Last week at the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, D.C., Elise Amyx of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics (TIFWE) organized a panel on libertarianism and Christianity. Astoundingly, this session was even covered by the Christian Post. The Acton Institute also posted about the event. I had the distinct pleasure of being at the ISFLC and this discussion.
The panelists presented five excellent reasons why libertarianism and Christianity are compatible.
1. Christianity celebrates voluntary action and creating value. Quoting the Christian Post:
Jacqueline Otto Isaacs, a blogger at Values & Capitalism, explained that the Christian worldview also supports libertarianism. ‘The message of the Gospel, the good news, is that salvation from our sins is offered through Christ — this salvation is voluntary and individual, and this is the core message of Christianity, Isaacs declared.
2. Big Government does not solve poverty. The panelists explained that even neglecting that governments must steal resources in order to be “charitable,” free markets are still the best way to solve the problem of poverty.
3. The Biblical role of government is very limited. They cited 1 Samuel 7 as an example of what happens when government gets out of control. Additionally, the Christian Post said:
[Jason] Hughey then pointed to the gospel of Mark, where Christ describes what it means to serve others. ‘I think it’s very interesting that the model of service that Christ points to for the church is stated in direct contrast to the way the political authorities rule and lord it over others,’ the speaker declared.
4. The Welfare State Harms Christian Charity. The Acton Institute noted:
The panelists argued that the Christian model of charity is personal, and when the government steps in, that personal link between people is broken. Government redistribution of goods also enhances the feeling of entitlement, which Christianity downplays.
5. Wealth Is Not Inherently Sinful. Panelist Leah Hughey suggested that there are many commendable wealthy individuals in the Bible, commendable not because of their wealth but because of their character. Even Jesus was not interested in attacking the rich, but delving to the deepest heart issues that every human faces.
Each point they made was excellent, but I think there are quite a few very important reasons that they did not cover. Granted, limited time means limited discussion options, but tomorrow I will post five additional reasons Christianity and libertarianism go hand in hand. In the meantime, what do you think? What reasons do you give to your fellow Christians for why Christianity and libertarianism work together? Let us know in the comments.
Finally, my compliments to Jason and Leah Hughey, Jacqueline Isaacs (of the Values and Capitalism blog), Elise Amyx, and Taylor Barkley for a great panel discussion.
Here are 5 more reasons of my own you can be confident that libertarianism is the most consistent expression of Christian political thought.
1. Christianity affirms the libertarian emphasis on private property. The libertarian theory of private property rights is perhaps libertarianism’s most distinguishing feature. Although you cannot find an explicit Biblical narrative that explains such a theory in full, you can find example after example of how private property and self-ownership are central to the kind of world God intended. Even the classic objection of “holding things in common” in the book of Acts assumes private ownership and a voluntary contribution of that property.
2. The God of the Bible consistently sides with those who are oppressed by government. The people of Israel were slaves, called “the least of all peoples”, and yet God specifically chose to rescue them and make them into a blessing for all men. A major narrative of all of Scripture is that it is good news for the least of these, and especially for those oppressed and downtrodden by those in power.
3. The Bible, from beginning to end, depicts the State as an enemy of God and vehicle of evil. The Tower of Babel narrative is our theological origin of the state, Jesus Christ is tempted with power that comes from it, and its final destiny is depicted in Revelation. Nowhere in the Bible is statism and institutionalized aggression given approval.
4. Christianity proclaims that all men are equally bound to the moral law. Everyone is accountable to it in the same way, and no one gets a special pass because they wear a uniform or have the privilege of being called “The Honorable” or “King” or “President” before stating their name. If anything, those with power are judged more strictly, and God does not take “I did evil so I could do good” for an answer.
5. Christianity recognizes that you cannot make people moral through the institutionalization of force. As Ron Paul has said, “The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous… God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.” The Christian way of life is not wielding power over others so they conform, but rather displaying even greater power through service that shows God’s love. We call that wielding power under and we believe this is the way God himself works with us.
In conclusion, consider these words from Jacques Ellul:
But why freedom? If we accept that God is love, and that it is human beings who are to respond to this love, the explanation is simple. Love cannot be forced, ordered, or made obligatory. It is necessarily free. If God liberates, it is because he expects and hopes that we will come to know him and love him. He cannot lead us to do so by terrorizing us.
So, can a Christian be a libertarian? Of course! Libertarianism is, in fact, the best political position a Christian can take. Christian libertarianism is not about voting just the right way or explaining every jot of public policy, but rather about fundamentally changing our view of power and the institutions that wield it.