Arts & Culture

Are Christianity and Libertarianism Compatible?

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Two IFWE alumni, Elise Daniel and Jacqueline Isaacs, have written a book with four other young Christian professionals. Their book, Called to Freedom: Why You Can Be Christian and Libertarian, explores the tension between the Christian faith and libertarian political philosophy and explains why someone could be both. After reviewing an early manuscript of the book and offering my critiques, I thought it’d be interesting to get Daniel’s and Isaacs’s perspectives on what they’ve learned in the process of wrestling with this area of faith and politics.

There’s actually another book titled Called to Freedom. It’s about liberation theology. I imagine your book is very different. 

JI: Almost all book titles were already taken! There were many titles we considered as we tried to find something that really captured the themes of the book. We polled a very active Facebook group of thousands of libertarian Christians, and the results of that lead us to the phrase, “called to freedom,” from Galatians 5:13.

Why did you write the book?

ED: If you go to conservative conferences like the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), you’ll see a lot of Christian universities and groups like the Faith and Freedom Coalition, but the same isn’t true at libertarian conferences. I’ve had many libertarians tell me you can’t be both Christian and libertarian for many different reasons. It made me feel alone and question whether or not my faith is compatible with my political views.

As I became more familiar with libertarian circles, I realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. As I explored theology and political philosophy, I came to the conclusion that Christianity and libertarianism are compatible. To be clear, we are not saying Christians need to be libertarians to be good Christians. Just that the two make sense together.

We want this book to be a tool to encourage young Christian libertarians and equip them to articulate principles of liberty to their Christian friends, and, perhaps more importantly, articulate their faith to their non-Christian libertarian friends.

What did you learn in the course of writing the book?

ED: I learned a lot about the nuances of different libertarian Christian points of view. All of the authors fall under the libertarian Christian umbrella, but we come from different denominational backgrounds and our political views spread across the libertarian spectrum. We definitely don’t agree on everything. I learned the most from reading Jason Hughey’s chapter about the biblical role of government. His insights really made me think deeper about verses like Romans 13.

So, are Christianity and libertarianism compatible? Why? Where are they incompatible? At least, where is there the most tension, and why are these points of tension not deal-breakers for you?

JI: In chapter one, I outline a biblical framework that we try to use throughout the book to answer that question. IFWE calls it the four-chapter gospel, and at the American Studies Program, where I taught, we called it the C-F-R-C framework. This is the story of humanity that helps us understand human nature, why we act the way we do, and what our potential is. All of these are important factors when we consider political philosophy. The four parts of this story are Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation (or Reconciliation) – hence the C-F-R-C framework. We make the case that when we consider this biblical story, a libertarian political philosophy makes a lot of sense.

Similarly, this biblical story shows us where the tension comes from. Theologian John Stott talks about the tension of living between the “now and not yet.” Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, identifies this tension between our authority and vulnerability in his latest book, Strong and Weak, saying, “We image bearers are bone and flesh–strength and weakness, authority and vulnerability together, together.” There are many more examples of this. Tension in the Christian faith is normal. Almost everything about the gospel is in tension. Our flesh is sinful, yet we are being sanctified. Christ’s kingdom exists now, through the church, but is not yet in its fullness. Christ was 100 percent God and 100 percent man at the same time.

So when we find tension between our political philosophy and our Christian faith, we should not assume that something is wrong. A political philosophy casts a vision for what we want for our society. Leah Hughey does a beautiful job casting such a vision in her chapter. This vision is always going to be in contrast with the way things currently are. I want to encourage readers to embrace this tension because, as Christians, we also know that Christ is the answer to the tension and there is a plan for restoration.

What has the reception of the project been so far? 

JI: In early 2014, the six of us were invited to speak on this topic at the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington, DC. The room was filled with young Christians who were exploring this topic. That experience is what inspired us to write the book. There were clearly a lot of people out there asking these questions, and we wanted a way to meaningfully engage with them in the conversation.

In August 2016, Elise and I spoke at the Christians for Liberty Conference in Austin and presented our book and the process we’ve been through writing it. This audience was mostly adults and private sector business people and entrepreneurs, and it was a great opportunity to gain feedback from people who think about these things outside of Washington, DC. They affirmed to us that this conversation was going on in Christian communities all over the country, particularly in light of the current presidential election. Attendees at that conference pre-ordered hundreds of copies of the book through our Indiegogo campaign to use in their Bible studies, book clubs, and to give as gifts.

Editor’s Note: Called to Freedom: Why You Can Be Christian and Libertarian is available in paperback and ebook versions on Amazon. The audiobook version is available from the Libertarian Christian Institute and on Audible.

On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Aug. 18, 2016.

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