Libertarianism is a baseline moral belief that if we can agree not to initiate violence against each other, we can prosper even when we differ on different core values.
DR. NORMAN HORN
Libertarian Christian Institute
Christians and churches historically have taken one of three views of the state:
The church as an ally to the state. The church sees its goals as parallel with the state itself, joined at the hip. Official “state-sanctioned” churches essentially behave as such.
The church as subservient to the state. Churches view the state as a superior entity to the church, whose interests are even more critical to the world than the church itself. This is the most common view in American churches today, though it is often not admitted.
The church as separate and distinct from the state. The church looks at the state from a different lens, one of suspicion of its power and deeply held antipathy. This view, with many sub-facets, predominantly describes the Christian libertarian position.
Libertarians believe that the state is generally threatening, and its powers and size should be reduced as much as possible. Personal and economic interactions should be voluntary, not predicated on force. People should “live and let live.” Conflicts can be resolved through rational means, not through threats and chest-beating about who might make it right.
The libertarian philosophy is that aggression, defined as the initiation of physical violence or fraud, is uncivilized and impermissible. This is typically called the non-aggression principle. It combines property rights and self-ownership to form the bedrock of how libertarians work out problems in the political economy.
Libertarian principles comport with and even elaborate upon a Biblical understanding of the human condition and the state. Christians believe that humankind is generally sinful, that everyone is a sinner (Rom. 3:23), and that political power put in men’s hands corrupts character and denotes a lack of faith in God (1 Sam. 8).
Christians don’t follow the “ways of the world” where people seek to “lord over others” (Mat. 20:25) but seek instead to serve – in both altruistic and economical ways. Violence as the end-all for disputes is merely unthinkable for the Christian, who is to love his enemies, pray for them, even walk the extra mile.
Christian libertarians argue that the Kingdom of God, according to scripture, is antithetical to the state. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible says that the state is formed in rebellion against God and is destined for destruction. Its origin is the Tower of Babel, where the people aspired to take the place of God. We learn from 1 Samuel that God’s people were never intended to have a king other than God. The prophets consistently opposed the abuse of power the kings of Israel regularly practiced – even the “good kings” did terrible things.
Jesus rejects the offer of power from Satan with the clear message that the earth’s kingdoms were part of Satan’s domain (Mat. 5). We understand that Romans 13 submission is qualified and prudential, meant to enable Christians to focus on their primary goal – the gospel’s proclamation. That submission does not imply the glorification of or participation in an institution that maintains itself through violence.
Finally, Revelation declares that Babylon – the archetype for the state that connects with Babel – is the enemy of God that will ultimately be defeated. Christians are to “come out of her” rather than allying themselves with Babylon (Revelation 18:4).
Libertarianism is a political philosophy neither of the right nor the left. Instead, it focuses on fundamental principles that promote free minds, free markets, and free religion.
The libertarian political philosophy grew out of an appreciation for natural law. Those ethics can also be understood through the Bible. Combining the self-evident natural revelation with God’s special revelation presents a solid case against the institutionalized aggression that is the state. Libertarianism is the most consistent expression of Christian political thought and completely out-argues other ways of considering Christian political involvement.
Socialism is predicated on state ownership of the means of production, outlawing private ownership of capital. As such, the Christian should not look fondly upon such tacit control of resources by a centralized authority. Some may object that the early Christians practiced a pseudo-socialistic order, sharing what they had together. Still, even that was voluntary and cannot be extended to a broader social order, either theologically or practically. Private property is the basis of continued prosperity, and socialism circumvents the market from operating effectively.
Even if libertarians are starkly against socialism, that does not immediately put them in the right-wing conservative camp. Conservatism and libertarianism do have some touchpoints, but conservatism still relies upon a robust centralized authority to preserve its social order preferences.
Libertarians recognize how indebted we are to our past forebears while still appreciating the need to change. Those changes, though, must be in the direction of liberty, not centralized control. One’s preferences for certain kinds of culture or behaviors do not give one the right to dictate others’ activities with the threat of force.
If libertarians are not conservatives and embrace change, does that make them left-wing progressives? Not exactly. Embracing progress is often essential, but not all changes are good progress. When progressives suggest that capitalism should be eliminated, the libertarian responds that capitalism is the outgrowth of private property and personal liberty.
Eliminating capitalism requires the destruction of individual freedom. Like most progressive social reform goals, such a plan is regressive and would move us back into tyranny. Instead of enforcing reforms through the state, libertarians suggest that voluntary action and persuasion are how we can accomplish social goals peacefully.
In conclusion, libertarianism is a political philosophy neither of the right nor the left. Instead, it focuses on fundamental principles that promote free minds, free markets, and free religion. It is a baseline moral belief that if we can agree not to initiate violence against each other, we can prosper even when we differ on different core values. Especially to the Christian, liberty, and faith are not merely compatible – they are inseparable.
Rev. Edmund Opitz once wrote “Liberty rests upon the belief that all proper authority for man’s relationships with his fellow men comes from a source higher than man – from the Creator. … Each person has a relation to his Maker with which no other person, not even the ruler, has any right to interfere.”
The Christian worldview introduced to the world that natural law provides an absolute rather than relative standard – that the whims of men are subject to a higher power, a transcendent ideal. Libertarianism takes this position seriously and stands against all those who would claim political power over others. The state is not the Kingdom of God, and it never will be.
DR. NORMAN HORN
Libertarian Christian Institute
Founder of the Libertarian Christian Institute, the premier website exploring libertarian theory from a Christian point of view, and the main organizer of the Christians for Liberty Conference.
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