Thursday, February 09, 2006

Free Speech

Free speech is not a basic human right or a right granted by the State. Free speech is a gift from God. He gave this gift when he created us in his image. Ability to speak is an attribute of God. Before man existed, God spoke things into being (Gen 1:3). There was also communication within the Trinity (Gen 1:26). Therefore when God created us in his image, he gave us the gift of speech and communication. An when man was created, God immediately spoke to him. This gift of speech is part of what makes humans unique in creation.

Like all God's gifts, speech must be used in obedience to God and for his glory. His standard is clear.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Eph 4:29).
This means we can zealously seek the truth on religious issues, but we should do so with courtesy and without mockery or insults.

Like all gifts, the gift of speech involves both authority/freedom and responsibility. We are accountable to God for the way we speak. Jesus said,

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment (Matt 12:36).
We have freedom of speech, but it is not anabsolutee freedom, We should never forget that we will have to give account to God for every word we have spoken.

At the time of the Tower of Babel, God became unhappy with the way that man was using the gift of communication to build a new way to heaven. God's response was to limit the gift of speech by confusing the language, so that men could not longer understand each other. Speech was much freer when everyone spoke the same language (Gen 11:1-9). At the Tower of Babel we lost part of our freedom of speech.

God has not given the state authority to monitor and assess our speech. Power to check and punish every word spoken would make the state extremely dangerous. Fortunately, we can leave most idle talk for God to sort. He has limited the state's role in dealing with speech to a very narrow area proscribed in the ninth commandment.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Ex 20:16)
False witness includes perjury, fraud, slander and breach of contract. These are crimes that God has given the state authority to punish. The state must not go beyond the role that God has assigned. God will deal with all other speech problems himself. When the state attempts to control all speech, it is usurping the role of God.

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