Vol.XX No.VI Pg.2
August 1983

The "Free Thinker"

Robert F. Turner

While in the east I met a reader of PLAIN TALK who said he thought of me as a "free thinker." Does one ignore, thank, or shoot the person who says such a thing?

To some, "free thinker, means one who submits to no standard of truth. Sometimes this attitude has a "heady" effect, and the "free" individual may cultivate odd behavior and proclaim bizarre "positions" to call attention to himself and his freedom. He rejects and seems almost to despise any widely received concept. Standing alone becomes an end in itself, his proof (?) of superiority. I hope the P.T. readers didn't mean that.

Some equate the iconoclast with "free thinking": one who attacks the "sacred cows" — breaks down icons of tradition — lives in the objective case and kickative mood. Traditions have a way of becoming authority, and we believe all are subject to objective examination in the light of the word of God. But when the realm is one of human judgment the traditional way may be far superior to a hurriedly cooked up replacement. It has been tested by time, and often has hidden qualities that are realized only after the free thinker discards them. In my estimation, commendable "free thinking" in such matters means only that we are capable of being objective, and not bound to traditions.

But the "free" man in the highest and best sense is the slave of God (1 Cor. 7:22-23). "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men." He is a "free thinker" in that he recognizes no ultimate Master save the Lord, no truth that does not conform to the Word of Truth. He keeps himself "free" to continue his search for God's ultimate will, and cannot be bound by creeds or parties which are less or other than the ultimate. He answers to conscience, his honest sincere understanding of what God has declared right. Here, alone, he truly relates to God: a direct relation between citizen and King which must obtain, and remain. He recognizes his obligation to brethren, but he will not allow man in any form (domestic, civil, or religious) to come between him and his God. Conscience tells me this is a mountain yet to be climbed.

Then there is the so-called "free thinker" who is simply too lazy or egotistic to consider the learning of others. History? He doesn't like to read. Commentaries? Doesn't believe in any, except his own. He just makes up his "private interpretation" as he goes along — "free" in his monumental ignorance. Oh I do hope my P.T. reading friend didn't mean that.