On August 28 the Centennial Institute of Colorado Christian University sponsored a talk by former business professor Kevin Miller titled “Christians and Libertarianism.” So what is a Christian libertarian?
Miller presented two basic, conflicting views without revealing which view he personally endorses. One view is that Christians should seek to enforce religious morals by force of law, as by banning gay marriage. The second view, which Miller articulated at greater length and with more passion, is that Christians should advocate political liberty for all and take advantage of liberty to evangelize.
Notable is Miller’s reason for endorsing liberty. I believe an individual needs liberty in order to pursue his happiness, act on his own best judgment, and apply his reason to the task of living successfully. Such analysis was absent in Miller’s presentation. Instead, the value of liberty for a “Christian libertarian” is that the state will not seek to control or inhibit religion, leaving the faithful free to advance religion.
Miller got himself into a number of problems, as by denying natural law and advocating abortion bans on the grounds that a fertilized egg is a person. But what most interested me was his view of “prudential” Christianity. (Unfortunately, I was not able to ask a question on this matter before the event formally ended.)
Miller argued that what was prudent in the age of Daniel is not prudent today. In Daniel’s age, it was appropriate to serve a king. Now, the prudent Christian endorses liberty so as to further the Christian goal of converting others to the faith. Miller also pointed out that American culture is currently “unregenerated,” meaning largely not under Christian influence.
But what does that entail for the future of liberty if Christians manage to “regenerate” the nation? Many of Miller’s concerns focussed on possible ways the government might impede Christianity. But what if Christians solidly control the government? Those concerns disappear. Would it not then be “prudent” for Christians to advocate government enforcement of strictly religious convictions? Miller offered no answer to this.
Nor did Miller answer the most powerful rebuttal to “Christian libertarianism,” which is that, by appealing to faith for ultimate truths, Christians place those truths beyond human reason and into the hands of some authority. When an authority decides ultimate matters of truth and morality, the logical conclusion is an authoritarian political system.
Liberty ultimately depends on the independent reasoning mind and on independently pursued values. We can discover objective truths about our world and about right and wrong, we can apply our knowledge in the pursuit of our values, and we can seek to persuade others through rational argument. The proper role of government, in this view, is to protect our liberty to think and to act, protect us from the initiation of force, and otherwise leave us free to go about our own lives.