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  • Director’s Dicta: February 2024, week 2
  • Director’s Dicta: February 2024, week 2

    Posted in ,
    February 6, 2024

    “Free Speech” and the TruthXchange Hermeneutic

    We live in a culture of communicative clutter and confusion, as the 24/7 news cycle illustrates.  And, we live in a state of affairs in which every act is deemed to be a political act.[1]  Sadly, this is true of both Left and Right – everyone seeks political power – something which repelled the Framers.    As Hamilton described certain public actors:  they possess “the love of power, or the desire of pre-eminence and dominion.”[2] True then and true now.

    Does the TxC hermeneutic clear any fog on this. Does it pertain to ordering society?  Does it say anything about the role of communication in society?  Indeed it does, though perhaps not at first blush, and certainly not by imbibing poisonous partisan power politics.  Yet, the hermeneutic does inform us how we are to structure and order things, including – as we shall see – the role of communication.  How so?  Let’s first consider how the hermeneutic impacts society in general.

    Because Paul affirms that humans are religious creatures whose nature is to worship, and moreover that only two worship options exist – one true and one false – it means that idolatry is the world’s default setting.[3]  And we know that idolatry enslaves and never liberates.[4]  This enslaving consequence manifests personally, publicly, and politically.  What then does redemption – rooted in the Truth – restore?  What is the Lord’s redemptive purpose for mankind between Cross and Consummation personally, publicly, and politically?  Is God indifferent to man’s context for civilization?

    He is not.  Just as Jesus instructed about marriage – creation’s foundational society – by referring to the Scriptures and creational norms,[5] we can likewise derive the proper components for society from other creational norms. And, those components spawn consequences for life lived personally, publicly, and politically.  Some societal contexts are objectively better than others in terms of human flourishing.[6]

    How then does the Christian worldview predicated on Christ’s Lordship inform and forge the common features of ordered society and notions of public justice?  What should those features be?  What should those features promote; what should they protect?  What should they restrain?  Bottom line:  Can we really make a theological case for human flourishing and ordered liberty without on the one hand, undermining Christian precepts,[7] nor on the other hand erecting a theocratic State or resurrecting some version[i] of a coercive Statist Star Chamber?  

    Let’s consider what we commonly call “free speech“- a doctrine, if implemented also impacts life personally, publicly, and politically.  Is this an adiaphoron, that is, a matter indifferent to the thinking Christian – not really a “gospel issue”?  Hardly.

    A Test Case:  Free Speech

    Consider “free speech,” a crucial component to Classical Liberalism.[8]  In the US context, many invoke the 1stamendment as a protector[9] of free expression.  Question: did this freedom exist prior to 1791, that is, prior to the amendment’s ratification? Did it exist prior to the Enlightenment?  Is this doctrine something pre-political?  Yes, but why?  Is there a theological justification for free speech?  Does the Christian worldview inform, or better, require protecting free speech for humanity’s purposes and flourishing?  And, if the Truth supports free expression,[10] then the Lie will crimp or cancel it[11]. Hence, the immediate relevance of the TxC hermeneutic.

    Free Speech Before the Fall

    Before the Fall, God directed Adam and Eve with a particular task derived from their being the Imago Dei:  exercise dominion over the entire created order.[12]  Now, this task at the outset no doubt seemed daunting; it would require development, expansion, and other persons, as well as an inchoate division of labor.  It would also require acquiring and processing raw materials that existed outside the Garden.[13]  These acts were personal, public, and eventually political.  Executing this task therefore presupposed coordination, collaboration, and therefore communication.  

    Unfettered speech ordered to virtuous human flourishing undergirded and would facilitate the mission God conferred upon Adam and Eve.  And, this same cultural mandate remains mankind’s mission after the Fall[14] and accordingly, protecting free speech remains a crucial component of ordered liberty – all because of a theological rationale.

    Free Speech After the Fall

    Moreover, after the Fall, Jesus commanded that His followers execute another mandate, known as the Great Commission:  discipling the nations.[15]  Plainly, this mandate likewise required and continues to require robust protection for publiclyproclaiming the Gospel – free speech.  Both the cultural mandate and the Great Commission require rejecting a privatized religion.  Both mandates must be pursued temporally both personally and publicly – prior to the consummation.  And, those tasks require free speech, which Classical Liberalism[16] is zealous to protect.  To the extent that free speech is unjustly constricted (or multiplied into cacophonous chaos), humanity and the Imago Deiwill be undermined.

    This small study into law and political theory illustrates just how crucial understanding the exchange of the Truth for the Lie is – it precipitates enslaving personal idolatry as well as imposes impediments to human flourishing in general and discipling the nations in particular.  Thus, “free speech” is not some incidental – take it or leave it – matter.  It coheres with crucial (and non-negotiable) creational and Gospel missions.  Correlatively, free speech wanes when the Truth is exchanged for the Lie.

    The TxC hermeneutic cannot be limited to being simply a tool for evangelism[17]; the hermeneutic in addition supplies the key cosmology for situating all human life under Christ’s Lordship.  That cosmology’s potent explanatory power equips Christians to engage the world for Christ.  And, that is precisely what the TxC Fellowship will do for the next generation.  Details on how YOU can participate will be forthcoming – those who are invited to participate will be changed; and changed people change culture.

    [1] Sadly, this is a facet of Marxism, not a Christian and biblically informed political theory.

    [2] Federalist No. 6.

    [3] Eph. 2:1-3

    [4] Jn. 8:34

    [5] “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,” Matt. 19:4.

    [6] Compare North Korea with South Korea:  their respective cultures are nearly identical, however, the public ordering is vastly different.

    [7] A consequence of pietism aka “potted plants for Jesus”

    [8] In fact, since at least Plato’s time, many have recognized the crucial role free speech plays politically and institutionally: “Free interpersonal communication anchored in the truth of reality—the reality of the world around us, the reality of ourselves, and the reality of God as well[,] serves to structure society’s framework and overall condition.  See, Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language-Abuse of Power, (Ignatius 1974), 39.

    [9] Note well:  according to the Declaration of Independence, governments secure, not confer, fundamental rights and therefore the “bill of rights” protects inherent rights.  The source of rights is not the State.

    [10] The expression considered here is godly edifying expression that is salubrious to human flourishing – not the retooled jurisprudence of the Supreme Court that allows crass and coarse utterance.  This “almost anything goes” approach received great traction in Cohen v California (1971), the infamous “F—the Draft” case – interestingly, Seth Waxman who argued the case refused to utter the actual “F” word during his oral argument before the Court and the Court itself had the decorum to not quote the word in its opinion and yet the ruling permitted the full word to be worn on a jacket in protest of the Vietnam War—in a courtroom. 

    [11] Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory explicitly call for this.  See, Herbert Marcuse, Repressive Tolerance (1955). – however, long before Marcuse, rogue states constricted Christian speech by imposing content-based speech codes: “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name [Jesus]” Acts. 5:28

    [12] Gen. 1: 27, 28 – note also that God directed this command, known as the “cultural mandate,” jointly to both Adam and Eve.  See, P. Andrew Sandlin, Creational Marriage – Issues and Controversies, (2022), 37

    [13] As Genesis 2:11 & 12 indicate key resources like gold existed beyond the garden’s boundaries in a different land (Havilah), and obviously resources derived from the seas and oceans lay beyond the Garden as well.

    [14] Gen. 9:1, 7

    [15] Matt. 28:18:20

    [16] The American experiment represents the apex of Classical Liberalism instantiated into a political regime. 

    [17] But, make no mistake:  the hermeneutic is a powerful toad for personal evangelism.

    [i] The view currently advanced by some professing Christinas who ironically contend that revelation should not inform the public ordering of society – this is the view of so-called Christian Nationalism advocated by Stephen Wolfe.