My last article on Libertarianism caused some readers to leave interesting comments with very thought provoking questions. I have taken the best response from a Libertarian point of view by Steve and will work through it so you can see a response from the perspective of a Christian worldview.
“The real issue is whether the government should be the institution that coerces everyone to follow God’s law on all matters…”
No one that I know of believes that the government ought to be the institution that coerces people to follow God’s law on every matter. For example, should the government force people to get baptized, take communion and attend church? As laudable and lawful as these actions are, the government is not the church and the Founders had it right; Congress shall make no law establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
“Advocates for government intervention point to drugs, prostitution, etc. as examples justifying this. But there’s nothing that government intervenes with that the family, medical, or private social welfare sectors can handle just as well. While some call for the jail time for former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer for patronizing prostitutes, I’ll bet that whatever jail sentence he would get pales in comparison to the tongue lashing he got from Mrs. Spitzer. Similarly, with regard to drugs, look at smoking for a parallel. Smoking has gone from being widespread and respectable to being marginalized–almost entirely to actions within the private sector. The medical and social welfare sectors (including churches) can do the same with drugs, prostitution, and other undesirable behaviors without resorting to jail time or other punishment for those who engage in such behaviors…”
The unlawfulness of drugs, prostitution etc. are not simply matters of religion and family. Society in general has elected representatives to enact laws that reflect their views of morality. Of course, views of morality are often based on religion and on people’s idea of what’s best for the family.
This does not constitute coercion by government because we live in a representative republic. If enough people object, the law can be reversed. If it can be proven that there is an inalienable right to use drugs or prostitutes based on the laws of nature and nature’s God revealed in the Bible, then you have the basis for overturning the laws. Otherwise the people can restrict it.
A good example of unwarranted government action is the case of prohibition. Well-intended people, many of whom were Christians, thought the way to solve the widespread alcohol problem was by banning it. Eventually this was over turned, and rightly so. The Scriptures do not ban alcohol, although it does forbid drunkenness. But the same argument can’t be applied to drugs. While one might enjoy a glass of wine with dinner without becoming intoxicated the whole purpose for using drugs is to get high.
Getting high has a negative ripple effect in society that American’s rightly reject. Abraham Lincoln said it well, “There is no right to do wrong.” But, wrong by who’s standard? The Christian must answer by God’s standard as it is revealed in the Bible.
The same can be applied to prostitution. You can’t imbibe in prostitution “moderately” so as not to have a negative societal effect. Women are abused, marriages are destroyed, diseases are spread, pregnancies occur, babies are killed, etc. Scripture forbids both fornication and adultery so there is no way to engage in prostitution without violating God’s law.
“Just because something is legal doesn’t necessarily make it right or acceptable. The issue is who should hand out the punishment: the government or God. Even if those who engage in behavior unacceptable to God are not punished by the government, they’ll still have to face judgment from God.”
Agreed. Abortion for instance is legal, but it is immoral. Prostitution in some parts of Nevada is legal, but it is immoral. That’s why Christians ought to seek to overturn both. The Bible is clear. In criminal and civil matters it is the government’s duty to punish those who do evil. (Romans 13:4) That does not preclude God’s eternal judgment, but in this life the power to enforce just laws resides with the civil government. The church does have power within itself to impose spiritual judgment, such as ex-communication, but it cannot use physical coercion. God has delegated that to the state alone.
“Christians should not have to resort to the force of government punishment to enforce personal morality. To do so speaks poorly of the strength of their own moral persuasion skills. Christians should persuade people to act morally because it’s right, not because the government will punish them if they don’t.”
Christians have every right as citizens to decide what kind of society they want to live in as long as it does not infringe upon the inalienable rights of others. Someone’s view of morality will prevail in the culture. The fact that these laws do exist by the will of the governed proves the opposite of what Steve argues. Christians have been able to successfully convince the majority of people to self-impose these restraints on society, with abortion and homosexual marriage (which Libertarians seem to support) being the very terrible exceptions. Christians are busy trying to show the negative consequences for society when it allows for abortion and homosexual marriage. No one can impose unpopular laws on an unwilling American populous for long.
“Libertarians aren’t against ALL laws–just laws that are arbitrary (i.e., business permits) and those dealing with actions that are either confined to oneself or between two or more consenting adults. Most libertarians would support laws providing punishment for murder, theft, etc., for those are crimes against others and/or their property.”
Ironically, this statement makes my point. Libertarians are against arbitrary laws. That’s good. But then Steve gives us an arbitrary list of laws that he thinks everyone should support and ones we ought not to support. I don’t think Libertarians get it.
When you deny that Law comes from God and is revealed in nature and the Bible, then you automatically get a system of laws that are man-made. These laws are always and necessarily arbitrary. There is only one escape from this dilemma. There must be a higher standard to which all men can appeal that’s above arbitrary manmade law.
This is precisely what the Founders did in the Declaration of Independence. By appealing to their inalienable, God-given rights they threw off the arbitrary and tyrannical laws of England. In doing so they gave us the standard for our rights and laws, the laws of nature and nature’s God in the Bible. The Founders were not Libertarians, so our system of government only makes sense under Christian natural law theory.
From the Libertarian Party’s website, concerning their views on homosexuality and abortion:
Personal Relationships: Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government’s treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.
Abortion: Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.