Is Liberty a God-Given Right?

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Is Liberty a God-Given Right?

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The American Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776, contains these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (emphasis added).

Today, many other countries have similar statements in their governing documents. If these are “truths,” they are true for everyone, not just Americans. But if these are “truths,” what evidence supports them?

Some people deny that these are truths, and even more people deny that they are “self-evident,” which means so logically and obviously true that no proof or explanation is required.

And how should we understand the phrases “all men are created equal” and “unalienable rights”?

“Truths” are derived from the Bible

Jesus Christ said to God, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). What is all-important to understand about the founders of the United States of America is that many of them believed the Bible to be the infallible revelation of God, so what they considered to be “truths” were derived from their understanding of the Bible. They considered these truths to be especially “self-evident” to all who shared their belief in the Bible.

Believe it or not, the Bible is the premier authority on personal liberty! It has been the world’s greatest force for freedom, inspiring people for millennia to seek freedom for themselves and their nations.

The greatest freedoms are spiritual—freedom from slavery to sin and human nature, from the burdens of guilt, from bad habits and addictions and eventually even freedom from the limitations of our mortal human bodies!

However, the Bible also makes clear that God favors great civil liberties and personal freedoms for all people.

Therefore, let’s analyze the Declaration’s famous words to see how biblically accurate they are.

How are people “created equal”?

God’s creation displays awesome variety, including variety in humanity. People are born with many different characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. But the Bible clearly teaches that every single human being is important to God.

God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Bible compares God to a “good shepherd” who cares not just for the flock as a whole, but also for every single sheep in the flock (Matthew 18:10-14; John 10:10-15).

God will eventually offer every human being the equal opportunity for eternal life in His family! In fact, “God so loved the world [meaning every single person in the world] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God also judges every person equally according to His laws. “God shows personal favoritism to no man” (Galatians 2:6). What is sin for one person is a sin for the next person.

Therefore, people are “created equal” in that they have the same spiritual potential and ultimate opportunity, and God judges all in the same way.

This also means that governments should follow the example of God in showing great respect for every citizen and treating everyone fairly and equally under the law. No one should be “above the law,” not even the highest officials in the government. And the freedoms of the weakest members of society should be guarded as zealously as the freedoms of the strongest members.

What are “unalienable rights”? They are the permanent rights of each individual that he or she cannot be alienated, or separated, from. Stating that every individual has unalienable rights further emphasizes the importance of the individual as compared to the importance of the state. The Bible in no way supports the idea of statism. Instead of government “for the people,” statism sacrifices the welfare of the people for the state.

So how are people born free?

“God created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27), giving us incredible honor, potential and abilities!

He gave humans “dominion,” or rule, “over all the earth” (verse 26). God delegated to us stewardship of planet Earth. That’s a lot of freedom and responsibility! In a sense, God was saying, “I’m giving you this whole planet to enjoy and use in any way that you think is beneficial. I’ll give you guidelines, but I won’t be micromanaging. You’ll have the freedom to manage it as you think best.”

Humans are born free because they have incredible minds. Non-human creatures are not born free—they are strictly governed by their instincts.

Humans, on the other hand, are free to think, learn, speak, reason, imagine, dream, set goals, be creative and artistic, develop tools that multiply the power of human energy, change their environments and change themselves, invent, develop personality, love, worship, nurture relationships and make decisions and choices.

We were born free. Another person or group of people can restrict, restrain and rob you of freedom—they can tie you up and gag you, rob you of your resources, injure you and kill you. But governments can’t give you freedoms that you already have from birth, and a government is defying the will of God when it takes away those God-given freedoms.

Free moral agency is clearly taught in the Bible. God defines good and evil, announces rewards and punishments, and proclaims warnings and pleas. But God leaves people free to “choose” between the options (Deuteronomy 30:19). This freedom is absolutely essential to character development and spiritual growth. People must be free to make choices and to experience both the good and bad consequences of their choices.

When tyrants and tyrannical governments take away people’s personal freedoms, it should be obvious that this interferes with God’s plan for mankind.

In contrast, most pagan religions teach fatalism—that the gods predetermine your fate. As a result, when people think they are being controlled by the gods, they think it would be futile—and perhaps against the will of the gods—to try to better themselves and improve their world. This is but one of many ways that religious beliefs have major affects on the attitudes and actions of a nation’s people.

Liberty based on law

True freedom is based on right laws, and God also is the great Lawgiver. Since God created all “nature,” the “natural laws” or laws of nature are the laws of God. Just as God instituted laws of physics, chemistry and mathematics, He instituted absolute spiritual laws. Just as breaking a law of “science” has automatic penalties, breaking a spiritual law has automatic penalties as well.

People don’t think laws of physics, chemistry and math are robbing them of freedom. Actually, they enable freedom, whereas unpredictable chaos would destroy freedom. Understanding natural law provides predictability and reliability that is essential for scientific progress.

Likewise, God’s spiritual laws enable and preserve freedom. God’s law is the perfect “law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12).

True enduring freedom is not absolute liberty; licentiousness or license to do anything one wishes or lusts to do. One’s freedoms must not intrude into another person’s life in a way that takes away from his own freedom. Good laws, such as the Ten Commandments, protect everyone’s freedoms equally.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, Israel was to be His model nation founded on a covenant (a charter or constitution!) including laws that David said were “perfect” (Psalm 19:7). All of God’s laws and instructions were to be written down and regularly read by or to the people. It was also important for parents to teach them to their children (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Thus, we see that for freedom to thrive, there must be a written constitution that restrains government rather than restraining the people. The constitution should apply to all the citizens equally and be available for all to read. Therefore, it is important for the citizens to be educated, to be able to read, and to be familiar with their rights and responsibilities according to their constitution.

The Ten Commandments have been criticized for sounding negative—most saying, “You shall not.” But that kind of law is exactly what a nation needs—laws that restrain evil! These are not restraining the countless way to do good! They keep people free to unleash their creative imaginations and energies to be productive. God is positive! The Ten Commandments imply that God is saying yes to everything that He is not saying no to.

Beware of many positive-sounding laws (making all kinds of promises), which are interventionist efforts of a welfare state to manipulate and micromanage the people and the economy—thereby creating more problems than solutions in the long run.

Think how tiny our Bibles are compared to the enormous law libraries of today’s large nations! And yet, the laws contained in only a small part of the Bible were all that was necessary for national governance. Good laws are a blessing; bad laws and too many laws are a curse.

God offers freedom—Satan offers slavery

God created us to enjoy freedom and to use it for good purposes. But to fulfill His ingenious plan for mankind, God has allowed Satan to temporarily be the god and ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31).

One of the temptations of human nature is to lust for power over others. And Satan pours fuel on the fire, inciting people to become despots and tyrants.

To illustrate how much freedom God offers us, consider the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve that they had the freedom to enjoy all the many kinds of trees in the garden—except for one. But they abused their freedom at Satan’s prompting and ate of the one forbidden tree. Here is the point: God gives us a huge amount of freedom, and Satan tries to rob us of freedom.

Notice how Jesus Christ summed up the difference between Him and Satan: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:9-10).

Indeed, it is true: All people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—one of those being liberty. Future articles will explain the gift of life and the gift of the pursuit of happiness.

Enjoy God’s gift of liberty. Don’t abuse it. Use it well. And be very, very thankful.

Further reading

To read more articles regarding liberty, check out “There's More Than a Crack on the Bell” and “America's Revolution and the Bible”.