Once upon a time I think most professed Christians believed the Bible teaches limited government and the private property rights order. I wish it were still true today. Even in Reformed circles, there is an attack occurring on the fundamental truths of Scripture pertaining to politics and economics.
A couple of years ago I attended a seminar at a PCA church entitled “Is Capitalism Christian?”. The answer the speaker gave… an emphatic NO! To his credit, he later went on to say the principles of capitalism were consistent with a Biblical worldview. How he reconciled these two statements I could never understand. He also went on to say that if someone asked him the question “Is Socialism Christian?”, he would answer NO, and so on and so on.
But the teacher’s main point in the seminar was that even if the Bible did support capitalism or socialism, it isn’t important, and we really shouldn’t worry about it or expend much effort trying to figure out what the Bible has to say about these matters. Additionally, we should be very careful about arguing with a non-believer that the Bible supports a particular economic system, because it might offend them or turn them off to the more important message of the gospel.
I disagree with this type of mentality. Not only do I believe that the Bible does in fact support capitalism, I think it is important that we study the Bible to find out precisely what it teaches concerning these things. Not sweep it under the rug for risk of offending someone. That is exactly what is wrong with the church today. Christ and Paul certainly did not shy away from arguing Scripture with non-believers.
John Robbins, in his essay “Is Christianity Tied to Any Political or Economic System”, part of a collection of essays from his book Freedom and Capitalism, showed how a popular and intentionally ambiguous cliché used by many professed Christians, namely that “Christianity isn’t tied to any political or economic system”, has undermined the notion that the Bible supports private property, individual responsibility, and limited government; with the end result being an assertion that the Bible actually teaches the opposite: that is communal property, communal responsibility, and unlimited government. Quoting from his essay, it goes like this:
Phase 1: The ordinary Christian believes that the Bible supports private property, individual responsibility, and limited government;
Phase 2: This belief is undermined by the idea that the Bible is silent on these matters;
Phase 3: The logical conclusion is reached that the Bible cannot, therefore, since it is silent, support private property, individual responsibility, and limited government;
Phase 4: Secular and emotional arguments are used to deny the morality of private property, individual responsibility, and limited government, and to assert the moral legitimacy of communal property, communal responsibility, and unlimited government;
Phase 5: Biblical support is then sought for these conclusions, and they are announced as, in fact, supported by valid exegesis of Biblical texts.
Robbins goes into detail explaining the insidiousness of the attack, through all five phases, and how the ambiguity of the original cliché serves to dupe Christians into using faulty logic. Reflecting on his essay and the seminar I attended, I realize that the speaker was in effect doing what Robbins describes in Phase 2, although maybe unknowingly. I don’t want to question his intentions. But to advance the idea that the Bible cannot tell us whether capitalism is better than socialism, or whether one economic system is better than another, or that we shouldn’t seek to find it out and discuss it, is a dangerous thing. Not only does it lead down a slippery slope, it denies the sufficiency of Scripture.
When the Westminster Confession of Faith refers to the “Whole Counsel of God”, it doesn’t say “except for politics and economics”. And when II Timothy 3:17 says “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”, it doesn’t say “except for teaching politics or economics from the Bible.” Political and economic issues need to be studied and taught by Christians more, not less. There is much more work to be done in these fields, and there is much more we can learn from Scripture in these fields.
What Christians need to do is dig in further and pull out all of the necessary implications from the Bible concerning politics and economics, and continue to put them together into a logical system. Read the great works of Christian writers such as J. Gresham Machen, Gordon Clark, John Robbins, Hans Sennholz, and others, and build upon the work they have done. This is why I am excited about the work that we are doing on this website. Let’s continue until we bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, including thoughts about political and economic systems.