Individual Soul Liberty
In a nutshell the doctrine of individual soul liberty (ISL) is the teaching that every individual has liberty over their own soul whether saved or unsaved. This is a biblical Baptist distinctive. Baptists should view this blessed doctrine with much satisfaction. According Edward T. Hiscox, it can not be said of Baptists since they have been called Baptists that they ever persecuted anyone for holding to other religious beliefs (cf. Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches p. 493). “Is it not true…” one may ask, “…those Fundamental Baptists want the whole world to be converted to biblical Christianity?” Yes! It is true, but while we do wish the whole world would be saved our evangelism technique is neither by coercion nor persecution! Rather, it is by persuasion, we pray, present the gospel, and God gives the increase.
What ISL is Not!
ISL is not justification for disobeying Scripture.
A believer may choose to obey or disobey God’s Word, but disobedience is not justified. “My Bible calls it SIN!” (Sketch Erickson)
An unbeliever has liberty to remain in unbelief, but is not free from the consequences.
No one has the right to do as he wishes without regards to others. This is especially true for believers (see Romans 14).
Here are some examples:
I may have the freedom to drink wine, but not to get drunk.(Ephesians 5:18)
While at a Jewish Bar mitzvah (when it is recognized that a boy becomes a man) I do not want to offend my Jewish friends by not drinking a glass of wine which they have provided for the occasion. So I partake… I have NOT sinned!
However, if there is a certain sister in Christ with me who has a particular weakness in the area of drunkenness, then I will abstain so I do not offend her. I will be as gracious as possible not to unnecessarily offend anyone, but I am bound to those in Christ first… I have NOT sinned!
ISL is Not Short for Island!
We are not a law to ourselves. I can’t go driving my Neon through traffic like it’s a bumper car track or a rollercoaster ride. In the church I can’t just go on my own little soapbox and expound it to the death (usually the death of the doctrine, or the death of the learners, not the death of me).
We are a church, individuals banned together for the common purpose, to glorify God.
- To Exalt Christ
- To Edify the saints
- To Evangelize the lost
- To Encourage one another
My Liberty and Your Liberty!
My liberty does not take for granted nor infringe upon the liberty of others. Some one said, “Your liberty to throw punches ends where my nose begins!”
Unprovoked, and out of the clear blue sky, a customer of mine announced in a harrumph, “I believe in homosexual marriages, a woman’s right to choose an abortion for any reason, and that it’s OK to burn our flag!” My response, “Hi [Tom], I couldn’t disagree with you more on each of those issues, but I would fight for your freedom to express your opinions.” This ended the discussion and left him scratching his head. I think it threw him off a bit that I didn’t get on my moral high horse and gallop all over his twisted “beliefs”. The point is: it is hypocritical to desire liberty for oneself and not extend it to others.
ISL and the Priesthood of the Believer
We have covered The Priesthood of Every Believer in another post. ISL has also been called the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer practically considered. (God’s Blueprint for a Church, K.H. Good, RBP). I like that idea because no one has more liberty than those God calls His priests. K. H. Good makes an interesting observation about the Reformers who spoke out against “…priestcraft that began in the third century abscessing in the apostasies of Rome’s rituals.” Yet, “…the development of the doctrine of conscience never reached its full application. …this principal was latent with the Reformers but not emergent.” (K.H. Good p.91; cf. Calvin’s Institutes Vol. II page 141)
Puritans fleeing a church-controlled state came to the new country and began to set up a church-controlled state. Our look at ISL would not be complete if we did not mention Roger Williams and the roll he played in establishing a separation of powers. However, this will fit in nicely with the second S in our BAPTISTS acrostic when we will put “separation of church and state” under the spotlight. If you wish you may read A PLEA FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY by Roger Wiliams (also see Edward T. Hiscox Prop. III).
What is your view of freedom? Some hold the obnoxious idea that freedom means one can do as one pleases, but this leads to bondage. Truly, freedom is doing as one ought to do, not “whatever pleases me”, but “whatever pleases God”! This is true freedom and leads to true happiness and joy.