I have long respected the work of Dr. John Cobin in the field of Christian libertarianism. His two books Christian Theology of Public Policy and Bible and Government have influenced my own exposition of Romans 13 and have affected many others in the Christian libertarian movement. You can read LCC author Doug Stuart’s review of Bible and Government here.
I occasionally receive emails from people trying to find his books for sale. Ordering one from Amazon.com or your local bookstore is rarely easy. However, I am very pleased to extend an offer from John Cobin himself to order these two incredible books at his main website. Right now, you can get a copy of Christian Theology of Public Policy (hardback) for $14.99, and a copy of Bible and Government (paperback) for $6.99 – and those prices include shipping to the continental United States. Plus, LCC readers can get a discount on any of his other materials as well.
Cobin’s works I consider nearly essential to a Christian libertarian’s education, as I have stated in various book lists. You can also read some of Cobin’s essays here at LCC in the Christian Theology of Public Policy short course. The article series covers some of the material in the book with less detail. The full book, as you might imagine, is even better.
Christian libertarians do not have quite as vast a literature to draw upon than the general libertarian movement. Add these books to your library and you will not regret it.
Click here to go to John Cobin’s website and order Christian Theology of Public Policy and Bible and Government.
This article was jointly written by Doug Stuart and Jessica Hooker.
In Stoker’s original article, she outlined three objections to the compatibility of Christianity and libertarianism, with subsequent expansions in later posts. Our previous posts addressed her first two points, and this article addresses her third point. Read our first post here, and our second post here. A substantial amount of time has passed since the aforementioned posts were originally written, so we encourage you to review them for additional context.
The first biblical story about humans is about human action and consequences. Whether one takes the story of Adam and Eve as historical-factual or non-literal, the narrative in Scripture functions as more than a mere explanation of why sin exists or where humans come from. This origin story frames the questions about divine-human relationship: “How shall we relate to God?” and “What are God’s expectations?” (among others). Far from playing the part of Divine Puppeteer, God bestowed Adam and Eve with the dignity of choice. God had spent six days creating the good world in which God placed God’s crowning creation—mankind—and from our perspective God would have been justified in thwarting any attempt to mar that world. If God was willing to give them such a level of freedom that could—and ultimately did—result in cursing a perfect world, how much more freedom are we then given in the small things? We may even wonder why God placed a tree in the garden whose fruit could bring such sadness and destruction into the world.
3) Libertarians value freedom so heavily because we believe in non-aggression; that is, that peaceful action is the only permissible way to treat others. The common good can never be reached through violence or coercion.
In the freedom to choose right or wrong, good or evil, humanity has a considerable amount of freedom in both big and small. Stoker is right in that the explicit freedom spoken of in Scripture is about freedom from sin and freedom to righteousness. But this far from negates libertarian free will! Throughout the Scriptures we see God imploring humanity to choose the way of life. Israel was beckoned at the beginning of Joshua, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” They were free to reject God’s covenant, free to reject God’s justice, and free to reject God’s blessings for doing it “God’s way.” It is here that we find an inherent integration of our Christianity and our libertarianism. God did not create us puppets on a string, controlling our every move, making us do right. Nor did Jesus implore us to preach the gospel, and—if people reject it—declare ourselves, by proxy through the state, masters of their morality. We are never called to make Jesus Lord of other people’s lives. One of the aspects of Jesus’ Parable of the Sower is that absent the story is the forceful “plowing under” of the seeds, a common and expected practice in his culture. Jesus was saying (in part) God’s Kingdom comes peacefully, not forcefully. We can not force it to happen!
This is where we believe Stoker ultimately misses the mark. Throughout her series on Christianity and libertarianism, her arguments have hinged upon using force to coerce people to behave a certain way—her way. She has stated that “Justice in the world actually occurs when people engage with others in a just way,” yet has failed to illustrate how it is just to forcibily take from those who have to give to those who have not. Coerced charity is not charity at all. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason is no better than doing the wrong thing for the right reason—it’s just the words that are reversed.
The prophet Micah tells the people of Israel, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV). Challenging words, indeed. But here again we see the same thread we’ve been following through our previous two posts: the freedom to fail, to mess up, to choose wrongly or irresponsibly.
It is nearly impossible to read the narrative of the New Testament without considering the backdrop of the Exodus narrative in the Old Testament. Being released from bondage in Egypt was more than just slavery per se, it was—and still is—imagery that characterized the whole of human existence: bondage to powers that enslave us. Most Christians consider sin that which enslaves all of us. In this sense, the meaning of the Exodus narrative is fully captured in the climactic event of the entire Christian story: resurrection of Jesus. God has freed humanity from the bondage of sin through a new exodus, a new creation. We are thus freed from sin and the effects of sin. The Truth—Jesus—will set us free. We are set free for freedom. Stoker would rightly point out that the biblical writers were probably not thinking of what we call “Enlightenment freedom,” but there is no escaping that the gospel according to Jesus is freedom from all that enslaves, not simply our sinful nature or eternal destination. While this connect far from “proves” libertarianism, it certainly demonstrates compatibility with it.
Stoker concluded her first post with explaining why the state is the best means by which our collectively pooled resources are able to render help to those in need. It’s truly ironic, because where the Bible describes those who need rescue from oppression and slavery, it is from oppressive empires, which is exactly the type of institution which enslaves those whom God cares most about! God heard the cries of God’s people in Egypt, and responded by mocking, shaming, and ultimately demolishing the Egyptian gods as they knew it. Stoker herself even recognizes the inherent power-over nature of the State, giving further credence to the libertarian claim that power easily corrupts! She cannot have both the State monopolizing the distribution of resources while at the same time chastising the institution of private property as “participation in state power.”
The Christians for Liberty 2014 Conference has come and gone, but now we get to post the videos from the conference for everyone to see.
Is statism a form of religion? Jason Rink contends that it very well may be, as it has many of the standard features that makes up a religion. As Christians, we are to proclaim the Kingdom of God, that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not. That’s a radical message in the modern world. Watch Jason’s talk from the Christians for Liberty 2014 Conference.
Do you agree that the state is not the Kingdom of God? Spread the word and share on your favorite social network!
The Christians for Liberty 2014 Conference has come and gone, but now we get to post the videos from the conference for everyone to see. Now, enjoy my presentation on The Biblical Foundations of Christian Libertarianism, where I give my thoughts on the foundational texts and theological reasoning that informs this understanding of Christianity and liberty.
Please share on your favorite social network!
In a recent article of mine about Christians apologists for the state, its military, and its wars, I mentioned, for the first time I believe, the term “nuclear Christian.” I would like to elaborate on the meaning of this neologism.
Another anniversary of the dropping by the United States of the atomic bombs “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945)—and the incineration of 200,000 civilians—has come and gone.
Even as more information comes to light and, thanks to the Internet, becomes more readily available about how unnecessary and evil that action was, it seems as though conservative Christians are more resolute in their defense of it.
Not a one of them has probably ever read or even heard of the 1995 book by Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth, the 2001 article by Ralph Raico, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” or the just-published article by Barton J. Bernstein on American conservatives in history who criticized the atomic bombing of Japan.
But it is not just Christians defending the atomic bombs dropped on Japan that is the problem.