Monday, June 27, 2011

Libertarianism is Political Unitarianism

In last weeks column, I took objection to another columnist presenting our political alternatives as Collectivism or Liberty (which he understands to be libertarianism). In addition, the institutions of Evangelical political leftism have raised the alarm over all those right-wingers for Jesus who also embrace Ayn Rand.

So I take a stab at out-lining a more genuine Christian view (within the confines 800 words or so).

When God redeems and restores human beings, what does their life together look like? It is obviously not bare individualism. Life in the glorious body of Christ, which is God's desire for all human beings, is not a system of alliances based on the convergence of self-interest.

True, you cannot expect natural society to behave like redeemed society. But that form of society into which Christ redeems us is a full restoration of the creation order, life for which we were created. So it indicates what social relationships really are. Marriage is not merely a mutually beneficial contractual alliance with legal advantages. It can be treated that way, but then it is no longer marriage. Family cannot be reduced to a useful alliance (a la John Locke). When you treat it this way, you destroy it.

Community is natural, not artificial. It is more than just the sum of its parts. It's part of our creational purpose, not simply the means we choose with a view to fulfilling the ends we set for ourselves. That is the Christian view of man, though not the view all Christians hold.  In his column, "Collectivism vs Liberty," Alex Tokarev shares view of the modern Enlightenment. In that view, there are only individuals, the state, and any organizations that people choose to form and disband or depart. The original exponents of that view hoped to substitute it for the Christian view, and were largely successful. Because of resemblances (e.g., individual autonomy vs individual liberty) and what the views share in common (like limited government), many well-meaning Christians, like Prof. Tokarev, have fallen into this confusion to one extent or another.

The Christian view of politics is like the Christian view of anything: Trinitarian.

But Trinitarian politics mirrors the Triune God of the Bible, who is one God in three Persons (see Anthony Bradley’s column from yesterday on the Trinitarian worldview). He is a true unity that preserves the genuine individuality of each person within that divine community. As we are made in God’s image, we too are created to be true individuals living together in real community. We are individually redeemed but into the body of Christ, the covenant community, the church. A soteriology without a corresponding ecclesiology is not a fully biblical gospel. And a Christian political theory that values individual liberty without giving due respect to community, something as natural and good as the people who compose it, is a merely gospel-influenced, secular ideology.

If you wish t explore a more fully Christian political theory or political theology, start with two papal encyclicals: Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891) and Pius XI's reflection on it, Quadrogessimo Anno (1931). Leo distinguishes the Christian view of society from both modern liberalism and socialism. From there, you can explore Jacques Maritain's Man and the State and John Courtney Murray's We Hold These Truths. More recently, Robert Kraynak has written Christian Faith and Modern Democracy.

The great nineteenth century Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper, has dominated Reformed political thought for the last century or more. A good place to start is the relevant sections of Lectures on Calvinism, especially "Calvinism as a Life System," "Calvinism and Politics," and "Calvinism and the Future." You can progress from there with James Bratt's Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader. Kuyper understands the crisis of modernity and addresses it appropriately.

After that, you might explore David VanDrunen's books of the two kingdoms tradition of natural law thinking in Reformed political thought and Nicholas Wolterstorff's Justice: Rights and Wrongs (2008) and Justice in Love (2011).


For those interested in the libertarianism of Robert Nozick, look at this article in Slate and the response at the Cato Institute site.

In my column, I mention that Martin Luther calls Satan "God's ape." This comes from his Table Talk (Of God's Works, No. 67): "The Greeks and heathens in after times imitated this, and build temples for their idols in certain places, as at Ephesus for Diana, at Delphos for Apollo, etc. For, where God build a church there the devil would also build a chapel. They imitated the Jews also in this, namely, that as the Most Holiest was dark, and had no light, even so and after the same manner, did they make their shrines dark where the devil made answer. Thus is the devil ever God's ape."

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