The Christian Institute

News Release

What if all politicians thought they had to give an account to their Maker?

Just a few days ago, newspapers revealed that Tony Blair believes he will one day be called to account before his Maker for decisions he made about the Iraq war.

Marxists and most Libertarians believe that such talk is nonsense. They say that God does not exist and we can forget about accountability to God or to any higher and eternal moral law. The disastrous effects of Marxism have been well demonstrated in history. By contrast Libertarianism has received little critical scrutiny in Britain. This political philosophy has emerged from the political right, but its influence, especially on social policy, extends right across the political spectrum.

Does conscious accountability to your Maker lead to more freedom or less? And what is true freedom? Do individuals have the right to consume hard-core pornography or take drugs? Does the State have the right to levy taxes? What is the true purpose of the State? A new analysis published today by The Christian Institute says we cannot know the answers to these questions without reference to God our Creator.

The report, written by author and journalist Philip Vander Elst, is a Christian critique of Libertarianism. He questions whether in the end Libertarianism really promotes freedom.

‘Libertarianism’ teaches that the individual is an end in himself, and the right to personal liberty is absolute as long as that does not infringe the equal rights of others. Libertarianism: a Christian critique acknowledges the truths in Libertarianism but also shows its errors and explains how Libertarian thinking reinforces cultural and social decay by turning liberty into licence.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said, “This is a thought-provoking critique of Libertarianism. It provides a timely antidote to the assumptions underpinning so much of contemporary political debate. The Prime Minister is accountable to his Maker for all his actions, not just for launching a war on Iraq.”

Author Philip Vander Elst said, “I hope, as a former atheist and admirer of Libertarianism, that my critique of its arguments will provoke intelligent debate about the values and assumptions which now dominate our culture and help to determine social policy.”

Key quotes from Libertarianism: a Christian critique

From page 6:

…the spread of ‘political correctness’ is gradually eroding freedom of thought and speech by discouraging legitimate criticism of contemporary ideas and fashions. The most obvious example of this is the change that has taken place in the meaning of ‘tolerance’. Instead of signifying, as it used to, a readiness to respect the right of individuals to express opinions or engage in activities of which one disapproves, the whole concept has been turned on its head so that ‘tolerance’ now implies approval. As a result, those who dare to criticise homosexuality or non-Western cultures and religions, for example, are increasingly stigmatised as ‘intolerant’ ‘homophobes’ and ‘racists’ whose ‘bigotry’ and ‘hate-speech’ ought to be curbed to safeguard ‘minority rights’ and ‘multi-culturalism’, concepts which are never properly defined or explained.

Underlying this Orwellian corruption of the old liberal idea of tolerance, is the politically correct but question-begging assumption that all cultures and lifestyles are ‘equal’, and that it is therefore wrong to make critical or ‘judgmental’ comparisons between, say, single-parenthood and the traditional family, or Christianity and Islam. But is this moral and cultural relativism really justified? Does history suggest that all religions, ideologies and institutions have been equally beneficial? Is it logical to suggest that conflicting philosophies or belief-systems are equally true? Furthermore, if all ‘truth’ is subjective and therefore illusory, what is the moral justification for making the politically correct value judgment that it is ‘wrong’ to be ‘judgmental’?

Given this background of intellectual confusion and cultural decay, close analysis of the ideology of Libertarianism can throw valuable light on many contemporary political and social issues.

From page 13:

How relevant, though, is Libertarianism to life in 21st century Britain? Extremely, is the short answer. At the political level, it has exerted a strong influence on the younger and more intellectual elements within the Conservative Party, whilst the numerous publications of the London-based Libertarian Alliance attract many intelligent readers and political activists. It is, however, the cultural impact of Libertarianism which is most significant today. In a nutshell, it both appeals to and reinforces that dislike of authority which is such a marked feature of contemporary British and Western culture. Whilst its attitude to taxation, government regulation, and the Welfare State, is only shared by a small minority, its agnosticism in the area of ‘personal morality’ and its indifference or hostility towards Christianity puts it firmly in the cultural mainstream.

From page 30:

If it is the case that a belief in objective moral values sustains our inner freedom and teaches us our duties towards each other, what is likely to happen if people stop believing in God? The answer ought to be obvious. Belief in the absoluteness of the Moral Law will tend to wither, and the fear of violating it will also tend to vanish, since it is no longer perceived to have an eternal sanction behind it. This in turn will sooner or later have a predictably harmful effect on personal behaviour.

That is precisely what has happened in our increasingly godless and secularised Western societies. As high-minded 19th century agnostics like T.H. Huxley and George Eliot feared, not to mention Matthew Arnold and Dostoyevsky, the erosion of religious belief and Christianity in the West has been followed, after a long time-lag, by the cultural and social decay we see around us today. As a result, liberty itself is now in danger of committing suicide, because the moral self-discipline required to sustain a free and civilised society is rapidly disappearing.

Libertarianism: a Christian critique is available from The Christian Institute priced £2.50

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