Davies’ article suggesting that Christianity and anarchism are irreconcilable includes several arguments in support of his assertion. One is that anarchism is based on selfishness and Christianity is based upon sacrifice, and that these opposing principles demonstrate this incompatibility.
Davies has Christianity wrong here, at least in part. Christianity is actually based on agape love—unselfish love—which is the outgrowth of being created by and worshiping God who is love (1 John 4:8). Christianity says that man is made in the image of this God, that is, in many respects, what God is like is in a lesser way what man is like. Thus, man has an innate attraction to the same.
However, mankind was tested, and failed by choosing to obey Satan rather than God. His nature was bent, and on account of this, all men are born having distortion within. As a result, they choose self first. This is unnatural. Man is born with this unnatural orientation, although it seems normal to him. What else would it seem?
This is a very destructive reality, and explains man’s relentless inclination to coerce and force others—a reality that standard anarchism has little explanation for. We outline this here in order to give some necessary background and expand the idea of self-sacrifice. The goal of Christianity is not self-sacrifice, but restoration of the original, selfless nature. When we look at what the Bible says, Christianity as represented in its primary and prototypical source, contemplates this very change.
In the end, all who freely choose to be, will be changed. That is, healed. The selfishness nature that had been developed is eliminated. During the present, the Christian is engaged in the struggle between the old nature and the new. The end product of this struggle will be a universe filled with unselfish, non-coercive, gentle people.
How can this be? And what about the fate of those who reject this restoration? Those who choose selfishness as their life stance are conforming themselves in a nature that is inevitably unsatisfying and as inevitably irreconcilable with life. We can draw an (admittedly imperfect) analogy to a child who is born with a fatal disease. Without treatment he must die.
The difference is that while we all come into existence with an unnatural “nature,” we also come into existence with the capacity to choose to change it. That is, pursuing the disease analogy, every human’s beginning is as a creature born with weaknesses and tendencies to evil, and in every case this becomes a conscious choice to be a rebel against God. But God makes available a solution. It is as if there is a medicine one may take in order to be cured.
Alas, true Christianity requires much more than the mere taking of a pill. Because of his distorted nature, the Christian faces a continuing daily battle with this inclination, which he must keep subdued in strength provided by God. Over time, this choice for unselfishness becomes ingrained in him. He uses the liberty that God has granted him to be restored to unselfishness. One could say, he chooses the battle for self-mastery and becomes a living, breathing example of the non-aggression axiom.
The person who rejects all the divine initiatives that invite him to be changed, is choosing to forgo the healing, to remain in the unnatural situation of his birth, and to reject the gift of life. He is choosing to become a confirmed aggressor.
Since he has not within himself the power of endless life, he must die. It is as a starving person to whom food is offered but he rejects it. By his own choice, he dies. Perhaps he would be willing to eat the food were it only provided on his own terms. But good is good and evil is evil, and God only offers eternal life to those who choose the good. What we are saying here is that those who die are choosing self-destruction. And, be assured, the Bible does not teach a forever burning torturous existence in hell; rather, those who die are burned up and their suffering and existence is ended (this is another topic).
The point is, God is not arbitrary to give life to those who accept the principle of life, and permit to die those who choose to reject it. But this is the final fate; what about the here and now?
The Christian, aided by a strength outside of himself that comes to him from God, maintains self-control, or denies self. That is, he refuses to give free reign to selfishness. No, denial of self is not the denial of who one is; it is the suppression of what one used to be and what one chooses now not to be. It is the exercise of true liberty.
Davies’ reduction to the absurd argument is indeed absurd. To suggest that the result of Christianity, if taken to its conclusion, could leave us with 50 percent of the people being sacrificed for the other 50 percent is very strange.
Davies says that selfishness can be practiced without limits; the opposite is true. Selfishness has no effective braking system. Rather, the one who seeks power over others is never satisfied; he cannot rest until he seeks more power, and more, and more. But the end result of the gospel will be the twofold demonstration that unselfishness works and selfishness does not.
Moreover, it is a mistake to equate anarchism with selfishness. Christian anarchism does differ from some conceptions of anarchism, in that it has no problem with men being led by the principles of the infinite God. But it does reject, as do anarchists, the rule of mere man over man.
We see the state for what it is, a false legitimization for one group of men to coerce others. The removal of the state is the removal of that which is antithetical to us, which stands in opposition to the government of God, the only way to true freedom for man. There is nothing of coercion in God’s government. Actually, it is seen by Christians to be the one means of true self-mastery available to man. It is the way to actual and ultimate liberty.
Removing the state and all state-like systems of coercion would leave fallen man fallen man still. He would remain as dangerous, as prone to the use of force, to untrammeled imposition over others, as before. But the Bible promises the removal of the human nation-state system and its replacement by God’s reign which guarantees liberty for all who embrace unselfishness, the original, intended design for man.
Next time: Part 7 responds to Davies assertion that the Christian supports the state.