Why Libertarian Philosophy is Foreign to the Christian Tradition
September 20, 2012 6 Comments
I recently made the claim that Christians should consider Libertarian philosophy a heresy. In part, I was just being provocative; however, I am very serious in claiming that Christians should not embrace the Libertarianism that is increasingly influencing the conservative political movement in the United States. I do believe that at its heart Libertarianism is opposed to some of the core values and beliefs of the historic Christian tradition.
To flesh this claim out a bit I point you to a recent series of blogs by Reformed theologian and ethicist Matthew Tuininga.
Now, Matthew gets the general scope of the history of Christian teaching on this topic 100% correct. There is a long tradition of the best and most influential Christian theologians insisting that the needs and rights of the poor are among the most important in any Christian politics. To think otherwise is to reject the heart of Christian social teaching. However, that is not the only reason I point you to Matthew’s work. I could have made a similar historical analysis, but the regular readers of this blog would not be surprised to find such an argument coming from me.
See, Matthew is one of the most serious theologians I know – and we disagree about much. We entered Emory’s program in Religion, Ethics, and Society (E&S) at the same time. He and I make up one Emory E&S “cohort.” (And it is a testament to the intellectual freedom one may have at Emory that we have gone through our studies together as friends. One of my favorite stories concerning Matthew is the surprise registered on both of our faces when he learned I had not studied John Calvin in seminary and I learned he had not read Martin Luther King Jr. prior to arriving at Emory. Let’s just say, we come from different theological backgrounds!) He is unabashedly Reformed in his theological orientation, and, in a sea of liberals, is a confessed political conservative at a leading American research university. I do not read his blog because I agree with him on everything. I read him because, though we often disagree, I find him to be one of the most careful and nuanced conservative Christian thinkers in the country who also refuses to allow political commitments to cloud his commitment to the historic Christian tradition.
The point here, however, is that even Matthew Tuininga (a theologian trained at Emory willing to publicly defend an anti-gay marriage stance!) thinks it important to point out the un-Christian foundation of Libertarian economic philosophy.
Dear conservative friends, don’t drink the kool-aid. It is, as far as I can see, impossible to claim an intelligible and faithful Christian politic and at the same time embrace Libertarianism. They are trees grown in different soil and cannot be faithfully grafted together.