This guest article is reprinted by permission from Kris Wampler, who writes for the Charlotte Libertarian Examiner.

If a stranger told you he’s an evangelical Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin and that the Holy Bible is the inerrant word of God, which political label would you ascribe to him? Odds are good you’d assume he’s a conservative, because, well, those seem like the calling cards of a right-winger.

On the other hand, if he told you he believes government should get out of marriage (or at least allow gay marriage), decriminalize drugs, and stay out of the morality business, you’d probably assume he was a liberal. Because, well, those seem like the calling cards of a left-winger.

And if the stranger told you he subscribes to both statements above, you might just assume he was severely confused. But is there not a third way?

It’s all too common these days to link political and religious convictions, as if a particular theological worldview necessarily denotes a particular political ideology. If one is a conservative Christian, how could one also be a social liberal? And why in the world would an evangelical advocate the legalization of pot?

I am a conservative Southern Baptist (yes, one of those Baptists). For years, I believed in using government to bring about certain social policies. The change came for me not because I compromised or watered down my religious beliefs, but because I began to appreciate both the Christian doctrine of free will and the destructive nature of government.

Free will is often overlooked by Christians, but is absolutely integral to our faith. Nothing in the Bible justifies the use of force to convert or punish non-Christians. Forget all you know about the Inquisitions and Crusades. Christ said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20 NIV). Note that Jesus did not say He would knock the door down if you don’t open it. The lesson here is that nothing in the Bible supports the notion that force should be used to spread the Gospel.

Besides, if a man is compelled to confess faith in the Lord, then he is acting only out of fear rather than genuine conviction. He may speak one way with his mouth, but feel completely different in his heart. This sort of “faith” is meaningless, and the Christian who accomplished it via force has wasted his time.

Free will also has significant implications for policy questions. On all matters, social and economic, it is simply wrong to use government to compel individuals to behave a particular way. The only obvious exception is if the person’s behavior would violate another’s negative rights. Punishing individuals for acting or not acting a certain way disrespects the innate value of the individual.

The battle between liberals and conservatives only obscures the matter while hampering liberty. The left and right are thought of as polar opposites, when in reality they are ideological cousins. The only difference between the two, for the most part, is the area of society in which they desire to use force. Liberals usually seek to regulate the boardroom, and conservatives often want to control the bedroom. Few realize the inconsistency of letting people love whomever they want while telling them how to spend their money (and vice versa).

Clifford Thies, professor of economics and finance at Shenandoah University, once wrote: “Because we are commanded to love one another, we cannot be morally neutral. But because we respect the limits on our authority, and we trust in God’s plan of salvation, we do not violently intervene into the lives of others.”

He makes a good point. And while the purpose of government should be to protect individual rights, the purpose of church and community is to improve individual lives. Real political freedom is recognizing that everyone owns their own life and destiny, and should be free to do as they please – provided they afford others the same respect.

For this Christian libertarian, that’s a long overdue message.

Make sure to check out the Charlotte Libertarian Examiner and the Christian Libertarian Facebook Group! Please encourage Kris with your comments: how do you view the relationship between libertarianism and Christianity?

Dr. Norman Horn

Norman founded LibertarianChristians.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute, and currently serves as its President and Editor-in-Chief. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology. He currently is a Postdoctoral researcher in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Danimal

    I agree with you completely. I’m a committed Roman Catholic, yet aside from the issue of abortion, I’m a hardcode Libertarian as well. I get deeply troubled when I see Christians pushing for a Christianized nation, as if a net decrease in the volume of sin itself would please God a whit. It’s not the decrease of sin in society — it’s an individual’s choice not to sin — that pleases God. What good is done if we forceably prevent someone from sinning, if their heart isn’t focused on Christ? Talk about washing the outside of a vessel, while leaving the inside dirty!

    I’ve read the Book — we win in the end. In the meantime, we need to work on convincing others, not forcing others, to turn toward Christ.

  • Danimal

    I agree with you completely. I’m a committed Roman Catholic, yet aside from the issue of abortion, I’m a hardcode Libertarian as well. I get deeply troubled when I see Christians pushing for a Christianized nation, as if a net decrease in the volume of sin itself would please God a whit. It’s not the decrease of sin in society — it’s an individual’s choice not to sin — that pleases God. What good is done if we forceably prevent someone from sinning, if their heart isn’t focused on Christ? Talk about washing the outside of a vessel, while leaving the inside dirty!

    I’ve read the Book — we win in the end. In the meantime, we need to work on convincing others, not forcing others, to turn toward Christ.

  • I am a libertarian, as well as a Party member; however, my emphasis is on “personal libertarianism,” as well as localism. The best government is self-government under God. I, as an individual, have God as my “judge” although I do not believe that He judges me. I am a covenant keeper through Christ. I am also a king and priest to Him. This kingship requires me to “love my neighbor as myself.” These are the fundamental principles of libertarianism.

    Beyond a local, voluntary government, there is only inefficiency and evil. Local government allows all people to speak for themselves and to have self-determination. I cannot obligate my neighbor to anything; I can only obligate myself and my family to God.

    I am also a libertarian in theology. Although I attend a Protestant Christian church, I do not agree to their Statement of Faith, even if I agreed with it. To require me to believe is coercion and contrary to the gospel of grace. I do my best, although I fail on virtually every occasion, to live towards others the way that God has lived towards me. God has loved me; therefore, I am to love others. God loved His enemies; therefore, I love my enemies.

    As we live self-determined lives under God, our collective becomes more righteous; not from coercion or government mandate, but because of personal behavior. Although I may not be “my brother’s keeper” I am obligated by God to not do him harm. That is the libertarian way.

  • I am a libertarian, as well as a Party member; however, my emphasis is on “personal libertarianism,” as well as localism. The best government is self-government under God. I, as an individual, have God as my “judge” although I do not believe that He judges me. I am a covenant keeper through Christ. I am also a king and priest to Him. This kingship requires me to “love my neighbor as myself.” These are the fundamental principles of libertarianism.

    Beyond a local, voluntary government, there is only inefficiency and evil. Local government allows all people to speak for themselves and to have self-determination. I cannot obligate my neighbor to anything; I can only obligate myself and my family to God.

    I am also a libertarian in theology. Although I attend a Protestant Christian church, I do not agree to their Statement of Faith, even if I agreed with it. To require me to believe is coercion and contrary to the gospel of grace. I do my best, although I fail on virtually every occasion, to live towards others the way that God has lived towards me. God has loved me; therefore, I am to love others. God loved His enemies; therefore, I love my enemies.

    As we live self-determined lives under God, our collective becomes more righteous; not from coercion or government mandate, but because of personal behavior. Although I may not be “my brother’s keeper” I am obligated by God to not do him harm. That is the libertarian way.

  • I am also a Conservative Southern Baptist, so much so that I am of traditional Baptist stock theologically. This means that I am Reformed/Calvinist. Therefore, I believe that Scripture teaches no “libertarian free will”(this has nothing to do with politics; only a theological distinction.)

    I believe that Man’s will is in bondage and can only choose what is counter to God unless it is God who calls him and frees his will to choose Christ and His Will. Nevertheless, I am a Christian libertarian.

    In liberty and in Christ,
    Daryl
    I am so because I believe in the Reformation concept of “freedom of conscience.” I would substitute this concept where you have noted Man’s “free will” and I think you would find much more of a philosophically consistent and rich heritage. Luther called for it; so did Calvin. Later on…it was Puritan influence on our Founding that gave it the concept hold in early America.

    So while I would not call it “free will” I would say man has a right to “freedom of conscience” for only Christ can change the hearts of Men–no man-made force (such as government) can or should.

  • I am also a Conservative Southern Baptist, so much so that I am of traditional Baptist stock theologically. This means that I am Reformed/Calvinist. Therefore, I believe that Scripture teaches no “libertarian free will”(this has nothing to do with politics; only a theological distinction.)

    I believe that Man’s will is in bondage and can only choose what is counter to God unless it is God who calls him and frees his will to choose Christ and His Will. Nevertheless, I am a Christian libertarian.

    In liberty and in Christ,
    Daryl
    I am so because I believe in the Reformation concept of “freedom of conscience.” I would substitute this concept where you have noted Man’s “free will” and I think you would find much more of a philosophically consistent and rich heritage. Luther called for it; so did Calvin. Later on…it was Puritan influence on our Founding that gave it the concept hold in early America.

    So while I would not call it “free will” I would say man has a right to “freedom of conscience” for only Christ can change the hearts of Men–no man-made force (such as government) can or should.

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  • Danielle Shirley

    Daryl, very nice comment. I am a Baptist, a Reformed Baptist, and appreciate your distinction of free will. I was going to comment and say something very similar, but you put it very well. Thank you! And I am a libertarian too, by the way.

  • Danielle Shirley

    Daryl, very nice comment. I am a Baptist, a Reformed Baptist, and appreciate your distinction of free will. I was going to comment and say something very similar, but you put it very well. Thank you! And I am a libertarian too, by the way.

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  • Guest

    Oh please, this is just so wrong. OK so government should stay out people's lives? Except when “the person’s behavior would violate another’s negative rights”. There are a lot of exceptions, aren't there? That's because this view is completely impractical! So let's give people free reign like this and the strong will exploit the weak, child labor will become pervasive, the sky will be black and the water even more polluted than it already is. The role of government is not to “obligate” people, it's to help us in creating a society where we can all live together and help one another. Man is not an island.

  • The worst cases of the strong exploiting the weak occur under the most intrusive governments. There’s nothing wrong with children working, so long as it doesn’t reach the point of abuse — and let us remember that child labor was over 95% abolished by the market before the government reached in and passed a law against it in the 1930’s to take credit as government for what freedom had already done. If you want to find the most polluted nations on earth, look at the Soviet Union, where government was ostensibly out to protect people. Libertarianism does not hold that man is an island; only that a world where we all “live together and help one another” is better achieved under conditions where far less institutionalized violence occurs. The role of government is most definitely to “obligate people”: there are thousands of institutions out there, and the fundamental difference between them and government is that government claims the right to use physical force to make everyone do what it wants. Let’s not pretend government is merely an enlightened force handing out helpful suggestions.

  • George Demarse

    This article is ludicrous. It is not possible for a Christian to hold simultaneously that Government should not help the poor, the homeless, the elderly because it should be “limited” (whatever that means) and also act on Biblical principles such as “treat thy neighbor as thyself;” “give away your money and walk with Jesus;” “you are commanded to help the poor;” etc., etc.  Libertarianism is just an excuse for Christians to maintain an attitue of “I’ve got mine–screw you.”

    A Libertarian could argue, however, that individual “charity” is the only true way mandated to help anybody in this world–the only thing the Bible commands. We all know this is bologna. Individual charity, which is voluntary, barely puts a dent in global poverty, needed global health care or homelessness. It does not significantly alleviate the problems. It hardly reaches the Biblical mandate to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  

    George DeMarse
    The Sage of Wake Forest
       

  • George  I dont read what your reading into this …if you think  the right V.S left  arguments are working …well you should not complain about the Gov. or who is controlling the white house  everything will stay the way it is …learn not to complain… your suburban lifestyle  and your cubical at work has gotten to your Brain . stop drinking a pot of coffee in the morning  and eating yourself into larger pants every yr. and just say i am getting old ..  you may be watching fox news ..turn it off.  its killing you.  dont go to CNN or the others either there just a dumb.

  • how about lets go back to constitution …many dont know how far we drifted from it.

  • you almost sound like a JW   legalistic  or how about Pharisee

  •  Baptise traditions  is the reason the Baptise church is  becoming the modern day Pharisee church  ,  I attended southern baptise church for over 10 yrs ….there building Program of a bigger build and the 501c3 status is killing the church  , for they can not tell the truth and its causing the churches to become Pharisee driven  and rather sicking ,  it is all about program and little about real truth …the modern day church is in REAL TROUBLE…saying that I still think a person should not forsake them self and there family from attending one of those  church buildings ..Christ is the head of the church even though  Pharisees and sadducees run most of them in America

  • Jon Dykstra

    On the issue of gay “marriage” you are allowing your libertarianism to trump your Christianity. As libertarians we might think this is a question of rights and freedoms. But as Christians we should understand the question is not whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry, but rather, is it within the government’s power to redefine an institution made by God? When the proper question is asked, the proper answer is obvious.

  • Jon: Who exactly are you responding to here? The “official” position of LCC is outlined in the following article: http://libertarianchristians.com/2010/07/05/gay-rights-marriage-and-government-intervention/

  • Scott H

    Norman, thanks so much for your site. As a fellow libertarian christian, I live out the daily struggle of trying to lovingly point out the paradox / immorality of federally mandated charity to my friends on the left, as well as the absurdity of ‘anti-sin’ laws and aggression-based foreign policies to my friends on the right. Your articles are a great asset! Be blessed…

  • Thanks so much, Scott!