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Religious Freedom: A God-Given Choice

By Walter Carson; Photograph by Michael McKinnis

It naturally worries church members to hear that the Seventh-day Adventist Church defends the rights of Muslims, Native Americans and even atheists. Why on Earth would we support the teachings of the Quran, the use of hallucinogens or a godless philosophy?
           
My answer entails a very important and urgent distinction: We do not support the doctrines of the Quran. We do not desire that people use
peyote. We are not attracted to atheism. Rather, we support the freedom of those who wish to be Muslim to practice their faith. We support the free choice of Native Americans to practice their traditional religion. We support the free choice of atheists to believe or not to believe.
           
We earnestly hope that all of those people will see the truth of the Bible and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Still, Seventh-day Adventists are staunch advocates of religious freedom and recognize it as a fundamental God-given right. Inherent in that right is freedom of choice.
 
All or None
Our advocacy is wholly consistent with the character of God Who grants us free choice in our spiritual lives. Ellen White wrote: “The government of God is not, as Satan would make it appear, founded upon a blind submission, an unreasoning control. It appeals to the intellect and the conscience. ‘Come now, and let us reason together’ is the Creator’s invitation to the beings He has made. God does not force the will of His creatures. He cannot accept an homage that is not willingly and intelligently given. … He invites us to give ourselves to Him, that He may work His will in us. It remains for us to choose whether we will be set free from the bondage of sin, to share the glorious liberty of the sons of God” (Steps to Christ, pp. 43-44).
           
Paul says it this way: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (Gal. 5:1, NKJV).
           
Jesus Christ came not to guarantee everyone salvation—indeed, that’s impossible, for some won’t choose to be saved. But, Jesus Christ did come to guarantee our freedom to choose. And, it so happens that the very same freedom that allows one person to choose against God, serves to allow us to love and serve and worship Him. Either all are free, or none are.
 
As vice president and general counsel for the Columbia Union Conference, Walter Carson advocates for religious freedom and assists members with workplace religious accommodation.

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