Intellectual Freedom or Captivity to the Christ?
AROUND the world today the cry is for more and still more freedom: freedom of thought, of speech and of action. In schools and universities the human philosophies expounded during the past fifty years are reaping a harvest of atheistic thinkers. And the effects of all this emphasis on individual self-determination are to be noted in the loud demands for independence by all kinds of splinter groups, social and political. Discipline and respect for authority are dwindling. Discontent is rife. Peace has been taken from the earth.
Having permitted youth to be indoctrinated with the idea that human thinking should not be restricted by a belief in a Supreme God, governing authorities are now faced with a rebel generation that is challenging social and moral principles and that insists on deciding for itself as between right and wrong. Young men and women, teen-agers, who frequently have no more than a superficial knowledge of the issues involved, join in strikes and protest marches as though they had fully examined all the facts and reached a mature decision. Open rebellion against adult rule is, in fact, very evident in our times.
How very different all this from the teaching the Bible and the words of Jesus Christ! True, Jesus did declare: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) But free from what and for what? Surely it must be clear that he was not encouraging people to become a law unto themselves! He would free them from the dogmas and superstitions of false religious leaders, but at the same time he invited: “Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples.” (Matt. 11:29) Those who came to him must come under his discipline, must listen and obey. Failure to yield such submission to the One sent by God would be prime evidence that the minds of such ones were still in captivity to the evil influence referred to by the apostle Paul: “The god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ . . . might not shine through.”—2 Cor. 4:4.
Make no mistake. Those who insist on exercising unfettered mental freedom sooner or later find themselves in opposition to God and his Word, the Bible. They idolatrously put the human intellect ahead of the great Creator, and so, because ‘they render sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created,’ God ‘gives them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting.’ (Rom. 1:25, 28) Pride blinds them to the fact that imperfect humans today have to choose between two masters. They must be slaves either to righteousness or to sin.—Romans, chap. 6.
The apostle Paul even foretold today’s multiplying evidences of enslavement to sin, for he wrote: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . blasphemers, disobedient to parents, . . . not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Thus multitudes have taken leave of “their proper senses” and have been caught in “the snare of the Devil,” who employs them in his evil purposes.—2 Tim. 2:26.
True Christians, on the other hand, have been liberated by accurate knowledge of the Bible, and, not content with enjoying such freedom from erroneous thinking only for themselves, they engage in a spiritual warfare to liberate other captive minds, to combat ideas that have been raised up against the knowledge of God. The apostle Paul describes this warfare, declaring: “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage warfare according to what we are in the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things. For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God; and we are bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.”—2 Cor. 10:3-5.
It seems that some in association with the early Corinthian congregation were disregarding Paul’s authority, looking at him according to what he appeared to be in the flesh, and neglecting to take into account his special commission from Christ. Today, too, there are those who, by their independent thinking, question Christ’s ability to have and use on the earth a specially appointed governing body of imperfect humans, to whom he has entrusted all the Kingdom interests or “belongings” on earth. (Matt. 24:45-47) When such independent thinkers receive counsel and direction based on the Bible, they incline to the thought, ‘This is only from fleshly men, so it is up to me to decide whether to accept it or not.’
On this very subject, E. A. Dunlap, Registrar of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, speaking to a class of missionary students, recently inquired: “Do you look at it that way?” Then he continued: “If you do, then you are being infected by that spirit of independence with which Satan is infecting the whole world. So, to overcome this attitude, the thing to do, as the apostle Paul intimates, is to think, ‘Now, am I “bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ”?’”
If this proper course is followed, the Christian will refuse to entertain any thoughts that fail to harmonize with the truth he has learned from the teaching of Christ. He will keenly appreciate as applying to himself the reminder by the apostle Paul: “You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of you people.” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20) Again, he will have in mind the earnest exhortation by the apostle Peter: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for moral badness, but as slaves of God.” (1 Pet. 2:16) Selfish insistence upon intellectual freedom leads one into slavery to sin. Being in captivity to the Christ means peace with God, safety and wise direction for our lives.