Over at the Alliance of Evangelicals, Rick Phillips has a post on Social is Evil, concluding:
Capitalism does not offer salvation: only Jesus can deliver us from our sins. Socialism, on the other hand, is a manifestly evil system from which we should pray to be delivered.
Well, on the one hand, I think Margaret Thatcher was mostly right when she said, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” I do think socialism can be a problematic economic model in terms of things like creating profit motive, upward mobility, and economic growth. But on the other hand, embedding some socialist tendencies into a free market economy might actually be a Christian thing to do since helping those who are disadvantaged is something that Christians have always campaigned for. Apart from being intrinsically good, I would say that it makes practical sense too. Government welfare is meant to stop starvation, homelessness, and unrest; free education is good for economic prosperity as it creates opportunity; universal healthcare ensures that all citizens in a country receive adequate coverage for their health needs which is good for productivity; and a redistribution of wealth through things like tax credits ensures that we do not end up in serfdom.
More problematic is the claim that the Bible is anti-socialist. Those who have much giving to those who have little seems pretty darn biblical to me! The complaint that the church rather than the government should do this is a strange argument. Unless you want a theocracy, the church should not get involved in running the welfare system of a country, we elect citizens to do that, and those citizens are called Government.
Truth be told, if I was a democrat, and if I had to choose between the Clinton machine and the crazy old Jewish grandpa that is Bernie Sanders, I think I’d rather go for the crazy old Jewish grandpa, at least he’s on the side of the little guy. FYI, this is NOT a formal endorsement.
I seriously have to ask: What would Abraham Kuyper, the Theologian and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, say to Rick Phillips. I imagine something like: “Ik denk dat je niet weet waar je het over hebt.”
James Bratt in his biography of Kuyper says that evangelicals could learn from Kuyper: “Above all, he taught a critical method for measuring the socio-political agenda that one draws from the gospel, to see if it is of God. At this writing it is clearer than ever that evangelicals need more than ever to differentiate their professed Christian allegiance, and also their supposed social conservatism, from the gods of the market and of militaristic nationalism to which this group is so perpetually beholden. That is, evangelicals as well as other Americans could use a new application of Kuyperian sphere sovereignty and holistic biblical thinking.”
I’m always amazed by folks who are theological Calvinists (God’s grace reaches the undeserving) but economic pelagians (God helps those who help themselves).
There is an excellent response to Rick Phillips by Rev. David Robertson over at The Wee Flea (David is a Free Church minister in a conservative Presbyterian denomination in Scotland) called Is Socialism Satanic?
David waxes eloquently:
Mr Phillips speaks of the nightmare of living in a socialist country for those who have experienced it. Well I have. In his terms Scotland is very socialist. I like living in a country where everyone has access to clean water, good roads and good medical care – irrespective of their ability to pay. Let me tell you what the real nightmare is – having your son being taken into hospital in the US after an accident and being told by the ambulance driver, you can’t go to the hospital first with your son, you have to go home and get your insurance documents. Or having a friend being told that his mentally ill son cannot get insurance because he has ‘a pre-existing condition’, and therefore has no access to the proper treatment. Or having another friend (as right wing as you can get) telling me that in his job he has to effectively bribe doctors to stay and work in his area because they can make far more money going off to California and becoming plastic surgeons for the rich.
And the coup de grace!
I think that this ACE blog indicates something that is deeply wrong within the US church, especially the evangelical world, but apparently also the Reformed world. It is far too wedded to the politics of the prevailing culture and as such has weakened the impact of the gospel, by allowing itself to be identified with one particular political, cultural and economic system. And this gets played out in the church as well. In fact as I have been thinking about this I am going to write a Part 2 ASAP as a follow up. Meanwhile I have a simple question for the Alliance. Do you believe in total depravity, or is it only socialism that is depraved? As you have apparently decided to get involved in politics, can we look forward to future blogs on the evils of gambling on the stock market? The corruption on Wall Street? The evil of supporting a billionaire show business personality who makes his money out of gambling? And the sins of a political system where commercial companies can pay billions to politicians in order to ensure that the most favourable conditions are in place for their particular means of creating wealth for themselves? Or is it the case that you are just simply going to present one side?