Archive for Christianity
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.”
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.
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Adam Bradt of the Liberationis Reipublicae Show on the Voluntary Virtues Network about Christianity and libertarianism, and I thought you’d like to hear it.
Also, Anand Venigalla at IndianLibertarians.org deserves a shout-out for suggesting this interview to Adam. Both have recently begun work at their various outlets and I wish them all the best in their efforts.
Introducing Jason Rink of the Foundation for a Free Society! Jason and I have worked together on a variety of projects and I am thrilled to welcome him as a speaker to the Christians for Liberty Conference.
Jason Rink is the award-winning producer and director of the documentary Nullification: The Rightful Remedy, and the author of the biography of former Congressman Ron Paul, Ron Paul: Father of the Tea Party.
He has been a featured speaker on the Nullify Now tour, Students for Liberty regional conferences, and the Voice & Exit conference. He has appeared as a guest on FOX Business Channel’s “America’s Nightly Scoreboard,” the FOX News program “On The Record with Greta Van Susteren,” and “Freedom Watch” with Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Before becoming a libertarian, he was a pastor and church-planter in Cincinnati, OH. Currently, he lives in Austin, TX with his wife of 15 years, Tisa, his 14-year old son, Ethan, and a dog named Rocco.
This guest post is by Rev. Donald Ehrke. He is a Libertarian, a former GOP campaign manager, and ordained minister living in Alexandria, Virginia. Many thanks to Donald for his excellent work! For guest post opportunities, please use the LCC Contact Page.
“You have heard that is was said… But I tell you…” (Matthew 5: 21-22). When reading the New Testament, it is helpful to recall that Jesus was a transformational teacher – people were astounded by what he said and did. The Sermon on the Mount is itself a collection of challenges to assumed beliefs – “You have heard…But I tell you…” An encounter with the Pharisees further demonstrates Jesus’ willingness to confront assumptions. Seeing Jesus eat with Matthew and his friends the Pharisees asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Overhearing the question, Jesus responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9: 11-12). To the modern reader, Jesus’ response is noteworthy but not remarkable. His answer demonstrates God’s desire to call the lost to salvation; the self-assured and self-righteous have (they believe) little need for mercy. This insight offers the foundation of Law and Gospel preaching. Jesus’ words, however, may not be astonishing to today’s Christian because we have grown accustomed to the analogy of Jesus as the “Great Physician.”
In their day, however, the Pharisees would have interpreted Jesus’ words according to Old Testament Law; their education would have alerted them to the meaning of His response. As Old Testament experts the Pharisees would recall Deuteronomy 32: 39, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” While in Capernaum, Jesus had cured people, He had forgiven sins, and now He claimed to be the physician who healed. The Pharisees would have recognized that Jesus was claiming the authority of God.
Christians, naturally, accept God’s authority. We recognize that He – as Creator – has the right to produce or extinguish life; God may grant or withhold healing according to His will. Trusting in His divine will, we both offer God our prayers and accept His response. Jesus remains the Great Physician.
Mankind, nevertheless, often seeks to usurp God’s authority. The first sin, in fact, was premised on the pledge that eating the forbidden fruit one would make one “like God” (Genesis 3: 5). Mankind’s desire to be God was acted upon again when Cain killed Abel – man demonstrated that he, like God, could end life. In truth, the Old Testament has many examples of mankind trying to be a god – the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, the construction of the Golden Calf – are only a few instances of man’s proud attempts to usurp God’s authority.
Today, cults may best represent mankind’s attempt to be a god. Rather than preaching of freedom from sin and salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, cults teach control. Cults must control believers to seize godlike authority. Cult members have exclusive, intimate relationships with one another because, they are told, these are the only people one can trust. In this manner, members become isolated and dependent upon the cult. Cult members are commanded to rely on the cult’s leader, even when he or she isn’t personally obeying cult rules. More, charismatic leaders develop a “cult of personality” and twist God’s word to encourage it. Leaders brainwash cult members into supposing that the cult is unique and that it possesses a special, elite mission. The individuality of cult members is crushed, their wealth stolen, and their thoughts controlled all to the glory of the group and its leadership. Loyalty is not requested, it is demanded.
Christians should be cognizant of any human attempt to steal God’s authority. We must challenge – as Christ did – those who twist God’s word in order to promote themselves. We have been warned that these “anti-Christs” would appear in the church (2 Thessalonians 2: 4, 1 John 2: 18) and we should assume that many have emerged.
Likewise, the secular world owns its version of the cult and its presence deserves our attention and challenge. Statists share the goal of cultists – control. Statists and cultists create dependency. Statists and cultists promote “group think” and demonize non-conformists. Statists and cultists glorify their leaders. Statists and cultists preach exceptionalism. Statists and cultists employ intimidation to extract obedience. The tactics employed by statists and cultists so closely resemble one another that they are often indistinguishable.
Statists also seek to usurp the authority of God by mirroring His attributes. God is omniscient; the statist supports state surveillance – they must know what we’re reading, writing, or speaking. God is omnipresent; the statist wants to enter our home to tell us what light bulb to use and into our schools to tell us what to serve for lunch. God is beneficent; the statist wants all good things to come from the state (healthcare, welfare, jobs, etc.). God is omnipotent; the statist desires unlimited central authority. God is sovereign; the statist wishes to commit aggression against his fellow man. The statist wishes that the state, not God, was our refuge.
Occasionally people will ask whether a Christian can be libertarian. They may question whether a Christian can place his or her Bible on their library bookshelf next to “Atlas Shrugged” (see The Soul of Atlas for more on that). Fellow Christians attempt to discern whether free markets and free thinking are inherently incompatible with Christian theology.
An alternate question is to ask whether a Christian could be anything but libertarian. This response will be received as conceited and close-minded, so one would not normally apply it. Nevertheless, freedom and Christianity are undeniably connected. We are uniquely positioned to understand how limits to Christian freedom and God’s authority to liberate us from sin are threatened by cultist thinking. Christians know what an “anti-Christ” looks like – we can detect counterfeit saviors.
Our unique position also affords us the opportunity to better detect statist philosophy and activity. While many citizens unwittingly support statist schemes under the guise of “progressivism” or “conservatism” the libertarian Christian recognizes counterfeit liberty when he or she sees it.
Jesus preached a transformational message that challenged Pharisaical authority. He challenged – at great risk – the presumptions of mankind. Libertarian Christians can be encouraged by His example. Both our churches and communities can be transformed. Perhaps we can begin by professing that God is God and that God set man free.