Does Libertarianism Provide an Escape for Ken Ham?

Posted by T on July 06, 2009
Economics, Ethics

In the previous installment, I endeavored to show that the Mulatto Model for Adam and Eve is untenable in view of creation teleology, and especially the form of the model explicitly insisted upon by Ken Ham and his colleagues. The only way I can think of out of the dilemma presented there would be a viewpoint in which racial teleology would be subverted from the outset by positing some form of Libertarianism as the divine intent for man.

It is easy to see how appealing Ham’s Mulatto Model of humanity would be to libertarians and libertines. Blood relation differentiated into races vanishes next to the “really important” action of bloodless Individuals marrying and giving in marriage according to individual impulses, and guided by no principle above the Individual except being “equally yoked” according to propositional belief. The City of God/City of Man becomes the only relevant collective having covenantal, eschatological ramifications.

Some reasons to doubt the libertarian solution

1. It will be helpful to refer to the table outlining the racial possibilities as to creation intent in the previous article.  From the human perspective, we could say that the libertarian escape route is simply Column A in its entirety, i.e. a view that does not see a racial telos of history and is indifferent to origin. But what if free choice led to racial differentiation? What if the “Aryans” in Adam and Eve’s brood freely tended to prefer fellow Aryans in their choice of marriage partners, and Negroes Negroes? The idea that “opposites attract” is a simplistic formula that does not square with reality. The Libertarian typically concedes that it is fine if free choice led (as it appears to have) to differentiated, stable racial stocks, but qualifies: as long as no one says it is wrong to go out of that stock for marriage. It would be wrong to say it were wrong, or to discriminate in awarding employment or advancement, place of residence, etc.

The problem is that right from the outset, we would see typology emerging from non-teleological origin, brought about by autonomous human choice decoupled from divine intent. The table of nations, the genealogies, the whole story of humanity in the Bible is all an accident of Libertarian choice not intended by God in creation.

Such a view is a sub-Christian view of God’s Will. A Christian social theory must make sense from both the human and divine perspective. It strains credulity to think that that rapidly-diversifying emergence of clans along “racial” lines would as it were have taken God by surprise – that that outcome would not reflect the divine intent in making Adam and Eve with such diverse potentiality.

We could escape this result by supposing that free choice leading to racial diversification were the means used to execute God’s creation decree. But that would throw the creation intent back to column B, negating Ham’s racial neutrality once again.

2. For Christian libertarians, typically the only dynamic to history is the conflict and struggle between the city of God and the city of Man; all else is governed by purely individual choice restricted only by the law of God.

These “cities” are collectives: Christian libertarianism cannot avoid loyalty to at least one collective. However, notice that the dynamic of the “cities” (and typically, the sword-wielding State as well) is a sub-lapsarian duality: it is a result of the Fall. Thus, the one collective (or two, if the State is also included) having some authority over the adult Individual was brought about by the Fall, and is not part of the intent of creation as such. It is odd that history has no dynamic apart from Individual choice, until and if the Fall should take place.

The Creation/Fall/Redemption schema of history teaches that redemption restores that which was lost in the Fall, with added richness. But the main collective of the Libertarian did not exist before the Fall. How will they fit that into the schema?

Instead, we should say that history post-Fall reflects what history would have been had their been no Fall, but now under a curse. Failing to worship Jehovah is sin; racial diversity is not sin.

3.  The deepest intent of the theonomic miscegenation defenders seems to be to guard against declaring anything as a sin that is not defined as such in a commandment. They are “okay” with having a preference for one’s own race, provided one does not forbid others. But does not their typical “preference” — they “just happen” to “prefer” that their own daughters marry white boys — go against their racial ideal of creation? On their view, should not the table of nations be seen as a deviation from divine intent, which should be positively resisted? They need to reflect on creation ordinance in view of these considerations. If the divine intent were humanity-as-mulatto, would it not be sinful even to prefer marrying within one’s own racial identity? Should not that which produces mulattoes be advocated as the norm? Once the Christian Libertarians start to think more biblically, their recourse to the preference vs. sin distinction may actually backfire on them.

4. Under Christian libertarianism, the only role for authority of any kind seems to be to regurgitate the law of God. The “theonomic” men on a Board that I dealt with actually were forced to admit that if a father or magistrate forbade miscegenation, their children or subjects would be free to disobey such an order, because they do not see how such a prohibition is contained in a specific law of God. In other words, authority equals “correct exposition of the law of God.”

Authorities and fathers on this view only have authority to the extent that they are restating the law of God given in precepts — they are merely expounders of the law of God to those that are less knowledgeable therein. Their subjects can always do what they want to do if they are convinced that there is not a divine precept specifically forbidding the behavior.

If the subject always has the right to decide that a command is “not a reflection of a law of God,” this really means that there are no authorities properly speaking. “Authorities” so-called become, at best, only persons more likely to know the law of God. Respecting authority, on the typical theonomic-libertarian model, amounts to consulting persons likely to know the law of God. Leaving aside the fact that lawful authorities in reality are often clueless as to the law of God, this view vitiates any concept of authority. It is just Libertarianism and the raw Individual before God masquerading as a biblical social theory.

5. Wisdom is a major theme of Scripture. Ordinarily, the younger submit to the older because the older ordinarily have greater wisdom. There is not always a precept explaining wisdom. Yet, is it not sin to act against wisdom? On the theonomic-libertarian view, a computer containing all the precepts, and which upon inputting a “circumstance” would print out all the applicable verses, would be as wise as any wise man could ever be.

6. Does Scripture countenance obedience to patriarchal authority that commands “adiaphora” i.e. that is outside that which is commanded by Scripture? If we can find even one such example in Scripture, it will be enough to refute this so-called “biblical” social theory of theonomic Libertarianism. And indeed, we do find an example.

The Rechabites were a tribe whose ancestral head had commanded his descendants to live in tents and not to drink wine, nor even to own vineyards.

But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers. Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters. (Jer 35:6-8)

This example is particularly interesting, because libertarian theonomists take particular delight in promulgating that wine-drinking is adiaphora, and not prohibited by God’s law. They also are inclined to live in houses, not tents. But Jeremiah praises the Rechabites, contrasting their faithfulness to the rebelliousness of the people of Judah:

Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me. (Jer 35:13-14)

The Board men thought they were principled theonomists, but in the end, their theory was simply plain old Libertarianism, lightly seasoned with desultory appeals to Scripture. The motif is deeply embedded in the thinking of Christians in “our circles.” Overthrowing it will not be quick work.

But if libertarianism is false, then on what basis will Ham be able to say that parents and tribal leaders may not steer marriages away from the inter-racial, or employ various other criteria that might be deemed important?

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10 Comments to Does Libertarianism Provide an Escape for Ken Ham?

  • It is never safe for a child to fail to heed a parent, even an unbelieving parent. It is part of the honor that God requires of inferiors, and I think that in the long run, it will work for the good of the child, even if the “advice” has no real biblical backing. [Of course, children ought never to disobey God’s commands, e.g., you need to lie for us, or steal or whatever.] I have in mind something like, “Those aren’t good people to hang out with.” Intuition or horse sense on the part of a parent ought to be honored.

  • Eliza — yes, good point. My opponents might find a way to agree with you too while the child is underage. But they see no way a parent could withhold blessing a marriage except for the one single thing, marrying someone that does not profess to be a Christian.

  • Good points all. This is what is so frustrating with Christian theonomists who think the way that they do on issues of race and collective identity. You especially do a good job of showing how patriarchal authority is not simply exposition of God’s law.

    Another good example is the commandment in the New Testament for servants to obey their masters. This is obviously a biblical commandment, but it is obvious that this is not limited to express biblical commands.

    Under the libertarian model, if a master tells the servant, it’s time to cook dinner, the servant could simply reply; where in the Bible does it tell me that I have to make dinner?

    Obviously the commandment to cook dinner is nowhere expressly stated in scripture, but the authority to command such is implied in relationships that have legitimate authority. The servant/master relationship is legitimate in scripture therefore the master has the right to make such a request.

    This means that it is only wrong for legitimate authority figures to request something that is against God’s laws, like committing idolatry, fornication, stealing, etc.

  • I read about a feminist who tried to create a theory of knowledge surrounding the woman’s role in the home. (Unfortunately, I can’t remember the reference.)

    I wonder if the same could be done as a sort of “patriarchal epistemology?” (Only consistently. The feminist epistemology was fraught with problems that even I could see.)

    The topics discussed in this series are completely new to me (though fascinating) so if this is something taken for granted or passe’…I’m sorry.

    God preserving His truth through a particular family group seems (at least from my limited knowledge of history) to be plausible.

  • Wait…it just hit me that I should go back and listen to your mp3 on Presbyterian succession (keeping this article in mind) before thinking about patriarchal epistemology.

  • Shotgun — yes study the presbyterial succession topic (of which “Presbyterian” is but one).

    However, in general, I would caution away from a view of epistemology that is non-rational in origin. Instead, you should read the works of van Til to understand that particular niche.

  • […] But perhaps Ham’s party will attempt to escape between the horns of the dilemma I have presented by recourse to Christian libertarianism: individual freedom governed by covenantal categories that do not ever apply to collectives. Perhaps the divine intent in creating a mulatto couple was to enable the exhibition of maximum freedom of the individual in tribe-less autonomy, governed only by conformity to specified precepts, and to be judged in individual eschatology at the end of history. Examining that outlet will be the burden of the next section. […]

  • […] At bottom, I think the Christian miscegenists are libertarians to a far greater extent than they are aware. They really model humanity as a miscellaneous collection of individuals, with libertarian choice the highest value governing everything. Society is only a matter of voluntary association. Earlier I showed why this solution is inadequate. […]

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