Monday, April 15, 2019

It Depends

Jim Davies has pointed me to a post of his entitled “Christian Anarchist": An Oxymoron?  To which I answer, it depends.

The word anarchist has so many meanings – and here I mean even within what would be described as the “libertarian movement” (talk about an oxymoron).  One could describe the range from left to right.  On the left, no hierarchies are acceptable; on the right, voluntary hierarchies are acceptable. 

(As an aside: what of the involuntary hierarchy of parents to children?  Perhaps one reason libertarians as libertarians have no consistent answers when it comes to this relationship.)

Davies believes that the term “Christian Anarchist” is an oxymoron.  As he offers “…there are too many flat contradictions between the two world-views.”

Let’s examine his reasons for this:

The Bible presents an unmistakable hierarchy of authority, which we mortals are expected to obey.  (Emphasis in original)

This is the first of five reasons offered, in many ways capturing the meat of Davies’ argument in four of the five reasons.  So I will spend the most time here. 

I will first get the “expected to obey” part out of the way.  Yes, Christians are expected to obey God; however, what is the punishment for disobedience?  It is a punishment that non-believers would find irrelevant – that punishment is hell (or separation from God for eternity or whatever description you want to give this). 

What is this concern to a non-believer?  None, of course.  In other words, while man is expected to obey God, failure to do so comes with no “aggression” as defined by libertarians.

Now…the “hierarchy of authority” thing.  This, potentially, is a real “tell”; an insight into Davies’ entire libertarian worldview.  Is it not acceptable for one who rejects involuntary authority relationships (fundamentally true for all anarchists) to at the same time accept voluntary authority relationships?  If this is unacceptable, then what good is anarchism if one cannot choose voluntarily to be subordinate to another?

Davies, where are you on this?  Because you either embrace the position that anarchists will aggress to stop others from voluntarily subordinating to others or you must embrace that an anarchist can also be a Christian.  I don’t care which you embrace, but I see no third option. 

Or maybe you just threaten to withhold the term “anarchist” from people such as this.  To that, I say, it doesn’t really matter what you think.  Because if you aren’t threatening such as these with force, then your view on the applicability of the term doesn’t really matter either way.

In any case, any worldview that disallows all hierarchies is a doomed worldview.  Let’s hope this is not Davies’ worldview.

On to the second reason:

Christianity--and religion generally--demands that adherents worship; that is, that they humble themselves before a super-being, whether invisible or made of stone.

My thoughts here are already reflected in the above: what is this to non-believing anarchists?  Is it important to non-believing anarchists to control the non-aggressive behavior of believing anarchists? 

Anarchism is logically derived from the most primitive of premises: that I exist, and that my life is mine--premises so basic, they are axiomatic.

My thoughts here are already reflected in the above: what is this to non-believing anarchists?  Is it important to non-believing anarchists to control the beliefs of believing anarchists?  Is it not acceptable for an anarchist to give his life to God?  What do you care where and how another anarchist spends his life – as long as he isn’t aggressing against you?  What kind of anarchists are you?  The bomb-throwing kind?

The two have opposing ethical standards. … The highest standard of virtue in Christianity is "to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13) and its entire emphasis is on service to others, a sacrifice of self. In contrast, the anarchist's basis for ethics is his own wellbeing; whatever serves the interests of his own life is good--and what damages those interests is bad.

Before getting to my primary objection, consider the statement from Davies: “…whatever serves the interests of his own life is good--and what damages those interests is bad.”  Let’s hope it is implicit in this statement is some concept of “consistent with the non-aggression principle.”  Else, Davies really is the bomb-throwing kind of anarchist.

My thoughts here are already reflected in the above: what is this to non-believing anarchists?  Is it important to non-believing anarchists to control the non-aggressive actions of believing anarchists?  Is it not acceptable for an anarchist to give his life in service – even defense – of another?

Now, I know what you all are thinking about now – why is bionic being so repetitive?  Well, I think to make a point: it seems clear that Davies is on the far left side of the spectrum when it comes to anarchism – and anyone who voluntarily accepts hierarchical relationships or acts in service to another by definition cannot be an anarchist.  Again, his views are neither here nor there to me – except that he will never find liberty on that road.

Now, for his final reason:

Christians actively support the institution of government as directed in Romans 13, noted above. This happens now, and it has happened for 20 centuries.

This must be taken apart: first, for the “20 centuries” part.  I think Christians in the first three or four of those centuries would strongly disagree with Davies. 

Now for the Romans 13 part.  Davies has a point: many Christian today both support this interpretation of Romans 13 and support government.  They are, of course, wrong – hence a big reason why I am critical of much of what passes for Christianity today.

Augustine was perhaps the first to offer such an interpretation of Romans 13.  Gerard Casey does a good job of taking this position apart – suggesting that there are far too many irregularities in the translation of this passage and far too many counter-examples in the Bible to take this one (wrongly translated) passage as authoritative.  I will not repeat Casey’s arguments here. 


Returning to Davies:

“…can one with intellectual consistency embrace both individual freedom and Christianity?”

I don’t believe one can, with intellectual consistency, embrace both individual freedom (as defined by many libertarian anarchists, especially on the left) and liberty.  As I mentioned previously: I have written dozens - maybe hundreds - of posts that have brought me to this view, but I have never really summarized these.  The best I have seen do this is offered by Hoppe and Ajamian (and these should be read in this order).

For reasons both theoretical and practical therefore, there's no melding of freedom and religion, and "Christian Anarchist" is, unfortunately, a nonexistent species, a hopeless oxymoron. If you, dear Reader, presently have a foot in both camps, it's decision time; pick one thing or the other.

Or else what?  Are you suggesting that an anarchist cannot be religious – more specifically, Christian?  What if this is how an anarchist chooses to exercise his freedom?  We know the answer; we know where this road ends – the same place all left-libertarian / left-anarchist roads end: with a bullet in the head.


Davies insists that man must give up religion for anarchy to prevail.  Setting aside the delectable multiple interpretations of this phrase (depending on your definition of the terms), what Davies is admitting is that he holds no hope for his version of anarchist philosophy to prevail.  Religion has always and everywhere existed in man – and always will.  Anyone aiming for liberty that does not recognize this and incorporate it into his worldview is wasting his energy.

Religion even exists in Davies own approach to reaching his anarchist world.  Davies offers (in the comments): "The way to bring about a zero-government society is, rather, to persuade everyone not to work for government.”  When I ask “How,” he replies: “It's really quite easy; find one person willing to learn, and teach him. Provide a libertarian education. Then get him to do the same, and do it once a year.”

Religious conversion.  This is Davies’ plan.  As offered by ATL in the same comment thread:

Given that we currently live under a massive state apparatus, if more and more good people check out of politics (voting, campaigning, running for office, etc.), aren't we just relegating the tools of the state to people that will be more and more likely to destroy liberty and increase tyranny?

Yes.  The only people (if any) that will be convinced to leave government are the ones with some sense of a moral compass; “moral” as is basically understood in the Gospel – in other words, those who generally hold to a Christian ethic.  Those without this moral compass will gladly fill the void.

This presents a real problem for Davies.


  1. I have always defined worship as the act of either becoming like the object of worship or devoting oneself to servicing the object of worship. Idolatrous religions generally promote the second idea of worship. Christ promoted the first, saying: "be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect".


    My whole issue with anarchism / lack of hierarchy of any type is the problem of coordination. The most blatant example of this is an attack by a coordinated foe against a single land owner. There is no guarantee at all that his neighbors will rush to his defense. Maybe they don't see it in their best interest. Maybe they believe the attacker is just doing a hit and run. Maybe they don't particularly care for this neighbor. Maybe they run away because they want to save their own skins; certainly Davies' statement that "whatever serves the interests of his own life is good--and what damages those interests is bad" practically guarantees this, especially in the face of concentrated and overwhelming force.

    An astute totalitarian leader will simply divide and conquer the disorganized forces of anarchy - after all, if Mr. Davies' idea of no voluntary hierarchy is adhered to, how will a coordinated defense be raised? As soon as multiple people agree with someone, he becomes a leader and you can kiss your "anarchy" goodbye. Is Mr. Davies' implying that all people are equally capable of defending themselves or applying tactics and logistics? This smacks of leftist / socialist egalitarianism and uniformity, directly opposed to individual ability and achievement.

    A shrewd totalitarian leader will convince other land holders that it is in their best interest not to intervene. He will spread misinformation and dissension. He will turn individual against individual and, therefore, conquer all. Is this not the modus-operandi of practically all successful conquerors? Isn't this the reason that totalitarianism has prevailed in every epoch and among every people?

    A little study of Sun Tsu would be in order here ...

    1. Woody,

      I think you're exactly right.

      The rejection of all authority and all hierarchy is a recipe for disaster. It's a little too compatible with goals I'd imagine Satan having for my taste.

      What more ingenious trap could be devised for those who recognize the evils of concentrated monopolistic authority? This trap gets liberty lovers to 'throw the baby out with the bath water'. Not only do they reject all human authority, which opens them up to internecine warfare (state building), foreign occupation (who would defend?), destruction of morality (whatever feels good), and social chaos (who would settle disputes?), but they also reject God's authority and his offer of salvation. I can't imagine a better plan by Satan to destroy human lives, souls, and everything that ennobles us.

      It doesn't help that anarchism has a long history of support for Satan, and that modern proponents like Davies take great effort to convince other anarchists of anarchism's incompatibility with Christian salvation.

      "But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge." - Mikhail Bakunin, 19th century Russian anarchist

  2. "You believe in God?" the Atheistic Rights Theist asks.

    "I believe in God."

    "Whose God?"

    Uh-oh. Faith smashed!

    "The same God Who is the Author of Natural Rights," I answer.

    Ha! He thought I was going to ask, "Why do you hate God?"!

    "Rights," the Atheistic Rights Theist solemnly intones, "are logical constructs governing the behavior of moral agents. How those moral agents came into existence is irrelevant."

    Nothing faith-based in that statement!

    "So you believe in Rights?" I ask.

    "Of course."

    "Whose version of Rights?"

    "What are you talking about?" The Atheistic Rights Theist sounds annoyed.

    "I'm making a statement of fact. There are competing versions," I answer.

    "Rights are objective, rational, and discoverable."

    "I agree. Whose version of 'objective, rational, and discoverable'?"

    "You're a mystic," the Atheistic Rights Theist parries.

    "Meaning what? I believe in God?"

    "Yes. Theism is irrational. It poisons your thinking."

    "That may well be, but atheists subscribe to competing versions of Rights." Again, I'm stating the obvious.

    "They can't all be right."

    "I didn't say they could."

    "Why do you hate Rights?"

  3. Jim Davies: "Christians actively support the institution of government as directed in Romans 13...."

    The problem is not with Romans 13:1-2 but with the usual disregard of the immediate context of Verses 1 & 2.

    Romans 13:1-7 has absolutely nothing to do with secular civil government. Consequently, Verses 1 and 2 have nothing to do with obedience to secular government.

    Rather, everything in Romans 13:1-7 depicts a biblical civil government - that is, government of, by, and for God expressly established on the Bible's immutable moral law, and governed by biblically qualified men of God.

    The one word "continually" or "devoted" (depending upon your Bible version)in Verse 6 (amplifying Verses 3 & 4) alone proves the point.

    Unless someone's prepared to claim the Roman Empire (one of the most notorious for murdering Christians) was a government that *continually* blessed Christians and terrorized/punished the wicked, they best rethink their theology regarding this extremely important passage of Scripture.

    In short, Romans 13 (along with associated passages) is our Christian mandate for biblical dominion over government and society.

    For more, see free online book "The Romans 13 Template for Biblical Dominion: Ten Reason Why Romans 13 is Not About Secular Government" at

  4. Christian anarchists can lean on Acts 5:29: "But Peter and his apostles said in reply, 'We must obey God rather than men.'"

    1. In the Matthew, Mark, and Luke, look up every instance of the word "publican" and know that it means tax collector. That should be enough to seriously question the notion that Jesus condones taxation. No taxation, no state.

  5. The Bible, Christianity, acknowledges that all creatures are under some authority. Adam and Eve were under direct rule of God. After the Fall, that rule became more indirect and developed into Patriarchy, a form of monarchy. We are always under some authority.

  6. Hi Bionic,

    Logically, all atheists should be anarchists, but it does not follow that all anarchists should be atheists.


  7. Jim Davies should read Robert Anton Wilson's *Natural Law: Or Don't Put a Rubber on your Willy*. He argues that the whole concept of rights springs from "categories of medieval (pre-scientific) philosophy" and no libertarian worth his salt should have anything to do it.

    It's not for me, but I get it. If left-libertarians think there's something edgy, hip, and liberating about nihilism, why not go all in? Everything's a matter of opinion, even their hallowed "natural rights."