A Very Brief Comparison of Libertarian and Theonomist Utopias

This is not in the least bit exhaustive. I merely wish make a key point in comparison and contrast between the ideal world from a Libertarian standpoint and an ideal world from a Theonomist standpoint.

Brief Definitions:


Theonomy is far to deep a subject to treat adequately here. There are many brands. For our purposes, I will boil this down to any political theory which seeks to legislate Christian morality. There are Theonomists who wish to impose the Law of Moses word for word. There are others who see the Law of Moses as outmoded and have a “New Testament” moral code, but still seek to legislate that moral code. I think my analysis below covers both. Most of the Theonomists I know may not label themselves Theonomists, but do fall into that second group. Rather, I would say that, with very very few exceptions, almost every Christian I know falls into that second group of Theonomists.


I have covered Libertarianism rather thoroughly in my previous post. There can be many reasons to hold the principals of Libertarianism. In this article, I’m specifically referring to Christian Libertarians, which is a term that perhaps requires definition on its own. A Christian Libertarian is one who holds Libertarianism because he believes that it is the political philosophy that most adequately fits with Biblical principles. The full defense of my belief in such assertion is still in the works. But to sum up as briefly as possible, it boils down to the concept of God ownership. God alone has a greater ownership claim on my life, liberty, and property than I do. I can rebelliously reject his ownership claim and keep it for myself, but that is between him and me. Regardless of whether I submit to his ownership, no other person has an ownership claim on my life, liberty, or property. Similarly, I have no ownership claim on another’s life, liberty, or property. My neighbor is free to choose for himself whether he will submit to God’s ownership. Since I am to love my neighbor as myself, and I would prefer that my neighbor allow me to make my own choice as to whether to follow the Lord (not that he wouldn’t be free to try to persuade me, but that he cannot force me to choose one way or another), I leave him free to make that choice as well.

Most Christians think that a Libertarian society would be a morally reprobate world. I hope to show below how it would actually be better than a Theonomist world.

The Analysis

In a Libertarian society you will have two kinds of people: Those who genuinely love the Lord and voluntarily choose to honor him with their life, liberty, and property, and those who do not. So you will have a certain percentage of the population who fear, love, and honor the Lord.

In a Theonomist society, you will have three kinds of people. There will still be those who genuinely love the Lord and voluntarily choose to honor him with their life, liberty, and property. There will still also be those who do not love the Lord and do not voluntarily choose to honor him with their life, liberty, and property. These will behave in one of two ways. Group two will rebel outright and throw themselves headlong into crime. Group three, by far the largest group, will obey, for the most part, but only out of compulsion and fear of reprisal. These will seek every opportunity for subtle rebellions they think they can get away with, particularly over victimless moral points they do not agree with (drugs, homosexuality, gambling, drinking, prostitution, etc).

So What?

Here’s the point. I see no evidence to suggest that the percentage of the population that genuinely loves the Lord will be any larger in a Theonomist society than in a Libertarian society, so the Theonomist society will not effectively make disciples who fear, love, and honor the Lord. Theonomy merely splits the group of non believers into two categories, making a percentage of them into victimless criminals by mere fiat.

The Theonomist must therefore judge that it is a worthy, God honoring, Christ exalting pursuit to produce a mass of population that is compelled by the threat of government force into begrudging obedience to the moral standard. Libertarians denounce this as slavery and legalism.

The Theonomist indeed thinks this is a worthy pursuit. He does so for various reasons, none of them Biblical. They all amount to some form of, “God will destroy this nation if we allow it to continue into immorality,” as though preventing God from destroying a nation is to be a goal for Christians. The Libertarian denounces this. He looks to Christ’s scathing rebukes of the Pharisees and Paul’s commandments for believers to live peaceably (Romans 12:18), to not judge outsiders (1 Corinthians 5:12), to walk properly before outsiders by minding our own business (1 Thess 4:11-12), and that things should not be done out of compulsion (2 Cor 9:7), to say that this is not a God honoring, or Christ honoring pursuit. We further point out that if God will judge this nation it will be for hardness of heart, which legislation cannot change.

Libertarians judge that the only God honoring life is one that is voluntarily offered to him in worship. Thus, even though one might keep all of the law by compulsion, if he has not willingly offered his heart to God, this avails him nothing. Requiring by law that he obey the Lord removes from him the opportunity to honor the Lord willingly! Thus, it is better to allow him the choice and to present him the Gospel by open statement of the truth, allowing the Spirit of God to convert who it wills.

The Theonomist may counter that the law will confront the sinner in his sin and usher him to the cross. Such a person should consider the world’s response to “judgmental” Christians now. Let me be clear. Our goal is not to keep the world from hating us. That is inevitable. Our goal is simply to proclaim the gospel faithfully and allow the Spirit to work. However, there is a degree to which provoking the hatred of the world places stumbling blocks to their acceptance of Christ. This too is inevitable as people reject the truth. However, there is a key distinction. Are they stumbling over Christ because their hearts are hardened, or are they not even getting to Christ because they are too busy stumbling over us? I fear that we far to ofter put barriers in the way of people’s acceptance of Christ. I don’t think any of us do it on purpose. I merely hope to point out that Theonomy, or Legislating Morality, is one such barrier. I would hope that upon reading this, you will resolve to change your approach to the world.