Feb 27 2011

Liberty and respect for authority do not conflict

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:02 pm

Over at Blog and Mablog, Douglas Wilson dispenses with some presumed inconsistencies in Christians being for both freedom and respect for authority, in My Kayak of Consistency

There are two basic streams of conservatism, and I have the misfortunate to belong to both of them. This means that as I am going down this particular river, whenever I get to the rapids, my kayak of consistency gets bounced around a bit. It can be done, but it requires some fancy paddle work, just a-going.

Those two types of conservatism are the Burkean and the libertarian, with the guiding principles of tradition and liberty. Tradition in the Burkean sense is consistent with liberty because in the West many of our traditions were shaped by the gospel. And because God of providence has a sense of humor, the second stream of conservatism is the older form of classical liberalism.

No human arrangement is absolute. Only God’s Word is absolute. So what does this mean?

If someone takes human choices in the marketplace as his absolute, the end result will be a market in which the fundamental commodity will be the souls of men. But if someone takes the law of God as his direction, the end result will be a market in which a man can buy and sell his cabbages or cabinets or cars without getting permission from some functionary at the the Department of Hubris.

If someone takes human tradition as absolute, the end result will be a stifling and oppressive regime, and way too many bishops. But if someone takes the law of God for his guide, the end result will be deep respect for the established authorities, including even some of the bishops.

So take it from me — you can’t have the fruit without the tree.

If you take God’s law as absolute, you will not take it upon yourself to act coercively without warrant from Him. This will result in an enormous amount of economic liberty. If you restrict only those transactions that you have biblical warrant for restricting, then the result will be far more freedom than we currently have. This is why accusations that a “mere Christendom” would result in “oppression” are so risible. Are you joking me? In our current system, a contractor on a building site can’t scratch his rear end without talking to the building inspector about it first. Tell me more about this free society you are so anxious to preserve. Are we dropping bombs in the Middle East to protect our right to be groped in a TSA line? Being lectured on our potential “oppressions” from today’s statists is like being lectured on public hygiene by Typhoid Mary. I can never make it through even one lecture without fidgeting in my seat. And they never seem to allow time for Q&A.

Liberty is not the standard. Respect for authority is not the standard. Both of those things are the fruit, resulting from faithful acceptance of what God says to do. When a society ignores what God says to do, and the grace in Christ enabling us to do it, the end result is what we see around us — the erosion of both our liberties and our traditions. As Lewis put it so aptly, we laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful. We remove the organ and demand the function.

Both forms of conservatism have been great blessings from God. But without Jesus, we won’t have either for very much longer.

I think this hits the nail on the head.  Another way to put it is this: the surest foundation for the peaceful coexistence of liberty and respect for authority (which is required for liberty to flourish, and not lead to anarchy and self-destruction) is a view of human beings that we were built to live together by God according to certain principles of regard for others, ourselves, our forbears and our posterity.  Maximum freedom and maximum security both flow from that regard, when it is pervasive in a society.  When we begin to worship unlimited liberty (to act is if we are the sole inhabitant of the universe), or to worship authority (perhaps in a search for greater safety and security), we will have neither.

H/T:  Melody