Christianity and Libertarianism are incompatible

Point by point…

Christianity teaches deference to worldly authority on nonspiritual matters (“give unto Caesar…”).
Libertarianism holds that the individual should not be subjugated to the desires of the state.

Christianity teaches that one sins by act, word, deed, thought, or omission.
Libertarianism holds that all acts are morally permissible except those which involve coercion or the use of force against another.

Christianity teaches meekness, humility, and the weakness of man in the face of temptation.
Libertarianism holds that man should be proud, triumphant, self-confident, and strong.

Christianity teaches its followers to admire sacrifice.
Libertarianism holds that the most admirable quality of man is success and accomplishment.

Christianity teaches that you are your brother’s keeper.
Libertarianism holds that we are all individuals who should feel no shame in pursuing our own interests.

Christianity teaches that men are sheep.
Libertarianism teaches that men are creators, innovators, and leaders who should determine the outcome of their own lives.

In short, Christianity embodies collectivism, altruism, and obedience.
Libertarianism embodies individualism, self-determination, self-interest, liberty and freedom.

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis extrapolates from the basic tenets of Christianity what a Christian society would look like, admitting in the end that it looks very much like socialism. Libertarianism is diametrically opposed to socialism and all its authoritarian ideological brethren.

So how in the world could anybody be both a libertarian and a Christian??

Ask the Libertarian Objectivist Christian

(Note that Lib has taken a break from the boards and consequently won’t respond to this thread for an indefinite period.)

I wonder if you can offer any support for some of the assertions you’ve made about libertarianism and about Christianity. For instance:

I don’t think libertarianism claims any specific morality for actions; it’s a system of political ethics.

Does Christianity teach weakness or merely recognize it? What I mean is that while meekness and humility are part of the Christian path, moral weakness is a consequence of human mortality, and is not a precept of Christianity.

Cite? I think libertarianism holds that no man should be forced to provide for another man, not that all men should be self-sufficient.

Except, presumably, for the men who are shepherds? How does this work?

I’d also like to compliment you on the last pair:

But I don’t believe these are mutually exclusive sets.

Then that is the desire of the state, and there is no obvious conflict unless I’m missing something.

Which only means “Libertaria” is not a Christian state. Every single citizen of Libertaria can be a Christian, however.

I think your interpretation of Christianity, while not incorrect on its face, is a bit more excessively literal than is warranted. Christianity teaches humility, but such humbleness is not inconsistent with recognizing that you can do a good job, it is to not conflate that with being good. MHO, I’m an atheist.

I don’t see why these are incompatible. Neither Christianity nor Libertarianism hold that others should be forced to serve the good of the many. Whether or not you will sacrifice your own efforts for what you want or think you should is irrelevant to the basic structure of the government.

Once more only pointing out that Libertaria is not a Christian state.

LOL, I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole, good sir.

And while there is no compulsion to be altruistic in Libertarianism, neither does it compell one to be selfish.

Then I think CS Lewis does both government and Christianity a disservice.

Simple, by divorcing religious views from political ones.

“Christianity” teaches the whole render unto ceasar what is ceasar’s line not merely to teach submission to worldly authority, but to make a distinction between the roles of government and religion. Libertarians recognize the role of government and respect it. They merely have a specific, narrow viewpoint of what that role is. (Note: I put christianity in quotes because one can easily be christian without following the writingings of Paul, but that is another discussion.)

Sin and offenses against the laws of governments are two different concepts. While there is some overlap in the scope of the two (e.g. murder) there are vast areas where the two do not meet. A Libertarian is free to find something morally reprehensible that lies outside the scope of governmental actions.

Please cite scriptural evidence that Christianity teaches that man should not strive to be “triumphant, self-confident, and strong.” I’m betting that you don’t find much. Also, I think that you are mixing the definitions of proud - I find no libertarian views extolling excessive vanity - the kind of pride that Jesus would condemn.

Sacrifice and the desire for success are not mutually exclusive. I strive to succeed in all that I do, and am quite happy when I do. I am willing, however, to sacrifice what I desire and subordinate my wishes if need be to help someone. If I do this of my own free will, then it is not a violation of any libertarian ethos that I am aware of. If my 'sacrifice" is coerced, then it is neither a sacrifice nor the christian ideal.

Christianity teaches that you have a moral duty to help your neighbor. No where that I have found does Christ state that it is a governmental affair.

Christianity teaches that men are sheep? Where? The analogy to sheep is used to show that God is looking out for and protecting us.

There is no gulf between Christianity and Libertarianism. None of your differences hold up to scrutiny, you lose. Play again?

One line of reasoning, although a bit medieval…

God created us, therefore we are his property, to use or dispose of at his will. He has as much right to throw us all in hell as we have to throw our own property into the fire.

The Libertarian Christian is thankful to God for making a unilateral concession – God didn’t have to!

If a Libertarian believes in the Bible, then some of his decisions in the real world will differ from those of a Libertarian who is not a Christian. But this isn’t a breakdown of compatibility.

A Libertarian who likes beef is going to make different decisions than a Libertarian who is a vegetarian.

Now, if you’re talking about Objectivism, then, yes, Objectivism is incompatible with nearly all formal religions.


As far as I can tell, the Libertarian Christian is completely free to be meek, sacrificial, altruistic, deferential, humble and obedient by personal choice; the fact that he does not require or expect those actions to be enforced by governmental control makes the actions themselves more valuable, doesn’t it?

Christainity is a religion of freedom of choice - it is up to each individual to follow Jesus or not.

Jesus never forced any non-christain to change his ways, to change his lifestyle, or lobbyied for weapons control.

The basic thought of Christianity is dont cast any stones at someone unless you yourself is sinless( which no one is).

Jesus did not round up all the prostitutes and throw them in jail.

When the rich man did not want to give up all his money, Jesus let him walk away without any arguement or pressure at all - Jesus let him make a free choice.

Libertarianism is a political thought also based on freedom of choice.

No one is a Christain unless he, as an individual, decides for himself to become one - it must be a complete free will choice.

I see no incompatibility. There are plenty of Christain libertarians.

I dont think any other party is more attuned to Christainity than the Libertarian party.

I’m not sure it’s that simple. Political theory is the study of interaction between man and man, man and state, state and state, and at the fundamental core is the justification for the state and what role it may justifiably take. This is not so easily divorced from notions of morality. For many libertarians, an authoritarian state is not merely less “effective” than one which recognizes liberty, it violates the very basic principles by which government and the individual ought to interact.

Religion and politics have some overlap. Politics is in part a study of the power relationships between individuals, because those relationships are precisely what government concerns itself with. The state is created out of individuals, to set the rules for individual behaviours. All the rest comes after.

The libertarian philosophy is based on an underlying set of ethics that support it. Thus a religion that does not share those ethics is incompatible with libertarianism.

Jesus may have let a rich man walk away with his moneypurse intact, but he also asserted that god held dominion over that man and possessed the power to punish that man with eternal torment. This is clearly coercive, and thus not libertarian. It’s like saying that the government will let you not pay your taxes on tax day, but eventually they are going to come to your house, put a gun to your head and arrest you, and take what they think is owed to them. The freedom is illusory. Christianity proposes a monarch with absolute power. How is that consistent in any way with libertarian principles?

erislover remarked…

What of the admonition to Christians not to be yoked to the nonbeliever? Does not a society of Christians naturally turn towards the use of at least informal coercion to compel their standards of conduct on others? Don’t tell me you can move into a small town in Missouri, let it be known you’re an athiest, drink and gamble as you please, and they’re going to just sit aside. Their ethics are not those of a libertarian, who would respect other people’s right to live as they choose.

Aside from that point, I find a general incompatibility between the ethical philosophy that supports libertarianism and the ethical philosophy of Christianity. Libertarian philosophy, the vision of man that underlies the political face, has a pretty good opinion of man and his potential, that the individual is great based on what he does, and that he defines his own worth through his self-actualization. Christianity just seems to think man is a worthless pile of dirt unless he is validated by his king, his worth is extrinsic to him. Christianity is a morality of serfdom, libertarianism is an ethos of freedom.

RD: I’m not sure it’s that simple. Political theory is the study of interaction between man and man, man and state, state and state, and at the fundamental core is the justification for the state and what role it may justifiably take. This is not so easily divorced from notions of morality.

I think you’ve got two intermingled questions here:

  1. Can a libertarian state be explictly founded upon Christian theology?

  2. Can an individual Christian be a citizen of a libertarian state?

The answer to the first, as erl pointed out, is pretty clearly “no”. A “Christian state” as such would necessarily privilege Christian beliefs and practices over others; there goes the religious neutrality so central to civil-libertarian principles.

The answer to the second, as far as I can tell, depends on what the individual Christian thinks of the notions of religious tolerance and secular government. Even in our own not-all-that-libertarian society, many Christians are strongly opposed to governmental neutrality in religion and think that the government should be more reflective of “Christian principles”, while many other Christians are comfortable with governmental neutrality and religious plurality. The question about what it means, politically, for Christians to avoid being “yoked to the nonbeliever” is one that different Christians are going to answer differently.

Sure, and Libertaria has no problems with such implicit peer pressure. Indeed, it seems (to me) to be the driving force of a libertarian society.

Well, first I’d have to find someone to drink and gamble with, and second, if I did so, it would be in a society which allowed laws to prevent it in the first place, which Libertaria would not.

The individual is not “great” other than by virtue of simply being. However that person gets his value, that’s his value. That this may be by a diety, real or imagined, is of no concern to the government. That an atheist would get their worth as you describe is true, but Libertaria is not an atheistic state, either, it is just a state.

I do not understand Libertarianism as a doctrine well enough to do a point by point critique, but on one particular issue Lib and I had an extended dialogue… the duty of almsgiving.

And the bottom line here, and something of a satori to this liberal, was that it was nothing short of theft for a third party, including the government, to take from one person for the benefit of another – but that it was every individual Christian’s duty and pleasure to provide, on a voluntary and individual-ministry-based basis, for the relief of those in need.

In addition, I think you give Jesus very short shrift if you take the “Render unto Caesar…” line at face value. He was asked, in essence, if he’d quit beating his wife, in a conundrum which was intended to hurt Him and what He was teaching no matter how he answered, and found a way to turn the question back on His attackers. (It may be Caesar’s likeness on the coin, but who made the gold or silver of which the coin is composed?)

Rex: You may be confusing Libertarianism with Objectivism. Not the same thing at all. There seem to be plenty of sincere Libs who are also sincere Christians.

I’m a Christian but not a libertarian. I could never be an absolute liberatarian because I agree with James Madison: men are not angels, and so SOME degree of government is essential. However, like Madison, I also recognize that the men who control the government are not angels either, and cannot be trusted with too much power.

Figuring out how much government is necessary or desirable, and what spheres are of legitimate interest to the government is tricky. It’s a balancing act- always has been, always will be. And even those of us who find certain forms of behavior repugnant often have to concede that it isn’t necessary or desirable for the government to regulate that behavior.

Examples abound. As a Christian, I consider adultery sinful and disgusting. But I can’t see how it’s the government’s place to keep tabs on married couples and/or punish cheaters. So, in this instance, at least, I take a semi-libertarian view. I say the government should butt out. I scoff at states that still have adultery on the books as a crime, even though I consider the act disgraceful.

So, what RexDart is missing is this: libertarianism is NOT based on the principle that nothing is immoral. Rather, it’s based on the idea that GOVERNMENT should not be empowered to enforce traiditonal notions of morality. There’s a HUGE difference between saying “adultery is nobody’s business” and saying “adultery isn’t the GOVERNMENT’S business.”

Similarly, one can regard marijuana smokers with disdain and contempt while STILL thinking it’s silly and wasteful for the government to spend time and resources imprisoning potheads.

A Christian can (and should) condemn a wide range off behaviors without believing that people who engage in them belong in prison.

Astorian, again with the disclaimer that I don’t claim to speak for libertarianism, it’s my impression that libertarians do not eschew government as a whole, but deny its independent right to exist – “governments have no rights; people have rights; the proper sphere of government is to protect the rights of people.” Hence a quite limited government, with the power to intervene only when the rights of a peaceful honest person are damaged by another who is not peaceful or honest, is a working part of practical libertarianism.

As such, it seems a workable system with which I have no philosophic objections. In practice, I see some flaws as compared to how things operate now, as well as some advantages over now.