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You are here: Allan's TIME > Writings on Government > Is Our Defense for our defense? If not, what can we do?

The Difference Between Liberty and Freedom

Jim Noorlander
July 4, 2012

Eighteen years ago I erected a flag pole on the north side of my home.  I did this to honor my son who was serving a proselyte mission for his church in Brazil and all other men and women who serve this great nation by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I was pleased with my son and knew somewhat of what he was going through.  I knew of his uncertainty of not knowing what the future had in store for him and all the emotions of being uprooted and leaving loved ones behind.  Years earlier I had been drafted during the Vietnam War and had joined the Marines.

The base of the flag pole was set in concrete and just before the concrete got too hard and set up completely, I took some marbles and placed them in the concrete to form the word “liberty.”  I don’t know if I really knew what the word liberty meant back then, per se; I just knew how I felt inside when I raised the American flag.  I had deep feelings of gratitude and love for my God, family, and country.  I thought about my father and his brother, sons of immigrants both highly decorated, who fought in World War II.  I thought of our founding fathers and all those who pioneered this great nation.  I am confident many of you have had similar feelings.  Liberty is one of those sacred words that stir the heart.

One day about three years ago, while walking out to my barn to feed the animals, I stopped and turned around to look at the flag pole.  I recalled the word liberty at the base.  I said the words liberty and freedom to myself.  Then the thought occurred to me that the meaning of the words must be different otherwise they would not be separated by the word “and.”  So, I began to study since I did not know the difference.  My studies, however, did not begin without some prior basic understanding.

Twenty-five years earlier I had come to the knowledge of the great importance of the Declaration of Independence.  My original inquiry to study the founding documents of the nation was motivated by my government’s constant attack on my religious beliefs, in particular the moral issues and the government’s almost total embracement of democratic socialism.  Prior to my studies I used to tell myself that there has to be a way using the founding documents of this nation to articulate the Christian principles this nation was founded upon, because, after all, I couldn’t just go around saying that Jesus said so.  That certainly would not get me very far.  So, I began to study, read, and listen to everything I could get my hands on.

My first big breakthrough as far as understanding the proper role of government and defending the Christian principles this nation was founded upon -- using a founding document -- was the Declaration of Independence.  Let me share with you a few concepts.  I will be brief because the Declaration is not exactly my focus today.

The main “key” for me was the phrase in the Declaration that the colonies--thirteen separate nations--would be guided by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”  Well, what did that mean?

According to William Blackstone, John Locke, the founding fathers, and others, it meant that these separate nations would be guided by the laws of nature--the holy scriptures--in particular the Ten Commandments and the revealed word of God.  From that perspective it became quite easy to defend the Christian principles and why democratic socialism is so devastating to our form of government.  For example, concerning the redistribution of wealth through the taxing process (socialism), what is it about stealing and coveting that one does not understand?

I also learned that the founders appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our [their] intentions.”  Rectitude means righteousness.  When speaking about freedom, we learn that there are two kinds.  False freedom is to do as we please with disregard for God’s law, and the true freedom to do as we “ought.”  This was a very important concept to learn.  I realized now that it did not matter what the majority or the minority wanted; any law that violated God’s law was unconstitutional and this, then, (God’s law) would be the tempering influence on a pure democracy.  Incidentally, we are not a democracy but a republic based upon the rule of law.  What law?  God’s law.

Finally, the Declaration reminds all of us that “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”  Self-evident does not always mean obvious.  But when truths are presented within their proper context all of a sudden we have one of those “ah ha” moments. 

At the time and for some years to come, this alone would be sufficient for me as far as my understanding of the proper role of government and the Christian principles this nation was founded upon.  Later down the road and during this time period, I set my mind on studying the Constitution and memorizing in part some of the founding fathers’ great speeches, including the Constitution’s Preamble and Patrick Henry’s famous “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death” speech.  Thus, I gained deep familiarity with the word liberty during my memorization exercises.  Also, as I became older, my focus had changed.  I was no longer interested, per se, in winning the cultural war, but more interested in bringing people to Christ.  So, I was delighted to learn how close the founders had come to biblical principles in writing these inspired documents while still allowing the people of this great nation the freedom to choose within certain guidelines; i.e. the Ten Commandments.

And, finally, the other thought that occurred to me that day while looking at the flag pole was this; could there be a link to the Constitution itself and to the moral issues, in particular the Ten Commandments, like the one I had found using the Declaration of Independence?  Certainly if this could be pointed out, we would now have two founding documents, two witnesses, created by our founders and under the inspiration of our Creator that could and would address every issue facing America today.  We could know for ourselves what is right, what is wrong, what is constitutional, and what is not constitutional. 

For example, just using the Constitution itself without having the blessings of the Declaration of Independence as America ’s moral creed to assist us, is same-sex marriage, abortion, pornography, and socialism really constitutional?  And if not, why?

As I began my study on the difference between liberty and freedom, my heart and mind were opened to an aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Constitution of the United States that I had never considered.

Speaking of the Christian principles this nation was founded upon, John Adams wrote in  a letter to Thomas Jefferson dated June 28, 1813.  He said,

The general principles on which the [founding] fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.

This quote about the Christian principles this nation was founded upon is just one of many.  The point is that this nation was founded upon eternal principles--gospel principles.  Therefore, if I was looking for an understanding of the word liberty, where would be the most obvious place to look?  Would it not be the Bible?

In the scriptures we find thirty-seven quotes related to liberty, and we learn some very fundamental truths as we study these in context.  But, for this presentation, I will only mention a few.

To   the   Corinthians   Paul   declared,   “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty .” (2 Cor. 3:17)  The Apostle James proclaims, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  (James 1:25)  And, in James 2:12 it states, “So…speak the law of liberty.”  From these scriptures and several others relating to liberty as given to us by the Lord and were used by our founders, we see that liberty is not only at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but liberty is integral to the Lord’s Spirit, His law, and His word.

The work[s] of the gospel in connection to the word liberty as mentioned in James 1:25 are the commandments of God, all of them “being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work” – a doer in keeping the commandments.  In short, from these scriptures we learn that liberty is adherence to gospel principles (natural law) and the perfect law of liberty is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Free power of choice (perfect liberty) is found only where there is adherence to gospel principles.  The perfect law of liberty is keeping all the commandments of God not because someone is there to compel us to do what is right but because it is the right thing to do.  Why?  Because of our love for God and our fellowman.  With this understanding in its proper context, we now can see that the founding fathers of this great nation in drafting both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, stood as close to natural law (God’s law) as mere mortals could possibly place it -- thus, the word liberty in the Preamble of the Constitution and not the word freedom.  An exception to the perfection of these documents was the compromise around the slavery question.

Now there are four components that make up liberty.  Let me explain it to you this way.  Picture in your mind’s eye a bouquet of flowers.  In this arrangement of flowers we have four different kinds of flowers.  We have a rose, a carnation, a daisy, and an iris.  We put this beautiful arrangement of flowers in a vase, and we produce a “gift” that can be enjoyed personally, shared with others, or both.

Now, instead of using the word “bouquet,” let us use the word “agency.”  Agency includes the philosophy of opposites.  Let us replace the names of the four flowers with the four names of eternal principles called freedom, knowledge, law, and opposition.  Collectively put all these principles in a vase and the gift becomes the gift of liberty.  The profound conclusion of the gift, if one follows the Spirit, leads to the greatest gift of all the gifts of God -- the gift of Eternal Life.  Each of these four principles is a sermon in and of itself, but let us keep our focus.

C:\Documents and Settings\Family\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\703MB8S1\Flowers for David Allan Liberty Gift Bouquet (1).jpg
C:\Documents and Settings\Family\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\703MB8S1\Flowers for David Allan Liberty Gift Agency.jpg

As we look at the moral issues and democratic socialism, I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul counseled.  He said, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”  (Gal. 5:1)  It is apparent the whole world is embracing democratic socialism and communism with the spin off that more and more people are caught up with secularism and atheism.  Is that not bondage?  Does not socialism (the redistribution of wealth) attack and destroy the Christian principles this nation was founded upon?  Does not socialism destroy liberty?  Liberty , in contrast, leads us to Christ.  And Christ provides us the ultimate freedom -- freedom from sin, both as individuals and as a nation.  Many of the founders understood this.

This is why we send missionaries out all over the world.  This is the divine destiny of the United States and the purpose of the Constitution--to protect and promulgate liberty.  “To proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”  (Lev. 25:10)  To proclaim adherence to gospel principles.  If you give people freedom and they do not understand adherence to gospel principles (liberty), what do they do with their freedom?  They go down the “false freedom” path and enslave and harm one another.  Now, here is the principle--we never use our freedom to destroy liberty.  We never use our freedom to destroy adherence to gospel principles, ie, natural law.

So, why is all this so important and how does it apply to the Constitution?  I would like to set up my remarks this way.  In his book Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View, Justice Stephen Breyer of the United States Supreme Court stated that the problem with the United States Constitution is that the word liberty is “not define[d].”  He went on to say that the Constitution is a living document and its “application” changes “as circumstances change.”

Since the word liberty is used in the Preamble of the Constitution it is important to mention that many experts such as Justice Breyer feel that the Preamble has no bearing on what the Constitution means or what it does not mean.  The truth of the matter, exhibited by overwhelming historical evidence, is that both concepts could not be further from the truth.  If Justice Breyer were here today I would humbly and respectfully answer this way.

The Preamble of the Constitution states the purpose of the Constitution.  The reason the Constitution does not define liberty is because the purpose of the Constitution was to protect liberty.  The reason the word liberty is not defined in the Constitution is because it was already defined by our Creator.  I would also suggest to the Justice how are we, as a nation, going “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, [and] promote the general Welfare” without liberty -- without adherence to gospel principles?  This is why John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”

So, to be perfectly clear, why is abortion wrong?  Why is same-sex marriage wrong?  Why is pornography wrong?  Why are bail-outs and our current immigration policies wrong?  Why are socialism and communism wrong?  Because all these issues destroy liberty.  As we look at any piece of legislation as to what is constitutional or what is not constitutional, ask yourself this simple question.  Does this law promote liberty or does it destroy liberty?  Does it promote adherence to gospel principles or does it destroy gospel principles?  The reason we had laws against abortion and pornography, for example, was to remind every generation that some things are just wrong – i.e., “and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” posterity meaning to every generation.

Now I would like to stop here and point out the obvious.  I would humbly and respectfully tell the audience that I have just instructed them in religion, morality, and knowledge according to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  These principles were to be taught in our schools and territories.  Did I say anything about the Jews?  Did I say anything about the Baptists, the Catholics, or the Latter-day Saints?  I did not.  Can you imagine if these principles were taught in our schools today?  It would set the hearts of the youth on fire.  Have you ever considered what is being taught and how it is being taught as the fundamental problem for all our ills in America today?

It is a known fact that there is nothing worse in trying to solve a problem if one does not understand the nature of the problem.

The low standards we see in America today--the constant attack on our liberty and freedom, the national debt, the out-of-control welfare state, abortion, pornography, same-sex marriage, the bail-outs, our current immigration policies, and the breakdown of the family--are all symptoms of a disease.  The disease is socialism and her twin sister communism.  Socialism manifests itself in many ways but primarily begins when personal responsibility and accountability are removed from the citizenry.  The more a nation embraces socialism the more secular and godless that nation becomes.  For years the politicians have been promising the American people great things at their own expense.  In exchange for these promises, too many to mention, the politicians receive honor, prestige, and security in their present positions and almost never deliver what was promised.

So, to summarize, liberty by definition is adherence to gospel principles--adherence to natural law.  For example, what is it among others about lying, stealing, and murder you do not understand?  The perfect law of liberty is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Agency and its first cousin, freedom, is how we exercise our liberty, and the principle is this--we never, never, use our freedom to destroy liberty.  We never use our freedom to destroy adherence to God’s law--thus, not the freedom to do whatever we want, but what we “ought” to be doing.  The work[s] the Apostle James talks about in the scriptures are the commandments of God--all of them -- being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work (keeping God’s commandments).  The purpose of the Constitution was to protect liberty--to secure the blessings (our rights) to adhere to gospel principles which, if followed with sincerity because of love, will bring individuals, communities, and nations to Jesus Christ.  But it is your choice!

This is the divine destiny of America --to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”  This is why socialism and communism are so evil.  This is why abortion, same-sex marriage, pornography, debt, all the unconstitutional, government programs are so destructive to individuals, communities, and nations--they lead people from the truth.  They lead people from Christ.  This is why our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people.  Finally, we cannot create a right that our Creator has already ruled to be wrong.  We cannot use the Constitution to destroy the Constitution.  Why?  Because it destroys liberty and the basic tenants of the Ten Commandments.

America ’s slide into socialism and regional government has caused many to wonder if we can ever restore the Constitution.  I am certain that we will.  But as we work towards this goal, remember that America is more than Washington , D.C.   We all hope and pray that our elected leaders will come to their senses before we learn lessons that we thought we would never have to go through.  But, no matter what happens in Washington , as long as there are God-fearing patriots across this land who have the knowledge, virtue, and commitment to uphold the Constitution, liberty will survive and finally prevail.

If all our efforts to save the Constitution should ultimately prove unsuccessful, it is crucial that a sufficient number of citizens be prepared to help rebuild America by rallying to the banner of our Constitution.  There is a cleansing coming to America , and it will be “the act of a loving Heavenly Father.” 

The Almighty inspired our forefathers to give birth to this nation and guide it through infancy.  He can and will inspire others to reclaim America from its wayward years and lead it into a mature and refined adulthood as “one nation under God” -- for we can only secure the blessings of liberty by keeping the commandments of God.

Only when the members of a society share an abiding faith in God, which includes honoring and sustaining the rule of law, can we become brethren.  George Washington said that the blessings of heaven “can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rule of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

In closing, it has been estimated that less than 1% of the human family in the last 6,000 years has enjoyed the type of freedom we have had in America .  That freedom is a precious gift of God through the atonement of His son Jesus Christ.  Can anyone exercise his agency if he is not both spiritually and politically free?  Without freedom faith is dead.  Satan can take no man’s freedom away.  It has to be self sacrificed and, once freedom is gone, that man is damned.  His eternal progression is stopped.  In his wretched misery there is only one thing Lucifer loves, and that is miserable company.  It is a victory for Lucifer when he can chain any man down by sin, but it is a horrific grand sweep when he can damn an entire nation under an oppressive government that promotes incorrect principles.  Now you and I accept without question our individual need to fight daily for spiritual survival and freedom.  Should it surprise us, then, that nations, too, must be just as vigilant and fierce as righteous men?  To surrender our freedom without a fight is offensive to God who died granting those rights.  I call you to remember these words given March 23, 1775, at Old St. John’s Church in Richmond , Virginia .  Patrick Henry rose from the third pew to address a quavering, indecisive body of men.  He said, and I quote:

If we wish to be free we must fight.  An appeal to arms and the God of Hosts is all that is left us.  They tell us, Sir, that we are weak, unable to cope with so formidable an adversary but when shall we be stronger?            Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction?  Millions of people armed in the holy cause of liberty are invincible by any force which our enemies can send against us.  Besides, Sir, we shall not fight our battles  alone.  There is a just God who presides over the destiny of nations.  There is no retreat except in submission and slavery.  The war is inevitable--then let it come.  I repeat, Sir, let it come.  Gentlemen may cry peace, peace.  But there is no peace.  The war has actually begun.  Our brethren are already in the field.  Why stand we here idle?  What is it that gentlemen wish?  What would they have?  Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take, but as for me -- give me liberty or give me death!

Patrick Henry’s speech united that body of men, and Virginia armed herself for the revolution--the war that spent the blood of patriots in purchasing a freedom we have enjoyed for over 200 years.  That freedom is once again, as it has always been, under attack.  Whether it is modern-day gangsters called terrorists or corrupt men in office, their consummate evil purpose is the same--to enslave the souls of men.  If they can oppress us politically they can damn us spiritually.  Indeed, the commitment of our founding fathers is the calling of our day -- the call to unite in covenants of righteousness under the title of liberty -- the call to serve the God of this land who is Jesus Christ -- the call to obey the law of the land, whether constitutional or spiritual, for they are the same. If we answer that call the power of God will be with us, and we will remain a free people.

And so, my friends, after 200 years I once again ask the question, “Why stand we here idle?”  Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery, politically or spiritually?  With the thunder of Patrick Henry, may we individually and collectively raise our voices to the heavens and say, Father, give us liberty or give us death!  I believe the United States is a great nation, and it’s worth saving.

See also

Spiritual/Political Writings Index


Page posted by SDA July 31, 2012
Last updated: August 22, 2012
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