For some time now, I’ve been wanting to write a post about what is wrong with Libertarianism from a Biblical worldview.
First of all, it would be helpful for you to see visually, a basic graph revealing the current political spectrum.
Most Christians who call themselves “Christian Libertarians” don’t really know much about the roots or true ideology of the Libertarian political philosophy. They like the idea of small government, reduced taxes, gun rights, property rights and a free-market economy. So far, so good. I’m right there with them.
The problem is in the inherent presuppositions embedded within the Libertarian worldview. One of the foundational beliefs of Libertarianism is the idea that “Anyone should be allowed to do anything they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” Ever heard that? That is a Libertarian conception of Freedom and Liberty. That is NOT, however, a Christian view of Liberty and Freedom. That is a view of moral bondage.
For example, Thomas Jefferson said:
“A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.“ Thomas Jefferson (1801)“
“It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.” Henry George
The Biblical definition of the role of government is found in 1 Peter 2:13-14:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. “
The civil government, according to Scripture is supposed to “punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right.” How do you determine what is right or wrong in a certain society or civilization?
You really only have a few options:
This is where Libertarianism falls short. Ayn Rand and other Libertarians have tried to create a moral order called Objectivism. It teaches that you can have a moral law, without a Moral Law-Giver (i.e. God). Libertarianism and Objectivism (concepts that are joined at the hip) are both deeply rooted in Secular Humanism and the Epistemology of human reason alone being sufficient to determine Ethics.
Despite their protests to the contrary, a pure Libertarian can never truly say that anything is Objectively right or wrong.
This is why Ron Paul (whose worldview is Libertarian) will not say that homosexuality is a sin:
Any political philosophy that does not begin with Theism (a belief in a personal God) as THE FOUNDATION of all Law, will end up eventually in the ditches of Totalitarianism or Anarchy. It is important to view the political spectrum depicted above as a circle. Without the restraining influence of Biblical morality in our culture, Libertarianism quickly turns into Anarchy, which then quickly leads all the way back to Totalitarianism. Anarchy is not sustainable for any society, and only order and structural rule can hold it together.
There are only two forces that can keep a society from plunging itself off into the abyss of Egoistic Hedonism (the ethical theory — promoted by Libertarianism — that achieving one’s own happiness is the proper goal of all conduct) and Anarchy:
The Christian concept is NOT Libertarianism (nor is it Theocracy). The Christian concept is Individual Self-Government. You may say, “But that sounds like what Libertarians want! The ability to govern themselves.” Yes, but the difference is, they have cut off the source of all Objective Moral Ethics (i.e. God).
There is a quote that is often attributed to James Madison (and equally disputed), that I think sums up this idea quite well:
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”
In the Libertarian view, Abortion, Drugs, Prostitution, Illicit Sex (including Homosexuality), Pornography and Suicide are all morally acceptable. They have, within their Epistemological system, no mechanism for denouncing these actions. A culture who embraces these things will NOT last long. These are the steps to Anarchy (and ultimately to Tyranny, the very thing Libertarians are hoping to escape!).
The only real solution is that people’s hearts must be changed, by the Holy Spirit, through the hearing of the Word of God as it is faithfully proclaimed by the True Confessing Church. Yes, people should be given political freedom and liberty, but without Ethics that are based in the Fear of the Lord, that “freedom” will quickly dissolve into Anarchy and Hedonism (as we are observing in rampant expansion in our culture).
Libertarianism cannot provide the Utopian dream of the good life because it is disconnected from the only source of all Good, which is God alone. Libertarianism (which is not rooted in Christian thought, but rather in the anti-Christian Enlightenment) could only work for a Christian society, that is guided by the Fear of the Lord. That is not our current cultural situation.
Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.
Letter from John Adams to Zabdiel Adams (21 June 1776)
“(W)e have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.“ — John Adams, (11 October 1798)
As Bible-believing Christians, we will agree with classical Libertarians incidentally, or coincidentally, but we do not do so epistemologically. We run on parallel tracks, but we have neither the same starting point, nor the same final destination in terms of our goals. We both want liberty, but for vastly different reasons.
“Both Libertarians and Christians seek liberty but liberty is inextricably joined with law. Libertarians are not enamored with law.” — Al Cronkite
As Christians, we need do not abandon God’s law, but instead we seek to have it written on our hearts.
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16, ESV)
My goal here is not to tell you which political candidates to vote for (or not to vote for). I am also not directing these statements toward any particular political candidate(s), but rather at the entire philosophy as a whole. My goal is to help you to understand these issues from a Biblical Worldview.
Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker. These views are his views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organizations with which he is affiliated.