Tag Archives: Religious Left

Christian professor of economics discusses capitalism, socialism and the Bible

Here’s an interview with Dr. Shawn Ritenour, economics professor at Grove City College. The interview is conducted by Dr. Paul Kengor.

Excerpt:

Kengor: …it seems that the very foundation of economics, not to mention the American republic in some respects, is the right to private property. Do you agree? If so, is that Scriptural?

Ritenour: The foundation of economic activity and policy is private property. All action requires the use of property and all economic policy is about how people can legally use their property. To benefit from the division of labor, we must be able to exchange our products, which requires private property. Private property is definitely Scriptural. The Bible explicitly prohibits theft, fraud, moving property barriers, debasing money, violating labor contracts, as well as coveting. These prohibitions apply to both citizens and rulers. In my text, I apply this conclusion to issues such as confiscatory taxation, government subsidies, business regulation, and monetary inflation.

Kengor: I find it very telling that Karl Marx was first and foremost against private property, not to mention against God as well. In the “Communist Manifesto,” he wrote plainly: “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in a single sentence: Abolition of private property.” And yet, there are some religious left Christians who claim that the Bible, especially in certain Old Testament passages, preaches a form of socialism and even communism. A student of mine had a teacher at a private Christian school in Ohio who instructed the class that as Christians they should be communists. Can you address this argument?

Ritenour: Communism can be condemned strictly on the basis of the Christian ethic of property (among other reasons). Nothing in Scripture either commands or implies that the means of production should be controlled by the state. There are passages in the early chapters of Acts that are often cited as promoting “Christian communism,” but, in fact, actually illustrate Christian sharing. The various Christians still owned their property, but were generous in sharing whenever they saw a need. When Peter rebukes Ananias in Acts 5, he explicitly says that both the property that Ananias and Sapphira sold and the monetary proceeds from selling it were theirs to do with what they wanted. That is not the gospel according to Marx.

Kengor: I like the way you turn the religious left’s thinking on private property on its head. You note that “God prohibits our coveting the property of others.” With that being the case, isn’t it wrong for the government to use the mighty arm of the state to forcibly remove property from one person to give it to another?

Ritenour: I see no other way around that conclusion, especially when we realize that, in our day of mass democracy, the state usually accomplishes policies of wealth redistribution by inciting envy and covetousness among the populace.

Kengor: What about profits? Reconcile the profit motive with the God of Scripture. We have people in this society who portray profits as greedy or unjust.

Ritenour: Profit is the reward entrepreneurs receive for more successfully producing what people want. This is no easy thing to do. Entrepreneurs must invest in present production of goods they sell in the future. Neither entrepreneurs nor government bureaucrats know exactly what future demand will be. Therefore, production necessitates bearing risk. If the entrepreneur forecasts future demand incorrectly, he will waste resources and reap losses. If he forecasts the future correctly, he serves his fellow man by producing goods people want. It seems only right that such producers are rewarded with profit. In a free market, the only way entrepreneurs earn profits is to serve customers better than anyone else.

I’m a fan of Paul Kengor’s work. If I had married and had children, I would have wanted them to go to Grove City College for their undergraduate degrees. Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez is at Grove City right now, directing a program in astronomy.

Should Christians study other areas of knowledge like economics?

Here’s a quote from McKenzie’s Facebook page that explains why I think Christians need to understand economics.

Quote:

“If inviting nonbelievers to worship matters, then so does preserving the freedom to worship. If ministering to the needs of the poor is a mandate, then changing the policies creating poverty is very much within that mandate. And if building shelter in developing countries is part and parcel of a Christian’s burden, so… is the destruction of the power of tyrants who oppress peoples around the globe.”

It’s from Hugh Hewitt’s book “In, But Not Of”. The book is about how Christians need to make good decisions early on in life if they hope to influence the world in effective ways. This is an excellent book for young people in high school and university, or for those (like me) who dream of raising children in a careful way, so they can impact the world for Christ. My hope is to raise Michele Bachmann and Jennifer Roback Morse clones.

By the way, you can be my friend on Facebook. My Facebook page is here. And you can also follow the blog here, you have a Facebook account. (Although we get about 1000-1500 page views per day, I have only a small number of Facebook friends and followers).

Further study

MUST-HEAR: Greg Koukl and Kevin DeYoung discuss Brian McLaren’s apostasy

Wow. Brian McLaren has completely abandoned traditional Christianity. Greg Koukl and Kevin DeYoung analyze his latest book “A New Kind of Christianity”. Hint: It seems to be mostly naturalism and leftist politics.

The MP3 file is here.

Details:

Kevin DeYoung – Brian McLaren’s New Kind of Christianity
Host: Greg Koukl

Guest: Kevin DeYoung – Brian McLaren’s “New Kind of Christianity” (00:00:00)
Commentary: Reality vs. Religion? The Modern Upper Story Leap (00:56:39)
Guest: Dennis Prager – Reality vs. Religion (01:52:25)

Caller Topics:
1. How do you prove an attribute of God’s to a non-Christian? (01:18:31)
2. When and how was Adam created on an old earth view? (01:26:37)
3. How do you answer claims of Bible contradictions by Bart Ehrman? (01:41:39)
4. Disagree on take on the Executive Order about funding abortions (02:18:18)
5. If materialism is true, can God recreate us on the Day of Resurrection and will us to be the identical person as before? (02:34:47)
6. Death before the Fall is wrong theologically and scientifically. (02:40:46)

Topics:

  • What is Brian’s view of Creation?
  • What is Brian’s view of the Fall?
  • What is Brian’s view of Scripture?
  • What is Brian’s view of Truth?
  • What is Brian’s view of sin and Hell?
  • What is Brian’s view of the Fall?
  • What is Brian’s view of atonement?
  • How did Brian’s leftist political views infect his theology?
  • How did postmodernism affect Brian’s epistemology?
  • How faithful is Brian in interpreting the text?

It’s a 3-hour national show. Greg has a monologue in Hour 2 which talks about the health care reform bill, Bart Stupak, and the fact/value distinction from Francis Schaeffer, and a short interview with famous Jewish scholar Dennis Prager in hour 3 to discuss the health care reform bill, Bart Stupak, and subjective religion versus objective religion. If you like the show, here’s the RSS feed for the podcast. Greg’s show was among the first things that got me started in apologetics so many years ago. He is a solid, but tolerant Calvinist, and so it’s fun for me to hear a perspective that is a little different from mine.

Please give the podcast a listen.

There’s also a nice blog post about Brian McLaren by Melinda from Stand to Reason, too.

Excerpt:

McLaren doesn’t think the Bible is to be taken literally. For instance, the Garden of Eden story isn’t about sin and the Fall, rather it’s a “compassionate coming of age story.”  Consequently, the whole idea of sin and Hell is a horrible overreaction and has caused the church to offer a violent message and image all these years.  It follows from this interpretation then, that there is no need for the cross and Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Those are violent ideas resulting from a bad reading of the Bible.

And a couple of longer reviews are linked.

Tim Challies and Kevin DeYoung have written excellent and more in-depth reviews of McLaren’s new book and I highly recommend them.

I highly recommend you listen to this podcast and if you know anyone who is being influenced by the (non) religious left, take a look at the articles, especially the DeYoung article, which is quite good.

Is the phrase “the religious left” an oxymoron?

From Joseph C. Phillips, writing at Big Hollywood. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

Not long ago I asked a black clergyman about his (and so many others) support for candidates that write and support policy inconsistent with the tenants of Christianity. He responded by asking me, “what are Christian beliefs?” His question was neither rhetorical nor was it an invitation for my definition. Sadly it was his serious contention that the “Bible is not a unitary document but a collection of books. Which one you choose to quote and live by is a result of interpretative choice.” Alas, his explanation seems inconsistent with a Christianity that worships a unified father, son and Holy Spirit; that accepts the bible as the inspired and living word of God; that views the individual books as part of a greater whole with a unity of theme and purpose and that believes the risen Christ is the fulfillment of ALL scripture. To hold that there are no true Christian beliefs just individual opinions–and all of those equally valid-leads me to guess he purchased his diploma cheaply and on-line.

Of course this pastor is only one of many claiming to be independent – choosing their candidates on “the basis of intellect, moral compass, life experiences, sensitivity to ethnic diversity and a commitment to expanding the blessings of liberty” and yet somehow always votes for a Democrat.

[…]The excuse is that the hypocritical religious right… are too busy talking about family values and not dealing with the broader moral issues of poverty, injustice and more recently healthcare. Significantly, this has led the religious left away from preaching virtue as the way in which God empowers individuals and towards locking arms with secular leftists that preach the administrative state as the anecdote to man’s falling. For the left, redemption is to be had not through personal sacrifice and struggle, but through the redistribution of resources; not through personal discipline but through mandates for equality. It is not enough to save our neighbor we must work to save the planet.

You can see which denominations voted for Obama in this graph from Pew Research. For the record, I am an ethnic evangelical Protestant.

Should you reject the Biblical view of Hell based on emotions?

I noticed this post up at Dr. Glenn Peoples’ blog.

In the post, he quotes a number of prominent Christian theologians who affirm a belief in Hell, such as Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards and Isaac Watts. He chooses these people to quote because they seem to argue that the bliss of those who enter Heaven will be enhanced by seeing the suffering of those who are in Hell. I’m not going to cite the lurid passages he does, but I did want to cite his conclusion for you to comment on.

He writes:

But modern believers in eternal torment wouldn’t endorse this, would they? Would they actually endorse a theology of hell in which we sit and watch millions of people, including our lost children and friends, actually being tortured in fire – and would they agree that we will gain happiness and pleasure from the sight?

Glenn holds to the view of annihilationism, such that the damned are annihiliated after being punished.

Now let me just state right off that I have no knowledge of whether I am going to be happy seeing the damned in Hell, that’s not in the Bible, and I have no idea what Heaven will be like.

Now let me briefly provide one or two reasons why I believe in Hell, BASED ON MY EXPERIENCES with non-Christians.

  1. Jesus talks about Hell in the Bible as a real place
  2. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God
  3. No one desires God and no one wants to be bound by a love relationship with God
  4. Each person is responsible for accepting or rejecting God
  5. People who rebel against God hold to a worldview that is irrational and unsupported by evidence
  6. I have more sympathy for God than I do for people who reject him

My view of Hell is based on my preference for the plain meaning of the Bible over my emotional desires, and my experiences dealing directly with non-Christians during evangelism. I think that annihilationists are just not willing to sit down with non-Christians and ask them why they are not ready to become a Christian. When I do that, I find that non-Christians 1) reject the moral demands of Christianity, 2) justify that selfishness by believing in speculations that make Christianity seem false, and 3) refuse to test those speculations logically or empirically.

Let me give you just one example from my undergraduate tour in university. I met a Mormon friend whom I had known in high school who just returned from his missionary service. By that time, I had discovered apologetics in earnest, so I asked him a question: how do Mormons reconcile their belief in an eternal universe with the evidence for a creation out of nothing?

He replied “we don’t determine our beliefs based on science”.

And I said, “that’s fine. Let me know if you ever get curious about what science says about God, and we can certainly talk about it”.

I keep non-Christians as friends as long as I am able to be myself, and talk about what I believe occasionally. (Although I oppose pursuing amusement and pleasure for its own sake).

Once you have enough encounters like this with atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. you begin to realize that no one wants to talk about whether God exists and what he is really like. No one is looking for an answer to their speculations against Christianity, e.g. – “who made God?”. They just want to get their degrees, get good-paying jobs, and be left alone to pursue pleasure. Some do turn to non-Christian religions and fads of their own choosing, but those are embraced as a means to increased happiness.

My non-Christian male friends are happy to spend their entire lives climbing corporate ladders, chasing women, following sports, drinking, buying geeky junk, and playing video games, etc., rather than setting aside a measly 90 minutes to watch a debate on whether God exists. I actually did a survey of non-Christians a while back, and you can read about their worldviews. Notice how there is no search for truth there. Just a desire for autonomy from any authority that might block their hedonism. It’s really quite in-your-face!

Implicit in any rejection of God is the rejection of Christ’s sacrifice of his own life in place of the life of each sinner. You don’t just walk away from a sacrifice like that. I understand that people have questions about the fairness of the requirement to explicitly confess faith in Christ in order to be reconciled with God, or the problems of evil and suffering, or religious pluralism. But we have answers to those questions. The problem is that non-Christians are not sincere in their desire to find those answers.

What do you expect God to do with such people? This is GOD we are talking about here, people. Not Santa Claus! When I hear people talking about annihilationism, it really makes me wonder whether they read the Bible at all (e.g. – Romans 1), and then bothered themselves to actually test and see if the Bible is correct about its diagnosis of human nature as inherently sinful. In my opinion, what is happening here is that Christians who reject Hell prefer their own emotional desires for the plain meaning of the Bible.

Everyone has to choose whether they sympathize with God or with people who rebel against God. And don’t dismiss me as a meany. My non-Christians friends are the only ones who know whether I treat them well. They are the ones who will have to judge for themselves whether I show love for them by what I do, regardless of my view of Hell. I trust that anyone who knows me personally will accept my apologies to them for expressing my views so harshly, but I think the Bible is clear on this.

UPDATE: Glenn has written to me to assure me that he is not taking his position for any other reason than because he thinks the Bible teaches annihilationism. So, I thought I had better add that here so no one would think ill of him. He has other material on his blog where he makes the Biblical case that I had not looked at.

Related posts

Cato Institute talks with Jay Richards about Christianity and capitalism

Did you know that the libertarian Cato Institute has a podcast? I like listening to it, even though I am not a libertarian on many issues. But I like their views on economics, government and liberty. I think that they are right on issues like school choice, consumer-driven health care, and global warming skepticism. In the episode of their podcast below, they interviewed Protestant theologian and philosopher Jay W. Richards on the relationship between Christianity and economics.

The MP3 file is here. (10 minutes)

The guy who does these podcasts is named Caleb Brown. Now, with a name like “Caleb”, I always thought that he must be some sort of Christian. Well, it turns out that he is a Quaker. And this is a shock, because Quakers are actually pretty socialistic on economic issues. But it turns out that Caleb is as concerned as I am that Christians are not more inclined towards capitalism. The fit between Christianity and capitalism is much more natural than with secular socialism.

Further study

To learn more about the relationship between Christianity and capitalism, check out this post (the second half is on capitalism).

Excerpt:

To understand what capitalism is, you can watch this lecture entitled “Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem” by Jay W. Richards, delivered at the Heritage Foundation think tank, and televised by C-SPAN2.

[…]If you can’t see the Richards video, here is an audio lecture by Jay Richards on the “Myths Christians Believe about Wealth and Poverty“. Also, why not check out this series of 4 sermons by Wayne Grudem on the relationship between Christianity and economics? (a PDF outline is here)

And you can listen to Ron Nash’s course on Christianity and economics.