February 28, 2014

To Those Claiming God is Anti-Libertarian in the Old Testament

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel


There are many who claim that whereas Jesus represented love and peace, the God of the OT “was” anti-libertarianism due to his displays of power, taking of life, and guiding the hearts of his created beings. This is a common atheistic or agnostic complaint against those, like us, who are both Christians as well as libertarians. Libertarian in this context importantly refers specifically to those theories of individual property rights. Below are thoughts against this mindset.


If they claim that the OT Christian God was anti-libertarian, they must assume that this God exists for the sake of their argument. If they assume, even for the sake of the argument, that God exists, they must concede the Christian position that the OT as a whole explains and demonstrates the nature of that God. Therefore, they must also concede that the God of the OT is taught to have ownership of all the earth, if they wish to stay consistent with their first assumption. Further, they must also understand the God owns life and death.

If God owns the world and its inhabitants, then is it not a libertarian principle that he have the legal and moral ability to do with the property and creation what he wills, so long as it is not self-contradictory to his character and nature as a whole? The property owner chooses how to act on his property. If the OT states that this world and creation are God’s, then to assume that the God of the OT exists for the sake of the current argument is also to assume that this God acts well within the libertarian property ownership framework.

Therefore, it is not the conclusion that the anti-Christian hates in his crusade against OT theology, rather, it is the premise (that the God of the OT exists). Unfortunately, his claim that the OT God is anti-libertarian is an improper and illogical claim. They would do well to state their more foundational claim- which is that the God in the OT does not exist.

And this is what Scripture expects them to say, for “the fool says in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

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
  • Elizabeth Sacks

    Presuppositions make or break the argument! Great Post!

  • When looking at the OT for evidence of a libertarian framework, I look at the places where God says, “choose this day whom you will serve.” There are plenty of places there that society and Israelites individually have the choice to remain faithful to the covenant with God. Or choose a human king. Or _______. God gives Israel the choice, then in many areas (prophets specifically) begs it to return to its covenant with God.

    At the same time, I dislike the argument “God owns everything and can do with it what God wants to.” To me it’s a cop-out answer and ignores the debate over the nature of God’s relationship to creation. But even under that framework, it doesn’t address the underlying concern about God’s behavior: namely, God’s character. Of course God can do what God wants! But being free to do what God wants does not mean God will do it. Or, perhaps (*open can of worms*) God cannot do things against God’s own nature, and therefore God—by nature—cannot do certain things.

    I’m not saying God cannot influence or “make” people do things, but I believe God does so by still permitting and letting remain the ability for human beings to choose their behavior (not some “fake choice” that is in the end a fatalistic pre-determined choice).

  • Ruel Chavez

    Any thoughts about the distinction between the way John Frame used the term “libertarianism” in his critique of open theism with the libertarianism of mises.org and lewrockwell.com?

    • calrush91

      Absolutely. It is this: Frame discusses libertarianism in the philosophical sense. That is, he seeks to answer the question: “Does God know the future or does he learn it as humans do?” This is theological libertarianism. Which I deny and agree with Frame

      Mises, Rockwell, et al refer to libertarianism in the political sense. That is, the seek to answer the question: “what, if at all, is the proper role of government in society?” This is political libertarianism. Which I affirm and agree with Mises.org.

      These two subjects have little to do with each other.

      Here is a quote from my article below (which you might be interested in as well): “[Note: I pray that the reader understands me here. Please see the distinction between political libertarianism, which is a political philosophy; theological libertarianism, which is a doctrine regarding the role and nature of God in the life of his human creation; and philosophical libertarianism, which is a theory of man’s ability to make choices and decisions. They first category is a completely different subject than the latter two and those last two should be understood with their distinctions].”


      • Ruel Chavez

        Thanks for the Calvinism, Free Will and Austrian link. That’s a great distinction you made there. That’s actually my worry. I happened to be a member of a Filipino theological forum in Facebook with almost 2,000 members. In my participation in that forum, it appears to me that most Filipino pastors and theological educators do not see the relevance of Austrian economics and political libertarianism to Philippine reality. That’s my personal observation for only few engage in discussion when it comes to economic issues. And just recently, the hottest thread there is about open theism and I saw participants posting links to reformed websites. That’s where I read theological and philosophical libertarianism connected to open theism.

        • C.Jay Engel

          That is hard that economic freedom aren’t seen as applicable. It is a discouraging reality to be sure. But, I will always make it plain that more than earthly freedom, the message of the gospel and Scripture is infinitely more important. So I hope that this is preached.

          Open theism is very attractive these days. I pray that the truth of the gospel can influence the people there in the Philippines.