What is Libertarianism? Is it Compatible with Christianity?


Is Libertarianism compatible with Christianity, or is it an idolatrous ideology? The answer depends on who’s talking. Dr. Norman Horn, founder of the Christian Libertarian Institute, says “libertarianism is the most consistent expression of Christian political thought.” But, Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says the ideology makes a god out of self. Mohler and Horn will go head-to-head this Saturday at 11 a.m. CST on Up For Debate. In the meantime, here’s a primer on Libertarianism, so you’re prepared for this Saturday’s show!

What is Libertarianism?

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that advocates for maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state. According to David Boaz of the Cato Institute, Libertarianism’s key concepts are individual rights, spontaneous order, the rule of law, limited government and free markets, among others. 


While the roots of libertarianism can be traced as far back as ancient Greece, the term itself was first used until the late 18th century. The beginnings of modern libertarian philosophy were expressed by philosophers and political theorists such as John Locke and Alexis de Tocqueville, and the movement claims American founding fathers James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason and Thomas Paine among its ranks. More recent Libertarians like writer Ayn Rand, economist Milton Friedman and Congressman Ron Paul have grown the movement. The Libertarian Party was formed in 1971.

How Libertarians Describe Their Movement

“The core of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle: that the initiation of force against person and property is immoral, and it is in many respects a kind of political corollary to the Golden Rule. Thus, Christian libertarians think that government power should be limited, sound money and truly free markets should return, aggressive war must cease and civil liberties must be preserved.” — Norman Horn, founder of the Christian Libertarian Institute

“Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others. Libertarians defend each person’s right to life, liberty, and property – rights that people possess naturally, before governments are created. In the libertarian view, all human relationships should voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have themselves used force – actions like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.” — David Boaz, Executive Vice President, Cato Institute, in “Libertarianism: A Primer”

“The core of libertarianism is respect for the life, liberty and property rights of each individual. This means that no one may initiate force against another, as that violates those natural rights. While many claim adherence to this principle, only libertarians apply the non-aggression axiom to the state.” — Former Congressman Ron Paul

“Libertarians want the smallest, least-intrusive government consistent with maximum freedom for each individual to follow his own ways, his own values, as long as he doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s doing the same.” — Milton Friedman (1912-2006), Noble Prize-winning economist

“We want government to largely leave us alone, protect our personal security, but then to butt-out, leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don’t hurt anybody else.” — John Stossel, author and host of “Stossel” on Fox Financial News Network

Christianity and Libertarianism

So, are Christianity and Libertarianism compatible?  Both Dr. Mohler and Dr. Horn will discuss in detail on Saturday.  However, below is a brief explanation by Dr. Mohler of why he believes Libertarianism is idolatrous, and Dr. Horn’s explanation of why he believes Libertarianism has its foundation in Scripture.  Should be a fantastic on-air debate this Saturday morning!

Watch Dr. Horn’s explanation of the biblical foundations of Libertarianism: 


Watch Dr. Mohler explain his view that Christianity and Libertarianism are incompatible: 

6 thoughts on “What is Libertarianism? Is it Compatible with Christianity?

  1. Thanks for this episode, Julie.
    I hate to say it, but it seemed both uncharitable and circular for Dr. Mohler to insist that libertarianism is necessarily incompatible with Christianity on the basis that it is an inherently anti-Christian worldview while denying the Christian libertarian’s own definition of libertarianism (as a non-comprehensive, strictly political question concerning the legitimate use of force) which would show its compatibility with Christianity.

    I hope Dr. Mohler, and anyone who thought his objections were cogent, might consider having a more open, honest, and charitable discussion with Christians who are libertarians.

    In addition to the able responses by Dr. Horn (and various callers) the following two links (if you don’t mind my posting them) should go a long way in responding to some of the misconceptions that Dr. Mohler has about libertarianism:

    Thanks again, Julie. This is a really important topic. Worth revisiting!

  2. Nick

    I am a Christian libertarian, but this debate was actually pretty disappointing for one main reason: neither side engaged in any substantive exegesis whatsoever. There was a lot of talk about what so and so’s opinion or definition is, but almost no discussion at all on what the Bible says. Here’s some things that could have been discussed:

    Q: Who are the originators of the kingdoms of men in the biblical narrative?
    A: Cain, after going into exile for murdering Abel and founding the first city (Genesis 4:16-17). Later, Nimrod, the founder of Babel (Genesis 10:8-10; Genesis 11:1-9).

    Q: How does God describe man’s desire to be ruled by a human king?
    A: As a rejection of God’s rule (1 Samuel 8:4-9).

    Q: Who has dominion of all the kingdoms of the Earth?
    A: Satan (Matthew 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8).

    Q: How does God relate to the kingdoms of men?
    A: He uses their evil deeds for His sovereign purposes (Isaiah 10:5-6; Isaiah 13:1-6; Acts 2:22-23).

    Q: What should be the attitude of a Christian as it relates to ruling over others?
    A: A Christian must be a servant, and not seek to rule over others like the kings of the nations (Mark 10:42-45).

    Q: What is the purpose of a Christian praying for rulers?
    A: That Christians may live a quiet, peaceable, godly and dignified life (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

    Q: What are a Christian’s ethical duties as it relates to force?
    A: To bless our persecutors, never return evil for evil, never take vengeance, do good to our enemies, and overcome evil with good (Romans 12:9-21).

    There is so much depth to this subject, I would hope it gets revisited in another show some day to talk about the fundamental exegetical issues.

  3. Mark Andrew Hamilton

    Thank you for your excellent show on libertarianism. I want to thank both guests, who did an excellent job.

    Regarding intervention overseas, we libertarian Christians agree all Christians should be against genocide and unjust murders. But to fairly deal with all genocides and unjust murders in the whole world would require an army and a sense of fairness that has yet to be seen in the world. Further, although there may be good that results from military intervention, there has certainly been much more bad. The U.S. Military has supported too many tyrants like Saddam Hussein and overthrown too many democratically elected leaders (like Mohammed Mossadegh) to justify the ‘good things’ they have done.

    Libertarian Christians would argue, however, that private contractors and private aid organizations would be much more effective because they do not have as a foundation the use of force (taxes) but are completely voluntary. In this sense, we might say, “the Law brings death but the spirit brings life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). It should be individual’s privilege and responsibility to freely fight against and educate about these things, not the use of force (taxes) to fund and enable a very bureaucratic and unjust government to fight them.

    Thank you for this excellent show.

  4. Mike

    These are excellent replies that are much more effective than Dr. Horn’s arguments. I certainly respect Dr. Horn’s heart and his work, but he doesn’t appear to be a very effective debater (at least in this venue). Someone like Tom Woods or Lew Rockwell, both Catholic Christian Libertarians could have made minced meat of Dr. Mohler’s straw-man arguments. This whole conversation is a perfect example of our current system’s “either – or” mentality. I was very disappointed that Dr. Horn didn’t refute Dr. Mohler’s tired and errant (IMHO) exegesis of Romans 13. I am so sick of all non libertarians declaring Randian Objectivism and Libertarianism to be the same thing. I’m glad Dr. Horn refuted this point, but I would have liked for him to go farther.
    I am thankful that discussions like this are talking place though!

  5. @Nick :: I’m sorry I didn’t get to address any of those points. You’ll find on the Libertarian Christian Institute’s website a lot of exegesis for various Scriptures. You can note even in my “talking points” list I posted after the show on Saturday that I was at very least *intending* to address Scripture more directly. Please find that post here:

  6. @Mike :: I recognize I’m not the ultimate debater, but you have to admit that this is very much a constraint of the format itself. I mean no disrespect to Julie and the show in saying this — there are tradeoffs that must be made with limited time and the desire to involve others via call-ins. As it was, I have to follow the lead of the host, and there simply was not opportunity to address certain allegations Mohler made including his shot at the end via Romans 13.

    This is also why I posted my talking points on the LCI website, so you could at least see what kind of case I wanted to make had I had the opportunity to fully do so. Again, here is the link:

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