Theocracy and Libertarianism
Podcast: Axe to the Root
Topics: Political Studies, Theology
When R.J. Rushdoony said that theocracy is the closest thing to radical libertarianism that can be had, he was not speaking figuratively, nor was he speaking politically. He was speaking literally, based on a thorough analysis of Biblical Law and the social order it prescribed.
– Law and Liberty, R.J. Rushdoony
– The Theme is Freedom, M. Stanton Evans
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Welcome to Episode 84 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 30 minutes we will work to bury an ideological fiction. In a sense, intellectually, I will be burying a corpse, given that that fiction has been dead for a long time – no one who believes in that ideology has been capable of producing a single piece of theological, philosophical, or logical (that is, presuppositional) evidence in favor of it. Every single line of support for it has been simply an instinctive irrational reaction, never a consistent logical conclusion. Over the years, I have asked many questions about that ideology, pointing to its inconsistency and lack of intellectual life in it. I have never gotten answers to my questions. I have pointed to Biblical examples and doctrines that refute it. I have pointed to books and articles by theologians who refute it, and give the Biblical presuppositions that refute it. The thing is dead and has never been alive. But it has its worshipers. So I will try to bury it with this episode.
The ideological fiction I want to bury is this: Libertarianism is antithetical to theocracy. Or, to put it differently, that no Biblically consistent Christian can be a libertarian. Or, that if you follow the Bible to the tee, you can’t end up with a libertarian social order. Or, that a libertarian social order can’t be Christian. Or, that if we do not have a state that intervenes in people’s lives to prevent sin, we will eventually have chaos and destruction. Or, that in order for a society to prosper in righteousness and justice, we need a civil government empowered to tax and control and regulate its subjects for the higher purposes of God.
Now, there are two sides to this ideology. One side is the secular libertarians who are committed to libertarianism – or so they say – but want to keep God and the Bible out of it. Von Mises was such, Murray Rothbard was such, Ayn Rand had some not so friendly things to say about Christianity (although, she agreed with it that liberty and capitalism can be only based on a system of ethics, which von Mises and Rothbard denied). Such secular libertarians have the concept that in order for a society to be free, it needs to be atheist, or, at the very least, any faith in God must remain at a personal level, while the society must be conceptually atheist or at least agnostic concerning any deities. Those are not my opponents in this episode. I have pointed out many times before that secularism and libertarianism can’t work together, and secular libertarianism inevitably has to end up in some form of mild statism, or some other form of institutional control of some men over others. See, for example, Lew Rockwell’s, Hermann Hoppe’s, and other secular libertarians’ belief in government control over immigration, which is nothing more than just another form of socialism. I have talked about it in my article, “Lew Rockwell and the Mild Statism of Secular Libertarianism” on the ChristendomRestored.com website. We will see a little bit later why all secularism or paganism inevitably has to produce some form of statism or power religion.
My target in this episode is the other side of that ideology, those Christians who claim to be “conservative” and “Bible-believing” and “Reformed” and what-not, who claim to take all of their ideas from Scripture, and yet, they continue denouncing libertarianism, and continue supporting one or another form of statism with the claim that it is “according to the Bible.” And they continue declaring that libertarianism is antithetical to the Bible and ridicule everyone who proposes libertarian solutions to the problems of today’s world. Those same Christians who take the text of Romans 13 and defend modern political theories and practices whose origin is not Romans 13 but rather Revelation 13; but because they have adopted a religious faith in the right of the state to control people’s lives, they never stop to figure out the difference.
To such professing Christians I want to present the evidence that Biblical theocracy is not antithetical to libertarianism, but, contrary to their assertions, libertarianism is the only logical political system that can be consistently based on a Biblical worldview; and also, that a Christian consistent with his Bible can arrive to only one possible political and social system: libertarianism. What we call today libertarianism is simply the political theory of the Bible. It is rooted in the Bible, and there is no other possible root for it. Granted, some secularists have taken the fruit and have abandoned the root, but that doesn’t mean we as Christians should be blind to the true origin of libertarianism as a political philosophy. After all, the same applies to science: some secularists have claimed that science must be separate from the Bible, but we don’t say that science is antithetical to the Bible, right? In the same way, a presuppositional analysis of the Biblical worldview and its application to political science and social theory leads us to the conclusion that the only righteous society that the Bible describes and prescribes is a libertarian society, free of any government control, and only subject to some very limited instances of human institutional judgment (not control but judgment). The rest of this episode will be such presuppositional analysis based on several fundamental points of the Biblical worldview, namely, the Biblical views of the nature of God and reality, of the nature of man and his purpose in God’s Covenant, and the meaning and nature of God’s law. In all of them, as we develop the antithesis between the Biblical and the pagan/secular worldviews, we will see that libertarianism as a political philosophy stems directly from the Biblical teachings about society; and we will also see that, as Rushdoony has pointed many times, paganism and secularism are inescapably statist in their views, and there is no chance of ever constructing a consistent secular or pagan society without having at least some degree of statism, that is, institutional control of some men by other men.
Before we start, however, let me first lay the foundation with definitions for the two main terms we are using here: theocracy and libertarianism.
Theocracy is, quite simply, a society under the rule of God. In a sense, every society is under the rule of God, of course, even those who oppose God and are under His judgment in history.(Being under God’s judgment is still being under His rule, right?) But the term here denotes a society that is self-consciously and deliberately submitted to God in everything it does: from its foundational premises and publicly accepted religious and intellectual principles, through the personal conduct of its members and its economic structure, all the way to its systems of justice and public trust and stewardship. A theocratic society is a society where, when its people are asked, “who is the ruler of your society?” or “what is the foundational principle of your society?, respond, “Jesus Christ and His Gospel.” It is important to understand that a theocratic society is not a society where church ministers rule (as is the commonly accepted mythology about the term). That would be a priestocracy, not a theocracy. It is not where the state controls and regulates people based on officially religious principles; that would be religious socialism. (Read the book The Socialist Phenomenon by Igor Shafarevich.) Theocracy is pure and simple, “God rules,” as the term signifies, and it has to do only with God’s direct rule over His creation and over mankind, not with men ruling over other men.
Libertarianism, on the other hand, is a political philosophy that establishes the freedom of the individual to act as the highest value and the highest priority of all political and social endeavor. When we say “the individual,” we mean the individual vs. any sort of collective or any sort of power, whether family, church, or state. That means that in any single case where a decision must be made between the individual acting out of his own free will, and a collective or another sort of power forcing its will upon the individual under some threat of punishment or compulsion, libertarianism takes the side of the individual and denies the collective any moral authority to act or to force the individual to comply. Thus, libertarianism is about the liberty of the individual to act. Remember, libertarianism is just a political philosophy and its exclusive area of interest is the balance of power in the society between individuals and collectives. It is not a moral philosophy; it doesn’t declare declare what acts are moral and permissible by the individual. It still acknowledges that there are immoral acts committed by individuals that should be stopped, and some even recompensed and punished; but within the limits of acceptable personal behavior, libertarianism denies any collective or any government the moral ground to control or regulate the life of the individual. Whether it is what the individual will put in his body, where he will live, what arbitrary geographical border he will cross, who he will be hired by and who he will hire, what kind of business he will engage in, what prices he will attach to the product of his labor or to his property, what he will do with the money he earns and at what price, etc., all these should remain entirely within the sphere of self-government, and no other human government should be allowed to make any decisions for the individual himself. If there are any governments, their business should be to protect the individual against immoral acts by other individuals, not become immoral themselves.
So, with these definitions, how do we proceed? How do we prove that libertarianism as a political philosophy follows from the Biblical view of theocracy as the rule of God in the society?
We start where every good presuppositionalist must start: with the nature of God and the nature of reality.
I know that most of our listeners are Christians, and specifically Reformed Christians. So, stop for a minute and try to imagine the world of a pagan. Or of an atheist – for they are the same world. That pagan/atheist world had its origin in chaos. No, I didn’t make this up. Chaos is actually the name the ancient Greek mythology gives to the existence before there were any men or gods or other beings. That’s what it was called: Chaos, a void, emptiness, abyss, darkness disorder. Or, if you are an atheist, it started from the Big Bang: quintillions upon quintillions joules of disorganized, chaotic pure energy flying in all directions without any recognizable order. Out of that chaos, the first gods somehow appeared; or, out of the Big Bang, the laws of nature somehow appeared. So these gods, or laws of nature, started bringing order to the chaos, using their power to overcome the natural state of chaos and entropy. Eventually, the world was gradually brought to some form of order, but the battle continues even today. The natural, original state of the universe is chaos. And the struggle is to maintain order in the midst nature natural inclination to chaos.
In such a universe, the ruling paradigm, therefore, is order vs. chaos. And order is achieved only through superior power; so power is by default good. And not only it is by default good, it must be constantly exercised and applied, or the world will go back to chaos. Things must be kept under constant control, because they can’t be trusted to run their natural course. The same with society: society must be kept under control, because it can’t be trusted to run its natural course. So, in reality, the ruling paradigm is power vs. chaos. You let your guard down for a little bit, you get chaos.
I am sure you have heard the argument: if we have no government control, there will be chaos. And I am sure you have heard both non-Christians and Christians use that same argument. Well, that’s where that argument comes from; this is its presuppositional foundation, an impersonal universe that started as a chaotic void, to which order was brought only through the efforts of powerful beings, or powerful collectives. If we don’t exercise power every day to control everything that happens and everything people do, we will have the world and society reverting back to their original state, namely, chaos. (For those of you who are fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you probably remember Alexander Pierce’s line in Winter Soldier: “Society’s at a tipping point between order and chaos.” That’s not just a movie quote. That has been the propaganda pitch of every dictator in history.)
Now, let’s hear the antithesis. The world the Bible presents is a complete opposite to the world of the pagan and the atheist. The Biblical world started orderly, and order is its natural condition. There is no need for man to exercise power to maintain God’s world in order; God does it Himself, and nobody and nothing – whether some god or a collective of men – can create anymore order in the world around us than what God has already created and is sustaining through His providence. But order is not even the issue in the Biblical worldview; nor is the paradigm “order vs. chaos” of any interest to Biblical authors. Nowhere does God say, we need some order here, otherwise we are going to descend into chaos. The issue is ethics and justice. The created world was assessed by God as good, not as “orderly.” Goodness is the natural original condition of the world; the world fell from this original condition because of sin, not because of disorder. Thus, its current state is unnatural, but the unnatural part in it is sin. The world is still just as orderly as it has always been, because order does not depend on man’s efforts, and it is superior to man’s efforts. Man can’t do anything to bring more order in the universe, whether as an individual or as a collective. We have enough order and we have always had it. It is just that that order works against man because God’s order works against sin. And therefore man needs not more power but a return to righteousness.
Thus, the reigning paradigm – in fact, the only paradigm – of the Biblical worldview is ethical/judicial: good vs. evil, righteousness vs. wickedness, justice vs. injustice.
In such universe, there is no concern with order because order in itself has no necessary moral meaning. Order can be good, and it can be evil. Exercise of power can be good, and it can be evil. Control can be good, and control can be evil. Power has no inherent value. If some exercise of power is evil, the pagan – and the apostate Christian with him – would reply, “It is better to maintain some power, even if it is evil, than have chaos.” A Biblical Christian would reply, “If that is the dilemma, then chaos is better than a lawless order.” But, of course, chaos is not even a possibility and it has never been. Order has always been the only possibility. It is just that we need a restoration of the Law of God, so that God’s order doesn’t work against man anymore, but for man.
Does it become clear how libertarianism follows from the Biblical worldview? Since ethics is the foundational paradigm in that worldview, and ethics is inescapably personal and individual, then a society can only be maintained when it is personal and individualistic. Power control of some people over others, and the elevating of power to the position to dictate ethics, will solve no ethical problems – it will only make them worse, and thus, will go against the original natural state of the world: “very good.” On the other hand, if you are a pagan or an atheist, you can only rely on power to maintain your world. Therefore, those men who have power, are supposed to exercise it over those men who don’t. Otherwise, you know, “chaos.”
But what about the nature of man himself? Yeah, in the abstract, we may argue about the nature of God and the nature of reality, but part of that nature is the nature of man. Does the nature of man as presented by the Bible support a libertarian ideology, or does it support a statist ideology of control of men over other men?
What is man in the atheist/pagan worldview? No one knows. There is really no meaningful definition of man that would make him different than, let’s say, a pile of rocks or an ash heap. I mean, atheists and pagans can come up with tons of definitions and they can pretend these definitions do give some meaning to the word man that has any value, but in the final account, there is really no definition. Or, at least, there is really no definition that would give man meaning and purpose in his life. I have talked about it in a sermon, long time ago, titled, “What Is Man?” A pagan or an atheist can come up with all kinds of meanings and purposes, but none of them are objective, they do not define man, and they are all just figments of their imagination. In the final account, man is nothing, really. But if man is nothing, then he is nothing in the cosmic struggle of order against chaos. Can we trust man that he would do his part on making the world more orderly? No. We can’t even define his part, let alone expect him to do it. Therefore, someone more powerful than him must set meaning and purpose for man. Someone, that is, a government of a sort. The option of letting man make up his own meaning and purpose is not viable; that would be chaos. Unless that man is powerful enough to be able to fight chaos himself; but then, that man should be expected to force others to comply with his fight against chaos, and use them as his pawns. So man has two options before him: either be powerful enough to be god, or become a pawn in the games of powerful gods. Otherwise, what good is a weak lone man in the struggle against chaos?
But in the Biblical worldview, man has a purpose that is objective and comes from a source far above man or even far above the universe itself. Man is not left at the mercy of his own imagination, and man is not left at the mercy of other men to decide for him what his purpose is supposed to be. When God created man, He created him an individual, not a collective, and he gave him individual purpose. The dominion covenant was given to mankind as a whole, but that was covenantally, as an ethical imperative, not collectively, as a power structure. Adam and Eve were meant to be a team, of course, but even in that team, both of them had independent and direct access to God, no one acted as an “umbrella” or as a “representative” of the other before God. Each one got their “orders” directly from God, and no one needed a human intermediary agency to tell them what their purpose under God was.
Under the Biblical view of man, therefore, man’s purpose in the world is an issue entirely between him and God, directly, personally, and without any intermediate agency. For other men or men’s institutions to want a piece in that relationship means only one thing: that they want to replace God. Institutional control over men’s actions (and again, we are talking control here, not judgment, which is a different issue) is therefore idolatry in action and practical policy, as far as the Bible is concerned. The only way a person can be consistently Christian and Biblically-obedient is to denounce any control of men by other men. Any ideology that insists on human institutions controlling the actions of individual men is an ideology that goes straight against the Dominion Covenant and against the Biblical view of man. A Christian who is consistently Biblical in his worldview and in his understanding of the Dominion Covenant and the nature of man, must be inescapably libertarian, that is, against any institutional control of man by other men.
The two points we talked about so far – the nature of God and the nature of man – are rather philosophical, even if they have inescapable ethical ramifications. But is there direct ethical evidence in the Bible that God wants that individuals are free of institutional control? What about the nature of law? How does the antithesis on this point – the nature of law – play out in our understanding of the Biblical political theory?
What is “law” in the pagan/atheistic worldview? Well, to start with, there are the laws of nature – nature, as the most ubiquitous and most powerful deity, has the most powerful laws, and through them, it keeps everyone in subjection. You can’t escape those laws, no matter what you do. Both gods and men, and powerful men, must submit to those laws; there is no escape from them. Without those laws, as you already know, there will be chaos; so Mother Nature forces everyone to obey them, no matter what they do, whether they want it or not. There is no ethical aspect to those laws; you don’t to choose to obey them or not. You just obey them, period. And since those laws of nature are so powerful and keep chaos at bay, they must be translated somehow into laws of society, so that society is protected against chaos. Hence, we have the notion of “natural law” used by the majority of philosophers and theologians. Or, for those who don’t like the notion of “natural law,” the use of “scientific” is an upgrade: we just base our societal laws on “science.” Like, Marxism had its social theory for the perfect society called “Scientific Socialism” or “Scientific Communism.” It’s not magic, you know; it is science. We study nature scientifically, and we come to the scientifically most perfect society, y’know. Anyway, the point is, for the rulers of society to prevent chaos, they need to mimic Mother Nature; their laws must mimic her laws, and they can’t allow for any free exercise of individual will. That would be chaos.
Of course, one problem with “natural law” for human society (or with the “scientific law” too, for that matter) is that no one has that holy book of “natural law” that specifically spells that law. We have conjectures by armchair philosophers about what it may say vaguely and generally, but when it comes to specific applications to specific cases of justice and government, no one knows what exactly that “natural law” is saying. So, in the final account, the specifics are left to men to make up. Or, to be more precise, to powerful men to make up. The more powerful a person is – especially politically powerful – the more he gets to decide the specific applications of “natural law.” And rightly so; after all, it is nature that made them powerful. For what other reason but to entrust to them the interpretation of the vague “natural law” to specific social applications, right? Thus, from the perspective of the pagan and the atheist view of law, there is no room for individuals to live freely; they must submit to those who, by the nature of their power, are entitled to interpret “natural law” for everyone else. Individual liberty would mean individual interpretations, and that would, of course, lead to chaos.
Is this the case with the Biblical Law? Not at all. The Biblical Law has three characteristics that make it antithetical to pagan or atheist law. First, Biblical Law is detailed in its applications. It is not a general, vague idea which human legislators need to translate to specific cases. True, it has the general principles in a sort of hierarchical structure: the two greatest commandments at the top (Matt. 22:37-40), then the Ten Commandments, but then, God gave in His Word an abundance of case applications plus specific historical rulings (precedents) to make it clear for anyone who reads what the Law commands in every case. And, more than that, the Law not only spells good vs. evil in specific situations, it also spells the specific earthly sanctions that need to be applied and if there should be earthly sanctions; and it also gives the institutional structure to apply those earthly sanctions, where they are needed. There is no guessing and no conjectures when it comes to the Law of God applied, and the details are not left to powerful men to impose on others.
Second, Biblical Law is explicitly individualistic and personal. From the two greatest commandments, through the Ten Commandments, to the concrete commandments and stipulations in the case laws, every commandment is given in second person singular: thou instead of the plural you. Even while speaking the Ten Commandments from the mountain to the gathered multitude of the Israelites (Ex. 20), God still spoke in second person singular, to every one individually, not to the nation as a collective. The Law doesn’t even make sense applied collectively in vast parts of its narrative when applied to collectives, and neither does it make sense in terms of institutional enforcement. How do you enforce “love” through institutional action? How do you enforce the commandments that speak to the heart through institutional action? More than that, the Law has specific limits on government institutions as to how much power they can accumulate. The priestly class was not allowed to have any inheritance in Israel (Deut. 10:9; 18:1, Joshua 18:7, and many other passages), thus, not allowed to have independent economic power but depend on the prosperity of everyone else in the nation. A centralized political power – should one ever arise in Israel – was not allowed to accumulate military might (Deut. 17:14-17). And when the people of Israel wanted to establish such centralized political power, God specifically condemned it as the result of their apostasy from Him, and warned them that their king would become their tyrant.
And, third, all this Law was public. Not only the Ten Commandments were thundered from the mountain to the whole nation, but Moses read the Law to all Israelites, and, in addition, the Law was supposed to be publicly read in its entirety to the whole nation once every seven years. Even the surrounding Gentile nations were expected to know the Law of God (Deut. 4:5-8). I know, this doesn’t sound much to us today who live in the shadow of Christendom. But in the day of Moses, knowledge of the laws was a privilege of the ruling classes, and they jealously kept that knowledge secret from the common citizens. Most of the pagan nations in the antiquity were ruled by decree, not by any fixed law anyway. Those that had a fixed law, prohibited teaching the law to the lower classes. In Sparta, teaching the slaves to read and to know the law was a capital crime. In Rome, every time the plebeians revolted and demanded rights and equality, the patrician class responded that they couldn’t have equality because they were not entrusted with knowing the laws. In Israel, however, knowing the Law was not only a privilege for even the lowest person, it was mandatory for all. And there were no special rules or laws that were peculiar to the ruling class. Thus, interpretation and application of the Law was not an exclusive prerogative of a ruling class. It was given to individuals first. The government – any government, church or state – had a very limited say, and a very limited function. (And we will shortly see what it is.)
Thus, for all practical purposes, from the perspective of the nature of law as exhibited in the Bible, the Bible sees man’s society as comprised mainly of free individuals to whom the ethics of the law is addressed. There is no government that is supposed to be an ethical mediator between men and God, interpreting or re-interpreting the Law of God, or establishing the lines of good and evil through man-made decrees. No matter what governments and powerful men declare as “law,” God’s Law speaks to individuals, and only God’s Law is the boundary between good and evil. Man’s laws do not qualify as laws.
Here a question would arise: What is then the function of government at all? If I am saying that individuals are not to be controlled and regulated and ruled by governments, what is the purpose of the civil government in the Bible? We still have something that look like government, and the New Testament surely tells us to obey the government. How does this comport with what I said about the individualist nature of the Law of God and of the nature of reality and man in general? Here we come to the next point in the presuppositional analysis of theocracy and libertarianism, namely, the nature of judgment.
Given what we said earlier about the nature of reality and the nature of man in the pagan and atheist worldview, it shouldn’t be hard to figure what the purpose and function of civil government – or of any government whatsoever – should be: a government is supposed to act as concentrated power of multitude of men in order to prevent chaos. The enemies of social order, then, will be those who oppose the government. But more than that, the enemies of social order would be those who fail to do what the government tells them to do; for any disobedience to government control and regulations would be by default collaboration with chaos. If a person practices a trade, or opens a lemonade stand, or feeds the poor, or crosses a border to find better life for his family, or hires someone who has crossed a border, or consumes a certain substance, all without a government permit, that in itself is already a crime, being outside government control. The only legitimate victim of all crimes, therefore, is the state; crimes against individuals are only of concern if they threaten the order and the survival of the state. Where crimes against individuals are of no concern to the state and its power – like, for example, abortion or slavery – they are decriminalized. In the final account, the most important court trials are some individual being sued by state entity: whether the United States, or some state, or a county, etc. And do not assume that the “separate branches” of government power help individuals against the executive state: to the contrary, courts rule more and more in favor of the state against the individuals. Obviously, given that the courts depend on the executive state for their money.
When we go to the Bible’s system of justice, however, we discover a very different picture.
First of all, the Bible speaks of two fundamental levels of justice. One is God’s justice. The other is man’s justice under the Law of God. You all probably never thought of it as a gigantic antithesis to the secularist/pagan system of judgment and justice. But it is. It is enormous. Let me explain why, and why it is relevant to our topic here.
The court of God – which is in constant proceedings during history, but will also sit in judgment once for a final verdict at the end of history – is presided by the perfect, all-knowing, and all-powerful Creator, who is also the Author of the perfect Law. In that court, every single action and word, and even the thoughts of our hearts, will be exposed and judged. But we know that that judgment will be righteous and just, because it will be rendered by a righteous and just Judge in Whom there is no partiality. As our Creator, and as the Author of the most perfect Law (and that Law is not just His creation, it is His very moral character), He is entitled to perfect obedience from us, and, as such, He is entitled to judge every single word, deed, and thought, that are disobedient. In God’s Court, there is no difference between private sin and public crime; all sins are crimes there, and nothing escapes.
The court of man, on the other hand, is only limited to history, and is only limited to a few cases. In none of these cases is the state or the church a victim of the crime; the victim is always an individual. The Biblical courts were not meant to judge “crimes against the state” or against the church or against any other government entity. They were only meant to judge crimes against individuals. Thus, in none of the Biblical cases is there anything like payment to the state or slavery to the state as a punishment. The principle is always restitution, and that restitution is always to an individual, never to the state or to the church. Although, given that individuals can voluntarily agree to covenant into social or economic entities that act as individuals – like corporations – Biblical Law will by default take corporations to court or will allow corporations to sue for damages. But we need to understand here that a corporation is not a civil or ecclesiastical government; it has no authority to enforce its decisions on outsiders by the power of the sword or by excommunication. So in case of deliberate theft by a corporation, for example, the Biblical courts would rule double restitution from the corporate treasury; but how that loss will be split individually between the owners of the corporation will be decided between those owners.
God’s Court, thus, judges all sin. Man’s courts are only allowed to judge crimes, and that on a very strict evidence basis. And that only crimes against individuals, or voluntary associations of individuals. But that’s not all.
There is also a judicial relationship between God’s court and man’s courts. God judges nations, and guess what he judges them for: for how their courts and rulers have treated individuals, and especially the weak and the needy. He judges nations in history for the laws they pass and how these laws conform to His Law; no nation can escape that judgment, and no nation can find excuse in some “legal” process. For example, the fact that the United States have adopted their immigration laws, or their legalization of abortion, or their police laws, through a legal process won’t save the nation from judgment. And neither will it save those individuals who agree with such laws, or enforce such laws, or remain silent and passive in the face of such laws. “I was just following orders” is not a valid excuse in God’s court for any individual; and neither is “That was the law of the land.” Individuals who have agreed with or even enforced such unjust laws will be condemned for failing to oppose them, or to sabotage them, or to use their power and authority to change them or make them null and void.
It is this two-tiered system of God’s judgment that makes Biblical Christianity unique in its view of justice. You have probably heard the argument, “A religion that believes in an all-powerful judging God is a totalitarian religion.” That’s stupid babbling. Only such a religion can be the true foundation for individual liberty, because only such a religion provides for true justice upon powerful men who have used their power to wrong those weaker than them. And only such a religion provides for effective deterrent on government tyranny, and only such a religion provides justification for righteous rebellion against tyrannical governments.
We have one more point left: the control of the future. Now, if you have listened to Axe to the Root episodes so far, you don’t need to be told why control of the future is an important factor in the society. In fact, you already know that a civilization is not so much defined by its history – which most people believe, in their ignorance – but by its beliefs and expectations about the future. As Gary DeMar quipped once, “The present doesn’t determine the future; rather, the future determines the present.” If you want to understand our civilization today, try to understand its view of the future, and try to understand who controls the future. The battle for the future defines all social struggles in the world, and those who emerge victorious, capable of capturing the future, have captured the civilization today.
Who controls the future under a pagan/secularist worldview? No one, really. In fact, the question is irrelevant. Remember, a pagan or a secularist can’t even define the future. The future is not something that can be experienced now, and since all the whole knowledge of paganism and atheism is based on experience (as opposed to faith, as in Christianity), a pagan or an atheist has no way to define the future which can’t be experienced. He may borrow the idea of “future” from Christianity, or he may have some vague conjecture of what it may be, but based on a consistently pagan or atheist worldview, any attempt at defining the future is useless.
Thus, whatever there is, is the present. There is no future. And since future is what gives purpose, and since purpose is what drives individuals, there is really no legitimate purpose to which an individual can look. All that remains is what it is, now. And whoever is in power, now.
(As a side note, if you want to understand the mind-boggling commitment of secularists to abortion and all other means of cutting their own offspring, it is right there, in their lack of any concept for the future.)
What does the Bible say? The Bible is an eschatological book from the very beginning; it points to the future, and it explicitly directs the reader’s attention to the future. Even the first institution – the family – was created with an explicit eschatological function and task: “be fruitful and multiply.” R.J. Rushdoony mentioned pointed to this in a few places: the family is first and foremost an eschatological unit. Man and woman are so defined as to be distinct from each other not by any other characteristic but their functions in procreation. (Not by psychology or intellect or emotions or social status or power status, as many modern pagans inside and outside the Church like to claim.) Eve was declared to be the “mother of all living” before there was any mother or any motherhood at all (Gen. 3:20), and the concept of father and mother and the separation of their children into adulthood was described before there were any children or fathers or mothers (Gen. 2:24).
Thus, from the very beginning, the Christian worldview is not only interested in children and the future, it bases its whole ideology on it. It is not that children and purpose and the future are simply “important” to Christianity. They are the very essence of it. Take away children and the future, and you take away Christianity.
But there is an important point here: In the Bible, children are given to individuals. True, these individuals are in a family unit, but they are still individuals in their function in procreation and raising the children. There are no government collectives in the Bible giving birth to children and raising children. Children are exclusively the prerogative of two distinct individuals in a family. In addition, inheritance, namely, the transfer of accumulated wealth for the future, is inescapably individualistic. No government is charged with such transfer of wealth, and no government is allowed to tax it. (For those who try to use Rom. 13 to argue for the legitimacy of taxation, quit twisting one single verse. The full message of the Bible forbids such interpretation.) Individuals are not only uniquely charged by God to transfer wealth to future generations, their individual will is called by the same name God calls His covenant. In Heb. 9:16, the word used for the legal document we call “will” or “testament” is the same word used in the rest of the Greek text for “covenant”: diatheke. There is no other legal concept that is called with the same name. There is no social contract or social covenant in the Bible, there is no local church covenant in the Bible, there is nothing institutional on earth that God calls by the same name as his Covenant . . . except for the last will and testament of an individual by which he transfers wealth to his heirs in the future. The future, in short, which plays such an important part in the Biblical worldview, is entirely entrusted to individuals. God doesn’t trust either church or state to take care of the future.
To summarize, everything in the Biblical worldview points ot the fact that the social and political organization mandated by the Bible is essentially libertarian, and it doesn’t allow for any institutional control over individuals by any institutional entity or government, be it state or church. When R.J. Rushdoony said that theocracy is the closest thing to radical libertarianism that can be had, he was not speaking figuratively, nor was he speaking politically. He was speaking literally, based on a thorough analysis of Biblical Law and the social order it prescribed. A thorough antithesis applied to all areas of analysis clearly shows that any anti-libertarian ideas must come from pagan or atheist presuppositions. While a consistent Christian can’t be anything else but libertarian. The nature of God and reality, the nature of man, the nature of God’s Law, the nature of judgment, and the control of the future, in all these areas it is obvious that in order for a person to be consistently Christian, he must be as closely radical libertarian as possible. Anything less than that would mean surrender to pagan presuppositions, and eventually abandoning the Christian faith in its social and political applications. In the final account, since state control of individuals is inevitably based on anti-Christians presuppositions, a society that has allowed such state control, even for the best of reasons, will see itself drifting away from the Biblical faith. And the United States today is the prime example.
This week I will assign two books for reading. The first, of course, is R.J. Rushdoony’s Law and Liberty. If you haven’t read it yet, I will ask with the sternest voice I can: Why? What are you waiting for? The second book is titled The Theme is Freedom, and it was written by M. Stanton Evans, a conservative political commentator and journalist of the old school conservatism who knew that the heart of conservatism is libertarianism, and the foundation for libertarianism is Christianity. (Unlike modern “conservatives” who are indistinguishable from socialists.) I had the opportunity to meet him in person back in 2001 in Washington DC and to ask him for permission to translate this book in Bulgarian. I haven’t gotten to translate it, yet, but I you surely need to read it, for the book has some very valuable insights about the connection between Christianity and the American view of freedom.
In your prayer and giving, consider Bulgarian Reformation Ministries, a mission organization devoted to building the intellectual foundation for the future Christian civilization in Eastern Europe through translating and publishing books that bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every area of life. Including liberty and including the conflict between the individual and the state. Remember, just about 30 years ago, Eastern Europe was able to escape the political grip of one of the most murderous expressions of modern paganism: Communism. And paganism, let me tell you, is not libertarian. All paganism is statist and collectivist to the core. Fighting statism and collectivism is part of our preaching the Gospel, and I am calling you to help me in that task. Visit BulgarianReformation.com, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and donate. God bless you all.