Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom
Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom

The Essence of Liberalism

by Jerry Newcombe, D. Min.

Recently, some of the terrible decisions by many of our politicalleaders have gotten me to thinking: What is the essence of liberalism? 

Is it elitism—the notion that big government can take better care of you and yours than you can? 

Is the essence of liberalism the abolition (or severe restriction) of private property? 

Is it that people should have the freedom to do whatever they want to, to define their own right and wrong? 

I think all these things are corollaries, no doubt. But, in my view, the essence of liberalism begins with a flawed premise: a mistaken anthropology which says that man is basically good. 

In the liberal view, we can negotiate with the Iranians (even though they want to kill us unless we convert to their brand of Islam) because deep down they’re good. 

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain proudly declared there will be “peace in our time” because he had the signature of “Herr Hitler” to prove it. The subsequent events of World War II proved him stupendously wrong. 

Liberalism’s persistent problem is that it doesn’t recognize the biblical truth, proven repeatedly in history, that man is sinful and, therefore, the best form of government recognizes that truth and separates power, so no individual or group can amass too much of it. 

Why has America historically succeeded in granting so much freedom to its citizens? Because the founding fathers recognized the fact of human sinfulness. They did everything they could to limit how much power could be aggregated by any particular political faction. 

James Madison played an important role in the writing of our Constitution. He noted that since men are not angels, government is necessary. But since government is also run by men, we also need protection from government itself (Federalist No. 51). The Constitutional principle of the strict separation of powers is grounded in this recognition of human sinfulness. 

The Bible is very clear. It does not teach that we are perfect, but rather that we are sinful. Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil…” Paul said, “There’s no one good, no, not one.” Jeremiah noted, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” 

Mankind tends toward evil. Therefore, power must be distributed among various government entities and political factions. I am not aware of a single example of any of the founders of America believing that man was basically good. This is not cynical. It is just the reality and this belief has led to the most prosperous forms of government—and economics—in all of history. 

Like the other founders, Thomas Jefferson said that power should be divided for everybody’s sake: “The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many…” 

Alexander Hamilton wrote, “’Til the millennium [when Jesus reigns on earth] comes, in spite of all our boasted light and purification, hypocrisy and treachery will continue to be the most successful commodities in the political market.”

By contrast, the former Soviet Union built their system of government on an atheistic, Marxist base with its notion that man is basically good, but corrupted by capitalism and religion. Marx thought when the workers seized the means of production and the reins of government and imposed the worker state, government would then become unnecessary and wither away. (In the meantime, tens of millions were murdered in the communistic purges of Stalin in Russia and Mao in China.) Historian Paul Johnson said the 20th century state, in large part because of communism (which asserted the basic goodness of humanity) has proven to bethe greatest killer of all time. 

So the new Soviet man or woman was to be free from religious superstitions and from the curse of selfishness as found in capitalism with its emphasis on private property. Who created a better system? The communists or America’s founders? The answer is obvious. 

No wonder God sent a Savior to save us from our sins. Meanwhile, government should take into consideration mankind’s nature as it really is, and not as we wish it were. Handing too much control to government—whether it be in health care, moral policy, family relations, economics, or elsewhere—is a recipe for disaster. 

The link between correct anthropology and good government is inescapable and constant. Every government that fails to recognize it is doomed to fail.