No, Religious Freedom Doesn’t Send People to Hell

Why Christians should support our government staying out of religious affairs.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

Last week an old video resurfaced on Twitter in which John MacArthur, pastor of Los Angeles’s Grace Community Church, announced he did not support religious freedom. In the clip, MacArthur argued that supporting religious freedom promotes idolatry and enables the kingdom of darkness—that “religious freedom is what sends people to hell.”

Some reports contend that quote is out of context, fitting as it does in a larger argument. Even so, this kind of argument against religious freedom is a familiar one—usually in reference to somebody else’s religion.

Years ago, a pastor told me that religious freedom is essentially the affirmation of the words of the Serpent, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). To grant religious freedom for false religions, this person contended, is the equivalent of allowing the prophets of Baal have a place of their own on Mount Carmel.

These are certainly statements of strong conviction—like propositions of biblical truth for to which the only appropriate response should be a loud “Amen!” That is, until one actually listens to what is being said and hears it for what it is: theological liberalism.

Religious freedom, after all—whether as articulated by the early British Baptists, the persecuted Anabaptists of the Reformation era, or the colonial American evangelists and their allies—has never been a “You believe in Baal; I believe in God; what difference does it make?” kind of pluralism.

The question of religious freedom is who should have regulatory power over religion. If you believe religion shouldn’t be regulated by the state, then …

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