The Judeo-Christian Worldview and Economics

 
 Socialism embodies a lust for power based upon the deceit by man of man. Capitalism embodies a lust for wealth based upon the service by man to fellow man. Socialism concentrates power and wealth for a few. Capitalism diffuses power and wealth for many. These two opposing systems hold the promise of blessings or curses to the nation that adopts them. It is the imperative of ethics (oughtness) rather than the indicative of morality (what is practiced) that elevates the fate of a nation. A nation can not expect good if it is not itself good. The choice between capitalism and socialism is an ethical one.

 
A Christian worldview regarding the economy is essential if America is to recover its eroding economic leadership in the world. A Christian worldview of economics is predicated upon the fact that man is born sinful (Ephesians 2:3), does not prosper by injustice (Ephesians 4:28), should work (2 Thessalonians 3:10), should not be dependent on anyone (1 Thessalonians 5:11-12), respects private property (Exodus 20:15), prospers through diligence (Proverbs 21:5), resists the envy of other people’s property (Exodus 20:17), believes that rich and poor are esteemed the same by God (Exodus 30:15), that indebtedness creates bondage (Proverbs 22:7), and that righteousness can yield abundance (Proverbs 16:8).
 
The Christian worldview also elevates the power of freedom. The Bible espouses the freedom to choose (1 Corinthians 6:12), that God makes  us free (John 8:36), that freedom requires morality (Psalm 119:45), wherever God is honored there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17), that true freedom is based upon love (Galatians 5:13), that freedom requires discernment (1 Corinthians 8:9), and that the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
 
There have been many notable Christians who are sympathetic to the precepts of socialism, including Nelson Mandela, Reinhold Niebuhr, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, et.al. They believe that the Bible prescribes socialism in the New Testament (Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-35). and that social justice (redistribution of private property) is ordained in the Old Testament (Lev 19:13, 18, Deut. 10:18-19  Deut. 24:19-22 Ps. 82: 3, 4  Ps. 112: 1, 9 and Isa. 1:15-17).
 
This view represents a significant failure in hermeneutics. This is a failure in thinking because the examples presented in the New Testament (Acts) are characterized by the individual and volitional decision to share private property. The passage is explicit in that the property shared is privately owned (antipodal to the state owned model of socialism) and that the redistribution is not compulsory (also antipodal to state run socialism). Finally, the assemblage and distribution of the assets depicted is done by the apostles (private sector) and not by the state. This is an example of the church being at the center of the action.
 
The socialist view also fails regarding the Old Testament because a careful exegesis of those texts confirms God’s desire to show compassion and mercy to the poor and downtrodden but does not assert that the government establish remedial action through the seizing of property for redistribution. The Old Testament desires a change within the heart of the individual to show love and concern for his fellow man. It is ludicrous to suggest that God sanctions force and compulsion to show love and mercy. This would be contrary to His character and is contrary to the doctrine of grace. It is a flawed hermeneutic to suggest God teaches socialism. The Bible teaches charity, a volitional act of the heart, not redistribution. an act of compulsion by the state.
 
Socialism is predicated upon atheism, therefore it calls for no church, only the state. Further, socialism calls not for free will action but compulsory force to exact its desires. Socialism is a creation of man, for man, to determine which man receives benefits from man. There is no provision for God in a socialist state. It is clear that liberal theologians who cite the foregoing biblical passages as support for socialism have no idea what they are talking about. There is no Biblical support for state run socialism. Those that try to twist the scriptures to support socialism neither understand the truth of God’s word nor understand how the world operates. It is a deception. A text taken out of context is a pretext. This is why socialist experiments (secular Europe and atheistic Asia) are highly correlated with apostate Christianity. America should take heed.
 
Similarly, liberal theologians such as Wallis and Campolo will cite “social justice” as support for socialism. They often cite the jubilee account in the Bible as an example. “Careful examination of the Jubilee year’s regulations disproves claims that it required any redistribution or equalization of wealth. The regulations did not cancel or forgive any debt but ensured repayment and then return of collateral. Also, the regulations notably said nothing of newly created wealth. If one farmer produced far more per acre than another or gained riches through industry or trade, the Jubilee regulations didn’t require any redistribution of that wealth or any equality of outcome between him and his neighbors.”[1]
 
Social justice advocates typically espouse the primacy of outcome equality over equality of opportunity as they do not accept the sovereign gifting of God that blesses some more than others (Matt. 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-28). Social justice is a concept that has been co-opted by socialists to distort biblical teaching to justify redistribution of wealth to serve the interests of the state. “It is necessary to understand that every modern theory of social justice is ideological. No matter how reasonable or rational it may be, every modern theory of social justice is the rationalization of the interests of a particular group or class.”[2] Social justice is an artifice used by socialists to persuade undiscerning Christians to support socialist objectives. Social justice requires the willful violation of the eighth and tenth commandments. Obviously, anything that encourages the breaking of the commandments is not of God.
 
The ultimate test of truth is whether it corresponds to reality. We know that socialism is a lie because of the promises it makes and the results it delivers. Socialism neither reflects the reality of life nor the condition of man. Socialism (and the related systems of communism, fascism, interventionism, etc.) is predicated on the abrogation of the final three commandments: thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie, and thou shalt not covet. The breaking of these three commandments may bring short term benefits but exacts long term costs. Conversely, following any and all commandments brings short term costs but  long term benefits.
 
Socialism had its roots in the French Revolution when modern day secularism was born. The ideas of socialism advanced substantially with the 1848 publication of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederic Engels. It came to its full glory in the 20th century with the Russian revolution of 1917. Contagion spread socialist ideas to eastern Europe, parts of Africa, Latin America, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea, among others. The verdict on socialism was rendered November 9, 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall. Shortly thereafter, (1991) the Soviet Union collapsed and became the Commonwealth of Independent States. Today, the Russian Federation is a country that is a shell of its former self with an economy approximately the size of Italy. The Russian economy is dwarfed by seven other countries who espouse capitalism. China has moved from its socialist economic practices to state sponsored capitalism and their economy has flourished. A review of countries ranked by GDP clearly confirms that capitalism brings growth, prosperity, abundance, and leadership while socialism brings stagnancy, poverty, scarcity, misery, and submission.[3] The only worse performing economies than socialism are those countries that follow Islam. It is clear that the worldview of a nation largely determines the fate of that nation.
 
Like cancer, socialism destroys a nation from within. According to writer John Hawkins, socialism destroys a nation in five ways.[4] First, it kills economic growth. The nations that practice it without fail end in despair. Current examples of this include Greece and parts of Europe (such as Spain) where unemployment, unrest, and bankruptcy loom without intervention by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the European Union, EU. The World Bank is primarily a development institution while the IMF is a cooperative institution that seeks to maintain an orderly system of payments and receipts between nations. Both are headquartered in Washington, D.C. and substantially funded (as is the United Nations) by the United States. The United States is partially responsible for maintaining socialism in other parts of the world through foreign aid, subsidies, and other funding of corrupt and failing systems. This is done in an effort to stabilize international equilibrium while also expressing the charity for others taught by the scriptures.
 
Second, socialism stifles free speech. President Ronald Reagan said, “How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.” Socialism oppresses the opposition to prevent discourse. Often, it uses state control as a strategy and ad hominen attacks as a tactic.
 
Third, it leads to an increasingly tyrannical government. History is clear and without exception that socialism always and forever leads to the loss of property, the loss of freedom, loss of life, and ultimately, the loss of hope. Given its record of devastation, it is perplexing that thinking citizens of any country, e.g., the United States, would adopt any mechanism of its practice.
 
Fourth, it creates strife and division. Socialism depends upon covetousness, theft, and lies to achieve its purposes. These goals can only be realized by the cooperation of a sinful people that abandons God. Divide and conquer is an age old military strategy of conquest. Yet, blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalm 33:12).
 
Fifth, socialists believe that the ends justify the means. Oddly, the leaders of socialist nations invariably prosper while the masses are impoverished. Socialism promises a government that brings equality to society. But the reality is far different. As George Orwell once noted, some members of a socialist society are always more equal than the others. Forbes has estimated that Russian president Vladimir Putin has a net worth of approximately $75 billion while Cuba president Fidel Castro has a net worth of approximately $900 million (the entire country of Cuba has a gross GDP of only $71 billion). Kim Jong-Un has a net worth estimated at $5 billion while his country of North Korea has a GDP of $14 billion.[5] It is curious that Moammar Qaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Yasser Arafat, and other Islamic leaders were/are also billionaires.[6] Finally, income inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient) shows that, despite assertions to the contrary, the US has increased in income inequality under President Obama.[7] Income inequality measures of the industrialized world show that South Korea (a capitalist country) has the greatest equality of income while Italy (a parliamentary government with strong socialist leanings) has significant inequality of income.[8] It appears that being a socialist or a tyrant pays significant dividends despite the impoverishment it leaves a nation.
 
Capitalism, on the other hand, is an economic system where production, distribution, and trade are privately owned to yield a profit for those who have made the investment to support that objective. It is done in the backdrop of freedom where a largely free marketplace operates while the government respects private property and the legal system protects contractual law. Problems arise based upon the moral and ethical failure of owners (committing fraud) or the market (committing theft) or the government (limiting freedom and violating property rights). The failures of capitalism are the failures of man. However, capitalism assures progress (unlike the despair of socialism) because it assumes a Judeo-Christian worldview with a constitutional republic framework. Capitalism works because it is the best expression of God’s principles communicated in the Bible about freedom, private property, and the dignity of man made in His image.
 
God blesses people and nations according to His will (Psalm 67). He is not accountable to man (Romans 11:33) and He is sovereign (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). However, Christian stewardship requires a responsibility to God for decisions and behavior. Biblical stewardship views God as the owner of all things and man (individually and collectively) as his steward. When man abandons the authority of God in such affairs, he risks danger as Lord Acton stated “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”[9]
 
The Christian view of economics celebrates the notion of private property. Private property is enshrined in the eighth and tenth commandments, i.e., thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not covet. Karl Marx, founder of modern socialism said that the abolition of private property was the sine qua non of socialism. Marx desired state owned (or controlled) production and distribution of goods and services. He also desired that personal property would be subordinated to state interests. Even the pilgrims abandoned their experiment with socialism because “they didn’t want to starve to death.”[10]
 
Personal responsibility is also inextricably present in the doctrine of soteriology, or salvation. God holds free creatures morally responsible for their free choices. The Bible is clear regarding the doctrine of freedom and responsibility (1 Timothy 3:6, Jude 6:7, 1 Timothy 2:14, and Romans 3:19.) Although God calls the individual to salvation, there is a personal responsibility, or free will, component that the Bible is clear in teaching. If personal responsibility is essential to the most important decision of life, it should come as no surprise that personal responsibility is a necessary element in other decisions of life. Luke 13:3 says “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” James 4:17 teaches “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Galatians 6:5 says “For each will have to bear his own load.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 confirms “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  The Bible speaks with a univocal voice in support of private property and personal responsibility. As a result, private property and personal responsibility are essential handmaidens in the Christian life. This is in clear opposition to socialist teaching which prescribes state-owned property (means of production) and collective responsibility.
 
Karl Marx, the key founder of communism said  “…from each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs) in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program.[11] Marx was clearly opposed to the teaching of the Bible and advanced the state as the arbiter of need. The Bible is clear regarding the importance of the individual. James 4:2 teaches that one should ask God, not man, for his needs “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Socialism is clear about the importance of the collective. The Bible is clear about the importance of the individual in relationship with God. Socialism is predicated upon atheism as the theological component of the Marxist-Leninist worldview. Capitalism is predicated upon the theology of the Judeo-Christian worldview. Socialism and the Bible are completely antipodal in their teaching.
 
Winston Churchill eloquently observed “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”[12]
Thomas Jefferson rebuked the notion of government control, “Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread.”[13] Margaret Thatcher said “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They [socialists] always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.”[14]

The status of the current American economy is precarious. One of the best measures of a country’s economic health is the debt-to-GDP ratio, an indicator of the relationship between debt and production. US debt on the date of President Obama’s inauguration (Jan. 20, 2009) was$10.6 trillion. On February. 21, 2014, it was $17.39 trillion. This is a 64 percent increase in the national debt over five years, an annual increase of 10.4% compared to an economic growth of less than 3% annually.

When Barack Obama was first elected, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70%. Today, it is over 101%. Further, the unfunded liabilities (obligations without funding sources) is well over $100 trillion. This includes Medicare Part A at $36 trillion, Medicare Part B at $37 trillion, Medicare part D at $15 trillion, and Social Security at $17.5 trillion for a grand total of unfunded liabilities over $105 trillion.[15] America has economically fallen far in the past few years. This suggests that absent draconian measures to cut entitlements (currently above 60% of GDP and growing), the United States may face an environment of bankruptcy or broken promises.[16] Our current set of economic problems (accompanied by an unwillingness to address them) puts us on a path trajectory that looks more like Greece in the future. Greece is currently in economic triage and is widely considered an embarrassment to western civilization. Like Greece, we can not grow ourselves out of our current economic difficulties without concomitant entitlement reform.

The US government spending, as a percentage of GDP, reached an all-time high (excluding World War II) during the Obama administration.[17] This has happened as more politicians promise more benefits to more people who vote themselves larger abundance. It is a failure of leadership and of the governed. It is both unsustainable and a moral failure of epic proportions. At the time of Jesus, Rome imposed a 5% inheritance tax[18] and a 1% sales tax (compared to the average state sales tax in the US of 5.6%).[19] The US government taxes estates at 35% for those with estates over $5,000,000.[20] America taxes business at 35%, the highest rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Suddenly, the oppression of Rome doesn’t look so bad.
 
What is the Biblical worldview of economics? It is based on the Judeo-Christian principles of morality, personal responsibility, freedom, and the protection of private property. Capitalism is the economic system best suited to address these tenets of a Biblical worldview.
 
Those that seek state solutions as the preferred haven may jeopardize their own freedom. Karl Marx said “There is only one way to kill capitalism – by taxes, taxes, and more taxes.”[21] Abraham Lincoln said “You can not help men permanently by doing for them what they could do and should do for themselves.”[22] Thomas Jefferson said “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.”[23] Ethics derived from moral absolutism are indispensable supports for a sound economy and just society.
 
The social justice movement, born from the Marxist philosophy, is predicated upon moral relativism, atheism, and situational ethics. Machiavellian tactics (the ends justify the means) is the foundational belief in social justice systems. This is in stark contradistinction to the Bible’s teaching on private property, personal responsibility, and the individual’s responsibility before a sovereign God. A Christian worldview of economics is essential to produce growth and opportunity in a society. 20th century history was abundantly dispositive in corroborating this fact. The collective models of government and economy in the 20th century ended in abject failure while imposing misery and despair on its inhabitants. The collective system depends on the arousal of envy and division among groups that place their faith in the utopian vision of man. It has never worked. It never will. Yet, each generation must fight for this understanding on their own if they are to sustain biblical principles and preserve freedom.
 
The enemies of God and America have a plan. The president of the Mikhail Gorbachev foundation said, “Over the next 20 to 30 years, we are going to end up with world government. It’s inevitable… There’s going to be conflict, coercion and consensus. That’s part of what will be required as we give birth to the first global civilization.”[24]
 
Joseph Stalin said, “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, it morality and its spiritual life.  If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.” 
 
When inflation accelerates, interest on the federal debt will explode. What would happen if the US became technically insolvent (bankrupt) due to inflation and the inability to service its debt?[25]
 
  • Savings accounts could be reduced substantially.
  • Taxes will skyrocket.
  • Personal danger within society will increase.
  • Payments from the government will dramatically decrease or stop.
  • People will have a large reduction in standard of living with widespread poverty.
  • The stock market will drop precipitously and credit markets will seize.
  • Many financial institutions will fail.
  • Most government funding will slow/disappear.
  • Many businesses will close/lay off people.
  • Infrastructure failure will proliferate (phone, water, power, etc.).
  • Mass rioting will be likely.
  • Dictatorship/martial law will be imposed.
 
What should the individual do in response to the precarious nature of the US economy and the increasing role of the state? We should recognize that there are seasons of feast/famine where saving is essential to survive the bad times (Genesis 41:34-36) that debt can create bondage (Proverbs 22:7) that ignoring the signs of the times can bring disaster (Proverbs 22:3) to trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6)  to discern what is coming (Luke 12:54-57) and to understand the times in which they live (1 Chronicles 12:32.)
 
Ethics and engagement matter. We are called to redeem the culture (Acts 15:1-31, Colossians 3:17, and Genesis 1:28) and be salt and light to our nation (Matthew 5:13-16).
It is critical that Americans seek godly leaders and reject the promises of statists using identity politics to trade on the fears of the vulnerable. There is no hope for a nation that punishes success, compels redistribution, and thereby perpetuates the underclass. It is the equality of opportunity that promotes hope through the mobility of income and thereby countervails income inequality.
 
Finally, the Christian should not run to the state (man) for rescue but to God (Jeremiah 17:5). Therefore, it is prudent to prepare for difficulties if America does not reverse course. Certainly, it is advisable to live below one’s means, restrain borrowing, increase savings behavior, embrace the morality of individual responsibility in uncertain times, pursue low time preference decisions (the economic concept related to postponement of gratification) and get involved in the culture to assure we have righteous leaders and economic practices.
 
God is not a respecter of nations (Amos 1:3 and 2:16). However, Acts 10:34-35 tells us “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” America’s future success is not guaranteed. It is clear that the best economic system to assure Americans can survive looming economic challenges of government debt, low labor participation, and a slow growth economy, is one that is repentant toward God and is one that embraces Judeo-Christian principles.
 
The single best defense against socialism experimentation is a biblical worldview. As America wanders from its Christian moorings, it should be expected that socialism will gain credence in the nation. Without repentance and a return to a biblical worldview, it is unreasonable to expect economic blessings. Personal responsibility is paramount in the protection of private property and freedom. A devotion to socialism (and the secular worldview) is leading to a Divided States of America as can be seen in the red-blue state divide. Only the free market construct of capitalism and a Judeo-Christian worldview will preserve the United States of America. Time may be running out on America if we continue down the road we chose in 2008.
______________________________________________________________________________
[1] Social Justice: How Good Intentions Undermine Justice and Gospel. E. Calvin Beisner p.6
[2] The Fallacy of Social Justice:All for One and Theft to All. Carl Teichrib September 2010. p.2
[13] Ibid.
[18] Charles Adams, The Good and Evil. First Madison Books, Lanham, MD, 2001, p.101
[21] James Cook, The Free Market and its Enemies; a Book of Quotes, IRI, Minneapolis, p.108.
[22] Ibid. p.100
[24] Jim Garrison, President of the Gorbachev Foundation USA “One World Under Gorby” San Francisco Weekly, May 31, 1995.

One thought on “The Judeo-Christian Worldview and Economics

  1. CrisisMaven

    Interesting, your criticism of Obama who says himself he’s a Christian (and some detractors say he’s a closet Muslim). “characterized by the individual and volitional decision to share private property” – I wish this were understood and preached by more ministers. All I ever heard in exegesis was a more egalitarian world view, “share your neighbor’s burden” and all that (which is okay if volitional and, as I glean from the above, un-Biblical if forced e.g. via taxation and other means of “expropriation”). Now Carter was also seen as a Christian president and I fear he also fell for some hermeneutic errors like you pointed out above. However, churches often seem to preach more of a “socialist” agenda than they practice. I remember a discussion about Buddhist mediation where the protagonist (can’t remember the name, very famous mindfulness teacher in the US though) in his introduction relates how his friend Milton Friedman was a speech writer for Jimmy Carter and a few other senior figures in the Carter administration. Inflation ran rampant and one day this Milton Friedman (no relation to Nobel prize economist Milton Friedman) was called upon by a financial officer of one of the biggest US churches. He asked that Milton “Mr. Friedman, we sit on about 100 billion in assets – how should we best reinvest in the current climate”. To which that Milton Friedman replied: “Why not give it to the poor?” After a short pause the CFO retorted: “Is this the REAL Friedman?” To which “liberal” Friedman the replied: “Is this the REAL church?” I can’t see institutionalized churches and such libertarian theology as above mix too well in practice.

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