Capitalism or Christianity Part 2

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Opposite the Reconstructionist is the Christian Capitalist. The Christian Capitalist dispenses with all the Reconstruction nonsense about a coming day of universal prosperity and national transformation.  He is a realist instead. The entire world will not be won for Christ; in fact, most people will perish and the only universal prosperity that anyone enjoys will be the one that Christ ushers in after He has returned to destroy all the unrighteous.

Although free of the Reconstructionist constraints, the Christian Capitalist still manages to retain at least one absurdity.  He insists Capitalism is a Christian virtue.

In his book, “Ecclesiastical Megalomania” John Robbins performed an admirable job of explaining robbinswhy and how the Roman Catholic Church’s political and economic thought is destructive. However, he does a far less admirable job providing biblical proof for his assertion that capitalism is a Scriptural mandate.  Although Robbins twice reminded his readers that –

“The complete and infallible Bible, not the fallible Church; a permanent, public, written document, not fallible, living men, is the sole authority in doctrine” (pg. 18)

– he nevertheless fails to provide any evidence from Scripture to prove his assertion concerning capitalism.  Instead, he rests his entire argument upon the notion that because capitalism was the economic invention of the Reformers (an argument highly suspicious considering the fact that Zwingli detested capitalism and blamed it on many of his countrymen’s woes), and that since it proved more beneficial than Rome’s system, it must therefore biblical.

“Out of the religious liberty that is implicit in the idea of the Reformation – the end of an ecclesiastical monopoly enforced, as all genuine monopolies must be, by a system of command, coercion, and control; the liberty not to contribute to its maintenance; the liberty not to believe whatever the Roman Church-State required – flow all the liberties with which this nation, and to a lesser extent Europe, Canada, and the Pacific Rim, have been blessed: constitutional government, civil rights (by which I mean the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights), and economic liberties. Religious liberty is the mother of all liberties; it is deliberately listed first in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights; and historically it is the fountainhead from which all other liberties have flowed.” – pg. 14

There are a number of problems with this argument, not least of which is the fact that it is an appeal to human authority. So what if the Reformation gave birth to constitutional government.  This doesn’t make constitutional government Scriptural. It only makes it reformational, and this alone proves nothing. There were a lot of things the Reformation gave birth to that are not biblical. Just because something is reformational does not necessarily mean it is biblical.

But appeals to human authority are not Robbins’ only blunder. When Robbins isn’t appealing to human authority he is washing his hands of history instead.  He assigns a definition to capitalism that is outside historical fact.

“In a purely capitalist system, government does not interfere with private property, free association, freedom of contract, or the other freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights. Its only function is the apprehension and punishment of criminals, and the protection of life and property from criminal action. In a capitalist system, government does not own or control the means of production, subsidize churches or other institutions, provide or pay for education, retirement benefits, health insurance, recreation, or any of the other innumerable goods and services provided by governments at the end of the twentieth century.” – pg. 49

I quote from my previous essay. Capitalism produces a great number of abuses. Consider the Chicago meat packing industry of the 10’s and 20’s. Consider the coal mining industry in the South. Consider American slavery, the mass murder of America’s indigenous peoples, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, the Civil War, the Vietnam War. Consider the recent Wall Street banking bail outs, the Savings and Loan scandal, the housing scandal, and the list goes on and on.

Barcode-PrisonCapitalism has put young women in sweatshops, back-broken fathers in bread lines, and children behind industrial machines. It creates vast disparages between economic classes. It steals islands away from the people who live there. It craters and spoils the land upon which people live in search of oil and coal and natural gas.

Keep in mind, this is not a revisionist, non-conformist, liberal view of history either.   That is the usual accusation I get from people who respond to me on the few occasions they do respond to me.  This is not revisionist history.  I am not a liberal.  Rather, this is cold, hard, verifiable, historical fact. This is what Robbins’ capitalism has done and is doing.

Robbins can complain about the Roman Catholic system all he wants – hey, I agree with him that the Roman Catholic economic system is destructive! – but the fact that the Roman Catholic system turned families into meal worm does not mean capitalism doesn’t do the same. Roman Catholic theology gave us feudalism and the intellectual vacuum of the Dark Ages. The Reformation helped turned the intellectual lights on, but it left the economic door wide for abuse. Robbins’ ideological, zero-tolerance capitalism may have furnished a solid foundation for future titans of industry, but it also unleashed the krakens of greed too. This isn’t all that ironic when we consider the way the Reformers treated certain people they didn’t agree with. Anabaptists, anyone? This doesn’t mean Rome’s economic system is good. It means Robbins’ system is no better.

Robbins argues that because capitalism was the economic invention of the Reformers, and because it proved more beneficial than Rome’s system, it is therefore biblical. But how does this prove capitalism biblical? The lesser of two evils does not make the lesser evil good!

I am waiting for someone to prove to me just where in the New Testament capitalism is mandated by God. So far, all I have managed to find are people who either philosophize themselves into a corner, or who give me that tired old false dichotomy that if I’m not a Protestant capitalist then I must be a Roman communist. This seems, in fact, to be Robbins’ argument.

At one point Robbins argues that one of the curses of Rome’s system is that it concentrates wealth into the hands of a few. Excuse me, but doesn’t capitalism do the same?! Not everyone can own the company, after all. Well-paid CEO, John Smith will always need a force of poorly paid Tom, Dick and Harry’s to pack cheap bottles into cheap boxes. And who did Robbins think was greasing Washington while the Wall Street banks were robbing grandma and grandpa blind of their pittance of an investment?

I am not arguing that Capitalism isn’t better than Communism, or Marxism, Fascism, or any other ism. What I am arguing is that Capitalism is no more biblically mandated than Communism. The economy of God’s kingdom consists of justice and righteousness rather than sweat equity and cash. The Bible doesn’t favor any of the world’s economic systems, and it certainly doesn’t favor one just because it happens to be better than most others.

This isn’t to say that I should not care about my financial affairs, because God’s word does instruct us to treat money a certain way no matter what economic system we find ourselves under. He who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat. Owe no man anything except a debt of love. The fool and his money are soon separated. But do I have to be a capitalist in order to obey these instructions? Of course not. Which is why it would have been nice here had Robbins been honest about capitalism. Capitalism, like Communism, like Socialism, like Fascism, has separated the wise man and his money many times over in the past, is doing so now, and will do so again. Even Solomon’s economic system, though it brought jobs and untold wealth to the land of Israel, also brought with it a heavy yoke (1 Kings 12:4). This doesn’t mean I am a fool to prefer Solomon’s system over Rehoboam’s, but it also does not mean Solomon’s economic system is a Christian mandate. Choosing between capitalism and communism is like choosing between stale bread and a rotten egg. If I must eat one of them, then I suppose I would do better to eat the stale bread. This does not mean God mandates stale bread.

Robbins does not agree though. He argues that capitalism is indeed a biblical mandate, though he fails to bill-of-rights-e-discoveryprovide a single instance from Scripture in which this is true. He appeals to the Bill of Rights instead, as though the Bill of Rights were God’s infallible word. But I have to ask, what is so biblical about the Bill of Rights?

Where in the New Testament does the Spirit mandate the rule of the people by guaranteeing them the right to oppose human government by violent means?

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:27-28

“You have heard that it was said, “And eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” – Matthew 5:38-41

Where in the New Testament does the Spirit mandate the rule of the people by guaranteeing them the right to operate a free press?

“And why not do evil that good may come? – as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” – Romans 3:8

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” – Matthew 10:16-18

Where in the New Testament is there guarantee of the rule of the people by judicial means?

“To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud – even your own brothers!” – 1 Corinthians 6:7-8

By democratic means?

“Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” – Romans 13:5-7

“If the world hates you, now that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19

By economic means?

“And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” – Luke 6:34-36

“for I have learned in whatever I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:13-18

“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” – Hebrews 13:5

Someone show me where in the New Testament I can find the Bill of Rights. I keep asking, because no one has yet answered. Every time I search the Scriptures all I keep finding is the economy of God’s justice and righteousness rather than the Bill of Rights. It doesn’t appear that God’s economy gives a fig about the United States’ Bill of Rights.

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About David Bishop

Gospel of Grace Church http://www.gospeldefense.com/about.html
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11 Responses to Capitalism or Christianity Part 2

  1. Tom says:

    Capitalism is founded on usury. Usury is the basic principle of its operation. The greatest apologists for capitalism, such as Mises and Rothbard recognize this, and do their utmost to present usury as a moral practice. But the Bible says that it isn’t. That should settle it for Christians. Unfortunately it does not.

    • libertyblogger101 says:

      I don’t see what usury being a moral practice really has to do with Rothbard’s theory in particular. I’m not a Rothbardian expert, nor do I subscribe to every single thing he believed, but libertarian political theory says nothing about whether usury is wrong or not. The only thing it would say is that if one person chooses to charge another person interest and the other person chooses to accept the loan, government agents shouldn’t interfere with their trade. See the difference?

      I’d like to see “capitalism” defined and what David Bishop means by it. Because the way I would define capitalism would involve a free market, which would not allow for slavery at the very least.

      Communism is immoral because theft is wrong. Its really as simple as that. Theft is wrong. So the burden of proof is on statists to prove that some people are somehow magically exempt from this moral law of God. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 says that they aren’t. 1 Samuel 8:7 condemns the Israelites for wanting a human king. Matthew 25:46 says Christians are NOT supposed to be lording it over each other like the Gentiles do (there goes statist “Christians” of all stripes, from neocon to liberal.) Luke 6:31 says to treat other people the way they want to be treated, which would preclude stealing their resources to give them to other people or supporting a “government” that does so. THAT settles the issue for me. The American constitution is irrelevant.

      • Tom says:

        “I’m not a Rothbardian expert, nor do I subscribe to every single thing he believed, but libertarian political theory says nothing about whether usury is wrong or not. ”
        1. Conflating Rothbard, or even modern “libertarians” with libertarianism is problematic in a variety of ways.
        2. Rothbard and Mises both recognized that usury was essential to capitalism, to the extent that they categorized all returns on investment as interest.

        “The only thing it would say is that if one person chooses to charge another person interest and the other person chooses to accept the loan, government agents shouldn’t interfere with their trade. See the difference?”

        And I would agree with them, but looking closely at the structure of their theory, it becomes clear that interest is not a matter of free choice to them. Instead, it is the basis of their concept of “freedom”, and, as they see it, free economic calculation is impossible without it. This is a position that is fundamentally hostile to the Biblical position that charging interest is immoral. So if there is a Biblically moral freedom, then capitalism isn’t it.

        “Communism is immoral because theft is wrong. Its really as simple as that. Theft is wrong.”

        Theft is only theft when the claim of the proprietor is legitimate. Pretty much all titles in existence today are created by the state. So how can the state steal from a proprietor? Redistribution is the same mechanism as any other form of appropriation within the state.
        But when you look at the issue of property more closely, you’ll find that all property titles are founded in adverse possession, which is what prompted Proudhon to conlcude that “Property IS theft”.

  2. libertyblogger101 says:

    The problem is that Proudhon, and yourself, are not using the Biblical definition of terms. The Bible very clearly teaches private property rights and that taking away these rights by force is theft. Deal with it, or find a different religion. I’m sick of “Christians” (not necessarily you) who say God is their God in theory but then make government their god in practice.

    I’m not sure how you say property claims are “created” by the State, can you clarify?

    • David Bishop says:

      Proving once again how Bible illiterate you are, David Cooke?

      Deuteronomy 23:19 You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.

      Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.

      Proverbs 28:8 Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.

      Psalm 15:5 Who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

      Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

      Nehemiah 5:1-13 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.

    • Tom says:

      “The problem is that Proudhon, and yourself, are not using the Biblical definition of terms. The Bible very clearly teaches private property rights and that taking away these rights by force is theft.”

      Where exaclty does the Bible define “property”? It doesn’t. On the other hand, the word for theft in “Thou shalt not steal” literally means “to divert”, as Proudhon pointed out (he taught himself Hebrew in order to correct problems with a translation that his company printed). Now that idea of theft can also be understood as including certain forms of “property”. What Rothbardians and Miseans attempt to preclude from their analysis is the idea that there is such a thing as common property. Anarchists, such as myself, and classical Ricardian socialists and Georgists would say that land is an example of a naturally common property, and the Bible’s rules allowing gleaning and prohibitting the permanent sale of property are evidence that God has the same position.

  3. libertyblogger101 says:

    What the heck does this have to do with anything that I said?

    The first two verses specifically mention demanding interest of God’s people. IIRC one of the passages specifically allows for charging foreigners interest, but I’m not sure. Regardless, only God’s people are specified.

    I honestly don’t understand the Proverbs verse, its worded in a very unusual way that doesn’t seem to make sense in English.

    That said, Luke 6:35 does seem to be prohibiting expecting interest from anyone though. I’m not sure to what extent the Sermon on the Mount commands were “do this in all cases whatsoever” rather than general guidelines. Is one supposed to give a loan interest free if he cannot afford food for himself, for instance?

    The last verse is probably the strongest one for my argument of them all. Its clearly describing an oppressive tax system (which progressives seem to love so much) and it is that oppressive tax system that’s harming the poor. How in the world this is a condemnation of capitalism I’ll never understand.

    • David Bishop says:

      I never said these verses did condemn capitalism, so your question is irrelevant.

      The first two verses do indeed specifically mention demanding interest of God’s people. God founds a nation, is Himself that nation’s king, instructs the citizens of that nation not to charge each other interest, and you think the prohibition against interest is not an economic law of God’s kingdom?

      You think the last verse strongly supports your argument? This, even after the promise of punishment that Jeremiah gave? Nehemiah 5:1-13 IS THE PUNISHMENT FOR HAVING DISOBEYED THE COMMAND TO NOT CHARGE INTEREST!

  4. markmcculley says:

    The “Reformed” will keep on watering infants and once these infants get brought into “the one visible church”, they will tolerate many doctrinal differences with the confession, because they still think of the world as their church. Thus they ignore what the parable of the wheat and tares says about the field being the world and use the parable for a lack of discrimination and discernement and disciple in their “the one visible church” https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/the-church-not-our-children/

  5. markmcculley says:

    John Owen—“No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith 10:626

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/merit-spiritual-capitalism/

  6. markmcculley says:

    1, according to our needs, not our work

    2 but there can be no socialism of riches without capital

    3. grace is not the capital of the infinity and capacity of the second person of the Trinity

    4. God’s grace depends on what Christ earned after His incarnation by His death as the mediator of the new covenant for His elect

    5. which is not to say that Christ was scarce or short before the incarnation, but to say that the riches of redeeming grace were never intended for the non-elect

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/do-you-want-grace-or-justice/

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