Sep 072009

Some time ago, I was taken to task for suggesting that Christianity and libertarianism were, if not entirely compatible, at least not in opposition:

Left-leaning friends of mine have often asked how, as a Christian, I can approve of selfishness and dislike the concept of sacrifice. Did not Christ sacrifice himself? Did he not say that, if you have two coats, you should give one to the man who has none?

I could embark here upon an exegesis of how I interpret Christian philosophy, but I’m not going to, because it’s not necessary. Even Christ, whose understanding of economics was pretty meagre, never demanded sacrifice without the promise of reward. The right acts and charity he advocated are, in one way, their own reward, because performing them makes us feel good. But he also promised the reward of paradise which, if you believe in such a thing, is a pretty good incentive, no?

It appears I’m not the only person who thinks this. Taxation is in direct contravention of the 7th Commandment. An excellent piece; nowhere does it assume the reader is a Christian or proselytise. I may actually have to write the exegesis on libertarian theology I so tongue-in-cheekly promised Don.

  9 Responses to “Libertarian theology: a prologue”

  1. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”?

    Lots of the things that Christ preached were contrary to the Covenant with the Jews, who are enjoindered to obey not just the Commandments but all of the law. IIRC, it was one of the great theological discussions of early Christianity – whether to be a Christian you had to accept the Jewish law, with Christ acknowledged as the risen Messiah (Peter) – or whether it was entirely separate and the risen Christ freed us from damnation for eating bacon and having uncovered heads (Paul).

    As a libertarian Christian …

    I would note that Christ did not force people to charity, he persuaded – that is an entirely libertarian point of view.

  2. @Surreptitious Evil — quite.

    As another libertarian Christian, I love to tell Socialists: “Jesus said to the rich man ‘take all that you have and give it to the poor’ not ‘my friends and I will take all that you have and give some of it to the poor'”

  3. Amen to that Sconzey,

    As (yet) another libertarian Christian I find it hard to imagine any religion less about personal freedom, and equally as important, the responsibilities that come with it.


    Christ was not interested in telling his followers to follow Judaic law and teachings; he was the fulfillment of them, meaning that if they followed him they would follow the spirit in which they were commanded.

    The bacon (or cloved hoof) rule is an interesting one; to me Chris Rock summed it up some years ago when he theorised on God’s reasoning that maybe it wasn’t the cleverest of ideas eating a poorly cooked animal that had been rolling around in dung for most of its life. Same goes for shelf-fish and the like; Christ’s commentary on this makes it more abundantly clear that its the poison of mans mind that it is the most threatening thing to a persons health, not the stuff they ingest; further power to the elbow of libertarians the land over to stand opposed to all forms of socialised healthcare.

  4. I find it hard to resolve the promises of eternal suffering for those who transgress some pretty arbitrary rules with any kind of libertarian ideal. Surely a ruler-god who uses violence to force one to do his bidding, a bidding which seems mostly concerned with worshipping him, is no better than any other statist?

  5. James,

    To be fair it does all belong to him; as hard as it is to grasp he has given us stewardship of this planet; beyond that if we want to reign with him in eternity he has set very few rules (in fact I believe there is only one: obedience).

    If you want an even shorter answer Heaven is God’s clubhouse; if you don’t like the rules of entry you are welcome to go elsewhere. Sad and I hope you don’t, but thems the rules.

  6. I understand the philosophy fine (I think!). I just don’t see how it is compatible with notions of liberty.

    To take your argument of ‘Put up, or get out’ – there is only liberty if there is a choice. If my choice is to do as I am told – to worship and obey – or to spend eternity in pits of fire then that is not really a choice. How is that different from North Koreans who have to profess undying love for Kim Jong-il or get beaten by thugs?

    At least under an earthly authoritarian regime one can escape through death. Within the Christian mythos one can never escape.

  7. Good post.

    I, as another Christian libertarian, posted on the subject a few months ago, here.


    My perspective is that Christianity does not aim to fit any kind of libertarian ideal. Rather, libertarianism, as a political philosophy, fits the Christian ideal.

  8. James,

    I never said the rules didn’t suck, only that they are God’s alone to make. This is simply not something we can begin to understand as Christians, only that it is the reality we are presented with, and that there is still a very real freedom within it; as YMB says you’ve got Christianity trying to fit the libertarian ideal when it is the other way around.

  9. […] glad I never exerted myself to write that exegesis of libertarian theology I’ve been promising arch-doubter Don Paskini, because somebody called James Redford has […]

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