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

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.

Libertarians

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.

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Matthew 7:1-6

Matthew 7:1-6 says

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

This portion of scripture is very often referred to. Usually it is cited by unbelievers or those who wish to rationalize their behavior as a way of saying leave me alone. Christians are likely to rebut that they are misusing this passage. It says that we’ll be judged with the same standard we judge others, so the call here is to judge by God’s standard rather than our own made up standard, since that’s the standard we want to be judged by, right?

While it’s true that we ought to seek God’s standard of holiness for our lives, we also ought to remember that we don’t really want to be judged by how well we adhere to it. None of us could survive such a judgment. Rather, we plead Christ’s obedience on our behalf as the basis for being judged righteous.

But even more to the point here is that such analysis does not fit with what comes after. Notice there are three proverbial sayings here, which I believe to all be related to this subject of our judgment in some way. I’ve boiled the three down to what I believe to be the lesson of each, and I believe it is the last, not the first, that should command our attention.

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Societal Degradation – Why do I Care So Passionately?

Recently the following objection was raised to me*:

The societal degradation of a culture is what ultimately will destroy it. Arnold Joseph Toynbee chronicled that in 26 great ancient civilizations, there was a pattern of moral decay before the society was destroyed. Therefore, in order to preserve this society, we should put up levees against the in rushing tide of immorality. Changing laws to fit the moral climate will only beget more immorality. As an example in recent history, look at the welfare state. The reason we have so much need for social welfare is because of institutions like divorce. Because of this we now have more broken families that require government assistance, which is causing economic turmoil.

Now I’m not even going to try to argue against this. I’m going to agree with it for the sake of argument. I could argue against it, and I may in future posts, but I want to talk about something else first. I need to take this opportunity to discuss a bit of why Libertarianism is so important to me.

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The Moral Police State

I somewhat addressed this objection in my previous post, but I had a further thought on this. The objection in question is “Without the Law of God, we have no guide or basis for what the government would outlaw.”

I sincerely disagree. It forgets the purpose of criminal justice. The supporters of Theonomy would charge that the purpose of criminal law is to uphold a standard of right and wrong for the sake of that standard. This is wrong. The purpose of criminal law is to provide justice for those who have been victimized.

How do we know if we should outlaw X if we don’t have the Law of God to tell us so? Simple. Is there a victim? If there’s a victim, then there is someone who needs the government to carry out justice for them.

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The Mosaic Law Should Not Be Applied to A Civil Government

Objection 1: God’s Law provides the moral basis for right and wrong. Without it, we would have no way of knowing what government should outlaw and what it shouldn’t.

Objection 2: Matthew 15:17-20 tells us that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it and that the Law would not pass away until all was fulfilled.

“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. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:17-20)

Objection 3: Romans 13 tells us that government exists to punish those who do evil and reward those who do good.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. (Rom 13:1-6)

On the contrary, Jesus said (John 18:36), “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

I answer that God’s Law is for God’s Kingdom.

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Legislating Morality

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t legislate morality?” Ever wonder whether it’s true? People love to debate this topic. The fact of the matter is, people seem to think that you can. Whether it is the militant religious right attempting to push Biblical morality on the nation, or whether it’s those godless commie liberals who want everyone to hug trees1, many people – at least those in power – seem to be interested in behavior modification. But what’s a Biblical Perspective on this? I’ve written before on Theonomy, but here’s another observation:

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