Christianity AND Libertarianism! RE: Bill Muehlenberg

I came across this blog post by a guy name Bill Muehlenberg. I know nothing about Mr. Muehlenberg and have read nothing else that he’s written. I only know this post. But I thought I would rebut. This is yet another opponent to Libertarianism who does not understand Libertarianism. Why do I bother rebutting them? Because hopefully by setting the record straight, I can help those” the fence make a more informed decision, potentially convince some to be libertarians, and maybe even convince a guy like Murhlenberg. At the very least, I hope to help him refine his arguments into something more relevant to the topic at hand. Stylistically, I sort of write this in steam as I read his article.

I initially wasn’t going to go into great length on this. I stopped reading his article in the first paragraph when I read:

I have almost zero tolerance for those so-called Christian libertarians who spend all their time trying to justify all those lousy activities”

At that point, I commented:

Respectfully, you do not understand Libertarianism. I must admit, I stopped reading when I read [the above quote]. If this is your definition of Libertarianism, then the rest of your article is not worth reading.

Christian Libertarianism is not about justifying sin. It is about opposing the sin of using violence to make people stop sinning. How do you justify this lousy activity?

Indeed that is the entire issue if this debate. Theonomists and Christian statists alike accuse Christian libertarians of having a low regard for God’s law. We are called worldly, humanist, and antinomian. But that is not even remotely the case.

We have a such a high view of God’s law and his standards for conduct that we consult his word on questions of how he would have us to promote his standards. In this way, we believe we have a higher view of God’s law than the theonomists!

We insist that violence is a violation of God’s standard, and that violating God’s standard in order to uphold God’s standard is illogical, immoral, and counterproductive.

Unfortunately, I may have played right into his hand, as he later describes people like me as being “as belligerent, ornery, argumentative and troll-like as many angry atheists or homosexuals.” So I suppose perhaps a more full and reasoned rebuttal is in order here.

To be fair, the full context of the above quote is such:

But let me say that just as I have almost zero tolerance for a whole range of perverse, immoral and unrighteous activities, so I have almost zero tolerance for those so-called Christian libertarians who spend all their time trying to justify all those lousy activities – at least in terms of foolishly claiming that governments should have absolutely no involvement with them, in the sense of prohibiting them, outlawing them, or seeking to constrain them.

He should be applauded for his moral opposition to sinful activity, but he should be confronted on his inconsistency in supporting the use of violence, a sinful activity, to oppose them.

He goes on to say:

I think this is sheer bunk, and I cannot in the slightest go along with it. Indeed, I think these “Christian” libertarians are fundamentally wrong. […] I have debated them for decades now and have found two main outcomes when they are heavily challenged. One is this: when I keep pointing out how inconsistent their libertarianism is with basic Christian truths, many of them […] come to see they are not so much Christian libertarians but actually Christians who are conservatives.

They will backtrack and say, ‘no I don’t believe this or that’, demonstrating that they in fact are not really true libertarians, but just small-government conservatives, much like I am.

We still haven’t gotten to any substantive arguments of any kind, yet, but I couldn’t resist commenting on this. He is begging a whole host of definitions here, and he has yet to provide any of them. What does he mean by small government conservative? That term is so abused by the media and by politicians all around. Does he mean the vision of the world given to us by Mitt Romney? Mitch McConnell? Then, no, never. If he means Ron Paul, then we can talk. Maybe he is referring to Minarchy here. But he needs to understand that Minarchy (despite the objections of many anarchists) really does fall within the bounds of Liberatarianism. But let’s press on.

[…] there is a second group I have encountered far too often.

When push comes to shove, many of these folks reveal that they in fact prefer to let their secular ideological libertarianism trump their Christianity. Their biblical faith always ends up taking a back-seat to their political ideology. When the two clash, they will side with their libertarianism over biblical truth.

[…]

These folks have a rabid hatred of the state, and thus are also shaking their fists at God, since the State is an institution ordained by God. Sure, as I have said millions of times now, it must be limited and itself constrained, but many of these radical Christian libertarians on the right end up being indistinguishable from radical anarchists on the left.

Oh no, those dangerous anarchists! Gasp! I should probably mention that I’m one of them. What’s so wrong with anarchists? They are radical, and they are leftist! Well 1) what’s so bad about being “radical”? This is as meaningless of a term as “extreme”. Extremely what? Extremely opposed to the status quo of a monstrous government that uses violence to perpetuate its own existence, and wages unceasing and unjust wars overseas and on its own citizens? I really don’t know. Being extreme or radical can only be evaluated as a good or bad thing in comparison to the norm. If the norm is right, extremism is wrong. If the norm is wrong, extremism is right. But to use terms like extreme and radical as contextually void pejoratives seems to indicate a preference for the norm – whatever it may be.

And 2) On the left? This guy apparently does not understand that there is such a thing as Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalism which is not the same thing as the anarchy promoted by the Occupy movement. True libertarians defy the entire left/right spectrum. We don’t fit. We oppose war and social programs. We want lower taxes and spending, and we want an end to drug prohibition. We believe that every man is his own steward, a free standing moral agent who will answer to God for his own choices and the stewardship of his own self and property, and that no other man or group of man has greater ownership or stewardship claim on any man than the man himself. Pragmatically, each man operates in civil society as the owner of himself.

Meuhlenberg’s statement hints at a substantive argument, but it isn’t the argument itself. He claims that being an anarchist requires betraying the Christian worldview but provides no support for that statement. Ostensibly he is very skilled at presenting it, and I would be very interested to see what he’s got, but he hasn’t shown his work just yet. Maybe the rest of his article will enlighten me.

Probably the closest we’ve seen at this point is the following:

the State is an institution ordained by God

This is the first truly substantive claim he has made in the entire article. This common refrain really bothers me – probably as much as anarchists bother Mr. Muehlenberg.

Unfortunately for him, no “the State” was not instituted by God.

Let’s start by defining “the State”. What is a State? A state is a monopoly on the use of force that is created and sustained by the use of force. To support this, I appeal to Samuel’s description of what having a king would be like when the people demanded such (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Has God ordained such an institution? This begs a second definition.

What does it mean to “ordain”? Ordain, in the sense that Muehlenberg uses the term (and most Christian Statists) means that it is God’s prescription in the Bible that every society have an institution like this, and that it would be sin not to have one.

Where in the Bible did God ordain the State? Nowhere I can find – not without reading into the text.

In Genesis 9:6, God instituted a principle of non-violence for human interaction and sanctioned the use of violence in response to violence, but he makes no mention as to who should carry out that justice. The very most we see is that there is a societal need to have someone serve as an avenger.

In Romans 13, God reveals that States often fill that role of avenger. But nowhere in Scripture does he say that this role must be filled by a State, or that the State is even good.

Now Romans 13 does say that the “governing authorities'” authority comes from God and that he is “instituted by God.” This is crystal clear, but what is not so clear is whether this is speaking in general terms about the conceptual idea of a King, or whether this is speaking in specific terms about this specific king (and in every specific king whenever and whenever there is one). We are commanded not to resist, but what does it mean to resist?

I draw on the pattern of Scripture in other places where we are commanded not to repay evil for evil in the preceding verses, from where the Hebrews were commended for willingly suffering the plunder of their goods (Heb 10:34), and from where we are instructed by Christ to “turn the other cheek”. In none of these contexts is the evil we are not repaying, the plundering of goods we are willingly enduring, or the slapping of our cheeks we are voluntarily submitting to being promoted as some good, righteous, and necessary institution that God is “ordaining.” Even the fact that we are promised that we will face persecution in this life, and that God has a purpose for those trials, does not justify those who commit the acts of persecution.

Thus in the absence of any clear exegetical reason not to, I apply the same framework to Romans 13. God has placed this king here for a reason, and he is using him, as he uses all kings, to avenge wrongdoers, but that does not justify the evil acts that he (Nero!) does. We are not to resist in the same sense that we are to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.

Indeed, I believe I have clear exegetical reason to do this, because I believe Romans 13 is a fleshing out of things that Paul says in Romans 12. “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men”… Including the civil magistrate. We see an example of this in David’s refusal to kill Saul in the cave. David’s choice to live at peace with Saul was not to condone his rule. He still lived in opposition to the way Saul was ruling while also having great respect for the man.

“Do not avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Vengeance is mine, I will repay… He is God’s servant for your good, an avenger on those who do wrong.” This sequence contextualizes the punishing role of the magistrate as being directed toward those who harm others. We can debate anarchy or minarchy until we are blue in the face, but we see here a very real restriction on the scope of the magistrate’s power in that he is not to be “a terror to good conduct” (i.e. those who have not harmed another and have no-one seeking vengeance against them). Thus the very most we see is a night watchman concerned only with acts of aggression and coercion directed at a victim.

For our day and age, we must consider the fact that our voting is an act of directing the magistrate how to rule. As such we are in the position is the magistrate from this passage. We should take great care that we are ruling and directing the governing authorities to rule in a way that is just and in accord with God’s law.

This begs a much broader and deeper discussion about how would God have me to rule if I were king, but that is beyond the point I’m trying to make right now. Ultimately, my point is this:

It is possible to discuss the concept of a State, oppose the idea of it, and urge men to oppose it without resisting the specific State that now exists in ways that disobey Romans 13.

It is even possible to disapprove of the sinful rule of the current government without resisting it. I am an anarchist, but I pay my taxes. I urge others to see taxation as theft, but I do pay them in obedience to Romans 13. I am an anarchist, but we do jump through the few hoops necessary to satisfy my state’s requirements so we can homeschool in peace. I am an anarchist, but when I opted out of health insurance, I did so in a way that was an official exception to the law (Samaritan Ministries).

According to Romans 13, it is not our business to rebel against the government. This, however, does not mean that we can’t judge the government, neither does it mean that in a day and age when we are participants in government that we ought not apply our judgments to it.

Oh but have I considered the whole counsel of God? What about Israel? Well, let’s look at Israel. Originally, there was no State in Israel. They were to be a communal society, having their disputes adjudicated by the elders of their town. There was no king originally, and when they demanded one, God told them, through Samuel, that it was a bad idea because of the force that he would use against them. God indeed did have a plan for the King, but that does not mean that Kings are inherently good. Originally, there was no king; there was no police force. Before the king, their national defense was provided by Judges who would raise volunteer militias to oust the invaders. Accusations of dire crimes were adjudicated at Cities of Refuge. This is, in many ways, anarchy.

But let’s continue on.

Let me remind everyone what is really at stake here. We all know – or should know – what the two great commandments are which Jesus made so very clear: love God and love our neighbour. I am convinced that radical libertarians cannot readily keep either command. Loving God fully means agreeing with him about his desire to see righteousness and godliness prevail, not just in individuals, but even in societies.

I’ve added emphasis to highlight the critical sentence from this paragraph. Here he reveals again his underlying misunderstanding of Libertarianism. There are two points to make here. The first is that opposing the use of government force is itself a desire to see righteousness and godliness prevail and not a desire to justify sin, as I’ve already stated.

The second is that a study of History and an understanding of the Biblical view of Human Nature reveals that prohibitions of the kind he advocates are simply not capable of producing the result he desires. See my previous post for a more detailed discussion of this concept. I also summed it up in a Facebook comment recently when I said:

The only force that can avail to bind the sinful impulses of man is the gospel of Jesus Christ. However well intentioned they are, government prohibitions are all doomed to fail in their primary objective simply because of the sin in man’s heart. If the law of Moses could not successfully produce righteousness in Israel, no law among men can possibly improve on it.

Thus, in our quest to promote righteousness, it would seem that our tool of choice should be the gospel and not the sword.

Muedlenberg continues:

There are so many verses which speak to God’s desire to see real justice and righteousness reign even in a fallen world, even on a social and governmental level. As but one representative verse, Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people”.

The Christian duty to be salt and light is not just a privatised affair, but is to include the political and social arenas around us.

Ok, fair enough. Let’s be salt and light and speak truth to power in opposing the violence inherent in the State. They use violence to expropriate money from people through what they call “taxation”. They use force against non-violent individuals who have not done harm to anyone (in violation of the pattern of Genesis 9:6 and the injunction of Romans 13:3). They wage war on other nations that have done no harm to us whatsoever. Need I go on?

And that leads to the second great commandment, loving our neighbour as ourselves. The radical libertarians are ultimately interested only in naked individuals, not the community good.

This is so patently false – this idea that Libertarians are all belligerent Ron Swansons who couldn’t care less about their fellow man. Tom Woods thoroughly debunks this idea in Chapter 17 of his recent book, Real Dissent. In it, he is discussing an Internet meme that arose following the death of Margaret Thatcher. The meme attacked her on the basis of a statement in which she said, “There is no such thing as society.” Their response was to call for large participation in charity and volunteer work in her name as a way of sticking it to her.

Woods says:

Naturally, they interpret her perfectly defensible statement in the most inane and uncharitable way possible. Why, we’ll show her there really is a society, by helping our fellow man!

But that was exactly her point. There is no such thing as an abstract disembodied blob called “society.” All that exists are individuals, and it is up to those individuals – not “society” – to perform the great works of charity and civilization.

Her actual words: “There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend on how each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate”

[…] this is all too typical among progressives [and I might add, Christian Statists], not one moment is expended on trying to understand the people they oppose. They actually seem to think Thatcher meant, “It’s every man 4 himself!! Don’t help anyone!! KEEP ALL UR STUFF FOR URSELF!!!”

Just beneath the surface here, and the source of much “progressive” confusion, is the failure to distinguish between society (a shorthand term for the individuals of whom the polity is composed) and the state. No, we don’t think people should be exploited by guys with guns, even if ten percent of the exploitation is laughingly portrayed as helping the poor. That doesn’t mean we’re “atomistic individuals” who despise mankind. We support society, which is precisely why we oppose the state.

(The above quote comes from “Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the 3×5 Card of Allowable Opinion”, by Tom Woods. Pick up your copy at http://realdissent.com)

What Woods is doing here is challenging the idea that living in society requires a State. Even though he is primarily targeting progressives, this is eminently relevant to our discussion at hand. Meuhlenberg says:

The radical libertarians are ultimately interested only in naked individuals, not the community good.

As Tom pointed out, this is false. We merely draw a distinction between the community and the State and insist that the Community good is better served by individuals than by a State using extortion and violence to supposedly benefit the community.

This whole idea is so laughable. It’s like Meuhlenberg has no room in his brain for the idea that maybe, just maybe, it is because of my care for my fellow man that I don’t want armed thugs to steal his money.

Maybe, just maybe, it is because I care about my neighbors that I don’t want the police to execute a no-knock warrant on their house in the middle of the night, kill their dogs, kill their kids, kidnap them, or steal their property.

It might possibly be that I care about the lives of innocent people in other countries that I don’t want our government committing unprovoked attacks against them.

It is precisely because of my care for my fellow man that I oppose the single greatest source of strife, violence, and damage to society that the world has ever seen: the State, and not just any state: The Federal Government of the United States of America.

I am a Libertarian because I grieve for the Eric Garners, Michael Browns, Tamir Rices, and Aiyana Stanley-Joneses of the world. These are the people who need justice, and this isn’t a race issue. It’s a police state issue. You cannot have a state without a ruling class dominating and subjecting others with violence, and this is wrong.

Loving our neighbour means working to prevent great harm befalling them. And in a fallen world, God has ordained the state to be a part of the process. But the radical libertarians think the state should have nothing to do in so many of these areas: it should just be open slather, with no government interference on things like pornography, prostitution, drug use, and so on.

Please explain to me what great harm befalls who as a result of these activities you have listed. Who is harmed by pornography? I’m not talking about emotional harm, or spiritual harm, or the harm done to self. Who is the victim? Who is the victim of prostitution? Who is the victim of drug use? If you can point to an actual, specific victim and demonstrate exactly the way in which that victim was harmed by actions done to him or her without their consent, then we have a crime on our hands. If not, then these areas are not matters of civil law.

That of course is not loving one’s neighbour. That is an attitude which effectively says, ‘the hell with my neighbour – the only thing that really matters is my own personal freedom and autonomy.’ The social or community good is largely overlooked or treated contemptuously by the radical libertarians who think personal freedom is the greatest good, trumping all other considerations.

Right, because eating with tax collectors and sinners instead of stoning them was really a hateful thing for Jesus to do. I’m sure the woman really wished that Jesus (the only one without sin) had cast that first stone. Society would have been much better off.

I’m sure my neighbor’s earthly and spiritual good would be better served by me going over to his house with a shotgun and telling him to “stop sinning or else” than me going over and serving him, loving him unconditionally, and opening my Bible to show him the gospel.

And don’t tell me you can do both. Just poll the way that Christians are perceived in our culture, and before you reflexively say “oh, well we’re supposed to be persecuted,” have some intellectual honesty and consider the question, “Is this hatred purely motivated by rejection of the Gospel despite our sacrificial love and the holiness we live out before them, or is it because we hire men with guns to harass them? Why do gays want to marry? It’s not because they want to justify their behavior – they already feel justified! It’s because they want that state to stop treating them poorly. (that’s a much more complex discussion than I have space for here.) I have seen, in my lifetime, the use of government force to oppose private sin turn more people off to the gospel than anything else. Violence and the gospel simply do not mix. And the state is violence.

Moving on…

So as I say, I have very little patience indeed for “Christian” libertarians. As just one example of their bizarre mindset, I had one recently actually try to make this case when it comes to drug policy: “Our laws must reflect the Law of God (Matt 5:17-19), not what we think could be harmful if used excessively. Some things are sinful or harmful and should not be legislated against. Hemp is one such substance. Nowhere does God give the civil government the authority to outlaw this substance.”

I was utterly gobsmacked by that one. I hear that sort of sophomoric foolishness from atheists and secularists all the time. Indeed, when I was a heavy drug user in my radical youth, I actually used the same stupid argument: “Like hey man, don’t panic, it’s organic. The Bible nowhere condemns this.”

Indeed, I replied as follows, “The Bible also does not proscribe arsenic, poisons of various descriptions, and a whole range of dangerous substances. For that matter, the Bible does not proscribe Internet porn, IVF for lesbians, or the use of Sarin nerve gas. By your appalling logic, these should also be fully legalised and endorsed and championed by Christians. You are not pushing biblical Christianity here but moonbat libertarianism.”

I do not know the context of this argument he is having. I know nothing about the person he is debating. I do know that Libertarians are sort of a mixed bag right now. People think Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are “Libertarians”, but that does not mean that every argument that can be levied at anything that can be labeled Libertarian is a valid argument against Libertarians, or that Libertarianism is debunked by the bad arguments of those who claim the label but don’t truly adhere to the principle. True Libertarians are interested in exactly one thing when it comes to civil society: The Non-Aggression Principle. This guy seems to oppose the drug war, but his arguments are not the arguments I would make.

Look: it flat out does not matter whether using drugs is a sin. There is no Biblical command for government to outlaw every sinful behavior. None whatsoever. There is only the prescription that those whose sinful behavior harms others be punished in equal measure. The question related to drugs should not be “Is it natural? Is it organic?” It should be “who does this harm?” The answer: Nobody. At least be consistent, please. If we should outlaw drugs, we should return to Alcohol prohibition. You cannot be a consistent person of any stripe and think that those two issues are any different.

Who is harmed by arsenic? It depends on how it’s used. Who is harmed by guns? Outlaw arsenic and guns or outlaw neither.

Who is harmed by internet pornography? Nobody. Like with guns and arsenic, there may be some kinds of harm done in certain circumstances. The marriage covenant is certainly harmed, though not in the typically direct ways of things like assault, theft, murder, and rape. In this particular case, the harm done falls more in contract dispute territory than raw criminal activity. Thus, if there is such a claim, it should be handled in common-law courts, not by State prohibitions. In any case, you still have a similar fact that pornography does not always and directly have this kind of victim. Not everyone who watches porn is married (and not everyone who watches porn will get married one day). Outlaw porn for singles as well as married couples, or outlaw it for none. (I recognize that this may still be preferred to my victim, but they have not demonstrated the victim here.)

Who is harmed by IVF for Lesbians? He said “IVF for Lesbians”, implying, I assume, that he has no objection to IVF for heterosexuals. If so, then he must not be taking the typical Pro-Life stance against IVF. I am sympathetic to such arguments and have formed no conclusive opinion on that matter. But to say “for Lesbians?” If IVF is permissible for Heterosexuals, who is the victim of Lesbian IVF? Nobody. Outlaw it for all, or outlaw it for none. This sort of discrimination is exactly what has the LGBT community so irate, by the way, and I fear that we have seared all compassion to them that we don’t even realize it.

And even more incredibly, I had another person defending this guy, and actually suggesting this: “Perhaps you should try reading some Greg Bahnsen to learn about Biblical standards.” I just about fell out of my chair reading that one! That really left me flabbergasted.

Not only do I likely have more of Bahnsen’s works than all these guys combined, but trying to defend this moonbat libertarianism by appealing to a theonomist is about as bizarre as it gets. I assured this person that not only have I read plenty of Bahnsen, but he certainly was no libertarian.

Ah, so he is a Bahnsenite, good to know. He goes on to post a lengthy quote from Bahnsen:

The Christian must attempt to bring society into conformity with Christian standards for human interaction and with justice as defined by God.

I do not disagree. Now let’s talk about what that actually means, and what methods are consistent with it. Unfortunately, Bahnsen does not address this question! He merely attacks the idea of “liberty.” Of course, his objection to an anarchist society of non-aggression is not a moral one. It is a pragmatic one. He says:

To believe that the state is morally unjustified in such interference is to turn men over to totalitarianism, where individual strongmen tyrannize others. To hold that the state is merely a voluntary association, in which case there should be competing governments (each with respective services, laws, courts, etc.) to which men freely submit or change their loyalties, is to reintroduce totalitarianism in the form of a warlord society. And thus the defense of freedom as the ideal for civil legislation or social relations ironically results in the loss of that very freedom.

Thank you , Ayn Rand. Oh wait, that was Bahnsen. I almost couldn’t tell there for a second. I’ll stick with God’s Word which tells us that the concern of criminal law is the punishment of those who harm others. That sounds a lot more like Rothbard to me. Bahnsen’s view is fraught with hermeneutical and systematic problems. He draws too heavily on a hasty exegesis of Matthew 5:17-19 (which has been thoroughly refuted by Fred Zaspel) and immediately jumps to yanking the Law of Moses out of context. A much more nuanced analysis is warranted.

To Bahnsen’s actual objection, though, I must first point out that this is a pragmatic concern and not a principled concern. Thus it should not be given as much weight in this argument. I appeal to another post I made on Facebook recently to someone saying similar things. This person said:

It’d be about six months into the Anarchist system that someone became head of such an army and then you’d have a state. High ideals and nice dreams do not make a society run

My Rebuttal:

Maybe… Maybe not. If so, that’s a fault if the state for having created the monopoly that created the power vacuum. Had the state never created this monopoly, then a market for police and military services would have arisen organically, and no one company would have had the resources to execute such a takeover. This kind of takeover could only happen in the first six months before the market is robust enough to provide the natural checks and balances to prevent it. Thus thus is a pragmatic concern dealing more with the question of how do we get from here to there. Such concerns are legitimate and need to be discussed, but they must never be confused as objections to the proposed goal itself.

In a world of organically grown anarchy (where the State never created a power vacuum that gave opportunity to a warlord to take over), it would be impossible for any one company to take over and gain a monopoly. Monopolies do not exist without first having a government. In a market for security services, what would be required of any one security company to establish such a monopoly would be astronomically difficult. They would either have to engage in predatory pricing to drive their competitors out – a prospect Tom Woods and Thomas DiLorenze denounce in an episode of Woods’ show (The Crushing Case Against Anti-Trust) – or they would have to engage in actual warfare. Now you might think this would be what would happen, and it might on occasion. But it would always work to the detriment of the one who started the war. The other security companies would defend themselves and retaliate, likely allying with each other temporarily in order to keep this one company from taking over. It would not be possible to win such a war. It would be too costly. The only way to maintain such a war would be if it was funded through taxation, which would not be possible for this company, and if its soldiers were conscripted, another impossibility. If it must fund its operations and staff its armies entirely through voluntary cooperation, then customers who disapprove of the war are likely to unsubscribe, and employees who do not want to die in the war are likely to resign. Only in a nation with a propagandized and idolatrous notion of patriotism would someone willingly lay down his life “for his country” in an offensive war.

But lets think about this another way. Even supposing that it were possible for a warlord or a security company to achieve such a monopoly, what of it? If we agree, as Bahnsen must here since he is using pragmatic justification and not moral justification, that the State’s violence is not inherently morally justified, then we are united in saying “The State is a bad thing.” Call it “totalitarianism” if you will. We Libertarians insist that all States are totalitarian, so I’m comfortable with that idea.

So Bahnsen’s objection to anarchy is, “If you have anarchy, eventually a state will emerge,” and his solution is to go ahead and create the State now. Wait, I thought the State was a bad thing…. Isn’t this a bit like saying, “Somebody might steal your money, so I need to steal your money so I can hire this police officer to protect you.” This makes absolutely no sense.

Oh, I know, I know! The objection is to say, “yeah, but if we go ahead and create the State now, we can determine its makeup and make sure that it is a good State and not a bad one that doesn’t do bad things.”

Of course this begs the question of whether all States are Totalitarian. I’m sure my opponent insists that States are not inherently Totalitarian. This is common, and not surprisingly, it is after all part of the propaganda education you receive in school. But let’s leave that aside and just consider American History to see if that idea actually works.

Well, no. It doesn’t. It was only ten years after the ratification of the US Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and that vaunted First Amendment) that the US government passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. It doesn’t take much effort to trace the bloat and expansion of government beyond its Constitutional boundaries from that point up until today. Governments do not stay confined to their Constitutional Bounds. The best State is no State at all.

Bahnsen continues:

God’s law is to be promoted publicly and not simply in our own private lives. Indeed, His law is to be advanced among kings and nations. Christians are obliged to reprove the unfruitful works of darkness with the light of God’s law; when they do not, they share in the guilt of sins committed through consent. The moment believers become complacent toward the perverse sins of their society, they have begun to relax their grip on the sanctity of God’s will

Ok. Let’s talk methods. The ends don’t justify the means, after all. So must we use the sword? May we use the Sword? I say no! Prove me wrong from the Scripture without pragmatic justification.

All civil law will be legislated morality, in some sense infringing on someone’s freedom. The civil law does not aim to regenerate men but simply to restrain their outward behavior. Such laws are necessary to a social order, establishing the limits of liberty and the public standards to which all members of the community must conform.”

There are several things to say here. “All civil law will be legislated morality” seems to be aimed at the “you can’t legislate morality” objection. If so, it seems to miss the entire point of that statement. Their point is merely a development of what Bahnsen says in the next sentence, “The civil law does not aim to regenerate men,” to which they further observe from the Scriptures itself (Gal 3:21), an understanding of the nature and origin of sin (Luke 6:43-45), and the record of history that the law is indeed powerless to regenerate sin, meaning that prohibitions are therefore doomed to failure.

“[…] to restrain their outward behavior.” Where does this concept come from in Scripture? When I look in the Word of God, I do not see this anywhere. I see only vengeance in Genesis 9:6, Restitution in Exodus 21, Purification of God’s holy people in the rest of Moses’ Law and in Church Discipline (Matthew 18; 1 Cor. 5), and vengeance again in Romans 13. Where is the idea of restraining sin? Nowhere.

This is not an exegetically Biblical concept!

In fact, we might see just the opposite idea in Romans 5:20: “Now the law came in to increase the tresspass,” This would seem to require exegetical unpacking, but on the surface it seems to stand diametrically opposed to this idea promoted by Bahnsen.

Such laws are necessary to a social order, establishing the limits of liberty and the public standards to which all members of the community must conform

I will concede this point if we can confine the scope of these laws to the punishment of actual criminals who actually harm victims. The way the State operates now, they spend so much of their time and effort going after the perverse incentives of the drug war, that they woefully neglect to investigate real crimes like rape, theft and even murder! If society is to survive, violence must be opposed in all forms, including that used by the State to sustain its own existence and to coerce the private, non-violent behavior of men.

Back to Muehlenberg now:

In sum, let me make this quite clear: those who somehow think it is their Christian duty to defend every form of public perversion, unrighteousness, and selfish hedonism in the name of freedom and autonomy are not my allies. They are not the allies of Scripture either.

I may be belaboring the point here, but we are not about defending public perversion, unrighteousness, and selfish hedonism. We are about opposing violence. Period.

All in all, Muedlenberg seems to be another well meaning Christian conservative who just doesn’t understand Libertarianism. He, like so many others, seems to think that if you stop using violent coercion to make people stop doing things, then you are giving moral approval to their actions. This is flat out wrong-headed.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Christianity AND Libertarianism! RE: Bill Muehlenberg

  1. Interesting read. I think there is no man-made ideology, left or right, that can bring heaven upon earth. But still, I enjoyed your writing and learning something about Christian libertarian ideology. I have never even heard of it. One criticism however. Very often, children, young people and vulnerable people are very much the victims of pornography…as these people are often the ones exploited in the porno industry, legally or illegally. It’s not just about the audience. Even so…the audience can also be actual children, teens and vulnerable people! And guess what…same with drugs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s