July 31, 2015

Ep. 8 Our Personal Path Toward Liberty

By In Blogs, Podcast

Brian and C.Jay reflect on their own path toward libertarianism.  You’ll see some of our personal side!

Some things that were mentioned:

To download the audio, click here.

We always like to hear from our audience, tell us about your own path to libertarianism, what issues were or still are hurdles or sticking points, and how did reformed theology either contribute or hinder your beliefs about libertarianism?

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
  • maninthewilderness

    Thanks for that interesting discussion.

    The thing that struck me about it was that there was so little mention of the Bible. There was not a lot about theology either. In fact, there wasn’t a lot about Jesus Christ or God. There was however, a lot about Rothbard, and the most memorable use of the word “disciple” was the description of Hoppe as a disciple of Rothbard.

    That’s not necessarily a criticism – perhaps it was inevitable given the topic under discussion. But it did strike me as interesting.

    • C.Jay Engel

      Yeah we were talking about how we were introduced to libertarianism and the Mises Institute and our non-interventionist position in light of our previous political conservatism. There’s definitely more to talk about and we didn’t have time for everything.

    • Brian K. Jacobson

      Nature of the episode. I see your point but its also obvious even just from a cursory reading of some of C. Jay’s or Brandon’s articles that our epistemology and justifications for our conclusions on the State and civil magistrates is from scripture and reformed exegesis. This was specifically on how we came from a neo-conservative background to Austro-libertarianism, and I’m amazed at how long the episode was because I feel like we just touched the surface of the issues we mentioned. I didn’t even remember to mention the role that Bastiat and his views influenced me, clearly based on his theocentric worldview and ethics. I almost forget to mention Machen until the end. Believe me I could have gone into exegetical detail about how premillenial dispensational approaches to scripture naturally leads to the Irsrael-first time of approaches to neoconservatism and the formation of the moral-majority conservatism and then how my amillenial reformed approach to church already crumbled the foundation for that specific foreign policy issue. We really didn’t go into detail about any of the issues we brought up. Even though we mentioned Rothbard, Austrian economics, the Iraq war, and other issues we really did not touch at all on the specifics of why the Iraq war was unjust, or why the Federal Reserve causes the business cycle. So I while understand it might seem strange we didn’t go over any specific text or what about our theology lead to libertarianism we also only merely mentioned certain libertarian theorist and theologians without really exploring their ideas or the specifics.
      In my personal journey I can’t really that I just read the bible or the ten commandments and came to all the conclusions of Machen or Bastiat. I wish it were but I probably was just not a consistent enough thinker and that’s just sometimes how we arrive at positions of things slightly outside of the direct address of scripture. For me it was more that I already I had very gospel-centered simple means of grace two kingdoms view of the church as society of pilgrims in the wilderness making their way to the new Jerusalem above, and as I read Machen, Bastiat, and Rothbard I simply found it very compatible with scripture and the reformed tradition. Frankly though, no one is going to read the eighth commandment or what Deuteronomy and Proverbs has to say about just weights and come to the Austrian theory of the business cycle. Scripture can tell you about murder and war but it wont necessarily tell you that the Iraq war is unjust, but if you’re familiar with scripture it certainly will help.
      We might some day do an episode on scriptural defense and justification for libertarian conclusions but that’s not always the same as describing a multi-year long process of how we arrived at certain political conclusions. I have a very church-centric view of the christian life which partly contributed to my already being fairly anti-state and in my estimation scripture’s primary concern and content is on the saving work of Christ and the believers life of gratitude and sanctification and really has little to say about most cultural and political issues. I do believe however scripture is sufficient for life and doctrine but our conclusions about central banks, regulation, and foreign policy are much much more indirectly influenced by scripture than say our view of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience or our view of the sacraments. Maybe that may drive some solo scriptura advocates(as opposed to sola scriptura) and presuppositional theonomist advocates insane but frankly there is no way you can read the new testament and think it even tries to lay out a blueprint for civil society. Conclusions about this are much less direct than views about the gospel and justification by faith which is also why I am not nearly as concerned with what my brother at my local church thinks about Christ as he does about Rothbard, and also why I still cringe when any pastor brings up candidates, politicians, or specifics bills from the pulpit. Maybe that makes me radical two kingdoms but I think that’s simply a biblical view about the nature and mission of the church.
      Maybe you’re path to libertarianism was different and I’d certainly be interested to hear it and how others came to it, but I think that’s the nature of the issue and the episode.

  • Brian K. Jacobson

    (Sorry to get to your comment so late I just saw it today.)

    1) Yes, definitely agree. Though to be more consistent with Austrian economics I wouldn’t say “empirical evidence suggest Austrians are right” but instead that their axioms are correctly deduced step by step with a priori reasoning. Since Austrian Economics is a subset of praxeology and is making anthropological (study of man) truth claims that are either logically valid or not, that is if premise A is correct and true and if B is implied or deduced from A then B must also be true. Empirical would suggest making tentative probability claims that may be different in different times and cultures.

    2) My entrance into covenantal theology of Old-Princeton type opened the way (though didnt necessarily push towards) libertarianism because of its understanding of the Noahic covenant as a common grace covenant and its understanding of the “kingdom of God” in the NT and relation to the civil law of the OT mosaic covenant. Brandon Adams (who writes at this site sometimes) answered a similar questions about the biblical basis for libertarian conclusions and it was quite good so I’ll post it below (it is long though):

    1) The moral law of God (decalogue) applies to all men, including “rulers.” “The government” is not exempt from this law. Those in the position of authority may not steal or murder.

    2) The civil penalties that were given to Israel were given as part of the Old Covenant, specifically as covenant curses (Deut 27:26; 21:22-23). Its purpose was to create a holy, earthly kingdom as a type of the holy, heavenly kingdom of Christ. Israelites were given explicit authority to execute God’s judgment upon sin with the iron sword in order to purge the physical holy land where God physically dwelt, of evil. They were thus not violating the moral law when they executed adulterers because God is free to judge as He pleases. However, the Old Covenant has been abolished. No one is under it today. http://www.1689federalism.com/

    3) The Noahic Covenant was made with all living creatures and men. It is a covenant of common preservation with the purpose of preserving the earth for the sake of the elect, so that they may be born and saved, and Christ may be glorified. Its purpose is not to create a holy, earthly society, but to provide a venue for God to gather a holy, heavenly society out of, in which they will become pilgrims.

    4) 1 Cor 5:12 says that we are not to hold non-Christians to the same standard of the law as Christians. We are not to remove non-Christians from community (city, state, nation) for the same reasons that Christians would be removed from community (church) – ie adultery.

    5) Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43 was a central text in the reformation debate about liberty of conscience. Jesus teaches that the weeds (wicked) are to grow together with the wheat (saints) in the world (note: the field is NOT the church). See Benjamin Keach’s explanation here http://reformedlibertarian.com… “Some think our Lord refers [servants] to Christian magistrates, who have been, and may again be pious persons, and may be ready to cut off by death such offenders, whom our Lord would have lived in the world until the end thereof comes ; not but that [ie “no one but”] murders and traitors ought by the sword of justice to be cut off, or pulled up ; but not such who are only guilty of divers sorts of errors in matters of faith, or such who many ways are immoral in their lives.”

    6) Yet Romans 13:4 says that authorities who bear the sword are servants of God’s wrath. This clearly has some connection to God’s law. How can we understand this in harmony with the above? Contextually, the end of Romans 12 is addressing persecution and wrongs done to Christians. It tells us not to repay evil for evil, but to love our enemies (note: reference is to our enemies, those who do us harm – not God’s enemies). It tells us to leave vengeance to the Lord, right after which Paul speaks of the authorities who bear the sword as servants of God’s wrath. Clearly the two are connected. Thus we see that the use of the sword in society outside of the Old Covenant has connection not simply to offense against God, but specifically to violence done to other men. If we look back at Genesis 9:6, the Noahic Covenant that we are all under (as opposed to the Old, which no one is under) specifically commands men to use the sword against those who commit violence. Thus one is not committing murder who executes a murderer. He is enforcing justice as a servant of God. Furthermore, this authority is not given by God only to a special class of people, though particular societies may wish to formalize a process for completing this God-given task.

    7) Therefore the use of the sword is authorized by God to execute justice, not to generally “improve society.”

    Thus we have no warrant to make all the world holy by imposing the physical sword on all men, but we do have warrant for wielding the (iron) sword against men who do violence to other men. In this way God’s wrath is poured out against wrongdoers, yet in a way that does not try to impose the eschatological state on the present world.

    • John Mann

      Thanks for that, Brian.