Monday, May 1, 2017

"First Freedom" Edited by White, Duesing, and Yarnell: A Review

There is perhaps no more important subject for us to discuss as Christians in America i the first decade of the twenty-first century than religious liberty. (95)

In a post-Obergefell world, religious liberty has become a topic of highest importance among people of faith. Therefore, I recently picked up the helpful volume First Freedom: The Baptist Perspective on Religious Liberty edited by Thomas Whtie, Jason Duesing, and Malcolm Yarnell. The book assembles a number of key Baptist scholars on the subject of religious freedom and explores the Baptist doctrine and heritage of our first freedom and prophetically looks forward to what to expect next.

One of the immediate challenge of the book regards its publication date. Though written in 2007, the world has changed rapidly, especially on this issue, that one might assume that it is outdated. Briefly return to the world of 2007 with me. At the time, the legalization of eros was conceivable but presumably not in the near future. Then consider what has happened to people of faith leading up to Obergefell and especially what has happened since.

Nevertheless, the book is not in need of an update. Many of the challenges people of faith are facing today in light of the new intolerant sexual puritans was foreseeable. We knew who they were and we knew in 2007 what they were going to do. The legalization of same sex marriage was about much more than same sex marriage. When it comes to government, it always is.

With that said, the book explores religious liberty from a Baptist perspective. It explores Baptist history, theology, and political/legal theory. Some of the contributors include Paige Patterson, Russell Moore, Emir Caner, and Paul Pressler. The most helpful chapters, at least to me, included the opening one laying out the theological and biblical case for religious liberty. Here the author walks the reader through various theological loci and shows how it contributes to our understanding of religious liberty. Richard Land also provided key insights as it relates to the founding of America and the role religious freedom will play moving forward.

The most intriguing chapter is Caner's on religious liberty in the Islamic world. In all the books I've read on our first freedom, I have yet seen this issue raised. Caner is hopeful but cautious and one wonders what he would write today nine years later. Regardless, it is an interesting discussion that shows the contrast between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Overall, this is a helpful volume. For those new to the arguments of religious liberty, this can be an enlightening book. No doubt we need to arm ourselves with arguments in favor of religious freedom again. We can no longer take it for granted.
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