Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Libertarianism?

This is a bit off-topic, but I hope I will be forgiven. On previous occasions, I have expressed the opinion that the libertarian character of America and the American Revolution is largely due to Reformed Christianity, and I have cited the articles of contemporary hardline Reformed Christian and libertarian think-tank American Vision, which follows in the footsteps of the Christian Reconstruction of Rousas John Rushdoony and Gary North, for corroboration. For example, see
However, some have expressed skepticism to me, saying that Christian Reconstructionists are just theocrats who want to kill adulterers, and are hardly libertarians. Now, I have mostly been reading 16th-18th-century expressions of Reformed Christianity, and I have yet read very little contemporary Christian Reconstructionism, but I found some interesting passages in an article by Joel McDurmon I wanted to share.

Murray Rothbard had written an article, World War I as Fulfillment: Power and the Intellectuals (compare two other articles by Rothbard, The Progressive Era and the Family and Origins of the Welfare State in America ), to which Gary North responded with Millenialism and the Progressive Movement. Rothbard wrote another article, Kingdom Come: The Politics of the Millenium, and to that McDurmon responded with Murray Rothbard on the Kingdom: A Response:
The error here lies in assuming that CRs [i.e. Christian Reconstructionists] wish to “seize power” or “take over the reins of government” at all. This is certainly not the case, and few CRs if any have ever argued for the seizure of government power. On the contrary, R. J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Gary DeMar, Greg Bahnsen, and others have consistently, clearly, and soundly denounced the use of coercive State power and advocated free markets. I myself have more than once written that were CR to achieve its goals it would first require a massive revival of Christianity, and secondly would result in the greatest roll-back of State power in human history. We would experience the greatest ascendancy of human freedom and prosperity on record (or not on record, for that matter).

...

For these contradictions and other reasons I and nearly all other CRs reject the interpretation that the millennium is a physical, literal, and coercive rule of Christ Himself on earth. We see it as a gradually growing spreading kingdom persuading hearts of individuals first, then families, then leading to reforms of both church and state. It is a bottom-up, Spirit-led, long-term, peace-seeking enterprise. During this long process, there are at various times and places different degrees of sinner, saved, and saint mingled in the process; though, the further we progress, the greater the number of believers and the deeper influence the Gospel will have on each of them. Until this “golden age” comes per God’s providence, no amount of human effort can speed it up, and no amount of changing of institutions of government will help the cause or even itself last.

...

CRs do desire to limit the effects of blasphemy and family-destroyers in society, and very tough questions arise as to the who, what, and how in that regard, as Rothbard rightly notes. I believe, personally, that the move closer to a civil government that honors civil law requires God’s advances first, as I said, it will never do to change the laws first, impose them by force, and then pretend that we’ve advanced the kingdom. Yet I believe that as the kingdom advances, we will grow closer to a society free of the adultery, sodomy, blasphemy, etc, that Rothbard lists. Thus there is what I would call a divine irony in biblical civil law: the closer we get to achieving it the less we would need it, and by the time we arrive a establishing it as civil law it will be almost entirely a formality (though “in place” entirely in earnest).

In fact, Rothbard himself seems, unbeknownst to himself, to provide the evidence that traditional, conservative Reformed Christianity is libertarian, and that the postmillenialism (meaning that Jesus will return at the end of a 1000 year kingdom that man must inaugurate, implying social and political activism by man) of the Social Gospel Progressives was not the only form of postmillenialism, and that the postmillenialism of traditional Reformed Christians required that Christians inaugurate a laissez-faire regime. Rothbard wrote in "The Origins of the Welfare State", note 8,
Those two great ideological and political opponents of the late 1880s and early 1890s, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison, embodied this battle within the Presbyterian Church. Cleveland, an old-fashioned Calvinist Presbyterian from Buffalo, was the son of a Calvinist clergyman, a Democrat [meaning he was laissez-faire and classical liberal], a "wet" on liquor, and a personal bon vivant ; the prim, dour Harrison was a pietist Presbyterian from Indiana, and a Republican [meaning he was a Social Gospel Progressive]. See Richard Jensen, The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888 — 1896 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), pp. 79 — 80.
Rothbard himself said that the classical liberal, laissez faire Cleveland was an "an old-fashioned Calvinist Presbyterian"! Rothbard himself seems to admit that authentic, traditional Reformed Christianity is libertarian. If so, then the postmillenialism of those Reformed Christians, i.e. the requisitive social and political activism they would have believed they had an obligation to engage in in order to prepare the world for the return of Jesus, would have been libertarian, whereas the un-traditional Social Gospel Progressives saw postmillenialism as requiring a welfare state.

So whenever I claim, in the future, that the Puritans and Reformed Christianity had a libertarian character that went well with (if if it wasn't lineally responsible for) classical liberalism and Whiggism, I'll refer back to this. Obviously, none of this proves that the Puritans were proto-libertarians, but it makes it at a least reasonable and defensible claim, when the Puritans' intellectual and ideological heirs are libertarians who espouse Austrian Economics and one of them (Gary North) worked as a research assistant for Ron Paul.

6 comments:

Mikewind Dale (Michael Makovi) said...

Email subscription

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is true that Luther's reformation brought about a "liberty" from Church authority, but that was not his goal. It was the Church's reaction to his questions. The Church authorities didn't like being questioned, because they didn't like accountability. Luther had suffered under an unclear conscience, in seeking to satisfy Church authorities, instead of "God".
He wanted the indulgences, which were a money bag for the Church to stop the pillaging...these were ethical, moral and pscyhological reasons for asking the questions he did.

Reformation Christianity is a supernaturalist position to faith. That is not palatable to scientific understanding. Those that believe are "free from the law", meaning the Church canon...

I don't think this is a great place to transform a person, because it gives a supernatual expectation about reality and life. This still has to be based on some sort of "ungrounded hope" in the real world (God's intervention), or in the "sweet by and by"...

Post millinial views weren't popular after WWI because they paint an "idealized view" of the world, that were challenged by the World War. It is not a practical view, it is idealistic. But, I imagine this view might be "helpful" to Church authorities today, to give them validity or purpose...that they can "spiritualize" as "God's plan" for the world...but it is really just humanitarianism.

A-millinial views affirm the Kingdom as here and not here, which is what Luther affirmed. He felt that the stance of the believer should be a stance of repenting because he believed that men were prone to "sin" (thought, word or deed according to Reformation theology).

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, Luther's ex-communication is nothing new to power that doesn't want accountability. Scientists, theologians (Hans Kung) and others have been "outside the camps of faith", even during the Reformation and are today in certain camps...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Theocratic Libertarianism is nothing other than liberty IF one obeys, which is the Divien Command Theory...otherwise, one is justified in taking the life, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth....It is God's Law or Moral Government theory of atonement...which is authoritarian.

One of the posts read that they were restoring America to bilbical roots from Genesis to Revelation! and that their purpose was the "Great Commission"......fundamentalism with a liberal twang!

Our country needs the laws to uphold unity in its public discours, otherwise money and time is expended for translations and translators because there are various languages being spoken. English must be confirmed as our language. Other countries have a unified language. Discrimination is not about things that pertain to a country's very existance or viabiity.

I did not get to all the posts, but will come back...thanks for the info.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Mikewind Dale,
Interesting that you suggest that the "Protestant work ethic" was the base of the economic policy of libertarianism....

Personal liberty is important for economic liberty, which Rothbard affirms. But, personal liberty is NOT important in any type of Theocratic government! The Sovereign is King, which means that the spiritual rules one's decisions and thinking, BUT, at the same time mixed with postmillinialism, the Kingdom is to be manifested in physical reality.

This is similar to Islam politicizing their faith. And it is dangerous except for the elect who are compliant and co-operative, for their social needs are affirmed within such a "cult".

Because the Kingdom is top priority, then people are only means to establishing "the Kingdom", in whatever realm...It is group mentality and group think. Discipleship becomes a means of brain washing to the compliant and "teachable" and submissive disciple.

Hierarchal leadership and bottom up leadership models are useful, using the sacred (bottom up) and the secular (top down) approaches to do "Kingdom building"....

Personal liberty within such a system is hard to find, because people become enmeshed in such communities of "faith". When anyone questions their assumptions, it becomes a personal attack, as "the Truth" which guides their interpretation of life, has become their only reality. There is not understanding of themselves apart from their community! All cults function in this way.

Joe Winpisinger said...

Interesting. I have a Libertarian/Conservative bent and have given a lot of thought to the whole millenial reign myself. Not sure exactly where I stand but an interesting topic. Maybe someone will come along and write the next version of "Utopia"? (See Sir Thomas Moore)