Acton Institute Powerblog

Why Liberty Requires Christianity

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Joseph Pearce offers a controversial (and irrefutable) argument that faith is a prerequisite to true freedom:

In an age that seems to believe that Christianity is an obstacle to liberty it will prove provocative to insist, contrary to such belief, that Christian faith is essential to liberty’s very existence. Yet, as counter-intuitive as it may seem to disciples of the progressivist zeitgeist, it must be insisted that faith enshrines freedom. Without the shrine that faith erects to freedom, the liberties that we take for granted will be eroded and ultimately destroyed. Faith preserves freedom. It protects it. It insists upon it. Where there is faith there is freedom. Where faith falters, so does freedom. This truth, so uncomfortably perplexing for so many of our contemporaries, was encapsulated by G. K. Chesterton when he asserted that “the modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.”

Read more . . .

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Roger McKinney

    “the right-wing libertarians, who support the freedom of pornographers to corrupt everyone they touch, the freedom of drug pushers to deal death to vulnerable youngsters, and the freedom of global corporations to rule the world unhampered by political or economic constraint….The libertarians, on the other hand, believe that Big Business should be left free to use the bullying powers of the economies of scale to destroy small businesses. Libertarians believe that huge corporations should be free to take liberties by taking the liberties of small corporations, turning downtown into ghost-town.”
    Christianity is necessary for freedom because as Hayek wrote, we need a force to convince people to respect property and equality under the law (the foundations of freedom) when they can’t see an immediate benefit for doing so. Christianity gave us the sanctity of private property and the free market at the best determinant of a just price. The loss of Christianity in the West has unleashed the full force of envy.
    But in opposing libertarianisn, the author promotes democratic socialism. Libertarians are neither for or against small businesses or large corporations; they’re for the rule of law. No one should protect small businesses from large ones; doing so is modern Luddism. In a free market, customers decide whether they prefer the products and services of a large corporation or a small business an that’s the way it should be.
    No libertarian wants corporations to be “unhampered by political or economic constraint.” Libertarians oppose conservative politicians selling their power to corporations. Corporations are subject to economic laws regardless of whether the realize it or not, but they should always be subject to laws preventing theft and fraud and buying power from conservative politicians.
    And he is just dishonest about the libertarin position on pornography. No libertarian support pornography; they simply believe the best place to protect children from pornography is in the home, not in Congress.
    Libertarians do not favor of drug dealers. Instead libertarians see the enormous damage that the “war” on drugs has caused and want to end something that is so destructive. A larger percentage of people are hooked on drugs today than when Nixon launched the war on drugs. Mexico has been ripped apart by the war. Yet conservatives are totally blind to the devastation all around them.

  • Greg Miller

    Speaking only from personal experience, the primary problem I’ve found with most libertarians is that they over-emphasize liberty and property rights.

    Christianity insists that there is a hierarchy of rights, with the right to life being among the first of them. The Christian properly understands that some rights naturally proceed from others, and if you remove the foundational right you undermine all those built upon it. This is the case with the matter of abortion. All Liberty/Choice flows from Life. Without life one cannot have liberty or choice, therefore defense of the right to life is more truly a “pro-choice” position (for it defends the billions of choices one can only make after being born), while abortion is truly anti-choice (preventing those same billions of choices).

    At Vanderbilt University I attended a lecture during which a self-described “Libertarian scholar” (I’m sorry but I can’t remember his name) said that if a poor person stole from a landowner’s orange grove to keep himself from starving, the landowner has the right to kill the thief. This statement made quite the impression on me, and colored my perception of Libertarianism to this day.

    Property Rights do not trump the right to life. The landowner has the right to demand proportional restitution for his property–perhaps in the form of labor from the starving–but he does not have power over that person’s existence.

    • Roger McKinney

      Some libertarians make property an absolute right. Usually they call themselves anarcho-capitalists. They tend to be a small segment of the movement. Most don’t think like that.
      However, I do think most libertarians would allow abortion, in which case I think they violate their libertarian principles. True libertarians see the role of government as protecting life, liberty and property. The unborn children fall under the right to life protection.