Do you believe that the teachings of the Bible are for an enclosed group of like-minded Jesus followers only? Or do you think they can be applied to every area of life, including our economics and politics? Depending on how you answer that question, your brand of Christianity will either be pretty insular or quite robust.
There are those who, whether they realize it or not, adhere to what has been termed the “Two Kingdoms Doctrine” which believes faith is a private affair and politics is what goes on in public and the two shall never meet. This doctrine basically states that the realm of the state deals with civic justice while the realm of the church deals with issues of forgiveness and salvation. These two realms are now neatly divided, and whatever Christians have gone on to pray about on Sunday, very little of it carries over to the rest of the week.
We May not be Of the World but We are Still In it
But if you refuse to let a Christian worldview shape your view of government and economics, you are abandoning your voice to potential tyrants. Maybe you’ll get lucky, and some godless or idolatrous ruler will celebrate your individual worth. But a far better approach is to understand what the Bible says about these issues.
So, what should Christians think about government and economics? How does a faithful Christian live in this sinful world? Is there a more right way or a more wrong way? Can it be the case that Christianity actually has something to say about capitalism vs. communism or democracy vs. dictatorship? Can Christianity actually inform us on civil rights or human rights or even monetary supply? Or is it, again, just about sin and prayer and eternal life?
Well, if Christians don’t have or don’t think they need to have affirmative answers to the these questions, then they are leaving the playing field wide open to people who do believe they have something to say on each and every one of those topics. The difference is that they are not moderated by the love of Christ or the Law of God in their application. They are moral free agents who will often default to the vehicles of money and power. So, Christians have a choice: either we seek to have influence in these spheres or we leave it to the ambitious, morally-vapid “brights” of our day.
It All Comes Down to Our Essential Nature
Well, hopefully you are convinced to join the fray. If so, let’s build a case from the ground up. Like, most worldview issues, it is really quite simple: it all comes down to who, or what, the human person is. Are we “mere” matter or are we made in God’s image? Are we the result of a blind, purposeless process of evolution or is the human person worthy of respect and honor by virtue of us being human? In short, is a person’s value intrinsic to their nature, or is their value based more or less on either their immutable characteristics (height, race, ethnicity) or mutable ones (education, talent, and experience)?
The bedrock for all human dignity and human rights- especially the ones that all Americans are familiar with- comes from the Bible’s teaching that man is made in God’s image and thus has certain rights, like the right to life and property. (So intrinsic are these rights that some very wise men once called them “inalienable.”) Now, whatever the exact meaning of the “image of God” is – and it is a debated point – it has always meant that human beings are not mere animals. In the first five days of creation in Genesis, none of the birds of the air or fish of the sea or creeping things were made in God’s image. Only man was and only man – as we saw in the essay on marriage and family – was given the dominion mandate as a producer in God’s world.
Of course, where the Bible is not believed to be authoritative, such as in thoroughly communist cultures (like China) or humanistic ones (like much of Europe), there is no real reason to see human persons as having “inalienable rights.” If they do, it is a happy accident or an act of social plagiarism from the Christian worldview. But if the human person is not set apart in creation, then he is, at best, a worker bee in a social hive, expendable and valuable for his labor and little else.
But if a human being is more than mere nature, if he has dignity because it was conferred upon him by the Creator Himself, then he possesses an intrinsic right to exercise control over his life. He has the right to liberty because without it, he cannot have dominion and influence in his work and family and community. He has economic liberty because without the freedom to earn and spend in his best interests, he is not fully free to exercise his dominion. The commandment against theft is an explicit endorsement of private property, so there can be no question that man can rightfully claim something as “his” on this side of heaven.
In short, if man has dignity, he possesses the freedom of choice. The commandment to have dominion implies both the possession of choice and authority. Man is empowered by God to employ his control in relationship to the world. And while that isn’t a specific endorsement of, democracy or capitalism per se, a free society certainly flows from such a view of man. Such a view can be used in defense of our having the right to choose our elected leaders, our vocations, and how we steward God’s gifts.
Christianity Produces and Protects a Free Society
Now, can and have Christians survived and perhaps even thrived in less-than-ideal circumstances, in less-than-free societies? Yes! Underground churches often emerge when totalitarian states dissolve. The success of Christianity is not dependent on a free society. But a free society reflects man’s nature and can be called objectively good. The same cannot be said for any system that denies man’s nature or God’s authority. And the Gospel certainly creates the best possible world for all, even non-believers.
Corruption and vice will surely take their aim at any free society, and they are always vulnerable to fraud, cheating, theft, etc. In our own day, we have seen corporations become less sellers of products or services and more social engineers. Woke Oreos, anyone? And elective politics is clearly a dirty business, often marred by those who are ambitious enough to want to rule over others. Free societies can and will collapse within because the commitment to virtue is lacking.
But make no mistake: a free society both in terms of her politics and economics is defensible from the Christian worldview, and I would argue is a part of such a worldview. After all, if the Christian does not want freedom for his neighbor, can he really say that he loves him?
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