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Baptists Value Freedom Above Order, Pastor Says

Church leaders through the ages often suppressed freedom to protect order, but Baptist forebears that developed apart from state-sponsored religions affirmed freedom as a central principle and practice, says a South Carolina pastor.

“So, when Baptists talk about freedom, it is not merely a political and cultural ideal that we affirm,” Jeffrey Rogers, pastor of First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., says in a sermon published in EthicsDaily.com’s Sermon Library. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
For Baptists, freedom is “not simply a lesson in American civics,” <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Rogers says in the July 4 sermon titled “On Christian Freedom.”
 
“Rather, freedom is a core value of our theology and our identity. Freedom is one of the defining elements of Baptists’ place in the long and storied history of Christian faith and theology.” 
 
Rogers says people have often wondered “why Baptist life has so often bordered on chaos and anarchy.”
 
“It is precisely because among Baptists freedom is a higher value than order,” he says. “We would rather risk losing it all with freedom than save it by coercion.” 
 
“There is no higher ideal among Baptists than a free pulpit and a free pew in a free church in a free state,” Rogers says. 
 
In the sermon from Galatians 5, Rogers identifies three distinct features of authentically Christian freedom.
 
“First, Paul asserts that our freedom is grounded in the life and work and person of Jesus Christ—’Christ has set us free,’ he says, in Galatians 5:1.”
 
Second, Christian freedom is not “an opportunity for self-indulgence.” When freedom “is abused as a pretense for self-indulgence,” he says, “It leads to slavery, not to liberty at all.” 
 
Finally, Rogers says, freedom makes love possible. “Where there is no freedom, there can be no love. Where there is no freedom there is only destiny or necessity or fate. And if all is destiny or necessity or fate, then there can be no such thing as love, which is the free offering of oneself to another.” 
 
“Freedom makes love possible,” he says.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.