Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Liberationist Heresy

The most recent issue of The American Conservative contains an excellent essay by Daniel Larison, formerly of Polemics fame, who now blogs at Eunomia.

Larison unmasks the heresy of liberationist theology now infecting many quarters of conservative Christianity, but particularly its evangelical wing. Elsewhere, in the same issue of TAC, Jeffrey Hart says that Bushian foreign policy should be stamped "Brought to you by orthodox Christian believers," by which he means Protestant evangelicals.

Regrettably, there is truth to the charge, as I have discussed numerous times.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Bush has snatched the mantle of divine authority. As Larison comments, the president’s rhetoric has often risen "to the level of the revelatory and prophetic, freeing it from the burdens of proof and deliberation." One staple of Bush’s rhetoric, perhaps inserted by his Wheaton educated Svengali Mike Gerson, is that political freedom, presumably under the guise of "democracy," is "God’s gift to every man and woman in this world."

But this confuses the spiritual liberation one finds through faith in Christ with the messianic political liberation of nations. Surely bible-toting evangelicals would have the discernment to see through such hermeneutical contortions, don’t you think? Well, perhaps not.

In any case, Larison touches on numerous shortcomings in the pseudo-Christianity on display here. First, it blurs "the lines between the sacred and the profane, investing the 'freedom agenda' with a divine mandate and the presumption to represent God’s will in a shockingly impious manner." Moreover, if it is "God’s will" that every man women and child in the Middle East live under democratic governance, what shall we think of God's providence and sovereignty when that house of cards collapses and we turn tale, and those nations revert to some form of autocracy?

More importantly, Larison writes, "Political freedom is a product of culture and habit, the fruit of the discipline of civilization. As beings created in the image and likeness of God, it might be said that all men have the potential to acquire these habits and learn this discipline over a great length of time, but to believe that this discipline is more or less automatically inherent in all people right now is to dismiss both the effects of the fall and the contingencies of history."

Political culture, economics, art, etc. are ultimately grounded in the religion of a people. To bear the fruit of political liberty and economic growth, a people must first ingest principles of thrift and work based upon a future-orientation, a legal system grounded in the rule of law and not the whims of man, and so much more that is integral to a Christian understanding of God and man.

In short, political and economic freedom are products of culture, and culture is a product of the religious presuppositions that under gird the culture. It is thus no accident that free-markets, capitalism and freedom constrained by law are largely confined to those parts of the world still borrowing off the spiritual capital accumulated by Christian ancestors.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...freeing it from the burdens of proof and deliberation."


I've never should I say it...perhaps like this: I've never been someone who would say something like 'I really like people'. But trying to discuss and debate with those who think both 1) the original decision to invade Iraq was right (WMDs or no WMDs), and 2) we ought to now 'stay the course' (i.e. a cliche is often what you get from them instead of an argument) has been a uniquely depressing experience. No amount of facts, no force of logical argument will sway them. They are seemingly either completely unable and/or unwilling to separate the secular from the non-secular, and to apply the appropriate standard of thinking to each.

4:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know if you noticed but I took some exceptions to the Larison piece at Backwaterreport. This was not intended to be a slight towards you, its just that Mr. Larison's article struck me as being very Roman Catholic and so I took exception to several portions of it.

I remain a consistent reader of your blog and much appreciate your work.


6:41 PM  

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