Can a Christian be a libertarian?

“It’s a far stretch and a great distortion to use Christianity in any way to justify aggression and violence.”

I lifted that Ron Paul quote (written in his book Liberty Defined) from a Washington Post blog post titled "Can a Christian be a libertarian?" The post tries to explain what a Libertarian is and how this ideology synthesizes to biblical Christian views. Here are a few clips from it:
Christians from the left and the right are increasingly turning to libertarianism not because it is a “middle ground,” but because it is an entirely different way of thinking about government and power.

The core of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle: that the initiation of force against person and property is immoral, and it is in many respects a kind of political corollary to the Golden Rule. Thus, Christian libertarians think that government power should be limited, sound money and truly free markets should return, aggressive war must cease and civil liberties must be preserved.
Libertarianism treats man’s sinful nature realistically. James Madison famously quipped that if men were angels no government would be necessary. Christian libertarians take this a step further, saying that it is precisely because men are not angels that government must have extraordinarily limited powers.
It is truly unfortunate that modern American churches seem to think the state’s means of “spreading democracy” through aggressive war is more important than spreading the peaceful message of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus came to bring “peace on earth, good will to men,” and by extension the Christian’s goal ought to be the same.
Norman Horn, the writer of this post and the founder of, obviously believes that a Christian can be a libertarian. I, of course, agree with that answer. Being a Christian is all about a relationship with Christ and not about embracing a political ideology. It is true that there are Christians in conservative, liberal and libertarian circles.

My struggles, however, with libertarianism is about how passive and isolationist it appears to be - not only in foreign policy but in domestic policy as well. I heartily endorse the idea that we are our brothers keeper and Christians do well when we help the poor - both here and in other countries. And I heartily wish that people of faith would care for the poor so much that government assistance would not be required. But history teaches us that people of faith spend more on religious buildings and teachers than they do on the poor.

Now, for my libertarian leaning friends, I am not saying that I endorse a bloated entitlement driven federal government. All I am saying is that the answers to caring for the poor are complex and excluding governmental help may be a bit short sighted. And perhaps it is all about the kind of government that we, the people, want?


  1. My problems with libertarians is that some of them seem to follow the teachings of Ayn Rand, the survival of the fittest social darwinism that is inconsistent with Jesus' teachings about caring for the least of these. Of course, I think some of the tea partiers who say they are libertarians are using that philosophy to mask their real selfishness and desire to keep what is "theirs."

  2. The short answer, IMO, is "No". I thought I was a libertarian when I first heard the term because I heard it in the context of personal freedoms. I think the government should allow consenting adults to do whatever they like as long as it doesn't harm another. I am libertarian in that sense. But, I think we are our brothers' keepers and, as you pointed out, both domestically and internationally, libertarianism promotes an isolationist every man for himself mentality.

    I don't think Jesus would promote the government as the primary answer to anything. And, if were all fully enlightened individuals living according to the will of the Holy Spirit, then we wouldn't need the government to do some of the things the government must do. But, in the real world, we need the government to help keep the playing field level and to take care of the poor and the disadvantaged.

  3. I am a firm believer that the church is to be the first responder in caring for the poor. That's not to say the government can't be involved, but I have the sneaking suspicion that if all churches had a deeper missional focus government funding and involvement wouldn't be needed as much. Perhaps that is idealistic of me. :)

  4. I am not in favor of big government, but libertarianism seems to me the opposite extreme. In a sinful there needs to be some degree of government control to maintain order and help the oppressed, even though I believe having too high an expectation of government is a mistake.

  5. Why are we assuming that Christian generosity means government enforcement of it? I resent the idea that my generosity is measured by how much the government takes from me. Libertarianism is a view of how government should operate, now of how the individual should.

  6. @MTR - The only reason folks often bring Christian generosity into the mix for a libertarian view is that Christian libertarians often say that the church, and not the government, should care for the poor. Most of us would like to see that happen but it is simply not realistic because religious people historically spend money on buildings and salaries and not on the poor.


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