It’s been a while since I’ve written an article for The Rational Rise, and that is largely because I have been immersing myself of late in real life, stepping away from studious examination of politics, and finally giving decent time to a study of Christianity. As a grateful member of Western Civilisation, it was about time for me to honour the cultural cornerstone of our great empire, and so I finally picked up the Bible for the first time and started reading with an open mind.
I think my mind could only really be opened because I primed it with thirty-six hours of Jordan Peterson lectures on the Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories. That lecture series alone gave me a new appreciation of the ancient text of the Book of Genesis, and helped me see that there was a different way to conceptualise God; something much more nuanced and believable than the childish image of an angry and punishing bearded patriarch in the clouds with the power to smite me if I masturbate too much.
After revelling in Doctor Peterson’s engrossing and incredibly detailed analysis of the oldest scriptures, and reminding myself of who Jesus was through old movies like The Greatest Story Ever Told and Jesus of Nazareth, I found myself identifying (humorously) as a Christian Atheist – one who wholly accepts the superiority of Christianity over other religions, and its immeasurable contribution to the very structure of modern life, but who remains an atheist.
Then a good (Christian) friend of mine told me to check out the 1985 debate between Doctors Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein, and I was stunned to realise at the end that the Christian theist had beaten the atheist on logical grounds! How could he have done this? If I was being honest, the result of that two hour debate left me considering the possibility that I could believe in God without having to abandon my passionate commitment to reason, logic and evidence.
And so my deeper study began, and what has followed over an intense month has been the consumption of apologetics books by C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, as well as Andrew Klavan’s beautiful memoir The Great Good Thing, and of course a slow and considered reading of the New Testament gospels. Full disclosure: I’ve only read the four gospels (of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) so far, but in so doing, along with the hours of extra-scriptural study, I’ve reached a few profound and life changing realisations. In this article, I would like to share just one of them; the one most relevant to our readers at The Rational Rise.
The more I study its scriptures and apologetics, the more I can see clearly that Christianity is a worldview that surpasses all political ideology and truly deals with the core issues facing humanity.
To begin, we must understand that politics by nature are systems of external governance or enforcement. Woah there, Libertarians! Our political philosophy is no different. On the one hand we have totalitarian (fully externally enforced) systems of law, such as Communism, and on the other extreme we have Anarcho-Capitalism, where there are no state-managed systems of enforcement, only private enterprise and individuals using non-coercive systems to manage social norms. Both extremes, and everything in between from democracy to monarchy, are external systems.
Libertarianism has no objective or universal internal systems of governance, because the only law that is recognised by that particular ideology is the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). Thus, the only things considered to be undesirable behaviours are transactional, i.e. coercive actions between individuals. By this reasoning an individual can choose to do whatever they want with their time, money, and life, so long as it does no harm to another. This is why, to libertarians, drugs and prostitution are perfectly acceptable so long as they are entirely voluntary. On the surface, it seems like the most moral and virtuous social order, and in practical terms, it’s probably the best we can hope to do on Earth, but its major problem is that it doesn’t deal with social degeneracy. For those who misunderstand the idea of degeneracy, it’s simply that if everyone was engaging in a certain behaviour, society would collapse. Obviously drugs and prostitution fall into this category. If everyone did it, society wouldn’t last a month. If many do it, society will decay slowly.
But what to do with these issues of degeneracy when they do start to take a hold; when a society becomes too progressive or liberal?
Many ex-libertarians would tell you that fascism is the answer. Others call for ethno-statism, or the like. And so the swinging pendulum returns back towards totalitarianism, and so it goes. Progressivism, conservatism, rinse and repeat ad nauseum.
But there’s an answer that transcends the spectrum of external political systems, and it’s the hardest one for modern man to swallow, but I believe it is the only way to ensure we don’t destroy ourselves completely: belief in God, and not just any God, but the one true God who sent Jesus Christ to Earth to die for our sins. The difficulty of swallowing the notion is self-evident in the previous sentence, but I won’t get too deep into the spiritual aspects today. I’m interested in discussing the practical applications of Christian doctrine on a societal level.
Christianity is the only one of the Abrahamic religions (and possibly of all religions the world over, though I am not educated enough to say that with confidence) that places its central governance within the individual. Yes, God is seen as the external force that determines the moral code, and designed the very laws of nature to which we must adhere without a choice, but he is not seen in Christianity as a punisher, but rather as a curious and loving creator who wants us to seek him out, to ensure that our eternal life beyond the grave is spent in paradise, and not in hell. And so, we have free will. God won’t punish us for our sins in this life, we’re more likely to do that to ourselves (and one way or another, we and nature do). Because we have free will, we have the choice to adhere to the Christian commandments of God, or not. So self-governance is required.
And what are the Christian commandments?
Well, the two most important are:
1) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”
2) “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”
A person is not truly Christian unless they take these two commandments as the highest laws governing how they use their will.
The first of these commandments is a virtually impossible feat, given that all humans fail and falter and get distracted and there has never been a perfect man (except Christ, if you believe in him). But the idea is to humble yourself before the notion of a loving creator who wants you to do good, and not evil. It’s in the act of remaining humble before God, even letting him take command of your very being, that one can actually achieve the second of these commandments.
The second one used to piss me off a lot, because I didn’t understand it. C.S. Lewis set me straight. It does not mean “just love” or “love is all you need” or any of that fluffy spiritualist garbage. It means to love your fellow man in the same way that you love yourself. And how do we love ourselves? Well, we don’t always. We hate much of our behaviour. We punish ourselves, and deride the folly actions we take, and sometimes we even hate our very selves for what we have done… but we always HOPE to get better. We always hope that we can become better people. And that is the key. I didn’t realise this until starting this study of Christianity, but I’ve most certainly taken enjoyment out of other people getting it wrong, because it makes me look good. If other people are assholes, or fascists, or ignorant, or illogical, I take pleasure in their failings because by contrast it makes me look like top shit. And that is how we breach the second of Christ’s commandments. So to change that into rightfully abhorring abhorrent behaviour in others, but hoping that the human being behind those behaviours will improve, will find a better way, and loving the more essential part of them that has the potential for goodness, that is the message of that commandment. Understanding that has made me love Christ all the more.
Both of these commandments, and many other aspects of the Christian doctrine place the essential power in the hands of the individual to choose to have a personal relationship with God, through Christ, and in so doing take a new kind of governance over their own behaviour. This means that not only is the NAP totally compatible with Christian thought by virtue of the commandments, but also that the individuals who adhere to this do not have the option to wilfully corrupt themselves, their families, or their nations, by indulging in a life of degenerate behaviour.
The problem of politics ultimately comes from our distrust for one another. Most people recognise (or self-delude) that they may have high values and morals, but the average pleb doesn’t and shouldn’t be trusted with rights that may cause them harm. Strangely, people look to political systems to resolve this. I say it’s strange, because by their nature political systems are ways of entrusting rights to others. Libertarianism is no anomaly here, it simply replaces coercive states with markets, which ultimately are dominated by other people.
The individual only has dominion over his own life, his internal state, and his behaviour and personal conduct. Christianity recognises this, and makes personal accountability (not to other men, but rather to God himself) the central tenet of human life on Earth. A society of true Christians, were it to ever exist, would look a lot like a Libertarian community, but without the drugs, premarital sex, divorce, or the instability that would be inherent to a society that enforces only very simple transactional laws, but does little to restrain personal conduct.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of a Christian society on Earth is as utopian as Anarcho-capitalism or Communism are, but it’s interesting to examine where the weaknesses in each theoretical absolute manifestation of philosophical ideas lie, and I believe that a theoretical Christian utopia is vastly superior (if not downright superlative) to an atheistic (or religiously pluralistic) Libertarian one.
My recommendation to philosophers and Libertarians, who believe they are deeply committed to trying to build and sustain the most morally excellent society possible, is to investigate and open your mind to the doctrines of Christianity. And you don’t even need to start with the scriptures themselves, if that’s daunting for you. Start with C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity which is a concise and brilliant explainer of the practicals of what it means to be a Christian.
Many atheists I know already acknowledge that the Christian worldview is vastly superior in its life-affecting ramifications (both individually and societally) to the post-modern atheism that seems to be the default of Western society at this moment in history. It was that very realistic (albeit non-committal) view that led me to open a New Testament for the first time with a truly open heart and mind, as well as to finally explore Christian apologetics and the logical arguments for God that I had always assumed (in great prejudice) were intellectually wanting. The intellectual and scientific rigour of the apologists surprised me more than I can adequately express, and the practically applicable wisdom of the Bible even more so.
Then, through opening myself intellectually to the teachings of Christianity, my heart began to slowly soften to it as well, and what followed was nothing short of a miraculous, spontaneous transformation of my very person. That particular aspect of my journey in Christianity is for another time, as it does deal with the spiritual/internal experience, and doesn’t fit well with the particular point of this essay.
Suffice to say, politically I can see that Christ is the way. Metaphysically I can see that Christ is the truth. Personally, I am discovering that Christ is the life.
James has worked in the music business since he was a teenager and now resides near Byron Bay in Australia where he operates a recording studio and writes novels and articles.
James Fox Higgins is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Rise.
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