Is Christianity Restrictive? (Part 1) - Bible Verses and Quotes

Sermons & Study MaterialIs Christianity Restrictive? (Part 1)

Is Christianity Restrictive? (Part 1)

(A small-group study guide for: The Reason for God, Chapter 3)

[Ice breaker: For those of you who are married, how did you first know you were in love? Write down your answer and save it. Towards the end of this study, we’ll get back to it.]

Introduction

Objections I have often heard about Christianity include:

  • “Christians aren’t allowed think for themselves.”
  • “Christianity restricts people’s self-expression.”
  • “Christianity prevents people from truly enjoying themselves.”
  • “Christians aren’t allowed to be free.”

[Discussion: What do you think about these statements? Can you think of why someone might agree or disagree with them?]

These objections are valid concerns and should be answered carefully. Their common thread is that Christianity is restrictive, thus Christians don’t have freedom, which is bad. Before answering these objections, we must dig a bit deeper by asking:

  • What does freedom mean?
  • Is limiting freedom bad?
  • Do people generally have freedom, even in democracies?
  • Is love more about having freedom or restricting freedom?

What Is Freedom? Is Limiting Freedom Bad?

The dictionary [1] defines freedom as, “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” We touched upon the topic of what defines good or bad, right or wrong, extensively in part one of this series. Now, is limiting freedom bad?

[Discussion: Is limiting freedom bad? Support your answer.]

An instinctive response for many would be, “Yes, limiting freedom is bad,” but the answer is more complex. Yes, in some cases, limiting freedom can be bad. For example, drastically limiting one’s freedom to eat or drink can cause premature death through malnutrition or starvation. On the other hand, not limiting one’s freedom to eat or drink can also cause premature death through obesity or eating too much of the wrong foods.

Thus, optimal restrictions, which align with the reality of our nature—with who we are and how we are built—liberate us to enjoy the greatest freedom and benefits, which in this example exists in the equilibrium between malnourishment and obesity. Paradoxically, you could say we achieve the greatest joy and benefits by limiting our freedom. It is in this equilibrium, not weighed down and restricted by either malnourishment nor obesity, in this example, when we are most free.

[Discussion: Can you think of other examples where one achieves the greatest freedom through restrictions?]

This same principle applies in other spheres of life as well. For example, can anyone achieve the greatest freedom intellectually, physically, and vocationally without restricting themselves in various areas? Can a bodybuilder build strength without limiting his freedom from pain, by just lifting light weights? Can one advance optimally in a career, without sometimes restricting personal comfort?

If you want to succeed in your career, you will have to get out of bed and do annoying tasks, even when you don’t want to. You will likely also have to limit the number of hours you spend playing video games. It is only through limiting our freedoms that we can operate and succeed optimally. Why wouldn’t this same principle also apply to your spiritual and moral growth?

Why is it okay for someone to limit themselves to achieve freedom as a weightlifter but not to achieve spiritual and moral growth? Restrictions and limits on freedom are necessary and we should discipline ourselves to discover the optimal restrictions on freedom that align with the reality of our nature, with who we are and how we are built.

Someone might reply saying, “I agree that limiting freedom can be good, but it should be left to individuals to decide how they wish to limit their freedom.” This sounds nice, but does it correspond to reality?

Stay tuned for part 2.

Sources:

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedom



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Michelle Shaw
Michelle Shaw
25 days ago

I believe the restrictions exist in any belief or human behavior, from the macro as the universe to the micro as any society, the important thing is that these restrictions are to support the development of the majority and never to harm or benefit a few.

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