george hancock stefanA couple of years ago, a church member asked me if I get annoyed that around the Easter season at least one of the well-known weekly magazines tries to prove that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ did not take place.  New evidence is presented in the article and people are asked to look at it and come to their conclusions.  In the majority of cases, the main writer seems to lean towards disbelief.

Nevertheless, in all forums– books, TV, Internet, and lecture halls, there should be freedom to discuss every religious aspect as well as our cherished political, economical, social, and scientific belief and conclusions.  Life after death is one of those issues that has wide receptivity, even among people who do not consider themselves religious, because people are uneasy with the finality or the shortness of human life here on earth.  What we believe about Jesus Christ and his audacious statements on the pages of the New Testament must be tested, as well as the statements that Mohammed and Buddha made about themselves.

C. S. Lewis, the well-known British apologist, looked at the claims of Jesus and concluded with three possibilities – Jesus was delusional, Jesus was a masterful liar/manipulator, or He was indeed who He claimed to be – namely the Son of God.  A person should be allowed to make these conclusions and decide for oneself.

One of the Baptist leaders, Dr, Walter Shurden, wrote a book entitled: The Four Fragile Freedoms (The four freedoms being religious freedom, church freedom, biblical freedom, and soul freedom). I assign this book in my denominational class because it is important for us to be able to promote those fragile freedoms in our congregations.

I find that there are three ways in which these fragile freedoms are decreasing: they are mocked, they are shouted against, and they are eliminated. 


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In an open forum, we should be allowed to discuss any unpopular or absurd position without mocking it.  We may disagree completely and even conclude that this particular position is completely absurd, but still retain that British reserve, “My honorable opponent holds this view”.  I want to honor you as a person, while disagreeing with your position.

What I find even more disturbing is when people who proclaim that they are a part of the intellectual stratosphere seek to close discussions by disturbing the meetings and shouting their opposition.  Outside protests and dissemination of opposing views is always welcome, but disrupting meetings is not. 

The last item that I find puzzling is when certain people biasedly decide to close the market of ideas to one group and advantage the other.  The public forum should neither be anti-religious, nor favor one religion over another. 

I greatly enjoy the freedom of the pulpit.  As a pastor, I am free either to follow a liturgical calendar or choose my sermonic texts from whatever section of the Bible I want.  As a Christian preacher, I have the freedom to proclaim the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, his full divinity and humanity, but I also want to allow the liberty for anyone to disagree with me.   In fact, I find that the more I participate in discussions and debates, the more robust my faith becomes because it forces me to evaluate all the premises on which I build my faith.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...