Biblical Faith and Economics
In an earlier article,1 I argued that the modern nation-state with its emphasis on involuntary but permanent taxation, debt slavery, control of the courts, and encouragement of human sacrifice (abortion) was the establishment of a new god. This contravenes the Biblical injunction: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” the First Commandment. God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and all things in it, is to take the precedence in all matters. This is how the people He created are to acknowledge their Creator.
The essence of sin as outlined in Genesis 3:5 is for man “to know” good and evil. The Hebrew word translated in this text has the sense of “to make” or “to determine.” To know good and evil, said the tempter, was to define for yourself the categories of good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error.
Given this background, the rest of the Bible is understandable. God immediately sets out to provide His rules for right living. The Ten Commandments, with their attendant case law explanations, form the basis of the first five books of the Bible. The remainder of the Old Testament is comment upon the Israelites’ failure to obey God, setting up their own rules for life rather than following the ones God had provided on Mt. Sinai. In the language of Scripture, everyone was “doing what is right in his own eyes.”
The New Testament, reinforcing the Old Testament as it does in Matthew 5 (at the commencement of New Testament canon), can only be read and understood properly in the light of the Old Testament. The New Testament tells of the completion of God’s plan of redemption. It makes no attempt to replace the Old Testament Torah with New Testament Torah, but does continually reiterate its dependence for its authority on the Old Testament history and laws of Israel. “We do not worship man-made gods,” said the early apostles. “Our God is the One Who created all things; the One Who saved Noah from the very great flood He caused; the One Who called Abraham and his descendents to 400 years of slavery until He was ready to remove the Amorites out of the Promised Land. This same God was the One Who raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus is the One Who performed miracles; Who was, in fact, born supernaturally; and Who was indeed the Messiah promised throughout the Old Testament.”
The salvation message, argued the New Testament apostles, includes the notion of repentance. And you cannot repent, that is, stop doing the wrong thing and start doing the right thing, without first of all having the list of right things, i.e., the Ten Commandments. Without the Ten Commandments, repentance, is arbitrary or non-existent. And without repentance, there can be no salvation. For while salvation does not depend on what we do, it does, in the end include a changed life. It includes a life that no longer follows the tempter’s challenge, to know or to define the categories of right and wrong. Jesus affirmed that we know good trees by their fruit, not by their external appearance. We are told to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, because in the end a wolf will act like a wolf, even though he appears to be a sheep. And most of all, if we are truly to build our lives on solid ground, that solid ground must be obedience to the categories of right and wrong that God has provided. This is the Torah, the five books of Moses, the first five books of our Old Testament. The rest of Scripture remains a commentary based on these books, of Israel’s falling away, of Egypt’s falling way, of the falling away of all nations. Falling away being lack of obedience to the Law of God, starting with the very first premise, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
Instead, the nations of this world, past and present, have resorted to idolatry. Refusing to obey the God of the Bible in even the smallest thing, they do everything in their power to hinder the spread of God’s Word, preferring to install their own laws which determine how people should live. In Western nations such as the United States or Australia, the hostility to the Ten Commandment is concealed, though very real. And nowhere is this hostility better identified than in the economic realm. For this forms the larger part of our lives. It governs our working hours and, to an extent, our leisure hours.
The Western notion of family carries with it some of the Biblical definitions of family. The influence of Christianity on the development of the West has real implications in this matter. For example, for a very long time, it was held that a function of the family was to raise children in godly principles. Yet in the nineteenth century, an assault came on the Christian family in the form of compulsory school attendance and the establishment of the public school system.
Children, it was argued, were not the property of the parents. It was claimed they were the property of the state. The argument that children are property is an interesting prospect. If children are property, then we are in the realm of economics, arguing about who owns children. It might be that some parents think of themselves as stewards, and that God has merely “loaned” them children for a short while to be raised the way He wants them raised. Children are, in this view, the property of God, not the parents. But this is not the view of the political order today. The political realm sees itself “owning” all the children within its jurisdiction. One of the demands made, therefore, is to turn children over to state educators, or at least state-trained and -approved educators, so that children might be taught what the political order determines. There is sufficient historical evidence to show that in England, the United States, and Australia the establishment of compulsory education and public schools was a deliberate mechanism to eliminate, or at least water down, the teaching of Christianity to children.2 Parents and church schools, successfully educating children prior to this point, were unfortunately raising their children with sectarian biases, Protestant versus Catholic, High Church versus Low Church. The authorities set out to abolish this.
The do-gooders who claimed religious neutrality suppressed their real religious hostility, not to religion in general, but to Christianity in particular. From a Biblical perspective, the claim that the state owns the child is a false claim. It is a claim to ownership and control that is not granted by God. But it is an effective claim that helps destroy the application of the Christian Faith to the family.
Hence, it can be seen that the claim to property of any kind is an economic claim that must be tested in the light of Scripture. The political order may claim ownership of all children under its jurisdiction; but if God grants ownership, the state is a thief. Those who argue that the state is the true owner of children are thieves along with the politicians who are ready to accept the claim.
Humanism’s Nanny State
It is easy to recognize, therefore, that economics is at the heart of the modern political order. It takes children within its borders under its wing and pretends to be their real parent. Similarly, it takes all consumers under its wing and claims to be their protector from all kinds of real and imagined evils. Adults in the modern nation state are deemed to be incapable of managing their own lives. They need “protection.” They don’t educate properly, even with the help of the church, so the political order will step in to solve the problem. Consumers don’t know the best age for children to be in school, but the political order has solved this with the establishment of compulsory education laws.
Similarly, consumers who do not know what is best for their children are also incapable of knowing what is best for themselves. The protective political order, however, will solve the problem. Legislative act after legislative act treat consumers as little children, incapable of knowing how to act properly. Politicians — ordinary consumers until the day they are elected — somehow instantly gain a new wisdom that allows them to know what is best for everyone. They will pass new laws to make the world a better place. Better to reduce competition by preventing cheap foreign goods from entering our shores, than allowing consumers access to cheaper goods. Better to tax everyone and provide government handouts to those whose vote can be bought with taxpayers’ money.
In the midst of all this, the First Commandment stands clear: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” In other words, stop making up your own rules and live by My rules, says God. This is how we acknowledge God as Lord. Once people are willing to ignore this command, it is easy for them to ignore other commandments too. To take children from parents when God does not sanction such action is theft. “Thou shalt not steal,” declares God. But politicians steal children; they take what they are not entitled to in people, money, and goods; they destroy the value of everyone’s wealth through inflationary policies (such as fractional reserve banking); and they insist that all business owners pay various kinds of levies and taxes for the privilege of being in business.
How did we get into this mess? Life was not always like this. The Magna Carta (1215) was an affirmation of property rights that the highest political authority could not override. At one time, English courts upheld the rights of parents to educate how they liked, and also allowed educators to start private schools.3 The result was a remarkable affirmation of Biblical principles that gave England, and her offshoots such as the United States and later Australia, the same blessed privileges. A man was king in his own castle and ruled accordingly. Now, the political rules in his stead, and we have moved from a familial society to a state-centered one.
The Faith that the Bible demands begins with adherence to at least the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” This is the fulfilment of the first of the Great Commandments, to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Salvation requires repentance, and repentance means to turn from other gods, other sources of authority, and acknowledge God as the True Law-Giver. Until our gospel message embraces this point and converts to the Faith begin to implement God’s jurisdictions rather jurisdictions decreed by the political order, we cannot expect to see righteousness flow throughout the land. And this, at the end of the day, is God’s ultimate goal, the establishment of His kingly (i.e., law-giving) rule throughout the whole earth.
The curious question is why so many Christians today do not want to work to this end.
- December, 2001. See it online at http://www.chalcedon.edu.
- E. G. West, Education and the State, 2nd ed. (London, 1970); R.J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education (Nutley, 1976); A.G. Austin, Australian Education 1788-1900 (Melbourne, 1961).
- J.E.G. de Montmorency, State Intervention in English Education (Cambridge, 1902), 55ff.
Ian Hodge, AMusA, PhD, is a writer, business consultant and piano teacher. He us currently living in the USA and has recently authored Ian Hodge’s Read, Write and Play Music, a program that teaches music theory and composition to young students. See www.readwriteplay.com. He has written four books, and hundreds of essays on applied Christianity, many of them for Chalcedon. As a business consultant, he specializes in working with Christian family owned businesses, developing management systems that improve profitability. He has also worked with church boards and elders on church governance issues and leadership training.
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