A review of Os Guiness: Last Call for Liberty – Part 4
A concept that appears in several of Os Guiness’s books describes the relationship between freedom, faith, and virtue. While the formulation is unique to the author, he claims that these ideas were understood by the American Founders.
He calls it “The Golden Triangle of Freedom.”
The Golden Triangle consists of three elements that interact to support a free society and the relationships among them:
- Freedom requires virtue.
- Virtue requires faith.
- Faith requires freedom.
Let’s examine each side of the triangle in turn.
Freedom requires virtue. This truth is obvious upon reflection. For members of society to handle freedom, they must have some kind of inner sense of responsibility and self-constraint in order for freedom to not degenerate into licentiousness and chaos. In other words, weaker internal control requires stronger external control and vice versa.
Virtue requires faith. Although it was not the Founders’ intention to recognize one theological doctrine over any other, there was strong consensus among them that some kind of belief in transcendent truth and a sense of accountability to a supreme deity was necessary across society in order to maintain morality and virtue. This assumption has been lost in 21st-century America.
Faith requires freedom. While the previous point was clear at the time of the Founding, it was surprising and counter-intuitive to 18th-century political thinkers that disestablishment of an official religious institution would actually encourage vital religious faith. But the American experiment has born it out. This is true because requiring religious sects to compete in the free marketplace of ideas engenders a level of vitality and integrity that state-sponsored churches often manage to survive without.
When any side of the Golden Triangle disintegrates, the entire structure of freedom is weakened.
Today, with atheism and agnosticism dominating much of elitist thought, the link between virtue and faith is under attack. But in addition, the connection between virtue and freedom is weakened because freedom is thought of in purely negative terms—the absence of coercion, with little understanding of freedom as being purposeful and rooted in a noble vision.
As Convention of States activists, let’s remember that our fight for liberty must be shaped by faith and virtue in order for it be sustainable for future generations.