My friendship with these great people has been an incredible blessing for me; in fact, I don’t believe any Christian ever was so blessed by such friendship with non-Christians as I am. We had and still have a common enemy—the socialist state and its wicked ideology, and we fought as allies who knew their differences but had the self-control to focus on what is important. Their hearts and their homes were always open for me, and they let me share my faith in Christ freely without a word of reproach. They trusted me, they supported me, they taught me, they were patient with me, and they sacrificed with me for the common cause we had. While I know God is the One who turns the hearts, I am thankful that in His grace He allowed me to have such friends among non-Christians, and not enemies. It is way more than what I deserve.
This article is not a reproach or an argument against them; it is my debt to them. I find it my duty to tell them why I am a Christian Libertarian, and why I cannot be anything else. God forbid that I try to pick a fight with them who are my friends and allies in one of the most important cultural battles of our time. They deserve an open and friendly answer to the above question.
My answer will start with my teenage years when I was introduced to the ideas of individual liberty and freedom. These were not common ideas in a country that had been under Communism for 40-plus years. John Locke, Thomas Paine, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand were not exactly authors that the Communist government would allow on the market. I picked up bits and pieces of those ideas from the works of Spinoza (of all men!), a book on US history, and a smuggled copy of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. My own indignation at things I saw every day contributed to it. Not after long, I knew I wanted to be free, free indeed.
My thoughts were well-trained philosophically by my parents so I never succumbed to the temptation to believe that freedom meant being able to do what I wanted. Even at that age I knew what all libertarians know: Freedom has limits, and these limits are ethical in nature.
But before I knew the ethical limits, I needed to know what freedom itself was all about. Where could I find it? I knew it wasn’t in the Marxist ideology—there was no notion of free individuals there. Spinoza couldn’t give it to me with his die-hard determinism. He only introduced me to the idea, showed me the cake and then left me starving. Hegel and Kant avoided the problem like leprosy, and neither Aristotle nor Plato would let the individual man be free.
I grew the suspicion that the philosophers were lying to me; that the greatest problem of philosophy was freedom vs. bondage; and they were unwilling to admit it for they had no solutions. Philosophy is the quest for Truth but what happens when we find that Truth? Is it going to be respectful of our personal freedom? Why would it? Why would an impersonal absolute entity—what the Truth is supposed to be, philosophically—care about our freedom? Take Spinoza himself: How can he reconcile his love for freedom with his determinism concerning Truth? Can we settle for identifying freedom with “necessity of nature,” which is even a scarier notion? Can I act against the necessity of my nature?
Maybe I’d do better if I didn’t expect absolute truths. Surely, if a world of absolutes threatened my freedom, then a world of relativism surely would make me free. Or, would it? But wouldn’t my freedom be only relative in such a world? Was it possible that what was freedom today would be slavery tomorrow? Was it possible that I have fought for one thing and ended up with another? Was it possible that I set out for the Promised Land and ended up in a concentration camp? How would I know in a world of relative truths?
I couldn’t find freedom either way. An ocean of relativity without shores or bottom made the very notion of freedom irrelevant—and indeed made the very notion of me irrelevant. I needed a stable shore to ground my feet on, a solid wall to lean against if I wanted to find my freedom, and yet that stability and solidness could and would limit my freedom to oblivion.
Oh, my friends would say, you don’t need God for the solution. You can join Ayn Rand in assuming objective existence and objective conscience, and your problem is solved. The question of origins is irrelevant to the issue of freedom. The idea of freedom is based on the very nature of existence. We assume existence in an Axiom, and the rest is easy. Who cares how things originate, we only need to postulate that they exist.
Well, defining away the question of origins was a very good solution to my philosophical problem. I could now be an agnostic and still retain my sanity and my quest for freedom. In fact, I did find my freedom: It just existed and I could consciously exercise it. What else did I need?
But I had a new problem, an ethical one. By defining away the origins I defined away the possibility for ethical definitions. Remember the ethical limits I talked about? How could I find those ethical limits if all my thinking started with the simplistic Axioms of Existence and Conscience? What is is what is, and what I know is what I know. How do I derive a system of practical ethics from such simple axioms? Is morality part of existence? Is it “natural” to us? If it is, then whatever I do must be moral. If it isn’t, how do we discern between “natural” and “unnatural” existence? How do I know Howard Roark was right in blasting that building? Only because he felt he had the right? Only because of his personal interpretation of history? And how do I know Ellsworth Toohey was a villain and not a hero? Ayn Rand never answers these questions. She makes us assume the definitions, accept them by faith. And don’t get me wrong, I like Ayn Rand, I am proud to have been her first translator in Bulgarian, and I would do it again if I could. But I can’t overlook the fact that once we axiomatize existence without origins, we must keep axiomatizing every definition—because there is no beginning for anything.
So in addition to the old problem of truth vs. freedom, I had a new one: philosophical vs. ethical. I must jump out of the frying pan of the philosophical quest for truth if I wanted to be free, but I found I would only end up in the fire of disintegrating reality where there was no practical way of discerning right from wrong, or natural from unnatural. Objectively, I could be free in that fire, free without any restraints—exactly what freedom is supposed not to be, ethically.
And then, of course, comes the very practical question of my rights. I know I want to be free, I know that my freedom is ethically limited, and I know that my freedom will require that others be ethically limited, unless I want to surrender my freedom to them. But how do I derive my rights from simple axioms of impersonal reality? Do my rights exist objectively? If yes, why do I have to fight for them, why don’t they just exist of themselves? If no, am I making up new, subjective reality in my brain?
So now I had three things that I desperately wanted but I couldn’t reconcile: Freedom, Ethics, and Justice. And none of the philosophies or philosophers I knew could reconcile them.
When a dear friend of mine shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me, he knew nothing of my intellectual struggles. There was one thing that caught my attention that night when he talked to me about his faith: “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” And then Jesus adds: “And if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”
There was the solution to my problem! I was blind to search for an impersonal Truth, an inexorable, merciless entity that holds the universe in an iron grip. And I was blind to search for Freedom that was focused on myself so much that would make the rest of the world irrelevant—and make me irrelevant in the process. Truth was possible to know only if it was itself a Person; and Freedom was possible to have only if it was itself a Person. That Person couldn’t be a mere man—or I would be in slavery. He must be a god, or rather, God, the Creator of the Universe. And if the Bible was true, then my problems had one reason: I was a stranger to God, and thus I was a stranger to Freedom, Ethics, and Justice. I had to come back to Him, through the redemption He provided in Jesus Christ. Only then I had . . . everything.
If He was the Creator, He was the Truth. Knowing Him, I would know the Truth. He was Freedom too: He created my very nature and He knew what I should do to be in harmony with my real nature. And He was Justice for He gave me the rules for a just society that has liberty and justice for all. What all the philosophers wanted but couldn’t find, He had it, and He was it.
Therefore I couldn’t be a libertarian without Christ. I tried, and it was impossible—philosophically and ethically. It was self-contradictory, it was against the very nature of things, and it was believing in a set of assumptions that had no discernible connection with reality or with each other. Only in Christ I had them all brought together in a coherent whole. And only in Christ did it make sense to be willing to die for your freedom—without Him death was the ultimate judge of things, and slavery was preferable to facing death. “Give me liberty or give me death” was folly in a world without Christ—but now it is divine wisdom in Him.
There are two main arguments I hear from my non-Christian libertarian friends.
The first one is: “How could a slave of God be free?” Indeed, Bojidar, if you self-consciously submit to another being, how is this freedom? How is this different from being a slave of men?
This argument misses the fact that the same word “slave” has different meanings in both cases. Let me use a different example to explain:
“I have a daily need of food and water.”
“I have a daily need of heroin in my veins.”
We have the same words: “daily need.” But they have different moral meanings. In the first sentence they mean “healthy condition.” In the second sentence they mean “addiction.” What makes the moral difference? It is what comes after them. The nature of food and water on one hand, and heroin on the other make all the difference between the meanings.
Same with the word “slave” when used with God and man respectively. If God was like man, then there would be no difference. But why would I believe in a God who is in essence no different from a man? Would that solve my problems above? But if God is what He claims He is, then He is so different in nature from man that “slave of God” would be entirely different from “slave of man.” And therefore “freedom from man” would be different from “freedom from God,” to the point that slavery could be defined as “freedom from God.”
The Founders of the United States of America knew this truth perfectly. I am not discovering anything new here. It is no mere coincidence that ideas of liberty originated, and were perfected and applied in practice only in Christendom, and nowhere else.
The second argument is: “How can you be free if you obey someone else’s will?” What about free choice? Can’t we do anything we want with our own body, or our own property? What about the choice of a woman to abort her baby? How is obeying God’s Law freedom?
This argument misses a greater reality: Ethical limits. Remember, “anything we want” is not the definition of “freedom.” A person who wants to sell himself in slavery is not free; and no definition of freedom can justify what Hitler and Stalin wanted to do with the resources they had. The definition of freedom is to be able to act according to your true nature. And your true nature is defined by the One who created you—or it is not defined at all. Is it possible that you want to do things with your body and your property that come from your twisted nature instead from your real nature? Even non-Christian libertarians understand that not everything a person wants is necessarily “free” or “moral.”
A person can be a slave when they obey their own whims as much as when they obey someone else’s will. It is ethical limits that define the realm of freedom, not whims and desires. And since we find clearly defined ethical limits only in the Law of the Creator, therefore we can find clearly defined and real freedom only in Christ.
To summarize, I cannot be a true Libertarian without Christ. I cannot fight for liberty unless I know what liberty is and where it comes from. Outside of Christ any notion of individual freedom is lost either to a frigid web of inexorable necessity or to an ocean of relativity without shores. Only in Christ I can have true Freedom, and the Truth that gives it meaning.
If I decide to avoid the questions of the origin of my individual freedom, I can’t build a practical ethical framework for it. I can’t know what the legitimate limits of my freedom are, and therefore I can’t know what my rights—the legitimate limits of the freedom of others—are. Only in Christ I can have clear understanding of those ethical limits for any practical purposes.
Being a slave of God of doing God’s will does not destroy my freedom. To the contrary, doing God’s will is to my liberty what eating and drinking is to my body. Only by being obedient to Christ I have my liberty nourished and renewed. Everything else follows from it.
Lastly, without my hope in Christ, death will be the final judge of all, not life. In a Christ-less world life in slavery would be preferable to freedom in death, and therefore a true Libertarian in such a world is by necessity a fool. I don’t want to be a fool.