When we got back from Fall Break, classes and reading began right back up again. It was nice to be mentally refreshed (but physically exhausted) from our various trips that we took over the previous week. Not only did we have classes to get back to, but we had a friend from back home to visit us: Dr. Jonathan Watt!
Dr. Watt is the head of the Semester in Scotland program, and so he came to visit for a long weekend to check up on how we and the program were doing. It was so nice to have a familiar face from home and to hear news about what was going on back in the States since we left. Dr. Watt didn’t just come to visit; he also came to teach a short class on Post-Modernism.
The class he taught was short, but very informative and helpful in teaching us about the assumptions in worldview that most people have. I know that I am the better for knowing the trends of my peers and the common ideas that link my generation together. Because of this class, I know better how to respond to the world around me in its underlying assumptions that result in a particular way of life. Sometimes when I study topics like this I tend to feel fear for Christians, because of the increasing hostility towards the gospel and those who preach it and live it. But I have to remind myself that God is in control and that He will not forsake His people.
Dr. Watt ended the class with some thoughts by Alexander Solzhenitsyn on freedom. He reminded us that while the post-modern world values its own “freedom,” we in Christ have the true freedom. Solzhenitsyn describes worldly freedom in his address at the Harvard Commencement of 1978 as having a tilt towards evil. Solzhenitsyn declared freedom’s evil bent “was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature.” Towards the end of his speech (to what must have been a shocked class of Harvard graduates) Solzhenitsyn asserted that “all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility”. Isn’t that the truth? Whatever else the world may say, man is made in God’s image. All freedom comes from above. We are obligated to obey God’s law, and as Christians that is true freedom. Paraphrasing Solzhenitsyn, we can say that freedom is the license to do what you ought to do—not what you want to do.
I need to remember these truths. I should not be fooled by what the world terms as its “freedoms” which are ultimately the licenses that they give themselves to sin. Psalm 73 deals with the issue of watching the wicked succeed in this life, wondering what will happen to the Godly. In the middle of the psalm, the mood changes from one of despair to the looking to God for strength and truth. In verse 17 the psalmist looks to the sanctuary of God where he then “discerned their end” and in verse 27 he proclaims that “those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you” (ESV). The wicked will eventually receive their justice from God. I do not need to fear, for I am His. The final verse of the psalm says, “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (Ps. 73:28 ESV). Our life is to be not one of fear for what the world is doing and what may happen to us Christians, but rather one centered on spreading the gospel and love of Christ. We are to look inwardly and upwards to be continually sanctified in the freedom of God’s Word.
I apologize for maybe quoting too heavily from Solzhenitsyn, but I appreciate his aptitude for describing things as how they really are. At the end of his address, Solzhenitsyn declares that man’s task on earth “cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.”
We are called to live a life not for ourselves, but one of sanctification and pursuing of Godliness.