Christianity is a timeless message that is revealed in time. The fact that it is revealed in time makes it adaptable, and it’s timelessness makes it liberating.
By timeless, I mean that it is a voice from outside any human culture across time and geography but is able to speak in to those cultures an unchanging message. It is the unmoving center that draws all 360 degrees of the circle to itself.
How does that make it liberating? Isn’t conformity to an unchanging standard the exact opposite of freedom?
I think the answer to that question hinges on how you define “freedom.” If freedom means the ability to act in complete independence without outside influences, then the answer is no, Christianity does not make people free no matter its being timeless. But I would also add that not only does Christianity not make people free in that way, but nothing does. If that is freedom, then no one has ever been free. This definition of freedom comes out of the belief that to be free one must have no master – one must be completely autonomous, but we are all slave to something. Even the person who is most independent is still a product of a culture and a time and a place and those factors become the blinders around which he sees the world. Even the prevailing worldview in the west, which has so tenaciously held up this definition of freedom and insisted that an individual is only free when they are not living under any other banner than that person’s own has only resulted in flying another banner under which people can live.
But if autonomy is not freedom, then what is? The gospel holds out a definition of freedom that is not autonomy, but obedience. Freedom is not being able to occupy any place, but it is occupying specifically your own place. Think of it like this: a fish is limited in that it cannot breath the air, but to that fish water is not limitation, but life. Happiness is found in this limitation, and anything else is death. Freedom is when human beings live in the place they were made for, and under the banner they were made to live under.
If humanity cannot escape living under some banner then it is no longer a question of living under one or not, but it becomes a question of which and why.
If all worldviews are the same then it does not matter which you choose, but if there is a worldview that is timeless truth, then everything depends on living under its banner. If the gospel is a human product then it is just good advice, but if it is the timeless voice from outside then there is a chance it can be the breath of life it claims to be. If living under the banner of the gospel leads to destruction then it is a lie even if it does counter the blind spots of our personal and cultural idols, but if it creates human flourishing then it’s yoke is easy and it’s burden is light because it is the yoke humanity was made for. If it makes us flourish then our happiness lies not in being autonomous and independent, but in living in the place that was made for us and for which we were made.