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Pastoral Papers

What does the Bible say about religious liberty? Discussion Guide

A discussion guide on religious liberty

The following discussion guide may be used in a small group setting or for your personal time of devotion.

We hope it helps you both better understand the topic and how God might want to use you, in your specific context, to be “salt and light” on this issue.

1. Read Acts 5:17–33. Then consider the questions Dr. Denison poses in the introduction to his essay:

  • Are America’s Christians facing threats to our religious liberty on such a level that we must stand up at any cost? Have we reached that point where we must say to secular authorities, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)?
  • If you agree, name a few examples of recent threats to our religious liberty.
  • If you disagree, discuss why American Christians have not reached that point. Consider comparing our current cultural and governmental climate to that of the early Christians.

2. Two recent Supreme Court cases, spurred by church closures in light of the coronavirus pandemic, are cause for concern.

  • In each case, a 5–4 ruling went against a church’s request to reopen. In each case, the dissenting opinions noted how the final ruling “indisputably discriminates against religion, and such discrimi- nation violated the First Amendment.”
  • First, take the side of the majority opinion. Why do you think they voted as they did? (Read the major opinion of South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom.)
  • Next, take the side of the dissenting opinion. Why did they dissent?
  • Why are these narrow rulings cause for concern for Christians?

3. Is the US becoming like China with regard to a lack of religious liberty?

  • Why might people think we are becoming like China? Why might people think such fears are an overreaction? Use examples from the larger culture and your more immediate circles to support your answer.
  • Do you believe that any governmental restrictions put in place as a response to current events will be relinquished once the pandemic is over? Why or why not?

4. Do you believe that Christianity’s influence on America is increasing or decreasing?

  • How would you argue your position?

5. In your personal life, do you tend to withdraw, withstand, or go forth into the culture?

  • In other words, when pressed to take a stand on a sensitive cultural issue (e.g., abortion, same-sex marriage), do you retreat or stay silent? Do you answer only when asked? Are you proactive? Or even aggressive?
  • What are some of the benefits associated with each approach? What are some of the dan- gers?
  • How do you navigate the fine line of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)? What are some ways you can do that through both words and actions?

6. Read Matthew 22:15–22.

  • Why was Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees such that “they marveled” after having heard it?
  • How is “Render to Caesar’s the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” relevant to your life today?

7. How can you be an “ambassador for Christ” in the following areas (2 Corinthians 5:20)?

  • In your home?
  • At your job?
  • In your neighborhood?
  • With your friends and family?
  • At your church?
  • Online?
  • In the world at large?

Click here to read Dr. Jim Denison’s pastoral paper on religious liberty.