The Libertarian Christian Podcast is a project of the Libertarian Christian Institute. They have discussions and interview guests on various topics related to libertarianism and how they relate to a general Christian worldview. In this latest episode, the hosts interviewed CJay Engel, creator and editor of Reformed Libertarian about theonomy and Christian reconstructionism. Christian reconstructionism, or theonomy as it’s more commonly known, supports the idea that modern civil governments are obligated to model precisely the Mosaic law found in the Old Testament. This presents some interesting problems for Christians claiming to hold to libertarianism.
CJay starts out the discussion by introducing himself to the audience and briefly describing his journey into blogging and developing his reformed libertarian ideas. Prompted by the hosts, he went on to offer a definition of libertarianism by first explaining the context of political philosophy. He explained that it’s important to understand what questions we are seeking to answer when we develop or subscribe to a particular political philosophy. Without delving into the different options, CJay proposed that political philosophy ought to answer the question of when the use of coercion or force is justified. The libertarian answer to this question is that force is only justified if it used in either self defense or as a form of punishment or retribution on a person who has previously violated the person or property of another.
The conversation then turned to the main topic of Christian reconstructionism. The term itself was coined by theologian R.J. Rushdoony in the early 20th century. Rushdoony and his two major proponents, Greg Bahnsen and Gary North describe the key doctrines of theonomy as presuppositional apologetics, biblical law and postmillennialism. Theonomy hinges on the idea that commands given in the Old Testament that are not specifically abrogated in the New Testament are still valid and binding for Christians today. Gary North describes his theonomic postmillennialism stating,
This political philosophy presents problems for the Christian libertarian, in that in order for the events as Gary North describes them to occur, one would have to advocate to some degree the violation of the private property rights of many people. CJay comments that it is an admirable desire to want to ground your political philosophy in scripture, but only when you are rightly interpreting it. He goes on to suggest, and I agree, that the theonomists make some major errors in their interpretation of the covenants made by God and his people throughout scripture. Under the old covenant it was indeed right and just for the follower of God to enforce the civil laws that He laid out for his people. Theonomists err when they fail to understand that Christians are no longer bound to the old covenant. Through Christ, God has established a new covenant not just for the chosen nation of Israel, but the people of God all over the world known today as the Church. This covenant is grounded on faith and has given us a new mediator, Christ, to replace Moses.
If you want to read more about theonomy and reformed libertarianism, check out: