The Perfect Law of Liberty
October 22, 2020 · C.E. Carter
A Christian system of politics is founded upon the fact that 1) God created man to flourish for His own glory, and 2) sin hinders the flourishing of man. The first is a held as a matter of catechism and metaphysics; as a first principle to be found in Scripture, as a means of answering the nihilist who says that man was created for nothing. The existence and flourishing (or lack thereof) of the human race is inherently and inescapably meaningful for the sole and sufficient reason that every human being is created by God, for His own glory, as the image of God. Thus, when it comes to a discussion of politics, we are morally obligated and confined to enact policies which bolster human flourishing. On this point, Scripture is clear as well: sin hinders human flourishing. You could say that is what sin is, as a matter of definition: a deviance from the created order of things. God created the Universe and all that is within it to function a certain way, so that all of it, including all of humanity, functions together harmoniously. From this perspective, sin is a deviation from harmonious interaction with God, man, and creation. Our politics must reflect this.
The concept of liberty is the principle by which we are governed as Christians, and is the way we ought to govern societies as well.
James exhorts Christians to live under liberty,
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25)
So speak and so act as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:12)
And again, to the Romans,
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)
for if the adoption as sons is not into slavery, then it must be into liberty. These words are echoed in Galatians as well, to a church which had abandoned the Gospel of grace for a Gospel of sin and works. We are ensured that we were once slaves to sin,
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. (Galatians 4:3)
but in Christ, we are adopted as sons of God,
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:6-7)
and we walk in liberty because of this,
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
knowing that true liberty does not come from doing whatever we please, but doing that which is in accordance with God’s law, and not being subject again to a yoke of slavery through sin. We are free under Christ for His glory; free to obey Him in all things,
Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. (1 Peter 2:16)
Christ has liberated us for liberty. It is important that we be sure to make a semantic difference between liberty and freedom. Where freedom says “you may do as you please” either to your benefit or to your detriment, liberty says “you may do as is best” wholly for your benefit. Freedom allows all things, liberty allows all human flourishing. A fish is free to jump out of the water and onto the land, but it is not at liberty to do so; it is always to its detriment to leave the habitat it was designed for. By this, we are free in Christ to sin in any manner we wish to, but we are not at liberty to do so. When we sin, it is always to our detriment. Like the fish who was designed to live in the water, human beings were designed to live in liberty, the essence of which is harmonious co-existence with God, man, and creation.
As American Christians, those who know the perfect law of liberty because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we ought to guard against the error of believing that Christian liberty is distinct from American liberty, or that Christian government is distinct from American government, or that Christian liberty is rightly limited by government tyranny. No, Christ is the King of all, seated at the right hand of power with all authority in Heaven and on Earth given to Him. His government is the only government, and His liberty is the only kind of liberty. Thus the church, as heirs of God, sons of God, and bearers of the word of God, functions as God’s instrument to bring the whole world into conformity to Christ’s perfect law of liberty. Just as evildoers are stricken with terror because government bears the sword, so also government should be stricken with terror because the church bears the word of God. The church is Christ’s agent on Earth for the purpose of restoring the world to Himself, in that His ultimate purpose for all things is the liberty which we enter into through believing the Gospel of Jesus.
Thus, the principles of what we call liberty are not arbitrary principles which have been pulled from thin air. Rather, they are fundamentally rooted in natural law and God’s law, as those principles which would be consistent with the intended order of nature and mankind. When we understand this, our hand is forced, politically. If we are in Christ, it is our duty and mission to bring about the kind of liberty that God intends for all of creation. That means we vote a certain way, live a certain way, govern in a certain way, and obey or disobey government in a certain way, all for the glory of God.