How liberalism destroyed true liberty

Last week I took my kids to their swimming lessons at a local secondary school. I didn’t notice as we left that my daughter had emerged from the girls changing room without her swimming gear and cardigan. The next morning we discovered what we’d done, so I drove my daughter back to the “big school”.

The entrance to the pool is through the school’s reception. The door is guarded by a secretary behind a glass screen. If she gives you permission to enter, she pushes a button and a magnet releases the door. School kids were streaming through the door and, as I knew where I was going and explained to the receptionist why I’d brought my daughter up, I expected to be told to pop through so she could go in and get her stuff. “You can’t go in to school now, because the kids are in, I’ll get the caretaker to fetch your stuff.” So we waited whilst she made a phone call to pester someone to check if our stuff was there and a friendly lady came out with the stuff, only adding to our embarrassment in front of giggling school kids.

Why were we not allowed to pop in? It’s because liberalism has destroyed true liberty. Everyone is assumed to be a potential danger because it is assumed that no-one keeps the law. The irony is that liberalism was, in part, a movement against the cold and restrictive moralism of the 1950s and yet the 60s love generation have destroyed true liberty by seeking to express love without constraint.

That’s why I love the end of Horatius Bonar’s chapter on the Saint and the Law in God’s Way of Holiness. Bonar first makes it clear that the law does not justify, and so for their justification believers are not under the law, but under grace through faith in Christ crucified. Yet, the law is liberty when believers obey it:

Say what men will, obedience to law is liberty, compliance with law is harmony, not discord. The force of law does not need always to be felt, but its object, whether felt or unfelt, is to keep everything in its proper place, and moving in its proper course; so that one man’s liberty may not interfere with another man’s, but each have the greatest amount of actual freedom which creaturehood is capable of, without harm to itself or others. Law does not interfere with true liberty, but only with that which is untrue, promoting and directing the former, discouraging only the latter.

As with the orbs of heaven, so with us. Obedience to their ordered courses is not simply a necessity of their being, but of their liberty. Let them snap their cords, and choose for themselves the unfettered range of space; then not only is order gone, and harmony gone, and beauty gone, but liberty is gone; for that which keeps them in freedom is obedience to the forces of their constitution, and non-departure from their appointed orbits. Disobedience to these, departure from these, would bring about immediate collision of star with star, the stoppage of their happy motions, the extinction of their joyful light, havoc and death, star heaped on star in universal wreck.

Endnote: The last paragraph is a great illustration and lesson to preachers to use word pictures.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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