly utilising State education. These revolutions were not merely political events; they were inherently religious ones with a political cloak.
What the successful bearers of the torch of the Enlightenment did was set Europe on fire-in the name of liberty, fraternity and equality. James Billington’s book has described it well: “Fire in the Hearts of Men” (1980). It was the left wing of the Enlightenment that triumphed. When men deify mankind, they almost always wind up deifying the State, the highest collective of mankind, the apotheosis of man’s power. They become adherents of the power religion.
What resulted from all four revolutions? A national bloodbath. The French Revolution’s Committee of Public Safety was a revolutionary tribunal responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents. As the Bible warns us “…he who sins against me [God] injures himself; all those that hate me love death” (Prov.8:36).
Thus Mises was right in saying that
Whoever wants lastingly to establish good government must start by trying to persuade his fellow citizens and offering them sound ideologies… There is no hope left for a civilization when the masses favour harmful policies.
This should be a warning to us. The ideology of freedom is found in the Bible: in Christian faith, obedience and responsibility. There is no other source for it. Attempts to replace Christianity and its associated freedoms with something else inevitably finish up in tyranny, as the twentieth century so amply showed us.
For those of us living in a western nation who say, “but Andrew, ours is a Christian nation,” I say, “what part is Christian? The people? The laws? The culture?”
When the atheist Julia Gillard became the Australian Prime Minister of Australia in 2010, and declared that she didn’t believe in God, what was the response? I’d say over 90% of the nation would have shrugged their shoulders.
Why shouldn’t they? After six generations of deliberately secular, politically manipulated public education in Australia, what would we expect? If the grass-roots of a nation haven’t changed, how can we expect there to be real and lasting change elsewhere?
This is the lesson: if we really want to see the ideology of freedom again in our western nations, we have a lot of work to do, beginning in the Church.
Politics cannot produce character: Christianity must. The decline of faith is a decline of character and a decline of character is the forerunner of political decay and collapse. Christianity has an obligation to train a people in the fundamentals of God’s grace and law, and to make them active and able champions of true political liberty and order.