The RZIM Summer Institute is an opportunity for you to experience a week filled with life-changing conversations, inspiring talks, and meaningful worship. You will have the opportunity to interact at length with our speaking team, get your toughest questions answered, and be prepared for spiritual conversations with your friends and family. We are prayerfully seeking God’s blessings upon the 2014 Summer Institute and hope you will join us for this rare opportunity to receive extended training from the RZIM Speaking Team.
Freedom: Dream or Delusion? – RZIM Summer Institute 2014
Every year, we prayerfully seek to address a theme of urgent and critical importance for our time. Our speaking team carefully works together to build a mosaic of talks that, together, powerfully and coherently addresses each year’s theme. For 2014, our theme is “Freedom: Dream or Delusion?
The quest for freedom is a universal longing embedded in every human heart. This age-old hungering for freedom has inspired many movements, achievements and reform efforts in the Western world, and in the United States in particular. While our ultimate freedom comes as God liberates us from sin, and the Holy Spirit makes us finally free to live for God, many alternate ‘freedoms’ vie for our allegiance. As we survey culture, we find the theme of freedom resonating in many conversations: the academic, sexual, political, financial, artistic, moral and spiritual.
Freedom is a powerful word that has been co-opted and re-imagined by many different and competing narratives. Who defines the human condition? What enslaves us? What does true freedom mean? The lack of shared definitions or shared understandings (at least in the US), means one man or woman’s vision is another’s nightmare. Are there limits and limitations to human freedom, and if so what are they and how do we know, or just as importantly, how do we agree?
The Christian vision of freedom is rooted in the view of man as a special creation but also as a fallen being and one who is in need of redemption and renewal. We can find hints of the freedom God made us for in the Creation story and indicators of all that opposes this goal throughout the rest of the Scriptures. In the Incarnation, we see a perfect vision of a free life. Our hope for the completion of the freedom dream is rooted in an eschatological vision of the final freedom that God will provide for us and all creation (Romans 8:18-25).
Christians believe not only in freedom for themselves but in liberation from all the captivities that befall us as broken individuals in a fallen culture. A powerful, Christian dream for freedom inspired William Wilberforce to reform British culture and law, so as to abolish the slave trade. Today Christian organizations continue to work to free trafficked humans, empower the poor, and open new opportunities for the marginalized.
One aspect of the vision of what our understanding of reality is wonderfully set out in the essay by C.S. Lewis “The Weight of Glory”. It appears that we have infinite longings but finite capacities. Our desire is greater than our reach. Is this a signal of another world, and a sign of something greater, or is it one of life’s torments to have desires which cannot ever be fulfilled? We have to honestly contend with the frustration, disappointment, and even despair that many experience when they think about the sometimes distant hope of freedom and fulfillment.
The Bible uses pictures of slavery and captivity to indicate that there are powers and forces in the universe greater than humanity which torment, afflict, capture and control (Ephesians 6:10-12). We find examples of these in our own lives and from the imaginative power of the arts. Our spiritual enslavement is to a bewildering variety of idols as we try to fulfill our sinful hunger for independence and autonomy. We reject God’s law as a restrictive and narrow burden that keeps us from ‘true’ freedom. We also see in the biblical narrative the struggle with the Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and later with Ceasar, indicating that both earthly and heavenly powers will work against God’s plan to free us.
We were made for a different kind of existence which only God and His healing, by grace, can accomplish. How does the Gospel both demonstrate and declare the way? What does the gospel say, mean, and look like in terms of our ultimate freedom?
There are many delusions of freedom. A few of the most prominent are mentioned below as serious competitors to the Christian view of life and reality.
- The Scientistic Delusion, that natural selection and processes are all that is, will be, or should be.
- The New Spiritualities, reject much of the above or seek to find the secret behind or below the visible and offer a more integrated and harmonious vision, typically available only to the enlightened elite.
- The Hedonist Option, life is short, pleasure is all there is, get what you can while you can, any way you can.
- The Noble Savage, if we just return to simplicity, to nature and a stripped down life, all will be well and the planet (Gaia) and harmony will embrace us.
- The libertarian Hope, all must be free from every restriction and every restraint in order to pursue their vision of happiness no matter what it is.
- Islam, real freedom comes through surrender and submission, there is no other way, and no other possible way.
The Summer Institute will address these various definitions of freedom contending for hearts and minds, making clear distinctions between negative and positive freedom. The apologetic challenge to the Christian view of freedom will be tackled and the delusions will be explored as to their veracity and viability. We will especially build our notions of freedom upon the wisdom and beauty of the Scripture’s narrative and teaching.
One central goal will be for us to describe the nature, substance and conditions of freedom as set out in the Gospel and to contrast this with the serious alternatives contending for belief and allegiance in our contemporary culture.
To hear the audio for the sessions of the year that you were enrolled in the Summer Institute click on the appropriate link below: