(Thanks to Tim Keller)
Christian faith is divisive, narrow, and infantilizing. That’s a common complaint with more than a grain of truth. Skeptics may voice philosophical questions doubting how a loving God could allow suffering or send people to hell, but often their deepest objections have to do with a style of life.
Believing in one truth, as Christians do, creates an ugly divide with the neighbors, who don’t have that truth. It seems narrow in a world where we encounter so many cultures and religion. And it appears typical of an immature person, who has to be told what to believe and do rather than creating his own meaning and his own standards.
Contrast that with the mature, creative, open-minded person of liberal thought—comfortable and accepting with a wide variety of people, beliefs and cultures. Who wouldn’t prefer such a life of mental and moral freedom?
Intellectual responses can be made. For example, we could point out that everybody believes in one truth, even if that truth is that no truth can be known. How come the relativist gets to tell me I’m wrong for saying anybody is wrong? Isn’t that a double standard?
Such responses may clear away some brush, but they don’t get to the root. The root is a paradox: love is the greatest freedom of all, and love is a straitjacket.
The mother of small children, for example, is hardly better than a slave. You couldn’t hire somebody for this labor. It’s messy, endless and exhausting. And yet, to be “freed” from her children would be the greatest suffering you could impose on a mother. She finds her freedom—her truest self—in love for her children.
So with people in love. Their love imposes many restrictions. They eat foods they never used to like and take up activities they formerly found useless. To their friends’ annoyance (or amusement) they lose the old spontaneity. They no longer do what they like—they first check with somebody. And yet, as anybody who ever loved can tell you, they find in this straitjacket a sense of freedom they only dreamed of before.
Christianity is a straitjacket, mentally and morally. But that is because it makes the claims of love. You are called into love with the maker of the earth, the moon and the stars. Of course you are not free. You have only begun to learn what freedom is.