Can Christians Be Freethinkers?
NCW 76, July-September 2002
Q. Can New Covenant Christians also be "freethinkers"? Is there a conflict between faith and reason?
A. I suppose this is a question that every single member would have to answer for him- or herself. Some of us were raised agnostic or atheist 'freethinkers' and came to faith; others began their lives in Christian faith and consider themselves to be 'freethinkers', and yet others are content to live a life of faith without too much intellectual pursuit of the greater questions of life. We have all come into a relationship with Yahweh our Heavenly Father through very divergent routes. Some of us enjoy intellectual enquiry, others don't, and yet others would say they don't have the time or need for such.
A "freethinker" (if I understand your use of the term correctly) is one who thinks for himself and comes to conclusions about God, man and the universe entirely on his own. Most who subscribe to this label would, I think, probably regard themselves as agnostic or atheist, and have come up with it as a reaction to what they regard as the non-thinking force of religionists. In its widest sense, a freethinker is a person who forms his ideas and opinions independently of authority or accepted views, especially in matters of religion.
In my opinion, no matter how free a thinker you may think you are, it is impossible not to be influenced by authority or accepted views in some way or another. Almost all we learn and know comes about through hearing or reading the views of others. Were you to raise yourself in a world without other people, you would, almost certainly, arrive at a personal philosophy that is completely different from the one you presently have now, unless you came into a relationship with Yahweh. To say that one has arrived at a philosophy which is independent of authorities and accepted views is, in my view, shere bunkum.
It is ironic that atheism defines itself in relationship to God - it is the "non-God" philosophy - a-theism. Is a reverse term possible? Could a Christian define his faith relative to a non-believing one? The shere vocabulary of being suggests powerfully to me that atheism is simply a refusal to accept what 'is', by positing an opposite to that reality, namely, non-reality.
I think it is true to say that many New Covenant Christians are thinkers. If you read our writings you will notice that in the arena of our religion we approach life from two simultaneous angles: Firstly, we look at the Book of Nature and we draw logical conclusions from what we observe in the realm of science; and secondly, we look at the Book of Yahweh, the Bible, which we believe is written by Him through His servants. We do not ignore the evidence of either Book and seek to find harmony between them. And thirdly, we are able to integrate our experience with both and come to a common understanding through a shared reality that transcends our individual experiences.
Truth is not the product of mere neurological processes. As humans we are not just possessed of minds that lead to mental comprehension, but have a heart-faculty which for want of a better term I say leads to "comprefeeling". Human experience consists not only of the process of mental interaction with our environment but also of a heart-interaction with it too. The latter is very much a female process, and the former male, though both operate in both genders. As New Covenant Christians we consider ourselves to be freethinkers, freefeelers, and freespirits. We recognise a trichotomy of being. Alone, these principles present a partial and incomplete picture of life. Together, and integrated, they lead to one single, absolute truth - Yahweh-Elohim, the Creator of All.
In the end, the concept of being a "free" anything is, I think, meaningless, at least when you come up to Truth face-to-face. Once you know something to be true, and are confronted with its reality, is one actually free to think in a contrary way? Or to feel contrary feelings to those of the actual knowing? At a certain point the need to be a "freethinker" (or "free-feeler") vanishes, not because one suddenly abrogates ones freedom but because one has approached, seen and merged with the principle of freedom itself. And that principle is Christ - and more than that - a Person: "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36, NKJV).
This word "freedom" has, I think, become a bit of a red herring. It is a principle exalted by some as though it were God Himself, as though it were the highest fruit of goodness. But is it? Does anyone alive really want "total freedom"? Is the object of our lives to be as free as possible in everything? The honest enquirer will notice that freedom may be good or evil. If I choose, for example, to be free to think, behave or do whatever I want in a society, it is pretty obvious that I will end up harming people, provoke their hostile reaction, and have my freedoms curtailed. If there is such a thing as absolute freedom it can only be on the most extreme individualistic and selfish basis imaginable. Total freedom is actually total egotism, or Satanism. True freedom - freedom in the spiritual sense - can only be defined (a) relative to the freedom of other people - and that necessarily implies self-limitation; and (b) to God, who knows the best balance between individual and societal freedom. And of necessity this will also include freethinking and freefeeling.
Total freedom of thought leads to mental anarchism. Total freedom of feeling leads to hyper-emotionalism. Total freedom of spirit leads to existentialism. Total freedom leads finally to total isolation ... the condition called hell. For me to be free is to operate within the sphere of the Divine with its freedoms and limitations. I then become not so much a 'freeman' as a 'free son of God'. As a 'free son' I have the freedom to mentally and emotionally explore the universe as reality rather than fantasy. Fantasy, because it is egotistical, separates people; reality, because it recognises the unity of the human family with God, unites them (remembering there are two realities - the reality of heavenly absolute truth and the 'reality' of shadows which is this world).
This has been a philosophical answer because it was a philosophical question, and there is always a danger of it becoming mere verbal-fencing. I am not sure the question is actually answerable. I only know that we as a people build our lives upon what regard to be self-evident principles and are pleasantly surprised to find that no matter what our backgrounds we come to a non-coercive unity and harmony. In a word, we've found 'home'.
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