Monday, December 30, 2013

Is Libertarianism a Christian Political Philosophy? A Response to Kenneth Gary Talbot

Is libertarianism (or anarchy, or whatever it is you want to call what I am promoting in the short term) a Christian political philosophy?

No, it is not.

Nothing—whether a model for society or a birthday cake—that does not have Jesus Christ at its center is Christian. Only what consciously glorifies Jesus as Son of God, ruler of the world, and giver of life is Christian. When I support “anarchy,” it is only as a strategy for the short term: my long-term goal is theocracy, by which I mean that Jesus will visibly rule the world according to biblical law for centuries—the millennium—before the consummation of all things at the second coming. I believe that during the millennium men will be ruled by God’s Word and law in their hearts, from the individual to the societal level, not from the top down by a putative omniscient, omnipotent state. My advocacy for anarchy and against statism is aimed at Christians who act as though they believe that God’s Kingdom can be brought about by top-down behavior modification by today’s secular powers rather than the heart-first transformation described in Romans 12:1–2.

So I’m not sure why Kenneth Gary Talbot bothered to post his article Libertarianism vs. Theocracy. Isn’t the question of whether libertarianism is a Christian political philosophy a no brainer? After all, many if not most Christians who sympathize with libertarianism have come to do so through the writings of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and other atheists; just as no salt spring can give fresh water, atheist economists and social theorists cannot produce a Christian view of society.

Or is the question irrelevant after all? If liberals, conservatives, and libertarian anarchists are all human, we all share the desire to be as God, determining good and evil for ourselves independent of God’s will. As a sinful human, don’t I think my sins look horrible on others but OK on myself? Perhaps I need to be reminded that I can condone rebellion against God as easily as can my conservative and liberal brethren. So yes, the short answer is a no brainer, but the question is worth asking because I can easily forget that answer.

So let’s look at the question. Talbot seems to be asking it because he objects to secular libertarian sexual ethics.

Humanistic libertarianism … warps its own position too commonly by replacing the power of the state with the power of the individual to be lawless sexually; homosexual freedom has become basic to all too many libertarians.

We theonomic postmillennialists who presently identify ourselves with libertarianism do indeed need to deal with the conflict between the sexual ethics of God’s rule and libertarianism’s lack of aggression against sexual promiscuity.

The question is theological, not economic, sociological, or even political: how will sexual misconduct be dealt with in the millennium, and how do we get there from here? When Christ rules visibly through his people, what will be the legal status of prostitutes, others who engage in heterosexual activity outside of marriage, adulterers, and active homosexuals? Will Christians continue evangelizing them—which includes loving them, serving them, and calling them to leave their lives of sin—as we do gossips and alcoholics? Or is the truth that we have only been “loving such people as fellow sinners” for now because we’re not allowed to kill them, but once our grandchildren acquire sufficient political power, they will execute them? Or is it OK to promise not to use the sword on them and to woo them with the quality of our own lives?

I would suggest the latter, and I see an example of just that taking place in our own time. As I write, the “affordable health care” act is proving to be an embarrassment to all but its most ideological supporters: many who supported it or took a “wait and see” attitude are being unpleasantly surprised by their health insurance costs becoming unaffordable. Meantime Christian health-share organizations like Samaritan Ministries and Christian Care  are seeing membership growth beyond anything they had anticipated. These two groups require their members to be members in good standing of Bible-preaching churches; an official of Samaritan Ministries told me in personal correspondence that it is the Christian character of SM members and even more importantly the element of prayer that makes SM work. In his view others might start organizations with similar structures—SM would be happy to help them do so—but they will be less effective.

What is now happening in health care could be expanded to protection of property, education, transportation, and every other aspect of daily life: Christians “building better mousetraps,” some of which benefit only Christian members, others open to the public, some even to known sexual deviants. I see no reason why those institutions open only to church members in good standing could not be a cut above those open to nonbelievers by virtue of the blessing of God on his covenant with his people.

If we will not be commanded in the millennium to execute sexual deviants—and I think this possibility is worth a serious look—I see nothing that would prevent sexual deviants from starting their own health-share and other organizations. It would then be up to us to build the better organizations that deviants would be willing to give up their deviance to join. Their ability to come to Christ and so qualify to join would be up to God, but I would expect him to be able to work through us better if we were offering to serve them than if we were threatening to kill them.

The only alternative I see is to acknowledge publicly that God hates fags and adulterers implacably, and the proper way to “evangelize” them is to let them know that if we ever gain political power, we will use the omniscient, omnipotent surveillance-police state to pursue them to the ends of the earth and kill them. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but even if top-down, command-and-control, might-makes-right, end-justifies-the-means government hadn’t proven itself much worse than any social evil it supposedly exists to oppose, it seems to me I’ve got enough of my own sins to deal with that I don’t have time to hound others to death for theirs.


  1. I am confused by your description of a millennium that is Christ ruling visibly and then later on you say you are a thenomic postmillennialist. I thought theonomist post-mills believed in Christ ruling now and that his rule, which includes gospel transformation, would lead to a society that is self-governed under God.

    Another confusion for me is why you see "anarchy" as a short-term goal. Isn't gospel influence, being salt and light, the way a theonomist would approach society all the time?

    And why is execution for certain crimes something you seem to avoid? Isn't capitol punishment part of God's law since the beginning of mankind?

    1. Good questions all.

      You're right that I misused the word millennium. I was using it to refer to a future time when it will be said that the nations have been discipled, that Christ is indeed visibly ruling the world through his people. We agree, do we not, that that time is still future?

      You are also right that gospel life is the salt and light that will transform society. My quarrel with conservatism and liberalism is that instead of gospel they offer top-down coercion. "Anarchy" is my term for "I'm not threatening to invade your private life. You can do whatever doesn't violate others' bodies and property. Let me earn a hearing by serving my neighbors well." I don't see the "God hates fags" approach (i.e., considering others' private lives our business) opening doors for us to get out the gospel. Rather, it seems to make those we would like to evangelize dig in their heels.

      I see capital punishment as the last, not the first, expression of "love your neighbor as yourself." I can imagine a Christian protection agency dealing with its members first by stipulating when they join that if they commit murder, they will be stoned to death by the entire community. As it grows in influence, it will be able to deal with other agencies by stipulating that anyone who kills one of its members will be turned over for execution, again by stoning by the whole community. I would expect, e.g., Muslim protection agencies to be amenable to that, so the practice would be widespread, and agencies that refused to turn murderers over would be pushed to the margins. The same could be said for homosexuality and adultery.

      Again, though, we're talking about faithfulness in much following, not preceding, faithfulness in little. If I can't trust the big guns to gain me restitution for theft or auto accidents or sexual assault (while at the same time they extort a day's wages for running stop signs in deserted intersections), I'm not inclined to turn them loose to execute those they deign malefactors.