Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Liberty Of Conscience: More On Bill Leonard And Baptists

See: Mainstream Baptist: Reasserting, Reinterpreting, and Reforming Baptist Identity: "At the CBF General Assembly"

Highlights from the above post:
I wholeheartedly agree with Leonard's concerns about the Baptist movement, but I was too busy preparing for the Norman New Baptist Covenant meeting to respond at that time. Now, in a series of blogs, I plan to offer my suggestions for Baptist Identity in the 21st Century.

I would begin by reasserting the Baptist emphasis on liberty of conscience. Baptists began by dissenting from the established church and asserting their right to a free conscience on matters of religion. Our appeals for liberty of conscience were made on behalf of all people and not for ourselves alone. 78 years before the enlightenment philosopher John Locke wrote his first Letter Concerning Toleration, Thomas Helwys was writing:

Men's religion to God is between God and themselves; the king shall not answer for it, neither may the king judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.

45 years before Locke said it was "necessary above all to distinguish between the business of civil government and that of religion, and to mark the true bounds between the church and the commonwealth," Roger Williams warned that whenever "a gap" was opened "in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself . . . and made his garden a wilderness."

While John Locke could never bring himself to extend religious toleration to Catholics and atheists, revolutionary era Baptist evangelist John Leland boldly asserted:

Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith, either one God, three gods, no god, or twenty gods, and let government protect him in so doing

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