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A Biblical View of Economics

Posted by Chance on April 29, 2006

A Biblical View of Economics by Kerby Anderson, Director of Probe Ministries International.

As the website states, “Probe Ministries
Probe’s mission is to present the Gospel to communities, nationally and internationally, by providing life-long opportunities to integrate faith and learning through balanced, biblically based scholarship, training people to love God by renewing their minds and equipping the Church to engage the world for Christ. “

A pretty good site from what I’ve seen. It’s a Christian site; it has some political articles, as the one I linked to here, but it has a wide variety of articles, and is hardly devoted to just politics.

This article deals with the moral issues surrounding economic systems. It takes the fallen nature of man as a given, and it focuses on the system that minimizes the sinful effects of man. As the article states

Since the Bible teaches about the effects of sinful behavior on the world, we should be concerned about any system that would concentrate economic power and thereby unleash the ravages of sinful behavior on the society. Christians, therefore, should reject state-controlled or centrally controlled economies, which would concentrate power in the hands of a few sinful individuals. Instead, we should support an economic system that would disperse that power and protect us from greed and exploitation.

I agree (no surprise), but not just with their conclusions, but with their approach. No economic system can ascribe value to mankind. We should assume that man is sinful and greedy, and look at the system that minimizes the affects. While I do not support greed, in a more socialist system, people of greed attain more money typically through government actions, such as transfer payments. In a capitalist system, people who are greedy have to attain their money by providing services to others.

The article also focuses on pure economic criticisms, which include the question of monopolies and the issue of pollution. In Anderson’s view, monopolies are the result of “too little government and too much government”, with the latter being primarily responsible of late. He believes government should take action to break up monopolies. I don’t know what to think of this currently, because I have also heard arguments that the free market naturally regulates against monopolies, but I have not done enough research in this area.

Concerning pollution, the author sums up my believes exactly.

The second criticism of capitalism is that it leads to pollution. In a capitalistic system, pollutants are considered externalities. The producer will incur costs that are external to the firm so often there is no incentive to clean up the pollution. Instead, it is dumped into areas held in common such as the air or water.

The solution in this case is governmental intervention. But I don’t believe that this should be a justification for building a massive bureaucracy. We need to find creative ways to direct self-interest so that people work towards the common good.

I agree with this view. I believe that the free market is not sufficient to regulate the environment, but the environment should be regulated within reason.

The moral critique Anderson focuses on is that of greed, which is really the kicker for many people, and the primary Christian concern regarding capitalism.

Anderson states

Because people are sinful and selfish, some are going to use the capitalist system to feed their greed. But that is not so much a criticism of capitalism as it is a realization of the human condition. The goal of capitalism is not to change people but to protect us from human sinfulness.

Capitalism is a system in which bad people can do the least harm, and good people have the freedom to do good works. Capitalism works well if you have completely moral individuals. But it also functions adequately when you have selfish and greedy people.

Anderson also differentiates between selfishness and self-interest and states “It is in our self-interest to accept Jesus Christ as our savior so that our eternal destiny will be assured.” Now, such a heavy statement takes further examination, but I’ll just through that in for now. Concerning socialism, he states

By contrast, other economic systems like socialism ignore the biblical definitions of human nature. Thus, they allow economic power to be centralized and concentrate power in the hands of a few greedy people. Those who complain of the influence major corporations have on our lives should consider the socialist alternative of how a few governmental bureaucrats control every aspect of their lives.

Anderson states very affectively what I have been trying to say. There are selfish people in a capitalist society and a socialist society, but in a capitalist society, these selfish people have the power to do less harm. In theory, I honestly like the idea of socialism, where people are provided with the basic needs, such as food, shelter, and these days, oil. But history, in my view, as shown that this does not work out as planned. Socialism assumes that all the bureaucrats in charge are moral people. Capitalism allows for greedy people in charge of major corporations, but our interactions with them are more optional.

This is a huge issue, and Anderson cannot possibly address every concern, and I certainly cannot. I think the relationship of Christianity with the proper economic system is an interesting and important topic that should continually be discussed among Christians.

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One Response to “A Biblical View of Economics”

  1. The Prophet said

    Great Post… I have to agree with you. The problem with Capitalism / Socialism is the sinful nature of man… not the system.

    That is the problem with doing away with God in a political system. Any system that negates the slant towards greed by humans will ultimately fail. Keep up the great posts!

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