Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)
I attended the Christian Democratic Party WA State conference this weekend gone and it was the first chance for me to put my changed thinking about politics into the public forum. Unsurprisingly, a heavy emphasis on personal liberty and small government didn’t go down so well with a number of people there. Unfortunately, many within the politically minded conservative Christian community see the State as the solution to community problems, though thankfully there were a few who agreed that community problems are best addressed through persuasion within the community rather than coercion by the state.
The whole experience caused me to reflect on why it is I have come to embrace classical liberalism and libertarianism and it very much begins with the gospel. For the gospel-minded Christian, any sort of political, economic or social freedoms will first begin with the freedom that is found in Christ. And the freedom that comes from Christ is a rich well to draw upon.
The first and foremost freedom for Christians is the freedom from the penalty of sin. As Paul says in Colossians 1:21+22:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because ofyour evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
We have been reconciled to God through Christ’s death on the cross so now we have been presented as holy in God’s sight, without blemish or accusation. Christ has freed us from the judgement and death that we deserve because of our rejection of God’s rule and instead made us right in God’s eyes. God now sees us with the same esteem he sees Christ rather than as the wretched rebels that we deserve to be seen as. We have been freed from the penalty of our rebellion by the wonderful atoning death of Jesus.
Not only that but in the freedom from the penalty of sin that Christ has secured for us on the cross, he has also granted us a new way of Christian living that is characterised by freedom. As Paul says in Galatians 5:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
The Galatian church has been sucked onto the wrong path by the Judaizers, who said that for the Galatians to be real Christians, they needed to submit themselves to the restrictions of the Law of Moses, primarily expressed through circumcision. Paul, however, states that Christ has set us free from the Law of Moses and its requirements and that if you try to obey the Law as well as trust Jesus, you have actually fallen away from Christ (Gal 5:4). Christ has set us free so we can be free, not so we can enter a new type of slavery (which is really an old type of slavery anyway).
And that freedom isn’t confined to freedom from the requirements of the Law. Christian freedom flows from the cross into every aspect of Christian living. Christians are given great latitude to live their lives in a God-honouring way, being considerate of the sensitivities of their fellow believers (Romans 14&15; 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1). Despite common perception, the Bible has very little in the way of specific proscribed ways of living and lots of broad principles that Christians are to live out as best they can in their own context. Christians, through Christ, are given lots of personal liberty.
And so it is from Christian liberty that I have come to see that libertarianism is the best way to order society. The tyranny of coercive government is to be eschewed in favour of the community resolving their issues through persuasion and cooperative action.