McDurmon on the Law as the Abiding Judicial Standard
Like any theonomist, McDurmon insists that God’s Law continues to have abiding validity today. This is particularly striking in light of McDurmon’s position from previous chapters in which he argues that punishments for First Table and sexual offenses are no longer binding today, a civil magistrate having no authority to punish these crimes except in certain “flagrant” cases. This is so dissonant with the historic theonomic position that non-theonomists like J.D. Hall have recognized this and asserted that McDurmon’s position cannot be called theonomy in any meaningful way. Nevertheless McDurmon begins chapter 4 by stating, “Theonomy’s most distinct aspect is its insistence that punishments for crime revealed in Old Testament law are eternal standards of justice and remain binding today.” McDurmon also cites Hebrews 2:1-2 to the effect that “the Mosaic Law ‘proved to be reliable’ and that by it ‘every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution.’” McDurmon cites Psalm 19:9, which states that God’s judgments are true and altogether righteous. McDurmon even goes so far as to suggest that any other standard of justice besides God’s Law can only be unjust.1
McDurmon’s explanation of the lex talionis is straightforward and accurate. As stated before, the lex talionis is the belief that the punishment must fit the crime. Of interest is how McDurmon applies this principle to criminal justice. McDurmon insists that the judicial prescriptions of the Law must be applied in all circumstances without any deviation. In answering an objection that all sins deserve death, McDurmon correctly notes that it is not true that all sins deserve death in the temporal or judicial realm, even though all sins will incur God’s wrath on Judgment Day. Having argued that the judicial law correctly reveals just punishments for crime, McDurmon argues that no society is ever allowed to elevate a particular sin or crime to the level of death that is not specified in the Law as deserving death. McDurmon also argues that societies are not at liberty to punish certain offenses with a penalty less than death in cases where Scripture calls for the death penalty to be applied. McDurmon specifically lists “rapists, murderers, [and] kidnappers” as those who are to receive the death penalty.2
In general this is true. Civil governments that mete out excessive punishments for relatively frivolous crimes or infractions are bound to degenerate into overt tyranny, and in these cases governments can rightly be considered criminal themselves. That being said, accommodations can be made for certain circumstances. In the Wild West, horse theft was sometimes punished with death on account of the conditions that settlers faced. Horses were in many ways essential for survival for those who were traveling in those days. To steal a horse would have placed the theft victim in a real danger of death. Therefore the sheriffs, judges, and lawmen in those days were justified in assigning the death penalty to horse thieves when the theft was a realistic threat to life. Otherwise, the general principle of restitution should be observed in normal cases of theft.
The crimes set forth in the Law continue to be crimes today, insofar as no government can justly ignore these actions, but also there is some flexibility in the punishment meted out to the offenses depending upon the circumstances. While I disagree with Paul Copan over the continuity of the Law in general, I happen to agree with him when he argues that the framework of the Law itself allows for lesser penalties to be pronounced by a judge in all cases but premeditated murder.3 The argument is that murder offends the character of the imago Dei itself in man, since he is created in God’s own image and likeness. Therefore, such an offense against God’s own image in man requires the death penalty. This is the direct teaching of Genesis 9:6. Lesser penalties for crimes can also be inferred from Numbers 35:31, in which we are told that the Israelites were not allowed to take satisfaction for the life of a murderer. This implies that certain satisfactions could be made for crimes other than pre-meditated murder. Even exceptions to these general principles could be made when God assigned a special dispensation for murder, as in the case of Cain after the murder of Abel (Gen. 4:10-12) and David after the murder of Uriah (2 Sam. 12:13-15).
Aside from McDurmon’s rigorist approach to the enforcement of violent crimes, my concern as that McDurmon’s overall approach to the role of government in society is informed more by libertarian ideology than by a traditional Christian understanding of ethics informed by God’s Law. McDurmon himself seems to confirm this when he writes, “A properly theonomic society in terms of civil government would be closer to classic libertarianism than any other common political position.” This is disturbing in light of the fact that “classic libertarianism” or classical liberalism arose historically in opposition to Christian moral principles.4 Libertarianism emerged during the period commonly called the Enlightenment and arose in opposition to many of the traditional Christian laws, customs, and institutions that served as the foundation to Christendom for centuries.5 It seems odd to assert that God’s Law is somehow opposed to the principles that Christians have historically believed, but this is exactly McDurmon’s position. As McDurmon describes what he believes a theonomic society would be like, two trends become evident. The first is that McDurmon assumes a libertarian worldview and that he simply reads this into the Bible. The second is that McDurmon simply assumes many aspects of the Western political tradition as normative in a theonomic worldview, rather than a particular iteration of theonomy for a particular people under particular circumstances. I will flesh this out more as I critique McDurmon’s proposals for a “theonomic” society.
McDurmon’s Libertarian Vision
McDurmon is heavily influenced by his libertarian ethos. This is apparent in his approach to the question of the continuity and discontinuity of the Law since the coming of Christ. Everyone, including theonomists, believes that there is some discontinuity in the Law given to Israel and Christian ethics today, but McDurmon’s arguments regarding discontinuity are often arbitrary and seem to owe more to the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) than to a consistent biblical approach. This is not to say that McDurmon would identify the NAP as the underlying principle that he uses to determine continuity vs. discontinuity in the Law.6 My intent is not to put words in McDurmon’s mouth or falsely attribute a position to him that he does not hold, but I do think that McDurmon is more influenced by the NAP and libertarian ethics than he may even realize. McDurmon’s libertarian commitment can be seen in the fact that virtually all “non-violent” offenses punished in the Mosaic Law are said to be abrogated since the coming of Christ. Likewise, McDurmon argues that violent crimes such as murder, kidnapping, and rape are still to be punished today.7
McDurmon falls into the libertarian trap of believing that all we need to fix the problems we face is limited government. McDurmon writes, “Theonomic standards would simply require a radical reduction in the size and scope of civil government. It would require a stronger sense of law being a restraint upon government rather than a burden imposed by it. It would include a radical reorientation from a powerful centralized government exemplary of a police state back to a free, largely volunteer-based focus on local community.”8
Easy…right? Oh, and there would wouldn’t be any taxes in McDurmon’s libertarian utopia, because all taxation is theft: “There will be no taxation or socialism: ‘they shall not plant and another eat.’ The state will not steal and give to others.”9 Later McDurmon adds, “All government taxation is theft, and thus, all government-backed redistributions of wealth based in taxation are outlawed. This includes property tax (real and personal), sales tax, income tax, payroll taxes (social security and Medicare), import and export tariffs, transportation and gas tax, all excise taxes, so-called ‘sin taxes’ on tobacco and alcohol, poll taxes, luxury taxes, ad valorem taxes, all license fees and other fees, and value-added tax schemes. And all others. All of them. Gone.”10 Finally, McDurmon concludes,
We can begin to work in a variety of ways for tax reform. On the way towards total elimination, taxation of individuals and businesses must be returned exclusively to the local level. State taxation, if any, should only be upon counties, and Federal taxation, if any, should only come from states. Christians should never see a tax they approve of, and should always lead opposition to any and all taxation. Of course, this means they should always also lead the discussion for the replacement of tax-funded programs with private and charitable services. Pick one, join forces, get counsel, get busy, and lead the way.11
McDurmon’s vision of a theonomic society is essentially just libertarian ideas packaged as though they derived somehow from the Bible. It seems that McDurmon believes that the Bible teaches that tolerance and freedom are cardinal Christian virtues. McDurmon states, “Religious liberty would be protected. Those who do not wish to worship Christ may hold private opinions and even practice other religions. Freedoms of assembly and speech would continue, and public debate and dissent would certainly be tolerated.”12
McDurmon’s vision for a “theonomic” society would include open borders because borders are not necessary in a society in which all property is privately owned. McDurmon writes,
Immigration would be no problem in such a society, because all property would be private. There would be no government owned property, roads, or borders in need of government agents to patrol or build a wall. Private property owners would be in full charge of whom they let on their property, or not, with the right of home defense against intruders. Further, there would be no welfare benefits to incentivize or reward interlopers who wish to seize amnesty even if they would be unwelcomed. In light of this, the immigrant population would be made of only welcomed and/or hardworking guests.13
Like property, contracts would be strictly enforced. The state is charged with enforcing contracts, and with punishing those who harm others via slander or libel, false accusation, or who pervert justice through perjury, peer pressure, conspiracy, discrimination, class warfare, or bribery (Ex. 23:1–9). Further, the reputations of individuals and businesses would be protected from damages inflicted by slander or libel.14
Next we come to McDurmon’s libertarian “theonomic” vision for marriage and sexuality. In his introduction to this book, McDurmon states that the civil government “should be out of the marriage business altogether.” In his book McDurmon fleshes this out:
The government would have little to do with sex or marriage. The state would no longer issue marriage licenses. Marriages would be treated as private contracts. Divorces would be handled through private or church courts. Civil government would only enter the picture if necessary to enforce terms of divorce. The integrity of the marriage bed is protected against all forms of incest (Lev. 18:1–18, 20, 22–24). Homosexual marriage would not be a civil right (Lev. 20:13). Businesses could not be required to cater to homosexual celebrations, pretend weddings. Sexual acts with animals could be grounds for punishment (Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18:23; 20:15–16). Transvestitism, pornography, public nudity or indecency, and prostitution would all be shunned (Lev. 19:29; Deut. 22:5; 23:17). Certainly no government could require businesses or individuals to treat transgenders according to their chosen non-gender upon pain of fines or imprisonment. No-fault divorce and easy divorce would be abolished. . . . There are a significant number of moral laws pertaining to sex and marriage, but few remain with civil government sanction.15
Finally, no modern exposition of theonomy would be complete without an attack on the American South and Southern slavery. McDurmon writes,
While a rehabilitational [sic] form of servitude would exist, the type of chattel (ownership) slavery practiced in the American South would never have existed. Kidnapping, human trafficking, and slave trading all would be punishable by death (Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7). . . . The slave traders of the Old South (and other places) would have been executed for their crimes. Likewise, the Fugitive Slave Act would never have been allowed. Slaves escaped from unbiblical jurisdictions would never be returned to their enslavers, but given refuge, freedom, and protection of law, and treated like every other citizen (Deut. 23:15–16).16
Before we recoil at the thought of modern-day “slavery,” let us stop and consider a couple things. Biblical “slavery” is not slavery in any sense we have understood the word in American history. It is not ownership of a person, has nothing to do with race, protects the rights of the servant, and imposes specific checks and duties upon the custodian. The modern prison system is far closer to American slavery than anything discussed in the Bible. It is this to which we should direct our revulsion.17
Evaluating McDurmon’s Baptized Libertarianism
Let’s begin with McDurmon’s argument that all that is really necessary for God’s Law to flourish is for the size and scope of government to be drastically reduced. There is no question that the state has become far too large, centralized, and intrusive. In a truly theonomic society the sphere of civil government would be vastly more limited than what we experience today. But there is simply no reason to believe that the size and scope of government is the only impediment to a theonomic society. McDurmon’s statements about government, such as law being a restraint upon government as opposed to a burden imposed on citizens, are grossly oversimplified. Obviously the government must act only in accordance with the standards of God’s word, so the Law is certainly a restraint upon the government, but the Law is also an imposition upon the behavior of citizens. The Law is clearly intended to restrain the actions of evil people who would harm society if their crimes were left unchecked. This is what Paul means when he says that rulers do not “bear the sword in vain” and that those who do evil should “be afraid” (Rom. 13:4).
I commend McDurmon’s advocacy for decentralization, but he fails to realize why the state grew into the leviathan colossus it has become today. Historically, Christendom maintained decentralization through multiple loci of authority. The king was considered to be the head of state, but he never had absolute control because local noblemen and magnates exerted enough influence to prevent the King from running roughshod over his subjects. Of course the King was also more than happy to intervene in cases of complaints against the nobility as well. Local authorities as autonomous individuals have a better track record of keeping government decentralized than local and state governments do in America. In addition to the organization of the civil government were other very real centers of authority. Christians took the authority of the Church seriously, and wayward kings, judges, noblemen, or soldiers could be brought to heel by ecclesiastical censure or excommunication. In addition to the Church there were also ancient local customs and laws and craft guilds that commanded the loyalties of the people.
Traditional conservative Robert Nisbet explains, “From the conservative point of view the abolition or sharp curtailment of intermediate associations in the social order spelled the creation of the atomized masses on the one hand and, on the other, increasingly centralized forms of political power.”18 Nisbet observes that during the Middle Ages, power
was dilute, not because it was distributed in many hands, but because it was derived from many independent sources. There were the liberties of the church, based on law superior to that of the King; there was the law of nature, graven in the hearts of men and not to be erased by royal writs; and there was the prescription of immemorial local and feudal custom stereotyping a variety of jurisdictions and impeding the operation of a single will.19
Decentralization and subsidiarity were normative prior to our modern era because society was comprised by organic and natural associations and connections preventing the accumulation of power and influence in one focal point as today. As Robert Nisbet observes, “The modern State is monistic; its authority extends directly to all individuals within its boundaries.”20 No longer does any church or Christian denomination hold such authority in the minds of modern society that it can restrain the actions of evil rulers, nor do local authorities represent anything other than extensions of the central government.
Furthermore, the idea that law is something fixed in society by God and applied in unique ways in particular nations for their own circumstances has been replaced by the notion that all law is simply derived from the transient will of the people. Under this model, there is no possible means to avoid the centralized state as we currently experience it. If law is derived from the collective “will of the people” to be determined by the regular elections of representatives, and if the state is supreme over all issues of morality, politics, and economics, then there is no conceivable reason for any decentralization of this decision-making at all. After all, if all we need for a just society is to vote just and practical policies into existence and ordinary people are generally considered as being up to this task, then why should voters be divided arbitrarily as though identifiers such as racial, ethnic, or religious identity mattered? The result is that the boundaries of states and congressional districts simply represent divisions of government for the purposes of trying to administer governmental authority in a practical or efficient way. Since McDurmon does not believe that a society can establish its own religious identity in such a way that requires basic conformity to its religious standards, nor does McDurmon believe that racial or ethnic identity ought to determine national identity, all he is left with are a bunch of arbitrary geopolitical boundaries. Decentralization simply is not going to occur within that paradigm. Furthermore, I question McDurmon’s commitment to decentralization and local autonomy when he writes that the spread of theonomic law “will involve many court cases and settlements, perhaps even internationally, but will lead to peace.”21 McDurmon never manages to explain how government will remain decentralized when it is bound by the decision of international courts, but this is the intrinsic tension that a libertarian faces when we are told that borders and distinctions don’t matter.
Next we come to McDurmon’s assertion that all taxation is theft and that a theonomic society would be tax-free. McDurmon offers no scriptural evidence or support for his assertions. The closest he comes is to allude to Is. 65:22 which states, “They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” Of course, there is nothing within the context of Isaiah where he discusses taxation, to which the Israelites had always been subject. While taxes certainly can be and are now confiscatory in nature, and therefore would fall under the biblical condemnation against theft, there is no evidence whatsoever that all taxes can be considered theft.
The Law allows the government to collect taxes. The Bible certainly is not an exhaustive manual on proper taxation, but there is no doubt that ancient Israel did have taxes. While some of these taxes are undoubtedly obsolete due to their connection to Temple worship, there is also much that can be gleaned from the Bible on the subject of taxation.22 Taxation should be raised only to fund the legitimate actions of the civil government which are necessarily limited within the scope of administering justice. The prophet Samuel assumes that a king who taxed his people above a rate of 10% was a tyrant (1 Sam. 8), and this is certainly something that we ought to consider given the massive taxation to which we are subjected by a state moving beyond its God-ordained role in socially engineering society and redistributing wealth. King Solomon collected a tariff based upon the commerce of foreign merchants (1 Kings 10:14-15), and Jesus likewise assumes that kings levy tribute upon strangers rather than their children (Matt. 17:24-26).23
Additionally, the argument that all taxation is theft is nonsensical when we consider that the value of personal property is in many ways derived from external factors such as the security of the surrounding area. If a house in a “good neighborhood” was taken and transplanted into a “bad neighborhood,” all its assets remaining precisely the same, its value would nevertheless decline precipitously. Since governments exist in large part to insure the security of their people and must raise revenue to do so, it is legitimate for these governments to collect taxes to maintain their people’s security and facilitate commerce. There is simply no way to isolate the value of particular property from the community in which it exists. From this we can conclude that taxes are a normal part of civil government, and we should not expect their complete abolition this side of eternity. McDurmon’s diatribe on taxation is simply one more example of how he reads his libertarian presuppositions into a theonomic perspective, rather than allowing his worldview to be shaped by the actual teachings of Scripture.
Next we come to McDurmon’s teachings on liberty in his purportedly theonomic society. Once again, McDurmon’s beliefs are heavily influenced by libertarian presuppositions. Joel believes that a theonomic society would defend “religious liberty” and even allow non-Christians to publicly practice their false religions. No Scripture is quoted in defense of this proposal, because no such Scripture exists. McDurmon has simply stopped trying at this point. “Religious liberty” is an Enlightenment concept with no basis in biblical law or Christian history. We ought to consider the example of the prophet Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, wherein he mocks the false god and after besting these deceivers, orders that they were to be executed. Likewise we ought to consider the righteous example of King Josiah in 2 Kings 23, who tore down the altars of false gods during his reign and even went to the trouble of defiling them with the bones of pagan priests to make sure that they would be considered unfit for false worship.
This is not the same thing as forced conversion, which has no biblical support. The imperative to preach the Gospel to and baptize all nations is still the mission of the Church (Matt. 28:19-20). The Great Commission assumes that the nations will convert by the power of the Gospel, and once this happens they will be brought under subjection to God’s Law. Unbelievers would be the focal point of evangelistic efforts, but unbelievers would also be required to live within the strictures of the Law. Unbelievers would no more have a “right” to blasphemy or idolatry than they would have a “right” to murder, steal, kidnap, and so on. There is simply no way to isolate First Table offenses from the rest of Christian morality. Sins such as blasphemy and idolatry are intrinsically linked to other sins threatening the health and security of society.
McDurmon’s endorsement for religious liberty is further undermined by his call for open borders. The practical, real-world result of unrestricted immigration would be the importation of people hostile to McDurmon’s vision of theonomy. Muslims in particular have no regard for classical liberal concepts like religious liberty. The only time a concept like religious liberty has worked is within a context where European Protestants and Catholics mutually agreed on the principle of religious liberty and non-aggression and were committed to keeping Europe and North America peopled by fellow like-minded Europeans. At least they understood the threat that mass immigration would pose to their way of life, even if their belief in government neutrality on religious matters was flawed. This is not a mere hypothetical, either; there are many places where Muslims or other non-Christian religions have gained considerable influence in the West. Dearborn, Michigan, has already capitulated to Islamic Sharia Law, and it is quite possible and even likely that this could happen elsewhere. It is a common tactic for the Left to take advantage of Western liberties until they have acquired enough of a numeric advantage to impose their will on others. Non-Christians would flock to McDurmon’s libertarian utopia, demand the right to vote, and simply use Western magnanimity as a means of gaining the upper hand, exactly as they are doing today. Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty are meaningless in the midst of people that hate Christianity.
Moreover, there is no reason to believe that welfare is the only thing incentivizing hostile foreigners to move to the West. Many hostile foreigners have come to the West as a means of intentionally creating chaos and havoc among the peoples of Europe and North America. Recent non-white immigration in the recent decades has also fueled the accelerated growth of the welfare state in the West. Many politicians on the Left are promising to increase the size and scope of government entitlements as a means of courting the votes of non-white immigrants who overwhelmingly support such programs. McDurmon assures us that open borders will not be an issue since everything will be privately owned, but as I pointed out earlier when discussing the inheritance laws, the interest in maintaining property among kindred is broader than the immediate family. Just as individual families have an interest in the ethnic homogeneity of their communities because it increases trust and security, tribes and clans have an interest in maintaining their ownership and control of their land and property through their constituent families for the same reason.24
I find it fascinating that McDurmon adheres to a very minimalistic view of government, in which most crimes of the Old Testament are abrogated, but nevertheless believes that the state should punish “discrimination,” which he mentions alongside “slander or libel, false accusation, . . . perjury, peer pressure, conspiracy, class warfare, or bribery,” providing Exodus 23:1–9 as his Scripture reference. This passage does mention many of the things that McDurmon denounces, and I assume that McDurmon extrapolates his condemnation of discrimination from verse 9, which states that the Israelites are not to vex or oppress strangers because they were strangers in the land of Egypt. At issue is what this verse and others like it25 mean by oppression or vexation. The most straightforward meaning of oppression in these verses refers to the denial of justice to resident sojourners. This becomes clear when we observe that strangers are often mentioned alongside groups like orphans and widows. To put it another way, strangers are classed with other vulnerable people who are easy targets for oppression or injustice. While I certainly agree with McDurmon that the denial of justice to resident sojourners or guests is certainly wrong, I don’t believe that McDurmon’s blanket condemnation of “discrimination,” along with his call for government intervention, expresses this biblical principle.
From what I have read of McDurmon, both in this book and elsewhere, he is referring to “racist” discrimination. Yet there are several reasons why Exodus 23:9 is not referring to what many today would call racial discrimination. First, we must acknowledge that the strangers or sojourners mentioned in these verses were dwelling among the Israelites with permission as invited guests. Restricting immigration is certainly not a form of unjust discrimination.
Furthermore, discrimination today is used to convey any differentiation between any two people, no matter how benign that differentiation actually is in reality. The word “discrimination” in modern usage has come to mean that someone is being denied his “civil rights,” and this concept goes far beyond the rights guaranteed every man by the Second Table of the Ten Commandments. There is no right to employment in any particular job or career, nor is there a right to membership in a whole host of social institutions, nor is there a right to citizenship in any particular country. By stating that the government should restrict discrimination, this leaves McDurmon’s exact position somewhat open to interpretation. While McDurmon doesn’t approve of the use of state power to compel Christians to support concepts like “gay marriage” or abortion, there is no doubt that the modern concept of discrimination has expanded to include these practices. Already many Christians have been persecuted by gay rights activists for upholding biblical beliefs. By casually mentioning “discrimination” in the abstract, McDurmon only muddies the waters by not providing appropriate clarification of what is in view in the context of passages that condemn oppression.
Next we come to McDurmon’s insistence that the state should be “out of the marriage business” and should have “little to do with sex or marriage.” Much of what I said earlier about the continuity of Mosaic punishments for sexual crimes would likewise apply here. The damage done by crimes such as adultery, sodomy, and bestiality are not private in nature, and a just civil magistrate should do due diligence to make sure that these vices are rooted out of society. My concern here is that McDurmon treats marriage and sexuality in entirely libertarian terms. He insists for example that “marriages would be treated as private contracts.” There is no Christian basis for referring to marriage as a mere contract. The Christian understanding is that marriage is a sacred covenant that God Himself instituted in the Garden of Eden.
Marriage is the foundation of the family as well as the entire social existence of the nation. Society has a far greater interest in marriage than merely enforcing the terms of divorce, as McDurmon suggests. We can see this in McDurmon’s handling of incest. McDurmon insists that the marriage bed would be protected from incest, citing Lev. 18, but it is unclear as to whether McDurmon would allow the state intervention to prevent incestuous unions from being considered marital. Would not incestuous unions be considered as mere private contracts that ought to be beyond the interference of government? We know that children born of incestuous unions have a dramatically increased risk of congenital defects and abnormalities. This means that there is a very tangible way in which the choices made by individuals impact those besides themselves.
McDurmon continues to demonstrate his commitment to libertarianism by reading it into the Law. In McDurmon’s libertarian society, “homosexual marriage would not be a civil right,” transvestitism, pornography, public nudity or indecency, and prostitution would all be shunned, and the government would not require businesses or individuals to recognize the self-identified non-gender of transsexuals. This is clearly just McDurmon’s articulation of the non-aggression principle applied to sex and marriage. Although McDurmon cites Bible verses, they have nothing to do with his conclusions. All of them call for government intervention to prevent the activities in question, and in essentially every case McDurmon has already rejected government intervention as done away with in Christ. This is in contrast to what McDurmon states in the very next sentence about bestiality when he suggests that such acts “could be grounds for punishment.”
This does not cohere with what McDurmon stated on pages 62-65, in which civil punishment for bestiality is considered part of the cherem judgment that was tied to God’s unique presence in the land of Israel. Now McDurmon states that bestiality might be heinous enough for a civil magistrate to actively restrain. Why does McDurmon state that bestiality is punishable by the civil government but insist that the civil government should not actively restrain sodomy? My guess is that it is relatively easy to suggest that bestiality should be punished because it is still widely taboo and in most cases illegal. Even most doctrinaire libertarians view this bestiality as perverse and an “aggression” against innocent animals. Sadly this taboo is quickly dissipating and bestiality is now being considered to be acceptable behavior.26
Finally we come to McDurmon’s treatment of slavery. Slavery has been on McDurmon’s mind recently, which seems odd in light of the multitude of relevant events currently going on in comparison to slavery, which ended legally in the United States a century and a half ago. In his recent sermon McDurmon suggests that the North was God’s instrument to punish the South for her undefined sin of “racism.” Nevertheless, apologies for slavery and heaping on the white guilt are what sells as Christian piety nowadays. In this book McDurmon’s comments on slavery are brief. He states that in his libertarian theonomic society, servitude could exist as a means of rehabilitation, but the “chattel slavery practiced in the American South” would be forbidden. McDurmon ups the ante by stating that the “slave traders of the Old South (and other places) would have been executed for their crimes.” Finally, he states that the Fugitive Slave Act would have been disallowed and escaped slaves would have universally been granted their freedom.
Faith and Heritage has already published articles dealing with the issue of slavery, so there is no reason to go into great detail here. I will simply identify that McDurmon is wrong to treat the question of slavery as though this was a uniquely Southern institution. Slavery was legal in all of the American colonies, and the slave trade was more concentrated in the Northern colonies and states than in the South. It is also simply dishonest for McDurmon to continue to refer to slavery, in the South or otherwise, as “chattel” slavery, as though the underlying theory was that slaves were not human, could be sexually abused, or even so much as killed for the sake of sport. This is what true “chattel” slavery would entail, and this was universally rejected in both the North and the South. To continue to repeat this canard is slanderous on McDurmon’s part. McDurmon also mentions the slave traders of “the Old South” as though this was primarily a Southern practice, though to his credit he grudgingly acknowledges that “other places” engaged in the slave trade as well. The truth is that while slavery endured longer in the Southern states, the slave trade itself was mostly a Northern enterprise.
Many Southern apologists, such as R.L. Dabney, rightly separated the issue of the slave trade from the issue of slavery in general, opposing the former while defending the latter as practiced in the South. In fact, Virginia’s colonial legislature, the House of Burgesses, passed several acts requesting that the slave trade be restricted or abolished altogether. These were vetoed by the King and Parliament at the behest of Northern merchants.27 Of course, Jews also disproportionately profited from the slave trade as well, but this doesn’t help McDurmon’s narrative. Mentioning the role of New England merchants and especially Jews would totally forfeit McDurmon’s mainstream credibility, and that wouldn’t be good for sales. It’s easier to maintain the typical story of the “racist” South being vanquished by virtuous Northerners for equality.28 Finally, I conclude by noting that McDurmon has never interacted with the arguments put forward by Southern apologists in defense of Southern slavery. The South is simply castigated as “racist” and bigoted, and McDurmon knows that’s all he needs to do to convince a modern and undiscerning audience.29
- McDurmon, Bounds of Love, p. 70 ↩
- Ibid., pp. 81-82 ↩
- For more information on this topic, see James Rochford, “What About Capital Punishment?” ↩
- See The Church and the Libertarian by Christopher Ferrara. A review of this book by Richard Aleman can be found at the Distributist Review. The book and review are told from a Catholic perspective, but apply just as well from a traditional Protestant perspective. ↩
- The basic history of the emergence of libertarianism is covered well on Wikipedia. ↩
- For a refutation of the non-aggression principle (NAP), see Nil Desperandum’s critique of Doug Wilson’s “Open Borders but No Freebies” under the heading, The Falsity of the Non-Aggression Principle. This is also a decent explanation by Matt Swolinski of the simplistic and problematic nature of the NAP from a libertarian perspective. ↩
- McDurmon, Bounds of Love, p. 82 ↩
- Ibid., p. 86 ↩
- Ibid., p. 89 ↩
- Ibid., p. 97 ↩
- Ibid., p. 112 ↩
- Ibid., pp. 89-90 ↩
- Ibid., p. 98 ↩
- Ibid., p. 98. Emphasis mine. ↩
- Ibid., p. 94 ↩
- Ibid., p. 92 ↩
- Ibid., p. 96 ↩
- Robert Nisbet, Conservatism: Dream and Reality, p. 100. Cited in Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, p. 197. ↩
- Ibid., p. 110. Cited in Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, p. 198 ↩
- Ibid., p. 103. Cited in Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, pg. 198 ↩
- McDurmon, Bounds of Love, p. 87. Emphasis mine. ↩
- I do not plan on an extensive overview of taxation here, since this a review of Joel McDurmon’s book, but a good overview of taxation in ancient Israel is titled Taxation in Biblical Israel by Robert A. Oden, Jr. ↩
- The sons/strangers distinction in this passage is likely familial rather than civil or national. However, this principle can also be applied in a broader civil sense as well. The Roman Empire at least initially was able to allow its citizens to live entirely off the taxes and tributes collected from those nations that had been conquered. More commentary can be found here. ↩
- For more information on the issue of immigration and national borders, see “‘Open Borders But No Freebies’: Refuting Wilson’s Libertarian Position on Immigration” by Nil Desparandum, “Kinist Orthodoxy: A Response to Brian Schwertley, Part 6,” and “Yes, Ethno-Nationalism Is Biblical: A Response to Kevin Craig Part 2.” ↩
- Such as Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33; Jer. 7:6; Zec. 7:10; Mal. 3:5. ↩
- Bestiality is already legal in Germany and has now been declared legal by the Canadian Supreme Court. ↩
- See also footnote 31 in M.E. Bradford’s, “The Heresy of Equality: Bradford Replies to Jaffa“: “For instance, the 32 acts passed by Virginia’s colonial House of Burgesses which called for a restriction of the trade, all of them negated by the Crown at the behest of Northern traders.” ↩
- For more information on the role of Jews in the Atlantic slave trade, see “How Culpable Were Dutch Jews in the Atlantic Slave Trade?” ↩
- Please see “Slavery: Its Morality, History, and Implications for Race Relations in America,” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4; “Dabney on Sunday: On Southern Slavery”; “Disunion, Slavery, and the Confederacy: A Southern Perspective,” Part 1 and Part 2; and “Michael Horton Attacks Dabney, Thornwell, and the South.” For my response to McDurmon’s comments about slavery and the Confederate Flag, see “Joel McDurmon’s Foolish Capitulation on the Confederate Flag.” ↩