July 22, 2015

LRC’s Disappointing anti-Protestant Post

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

It’s difficult to respond to this.

Charles Burris– an LRC blogger of whom I am generally quite fond– considers the modern homosexual movement that has seeped into the nominal evangelical world at large as a continuation of the Reformation.  This, is a monumentally disappointing interpretation of what is happening, and it is equally historically ignorant.

This misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the war on the Biblical doctrine of sexuality as it relates to the Reformation takes place in the larger context of Roman Catholic’s complete disregard for what was at stake during the Reformation’s birth.

I have had this inner urge for quite some time to address this issue as it relates to the libertarian movement, but lack of time has gotten the best of me.

Let me try to summarize what’s going on here.  The LRC bloggers– including Lew Rockwell himself– are Roman Catholics.  While I’m at it, it should be mentioned that the paleoconservative movement as a whole in the 20th century was (and is) largely Roman Catholic (consider The American Conservative, Pat Buchanan, Russell Kirk, et al.)  The neoconservative movement, which in the 20th century both destroyed conservatism and limited government, was largely a product of state-coziness with evangelical power groups.  Thus, the former groups blame the evangelicals for the rise of statism and fascism in the 20th century.  Politically and economically, I have everything in common with the LRC-type libertarian movement.  On the political-strategic and political-culture front, I am pretty much about 95% with the paleoconservatives over against the evangelicals who have fallen for the statism wrapped up in the largely Dispensationalist neoconservative movement.  Tom Woods, who represents both the paleolibertarian and paleoconservative world in a fantastic and agreeable manner–and who is also a traditionalist Roman Catholic — is perhaps my favorite living political/economic thinker.  This has nothing to do with any distaste for these two groups– but I do dissent theologically.

This is difficult to say, and I want precisely zero misunderstandings of what I am articulating here: I owe so much to the Lew Rockwell column, to its bloggers, to its political analysis, but misrepresent Protestantism by confusing it with Religious Liberalism as it developed in Germany and eventually the United States in the form of “Protestant” Progressivism.

But let me be absolutely clear: the non-Catholic Progressivist movements, while aiming to overrun Protestantism, have nothing to Protestantism historically understood and represent, in fact, a revolt against the Protestant worldview: which is the philosophy built on Scripture alone.  Thus, when Charles Burris looks to Matthew Vines as an example of the Reformation continuing on, he is conflating two antithetical movements: one built on Scripture, the other built on a revolt against Scripture. To say that the latter is a product of the former is so far beyond nonsensical that it defies rational explanation.

Does Burris have no clue that Vines would never in a million years describe himself as “Reformed,” “Lutheran,” or “Calvinist?”  These systems radically stand opposed to Vines and the entire religious Progressivism to which he belongs. In fact, if I were to take my own cheap shot against the Roman Catholics, I would say the modern religious liberals (such as Vines) follow the Roman Catholics in standing opposed to the doctrine of sola scriptura.  Why is it that these religious progressives find more solace in the current Pope than in John Calvin, the Reformed confessions, and the whole plethora of Reformed seminaries in the United States? Of course, the traditional Roman Catholics would fight tooth and nail against these points and bring up their own dissenting positions with regard the current Pope– as they should. But why is it fair for the Roman Catholics to categorize all non-Catholics into one pigeon hole?

As for myself and so many other Reformed Protestants, we in no way consider the Progressives as “one of us.” They are totally other, outside the camp for a strikingly large set of reasons.  When the Progressives took over Old Princeton Theology and initiated a coup throughout the Protestant world, they were not “continuing the reformation,” they were revolting against it.  And J. Gresham Machen responded not by joining the ranks of the revolutionaries at Princeton, but by leading an exodus away from Princeton and toward the creation of Westminster Seminary.  This Progressive movement was both religious and political. (After all, where do you think Woodrow Wilson came from?  For more interesting history, consider that the fascist John D. Rockefeller largely bankrolled the Progressivist movement as his ticket into the Democratic Party by first accumulating power at Princeton.  Here is Rothbard on the Progressive era power groups and here is Gary North on the Progressivist coup in the Protestant world)

I noticed the same very clear and anti-Protestant theme in Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s otherwise good book Liberty or Equality.  There, Leddihn argued that modern statism– including the Hitler regime– was a result of the Lutheran movement in Germany.  Because allegedly, Luther led to German Liberalism, and so on and so forth until the revolutionary tide against “The Church” and other social institutions gave way to socialism.

Do you see the flaw here?  It is the same flaw that the modern statists utilize in their quest to take down the political philosophy of the LRC-type libertarians: that because they oppose the state, they therefore are responsible for the chaotic, ruthless, and syndicalist “anarchists” who want to overthrow all power via the means of violence and aggression.  But this is ludicrous for the same reason that it is ludicrous to argue that, because the Reformers sought to challenge the doctrines of Rome, they are therefore responsible for later non-Catholic religious liberals.  The flaw in this reasoning is clear, but unfortunately, Burris and others do not want to see it.

Now, I have long known–and dissented from– the religious views of the many Roman Catholic bloggers at LRC.  But it is completely irresponsible to blame the tragedies in the West on the non-Roman Catholic, Reformation.  And against that, I must speak out.

Perhaps Burris should consider the work of Murray Rothbard in his outstanding treatise on the roots of American Liberty, in which he showed and praised the various Protestant (mostly particular baptist) movements in the New World toward the direction of individual liberty and property rights.

Burris rightly notes that the Roman Catholic Church saw the Reformers as “heretics seeking to disrupt the apostolic authority and magisterium of the Church.”  But speaking truth to power, when in fact truth is being spoken against corruption, is never a bad thing.  And to blame later despicable movements on the original Reformers is akin to blaming the left-libertarians and so-called “libertarian socialists” (an oxymoron, of course), on Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul.

Burris writes:

Today, unbeknownst to many Christians of whatever denomination, there is underway a new Reformation which is taking place, seeking to challenge and radically transform the most basic beliefs of Christians.

Here is the thing: the first reformation sought to bring these Christian beliefs back to the forefront, over against the corrupt practices and doctrines of the Roman Church.  And this so-called New Reformation is seeking to do precisely the opposite. How can the latter be the child of the former?

This has nothing to do with the Reformation. And Burris is completely unfair to argue such.

I love the folks at LRC and consider them great warriors in the path toward liberty. I mean that in every sense.  I agree with their libertarian political philosophy. But when the Roman Catholics on that site pull stunts like the present one, I simply must express my stark dissent.  There are a great number of Reformed libertarians associated with the Mises Institute and LRC as well, including Shawn Ritenour, William Anderson, and Timothy Terrell. This post is not against LRC. It is against the misrepresentation of my faith.

I am still a fan of LRC and LRC-type libertarianism (basically, Rothbardianism).  I encourage reading it daily. But I will always defend Protestantism and Reformation theology.  Of course, this does not mean I always agree with Calvin– in fact I disagree with him on the nature of the Church in relation to society, I disagree with him on some of the uses of the civil magistrate, and I think he was wrong to support the execution of Servetus (which stemmed from a faulty position on the Church/society relationship).

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For fun: As a side note to further my defense of Protestantism against the claims of many Roman Catholics (in case there are any traditional Roman Catholics reading this), I want to mention the misrepresentation that the Roman Catholics always bring up to the effect that Protestantism seeks to ignore “reason” while Rome upholds this.  Again, they use the 19th century German religious liberals in their defense– as if we have anything to do with Kierkegaard.  But actually, the reality is very different and it is summed up in the idea that Rome holds to Thomistic understanding of “reason” while Protestants (should) adhere to the Augustinian understanding of reason: that reason is logic (rather than “empirical observation”). More on that theme in the short blogpost here.  And in this, I actually have more in common with the rationalism of Mises than do the Thomist Roman Catholics.  

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