September 5, 2018

Reformed Libertarian Lives On: A Reflection

By In Articles

Almost a year ago, I stopped writing for this site– I wasn’t sure exactly when I would return to it, or if my interests would lead me to focus solely on my other, newer, site Austro Libertarian. I have a developed a very loyal– and fascinatingly close group of Reformed Libertarian readers, mostly centered around our Facebook group. For a Facebook community, which are not known for being enjoyable experiences, it is a extraordinary bunch of people. Except for Bryan Smith, who spells his name wrong.

I wrote the following in my last article here at RL:

Over the last several years, however, I have observed within myself the ability to actually explain these economic and political ideas to a great number of people, not just the Reformed Christians. Everyone has their specific areas of interest and knowledge— for fellow RL contributor Brandon Adams, it is Covenant Theology. But my own area of passion has turned out to be the developments of Austrian Economics and Rothbardian Libertarianism— brought together by the phrase “Austro-Libertarianism.” I’m obsessed with this tradition of the defense of liberty.

As I desired to write more on these specific matters for a general audience— not just the Reformed community— I experienced my first wave of real frustration. I could never make my website “stick” in front of those completely uninterested in theological concerns. I am not talking about those hostile to theology and religion— even for those who generally didn’t mind such things, there’s just the modern reality of an ever-present over stimulation of online content. Thus, trying to weed out the excesses, they didn’t have the mental bandwidth to sift through all the types of RL content for what they were really interested in.

On the flip side of the coin, there were those Reformed readers who were genuinely curious about Christian defenses of liberty, who loved the exposition of Scripture, who appreciated a “Christian view” of what was happening in politics. Yet despite these interests, essays and articles that focused specifically and precisely on economic theory, the politics of the libertarian-world, or deductions from libertarian principles, were completely ignored by these readers. I don’t blame them for this. We all have our interests.

At the same time, I felt myself wanting to write for the former audiences sometimes, while always worrying what the latter audience would think. And Brandon Adams would write for the latter audience at times when I was wanting to convince the former audience they should spend more time at my site. This completely stagnated my motivation for growing the site. I had trapped myself.

And thus, Austro-Libertarian was born. As close as the RL groups is, as enthusiastic as they are for a project that combines the Reformed Christian worldview with a strictly Misesian-Rothbardian paradigm in the realm of economics and politics, I was impressed with how quickly the traffic on the AL site surpassed the RL site. There is more general demand for non-Christian content. No surprise there. Nevertheless, I was enthusiastic about growing it and reaching bigger audiences.

But there is still a need for, and an intense interest in, a particularly Reformed outlet for these ideas. ReformedLibertarian.com is the single best resource for this material, even as the last 12 months have seen no pieces from me. Thankfully, Brandon Adams has not let this site sit in complete silence and he has continued doing what he does best.

In the last two months I began to have renewed interest in expressing my thoughts, for the first time in a while, on the religious (or worldview) aspects of my social/political/economic thinking, and even on religious matters more specifically. Because I now have an outlet at the other site where I can post my articles for a broader audience, I have been released from the frustrations expressed above. I can return to some of my earlier topics relating to theology, philosophy of religion, and other happenings in the “Christian” world, to the extent that Christianity still exists.

I am reminded of a particularly controversial figure in Reformed circles, John W. Robbins– now remembered for A) agitating a number of Christian writers and B) for publishing the writings of Gordon Clark. The latter accomplishment has for me been immensely impactful, and I am forever thankful that God used him in this way. Regardless of whether people appreciate Robbins’ tone and his writing personality, I mostly agree with his criticisms of people and theological trends.

Regardless of that, what reminds me of John Robbins is this: educated at Grove City college and closely familiar with the great Austrian economist and Misesian disciple Hans Sennholz(did you know Robbins edited Sennholz’s festschrift?), Robbins’ original professional goal was to create a truly Reformed political philosophy. This meant, given his political and economic opinions,  that he set out to synthesize his libertarian leanings with his Reformed worldview. He ended up following a different path as his Trinity Foundation matured. The timing of his “career” coincided with major debates within the Reformed world about the issue of justification by faith alone. The Reformed community and its “leadership” (or major influencers– both individuals and institutions) did not always make the right theological decisions in their statements and resolutions. John Robbins thus was swept into the much more important matter of justification, political theory was placed on the back burner.

And there it remained.

I do not anticipate moving political theory to the back burner. However, there is much to be said on religious matters– justification, faith, the gospel are always relevant of course, but now we have the issues of the 21st century as well: the social justice movement, the stunning exposing of the Catholic Church, and so on. I hope to contribute thoughts to these matters, and many more. Thus, I am swept back into the topics of Christian Theology proper and recognize the ever-growing need for a Christian stance on socio-political issues in a world rampant with statism, secular and religious. And check it out, I even changed back the logo image at the very top to be “Reformed Theology | Libertarian Polity.”

Of course, I’m no hero– and likely won’t be a loud voice, but I cannot help but bud in on these issues.

I am in the process of writing out some thoughts on the recent Social Justice statement, and especially the nature of the gospel as it pertains to the issue of Social Justice, so called. I suppose I have become more jaded about mainstream Christianity, as they call it. Many things annoy me, put me off. Rank irrationality, for one; trend-chasing, for another. I want to defend the faith against its critics who vocally declare themselves outside the Christian religion, as well as those who declare themselves to be within. This is still close to my heart.

And thus, Reformed Libertarian lives on.

Soli Deo gloria.

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