Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Christian Libertarianism

Jon Rowe has a post about the WorldNutDaily called Antistatism Makes for Strange Bedfellows. He says:

I think the strangest case of antistatist politics—in fact, libertarian politics—making for strange bedfellows is how the Christian Reconstructionists have managed to infiltrate libertarian circles, indeed calling themselves “Christian libertarians.” Like real libertarians, they too want to eliminate today’s big-government.

And he goes on to note that the “christian libertarians” want to replace this big government with, of course, a biblical theocracy. I thought I’d add a little information to this, by way of our old pal Andrew Sandlin (see my previous hammering of him here). Sandlin is a dyed-in-the-wool theocrat who seeks to impose biblical law as the civil and criminal law of the land, but in perhaps the most staggering example of Orwellian doublespeak in history, he calls this “Christian libertarianism”. He laid out his plans in an article entitled The Christian Libertarian Idea. He offers this definition:

What is Christian libertarianism? Christian libertarianism is the view that mature individuals (professing Christians in the church, and all externally obedient men in the state) are permitted maximum freedom under God’s law.

Any similarity to any libertarian idea, living or dead, is purely rhetorical, if not downright delusional. Under libertarian standards, each individual is free to live their life as they see fit as long as they do not impose harm on another person against their will. Under “Christian libertarian” standards, only Christian men are free and they are only free to do what is not forbidden in the bible. Which means, of course, that they are not free at all, they are strictly controlled under pain of death. Sandlin apparently recognizes the difference,as he condemns libertarianism because it “repeats the Original Sin of lust for human autonomy.” We can’t have autonomy. I mean, what’s next? Liberty and justice? As Don Knotts might say, best to nip it in the bud. But despite this stark difference between libertarianism and “Christian libertarianism”, Sandlin still tries to draw this fanciful connection:

Nevertheless, libertarianism manifests certain distinct features of biblical-Reformed religion, and, when anchored to biblical Faith and shorn of its sinfully autonomous impulses, points toward a fully legitimate orientation to life: maximum freedom under God’s law. Indeed, one may argue that libertarianism is a secularized version of certain critical aspects of the Christian conception of freedom, which sees human authority strictly limited by divine authority as expressed in Holy Scripture.

Yes, one may argue that. But only if one is a blithering idiot. This is Sandlin’s position in a nutshell: if you ignore the whole idea of individual rights and human freedom, the two ideas are almost identical. Which is a bit like saying war is just like peace, just without all the death and destruction and stuff. How on earth does someone write something that unbelievably stupid and still manage to dress themselves in the morning?

And then there’s this little gem. First, he says:

In the sphere of civil authority, it means the state may not impose any law not expressed in or deduced from Scripture. It means no warrant exists for the state’s regulation of the economy (beyond the assurance of just weights and measures). It means the state may not tax citizens to furnish education, welfare, or health benefits. Holy Scripture alone marks out civil and criminal laws. It does not create the impression that additional law or regulation is necessary or permissible; indeed, it conveys the opposite impression (Dt. 4:2). Even the judiciary must operate within the bounds of biblical revelation (Dt. 1:13-18). The civil magistrate is bound to enforce the inscripturated law of God apposite to the civil sphere–and nothing beyond…

Thus, the state must punish murder (Ex. 21:12), theft (Ex. 22:1-4), idolatry (Ex. 22:20), and other sins that the Scriptures explicitly requires it to punish. Since we may deduce from Scripture that abortion is murder (see Ex. 21:22, 23), that copyright infringement is theft, and that the public worship of the Earth by New Age advocates is idolatry, the state may suppress these crimes.

But then he howls at how unfairly he is portrayed by his enemies:

It bears mentioning that the charge that Christian reconstructionists and theocrats are intent to gain political power in order to coerce the unbelieving population to accept Christianity is slanderous. In the civil sphere, we want and work for one thing and one thing thing alone: the enforcement of bibical law apposite to the civil sphere, and nothing else. The civil and criminal law of the Bible is punitive. Christianizing society is the role of the family and church, not the role of the state. The state’s role is to maintain public order, which includes the punishment of evildoers (Rom. 13:1-7).

Yeah, see! It’s slanderous to suggest that they want to coerce the unbelieving population to accept Christianity…they only want to stone them to death if they do anything the bible disapproves of. Get it right! Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, where do they get these guys? This bit of insanity should easily qualify Andrew Sandlin for the finals of the Idiot of the Decade competition.

Comments

  1. #1 Brock Sides
    July 30, 2004

    It’s hard to know who’s scarier: the post-millenialist loons who want to establish a theocracy, or the pre-millenialist loons that want Israel to rebuild the Temple and provoke a war in the Middle East so Jesus will come back.

  2. #2 Ken Hall
    July 30, 2004

    I dunno–my vote goes to the guys who want to take over a state, secede, and offer the “rump U.S.” the choice of allowing secession, adopting God’s plan for government as the price of union, or engaging in a nuclear civil war.

    Jesus wept. Again.

  3. #3 Brock Sides
    July 31, 2004

    There’s something positive to be said for the Christian secessionists: if they all move to one state and secede, the rest of us won’t have to deal with them.

    They can have Alabama!

  4. #4 Jim Flannery
    July 31, 2004

    Since we may deduce from Scripture that abortion is murder (see Ex. 21:22, 23)

    Oh really? That’s the warrant for opposing abortion? Heck, let’s take a look at it …

    22. When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24. eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25. burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

    What do we learn from this? Well, leaving aside the problem of this only applying to injuries to innocent bystanders, causing a miscarriage is not “harm”, unless one of the listed injuries “follows”; even stretching the point to apply any of this to intentional abortion, at best this may be an institution of malpractice — the loss of the child only rates an indemnity, set by the husband. This the best they can do?

  5. #5 Bill Ware
    July 31, 2004

    “The state’s role is to maintain public order, which includes the punishment of evildoers (Rom. 13:1-7).”

    Hmmm “evildoers” It’s that a term President Bush uses occationally?
    B

  6. #6 Tim B.
    July 31, 2004

    Although I think there is a deep and subtle mystery behind the life of Jesus, the fact of evolution rationally undercuts the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, Original Sin, Redemption, Blood Atonement, and Salvation. I hope there is something still left over, but one must face what facts are in front of one.

    In Orwell’s 1984, the hero was compelled to acquiesce in 2+2 being 5. For reasons of compassion (as well as the overall health and security of society) rather than tyranny, shouldn’t those whose theocracies reject evolution — who reject that 2+2=4 — be examined by a sanity custody court…starting, perhaps, with Bush?

    [In case it's not clear, this post was written with tongue slightly in cheek.]

  7. #7 Brent
    August 1, 2004

    I believe that Vox Day/Theodore Beale (please see my blog here and here for the connection between the two names) also bills himself as a “Christian Libertarian” and makes loud claims that the two are not incompatible.

    I think it sounds analogously like a hot steaming pile of turds on top of a delicious slice of mom’s libertarian apple pie – but that’s just me. I’m kooky that way.

  8. #8 Ed Brayton
    August 1, 2004

    Brent-

    I should have added that there really ARE “Christian libertarians” around, I know several of them. But they are Christian AND libertarian, in the correct sense of the word. I don’t know which Vox Day might be, but I suspect he may be of the Andrew Sandlin (un)libertarian variety.

  9. #9 Marty
    August 2, 2004

    As an arm-chair libertarian, i’ve always thought it plainly obvious that IF the ideal of libertarian freedom could be realized, people would naturally and of their own accord gravitate into theocratic communities. How else are you gonna fight off the savage anarchists?

    And from my arm-chair libertarian perspective, theres not a thing wrong with that, and nothing libertarians could do to prevent it, without betraying thier own idealistic freedoms.

    Just one more reason i’m only an arm-chair libertarian…

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    August 2, 2004

    As an arm-chair libertarian, i’ve always thought it plainly obvious that IF the ideal of libertarian freedom could be realized, people would naturally and of their own accord gravitate into theocratic communities. How else are you gonna fight off the savage anarchists?

    I’m afraid I don’t see how one leads to the other unless you have a very different idea of what a realization of libertarian freedom would look like than I do. The libertarian position is that the role of government and the legal system is to protect individuals from one another. Why would you need to “fight off the savage anarchists”? If they were being savage and violating the rights of others by stealing their property or harming them against their will, the law will step in as it is designed to do.

    And from my arm-chair libertarian perspective, theres not a thing wrong with that, and nothing libertarians could do to prevent it, without betraying thier own idealistic freedoms.

    I suspect you are beating up a straw man here rather than responding to actual libertarian positions.

  11. #11 Jon Rowe
    August 2, 2004

    Actually, there is a point of relevance that could be drawn from Marty’s comments: Not all libertarians are the same. There is a reason why the Reconstructionists have allied themselves with the Rothbardians, as opposed to modern day Lockeans or Randians. The Rothbardians are true anarchists; they don’t believe that the state has ANY role to play. Without a state to protect our rights, a group like the Reconstructionists, or any savage group — perhaps a radical egalitarian leftist group (and I’ll write about this on my blog; those left-anarchist who protest all of those international activities are likewise interested in this) would thus be free to seize power.

    On the other hand if the state exists to protect our rights — including property rights that the left-anarchists want to do away with and liberty rights that Reconstructionists want to do away with — this wouldn’t be able to occur.

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    August 2, 2004

    Actually, there is a point of relevance that could be drawn from Marty’s comments: Not all libertarians are the same. There is a reason why the Reconstructionists have allied themselves with the Rothbardians, as opposed to modern day Lockeans or Randians. The Rothbardians are true anarchists; they don’t believe that the state has ANY role to play. Without a state to protect our rights, a group like the Reconstructionists, or any savage group — perhaps a radical egalitarian leftist group (and I’ll write about this on my blog; those left-anarchist who protest all of those international activities are likewise interested in this) would thus be free to seize power.

    Yes, Jon, this is pretty much what I thought. It seems that Marty is taking the most extreme and ridiculous thing that calls itself “libertarian” and substituting it for mainstream libertarian thinking as if it was “the” libertarian view. But I think mainstream, moderate libertarians like me are more opposed to the Rothbardian view than I am to most non-libertarian views. I don’t consider it within the domain of libertarian views at all, as it would result in the opposite of a world in which freedom is respected and defended. It would, rather, result in a world in which the strongest can run roughshod over the rights of the weakest. That is the antithesis of a libertarian world.

  13. #13 Liz Ditz
    August 3, 2004

    Hi Ed, I am glad you are keeping an eye on the Reconstructionists. I don’t know if a takeover could actually happen in the United States (as opposed to say Afghanistan)–the messiness of real political life seems to get in the way. See the mid-1990s CR efforts here and there to take over school boards, and the current failure to get Southern Baptists to secede from public or secular schools.

  14. #14 Ruidh
    August 4, 2004

    Then there’s the ritual abortion described in Numbers for use when a husband suspects his wife’s child isn’t his. Numbers 5:11-31.

    Those who think that Scripture forbids abortion are only seeing there what they’ve been told to see there.

    In Genesis, it says that life begins when breathing begins (see Genesis 2:7) which is remarkably consistant with our viability standard from Roe v. Wade when you recall that the last parts of the fetus to develop are the lungs.

  15. #15 Mark D. Fulwiler
    August 5, 2004

    Actually, Murray Rothbard’s view was that private defense agencies would be better at protecting people’s rights than the state, which he considered a criminal band.

    Actually, Christian Reconstructionists would not exactly be “free” to seize power in Rothbard’s anarchist society. They would likely meet up with a number of gun owning libertarians who would put a few plugs of lead into their heads, myself included.

  16. #16 Mike
    August 6, 2004

    Ruidh sounds like a fundamentalist.

  17. #17 Ed Brayton
    August 6, 2004

    Ruidh sounds like a fundamentalist.

    If you think Ruidh sounds like a fundamentalist, you either have a really bizarre definition of fundamentalist, or your reading comprehension skills need serious work.

  18. #18 Nathan DeFalco
    January 13, 2007

    This has to be the one of the worst article reviews I have ever read. Ed Brayton is showing his intellectual superiority by responding to Sadlin how? By responding with character attacks. How unoriginal. Why is Sandlin wrong? Because he’s a blithering idiot. Give me a break.

    Hey Brayton- either start learning to understand the Christian worldview holistically or give up trying to write on it because this review makes it obvious that your presuppositions have clouded any chance at a thorough analysis of the Christian worldview.

    Here is what Sandlin actually said about whether or not the state can force Christianity on society:

    “At the root of Christian libertarianism is the biblical conviction that God grants men the freedom (never the permission) to sin. He reserves to himself the historical and eternal punishment for most sins. He does not vest authority in the hand of man to punish most sins.”

    Isn’t this what non-Christian libertarians want the Christians to admit? Don’t they want them to admit that non-aggressive “sins” should not be open to prosecution by the state? That’s exactly what Sadlin said! It is not the state’s right to judge non-agressive sins, it is God’s right and He will judge when and how He pleases.

    So what if Sadlin gets his motivation to be a libertarian form the Bible? Who cares as long has he advocating similiar policy changes in our country? It’s not like he’s the Pat Robertson type Christian politian who wants to replace a secular state with an enforced Christian one. If you read his article thoroughly you will see plainly that he is advocating a society in which atheist and Christian can live side-by-side without fear of their worldview being condemned by the state.

    I do admit there are some among the reformed Christian crowd that advocate post-millenialism and affirm that it is the Christians’ duty to bring about the kingdom of God through legislation. I am not one of those Christians. I am also not premillenialist. I am actually a-millenialist (if anyone cares to know).

    Post-millenialism has never been and will never be a popular point of view among evangelicals. And I would venture to say that most Christian Libertarians ALSO are not post-millenialist, including Sandlin. So when Sandlin talks about the “law of God” what he is saying is that he doesn’t take natural law by itself. He believes natural law is actually law that comes from the mind of God and is set in place in our reality as the only true law (and we only know this because God revealed this to us in scripture). He is NOT talking about Christians lobbying for the enstatement of specific Old Testament laws that applied only to one country and expired once Christ fulfilled them. (No Sandlin does not explain all of this in his article. He assumes it. He assumes it because his audience are primarily Christians who do not need these things explained to them. This is why, Brayton, you need to do your homework.)

    Those of you who have a chip on your shoulder concerning Christianity better wise up. We need to unite to make America a place where non-aggressive crimes are not prosecuted and where free speech is truly free. Besides, your only chance of seeing some of these narrow-minded evangelicals open up their minds and join the libertarian movement will come from Christian libertarians. Not from secular thinkers who like to bash Christians and call them blithering idiots.

  19. #19 Nathan DeFalco
    January 13, 2007

    I see now, in rereading these responses that you have written that you know their are legitimate Christian Libertarians that (I’m guessing) do not promote theocracy. But, why do you think Sandlin does? Maybe there are other articles of his out there that I’m not aware of that clearly state he is, but in the article in question it is clear to me he is arguing that the atheist and the Christian can live side by side in a free world.

    I honestly think you’re confusing his idea of “law of God that’s strictly defined in scripture” with “Old Testament law that only applied to Israel before the time of Christ”. The former is an epistemological statement- a question of origin. In practice however, an atheist and a Christian can hold the same libertarian principles, even if they have different reasons epistemologically for doing so.

  20. #20 Ed Brayton
    January 13, 2007

    Nathan-

    Give me a break. The notion that anyone who advocates the right of the state to punish, for example, those who engage in “nature worship”, is not a libertarian. Period. And Sandlin does exactly that, as quoted above. Anyone who advocates the enforcement of “Biblical law”, including such things as stoning for homosexuality and premarital sex is not a liberatarian; they are a totalitarian, plain and simple.

  21. #21 Dave S.
    January 13, 2007

    Nathan-

    Give me a break. The notion that anyone who advocates the right of the state to punish, for example, those who engage in “nature worship”, is not a libertarian. Period. And Sandlin does exactly that, as quoted above. Anyone who advocates the enforcement of “Biblical law”, including such things as stoning for homosexuality and premarital sex is not a liberatarian; they are a totalitarian, plain and simple.

    Indeed.

    These guys are “libertarians” like the National Socialists were “socialists”.

    …and Godwins Law is once again fulfilled.

  22. #22 kehrsam
    January 13, 2007

    Nathan said:

    It is not the state’s right to judge non-agressive sins

    And Sandlin was quoted as saying:

    the public worship of the Earth by New Age advocates is idolatry, the state may suppress these crimes.

    Houston, we have a disconnect.

    It is certainly possible to be both a Christian and a libertarian. But there has to be the understanding that liberty is not license, and the state retains the power to police genuine crimes. As blasphemy does not impact the state or its constituents in any way, there is no reason for the state to criminalize it.

    I was on vacation back in August and missed this thread, so a shout out of thanks to Nathan for calling it to my attention.

  23. #23 Ed Brayton
    January 13, 2007

    This is from August 2004, kehrsam. He really dug up an old one. And of course it’s possible to be a Christian libertarian, but it sure as hell isn’t possible to be a Christian reconstructionist libertarian, and that is what Sandlin claims to be.

  24. #24 Nathan DeFalco
    January 13, 2007

    Okay, well, if Sandlin wants to bury himself by saying things like public worship of mother earth should be surpressed by the state, then I join you in burying him. Somehow I missed that quote both in reading Brayton’s article and Sandlin’s! My mistake. My apologies.

    It’s too bad because there is some really good stuff in Sandlin’s article, but if he wants to make the claim that certain Old Testament laws apply to today then he certainly is not a libertarian.

    But, please fellas, don’t mistake guys like him with other reformed Christians who believe in libertarian principles. I believe in the inerrancy of scripture, but I believe the Old Testament laws applied to a specific time and a specific people and were never meant to be universally applied. And you know what? Most Christians believe this.

    So, I’m backpeddling a little but I still feel a lot of hostility toward Christians from the libertarian camp. And I still think Brayton’s review was more of a soapbox than a review. Resorting to character attacks is not logical, it’s not intellectual, and it shows more of your character than it does the person you’re writing about.