Tag Archives: Religious Right

What North Korea teaches Christians about the importance of politics and economics

Christian apologist Frank Turek writes about it at Townhall.

Excerpt:

When I hear Christians saying we ought not get involved in politics but just “preach the Gospel,” I show them this satellite picture of the Korean peninsula. Here we see a homogenous population of mostly Koreans separated by a well-fortified border. South Korea is full of freedom, food and productivity—it’s one of the most Christianized countries in the world. North Korea is a concentration camp. They have no freedom, no food, and very little Christianity.

What’s the primary reason for the stark difference between these two countries? Politics. The South politically allows freedom, while the North does not.

Ironically, Christians who shun politics to supposedly advance the Gospel are actually allowing others to stop the Gospel. How so? Because politics and law affects one’s ability to preach the Gospel! If you think otherwise, visit some of the countries I have visited—Iran, Saudi Arabia and China. You cannot legally “preach the Gospel” in those countries—or practice other aspects of your religion freely—because politically they’ve ruled it out as they have in North Korea.

In fact, politics affects virtually every area of your life through the laws made by government. So if you care about your family, business, church, school, children, money, property, home, security, healthcare, safety, freedom, and your ability to “preach the Gospel,” then you should care about politics.

Politics affects everything, which is why leaders throughout the Bible—including Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Esther, John the Baptist, and Paul— “went political” to influence civil governments to govern morally. Even Jesus himself got involved in politics when he publically chastised the Pharisees—the religious and political leaders of Israel—for neglecting “the more important matters of the law.”

[…]But what can Christians do? After all, we can’t legislate morality, can we? News flash: All laws legislate morality! Morality is about right and wrong and all laws declare one behavior right and the opposite behavior wrong. So the question is not whether we can legislate morality, but “Whose morality will we legislate?”

[…]When we fail to legislate morally, others impose immorality. For example, totalitarian political correctness is already imposed in states such as Massachusetts where the implications of same-sex marriage override the religious liberties of businesses, charities and even parents. As documented here and illustrated here, same sex marriage prevents you from running your business, educating your children, or practicing your religion in accord with your Conscience. And soon, as is the case in Canada, you may not be able to merely speak Biblically about homosexual behavior. That is because those who say they are fighting for “tolerance” are often the most intolerant.

Unless Christians begin to influence politics and the culture more significantly, we will continue to lose the very freedoms that enable us to live according to our beliefs and spread the Gospel all over the world. That’s why you should not vote for candidates because of their race or religion, but because they will govern morally on the more important matters of the law—life, marriage and religious freedom.

Dr. Turek says that some societies make it easier for us to carry out our responsibilities as Christians, such as evangelism. That’s true. But I want to make a different point from Dr. Turek related to the point that he made.

I get a lot of e-mails from people complaining that I spend too much time on fiscal issues, and especially on foreign policy. But I really think that Christians need to branch out and read widely about these issues, too. The more we know about everything, the better we will be able to connect what the Bible says to every area, and the smarter we will be at laying out plans for our lives and achieving the good goals we set for ourselves as part of our relationship with God.

It’s always better to know how things work. What good is it to say that you want to achieve some aim like helping the poor or making the world more peaceful unless you first study economics and foreign policy so that you will know how to achieve it? Many people try to achieve these goals by embracing policies that sound good, but they actually achieve the exact opposite ends that you set out to achieve.  If you want to drive a car to get somewhere, you must first learn how to drive a car. Why should faith be any different than anything else? Don’t take positions based on feelings or peer pressure, get informed and make a right judgment.

A Jewish rabbi explains what the Bible teaches about capitalism

A Jewish rabbi explains what the Bible says about economics, in the Wall Street Journal. (H/T Tom)

Excerpt:

More than any other nation, the United States was founded on broad themes of morality rooted in a specific religious perspective. We call this the Judeo-Christian ethos, and within it resides a ringing endorsement of capitalism as a moral endeavor.

Regarding mankind, no theme is more salient in the Bible than the morality of personal responsibility, for it is through this that man cultivates the inner development leading to his own growth, good citizenship and happiness. The entitlement/welfare state is a paradigm that undermines that noble goal.

The Bible’s proclamation that “Six days shall ye work” is its recognition that on a day-to-day basis work is the engine that brings about man’s inner state of personal responsibility. Work develops the qualities of accountability and urgency, including the need for comity with others as a means for the accomplishment of tasks. With work, he becomes imbued with the knowledge that he is to be productive and that his well-being is not an entitlement. And work keeps him away from the idleness that Proverbs warns leads inevitably to actions and attitudes injurious to himself and those around him.

[…]At the opening bell, Genesis announces: “Man is created in the image of God”—in other words, like Him, with individuality and creative intelligence. Unlike animals, the human being is not only a hunter and gatherer but a creative dreamer with the potential of unlocking all the hidden treasures implanted by God in our universe. The mechanism of capitalism, as manifest through investment and reasoned speculation, helps facilitate our partnership with God by bringing to the surface that which the Almighty embedded in nature for our eventual extraction and activation.

Capitalism makes possible entrepreneurship, which is the realization of an idea birthed in human creativity. Whereas statism demands that citizens think small and bow to a top-down conformity, capitalism, as has been practiced in the U.S., maximizes human potential. It provides a home for aspiration, referred to in the Bible as “the spirit of life.”

The Bible speaks positively of payment and profit: “For why else should a man so labor but to receive reward?” Thus do laborers get paid wages for their hours of work and investors receive profit for their investment and risk.

[…]Many on the religious left criticize capitalism because all do not end up monetarily equal—or, as Churchill quipped, “all equally miserable.” But the Bible’s prescription of equality means equality under the law, as in Deuteronomy’s saying that “Judges and officers . . . shall judge the people with a just judgment: Do not . . . favor one over the other.” Nowhere does the Bible refer to a utopian equality that is contrary to human nature and has never been achieved.

The motive of capitalism’s detractors is a quest for their own power and an envy of those who have more money. But envy is a cardinal sin and something that ought not to be.

God begins the Ten Commandments with “I am the Lord your God” and concludes with “Thou shalt not envy your neighbor, not for his wife, nor his house, nor for any of his holdings.” Envy is corrosive to the individual and to those societies that embrace it. Nations that throw over capitalism for socialism have made an immoral choice.

I think that Christians are sometimes attracted to socialism because they think that the only way to help the poor is by state-controlled redistribution of wealth. Socialists might have the right goal of helping the poor (I actually believe that socialism is just the happy-face on fascism, but let us be charitable), but capitalism is the right way to achieve that goal of helping the poor.

Here is an article by Jay Richards for the American Enterprise Institute.

First, his introduction:

If you’re like me, when you think of wealth and poverty, you picture its material manifestations. To have wealth, we imagine, is to have money, stocks, real estate, or valuable commodities, which, in turn, gives us the means to achieve various material ends, such as food, clothing, cars, housing, and healthcare. Poverty, in contrast, is the lack of such goods, which, in turn, leads to a lack of food, shelter, basic medical care, and other such items. These mental associations can make it hard to discover the preconditions of wealth creation, many of which are immaterial, even spiritual, rather than material.

For most of human history, discovering the sources of wealth creation would have been devilishly hard, since most economies, such as there were, tended to be static. If a Mesopotamian farmer or Greek shepherd in the second century BC ever asked, “Where does wealth come from?” he would have assumed that wealth came from rain, common labor, good luck, or some combination of these. He probably also would have assumed that to get really wealthy, you need to plunder other people.

But we now have concrete examples of cultures that have created vast new wealth, moving the majority of their citizens from poverty to relative prosperity. And when we look at these cultures retroactively, we discover answers that, for most of us, are counterintuitive. I’ve argued elsewhere that we’re able to discern ten crucial features allowing such cultures to alleviate poverty and create wealth. The more of these a culture has or does, the more likely it is to be prosperous.

The Top Ten Ways to Alleviate Poverty

  1. Establish and maintain the rule of law.
  2. Focus the jurisdiction of government primarily on maintaining the rule of law, and limit its jurisdiction over the economy and the institutions of civil society.
  3. Implement a formal property system with consistent and accessible means for securing a clear title to property one owns.
  4. Encourage economic freedom.
  5. Encourage stable families and other important private institutions which mediate between the individual and the state.
  6. Encourage belief in the truth that the universe is purposeful and makes sense.
  7. Encourage the right cultural mores.
  8. Instill a proper understanding of the nature of wealth creation and poverty.
  9. Focus on cultivating your comparative advantage rather than protecting what used to be your comparative advantage.
  10. Work hard.

There is a striking correlation between societies that exhibit these traits, or some subset of them, and the large-scale wealth creation. But notice that only one of them describes a material good. All the others are intangible, immaterial, spiritual. You can’t find economic freedom or cultural mores on a map or put them in a safe. You can’t bottle diligence or weigh the ingredients for stable families and voluntary institutions on a scale. These goods involve beliefs, social conventions, institutions, commitments, virtues, and creativity. Having listed them in brief, now I want to hold each of the ten immaterial ingredients up to the light and consider how each helps a society move from poverty to prosperity.

If someone has a spiritual or moral sickness that is preventing them from working, then the solution is not to hand them someone else’s money. That’s not going to make them happy. They need to earn their own pay and be responsible for their own independence.

Jay Richards on Christianity and Capitalism

Jay Richards actually wrote the book on Christianity and capitalism: “Money, Greed and God“.

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.

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

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.

What should Christians believe about economic policy and social justice?

The best resource I know of is this course from Dr. Ronald Nash. (H/T Apologetics 315)

Advanced Worldview Analysis
by Dr. Ronald Nash (24 Lectures) – RSS / iTunes

Here are the individual topics:

  • Lesson 1 – Introduction Play Now
  • Lesson 2 – Liberalism and Conservatism Play Now
  • Lesson 3 – Political Positions Play Now
  • Lesson 4 – Statism and Anti-statism Play Now
  • Lesson 5 – Evaluation of Statism and Anti-statism Play Now
  • Lesson 6 – Justice Play Now
  • Lesson 7 – Capitalism and Socialism Play Now
  • Lesson 8 – Interventionism Play Now
  • Lesson 9 – Defense of Capitalism Play Now
  • Lesson 10 – Economics Play Now
  • Lesson 11 – Marxism Play Now
  • Lesson 12 – Real Accounting Fraud Play Now
  • Lesson 13 – Socialism and Capitalism Play Now
  • Lesson 14 – Money and Wealth Play Now
  • Lesson 15 – Poverty Play Now
  • Lesson 16 – Liberation Theology Play Now
  • Lesson 17 – The Religious Left Play Now
  • Lesson 18 – Representatives of the Evangelical Left Play Now
  • Lesson 19 – Inflation of Rights Play Now
  • Lesson 20 – Legal Positivism Play Now
  • Lesson 21 – Environmentalism Overview Play Now
  • Lesson 22 – Types of Pollution Play Now
  • Lesson 23 – Problems with Public Education Play Now
  • Lesson 24 – A Possible Solution Play Now

This course is most wonderful thing in the world.

And if you like it, you may also like those debates with James Crossley, Richard Bauckham, Michael Bird and William Lane Craig on the historical Jesus. I have been listening to those debates non-stop and I really enjoy listening to both sides. I think it is really interesting hearing James Crossley explain his historical concerns about orthodox Christianity.