Archive for freedom
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.”
Two articles came to my attention today that are well worth reading. The first comes from Judge Andrew Napolitano as an Easter reflection called Hope for the Dead. He suggests an intimate connection between the ideal of freedom and rising from the dead:
“When the government takes away our free will, the government steals a gift from God; it violates the natural law; it prevents us from having and utilizing the means to the truth. The moral ability to exercise free will to seek the truth is a natural right that all humans possess, and the government may only morally interfere with the exercise of that right when one affirmatively has given it away by using fraud or force to interfere with the exercise of someone else’s natural rights.
We know from the events 2,000 years ago, which Christians commemorate and celebrate this week, that freedom is the essential means to discover and unite with the truth. And to Christians, the personification, the incarnation, the perfect manifestation of truth is Jesus.”
Read the full article by the Judge here.
The second is by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute and is entitled Jesus Lived in a Police State. He finds many similarities between how the Roman state acted around the time of Christ and how the US government behaves today:
“Just as police states have arisen throughout history, there have also been individuals or groups of individuals who have risen up to challenge the injustices of their age. Nazi Germany had its Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The gulags of the Soviet Union were challenged by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. America had its color-coded system of racial segregation and warmongering called out for what it was, blatant discrimination and profiteering, by Martin Luther King Jr.
And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. Yet for all the accolades poured out upon Jesus, little is said about the harsh realities of the police state in which he lived and its similarities to modern-day America, and yet they are striking.”
Read the full article here. Have any great articles you want to share? Let us know in the comments.
Enjoy this great video from the Foundation for Harmony and Prosperity on the basic social principles of human flourishing. While not explicitly Christian, it is easy to see how it all fits together.
This is a great video to share with friends about why the non-aggression principle is so fundamental to how the world should be.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV 1984):
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming of Christ. He already had done so in chapter 7, speaking of the Christ-child as a sign, born of a virgin. Instead of a sign in chapter 9, however, we see the child coming as a gift of grace.
Some people seem to interpret the next phrase as a kind of theocratic proclamation. On the one hand, such a view is not altogether wrong. Christ is indeed Lord of all, and even now we ought to echo that classic mantra, “No King but King Jesus.” However, the “government [being] on his shoulders” is not some sort of “Jesus takes control of the state” like Atlas bearing the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Rather, the insignia of kingly office at the time of Isaiah was placed on the shoulders, and, thus, declares the kingly nature of the coming Christ-child.
Still, what kind of king is he? What we understand from Jesus saying that his kingdom is “not of this world” should cause us to reinterpret this passage as prophesying the coming of the Kingdom of God itself – God’s active work in the world that he calls us to join. The rest of verses 6 and 7 show the character of that kingdom-work.
The four names he shall be called ought to frame our thinking, since naming in the Bible is intended to be character-driven. All of the names describe Jesus, of course, but I would speculate that the first three could also be interpreted as allusions to the Trinity. “Counselor” names the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26), “Everlasting Father” obviously names the Father, and “Mighty God” intends to reference Jesus. Perhaps “Mighty God” is significant for two reasons. First, it demands accession to Jesus being fully divine yet fully man. Second, it declares the entirety of his work as mighty. Why is it mighty? True power is not found in power over others, but power under. Jesus’ power is displayed through his unconditional love and service. This makes him powerful. “Prince of Peace” further describes his work of reconciliation of God and man, and of course reminds us that our joining his work brings us peace and requires us to be of peace as well.
In the coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God is “at hand” (Mark 1:15), and Isaiah says that his work, bringing peace, shall see no end. The fulfillment of the throne of David is not in a worldwide empire but in a cross that serves the entire world. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the focal point of the Kingdom work and message. Justice is thusly satisfied, and righteousness is thusly displayed, from that time on and forever.
God the Father, the Lord Almighty, is zealous for his Son and works to accomplish everything. The excitement in the words of this proclamation is palpable, and for me always brings to mind the glorious Messiah oratorio of George Frederic Handel. These two verses foreshadow our Savior’s work, and how different it shall be than any of the earthly kings and kingdoms that Isaiah experienced in his day. While those who desire earthly power shall pass away, Jesus’ incredible Kingdom is established “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” (Hebrews 7:16) God has graciously called each one of us into this work, giving us dignity and making us mighty as well, when we live in submissive synergy to his call.
This post is written in honor of my grandmother, Frances Horn.
This essay is by Reverend Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies, and is adapted from a seminar lecture delivered as a member of the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education. It was published in the November 1966 issue of The Freeman. Read more from the Edmund Opitz Archive.
Freedom today has what might be called a good press; everyone speaks well of freedom. It is in the same category as motherhood, Sandy Koufax, and pure water. Nobody will admit that he is "agin" freedom. In modern times there has been a booming market for the Four Freedoms, and for Freedom Now. There is a vocal Free Speech Movement on college campuses. We celebrate freedom of the press and condemn censorship; we cherish religious liberty and hail academic freedom. The mood of our time is favorably disposed toward every freedom except one, and that outcast freedom is Freedom of Economic Enterprise.
Economic freedom suffers attrition from within and attacks from without. Individual businessmen often seek to evade market mandates, and intellectuals do not want people to have complete latitude for their peaceful economic transactions. This is how Professor Milton Friedman views the problem: "It has often seemed to me that the two greatest enemies of the free market are businessmen and intellectuals, for opposite reasons. The businessman is always in favor of free enterprise—for everybody else; he is always opposed to it for himself. The intellectual is quite different; he is always in favor of free enterprise for himself, always opposed to it for everybody else. The businessman wants his special tariff or his special governmental commission to interfere with free enterprise, in the name, of course, of free enterprise. The intellectual, too, wants such commissions to control the rapacious man. But he is against the idea of any interference with his academic freedom, or his freedom to teach what he wants and direct his research as he wants — which is simply free enterprise as applied to him."¹
I wish to focus first on economic freedom and demonstrate that maintaining the integrity of the free market is essential to the preservation of every other liberty. Later I shall deal with some of the things on which the free market depends.