The real roots of freedom
Last week, on an internet radio channel called The Fifth Column, I debated climate change with Claire Fox of the Institute of Ideas, one of the rightwing libertarian groups that rose from the ashes of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Fox is a feared interrogator on the BBC show The Moral Maze. Yet when I asked her a simple question – “do you accept that some people’s freedoms intrude upon other people’s freedoms?” – I saw an ideology shatter like a windscreen. I used the example of a Romanian lead-smelting plant I had visited in 2000, whose freedom to pollute is shortening the lives of its neighbours. Surely the plant should be regulated in order to enhance the negative freedoms – freedom from pollution, freedom from poisoning – of its neighbours? She tried several times to answer it, but nothing coherent emerged which would not send her crashing through the mirror of her philosophy.
He’s right – but he’s missing a key point: The libertarian movement has rightly seized on one of the fundamental tenants of the doctrine of freedom taught by Paul: For freedom to be freedom, freedom must be absolute.
But, they miss the foundational logic behind such. The entirety of Scripture is pretty clear on one key point: people with un-transformed hearts need the law. They need to be controlled and they need a system of punishment to back such or other people would be harmed.
The intention of other people not being harmed has never changed.
All that has changed is the mechanism of the delivery of such. It’s based on the foundational assumption that people’s hearts can be changed and that every other part of them can be made new – such that they want new things. It’s based on the belief that it is possible to have such a profound encounter with love in the form of the person of Christ that the human heart can come to feel the pain of others and care as deeply for the pain of another as if it were their own pain. It’s based on the assumption that a person can come to hear the voice of God and, indeed, can come to long to do so.
A person who is that deeply transformed can be set absolutely free for they no longer need the control of law to cease hurting and commence loving others.
Libertarian ideology ignores once simple reality: Not all hearts have been transformed.
They could be – but some don’t want to be, some are too damaged to understand how to be, some are too afraid to be and some are so deluded that they actually think the evil that defines their lives IS transformation.
Those people need the law that the adherents of this level of extremism want to and have largely succeeded in abolishing.
Ironic thing is, it’s predominantly Christians who are promoting the ideological delusion that setting people free with un-transformed hearts is consistent with the Gospel…