Morning Report: The "Socialist" Early Church, Not Supporting Rick Perry, Washington Wealth, and "Submission"

Morning Report: The "Socialist" Early Church, Not Supporting Rick Perry, Washington Wealth, and "Submission" August 18, 2011

In the News

1.  Important pieces on “twin killings” or (more euphemistically) “reductions” — in which a twin, or two out of three triplets, are killed in the womb so that a mother can have only one child — from William Saletan and our own Nancy French.

2.  Phillip Klein at the Washington Examiner on defending — but not supporting — Rick Perry:

Hearing some of the over-the-top criticisms of Perry coming from the left, not to mention the ridiculous accusations of racism, there’s a conservative reflex kicking in to circle the wagons in his defense, even when he doesn’t deserve it. It’s tempting. The leftist freak out over Perry is so predictable and entertaining at times, that it’s hard to resist the urge. But it’s an urge that conservatives must resist nonetheless.

On many occasions, conservatives have made the mistake of thinking that anybody who drives the left crazy must be “one of us.” This mistake was particularly damaging during the Bush era, when conservatives offered only token opposition when it came to big government policies like No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug plan.

In other words, “Just because MSNBC’s Ed Schultz hates Perry, it doesn’t mean he’ll make a great president.”

3.  On the extraordinary concentration of wealth in the DC Area.  If you haven’t been a government contractor in recent years, you’ve been missing out.  Sucker.

In the Pews

1.  WAS THE EARLY CHURCH SOCIALIST? In response to a recent piece in the Washington Post claiming that early Christians observed “egalitarian socialism backed by fear of death,” see this piece from Jay Richards and this one from our own David French (and Jordan Sekulow).  The claim that the Acts 2 church lived out socialism is one of those claims that trades on an initial plausibility and our collective aversion to thinking deeply and critically.  Richards writes:

First of all, Marx viewed private property as oppressive, and had a theory of class warfare, in which the workers would revolt against the capitalists-the owners of the means of production-and forcibly take control of private property. After that, Marx thought, private property would be abolished, and the state would own the means of production on behalf of the people. There’s none of this business in the books of Acts. These Christians are selling their possessions and sharing freely.

Second, the state is nowhere in sight. No Roman centurions are breaking down doors and sending Christians to the lions (that was later). No government is confiscating property and collectivizing industry. No one is being coerced. The church in Jerusalem was just that-the church, not the state. The church doesn’t act like the modern communist state.

His third and fourth points are that the Jerusalem church is never made the norm for all Christians everywhere, and indeed that other churches in other places clearly had different arrangements.  The arrangement in Acts 2 was a particular response of a particular people to a particular problem, and it was the church, sharing freely, without any sense of the state enforcing the ‘sharing’ or owning the means of production.  When you think the matter through, then, the notion that “the early church was socialist” rather falls apart.

Or to quote from French and Sekulow:

While the Bible is hardly an economics text, some economic and social themes do endure, and they are incompatible not just with socialism but also many aspects of the modern welfare state.

While the Bible calls us to help the poor, it is also clear that the poor must help themselves to the extent they are able. In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul warns against idleness and says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” In 1 Timothy 5, Paul also declares, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Even inclusion on the widows’ “list” (which entitled widows to receive aid from the church) was conditioned upon age and good conduct.

The requirement that the poor be industrious is also found in the one earthly government that God did explicitly create: Old Testament Israel. In the midst of comprehensive laws that govern everything from religious ritual to sexual conduct to diet comes this instruction: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.” Not only is private property recognized (“your land”) but the welfare that does exist requires the poor to actually engage in the harvest to collect the gleanings.

2.  The Pope addresses a massive gathering of Catholic youth in Madrid.

3.  Napp Nazworth asks, “Was Bachmann’s Answer on Submission Biblically Correct?”

4.  At The Gospel Coalition, Collin Hansen talks with Wheaton College President Phillip Ryken about the diminishing proportion of men at colleges:

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