The only ultimate secure ground for religious freedom is in the fact that Almighty God, in the act of revealing his sovereign power and wisdom in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has at the same time established for his world a space and a time during which faith is possible because unbelief is also possible. And if we are tempted to cry out to God in impatience because he allows so much wickedness still to flourish in his world, we know that the answer to our cry is in his long, long patience which, as the Apostle tells us, is to lead us to repentance. I am sure that this is the critical point for all debate about the gospel as public truth. Christians agree with Muslims that God's will is to be done in the public no less than in the private sphere. The question is: what kind of obedience does God desire? The central affirmation of the gospel concerning the cross and resurrection of Jesus requires us to affirm that God desires only the freely given, eager, loving obedience of a child who loves and trusts the father. God does not coerce us with the threat of immediate punishment. He woos us, draws us to himself by taking upon himself the awful cost of our disobedience. Certainly the wrath of God against sin is a reality. Certainly God has provided parameters to be policed by the political authority so that our freedom may not lead to total self-destruction. But at the central point, at the point of the ultimate allegiance of the heart, God desires only a freely given obedience which is the expression of love. It follows that while the state with its coercive power has a necessary place in God's wise ordering of the world, for without it our anarchic and disordered wills would destroy the world, yet the state has only a limited mandate. It may not encroach upon that central and secret place where we at our deepest and most intimate are called upon to give our final love and allegiance to our Creator.
Further Reading on Newbigin and the city: