Defending Freedom in a Darkening Age

The Cornhusker Guardian commends this thoughtful article for your consideration as the assault on the foundations of civilization multiply daily. The Alliance Defending Freedom's Clarion article warns of the clear and present danger to real religious liberty, freedom, and indeed, Western civilization.

by Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.

I once read that when Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was offered the choice of beef or duck at a state dinner in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he characteristically scowled and said with a bit of royal condescension, “Tell me about the duck.” The waiter paused and looked at him and then said, “Your Royal Highness, it’s like a chicken, but it swims.” That is the best definition of a duck I have ever heard. Sometimes it’s good to be told the right answer to the question “Tell me about the duck.”

Tell me about religious liberty. Tell me about defending freedom. These truths — these rights — matter because they are fundamental and because they are endangered. The title of my address is “Defending Freedom in a Darkening Age.” I think there’s the temptation in any age to believe that darkness is right around the corner. And by the way, if you hold to a Christian, an Augustinian, worldview, that’s never wrong, except for the fact that the final turn will be the victory of Christ.

We are living in an age in which so many of our most precious realities are so devastatingly threatened. We are reminded of the fragility of civilization itself.

But we are living in an age in which so many of our most precious realities are so devastatingly threatened. We are reminded of the fragility of civilization itself. I am drawn in my own thinking to so many crucial points in Western history. One of them is the dawn of the First World War — called, by those who participated in it, the Great War. I’m reminded of the words of British Foreign Minister Sir Edward Gray, who said simply on August 3, 1914, the night before the full outbreak of hostilities had begun, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” In a sense he was right and in a sense he was wrong. But the most important sense in which he was right was understanding that the very principles and most fundamental convictions of Western civilization were at stake; they were endangered and were worth fighting for.

Now, we know the course of history only in retrospect, and only partially, but we must know the historical character of our own time. In our generation, we are called to defend truth and virtue — even to defend the very existence of truth and virtue. We’re called to defend freedom. For freedom and human dignity are always in need of defense in a fallen world. Of all the liberties, religious liberty is among the most precarious, precisely because it is the most fundamental and primary. Religious freedom, where it is achieved in terms of the political order, is precarious in any age. It’s a remarkable civilizational achievement. It requires pre-political conditions. It requires an understanding of human dignity and human rights before you get to the specific articulation of religious liberty.

It is the inheritance of Western civilization that is now being subverted before our eyes. The civilization being undermined germinated from classical roots in Greece and in Rome, but it has flourished due to a millennium of crucial formation of the Western mind — due to structures of thought and the understanding of what it means to be human that came concretely and inseparably from the development of Christianity in the shaping of Western culture.

But those very classical roots, as well as the Christian foundations, are now openly subverted when, for example, a professor of philosophy at Yale makes the argument that natural law is a demonstration of white racial superiority or supremacy. That argument is a repudiation of the entire superstructure, of what Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age calls “the social imaginary,” the entire imagined structure of society that is being transformed before our eyes by those who would subvert — intentionally and in a premeditated fashion — the very civilization that has made our liberties politically possible and historically actualized. Read the rest of the article here

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – one of the largest seminaries in the world. He also serves as the editor of WORLD Opinions, writing regular commentary on moral, cultural, and theological issues. Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by The Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a Christian worldview. A native of Lakeland, Florida, Dr. Mohler was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University before receiving his bachelor of arts degree from Samford University. He holds a master of divinity degree and the doctor of philosophy from Southern Seminary and has done research at University of Oxford.

Feature Image: The Course of Empire Destruction by Thomas Cole

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