Advocates of Religious Toleration &
Dr. James Leo Garrett, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Theology
Southwestern Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, 1978
The author was privileged to deliver the 1976 Day-Higginbotham Lectures at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas on 10‑12 February 1976. This lectureship was established in 1965 by an endowment fund donated by Mrs. Edwin M. Reardon III, of Fort Worth, as a memorial to the late Paul Clanton Higginbotham and to Mr. and Mrs. Riley Day. The author wishes to express his gratitude to Mrs. Reardon and to the president and faculties of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for the opportunity to explore both the classic advocacy of and the contemporary situation concerning religious freedom.
The first and second of the
three Day-Higginbotham Lectures appear here in slightly revised form. The author is especially indebted to Dr. E.
Bruce Thompson, Dr. Bill L. Lanning, and Mr. Edward N. Curtis for their
valuable assistance in bringing these lectures to their present form.
James Leo Garrett, Jr., Baylor University, February
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PART THREE -- “Religious Freedom: Why and How in Today’s World,” has been published in Southwestern
Journal of Theology 18 (Spring
Parts One and Two are shown here with permission
and that their viewing is at no charge and that there is no violation of
copyright, as Professor Garrett retains all copyrights to Parts One and
Two. Part Three with permission from
Southwestern Seminary, Fort Worth.
Placed into HTML and book-marked by MG Maness.
It is very probable that some
persons may think inwardly and perhaps contend overtly, especially after exposure
to the key documents looking to the advocacy of religious freedom written
during the centuries from the fifteenth through the seventeenth, that the
validity and relevance of the classic arguments for religious freedom belong to
the age in which they were formulated, but not necessarily to the last quarter
of the twentieth century.
Perhaps such persons would
express themselves as follows: The
classic arguments for religious liberty indeed were valid during earlier epochs
of human history. They were desperately
needed to bring relief from centuries of oppression -- the Crusades, the
Inquisition, the wars of religion, recurring grievous bodily persecution -- and
were indispensable to the attainment of that human freedom so basic to the
modern democratic societies. By reading
the English Reformation classic, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and/or the
Mennonite classic, van Braght’s Martyrs’ Mirror, one can see what great
changes came with the securing of toleration and ultimately of genuine
freedom. But ours is a very different
age. We live in a complex technological
society whose intricate societal problems call for the best efforts of
government and religion. Governments
are no longer merely to repress evildoers and maintain civil order; they have assumed a plethora of functions in
education, health, economic management, and social welfare -- what we call the
“welfare state.” Moreover, the
Christian churches and the Jewish synagogues have assumed a more active role in
contributing to human welfare and in seeking to influence the political
decisions that so largely shape the society.
On a worldwide scale atheism, secularism, humanism, and godlessness have
spread in unparalleled fashion, partly under the sway of militant advocates,
and now claim the loyalty of multiplied millions. Ours is a radically different age from that of our spiritual and
political predecessors, and it calls for radically different answers. Most of all classical advocates of religious
toleration and freedom believed in one God and the final accountability of all
men to him. Today many advocate freedom
of religion so as to be able to practice irreligion. The very religious and moral foundations of society, especially
in Western Europe and North America, seem to be crumbling under the impact of
rapid human and social change. Does not
religious freedom permit, or even encourage, the loosening of the breakdown of
these foundations? Is not the
cooperation of state and church in meeting human needs much more imperative
that the old case for “soul freedom”?
Is there really a case for religious freedom today? So goes the argument.
Such an argument deserves
very careful attention. The very fact
that it exists points to the need for reexamining familiar postures in
succeeding generations. The argument
challenges the abiding validity of freedom of religion vis-à-vis the civil
state and seeks to attach such freedom to the needs of a particular historical
age. Any serious response to the
argument must be in some sense a guest for an apologetic for religious freedom
Why religious freedom in
today’s world? Is it valid in certain
nations but not in others? Was it
formerly much needed to combat authoritarianism but now must be modified or displaced
in the face of libertarianism? Is there
truly a present-day case for religious freedom? If so, what specific considerations constitute the case?
First, at least for
Christians, Jesus and the early Christians practiced religious freedom. They did not persecute others, whether Jew
or Gentile, on account of their religion.
Jesus’ most severe strictures against the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew
23) were verbal but not violent, prophetic but not coercive. Repeatedly Jesus taught his disciples to
expect to be persecuted: in the
Beatitudes (Matt. 5:10-12), in the sending out of the Twelve (Matt. 10:17-23),
in connection with the woes against the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23-29-36),
and in the discourse on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:9-13). Recent advocates of the theory that Jesus
was a Zealot or would be a violent
revolutionary in today’s world have sought to make Jesus a man of the sword,
citing especially the text wherein Jesus enjoined his disciples to “buy” a
“sword,” the disciples reported that they had “two swords,” and Jesus declared,
“It is enough” (Luke 22:35-38). But his
word to the impetuous and violent Peter, “Put your sword back into place; for all who take the sword will perish by
the sword” (Matt. 26:52, RSV), seems clearly and unambiguously to represent the
teaching of Jesus. Jesus and the
apostles sought to persuade men, not coerce them. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those
who are sent to you! How often would I
have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings, and you would not!” (Matt. 23:37, RSV).
Jesus and the early Christians obeyed the Roman government on civil
matters. Jesus’ “Render to Caesar the
things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17a) was followed by Romans 13:1-7 and 1
Peter 2:13-17. They refused, however,
to give to the Jewish hierarchy or the Roman state the allegiance that belongs
only to God. “Render to God the things
that are God’s” (Mark 12:17b). “We must
obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The Apocalypse described a “beast” that blasphemes God, makes war on
“the saints,” and receives the worship of all except the Christians (Rev.
13:5-8). The issue had been
joined: Caesar or Christ! Not until the fourth century A.D. or later
did the Christians sanction the use of civil power to enforce religious
Second, religious freedom is
consistent with great motifs of the Bible, especially the New Testament. A. F. Carrillo de Albornoz was surely
correct when he asserted that religious liberty “is not a revealed truth,” that is, “not explicitly
revealed as an integral part of the biblical revelation,” but rather is “‘an implication
of the Christian faith.’” We do well to recognize the differences between ancient biblical
and modern settings. Indeed,
. . . the
setting of the Old Testament is a theocratic kingdom forged by an ex-nomad
people and falling to regnant imperial powers, first in exile and later in
restoration. Likewise, [most of] the
writers of the New Testament . . . belonged to that company of early Christians
who left the matrix of Judaism and lived their lives under the might and
coercions of the Roman Empire.
To state the matter negatively in the words of Niels H. Soe, “The basis of
religious liberty is the very fact that Christ did not come in heavenly
splendor and worldly majesty to subjugate any possible resistance and force all
and everybody to subjection.” More positively, religious freedom is consistent with the
biblical concepts of man’s answerability to God; of faith as persuasion;
of the suffering of Jesus as the Messiah; of the church as a gathered, witnessing, servant community; of the limits to the competence of the
state; and of the lordship of Christ
and the sovereignty of God.
persecution for the sake of religion, as well as persecution and wars of
religion during past centuries, calls for the attainment, the preservation, and
the practice of religious freedom.
Despite the great constitutional guarantees and widespread advocacy of
religious freedom, the twentieth century has been and is an age of
persecution. The German Church Struggle
and the Jewish Holocaust under Hilter’s Third Reich -- now the subject of such
intensive scholarly study -- serve as continuing
reminders of man’s inhumanity to man and the barbarous constrictions and the
ghastly genocide of the totalitarian state.
In the People’s Republic of China more than a quarter century of total
suppression has seemingly greatly reduced the number of Christians. In the Soviet Union both Jews and
Christians, whether Russian Orthodox, Old Believer, Roman Catholic, Lutheran,
Evangelical Christian-Baptist, Adventist, or otherwise, continue to live under
severe restrictions upon the exercise of their faith as well as under the
indoctrination of the state-sponsored atheism.
The limitations on the emigration of Soviet Jews, especially to Israel,
are well known and evoke widespread popular concern and political action. The restrictions upon the imprisonments of
leaders such as Geogi Vins among the Initsiativniki,
the resistant and unregistered group of Evangelical Christians and Baptists
that separated from the All-Union Council fifteen years ago [c. 1960], are less
well known in the West and evoke only modest church sympathy and even less
political action, but constitute nevertheless a major chapter in the
contemporary denial of religious freedom.
The Christians who appear as characters in the novels of Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn and Solzhenitsyn’s own “Lenten Letter to Patriarch Pimen” (March
1972) form additional evidence of the plight of Christians in the Soviet
Union. One need not espouse the view of
Pastor Richard Wurmbrand that only in underground churches are true Christians
to be found. Nor must one accept the
opposite implication of the policy of detente between the U.S.A. and the
U.S.S.R., namely, that religious persecution is of minimal importance. Ernest A. Payne’s sympathetic, yet
critical, posture in Out of Great Tribulation: Baptists in the U.S.S.R. seems to be somewhat more
adequate. In Eastern Europe
restrictions upon religious freedom persist in varying degrees, ranging from
total suppression in Albania and very severe restrictions in Bulgaria and East
Germany to the constitutionally guaranteed and practiced freedom of worship in
Yugoslavia. Religious restraints
continue in Cuba. In Uganda the regime
of President Amin discriminates against Christians and other non-Muslims, and
in Zaire the regime of President Mobotu has virtually outlawed all religious
instruction. In certain African
nations, especially Malawi, Jehovah’s Witnesses are facing expulsion for
nonconformity to the new national governments.
Burma and India have curtailed the entry of Christian missionaries or
certain types of missionaries. In
Afghanistan the burning of a Protestant church building goes unchallenged. Indeed, religious freedom, so lacking for
many today, is needed, and those who deny its need should make certain they
have “walked in the moccasins” of the persecuted.
Fourth, the pluralistic
nations or societies that are emerging demand the recognition an practice of
religious freedom -- not only freedom of worship but also of witness,
education, ministry, publication, and conversion -- without civil
penalties. Such freedom is essential if
pluralistic societies are to have either civic stability or religious
peace. George Huntston Williams
insisted a decade ago that only one genuine pluralistic society existed,
namely, the United States of America. Admittedly the American “melting pot” is more universal in its
components. Yet the pluralistic
society, especially the existence of several diverse religious communities
within one political entity, is increasingly to be found. Moreover, the tragic conflicts in Northern
Ireland and Lebanon, which are indeed much more than religious struggles but
from which the religious factor cannot be truly be eliminated, point to the
need for full religious freedom rather than militant religious polemics or
negotiated constitutional settlements between major religions.
Fifth, since majority
religions tend to repress or to discriminate against minority religions within
a given society or at least to seek and to take special political advantages
for themselves, constitutional guarantees and judicial protection of freedom of
religion are often necessary to secure religious freedom for the adherents of
minority religions. The advantages of
and sometimes the repressions of state churches, or established churches, are
familiar to the student fo church history or of Western civilization. Less familiar is the fact that it was not
Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox or Jews, but rather the
Jehovah’s Witnesses whose frequent cases before the United States Supreme Court
during the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s -- from Lovell v. Griffin
(1938) to Fowler v. Rhode
Island (1955) -- lead to the delineation
by the Court of the meaning of the “free exercise” clause of the First
Amendment. The latest issue seems to be
between religious groups such as the Unification Church, the Children of God,
and Krishna Consciousness and the parents of young people who have become
members of such groups; the parents are
alleging that the youths have been “brainwashed” and need to be “deprogrammed,”
and the young members are claiming the “free exercise” of religion. Many have said that Baptists have never
persecuted others. But does this mean
that Baptists, where a major segment of the population, have not sought advantages
for themselves? What of the deacon in
the rural church who asks the county commissioner to pave the church’s parking
area, or the pastor who vigorously defends his housing allowances on the
federal income tax, or the administrator who is sure that religious freedom can
be maintained even though his Baptist institution accepts government grants or
subsidies? However committed
theoretically any religious group may be to universal religious liberty, it
ought never to allow itself to be deceived about its own capacity to seek
special privilege or to practice discrimination.
international travel, commerce, immigration, and communication are such to make
religious freedom highly desirable an genuinely beneficial. As in no previous century and because of the
vast new means of rapid transportation and extensive communication, human
beings are able to leave their cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and national
settings by means of travel and thereby to become exposed to new and different
settings. The same new conditions in
transportation and communication make possible more extensive contacts in
international trade and open the door, where laws permit, to considerable
immigration. Even without geographic
movement television, radio, and the press make possible the coming of new ideas
in cross-cultural as well as intra-cultural communication. Through such media religious communication
has been extended in unparalleled fashion.
To be able to engage in such geographical movement and to utilize such
media of communication but to be bound by laws that prohibit a change of religious
persuasion or any profession and practice of religion places contemporary man
in a difficult and unfortunate situation.
Twentieth-century technology has made anachronistic as well as unjust
the legal and governmental constrictions upon religion.
Seventh, the Christian world
mission, divested of attachments to colonialism and committed to a
six-continent base and field perspective, would be enhanced by the possibility
of worldwide religious freedom. Perhaps
it is a paradox that Christianity has both produces great religious persecution
and has provided, along with Judaism, the primary stimulus to religious
freedom. Where would one find an
Islamic or a Buddhist movement actively working for universal religious
freedom? Ever since the resistance of
the Jewish youths, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, to Babylonian emperor
worship in the sixth century B.C. (Daniel 3), the Judaeo-Christian heritage has
known the possibility of conscientious religious objection to the mandates of
the civil state. Now in the latter part
of the twentieth century A.D., during what some are calling the
“post-Constantinian age,” conscientious religious dissent and non-dependence on
government for support of religion are being experienced. Christianity, because it both claims and
works toward a universal mission and fosters universal religious
freedom, is generally able to thrive where religious freedom exists. To day this is, of course, not to deny that
also the “blood of Christians” in martyrdom has been the “seed” of the church.
Eighth and finally, the
practice of universal religious liberty helps to make more evident to
Christians that Christianity is truly dependent upon the gospel, the Bible, and
the power, gifts, and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Christians need not only read that Jesus’ “kingship is not of
this world” (John 18:36) but also to resist the nationalization, the
politicization, and the acculturation of the Christian faith, no matter what
its form. The weapons of the Christian
warfare are not “worldly” (2 Cor. 10:4).
The church cannot rightly expect unbelievers to be the bearers of its
mission. It is truly dependent upon its
suffering yet triumphant Lord, and it may indeed have to suffer with him if it
is share his triumph.
These eight historical and contemporary
considerations hopefully constitute a case that would tend to convince serious
and concerned Christians today, and indeed others, that the espousal and
practice of universal religious freedom constitute a much needed and very
As to the realization of such
a goal, we should recognize that in North America, in northern and southern
Europe (despite the lingering of legally established “state” churches and what
some Germans now differentiate as Volkskerchen, or people’s churches),
in Australia, in most nations of Latin America (especially since Vatican
Council II), in several nations of East Asia (Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, an
Singapore), and in many nations of
sub-Sahara Africa there now exists a considerable degree of religious freedom
with respect to the national governments.
Such nations are by no means free from problems in the implementation of
religious freedom. On the other hand,
the Soviet Union, the eastern European nations, Cuba, the Peoples’ Republic of
China, Cuba, the Peoples’ Republic of China, certain Muslim nations of Africa
and the Middle East, and Asian nations such as Nepal and Tibet restrict rather
severely the free exercise of religion, though usually they grant freedom and
privilege to state-sponsored atheism or to the predominant or traditional
In turning from the why
of religious freedom to the how of religious freedom in today’s world,
from apologetic to implementation, it is necessary concerning religious freedom
to differentiate, as in the case of world food supplies, between the “have” and
the “have not” nations or peoples.
Respecting the exercise of
religion in the “have not” nations, it is imperative to give ample stress to
the role and responsibility of the citizens of the “have” nations. First, those who enjoy the blessings of
religious freedom have an obligation to advocate repeatedly and responsibly
religious freedom for all citizens of the “have not” nations.
Such advocacy can be
undertaken through political channels.
The United Nations, despite its limitations, it still a forum that
shapes world opinion. Through
international diplomacy some efforts can be made in behalf of those who are
overtly persecuted for religious beliefs and practices. National policies of international trade and
travel can be made to reflect the concern of its citizens for the human rights
of citizens of other nations. But
political action in behalf of repressed, discriminated against, and even
tortured people will not come automatically;
it likely will depend on the groundswell of concerted citizen action.
The cause of the persecuted
also can and ought to be championed by the religious bodies, especially the
Christian churches. The World Council
of Churches has been active in the cause of religious freedom, in respect both
to study and to action for the oppressed, but the membership of Russian
Orthodoxy in the WCC has served to limit that action in the socialist
nations. The national councils of
churches in various lands can, should, and sometimes do act in the cause of the
oppressed. World confessional families,
such as the Baptist World Alliance, the Lutheran World Federation, the World
Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the like, have special responsibility for
religious liberty, since most of these international bodies have member
churches in nations wherein religious freedom is seriously constricted. The denominational bodies within nations
enjoyed religious freedom have a similar opportunity and duty. Their strengths ought to be place in the
service of those who are weak. The
Southern Baptist Convention, it would seem, has yet to make any major effort of
any real sacrifice in behalf of oppressed peoples, particularly the unregistered
churches in the U.S.S.R. The recent appear
of Albert Boiter of Radio Liberty of Southern Baptists has seemingly been
ignored. Grassroots efforts by Christians who form ad hoc groups
can be surprisingly effective.
Christians in Great Britain, a land often described in terms of its
spiritual decline, have been more active in behalf of Georgi Vins and other
dissidents than have Christians in the U.S.A. Jesus’ words were not addressed to the rich and favored -- to
those with two boats, three bathrooms, and four cars -- when he said, “I was in
prison and you visited me” and “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matt.
The mass media have a role to
play in securing greater religious freedom for all men. Television documentaries, radio and
television coverage of the events of persecution, investigative newspaper
reporting and in-depth analysis, magazine and journal articles, and pertinent
books can help to awaken interest in and action for those who are denied
freedom of religion.
Second, the citizens of the
“have not” nations should be encouraged to utilize whatever limited religious
freedom they do have, and the citizens of the “have” nations should be active
in assisting them. In some instances
constitutional freedom of worship within church buildings does exist, and
usually believers gather regularly in such places, though police actions
sometimes inhibit even such worship.
The printing and distribution of vernacular Bibles can also assist the
free exercise of Christianity in “have not” nations. It is a moot question whether the activities of Bible smugglers
are truly more effective than the limited distribution through legal
channels. Among the most effective
means of propagating religious beliefs among those in the “have not” nations seems
to be vernacular broadcasts on powerful international radio stations located in
the “have” nations. Reports of
assistance in resettling refugees and immigrants in the “have” nations can
encourage those still restricted in the “have not” nations. In Muslim lands medical missions, disaster relief,
and other humanitarian projects can be both legal and productive of good will
for the faith of those who serve.
What now can be said about
implementing religious freedom in the “have” nations, especially the
U.S.A.? Six areas of reply seem pertinent. First, the broad base of support for
religious freedom needs to be strengthened.
Politically, that support can be identified on three levels: constitutional, legislative and executive,
and judicial. Guarantees of religious
freedom for all citizens may now be found in the constitutions or primary
documents of many nations and political subdivisions. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has served as a
model or guide for other similar provisions.
A very few would still amend the U.S. Constitution to specify the
establishment of Christianity, and others would amend it so as to specify the
legality of prayer in public schools.
But there seem to be no persuasive reasons for tampering with the First
Amendment. Legislative and executive
powers sometimes pose the most serious threat to genuine religious freedom,
particularly on the provincial or local level.
The judiciary, on the contrary, usually affords protection against the
infringements of freedom of religion.
Such has clearly been true in the U.S.A., wherein the Supreme Court has
consistently acted, particularly during the middle third of the twentieth
century, to protect “the free exercise” of religion by its minorities.
Broad-based church support of
religious freedom is also important. Baptists
have historically been in the vanguard of those contending for and supporting
universal religious freedom. Baptists
sill make important contributions to the cause. Let us not underestimate what Baptists have gained under
religious freedom. Would there be a
theological seminary with 2,800 students in a nation in which there were no enforceable guarantees of religious
freedom? But is it not possible to
acknowledge that where and when Baptists have become a majority or near
majority denomination -- when they have become numerous, prosperous, but not
necessarily so wise -- they have entered into church-state entanglements or
have almost unwittingly married culture-religion so as to dampen their
testimony to religious freedom?
Seventh-Day Adventists have been and are strong and consistent advocates
of religious freedom for all. Most of
the Protestant bodies in the U.S.A. have formally subscribed to religious
freedom. Since Vatican Council II the
Roman Catholic commitment to religious liberty, though not to church-state
separation, has become official and genuine, with important consequences for
Latin America. Eastern Orthodoxy in the
U.S.A. and in western Europe has tended to learn the value and worth of religious
freedom from the consequences of the Bolshevik Revolution. Unitarians and Jews have generally been firm
supporters of religious freedom, providing some of its leading recent
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists,
and others operate under the American guarantee of “free exercise” of religion; their own views thereupon are less
clear. Humanists and secularists
generally espouse freedom of (or from) religion, and the libertarian movement
ordinarily embraces it or at least tolerates it. Certain atheists strongly contend for religious freedom, while
their contentions seem to imply the establishment of secularism in public
Second, the corollary of
religious freedom, the institutional separation of church and state, needs to
be implemented, wherever possible. We
do well to learn from the legacy of William of Ockham, Marsilius of Padua, Petr
Chelčickÿ, the Anabaptists, especially Roger Williams, and Thomas
Jefferson. Established churches still
survive in western Europe, though their privileges have in most cases been reduced. The persistence of such establishments
parallels the decline of church attendance and participation in the same
nations. The free churches of Britain
knew in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries exactly why they
favored the disestablishment of the Church of England, and they said so in no
uncertain terms. If now seems strange
to hear from leaders of the British Baptists that hey now oppose
disestablishment lest it accelerate the process of secularization. Legal provisions for the separation of
church and state in socialist nations are often seriously eroded by the refusal
of government officials to allow the churches to function. Consequently, separation means in practice
suppression of church life. In the
United States the constitutional prohibition of an “establishment of religion”
has been somewhat eroded by legislation and executive actions that tend toward
plural establishment. Parochiaid, the
military chaplaincy, and human welfare are particularly acute areas. Despite the grave apprehensions of
Protestants during the presidential candidacy of John F. Kennedy (1960) as to
the actions of a Roman Catholic president, President Kennedy’s record on
church-state separation was much more consistent than the subsequent records of
Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. To maintain the delicate balance between the two religion clauses
of the First Amendment -- “no . . . establishment” and “free exercise” --
separation is necessary.
Third, in a pluralistic
society such as the U.S.A., new consensuses need to be formed in the
sociopolitical order, to which consensuses religions and religious bodies may
contribute, on the basis of which specific problems and issues can be dealt
with and hopefully solved and resolved.
The late Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray reminded Americans of
the importance of the political consensus. Deists and Protestant Christians, it should be remembered, formed
the political consensus that brought forth the American Declaration of
Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
All who are alarmed about the increase of crime and of disrespect of law
ought to recognize that fact that a moral consensus is essential to the
enactment and the enforcement of criminal law.
After all, why should a given act be reckoned as a crime against the
state? Why should the citizenry so
regard it? The abortion issue points
clearly to the need for a moral consensus.
Roman Catholics and libertarians set forth their contradictory cases. The outcome is likely not to be that either
case will completely prevail. Let the
religious bodies make their contribution to the forming of a consensus
according to which such an issue can be politically and legally resolved. The teaching and practice concerning
abortion within any denomination or religious community is, it should be
clearly noted, an entirely different issue.
If the word of the present author regarding the need for moral consensus
in the American political order seems to be sobering, one should examine the
much more critical hypothesis of Robert Nisbet in his recent volume, The
Twilight of Authority:
I believe the
single most remarkable fact at present time in the West is neither
technological nor economic, but political:
the waning of the historical political community, the widening sense of
the obsolescence of politics as a civilized pursuit, even as a habit of
mind. By political community I mean
more than the legal state. I have in
mind the whole fabric of rights, liberties, participations, and protections,
even above industrialism, . . . the dominant element of modernity in the West.
Fourth, if religious freedom
for all is to be maintained, every safeguard must be utilized to insure that
the cooperation of churches and religious bodies with governments does not
produce an undue interlocking of the religious and the civil or a governmental
subsidization of religion, whether in the singular or the plural. In education, the care of the sick and of
the aged, aid to the poor, disaster relief, resettlement of refugees, and many
other areas both government and organized religion are presently involved. Churches will need to continue to reassess
their diaconal responsibilities and priorities. Some forms of cooperation, such as the Central Intelligence
Agency’s utilization of foreign missionaries, are inherently illegitimate and
should be terminated. Moreover,
Christians need clearly to differentiate the hand of Caesar, even when covered
with the velvet glove of Washington bureaucracy, and the hand of Christ
extended by those who believe in, love, and serve him.
Fifth, the free exercise of
religion in the present-day United States may well depend on the clear
detection and resolute avoidance of the dangerous and maleficent form of what
many identify as “civil religion.”
Admittedly the term is used with a variety of meanings, some of which
are contradictory. Russell E. Richey
and Donald G. Jones have helpfully identified five principal usages or
meanings: “folk religion” “the transcendent
universal religion of the nation,” “religious nationalism,” “the democratic
faith,” and “Protestant civic piety.” Perhaps more helpful is Robert D. Linder’s differentiation of two
principal types: the “Deistic” type
deriving from Rousseau, “in which the state is transcendent and embraces
ultimate values and reality,” and the “Theistic” type, “in which the state
itself is subject to transcendental judgment and cannot claim ultimate values
and reality.” This may help to explain
why Robert Bellah and D. Elton Trueblood commend as good and Richard V. Pierard
and Mark O. Hatfield deplore as evil what all call “civil religion.” Any tendency toward absolutizing the state not only affords the
danger of totalitarianism but also threatens the viability of historic
religions other than the “civil religion.”
Can the malevolent form of “civil religion” be an attempted life jacket
for a sinking political order or a sinking religion?
Sixth and last, the “free
exercise” of religion, to be more than legal fiction or paper promises, calls
for the existence of vital religion.
Christians in particular are faced with the challenge of avoiding
culture-religion on the one hand and exclusivist, other-worldly withdrawal on
the other. Discipleship, as never
before, needs to be essential to membership.
exercise” of religion can only be truly meaningful where there is genuine,
vital, and significant exercise thereof.
High on the list of priorities is the question as to whether and which
of the religious bodies in the United States will have the purpose, the
religious and moral dynamic, and the motivated, loyal, and equipped personnel
to make significant new advances in ways that are fully constitutional. Freedom of the press, for example, would be
a relic of the past if there were no thriving newspapers and magazines in the
nation. Similarly, the future
significance of the “free exercise” of religion in the pluralistic society of
the United States may depend as much or more on the vigor and vitality of the
religious communities as on the verdicts of the judiciary.
We have examined in detail
the key documents advocating religious toleration and freedom during the
classical period. We have, amid the objection of obsolescence, sought to restate
for 1976 the case for universal religious freedom and to deal responsibly with
the problems and issues of its attainment and its continual
implementation. One more thing
remains. You and I must decide whether
we are willing to give ourselves to the cause of religious freedom, not merely
for ourselves but for all humankind.
From the student body and faculty of Southwestern Seminary could come a
groundswell of concern and action for oppressed peoples that would be felt
around the world. We can shirk or make
excuses or become preoccupied, or we can give ourselves without stint that we
and others may be able “to obey God rather than men.”
Faith of our
fathers! living still
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy
When’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
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PART THREE -- “Religious Freedom: Why and How in Today’s World,” has been published in Southwestern
Journal of Theology 18 (Spring
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 Oscar Cullmann, The State in the New Testament
(New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons,
1956), who rejected the view that Jesus himself was a Zealot, traced the modern
advocacy of the view (p. 11) to R. Eisler, The Messiah Jesus and John the
Baptist (London: Methuen & Co.,
 A. F. Carrillo de Albornoz, The Basis of
Religious Liberty (New York:
Association Press, 1963), p. 53.
 James Leo Garrett, Jr., The Biblical Basis of
Religious Liberty,” The Truth That Makes Men Free: Official Report of the Eleventh Congress, Baptist World Alliance,
Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.A., June 25-30, 1965, ed. Josef Nordenhaug
(Nashville: Broadman Press, 1966), p.
 First Assembly of the World Council of Churches,
Amsterdam, 1948, “Declaration on Religious Liberty,” quoted by Carrillo de
Albornoz, p. 56.
 Garrett, “The Biblical Basis of Religious
Liberty,” p. 282.
 Niels H. Soe, “The Theological Basis of Religious
Liberty,” The Ecumenical Review, 11 (January 1958): 40.
 See, for example, Franklin H. Littell and Hubert
G. Locke, eds, The German Church Struggle and the Holocaust
(Detroit: Wayne State University Press,
 See Georgi Vins Testament from Prison,
tans. Jane Ellis and ed. Michael Bourdeaux (Elgin, Ill.: David C. Cook Publishing Co., 1975).
Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, 1974).
 Quoted in James Leo Garrett, Jr., “The ‘Free
Exercise’ Clause of the First Amendment:
Retrospect and Prospect,” Journal
of Church and State 17 (Autumn 1975):
 303 U.S. 444.
 345 U.S. 67.
 Tertullian, Apology, ch. 50 (ANF,
 On the contrary, religious freedom, at least in
respect to Christian social action, has been recently curtailed in South Korea,
and in the Philippines partial law and the tensions with Mendanao Muslims have
led to church-state tensions.
 John Rutledge, “West Ignores Plight of Russian
Baptists,” Baptist Standard 87 (17 September 1975): 12-13.
 The Durham Committee, formed in 1971, petitioned
the Soviet Embassy in London in 1974.
 Garrett, “The ‘Free Exercise’ Clause of the First
Amendment,” pp. 394-97.
 See James Leo Garrett, Jr., “The ‘No . . .
Establishment’ Clause of the First Amendment:
Retrospect and Prospect,” Journal of Church State 17 (Winter
 We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American
Proposition (New York: Sheed &
Ward, 1960), esp. chs. 3-4.
 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 3.
 Russell E. Richey and Donald G. Jones, eds., American
Civil Religion (New York: Harper
& Row, 1974), pp. 14-18.
 Robert D. Linder, “Civil Religion in Historical
Perspective: The Reality That Underlies
the Concept,” Journal of Church and State 17 (Autumn 1975): 419, 421 (fn. 50).
 Garrett, “The ‘Free Exercise Clause’ of the First
Amendment,” p. 398.
 These documents were examined in the first two of
the three Day-Higginbotham Lectures.
Tapes of these lectures are on file at Southwestern Baptist Seminary.
 Frederick W. Faber, “Faith of Our Fathers,” in Baptist
Hymnal (Nashville: Convention
Press, 1975), stanza 1.