The Road to Freedom Paved in Authority
By Ann Vande Zande
CBN.com Americans love freedom. We’re so big on it that life any other way seems unimaginable. In fact, we’re spoon fed the ideals of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from school age on; likely even before. Given the strength of our commitment to freedom, it would seem that there’s little to learn. So is it possible that a concept so core to our belief structure has been misunderstood?
According to author, pastor, and worship leader Steven Fry we may be missing the point; at least as it relates to authority, submission, and freedom for the individual. In his recently released True Freedom: What Christian Submission and Authority Look Like he provides new thinking on the relationship that exists between these concepts.
From the start, Fry’s unique outlook shows up in his basic premise regarding the core of what ails society and individuals. First, he points out our cultural bent toward the notion that if we were loved well as children we wouldn’t struggle, and that most emotional problems can be solved with enough love.
Fry indicates that the church, too, often focuses on the “love deficit” of individuals and therefore expends energy along “soulish” lines; like emotional healing and self-esteem issues. He indicates that while love’s imperative, the church should look further for answers to people’s bondage.
If more love isn’t the cure then what? Fry points out that Lucifer’s problem wasn’t that he wasn’t loved enough. The heavenly struggle stemmed from a desire to act independently of God, i.e. rebellion. Therefore, our worst problems don’t originate from a need for more love, but from rebellion. With Fry’s freedom formula, he establishes healthy authority as the root issue and therefore road to freedom; not as defined by culture but by Scripture.
Fry doesn’t suggest we drop or denounce our attempts at loving others for Jesus, or that the broken don’t need love. Instead, he advocates a missing piece that could be the reason so many loved people continue in bondage. Thus he spends the first few chapters explaining and defining his conceptualization of authority as an act of creation. In fact, he indicates that fences create freedom and that “If the concept of authority is rightly understood and applied, genuine freedom should thrive” (27).
While these chapters contain some insightful material, Fry’s theological and logical reasoning fell flat from time to time. For instance, on page 30 he indicates that God’s authority, at its core is “freedom to create.” We’re to accept his viewpoint based on a splash of Hebrew and Greek. He states, “The Israelite would have understood authority in terms of creation.”” And “The original Greek use of the term had more to do with the idea of receiving permission or of having the freedom to act.” Fry’s conclusion? Therefore, “God’s authority, at its core, is His freedom to create.”
Challenging, inviting concept but I don’t think we’re given enough reasoning support to accept it. Who says Israelites understood authority in terms of creation? Where’s the evidence? I’m not discrediting the statement, but this type of radical shift requires more analysis before being embraced.
In chapters four through nine, Fry flushes out the relationship between authority and submission. Although I’m not big on crediting a particular book for being life-changing, chapter four, “Living in Our Authority” impacted me. Fry states his premise regarding personal power: “To be able to submit to authority with grace, we must first recognize the authority we have in Christ!” (54). Next, Fry examines all that’s available to Believers by the presence of the Holy Spirit. He proves that living “in Christ” does indeed provide a security and inner strength that nothing else marvels.
I approached the marriage chapter, “A Marriage Rightly Aligned”, apprehensively but ended up feeling refreshed. Fry’s discussion holds true to his motto: healthy authority and submission do indeed bring freedom. While not bailing out on Scripture, which he quotes liberally, Fry placed equal value and responsibility on both husband and wife. He takes on a pastoral tone and guides spouses toward a sound understanding of roles and a workable relationship that is both loving and honoring.
The final three chapters address church leadership at all levels and provide insight that, if embraced, would end power issues. Elders, pastors, and lay leadership struggling under the weight of internal control struggles that seem insurmountable will find insight for leading with grace and humility. Followers also will find ways to disagree with respect and love in place.
Anyone looking for fluff won’t enjoy this book; it’s meaty from the start. True Freedom: What Christian Submission and Authority Look Like gently challenges readers into truth around a difficult topic. Moreover, the dedicated believer who incorporates Fry’s practical advice will likely experience freedom that has before felt out of reach.
Purchase your copy of True Freedom: What Christian Submission and Authority Look Like.
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A former college professor, Ann Vande Zande writes to share God’s truth and mercy. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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