Christian Economics 1

Part I: Foundational Truths
CHRIST IS LORD

Before we can talk about the “green stuff” (or the “gold stuff” for those who hold to such standards) there are a couple of foundational issues that we need to consider. Capitalism is necessarily dependent on the idea of the ‘free market’. I do not say that the ‘free market’ is dependent upon capitalism because I don’t think it is, but I’ll save that for a later discussion. The question I’d like to deal with here is: What is a ‘free market’? A common definition of a ‘free market’ might be, “an economic scenario in which buying and selling are engaged in without restriction and competition among businesses is unregulated.” If we’re all agreed about this definition then we can move on. Good? All right, let’s go.

I would be happy to sign on to this idea of a ‘free market’ if we make one stipulation; the restriction and regulation that do not exist in a ‘free market’ are governmental restrictions and regulations. There can be no market that is ultimately unrestricted and unregulated. Ultimately all democracies and all republics are under a divine monarchy, the monarchy of King Jesus. After his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). What does this authority encompass? It certainly encompasses all world governments: “Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little…” (Psalm 2:10-12). But more than this, it encompasses all our lives. Jesus is our King. He is our Lord. And we are bound to serve him. It is important for us, as Christians, to understand that there is no little area in our lives over which we can claim sovereignty. Jesus has it all. Is Jesus sovereign over how we raise our children? Of course. Is he sovereign over how we teach history, or math, or science? Naturally. Is he sovereign over how we submit to our earthly authorities? Quite. Is he sovereign over how we run our businesses? Ummm…I’ll get back to you on that one…

In the words of the great Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper, “There is not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not say, ‘Mine!’” Jesus is king of our whole lives, and this means that, yes, even in the way we run our businesses, we must answer to his ultimate authority. The biggest problem I see with most people who tout a ‘free market’ is that they see it as self-regulating. Set up a free market anywhere and it will work, just like gravity, just like the laws of thermodynamics. (Incidentally, I believe that scientific laws only work because God constantly supports them. Things fall, not of necessity, but because God wants them to. So all of scientific study must be based on the assumption of God’s faithfulness. But that is another topic.) In reality, there can be no self-regulating system, only a Christ-regulated system. Set up a free market in an atheistic society and you will get very different results from a free market set up in a Christian society. Whether the result of a free market is good or bad is dependent upon whether the free market is founded on a worldview that is in submission to Christ or a worldview in submission to sin and death. The same is true for systems of government. A monarchy in submission to Christ will be a good monarchy. A democracy in submission to Christ will be a good democracy. Monarchies and democracies not in submission to Christ will be bad monarchies and democracies. As a Christian, I am not bound to a particular economic theory or governmental theory (though I may have my preferences). I am bound to Christ and his law. There is no neutrality.

Now, the thing that makes me pause in considering the popular economic theories of our day, capitalism and communism (I include socialism under the latter category), is that both were invented by atheists. Adam Smith was most likely an atheist, though possibly a weak Deist. Karl Marx was a god-hater as well. So even though, yes, atheists can sometimes have good ideas, we need to pay special attention when an atheist seeks to tell us how we ought to live or regulate our society. If they are not for Christ, they are against him (Luke 11:23), and as Christians we must discern which of their ideas are inseparable from their wicked view of the world and which may be brought into submission to Christ.

The first foundational truth here is this: Christ is Lord of all. We are required by the gospel to submit every area of life, even economic theories, to the commands of Christ. The Bible is authoritative in every area it addresses, and it addresses everything. Later we will discuss exactly what the Bible has to say about economics. For now, let us agree that the free market is regulated by Christ, and at the last day no one will be excused from any sins committed by saying, “It’s just business. That’s the way it works.”

In my next post, I’ll discuss the doctrine of the Trinity, and how it informs our ideas of human society and individualism.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Which is why Anarchy (via Jacques Ellul) is far more likely the Christian position.

Maybe.

David Hoffer
Rick said…
I had to look him up. What have you read by him? Any recommendations?
Anonymous said…
Anarchy and Christianity is his most refreshing. I found myself nodding alot.

Money and Power is another good one...