New Merch

Hey guys, just a quick update to let you know that I’ve opened a merch store through Teespring. If you want to rep the site, channel, Facebook page, come check it out. I’m starting small, but if this takes off and I get a lot of good feedback, I might add more.

Check it out if you want a shirt or mug with our logo on it: https://teespring.com/stores/truth-liberty

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Render Unto Caesar

Matthew 22:15-22 is one of those “proof-texts” that opponents of Reformed Libertarianism like to throw at us from time to time. “Taxation is theft, you say? Well what about when Jesus said to Render Unto Caesar? Huh?”

This tricky passage can be difficult to answer. What ARE we to make of this passage? Here’s one analysis. This was written by Rocco Stanzione and published to Altar & Throne in 2016. I recently discovered that that site is currently down (though the admin intends to restore it soon), so with permission, I have re-published the article here. Enjoy:

Continue reading Render Unto Caesar

How is Taxation Theft? Do You Even Romans 13:6-8???

The title question is a word for word quote from a post I came across in the Reformed Pub. I’ve been asked this about a million times.

My response to the second question is: Do YOU even? In this post I demonstrate why this text does not in fact defeat the Taxation is Theft mantra. Spoiler alert: it’s because of my exegesis of the text of Romans 13!

Continue reading How is Taxation Theft? Do You Even Romans 13:6-8???

Undermining the Theonomist Syllogism

It seems to me that the Theonomist argument can be boiled down to the following Syllogism:

P1) God does not change.

P2) If the Law has been abrogated, then God has changed.

C) The Law has not been abrogated.

The Reformed Libertarian objection is with P2. This is not necessarily true. If the purpose for giving the law in the first place was so that it would be a typological and eschatological foreshadow of things to come with the intention all along that it would be abrogated when those things came to fulfillment, then it is not a matter of God changing for him to abrogate the law now that those things have come to be. Rather it is a symptom of God NOT changing that he would be faithful to fulfill that plan.

For example, when Israel committed the sin of the golden calf at Mount Sinai and God was going to wipe them out, Moses interceded for them. He reminded God of his promises, and God appears to change his mind. It almost looks like God is a nearly unhinged human person who Moses talks sense to until he calms down. It even uses a word that is very similar to “repent” for what God does here.

So did God change? Certainly his course of action did! Does this mean he is no longer immutable? No longer simple?

Of course not. It meant that his purpose all along was to evoke this intercessory ministry from Moses. He never really intended to destroy Israel because he knew and sovereignly ordained what would happen. One major reason for this was because it gives us an amazing picture of Jesus’ intercessory work for us.

The same idea or pattern holds here. The judicial/civil Mosaic Law for Israel was meant, in large part, to foreshadow the coming greater Kingdom of Christ. That Kingdom is now here in a different sense, and that sense clearly does not involve using the sword against outsiders (1 Corinthians 5).

So the theonomist argument is not proven by this syllogism. Rather it begs the question of whether God’s purpose was for the law to be a type/foreshadow or whether it was intended to be set in stone for all ages.

And the answer to that question will inform our interpretation of what Jesus means by what he says in Matthew 5:17-18.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

What is meant here by these words “abolish”, “fulfill” and “accomplish”? What we understand the original purpose of the Law to be will inform the definition of those terms, won’t it? It will lead us to a certain view about whether and to what extent Christ’s life, death and resurrection fulfilled and accomplished some or all of it.

The Reformed Libertarian position, from considering the whole of Scripture and especially the whole of the New Testament, is that yes the Law is typological. It has indeed NOT been abolished, but has been, in large part, fulfilled and accomplished by Christ and the New Covenant which it was foreshadowing. There are nuances to this view, but the overall point is the same: The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace, the Old Covenant (including Abraham’s) were all Covenants of Works with Grace coming retroactively from the New as a foreshadow. All the preceding Covenants were typological of the New and all must be interpreted in light of that typology, including elements like the Law of Moses.

No the Law has not been abolished. Certainly the moral principles of the Law (the standard of God’s holiness it sets forth for all people and especially his covenant people) is very much the same today as it was then, and the Law is inestimably valuable at teaching it to us, for it is God’s holy, infallible, inerrant, and sufficient revelation of it.

Yet it’s application to the New Covenant must take into account the ways in which Christ has fulfilled and accomplished the typology of the way it was applied in the Old Covenant. Therefore the practical application will of necessity look different today (1 Corinthians 5 gives us a hint of this).

And whatever else we believe about baptism or sabbath keeping or the second commandment or whatever…. One thing is crystal clear to us Reformed Libertarians: the standards of the Law are no longer to be enforced in exhaustive detail with the sword by the civil magistrate. For God’s covenant community no longer takes the form of a civil nation. Instead, the purpose of the sword bearing magistrate is to defend the life, person and property of those who “do good” (Romans 13).

The Theological Reasoning Behind Reformed Libertarianism

This is a cross post from Facebook, but I thought I would preserve it. Somebody asked me for the Theological Reasoning Behind Reformed Libertarianism. So here it is:

1) Man was made in the image of God, the primary characteristic of this being the dominion mandate, meaning that God has given men a stewardship responsibility over their lives and the portion of creation under their control. We are to exercise this dominion in accordance with God’s law and for his glory.(Gen 1, Matt 25)

2) Since other men are conspicuously absent from the rather exhaustive list of things man is to have dominion over, and seeing as how men are to consider the lives (Gen 6:9, Ex 20:13) and property (Ex 20:15,17) of other men to be off-limits, and since God holds each person individually accountable (Matt 25, Ezek 18, 2 Cor 5), it can therefore be concluded that the dominion mandate falls on each person individually.

Therefore each person has the individual responsibility of self-stewardship (which the secularists call self-ownership). This grants each person the duty and human right to exercise the authority incumbent in the dominion mandate over his own life, person and property. To restrict a man’s dominion over such is to offend against the image of God in him, which is really to offend against God. (psst: this is the Non-aggression Principle)

Because sinful men love to offend against God and therefore have no respect for their neighbors, God communicated these standards, first in seed form as part of the Noahic Covenant (Gen 9:6) and later in fuller detail in Exodus 20-24 (though they were clearly in force by the first generation after the fall (Gen 4) though we have no inspired record of them being communicated).

In doing so, God set forth a principle of justice for this fallen world that those who do wrong to their neighbor should be harmed in equal measure to the harm they caused (Ex 21:23-25).

Thus property rights are to be seen as the foundational principle on which the apparatus of justice in a civil society is to be constructed, and by which justice in a civil society is to be measured and evaluated.

As part of that apparatus, God has instituted the role of magistrate in society. The magistrate is anyone who serves other men by bearing the sword against those who wrong their neighbor. (Romans 13:3-4). In doing so, he is not to be “a terror to good conduct”, meaning he is only to bear the sword against those who do evil, as God has defined his role.

Thus, the very maximum any government has theological authorization to do is to serve citizens by aiding them in defending their life, liberty and property and bringing vengeance upon those who agress against them.

Any government that uses its power to break God’s law is a corrupt and invalid government in God’s eyes. Any government that abuses its position to take away the rights of those who’s rights it is tasked with protecting, is no true government at all, but a criminal organization.

We Christians are still called to be ordered under such a government (even Nero), but that does not make such government valid. And in as much as we have influence in the government, as officials or as voters, we ought to use our influence to direct government to follow God’s standard.

The only governments God considers morally valid are the ones who use their sword against wrong doers and only against wrong doers.

Ultimately the only government that will prefectly meet that qualification is King Jesus.

Justice under the sun is always going to be imperfect. However that should not stop us from upholding the perfect standard as the target we are aiming for in our political action.

Now, as stated here, this is a very broad tent under which many forms of government might fit including certain forms of theonomy and a constitutionally limited republic (provided that the constitution is actually founded on these principals and the republic is actually limited by such constitution.)

I believe further logical and exegetical analysis would swing the balance around to favor anarcho-capitalism much more strongly, but I’ll save that for a future post.

For now, it is not so much my aim to convince the world to be Anarcho-Capitalists, though I would love it if that were so. For the time being, it would be sufficient if everyone could simply agree to the founding theological framework I have described here as the grounding for all analysis of government. I think MOST Christians, certainly Reformed ones, DO agree to this, though many have not fully thought through the logical implications of it, and thus are not Anarcho-Capitalists. I think the primary reason for that is a lack of knowledge and clarity about what Anarcho-Capitalism actually IS and what it is not. See Al Mohler for an example of such confusion.

Wealth Inequality in America 

This video is rather old, but it came across my news feed again today, and I figured it warranted comment.

With the hard charge of Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, it would seem that this idea of inequality is becoming increasingly more popular.

There’s a major problem with it, though, and that’s that they are looking only at one side of the financial ledger to measure wealth solely by dollar income.

This isn’t all that surprising given that the cultural understanding of economy centers entirely around the government and their attempts to manipulate things through the income tax. 

Never mind that the effect of the income tax pales in comparison to the damage done by the Federal Reserve. That really doesn’t matter to most people who remain blissfully unaware of all but what the news media talks about. 

So to most people the economy is all about how much is the rich people’s money the government takes to help the poor. Republicans, of course, counter the Democrats’ desire to take it all (Democrats are no true socialists by the way, but that’s off topic), by saying that doing so would stifle the economy. 

Why is this bad? To them is because the money won’t trickle down in the form of jobs. So really both sides ultimately measure the health of the economy by how much of the dollar wealth finds its way into the pockets of poor people. 

(Kind ironic then, isn’t it, that this is the same government that encourages those poor people to spend their little hearts out by disincentivizing savings while at the same time sapping the purchasing power of what dollars they do have to spend…. But that’s another digression).

So what’s the proper economic analysis here? Is there a problem with this distribution? It certainly seems unfair, doesn’t it? But is it?

No. It’s not. Why not? Because of that whole idea of trickle down. 

Of course any time a fiscal conservative mentions the trickle down, the progressives are always quick to point out that the trickle down doesn’t work.

Is that true? No way! The fact is that the trickle down has already worked and this distribution is the proof.

Now that sounds backwards, right? If the trickle down worked, this graph would even out, wouldn’t it?

Well it certainly seems like it would, and that’s what the progressives say world happen. But that’s only because they are incorrectly measuring wealth in terms of income or dollars in a bank account instead of standard of living.

If you look at standard of living and then compare those poorest Americans with people in, say, Rwanda, it’ll put things into proper perspective pretty quickly.

All of this of course begs the question of why any one person has any greater claim than another to any given unit of wealth. 

The videographer’s bias (and the one growing increasingly common) is that at a certain point someone has enough and someone else has a greater claim to his excess, because… fairness.

The root of this idea has to do with need. Why does the top 1% NEED all that cash? Certainly if we distributed a chunk of that to the bottom 10% that would significantly increase their standard of living, right?

Or would it?

This whole thing seems to forget what money and income really are. Money is the measure of how much you have enriched the lives of to those around you.

It’s easy to understand when we break it down. If I give you a gallon of milk, and you give me $3, that $3 I have been enriched is roughly equivalent to the amount I have enriched you. My wealth has improved by $3. Yours has improved by $3 worth of milk.

Then suppose I buy a cow and sell all the milk I get from it to not just you but all my other neighbors. Every gallon I sell enriches someone else by $3 worth of milk and enriches me by $3 worth of currency. 

Now after a while that currency will start to pile up. Except for the amount I have to spend feeding and keeping my cow healthy, and except for the amount I have to spend on consumable goods and services for my own well-being, that cash is all going to accumulate into a nice pile of dough.

And since that wealth comes from a multitude of sources, if you compare me to any one of my customers, it will appear as though I have a great advantage over them. But that is merely because I serve more people than just that one. To be fair, you would have to compare me to the whole community, and you would have to count all the milk I’ve produced in the balance on their side.

These guys in the top 1% got there because in one way or another they have directly or indirectly enriched the lives of millions of people. 

Suppose $1 of every Star Wars ticket found its way into JJ Abrams’ pocket. If a million people went to see the movie, that would be $1 million to Mr Abrams.

It wouldn’t be fair for my neighbors to gang up on me and demand I distribute my pile of cash among them. Why do I owe them anything? I gave them milk. 

Similarly, it’s not fair for society to gang up on rich people and demand they redistribute their wealth. Why should they redistribute it? 

They gave us Star Wars and iPhones and Facebook and well-stocked grocery stores and cars and loans when we needed to buy a house or pay for college and so on and so forth.

Don’t look at this graph and think only about how much cash is at the top without realizing that that cash got to the top because the guys at the top are responsible for the fact that the guys at the bottom live better than kings did 400 years ago.

The wealth has already trickled down – not in the form of cash, but in the form of standard of living.

Don’t believe me, just look around you! The poor in this country are not that bad off. Some people are truly suffering, but there are almost always circumstances surrounding that, and even the worst of of them are doing pretty well actually.

Again, compare them to people living in Rwanda or the Philippines or Myanmar. 

With relatively few exceptions, the poor in the United States (and most of the so called “first world”) have food, clothing and even cell phones and tvs. 

But more to the point, because if the efforts of guys at the top, even the poorest in this country have indoor plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, forced air central heating, air conditioning, some firm of automotive transportation, telephones, access to a computer with Internet access, and a thousand other things poor Americans take the granted every day that simply did not exist or at least were not available to the poorest of people even as recently as 100 years ago. 

All of these comforts enjoyed by everyone in our society that came about because of the hard work of those at the top.

Sure there’s always going to be a certain handful of exceptions to every rule. But by and large, the pattern is that the guys at the top, though they have indeed amassed a vastly greater sum of cash than everyone else in this country, have done so by serving others.

The implication – or rather the outright statement of this video maker – that the rest of the people are suffering as a result of all this hoarding is patently false. In fact quite the opposite is the truth, because how did these guys amass all this wealth? 

They did it by enriching the lives of millions of other people which has drastically improved the standard of living for those who seem to have less.