Christianity does not have a favored form of government, and a wide variety of political beliefs are compatible for Christians. The question is not whether a democratic, socialist, or monarchical form of government is more aligned with the Bible, but whether the Christian adopts the right relationship with the government. In the end, most Christians believe, they will be in an eternal monarchy.
The question arises if libertarianism is an acceptable choice for the Christian. It shares a lot with some Christian belief systems. At the core of the libertarian philosophy is the non-aggression principle, an ethical goal for libertarians that is shared by many Christians already including Quakers, the Brethren, Mennonites and some more controversial groups that are set father out from mainstream evangelical Christianity like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In common terms, it is the Golden Rule writ large in both spiritual and secular activities: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Fine and good, and that usually isn’t the sticking point for Christians who prefer donkeys or elephants. The objection comes about because libertarians are, by and large, conservative fiscally and liberal socially, making everyone unhappy. So the controversy usually boils down to the fact that libertarians believe people should be able to do what they want with the only restriction that they don’t harm others. Christians may think that it is merely an excuse to keep “doing whatever you want”, and an invitation to sin.
But of course it isn’t. The Christian is still to be guided by his religious principles and adherence to his faith, even if he understands that other people can be guided by their own principles, and may choose differently on a wide range of issues. Freedom is necessary precisely because we are all born sinners and lost, and must all find our way to faith. And that path must be unencumbered so we can find our way.
When the state forces a moral code on a people that is too strict the people are encumbered. They cannot find their way as easily as when they have full freedom to choose. God gave man freedom of choice and of action. Adam and Eve chose wrong, but God gave them the freedom to do wrong. The yearning for the freedom to choose is a built-in, God created element of the human existence.
Americans come by libertarianism easily enough. During Colonial America, the most popular book besides the Bible were the Commentaries on the Laws of England by William Blackstone. The language in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution borrow heavily from the concepts in Blackstone, as does all of English common law. In his Introduction the Second, Blackstone writes to the Monarch with the explanation of the rights of man. There is, he says, the law of nature “co-equal with mankind and dictated by God Himself” that is superior to any man-made law. And that law, he asserts,
“In consequence of which mutual connection of justice and human felicity, he has not perplexed the law of nature with a multitude of abstracted rules and precepts, referring merely to the fitness or unfitness of things, as some have vainly surmised; but has graciously reduced the rule of obedience to this one paternal precept, that man should ‘pursue his own happiness’.”
Our Declaration includes the phrase that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Sound familiar? Historians sometimes struggle to explain pursuit of happiness, as it seems out of place with the laundry list of grievances that are also in the Declaration. I feel that, in light of Blackstone’s use, the phrases are dependent, and first comes life, and then liberty, and once you have liberty you can pursue happiness (ie, “find God”). The pursuit isn’t a guided tour, but a individual experiential journey to “find God”.
Can a Christian be a libertarian? Yes, with all the same cautions for a Christian who chooses to support the Democratic Party or Republican Party. All political parties fall short, and all human philosophies are substandard. Libertarianism should not be dismissed out of hand.