There are nearly as many definitions of Liberalism and Modernism as there are forms of propaganda in the wide world. As the Church uses these terms, however, they may be roughly defined as follows:
Liberalism: The belief that the human person is the ultimate source of freedom and goodness, and so must be emancipated not only from restrictive political and social systems but from the Church, religion and even God Himself. Thus liberalism is above all a spiritual rebellion that is almost inevitably combined with Modernism.
Modernism: The belief that human culture, as the lens through which reality is generally perceived, is actually determinative of truth, such that all convictions must be adapted to satisfy the values of contemporary culture. In practice, this will always be the dominant culture, that is, the fashionable culture of the elites who have the greatest power to form public opinion.
Perhaps the most obvious thing about the combination of these two terms is the following paradox: Once liberals begin to regard human emancipation in terms of Modernism, they necessarily embrace regulatory and even totalitarian political mechanisms to ensure that everyone is properly “liberated”. The State becomes the surrogate for God, but unlike God, the State does not respect human freedom. ~ Dr. Jeff Mirus, In a nutshell: Liberalism and Modernism
The mistake of Liberalism is the idea that we have individual rights. We do not. We have human rights based on God’s Creation ordinances (Genesis 1-3) and the positive affirmations of the Ten Commandments.
Commandments #1-3. The right to worship the one true God and revere His name as holy
Commandment #4. The right to rest on the Sabbath and freedom from perpetual bondage and slavery
Commandment #5. The right to bear and raise children to respect God and parents
Commandment #6. The right to life
Commandment #7. The right to be married to one spouse of the opposite sex and preserve the sanctity of marriage
Commandment #8. The right to get wealth and property, the right to work
Commandment #9. All rights pertaining to a fair trial when accused of sin (church) or a crime (civil).
Commandment #10. The right to work in the pursuit of property lawfully without being subject to guile or conspiracy (not just the pursuit of happiness, but the pursuit of property).
Thus all human rights are Law related. In turn, all biblical laws are based on one of the Creation ordinances — the first principles.
One God made the universe in six days and rested on the seventh day. He made man both male and female in His image and therefore all human life is equally sacred. He made them male and female and commanded them to marry and bear children to be subject to their parents. He commanded them to take dominion of the earth. Then even in sin, God allowed the man and the woman to give an account with evidence and testimony prior to judgment. Then He reinstituted the dominion mandate with the curse of sin crouching at the door — a law working against us — which we must resist and overcome through Christ — the seed of the woman. All this can be found in the first three chapters of the Bible.
We have God-given human rights, but not Liberal individual rights. They are not the same. In fact, second is the counterfeit of the first.
Human existence was created by God as a whole. God made mankind as one, both man and woman, not individuals separate from one another.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27).
We do not have human rights as individuals, but only in relationship to God and to one another. In fact, it is nonsensical to speak of rights as existing without relationship to God and others. Liberalism taken to its logical conclusion is ultimately tyrannical. It removes God as the source of our rights and replaces this with the civil state. The Apostle Paul preaching to philosophers at Athens spoke of our being in the world as a direct result of us being made in God’s image as human persons.
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).
Human existence and therefore human rights are always embedded in a particular historical, cultural and social context. We are not made in God’s image as isolated individuals, but always in a network of cultural and social practices. Only in that network are rights even needed. Our place as human beings in the world, when and where we were born, who our parents are, the places we will live, what our names are, which languages we speak, our understanding of ourselves and the world, our ability to ponder the reason for these things — and thousands of other factors — are already predetermined by God. We are bound to obey God and our fellow men according to this calling and destiny.
Individual accountability to families, churches, and other Christian cultural institutions, including civil authority — our rightful position as human beings in the world — is the subject of the fourth political theory. This has replaced the three modernist political theories of Liberalism, Marxism, Fascism. The world in coming years will no longer be focused on individual rights, class rights, rights according to racial preferences, “civil rights,” gender rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental rights, animal rights, etc.
Human rights are derived from honoring and obeying God’s Creation ordinances and His moral laws. In the end, we can’t have true Liberty without first being born-again by the Holy Spirit. We can’t be born of the Spirit without also being added to the Church universal.
What about non-believers and those outside the Church? Do they have human rights too?
Non-believers have human rights as a function of common grace as the outwardly obey the moral law, but they do not have true Liberty. This is why unregenerate man will always seek his own salvation as an individual as he asserts a false Liberal view of his rights instead of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the knowledge of Christ, and adoption by the Father. In fact, our being in the world reflects the Trinitarian nature of God.
The Trinity is not three individuals in association with one another; it is three Persons in holy communion in the Godhead. Even so, the Church is not individuals in association with one another. It is persons in communion with each other in God. The difference between the two is the difference between life and death, heaven and hell.
This is why the Church Fathers taught, “Salvation is not found outside the Church.” The Church we speak of is not your local church or a human institution, but the ecclesia, those called out of the world’s Babel of individualism and human autonomy. The Church are those called out of an illusory existence of self-rule into a universal Body that rules under the authority of Almighty God.
The entire structure of the Church is an image of this Trinitarian way of existence. The Church’s government, ministries, sacraments, evangelism, etc. must express the way that God exists.
The orthodox standard of the Trinity is the very Truth. The absolute sovereignty of the individual; the freedom of the individual to choose God; and the intellectual ability of the individual to discern Truth stand in opposition to the standard of orthodoxy maintained by the universal Church (Protestantism: Both Orthodox and Catholic!)
About 25 years ago, I wrote the above about the Church, but we can continue this idea in a full circle applying the same principles to a working Christian theory of human rights in the civil realm. To do this, we must first reject Liberalism.
Why Liberalism is a Mistake
Liberalism is a political theory that states that “individual rights” are the supreme subject of the only permissible political system. LIberalism as spoken of here is with a capital “L” — but not as in “liberal vs. conservative,” which are most often just two subsets of Liberalism.
- Neoconservatism is Liberalism.
- Conservatism is Liberalism.
- Libertarianism is Liberalism.
- Neo-liberalism is Liberalism.
- Liberalism is Liberalism
- Republicans are right-wing Liberals.
- Democrats are left-wing Liberals.
Every political party that does not begin by affirming the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of life is some kind of modernist party. In the West, our political parties are almost universally Liberal. Some western governments, having had their origin in the philosophy of the French Revolution, have been Liberal since the 1800s. Then nearly all western political theory after 1945 has been Liberal. By 1991, western countries began to believe that this is the only permissible form of civil government. Liberalism has become the uniparty of the West. For a brief period of time, Liberalism had achieved what looked like unipolarity in the whole world or what the historian Francis Fukuyama termed, The End of History and the Last Man, meaning that Liberalism is the final form of government for all nations. Man has reached the final state of evolution. Ironically, the New World Order began to implode just as soon as it was realized. By 2023, the time of the writing of this article, it has been irretrievably lost.
“Freedom to” vs. “Freedom from”
The biblical view is that the subject of a correct political theory is to give glory to God. Man’s role is to obey God’s laws and have faith to bring Him glory. When the Holy Spirit assists us in this endeavor, we have true Liberty. Our Pilgrim founders did not come to America for individual rights. They did not come for freedom from religious oppression. They came “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith” (The Mayflower Compact). Human rights, not individual rights, in society will naturally flow from this Godly arrangement. A Christian civilization will arise that is governed by God’s laws through the family, churches, cultural institutions and political bodies.
The liberal conception of freedom is ‘freedom from’ and illusory; it ends up in what Sartre called a ‘prison without walls.’ There is human freedom, not the freedom of the individual….
In Vaclav Havel’s ‘Power of The Powerless’ … he gives the example of the Czech grocer obliged to place a sign in his window:
‘Workers of the world unite’
Havel asks if this sign shows the grocer’s enthusiasm for socialist principles or even his huge desire to show people his faith in his beliefs. No, answers Havel; what it shows is nothing about the content of the sign, but what this implies about the shopkeeper or his loyalty. (Alexander Dugin-and-the-Power of Language)
This raises an obvious question.
Who or what are we loyal to?
The answer will show the difference between biblical “human rights” and Liberal “individual rights.”
Human rights flow from what it means to be human. That is, we are made in the image of God. We have the right to life, and so on. Our human rights come from the imago Dei, the image of God in us makes us human. However, the guarantee for the protection of these human rights in society flows from this affirmation. There must be a moral obedience to God’s law in order to have human rights. “You shall not murder” is the negative corollary to the right to life. So without the law against murder, the right to life does not exist in human society. These rights also flow from a right relationship with — and the strengthening of our individuality in context of — faith, family, church, community, duty, love of one’s country.
If we have these foundations, we do not have “freedom from.” We have “freedom to.”
“Freedom from” is a defensive posture that fosters growing loyalty to the person or thing (likely the government) that protects our individual rights and gives us freedom from — which is always subjective and arbitrary. Freedom from what? One class of person wins more rights while another class always loses. The class or institution that is viewed as the oppressor — which is taking freedom from — loses power, while the oppressed individual is given freedom from oppression.
The government’s role becomes primarily to make people free from socioeconomic insecurity, or from the threat of environmental disaster, or from the hazard of preventable injury and disease. The upshot is that the government eventually does this at the expense of “freedom to.” Freedom to worship, freedom to speak, etc. morphs into freedom from religion and freedom from what it deems as unacceptable speech.
“Freedom to” is more powerful. It enables the individual to see he is already born into a historical, cultural and social context. His very being is embedded as part of a whole, but as a person with individuality. The individual can only be “free to” in relation to factors beyond his control. We can be “free to” in the society only if the civilization around us is governed by God’s moral laws.
So Republicans will never be for the life of a preborn baby as long as they are liberal. They will only see the “rights” of the woman vs. the rights of the child. They will always see the family duty, church duty, obedience to biblical ethics as oppressive and anti-modern. Their laws crafted to protect preborn babies will always carve out exceptions for the “freedom froms” — freedom of the woman from having to bear a rapist’s child, freedom from the inconvenience of unwanted pregnancy, etc.
The great mistake of Christians in our day is that we reason as creatures of modernity. People in the west don’t understand how inextricably linked the assertions of human rights are tied to the Christian worldview. We also don’t see how secular Liberal individual rights are a counterfeit of God-given human rights. We are in modernity and in a world in which liberalism is the last modern political theory standing. So we often use modernist arguments to refute postmodernism. The great mistake of the Church is that we did not first sufficiently refute modernism. We don’t even understand that there could be something else beyond modernism or postmodernism. It’s like asking a fish about water what is beyond the water.
Alexander Dugin relates the following illustration to contrast between modernism and postmodernism.
In the 1800s, the modernist Nietzsche stated, “God is dead.”
In 2023, the postmodernists of Generation Z ask, “Who died exactly?” and go back to their ear phones and cell phones.
Tucker Carlson recently stated, “This moment is too inherently ridiculous to continue.” This is exactly our predicament. To get out of this, most people have to go through a crisis and “step outside the noise” for a while. Then we can see what is important as compared to the cacophony of liberals arguing about things that don’t matter. Once we have done that, the two most important principles to get right are as follows.
- Christianity affirms “human rights” in context of the “freedom to” be loyal and interactive with God, family, church, community without government coercion.
- Liberalism is a form of modernism that shifts the focus on the subject of “individual rights” and the freedom to be independent “from” God’s ordinances and coerces people to be loyal to the liberal system and subjected to its counterfeit and ever expanding rights.
Since all of us in the West grown up in the world of Liberalism, we will have trouble seeing that the first can exist without the second. However, the opposite is true. The first can exist if and only if we say “no” to the second. We will either be Christian or we will be Liberal. We cannot have liberty in a world where both co-exist. They cannot do so peacefully. One will seek to destroy the other. The good news is that the Gospel was given for the purpose of winning. The Lord himself promised us, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church” (Matthew 16:19) and “Lo, I am with you always even until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
We can defeat Liberalism, but only if we are bold enough to say, “No,” to all forms of modernity and then tell the Truth.