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Today IRD was graced by a visit from our board member Graham Walker, president of Patrick Henry College in Virginia and himself a theologian and scholar originally from The Wesleyan Church. He is today quite active in the Anglican Church in North America but remains committed to Wesleyan Methodist distinctives. Patrick Henry is a Christian school popular with students who have been home schooled, and its curriculum emphasizes a classical education.

Walker spoke to the IRD staff about the challenges posed by Libertarian influenced beliefs increasingly popular among some young evangelicals, especially among some who call themselves Young, Restless and Reformed. Some in their school of thought advocate that government and politics to some extent step back from “private” issues such as marriage, abortion, drugs, or prostitution. He warned that the absence of policies by government is itself promoting a particular policy, and there is really on way to fully “privatize” these issues. If for example government were to completely privatize marriage it would be teaching that marriage has no public purpose. Individuals may strive to be neutral, but government and polity cannot be similarly neutral.

Law is itself a “public teacher,” Walker emphasized. Much of the impetus behind evangelicals wanting political withdrawal from “private” issues represents desperation to avoid the “awkwardness” of culture wars. He noted that post moderns love Libertarianism because it often implies there is no “accepted moral truth.” This postmodern stance resonates with a certain vision of some Calvinist theology, which presumes that those outside of faith are outside of God’s redemptive rule and are “vessels of wrath.” Walker countered that God does not “create any person to break His laws.” Walker concluded by asserting his opposition to so-called “Christian values,” because the term “values” itself implies a moral relativism. Of course, Walker’s remarks provoked a lively discussion by IRD’s mostly young staff, some of whom are Reformed and perhaps even Restless!


13 Responses to Libertarianism, Calvinism and Young Evangelicals

  1. Donnie says:

    There is definitely a balancing act in being a Christian libertarian. I used to use the “l” word quite a lot, but then I started hanging around different libertarian forums online. I found most libertarians to be anti-religion, and to hold many of the same positions on social and foreign policy issues that I found so abhorrent in liberals.

    In the end I can get behind the fiscal beliefs of somebody like Milton Friedman, while still rejecting the agnosticism and nihilism of the larger movement.

  2. Dan says:

    I think the libertarians and reformed persons are probably opposed to the Wesleyan distinctives of legislating social holiness as a means to force the general populace to live the Methodist version of “holy” lives. I know I believe man truly is totally depraved and cannot save himself in any way or fashion, or through any good work. Looking carefully at the fruits of Methodist socialism, communism, and pacifism convinced me that my theological home had to be elsewhere. I ended up as a LCMS member.

    Probably the best thing for Methodist laity would be to truly understand what their church stands for and wants to force on the general populace. I predict this would further thin the ranks of the UMC. I know many wonderful Methodist folks, but I cannot countenance the UMC or agree with Wesleyan theology, such as it is today. I struggle with the proper role of government in creating a safe and prosperous society for the maximum number of its citizens. I definitely want less government rather than more, but do agree that there needs to be an orderly society built on an orthodox Christian moral foundation. How we get there with the least intrusive government as possible is the difficult issue we have to solve.

    • Daniel Broaddus says:

      Great comment Dan. Seeing what Wesleyan theology has done to American Christianity and politics makes me reluctant to hear criticism from them (even if it is criticism of the Young, Restless, and Reformed).

    • Daniel Broaddus says:

      Although, I do have an immense amount of respect for Dr. Walker, so I would love to hear more of his reasoning if it’s available in another article or post somewhere.

  3. John McAdams says:

    It’s true that “libertarians” often have an anti-religion bias. But a principled libertarian would oppose attempts to use the power of government to impose secular, anti-Christian beliefs on people. And secular liberals are gung-ho to do exactly that.

    For example: would not privatizing marriage by much preferable to gay marriage? The latter teaches a lesson too, and it’s not a good one.

  4. The US Constitution implemented a solution to the “balancing act”. The *Federal* government is prohibited from enforcing moral standards (except by amendment – such as the amendment prohibiting slavery and Prohibition).

    Thus the War on (some) Drugs, as a Federal law, is blatantly unconstitutional. While good people may disagree over whether we *should* have new Prohibition amendment, it is incontrovertible that we currently do *not* have one.

    Marriage is tricky because marriages performed in one state are expected to be recognized in other states. Also, the Feds are given the constitutional power to define “weights and measures” – which can reasonably be construed to include defining words like “marriage”.

    Regardless of any official pronouncement, it is the *culture* that ultimately defines word use. If the culture redefines “marriage” to mean “any group of sexual organisms that includes at least one citizen”, there will still be a need for a word or phrase that means “union between one man and one woman”. The phrase “traditional marriage” seems to be the most popular.

    My grandfather was killed in WWII fighting Germany on a “Saving Private Ryan” like mission. His widow, being German, was ostracised by the community. She and her brother formed a civil union to raise my Dad. There are many other civil unions that do not involve sexual immorality.

    While it is true that two men (or any other group) have always been able to draw up the proper legal papers to form such a union (despite the rhetoric of gay activists), with medical decision rights, survivorship, and so on, it makes sense to provide a short cut for such unions (with no requirement or prohibition of sexual conduct) that is as convenient as a marriage license (or “traditional marriage” license if “marriage” is already redefined). The tax status of such unions should be the same as for traditional marriage (as is clearly just in the case of my grandparents). This should be the only compromise on gay “rights” – since gay people already have all the rights they are demanding.

    This leaves the issue of adoption. Anne of Green Gables was adopted into a civil union. But adoption into same sex unions has not worked well, even according to secular researchers (there was no attempt to ascertain whether sexual immorality was involved). But I’ve said enough.

  5. customdesigned says:

    The US Constitution implemented a solution to the “balancing act”. The *Federal* government is prohibited from enforcing moral standards (except by amendment – such as the amendment prohibiting slavery and Prohibition).

    Thus the War on (some) Drugs, as a Federal law, is blatantly unconstitutional. While good people may disagree over whether we *should* have new Prohibition amendment, it is incontrovertible that we currently do *not* have one.

    Marriage is tricky because marriages performed in one state are expected to be recognized in other states. Also, the Feds are given the constitutional power to define “weights and measures” – which can reasonably be construed to include defining words like “marriage”.

    Regardless of any official pronouncement, it is the *culture* that ultimately defines word use. If the culture redefines “marriage” to mean “any group of sexual organisms that includes at least one citizen”, there will still be a need for a word or phrase that means “union between one man and one woman”. The phrase “traditional marriage” seems to be the most popular.

    My grandfather was killed in WWII fighting Germany on a “Saving Private Ryan” like mission. His widow, being German, was ostracised by the community. She and her brother formed a civil union to raise my Dad. There are many other civil unions that do not involve sexual immorality.

    While it is true that two men (or any other group) have always been able to draw up the proper legal papers to form such a union (despite the rhetoric of gay activists), with medical decision rights, survivorship, and so on, it makes sense to provide a short cut for such unions (with no requirement or prohibition of sexual conduct) that is as convenient as a marriage license (or “traditional marriage” license if “marriage” is already redefined). The tax status of such unions should be the same as for traditional marriage (as is clearly just in the case of my grandparents). This should be the only compromise on gay “rights” – since gay people already have all the rights they are demanding.

    This leaves the issue of adoption. Anne of Green Gables was adopted into a civil union. But adoption into same sex unions has not worked well, even according to secular researchers (there was no attempt to ascertain whether sexual immorality was involved). But I’ve said enough.

  6. [...] He is a native of Virginia and a life-long Methodist.  This article first appear at the IRD blog and is used with [...]

  7. Ben Welliver says:

    A lot of libertarians are single guys between 18 and 35 – not a group known for their chastity or ability to commit, but they are known for being pro-abortion, for obvious reasons. they aren’t really pro-gay per se, but their “sleep with anything that’s breathing” philosophy means they are OK with same-sex marriage. Libertarians and conservatives will always part company over the social issues. You could sum up the libertarian platform like this: 1) cut my taxes, 2) cut spending, 3) let me smoke pot legally, and 4) fornicate often and widely, and 5) tell those nerdy religious fanatics to shut up.

  8. Steve Macias says:

    The more I read Rushdoony, the more libertarian I lean.

    And for good reason. The Bible’s clear teachings on preterism, postmillenialism, presbyterianism should be forging anti-statist sentiments in us.

    Even more, how can the homeschooling community be anything but libertarian if it wishes to survive the jaws of Dems and Reps.

  9. Murphree says:

    Libertarianism will not work without absolute moral truth. In fact no true libertarian would deny absolutes but stand on absolutes such as Life, Liberty and Property Ownership. Fascism and socialism, on the other hand, will not work at all, they start off deteriorating society from conception. When government legislates beyond God’s Law (which represents God’s nature) it tramples on man’s life, liberty and property, rights given to man by God and therefore government defies God and becomes an idol to His people.

  10. [...] to talk to the Institute on Religion and Democracy on what he considers an important topic, “Libertarianism, Calvinism, and Young Evangelicals.” Just like his friend and predecessor, Michael Farris, Walker finds Calvinism very dangerous. No [...]

  11. Philip Bunn says:

    I respect Dr. Walker, but I believe he completely missed the mark on these comments. Christian libertarianism does not in any way stem from moral relativism. Rather, it comes from the idea that the government simply does not have the right to interfere with certain things, constitutionally OR Biblically. Ex. Drunkenness is a Biblical sin, but not a Biblical crime, and there are no constitutional provisions on drug legislation.

    Further, not everyone who adheres to libertarian views supports all of the “freedoms” listed. Abortion is not only a moral wrong (like drug use), but it is also a Biblical crime (murder). No Christian libertarian should support free access to abortion. That would be abhorrent. I imagine Dr. Walker would be hard-pressed to find a committed Christian libertarian who supports abortion or thinks that smoking marijuana is Biblically permissible.

    I also mildly resent the notion that Reformed theology has any ties to postmodernism. That’s simply an unfounded claim.

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