To our ears, the words “soul freedom” may sound odd; however, they lie at the very heart of what makes us Baptists. Our belief in believers’ baptism, religious liberty, and the priesthood of all believers, all of which are fundamental Baptist emphases, rests on the foundation of soul freedom. To put it into other words, it is the right and responsibility of each person to stand before God and make decisions about his or her relationship with God. This precedes believers’ baptism. Living in this freedom, this religious liberty, we become priests to one another.
While soul freedom puts great emphasis on the individual, it is not rampant individualism. Instead, it is placing oneself in the hands of God. Sometimes this is through the community of faith, and sometimes all alone.
The word soul is rather difficult for some to understand; its meaning today seems limited to the religious aspect of a person. When Baptists first began to talk about soul freedom, the term meant much more. It meant the very core of our being, that central part of us that provides the true essence of who we are as persons. Our Baptist forebears maintained that the core is free; God created each of us with a free soul. With soul freedom, we discover and respond to God’s call in our lives; it’s the freedom to find and follow God’s will and way in our lives.
Pastor Brian also recommends The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms, by Walter B. Shurden.