A Theology of Free Speech

Apr 16, 2021 by

During the past few years, a steady litany of complaints about cancel culture on college campuses and Big Tech censorship has droned discordantly in the backdrop of our collective consciousness. The wretched and wrenching events of January 6 proved an unnerving crescendo.

First came the deplatforming of individuals and groups associated with the violence at the Capitol. Soon after Amazon unceremoniously scuttled a bestselling book from Ryan T. Anderson, respected president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

As people of the Book and followers of the Word, Christians have always shown a natural concern about public speech. We must remember that for at least nine-tenths of world history, the church has labored and often flourished in regimes that allowed little of what we call freedom of speech. The church has often helped to encourage and maintain such regimes.

If we aren’t to allow the ideal of free speech to become an idol, we must remember how rare and fragile it is—and remember that absolute freedom of speech is neither a moral right nor a social good. Only after dispelling that illusion will we see clearly enough to work and fight effectively for this precious gift in the difficult years ahead.

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