Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Freedom: From What, To What?

Last week, one of the latest rising stars in Christian celebrity, Jen Hatmaker, wrote a piece on freedom that just made me shake my head for having a complete lack of direction.  But maybe that was the point of it.

Hatmaker opened the post with an anecdote about the chickens they are raising.  When the doors of the coop were opened, they would quickly escape the confines of the building, but after building a larger fenced-in area, these same chickens would not leave that area if the fence gate was left open: the chickens no longer craved freedom.  She followed this with the Christian-sounding teaching that God wants us free as well, citing:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Concluding with
That first sentence is everything.  Why did Jesus set us free?  So we would be free.  That’s basically it.  He emancipated us from everything that imprisons because freedom is its own reward.  To hear the Bible tell it, Christians should be the freest, most unstuck, unrestricted, liberated people breathing air.  [Emphasis hers]
Do you see a problem?  She says that the first sentence is everything.  It all sounds pretty good because there is freedom in Christ, except she never does say what we are free from.  She simply sets up this esoteric, ethereal, vague conception of freedom that a person can apply howsoever he or she wishes within the current experience of life.

What are we free from?
Hatmaker goes on to explain that people enjoy remaining in bondage.  I can agree.  Old patterns are comfortable like an old pair of blue jeans: they just fit.  Even when destructive, patterns of conduct and thinking built up over years stay with us.  This is a demonstrable social phenomenon.  She continues:
Who told you imprisonment was your only option?  What narrative have you believed that keeps you trapped, forfeiting your own freedom?  And how long have you chained yourself inside?  The prisons, they are many: toxic relationships, abusive churches, soul-crushing jobs, addictions, sorrow, impossible expectations, deferred dreams, the lie of scarcity, fear, regret.
Her entire thesis is that God makes us free from societal ills to change our attitudes and actions.  Have you noticed what is missing from her comments?  There is nothing about freedom from sin.  The apostle she is quoting, Paul, seemed to think that freedom from sin was the vital element, but Hatmaker has ignored it, except to give minor credence to her argument, as she continues with
“…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:[2]).
but then goes into a diatribe on how Christians love imprisonment and misery over freedom.  Why is there no instruction on those things we are now from to perform in Christ?  She advocates Christians to flee bondage and pursue freedom in Christ without ever telling us what we are free to do.  Isn’t that as important as knowing what we are free from?  All we get is:
There is so much life out there, so much to see, so much to experience, so much to enjoy, so much space to heal and find your legs again and run.
And this means what?  Chickens run like crazy when their heads are cut off.  Is that what she intends?  I rather doubt it, but there is nothing solid on which to grasp.  This is all emotional fluff.

What are we free to do?
Since Jen Hatmaker failed to provide any meaningful direction for believers, allow me to offer some.
We are free to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4).
Once we were dead, but now we are alive in Christ Jesus.  As a result, the life we live is lived in and through Him: it is His life lived through us.  We abide in Him, and He in us.  Having been brought from death to life, from slaves of sin to slaves of righteousness, we present our members as instruments of righteousness for Christ’s sake.
We are free to do good works (Eph 2:10).
This is more important than we realize, because we do not understand that good works are only truly good in Christ and that they are prepared by God Himself for us to do.  We have a stewardship that must used properly, for the kingdom and not handled lightly or selfishly.
To whom are we free to do these good works?
To our neighbor.  And who is our neighbor?  When a lawyer asked that question of Jesus, he got more than expected.
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”  And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”  (Luke 10:30-37)
That outcome was unexpected.  The Law and Prophets singled out widows and orphans to be given care because they were needy and defenseless, so the robbed and beaten man in the parable would have been acknowledged to be a neighbor.  This was easily grasped.  Jesus turns things, though, by pointing out that the outcast was also a neighbor.  Those who were once afar off are now brought near through the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13).
This list is not close to comprehensive, but I wanted to make the point that any attempt to give a biblical response about freedom in Christ can be answered with little attempt.  If an author is unable or unwilling to provide guidance to answer a question raised, then we must assume that person is either unqualified to teach or is attempting to subvert sound teaching.  In either case, we are free to recognize that person should be marked out and avoided.  Let us rather move on to maturity in Christ.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Sola Sisters recently exposed Hatmaker as a false teacher:

Thanks for your excellent analysis of Hatmaker's article. She is just another woman making points with those who have itching ears.

Steve Bricker said...

What drew my attention to the post initially was someone in our own assembly who spoke well of it, so I gave it a read. Besides my disgust with the content, I am even more disappointed that Hatmaker and those like her are so highly regarded in Bible-believing congregations. Maybe the Bible is not so highly regarded after all.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

No, the Bible isn't regarded at all by Hatmaker and her ilk.

Anonymous said...

She is, as the ones whom The Lord will say, "Depart from Me, you who practice iniquity, for I never knew you" She is a disciple of all the Joel Osteen style goat hearders that are all about self and self worth. No where does she tie anything she said to Biblical mandate that we live for Christ! Sad that so many are following this empty message for the sake self.

Steve Bricker said...

The empty message feels good. It goes down so easily. To paraphrase an old song: How could it be wrong if it feels so right?