How should Christians think about Biden’s vaccine mandate?

"An implication of these principles is that when the government goes beyond its prescribed limits, it is acting unjustly and loses legitimacy. Applying the logic of sphere sovereignty to the vaccine mandate, the government does not have the authority to force us to inject a substance into our bodies that we do not consent to." - C.Post

1449 reads

There are 28 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I’m going to indulge in a bit of editorial privilege and post my .02 then close comments. We already have several discussions going on this general topic, and I don’t think this one would stay focused on “sphere sovereignty.” (The linked article isn’t focused on that either).

The linked article has some valid points here and there, but quite a few weak ones.

Probably most important to note is that neither questions of constitutionality nor questions of “sphere sovereignty” authorize individuals to unilaterally decide what laws to obey.

This is not what the American founders had in mind, not what Romans 13 and related passages teach, and I’m pretty sure isn’t what Abe Kuyper advocated either.

Sphere sovereignty doctrine focuses on how the spheres of God-delegated authority ought to limit their reach. It’s not about what individuals should do when entities exceed their sphere.

On the flip side, Romans 13 is not focused on what the duties of the spheres are, but on what our individual duty as Christians is, and it couldn’t be more clear on that point. We have a bit of ‘sphere responsibility’ revealed also in Rom 13, and more in 1 Pet 2:13-17 and other passages. 1 Pet 2 is also very clear on where the individual Christian fits in.

If you love the Constitution, you have to love due process. Review the Federalist Papers and you’ll see that every man doing what’s right in his own eyes is not what the framers of that document had in mind. It’s also clearly not in view in Scripture. Few things are more fundamentally non-Christian than a spirit of rebellion.

1 Peter 2:16–17  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

If you want to read further on the topic, it’s on a lot of people’s minds. Most of them seem to be much more comfortable with individual and church noncompliance than I am, but these are thoughtful analyses of the general topic…

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

OK, I've been talked into opening this one for a while, mainly for the sphere sovereignty idea.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

dgszweda's picture

One of the big rallying cries that I have seen amongst my conservative Christian friends is the portraying of the government being tyrannical and thus we need to resist it.  They then typically lay out a quote from a Reformer, typically Scottish, around how resisting tyranny is a God given right.  This would be a typical quote that I would see:

“Since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God, to resist tyranny is to honor God.”
-Francis Schaeffer
"A Christian Manifesto"

Like Aaron said, I don't want to get into the details of the various rules the government has laid out.

But my view from Scripture is that we should err on the side of following the government, as they have been ordained by God, and only if the command is in direct contradiction to a clear command from Scripture should we resist.  I struggle, living in a free society that a democratic republic, that the government is overly tyranical.  

I find many in the church, don't like something the government says and they then try to find a way to frame it against Scripture to justify their resistance.  My concern is that the church is going to become more and more vocal about anything they see as wrong, whether it is Scriptural or not and then will build a Scriptural framework around it based on loose concepts and even weaker passages.  I agree with much of the spheres, but if this is where we draw the line, I have concerns.  In theory, given the reasons that I have seen on social media, we should be even more against taxation.  The government forcefully taking money that we have rightfully earned to then turn around and spend it on unbiblical things and even worse use it to combat Christianity, should be an even bigger grievance.  But this one may be harder to fight for a christian since Scripture explicitely addresses this.

josh p's picture

I think I'm in general agreement with Aaron on this one but I think sphere sovereignty is something we all understand. For instance, if the government tells you you must feed your children only candy, how many would acquiesce? I suspect most would say, that's not the government's place. Before someone brings in the inevitable gluttony argument let me use an example more benign. All children must be named Steve. Every human being born after 1-1-22. You going to submit to that? 

I believe public health is within the government's sovereignty but they cannot (or at least should not) tell you that you must inject something into your body (even though I think it is wise to be vaccinated). 
Sphere sovereignty is not about rebellion. It's about following rightful authority. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This is a sincere question, not a counter-argument/challenge: would we feel the same way if the vaccine were a pill? What if it was administered via some device you put in your air conditioner and breathe?

If the government sphere extends to public health--and I can't really see how it couldn't where contagions are involved--what are the limits on what it can legitimately require people to do with their bodies?

In my own experience, not with gov but w/other things in life, I can look back on times where my response was irrational because of the sense of unclear limits: How bad is this going to get? How far is this going to go? Whether the matter is financial or relational or anything else, I've found in retrospect that much of what I did was driven by fear though I was not conscious of it at the time--specifically, fear of the unknown/of something seeming out of control/beyond my control.

It's hard to relinquish control. Sometimes it's extremely hard. But the hard things have grown me the most.

Back to sphere sovereignty, and tyranny: one of the things a teacher opened my eyes to way back in the days of high school senior gov class was how concerned many of the founding fathers were about the human tendency for resistance to tyranny to get lost in general rebellion. They didn't want the French Revolution. Right now, we're seeing a generalized anti-government spirit on the right that has more in common with radicalism than with conservatism. If you go far enough right, you bump into left where they join at anarchy.

But for Christians my concern is more than that: the trend does not seem to be driven by these attitudes and values...

1 Timothy 2:1–2 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

1 Thessalonians 4:11–12 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Hebrews 12:14 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

James 3:17 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Titus 2:9–10 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything...so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

Philippians 2:14–15 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Matthew 5:16 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

1 Peter 2:20–21 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

I think we'll find that if we look at the Reformers and the U.S. founders in context, we find that resistance to perceived tyranny was reserved for extreme situations not by concern for how bad it might get in the future if we don't resist now, etc. If we're looking for the comfort of being in control, we're on the wrong track. If we're looking for the thrill of battle, we're on the wrong track. If we think we're supposed to resist the devil by fighting "the left," we're on the wrong track. It's impossible to really be obedient if we're looking at it the wrong way from the start.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bert Perry's picture

.....is that if indeed the Biden executive order hinges on "what the government can force us to do with our bodies", one relevant Supreme Court decision is Roe v. Wade.  That would not bode well for the Constitutionality of the order, since a central point of Roe is that there is a certain autonomy of the body that does not admit government interference.

My take; it's not Constitutional, and even if it were, it really "poisons the well" of public trust for a generation....huge unforced error by the Biden administration.  People simply do not like things shoved down their throats, and the reason Biden is trying this is because he simply does not know how to persuade, nor do others in his administration.  He, and his staff, instead led by insulting those who resist the vaccine, and that ended up hardening people against the vaccines. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

dgszweda wrote:

But my view from Scripture is that we should err on the side of following the government, as they have been ordained by God, and only if the command is in direct contradiction to a clear command from Scripture should we resist.  I struggle, living in a free society that a democratic republic, that the government is overly tyranical.  

I find many in the church, don't like something the government says and they then try to find a way to frame it against Scripture to justify their resistance.  My concern is that the church is going to become more and more vocal about anything they see as wrong, whether it is Scriptural or not and then will build a Scriptural framework around it based on loose concepts and even weaker passages...

I am in agreement with this.

Overall, I'd say that there are times when the spheres of sovereignty overlap, like a venn diagram. We shouldn't object just because there is overlap. We must exercise wisdom and rightly interpret Scripture to help us parse out what is acceptable overlap and what is unacceptable overreach.

Social media doesn't lend itself to thoughtful analysis, but unfortunately that is seemingly where most Christians get their talking points.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

In my own experience, not with gov but w/other things in life, I can look back on times where my response was irrational because of the sense of unclear limits: How bad is this going to get? How far is this going to go? Whether the matter is financial or relational or anything else, I've found in retrospect that much of what I did was driven by fear though I was not conscious of it at the time--specifically, fear of the unknown/of something seeming out of control/beyond my control.

This is the slippery slope argument, and this is the conversation I had with one of my friends recently about the vaccine mandate. The basic idea communicated to me was that if we as a free society give into this government mandate, we are more likely to give into future government mandates. This will lead to an erosion of basic democratic freedoms and personal liberty, and the government will continue to take away our rights and freedoms. The solution: stand firm against this mandate. 

josh p's picture

Again, I agree with the sentiment of submission to authority. Since I'm pro-vax it's not really an issue for me but I do think the government should not tell you what to inject, regardless of the form. I absolutely agree that the paranoia of the right is unsettling right now but there is another extreme; that of submitting to government and at the same time baptizing all their actions as good. There is a ditch on both sides. 

As far as the right and left meeting at anarchy, I'm an anarcho-capitalist and believe that reconciles with my Christianity much better than the Jack D. Rippers of the world. 
 

 

Robert Byers's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I think we'll find that if we look at the Reformers and the U.S. founders in context, we find that resistance to perceived tyranny was reserved for extreme situations not by concern for how bad it might get in the future if we don't resist now, etc. 

The American Revolution was all about what would happen in the future if the line wasn't drawn in the present.  None of the "long train of abuses and usurpations" was an extreme situation taken alone.   There were lots of Tories during the Revolution making exactly the same kind of arguments you are making here.  Personally I'm glad their view didn't prevail.  

dgszweda's picture

T Howard wrote:

The solution: stand firm against this mandate. 

I understand what they are saying.  Here is where my head was at.  Taken on the face without context, I would agree that the government appears to be infringing without our sphere.  But I think, for me, context plays a lot into this.  First, this is a once in a hundred year pandemic, which was contributing to a big impact on society.  Regardless of the level of impact that someone may feel, overcrowded hospitals, 700,000 deaths, shut down economy....  It had an unprecendent impact.  At least unprecedented in my lifetime.  The impact was real.  I did not see any laws being passed which were suspending any of my freedoms down the road.  We still had three pillars of government, Constitution was still in effect, and we had instances where one branch struck down the over reach of another branch.  So I felt comfortable everything was working.  The mandates that were being put forward, appeared to be in the interest to protect my health and freedom and were coming from qualified people across the entire world.  This wasn't my government distorting what the vast majority of the scientific community was putting forward.  And lastly, I viewed the mandates as temporary.  I didn't see vaccine mandates in the past being an over reach and I didn't see this one as being an over reach.  Remember, the same people who said that vaccines were an over reach, also said masks were and a littany of other things.  And then very lastly, I don't see the government forcing me to inject something into me against my will.  They have provided me with an option #2 of getting tested.

So on the surface, yes what they are asking for is invasive.  In context, we are in a peculiar situation, in which I am not witnessing any long term structural changes being taken advantage by the government to take away long term freedoms.  Is it a slippery slope?  maybe, but I am not seeing it at this point.  So while the governmental sphere has impacted my sphere I am acceptable of this because of the context that it is being put under.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm an anarcho-capitalist and believe that reconciles with my Christianity much better than the Jack D. Rippers of the world. 

I could Google it but would rather hear your take. What is an anarcho-capitalist and why do you identify with it?

I'm not familiar with Jack D Ripper, but I'm pretty sure there are other options besides his views and some form of anarchy.

Back to clashing spheres...

I'm not sure I approve of this or that policy or health order or "mandate," but it's important to separate approval from "being subject." The NT doesn't instruct is to equate obedience with approval or to disapprove by means of disobedience.

Submission isn't conditioned on agreement. In our system, protest, vote, and lawsuit are consistent with "submission" though, if we comply. So, whether/how to protest, vote, or sue becomes a question of choosing battles wisely, and applying other principles. It's a separate question from whether to respond lawfully or unlawfully.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I'm an anarcho-capitalist and believe that reconciles with my Christianity much better than the Jack D. Rippers of the world. 

I could Google it but would rather hear your take. What is an anarcho-capitalist and why do you identify with it?

I'm not familiar with Jack D Ripper, but I'm pretty sure there are other options besides his views and some form of anarchy.

Back to clashing spheres...

I'm not sure I approve of this or that policy or health order or "mandate," but it's important to separate approval from "being subject." The NT doesn't instruct is to equate obedience with approval or to disapprove by means of disobedience.

Submission isn't conditioned on agreement. In our system, protest, vote, and lawsuit are consistent with "submission" though, if we comply. So, whether/how to protest, vote, or sue becomes a question of choosing battles wisely, and applying other principles. It's a separate question from whether to respond lawfully or unlawfully. As to why I identify with it, I think it's the best politics system. It is however, pretty pie-in-the-sky since governments are like snowballs rolling down hill. They basically never get smaller. 
 

You probably should google it as I won't articulate it as well off the cuff. In my words: It's a political system that advocates free markets and individual choice over the use of one's own property and over one's person. It affirms libertarianism's Non-Aggression Principle which says that no one (or group) has a right to initiate an act of aggression on another person or group. It had some political antecedents prior to him (in some forms although possibly not fully realized) but was most fully developed by Murray Rothbard and other Austrian School economists. Most Ancaps believe in decentralized government but very few are anarchists in the way it seems you understand the term. For the record, very few even anarcho-socialists are the type of anarchists that most people think of when they hear the term. Even they rarely believe in no government. I of course as a believer understand that God instituted government and that it is a good thing. 

The Jack D. Ripper thing was a joke. It's a reference to an insane war hawk that uses the military to attack the "Ruskies" in a movie called Dr. Strangelove. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure the movie had some inappropriate stuff in it. I haven't seen it in many years. I'm sorry for mentioning it as I think it's not a movie I could watch with a clear conscience now. 

Ok so going back to the sphere thing, would you comply with my ridiculous example to feed your children only candy if the government said you must? Is there any area (besides overt biblical command) where the government's authority does not extend? Personally I would submit to even a vaccine mandate (if I hadn't already been vaccinated) but would it necessarily be sinful not to? Or, more specific to some of your recent comments, are people necessarily in sin for contemplating not being vaccinated if Uncle Sam mandates it? I just think you and some others need to give a little more grace to those that have less understanding than you. I also believe there is a legitimate argument to be made from sphere sovereignty although I too would submit in all but the most extreme cases. 

Joeb's picture

dgszweda wrote:

One of the big rallying cries that I have seen amongst my conservative Christian friends is the portraying of the government being tyrannical and thus we need to resist it.  They then typically lay out a quote from a Reformer, typically Scottish, around how resisting tyranny is a God given right.  This would be a typical quote that I would see:

“Since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God, to resist tyranny is to honor God.”
-Francis Schaeffer
"A Christian Manifesto"

Like Aaron said, I don't want to get into the details of the various rules the government has laid out.

But my view from Scripture is that we should err on the side of following the government, as they have been ordained by God, and only if the command is in direct contradiction to a clear command from Scripture should we resist.  I struggle, living in a free society that a democratic republic, that the government is overly tyranical.  

I find many in the church, don't like something the government says and they then try to find a way to frame it against Scripture to justify their resistance.  My concern is that the church is going to become more and more vocal about anything they see as wrong, whether it is Scriptural or not and then will build a Scriptural framework around it based on loose concepts and even weaker passages.  I agree with much of the spheres, but if this is where we draw the line, I have concerns.  In theory, given the reasons that I have seen on social media, we should be even more against taxation.  The government forcefully taking money that we have rightfully earned to then turn around and spend it on unbiblical things and even worse use it to combat Christianity, should be an even bigger grievance.  But this one may be harder to fight for a christian since Scripture explicitely addresses this.

I agree with your position   Please correct me if I'm wrong   Did not Christ tell his people not to rebel against Rome an evil occupying force and that HE was not there to overthrow Rome and HIS kingdom was not of this world   Christ specifically said render unto Ceasar Whats CEASAR's and render unto God what's God's   I got t believe Christ with foreknowledge that after his death resurrection and accession the Romans would totally destroy Jerusalem and take the surviving Jews Men Woman and Children to Masada and worked them to death to build the camp and ramp to conquer Masada   Also along the way flinging live Jews in their catapults up at the walls of Masada for entertainment.    Id say with this in mind Christ never wants to resist the Government unless it's clear things the God Commands us to do   Meeting sharing Christ Worshiping our God Reading our Bibles.  

Also the Supreme Court in 1905 said vaccine mandates were legal.  So my question where do these Trump Delusional Christians come off that the Government can't ask them to get Vaxed  
 

I remember when I was a teenager I did a mission trip and had to get certain vaccinations recorded on a shot card to travel    I'd say it's plain and clear Evangelical Trump ANTIVAXERS for political reasons are in sin.   

 

Bert Perry's picture

One thing to note here is that while Paul tells the Church to submit to the sovereign, at the same time he emphatically does not submit (nor did the Church as a whole) to Caesar's prohibition of the faith, nor does he submit to the magistrate who whipped him without a trial.  

Regarding the latter, Scripture doesn't spell things out explicitly, but I'd guess Paul knew quite well that if he didn't speak up, the behavior would be repeated and worsened--harming every accused man who came before that magistrate.  In the same way, if the Constitution and the law do not grant Mr. Biden this right, he's going to repeat the behavior, to the loss of all of us.

Already, Biden has pretty much decided that immigration law is a dead letter (a blatant Constitutional violation), and over a million people have crossed the border, including tens of thousands of people with active cases of COVID.  If you don't think that's influencing our COVID rates and deaths, you're kidding yourself.  You can't send that many infected people north to work in food preparation and the like without increasing disease rates.  And if he's willing to do this, he's going to be willing to rule by decree in other ways, too.

And along the same lines, Scripture commends Shiprah and Puah for ignoring Pharaoh's commands because they would have gotten people killed.  Now, consider that in light of Biden's open borders/open COVID policy, as well as the federal government's silence on the practice of sending COVID patients into nursing homes, which likely killed tens or even hundreds of thousands of people as well.  It's not as direct as what Pharaoh wanted the midwives to do, but it's gotten a lot of people killed nonetheless.

In short, while the Scripture does tell us to heed government's lawful authority, it simultaneously gives us examples of when believers have ignored lawless commands from government, and who have even directly told governmental leaders to pound sand.  The trick is to figure out when that's important.

I'm all for taking a small but reasonable risk for vaccination, but this is a place where the courts need to slap Mr. Biden into next week.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

Bert laid everything out extremely well as always.  However one thing should be noted.  We now have a Supreme Court to over turn Roe vs Wade.  As far as gay marriage that shipped sailed. Especially with Goursuch on the Court.  
 

It should be noted BIDEN won the election fair and square and it's tRUMP who tried to install himself as a Dictator through outright fraud and corruption and by force.  No President in US history has tried to do that. Yet the White Evangelicals still back him all the way and his use of White Supremacist Thugs who besides Trump Timothy McVeigh is their biggest hero.  
 

So where is the White Evangelicals excuse to keep threatening Civil War.  Plus allowing  people like Congresswoman DOEBERT in their churches to tell Evangelicals to get their guns and kill their fellow Americans to get what they want.  Also to support Mike Lindell Mr Pillow and the big lie   

I urge people on SI it's DONALD TRUMP who is breaking the peace and encouraging rebellion that is absolutely UNBIBILICAL CRIMINAL and SIN.  The BALLOT BOX rules not DONALD TRUMP.  How ironic that his own PHONY AUDIT AZ upheld BIDEN as the winner.   

Of course the above doesn't matter when your goal is to establish Evangelical Christian Caliphate with Trump as ones Mullah.  The very position Eric MEXTAXES pushes.  My prayer is if Trump is guilty of crimes he get gets convicted and jailed with his coconspirators and his business empire collapsed.  
 

In regards to a VAX mandate by Biden it's my understanding that the Supreme Court settled this in 1905 that Biden can mandate it.  If that's the case the Evangelical Christians fighting it and saying it's not legal are LYING.  It should not be unexpected that they say this because THEY DONT KNOW THE LAW.  Just like they believed Trump that Pence could legally throw the election to Trump.  Very sad.   
 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the claim that "the ship has sailed" regarding homosexual marriage, one thing that's interesting is that it's built off the same logic as is Roe.  So if Roe goes, it's entirely plausible that Obergefell v. Hodges might go, too.

I'm not holding my breath on that, but it's an interesting legal fact.

For my part, I'm trying to gently encourage people to get vaccinated, and thank God, the recent surge in cases (and deaths) appears to have peaked.  But it's still really ugly.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Non-Aggression Principle which says that no one (or group) has a right to initiate an act of aggression on another person or group. It had some political antecedents prior to him (in some forms although possibly not fully realized) but was most fully developed by Murray Rothbard and other Austrian School economists. 

I find it strange that groups that believe in law and government want to have "anarcho..." attached to their ideology. I think I understand the sense in which they mean it, but it's an unfortunate choice, since anarchy is about radical individualism and, literally, no (an) rule/authority (archos). So if we're going to use it in reference to "authority operating within principled limits" we need a new word for anarchy. I think it's better to just let the real anarchists have it.

Speaking of individualism, this is where my skepticism toward libertarianism becomes most intense. Though Scripture places great importance on the individual--especially given the times in which most of it was written--it's not individualistic by any stretch. It's also not "collectivist," but the importance of identifying with and subordinating personal interests to a larger group is huge in Scripture and in Bible-driven theology ('Bible-driven' because 'biblical theology' is now confusing!): "As in Adam all sinned." Believers are members of a body, are "in Christ," etc. And Israel is so often referred to as Ephraim or Joseph or some other individual representative with strong ties to the whole.

So, in our day, when both the right and the left are obsessed with individualism (in some very different ways and some of the same ways), Christian thought needs to be a strong counter.

And for all the Austrian economic philosophers got right, they're view of the world is pretty evolutionistic/naturalist/darwinist in places.  There is stuff to actively filter when we're considering these influences.

Ok so going back to the sphere thing, would you comply with my ridiculous example to feed your children only candy if the government said you must? Is there any area (besides overt biblical command) where the government's authority does not extend? Personally I would submit to even a vaccine mandate (if I hadn't already been vaccinated) but would it necessarily be sinful not to? Or, more specific to some of your recent comments, are people necessarily in sin for contemplating not being vaccinated if Uncle Sam mandates it? I just think you and some others need to give a little more grace to those that have less understanding than you. I also believe there is a legitimate argument to be made from sphere sovereignty although I too would submit in all but the most extreme cases. 

This is a useful example and raises the issue of the difference between:

  • Direct biblical command
  • Biblical command by inference from biblical revelation
  • Inferences many degrees removed from biblical revelation, but having some relationship to it

Scripture is clear that parents are supposed to take care of their kids, and I think we can call it a "fact" that a diet of only candy would violate that.

It would be in the second category. The lines ge murky between these at times, and there's a ton of space between the second and the third.... I mean the third is a very wide range of "degrees of removal" from biblical teaching and, with that, a wide range of levels of certainty.

And with the levels of certainty, you have degrees of appropriate dogma and combativeness. ... and choosing appropriate hills to die on.

A thought on government requiring us to inject things into our bodies...

In some ways, the requirement to take something into our bodies vs. do something with or outside of our bodies seems like a good place to draw a solid line, but there are problems.

  • Contagious disease is unusual in some crucial ways because it's what in your body (and exiting) that is directly endangering the lives of others. (As a thought experiment: what if we were talking about a contagion several thousand times more lethal, so if you're infected and not vaccinated, you will certainly cause several people to die?)
  • Secondly, a human fetus is inside a body. Do we want to say government has no business in any regulating what is inside our bodies?

I'm aware that some (many?) libertarians make exactly the argument that abortion, though morally wrong, should not be illegal because the boundary between inside the body and outside the body is sacred, with regard to relationship to government.

I can't quite go there. At the same time, I'm aware of one reality: in matters of law and authority, sometimes you can't avoid paying a high moral/ethical/wellbeing price for drawing a line in a place that is sustainable--that is, for drawing it in a place where it is likely to hold and not slip into tyranny.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

"Law and order" can be enforced by other means than a state run police force but I get your basic point. There are of course many anarcho/libertarian types that believe in zero government. I think there is a legitimate argument from the Noahic covenant and other OT passages that the type of government God instituted is not necessarily an all-powerful federal one but that's probably a discussion for another day. I also don't believe that much is gleaned from drawing parallels between our unity in Christ to politics. The two things are simply different. Of course individualism is not at all a legitimate summary of the Christian life. I do think it can be (if properly understood) a decent political starting point. 

I absolutely agree that the Austrian's were largely evolutionist/Darwinist and that it fits their political viewpoint somewhat. I do actively filter as you suggest. Just as I would have to do with any other viewpoint. Unless you are making the "the founders were all Born-again Christians" argument, pretty much any view is going to have to be filtered. 
 

There are no "real anarchists." There are many different types and what most people are thinking of are anarcho-socialists which is the political opposite of my viewpoint. Neo-cons and even the old right are closer politically to them than I am.  
 

There are not many legitimate political inferences that can be made from the Old Testament theocracy. It is a bit of a misunderstanding to broad brush libertarianism as radically individualistic. The idea is that the whole is best served as individuals can pursue what is best for them. The transaction that occurs between two people serves both of their interests. This is all through libertarian literature.  
 

The contagion being in your body is a good point. I think (if we are saying that masks are effective) that the government should not require a vaccination for those willing to wear masks. At some point it becomes a pragmatic argument. The same justification (the negative results are too great/lives are at stake!) was used for voting for Donald Trump and you argued strongly against it. I agreed with you then and still do. Obviously this is different since the alternative is not allowing a degree of evil. But that's the point. That is a judgment call. To many, the threat of tyranny is too great to support a vaccination mandate. You may disagree but they have a right to believe that way call as long as they are willing to take other precautions to avoid infecting others. 
 

I'm well aware that some libertarians have made that pro-abortion argument. It is of course absurd since the baby is a human being and to kill it is to violate the Non-aggression principle. 

Bert Perry's picture

....people who genuinely argue that it can all go private sector, but not many.  My libertarianism tends to end when it comes down to things like this and legalizing prostitution--and other places where there really isn't real "consent".  Yes you theoretically have "happy hookers" out there, but the bulk of the profession is basically rape.  

Back to the question of legality, here's a perspective by Andrew Napolitano.  I tend to agree.  And even if it were legal, abyssmal attempt (or lack of attempt, really) at persuasion by President Zero.  It's going to harm the reputation and credibility of public health efforts for decades.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

 I also don't believe that much is gleaned from drawing parallels between our unity in Christ to politics. The two things are simply different. Of course individualism is not at all a legitimate summary of the Christian life. I do think it can be (if properly understood) a decent political starting point. 

My question here is if Scripture is broadly negative about individualism why should political philosophy be considered the exception?

What I see in Scripture is that while individual action is blamed on individuals, it is sometimes blamed on everyone linked to them. I am me but I am also Adam.... unless it's politics? I don't see why we should think so.

We have sayings like "the soul that sinneth, it shall die," but we also have examples of Daniel (Dan 9:5) and Nehemiah and others expressing a plural responsibility for the actions of their ancestors. E.g., Neh 1:6. Nehemiah wasn't even born when these things happened. This is said of a nation, so arguably, "politicial," but I don't think we need that argument. What we see in these and other passages is that God does not encourage us to view ourselves only in terms of our individuality--especially in matters of ethics.

As our mothers would say when we were kids, it's bad to be selfish. She wouldn't have said "unless it's politics."

So I think there's a burden of proof for Christians to make self/individualism the starting point. It seems to be the opposite of how God views the human being and humans in societies.

I don't think theocracy is relevant, since that's nothing more than a particular way of structuring power. So that's not the case I'm making. The non-individualism of Scripture seems to begin in Eden with the responsibility to care for the garden and animals as a stewardship from God and, presumably one another: Adam->Eve and Eve->Adam. It was not good for man to be alone.

God himself is not "alone," being Triune, and though we can certainly infer too much from that about human nature, it's not irrelevant that we are made in His image.

Well, it's a large topic and probably too much for quick posts, but I wanted to take a shot at "individualism" being a highly questionable place to "begin" with understanding our place in the world and the foundations of how we relate to one another, law, and government.

I think there is a legitimate argument from the Noahic covenant and other OT passages that the type of government God instituted is not necessarily an all-powerful federal one but that's probably a discussion for another day.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. We do not have an all powerful federal government and certainly there are one or two options between totalitarianism and libertarian or anarchistic ideas of government.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

My question here is if Scripture is broadly negative about individualism why should political philosophy be considered the exception?

Because the Bible is speaking about morals and not developing a political system. Also I'm not sure it is "broadly negative" about individualism. I don't see that at all. You seem to be equating selfishness with individualism. Is it selfishness to buy what you want to buy, live where you want to live, do business with those you choose to do business with? Yes if you are failing to subject yourself to God's will on the matter but now we are talking about something altogether different. We just finished putting up new outdoor lights. I was reminded that I'm not an electrician but now we have lights that we like much better. I don't think there was any selfishness. I didn't stab anyone and steal them. I made a transaction that was agreeable to both parties. Because I save money when I can, I am more free to voluntarily use my earnings to serve God. I think more of that is better. It's far better than some type of collectivist system where the government keeps most of my earnings to squander on often objectively evil purposes. I don't think you are recognizing a clear enough line between individualism and selfishness. In other words, you are projecting Ayn Rand on to libertarians. That's pretty common but not very accurate. 
 

What I see in Scripture is that while individual action is blamed on individuals, it is sometimes blamed on everyone linked to them. I am me but I am also Adam.... unless it's politics? I don't see why we should think so.

 

I'm not following you here. It sounds like you are making a federal headship argument for a certain political system. There is no connection there to my way of thinking and I can't remember any theologians making that point, although I may have forgotten. What happened in Adam should not inform a political position IMO. 
 

As far as the relational stuff goes, I absolutely affirm that God is triune and we as His image bearers are to be as well. However, that does not specify anything for transactions and personal relationships from an economic/political standpoint. We are to do good to all men. When I go to work, if I do it well, many people are served. I earn a paycheck that I support my family with, the ministry of the local church, those in need, etc.. That's not selfish. It's relational as it is me, the one given the money as a stewardship, using it to honor God. 
 

Agreed that we do not have an all-powerful federal government. But when I hear, otherwise extremely well-informed believers justify all sorts of evil (not thinking masks, vaccines, or the like here) because the government needs to do it to "maintain its first place in the world" I disagree. Certainly there are steps in between and the believer must submit to any form they live under. But given the fact that government  naturally grows, I choose to vote to reduce the size of government whenever I can. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Because the Bible is speaking about morals and not developing a political system. Also I'm not sure it is "broadly negative" about individualism. I don't see that at all. You seem to be equating selfishness with individualism. Is it selfishness to buy what you want to buy, live where you want to live, do business with those you choose to do business with?

I believe in innocent self interest. But for a Christian, all of life is stewardship, so even when it's me buying what I want to buy, it isn't really supposed to be me doing what I want. It's supposed to be me being a steward for the good pleasure of God and benefit of others.

True confession: I'm often not looking at that way, but I'm supposed to. It's a failing when I don't.

So, I see the line between self determination/self-interest vs. selfishness as often a very fine one and easily transgressed.

The two great commandments both direct ourselves to think of life as being primarily important in reference to things that are not ourselves:

  • Love God
  • Love neighbor as self

So the self-love there is assumed and accepted as a reality, but not lauded.

I'm not following you here. It sounds like you are making a federal headship argument for a certain political system. There is no connection there to my way of thinking and I can't remember any theologians making that point, although I may have forgotten. What happened in Adam should not inform a political position IMO. 

I think I'm not being clear. What I'm trying to do is frame the question of political philosophy in a larger view of how Scripture depicts the self in reference to things bigger than the self: God, family, neighbor/community, church, country. So, I'm seeing a political philosophy as a subunit of a worldview, not its own island with different values and principles driving it than drive all of the rest of life.

So, I see "love God, love neighbor" as worldview stuff. I also see our identity in Adam as worldview stuff. We are never just ourselves in a Christian way of looking at things. We're in Adam or in Christ. I see these, among lots of other things, as framing the reality of human nature in a foundational way.

I'm not advocating for a particular system of government. System is downstream of political philosophy, which is downstream of worldview, or so it seems to me.

But when I hear, otherwise extremely well-informed believers justify all sorts of evil (not thinking masks, vaccines, or the like here) because the government needs to do it to "maintain its first place in the world" I disagree. Certainly there are steps in between and the believer must submit to any form they live under. But given the fact that government  naturally grows, I choose to vote to reduce the size of government whenever I can.

I think we're probably not far apart on this piece of it, though determining what is "evil" in the work of foreign affairs is complicated. But I'm no utilitarian. As far as ethics goes, I firmly believe some things are just wrong, regardless of the certain (or more often, only hoped for) outcome.

Back to the individualism issue. Part of my discomfort with that is that I'm seeing quite a bit of individualistic excess on the right these days--kind of the equal and opposite error of the "community=government=everything" error on the left. I don't see one ditch as any better than the other but at least my friends on the left have a strong sense that policy should be all about the good of others, especially those they see as victims/oppressed. They just tend to have some very different ideas about what really helps people. To me, if you're going to err, it's better to err on the side of compassion than on the side of "I should be allowed to do what I want."  But both ditches are full of trouble. One is just uglier than the other in some conspicuous ways.

(And there's always the inconsistency thing: 'progressivism' while being all about looking out for others in many areas, is all about 'free do to what I want' in areas of sexual ethics... as though it were some kind of moral island. I used to blame Freud for that, but if it hadn't been him, it would have been someone else!)

Sorry for the long ramble!

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

I believe in innocent self interest. But for a Christian, all of life is stewardship, so even when it's me buying what I want to buy, it isn't really supposed to be me doing what I want. It's supposed to be me being a steward for the good pleasure of God and benefit of others.

I agree with you but can we expect this from a non-believer? This would probably be the fundamental nature of our disagreement. I affirm natural law as a legitimate concept and deny that it is legitimate (Helpful? Reasonable?) to expect an enemy of Christ to conform to those standards revealed in His word. So while I absolutely agree that I must conform to scripture, I don't think it really works to expect unbelievers to do so.
You mentioned compassion. I think you may be missing the point that in order to "err on the side of compassion" one has to identify what that is. Is it compassionate to de-incentivize things like marriage, employment, home ownership, involved parenting? I honestly believe that, if the market was permitted to work unfettered, most people would be better off. As far as those that are not, I'm willing to voluntarily be compassionate and I think many others would be as well. 

I don't see the link between individualism/selfishness that you do. Selfishness is a moral decision to abuse individual choice in evil ways. It's something of a slippery slope argument (although I could be wrong) to me-if you give people individual choice they will abuse it and be selfish. Well they shouldn't but that doesn't necessarily negate the rightness of it. This works with lots of things-If alcohol/cigarettes/television/ice cream/etc. are accessible people will abuse them. They often do of course but most believe that we should have access to these things. I think more of that is a good thing as long as it doesn't directly negatively effect someone else. 

I agree with you for the most part on individualistic excess on the right only I would word it differently. I think the problem is really an excess of "meism." It's only caring about myself even when it does harm another (there is that non-aggression principle violation again). It's  usually a quasi-individualism in my experience. Rarely is it a studied, thought-through position that flows from a consistent worldview. It's certainly inconsistent with Christianity and even conservatism. But the alternative to individualism (the right kind) is equally frightening (as you allude to), if not more so. At least in a land of freedom and unfettered economic opportunity, everyone has an (on paper) equal playing field. Abuses will persist in a sin cursed world but it's better than being hamstrung by the very people supposedly "helping" us. 
 

I think we agree on a lot and I appreciate the interaction Aaron. Thanks for helping me think through my own views. 
 

Sorry for the rant on this side as well. If everyone would hurry up and agree with me I wouldn't have to write so much! 

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I agree with you but can we expect this from a non-believer? This would probably be the fundamental nature of our disagreement. I affirm natural law as a legitimate concept and deny that it is legitimate (Helpful? Reasonable?) to expect an enemy of Christ to conform to those standards revealed in His word. So while I absolutely agree that I must conform to scripture, I don't think it really works to expect unbelievers to do so.

I don't disagree with that. What I was trying to do advocate for a political philosophy that isn't built mainly on individualism, and citing Christian reasons to do that. There are natural law reasons as well! The two are not unrelated, though non-Christians are frequently going to overlook or reject the relationship. Natural law works because it's basically general revelation in what a good God created, cursed though it now is.

You mentioned compassion. I think you may be missing the point that in order to "err on the side of compassion" one has to identify what that is.

There's an important distinction here: objective compassion would be what actually helps people; subjective compassion would be what motivates action. So I'm saying it's better to err on the side of compassionate motivation than individualistic motivation.

I don't see the link between individualism/selfishness that you do. Selfishness is a moral decision to abuse individual choice in evil ways. It's something of a slippery slope argument (although I could be wrong) to me-if you give people individual choice they will abuse it and be selfish.

I appreciate that you called it a 'slippery slope argument' and not a slippery slope fallacy. It's only a fallacy when there is no slope. Here's the thing: we know from both Scripture and general revelation that humans thinking about themselves quickly slip into selfishness. It's a bigger leap to go from thinking about community to slipping into selfishness.

So while individualism and selfishness are not the same thing, the former has a natural tendency toward the latter.

But apart from results arguments, the better questions are, what's the most accurate understanding of the world and human nature as individuals an in community and the relationship between the two? My point is that answering this question from a worldview standpoint gives rise to a political philosophy that respects the individual but is not "individualistic" or "built on individualism."

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

"Natural law works because it's basically general revelation in what a good God created, cursed though it now is."

Agreed. 
 

"There's an important distinction here: objective compassion would be what actually helps people; subjective compassion would be what motivates action. So I'm saying it's better to err on the side of compassionate motivation than individualistic motivation."

Right but we are talking about political philosophy; specifically what type of government ought we to have. I certainly agree with the motivation angle but it ceases to be compassionate motivation when it is forced. That's the part I'm disagreeing with. 
 

"Here's the thing: we know from both Scripture and general revelation that humans thinking about themselves quickly slip into selfishness. It's a bigger leap to go from thinking about community to slipping into selfishness."

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by the last sentence but I think you are contrasting the idea of thinking about community compared to our tendency to become selfish. Yes it's very easy to become selfish. I do believe however that, in a free market, where there is voluntary exchange, the individual acting in his/her best interest naturally benefits another. Or, more properly, their exchange benefits both parties. So I'm not so much speaking to motivations as much as the actual structure of individualism as a solid footing for a fair and good economic system. 
 

"So while individualism and selfishness are not the same thing, the former has a natural tendency toward the latter."

I would say that individualism is an amoral thing. It cannot have a tendency to do anything. Not to be simplistic but it's kind of like the "Guns don't kill people, people do." Individualism (as a foundational principle of government) is an idea, a structure, a philosophy if you will. It is only when sinful man (there is that Christian worldview) uses individualism in a sinful way that selfishness ensues. It's Paul's "I would not have known coveteousness if the law did not say thou shalt covet." Our sinful propensity actuates the freedom that individualism provides to act in evil ways towards others. My argument is that in a government founded upon individualism, people at least have the opportunity to do right and, I believe very often, help others by serving their own interests. 
 

"But apart from results arguments, the better questions are, what's the most accurate understanding of the world and human nature as individuals an in community and the relationship between the two? My point is that answering this question from a worldview standpoint gives rise to a political philosophy that respects the individual but is not "individualistic" or "built on individualism."

Pretty much in agreement here in that I believe that some government is necessary since God instituted it and since it curbs sin. I'm not convinced though that a powerful government necessary better reconciles a proper view of human nature than an individualistic one. When the guys with the guns and the jails are also sinful it's not a great situation either. 
 

I suspect we are in greater agreement that disagreement. We are very nearly just arguing about degrees at this point. I do however believe in a totally free market. I actually believe that best fits a Christian worldview though I doubt many will agree on that point.  

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

About "totally free market," what actually happens over and over again throughout history is that property rights and something akin to rule of law must be maintained or the system collapses into the strong ruling over the weak. A totally free market is great until the moment an unprincipled person figures out "Hey, why should I pay for this stuff by trade when I can just take it?" and acts on that.

So a free market can't work at all unless the participants are reasonably confident that they'll get to keep what they trade for. This requires government of some sort. Hence my rejection of anarcho-anything. Extrapolate the small local agrarian market out to today's giant multinational corporation situation and actual "free" markets are, in many ways, even more fragile--because for a free market to work you not only have to be confident of keeping your stuff, you have to be able to get your stuff to market in the first place. So, my point is that archo is necessary and anarcho is a lovely ideal but can't actually work for long.

Of course, authority can be (and often is) excessive, but that doesn't make authority the problem. It's a classic case of confusing poor execution with the thing itself. (I've used the analogy of figure skating before: anyone who looks at me on ice with skates and decides figure skating is a clumsy, comical farce likely to result in injury doesn't really know figure skating.)

In practical terms, as far as government regulation in the U.S. goes, I believe we have too much regulation in some areas, not enough in others. But I don't see government involvement and 'free market' as mutually exclusive, or even inversely proportionate. You can't even have a free market without government protecting property rights and market access.

Two questions...

I certainly agree with the motivation angle but it ceases to be compassionate motivation when it is forced. That's the part I'm disagreeing with. 

I would agree that volunteerism is better when it can be had (and other factors) but why does "forced" remove the compassionate motivation? In other words, can't I be required to do something and still do it because I believe it will help other people?

I'm reminded of this brilliant passage from Paul ...

understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, (1 Ti 1:9)

Those with law ("the just" I take to mean, having internal commitments to do the right thing) don't need laws. They have reasons of their own. The rest need laws, but the laws don't erase the deeper motivations of the just, do they? If so, how? 

Second question is about individualism: What do you mean by individualism? Does it involve an increased focus on the individual vs. the community? If not, in what sense is it individualistic?

Where I think we're agreed is that government has gotten too large and too intrusive. We'd probably disagree on a few points of where the "too" is happening. "Excess" is a concept that depends on beliefs about what's appropriate. But my belief that, in general, smaller government would be better, doesn't make me anarcho-capitalist. It doesn't even make me libertarian. It just makes me conservative.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

josh p's picture

I generally agree about free-markets which is why I believe one of the roles of government is protecting private property and enforcing contracts. I suspect I have a much narrower view of what all that entails than you do. 

Large multi-National corporations are able to exclude competition BECAUSE OF government regulation. This is a matter of historical record and can be observed all over the world. In those places where there is more regulation, regulators (who are usually working very closely with the large corporations) write regulation that excludes all competition. 
 

I do agree that my own view may be a more fragile form of government. That's not necessarily a bad thing to me. I argue first from what I believe is right and worry about sustainable later. References to supposedly "free-markets" in history are very often "more free than us" but not actually unregulated. 
 

Answers to your questions-

1. I guess if we are just talking about warm feelings you are right. But taxation is not (or very rarely) compassionately motivated action. The tax-payer's volition was not involved in most cases (beyond the motivation to obey the law). I don't think that better reflects a Christian worldview since the payer has no idea where there actual dollars are going and since only a small percentage of it ever leaves Washington. My basic issue with the compassion argument is that one can be compassionate with that which God has entrusted without it being taken to meet needs, some of which is actually counter-productive to "human flourishing." For those that actually feel that the money they pay in taxes is being used responsibly and for the good of others, then the answer to your question is yes. I personally do not. 
 

2. By individualistic I mean the unhindered pursuit of what is best for me and my family provided it does not negatively effect another. It's not so much an increased focus on the individual but that the individual is the primary assigner of his/her own actions rather than the community. 

 

Dan Miller's picture

1 Timothy 2:1–2 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Aaron, you quoted this verse. Clearly Paul is hoping to promote living peacefully as regarding our relationship with government. Why do you think he calls for prayers for leaders as a key for accomplishing this?