Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

Wealth

Originally published October, 1991.

We take many things for granted. When we have a headache, we reach for the aspirin. When we’re sick we pay a visit to the doctor. When we’re hungry we go down to the supermarket and buy our food. When the car’s out of gasoline, we pull up to the bowser and “fill ‘er up.” When we wish to have a holiday, we think little of hopping into the car for a 1,000 kilometer journey, and maybe no more about jumping aboard an airplane for a favored destination. We accept these things as just being “there.” Yet it is clear that a few centuries ago, and even only a few decades ago, many of the things we take for granted were not available. Our forefathers did not take these things for granted. Why, then, is it possible for us to have this attitude about a whole range of economic goods and services that our forefathers did not enjoy?

For an understanding of this we must start in the Bible at the book of Genesis, and the very first chapter. Here we discover several things pertinent to a study of wealth.

First, it is clear that God, our Creator, is a creative Being. He works in the act of creation, and continues to work, personally governing and supervising all that occurs in His creation.
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From the archives. Originally published April, 1991.

silhouette and jigsaw puzzle

THE GULF WAR has helped revive the popular belief in conspiracies. According to conspiracy theory, there is a small number of extremely wealthy men who have determined to set up the New World Order and control the whole world through a centralized world-wide government. This could be the United Nations, a logical organization for the task, but it is not necessary to conspiracy theory for the UN to be at the center of the conspiracy.

The conspiracy theory has quite wide appeal in Christian and semi-Christian circles. This is understandable, since the conspiracy theory sits very neatly alongside premillennial and amillennial theories of Bible prophecy. Since both groups believe in the gradual (or maybe not so gradual in the case of premillennialism) triumph of evil in history, conspiracy theory has immediate attraction to those who hold such views. It reinforces the belief that evil is gaining the ascendancy.

It is not my purpose in this essay to provide a detailed analysis of conspiracy theories, but to consider the Christian response to them — a response required whether or not we believe in the truthfulness of conspiracies.

1. Sovereignty

ANY DISCUSSION OF CONSPIRACY theory is inadequate unless the basic question of sovereignty is agreed upon at the outset. The ultimate question is this: Is God in total control of this world, or is man? Can man thwart God’s plans or is God in total control at all times, bringing about in time and history His plan and purpose for the world and all His creatures?

Conspiracy theories have a long history. In Psalm 2 we are introduced to the idea of conspiracy theory and the basic premise of all conspiracies. “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2 NKJ). Ultimately, conspiracies are against the triune God of Scripture and against His Anointed One, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

While the biblical view asserts that conspiracies are against God, the modern theory tends to equate conspiracies as being against man. The New World Order is not seen as primarily against God’s law order, but as against man’s mistaken ideal of democracy. The New World Order is not democratic, it is charged. But if this is the charge against the conspirators, it does not take too much imagination to see that the same people will be against Christianity also. Christianity is not democratic, although Christianity permits the democratic process to be used. It is autocratic, or better, Theocratic or Christocratic. Christianity, too, rejects democracy, the will of the people as the voice of God. And it is not surprising that some who are against the conspiracy because of its anti-democratic attitude are hostile towards Christianity for the same reason.

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From the archives. Originally published December, 1990.

THE DECLINE of the “Protestant work ethic” has been documented by a number of authors. This ethic had its foundation — some might argue, with some justice, that this was a restoration — in the Protestant Reformation, but received special impetus from the Puritans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Leland Ryken has pointed out, though, that many have a large misconception about the Puritan view of work.

When we explore what [the Puritans] mean by that phrase, it becomes apparent how little specific content the phrase holds for most people today. . . .

[I]t comes as a shock to learn that what is called the Puritan work ethic is in many ways the opposite of what the Puritans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries actually believed about work. For the past three centuries Western civilization has been dominated by a secularized perversion of the original Puritan work ethic. . . .[1]

One cannot read the Puritans without gaining a sense of optimism for the future for those who were God’s covenant people. The Lord had done great things in the past; the social upheavals of the Reformation were immediate evidence of this. There was no reason to conclude He would not continue to do so. Work, in their thinking, was thus the means whereby the growth of Christian civilization would be continued. As such, work was a holy calling and an absolute necessity for those who claimed to be Christian. The importance of this work ethic to the Puritans cannot be underestimated. According to C.H. and K. George,

The English protestant view of vocation is arguably the most important concept in their [the English protestants — I.H.] ideology. Far more than Luther or Calvin, as befitted their relation to a more aggressive economic polity, they turned the generalized ideal of the calling into a particularized ideal of work in the world. The curious and significant fact about the enormous literature upon the calling is that the particular or work-in-the-world calling occupies the centre of English Protestant attention — so much so that the particular calling comes very close to becoming the spiritual, salvation-working calling as well as the moral, socially utilitarian vocation. In this process an ethic of work emerges unlike anything known to the West before.[2]

Puritan preacher Richard Steele came straight to the point in the opening paragraph of his book on practical Christianity, The Religious Tradesman.
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Footnotes    (↵back returns to text)
  1. Wordly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986), p. 23.↵back
  2. C.H. & K. George, The Protestant Mind of the English Reformation 1750—1640 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), in M.J. Kitch, Capitalism and the Reformation (London: Longmans), p. 12.↵back