October 2, 2013

Being the Ugly Duckling

By In Articles, Philosophy, Society and Culture

From what little I do know of this wonderful thing called “society,” I have felt no ambition to partake in its felicities; and yet to get into society I have seen men fling away their principles, forsake their friends, stifle their consciences, abandon their church fellowship, and become traitors to their God.  –Charles Spurgeon

A recent fan of the site writes to us on Facebook: “I myself am Reformed and am a Libertarian and I feel like the ugly duckling sometimes.” Welcome to the program!  For those of us who subscribe to the Doctrines of Grace and also to a libertarian polity, it often seems that we search in vain for like minded folks.  But it is my contention that, generally speaking, many of our most influential “intellectual giants” have also been “ugly ducklings.”  Truth is rarely the position of the majority.  Even Christ stated that few will find the gate and narrow road that leads to life (Matthew 7).  Thus, to be an ugly duckling, while not proof per se of the accuracy of one’s position, is certainly not dishonorable.  As Spurgeon notes in the quote above, it is by mostly destructive means that one becomes part of “society.”  In similar fashion, to adopt the popular viewpoints of the world around on the basis that many people accept them, usually requires one to either “fling away their principles” or “stifle their consciences.”

It can be discouraging in a sense to have such minority views.  The Reformed faith is certainly not the most attractive Christian interpretation to the unbeliever (and many believers too).  And a pure libertarianism too can come across as extreme or unnecessary.  However, I’d like to offer three reasons why one should prefer being the “ugly duckling” rather than compromising.

1. Man’s depravity has made lies attractive and therefore the masses flock to lies.  When we realize that the majority of people, of society, hold to a different worldview than we do, and all their beliefs are shaped by their worldview, it should be a sign that Truth, whatever it may be, is simply not ever going to be a majority position at all.  In other words, since few find the Truth, we know that Truth is something other that the conclusions of the masses.  This is a useful mindset to bring to any theoretical consideration.  To compromise a belief on the basis that it is unpopular is to admit that the majority has a better understanding of the truth simply because they are in the majority.  This is especially trying when we consider that most Reformed theologians and leaders today are not libertarians.  We ought to listen to their arguments, but to submit to their viewpoints simply because all of them agree is an unfounded compromise.  Rather, we should hold to the absolute standard of Scripture to shape our worldview.  But the point is clear: Truth is most often a minority position and therefore to hold to the truth is ipso facto to be an ugly duckling.  Now the non-libertarian folks may be right and we may be wrong, but they are not right simply because they all hold the same opinion.

2. To compromise for popularity’s sake edifies no one.  Most readers on this site, since they came to such unappreciated positions such as Calvinism and libertarianism, have taken the time to think through the issues.  They know why they believe what they believe.  Thus, in convincing others of their standpoint, they have reasons and theories to back up their position.  This is edifying to both parties.  We learn things when we are willing to stand for what we believe in and it aids in spreading a good message.  This is exactly what this site is about.  I realized about a year ago that there was no one else in my network with whom I shared both positions.  And thus I sought to write down my thoughts so as to let others know that, yes, one could in fact be both a Calvinism and a libertarian at the same time.  In the process I learned that not only are the two compatible, but I also learned that libertarianism is dependent on my view of Scripture.  Being the ugly duckling can sharpen both you and others just as iron sharpens iron.

3. It dishonors God when we trade in our “principles” and “consciences” to gain the favor of others.  We are saved by believing and Christianity is a religion that deals with the intellect.  As J. Gresham Machen noted in his book on faith, we must defend Christianity as a worldview which emphasizes the “primacy of the intellect.”  We are not saved by works and we are not saved by our emotions or other “religious experience.”  We are saved by faith (belief) in a person.  Thus, while libertarianism does not concern the content of saving faith, it still deals with propositions that are either true or false.  And God takes belief in false propositions very seriously.  In fact, our sin is exemplified in our believing and speaking lies.  Thus, it would be wrong to knowingly profess something that you do not believe to be true.  While your belief in something does not make it true, neither is it truthful to say you believe something that you do not.  Hold firm to your beliefs and pray that God would keep you accountable and continually reveal the areas in which you are wrong.  Do not be completely open minded (labor to keep the faith!) and always assume the supreme authority of the Scripture, but at the same time, admit that you are not infallible and that you have much to learn.  Continue to submit your “principles” and “consciences” to God and His Holy Word, and never trade those for the favor of others.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com