I recently was told by a very progressive friend that libertarian/anarchy philosophy is inconsistent with Christianity and furthermore, even calling oneself a capitalist is an affront to God. She then proceeded to google flurry me with out-of-context Bible verses that were, I think, meant to prove her point.
Yes, she is still a friend. I don’t dump people just because they’re wrong and rude about being wrong. I also love when people who call themselves atheists purport to understand my belief system better than I do. Last I studied this subject, atheism meant you don’t believe in God. How does that make you an expert on what He wants from His followers?
But this isn’t a Bible study. This is me thinking aloud.
Human beings, just because they are human, possess the capacity to exercise freedom and the right to do so. God created us this way. He created Man (Adam and Eve) to have fellowship with Him, but He wanted that fellowship to be real. He wanted them to hang out with Him because they chose to hang out with Him. So He created them with what the theologians call “free will.” He placed them in a place where their every need could be met with just a tiny bit of effort and, to give them a choice whether to obey Him or not, He placed only one restriction on them. Don’t eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What was so special about this tree? As I get older, I am coming to believe there wasn’t much special about the tree. It only became special because of Adam and Eve’s actions in disobeying God. Otherwise, it was merely a tree.
Anyway, free will means we can exercise freedom and possess the right to do so. Each of us is free to own property, choose a job and career, worship, speak, move freely within society, promote and protect our self-interest, create and innovate from our own imagination and resources, and contract, compete, trade and associate with others in voluntary exchange. That is the true and historic meaning of capitalism, which is inseparable from freedom.
Libertarians elevate personal freedom to an end to be achieved. Freedom is a prerequisite to, and integral with, the achievement of any of human goals. Libertarians defend each person’s right to be protected against all forms of external aggression initiated by the state OR by private individuals. A basic principle of libertarianism is that individuals have the right to live life as they choose, as long as their actions do not constitute an aggression against others.
This nonaggression principle (NAP for short) might better be described as non-initiation-of-force principle (because it does allow those aggressed against to defend themselves) and stems from the libertarian idea of self-ownership. Self-ownership means you get to make your own decisions about what to do with your life, property, body, energies, and speech. Individuals are equal, so a person owns himself and none other. Every other person owns himself as well.
The self-ownership principle creates a zone of privacy and freedom of action for each individual. Of course, when dealing with others we should respect them as equals in moral status and human dignity. Other people have the right and responsibility to make their own decisions regarding their own life, property, body, energies, and speech.
Libertarians reject the notion that people require a guardian to protect them from themselves. They believe they can define for themselves what is good and bad. The state (if it exists at all) should confine itself to the minimum necessary to protect individuals in the way they choose to pursue happiness. The proper state is therefore neutral with respect to its commitment to one or another conception of happiness or the good life. The state’s only legitimate purpose is to ensure the freedom that allows individuals to pursue happiness or the good that each person defines for herself.
Now we come to where my friend freaked out and google flurried me.
According to the Christian worldview, God is the ultimate moral authority Who created Man. Each person is free, self-responsible, but also accountable before the Creator. Between a human and God, the appropriate relationship may be viewed as one of agent, steward, or trustee to owner. Each person has a God-given responsibility to answer to Him for his choices including the uses he makes of his individual human potential and his property held temporarily as a steward of God.
This goes back to God created Man with free will. Only when a man has choice and its inherent responsibility can he be moral. Choice (free will) is the foundation of virtue. Morality involves choice and the use of reason in making that choice. Freedom is a gift from God, but the freedom God provides does not mean freedom from God’s law or license to do whatever we want. Real freedom is not the power to do whatever we like but, rather, to choose to do what we ought to do.
The purpose of freedom in Christ is not freedom for its own sake but for the purpose of serving God through our own lives and the voluntary common good. In Christianity, freedom is simply the means toward a higher end and is not be viewed as an end in itself. When one has freedom, the important choices become how to order one’s life, what values to pursue, and which virtues to practice.
Each person should be politically free to choose and pursue his own values and should allow others to choose and pursue their own values. Man is endowed by God with inalienable rights. The exercise of our rights is strictly a matter between the individual and the Savior, until that exercise trespasses on the rights of another person. I have a right to make value judgments, but forcing another to adhere to my morality is to deny him his right and responsibility to answer to God directly for the choices he makes.
This Christian philosophy is stated most clearly by my spiritual antecedents, the alpine anabaptists. They believed that each individual should be able to encounter God without the mediation of any other person, group, or nation. Self-responsibility before God is viewed as existing prior to political philosophies and systems. If government exists at all, it should be limited to protecting this relationship between man and the Creator. The state is simply a man-made means of securing liberty and justice for all men alike. The legitimate aim of government is to provide the social and political conditions that protect each citizen’s right to individual action.
From the Judeo-Christian perspective, governmental authorities are the civil distributors of God’s higher law. There is a realm of natural law, over and above positive man-made law, involving unwritten and unalterable laws issuing from God. Natural law, the ultimate source of right and wrong, is timeless and well beyond the political realm. The idea of governmental restraints rests on the premise that a natural law higher than that of the state limits and qualifies the power of the state.
Capitalism properly emerges from such a political system, is consistent with Judeo-Christian values, and involves the voluntary exchange of goods and services between free and self-responsible persons. It is hard for me to conceive of an economic system like communism being voluntary as it opposes human nature.
Capitalism may be defined as a system of voluntary relationships within a legal framework that protects individuals’ rights against force, fraud, theft, and contract violations. Advocates of capitalism differ in their arguments for a social system that maximizes individual freedom and in their views with respect to the nature of man and the universe. Underlying these separate views, however, is the need for freedom of the individual to choose how he wants to integrate himself into society.
Since my friend was very pointed about the actions of the early church as a “communist” society, I thought I would point out that when Barnabas sold his land and gave the whole amount to the church, it was completely voluntary. Nobody required him to sell his land and he was free to give any or all or none of the proceeds to the church. His activity did not require anyone else to follow his lead. Ananias and Sapphira were condemned not because they didn’t give their whole profit to the storehouse, but because they lied. See Acts 4:32-5:11, particularly 5:4 “The field belonged to you before it was sold and the money was yours after it was sold. How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have no lied to people, but to God.” It was completely voluntary. There was no reason to lie. They just wanted to look as good as Barnabas without actually doing what he did.