Using political power to bestow benefits on the poor only encouraged the poor to expect entitlements.
The global financial crisis highlighted yet again the age-old question of government control of the economy. Can government really ‘control’ the economy and keep it in ‘balance’?
It also highlighted the changes that have gone on around the world in recent decades. China and India, for example, have become economic powerhouses, even though their economies have been centrally managed. But the significant changes in these places have not come through more government control, but with the government getting people involved in ownership in the means of production.
But the Evangelicals, convinced of the rightness of their own moral convictions, were happy to bypass the church as the agent of change and contribute to the development of state intervention.
The Russian experiment in publicly owned goods turned out to be a failure. Even after the Berlin Wall came down and the markets were liberalized, there was a period of failure, since the private economy had not established itself. The Russian leaders moved everything along with their creative bonds, given to the citizens who could then exchange them for stock ownership in companies. In other words, they made each citizen an instant capitalist to teach them the important lesson: You have to take care of yourself.
It is unfortunate that Western nations such as England lost their world economic leadership. And it is a tragedy that they lost it under the impetus of well-meaning Christians such as William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury. The Evangelical awakening following the Wesleyan revivals created a religious fervor in England of great magnitude. It promoted Christian values, and Christians saw the need to be catalysts of change. And the British parliament became the tool for righting many of the social wrongs that were evident. Whether it was slavery, children working in coal mines, or establishing a 10-hour working day, government legislation was the vehicle to usher in the new morality of the Victorian Evangelicals.
“As the power of the magistrate is not an absolute power which he is at liberty to employ as he chooses, so neither is the right of the elector an absolute right which he is at liberty to exercise as he chooses. Both the one and the other are placed under the limiting control of the Divine Law; and it is only when they are used according to this law that they are used aright.” – William Symington
I was unpacking books to put on the shelf and selecting occasional titles for a browse. Among them, Messiah the Prince by William Symington, a 19thC publication. I have #327 of the Numbered Collectors Edition that was published in 1990 by Still Waters Revival Books, Edmonton, Canada.
Now I read that book 25 years ago and forget many of the details. And that was a major mistake on my part. For in browsing, I was reminded just how relevant Symington’s study was to contemporary events.
Rowan County (KY) clerk, Kim Davis, raised the level of the discussion on biblical morality by refusing to provide a ‘marriage’ certificate to same-sex couples. The public arguments for and against her actions are widely published. She should quit her job, and not mix religion with politics. She does not have the authority to do what she is doing, so it is claimed, as Kim Davis kept saying her ‘religious convictions’ prevented her from issuing those certificates.
“A hundred years ago French atheism gave the world the Jacobin theory of political rights. The Bible had been teaching mankind for three thousand years the great doctrine of men’s moral equality before the universal Father, the great basis of all free, just, and truly republican forms of civil society. Atheism now travestied this true doctrine by her mortal heresy of the absolute equality of men, asserting that every human being is naturally and inalienably entitled to every right, power, and prerogative in civil society which is allowed to any man or any class. The Bible taught a liberty which consists in each man’s unhindered privilege of having and doing just those things, and no others, to which he is rationally and morally entitled. Jacobinism taught the liberty of license—every man’s natural right to indulge his own absolute will; and it set up this fiendish caricature as the object of sacred worship for mankind. Now, democratic Protestantism in these United States has become so ignorant, so superficial and willful, that it confounds the true republicanism with this deadly heresy of Jacobinism. It has ceased to know a difference. Hence, when the atheistic doctrine begins to bear its natural fruits of license, insubordination, communism, and anarchy, this bastard democratic Protestantism does not know how to rebuke them. It has recognized the parents; how can it consistently condemn the children?”
- Robert Lewis Dabney was a 19thC Southern Presbyterian pastor. In 1861 was Chief-of-Staff to General ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. There are four volumes of his collected writings. They are worth every penny.↵back
“The religious rights of the citizens of the United States consist in the enjoyment of his own conscientious choice, amongst all the forms of our common Christianity which were in existence at the time when the Constitution was established. This must be taken as the full limit of fair and legal presumption, as the two first chapters have sufficiently proved. Therefore I hold it preposterous to suppose that a band of Hindoos could settle in any part of our territories, and claim a right, under the Constitution, to set up the public worship of Brahma, Vishnu, or Juggernaut. Equally unconstitutional would it be for the Chinese to introduce the worship of Fo or Buddha, in California. Neither could a company of Turks assert a right to establish a Mosque for the religion of Mahomet. But there is one case, namely, that of the Jews, which forms an apparent exception, although it is in fact supported by the same principle. For, the meaning of the Constitution can only be derived from the reasonable intention of the people of the United States. Their language, religion, customs, laws, and modes of thought were all transported from the mother country; and we are bound to believe that whatever was tolerated publicly in England, was doubtless meant to be protected here. On this ground, there is no question about the constitutional right of our Jewish fellow-citizens, whose synagogues had long before been established in London. But with this single exception, I can find no right for the public exercise of any religious faith, under our great Federal Charter, which does not acknowledge the divine authority of the Christian Bible.”
John Henry Hopkins: The American Citizen: His Rights and Duties, According to the Spirit of the Constitution of the United States (New York: Pudney & Russell, 1857), p. 77 f., quoted in R.J. Rushdoony, The institutes of Biblical Law, volume one (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1973) p. 581.
From the archives. Originally published February, 1991.
Winston Smith: “I know that you will fail. There is something in the universe . . . some spirit, some principle — that you will never overcome.”
O’Brien: “What is it, this principle that will defeat us?”
Winston Smith: “I don’t know. The spirit of Man.”
O’Brien: “And do you consider yourself a man?”
Winston Smith: “Yes.”
O’Brien: “If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct: we are the inheritors.”
—George Orwell, 1984.
Critics of Keynesian economic theory have rightly centered on the many fallacies which Keynes portrayed as apparently sound economic theory. Not a great deal of attention, however, has been given to the relationship of Keynesianism and the meaning of being human.
In a general sense we can say that Keynesian theory and any concept of the freedom of the individual are at loggerheads. It is easy to see (for some of us at least) that if bureaucrats are given decision-making powers which take precedence over the decisions which individuals might make, then individual freedom has been seriously undermined.
For example, one of the great fallacies in Keynes’ argument is the concept of the circular flow of money, the idea that one person’s expenditure is another person’s income. From this Keynes concluded that there are some people in this world who deliberately create economic hardship for others by withholding expenditures. They actually have the audacity to hoard their money, thereby depriving someone else of income. (Hoarding here is used in contrast to saving. Savings is money invested and therefore still in the circular flow, whereas money hoarded is apparently taken out of the expenditure stream and hidden under the mattress, in cookie jars, buried in the back garden, or whatever it is that hoarders do with their money.)
Ethics of Hoarding
What Keynes and those after him failed to realize is that even hoarding has a positive affect on the economy. Money is an economic good and serves an economic function. An increased demand for any economic good has a tendency to lead to increased production of that good. Therefore money leaving the expenditure stream for hidden places will tend to create an increased demand for additional money to take its place. Today, money is pieces of paper printed on both sides, as well as token coinage made out of copper and zinc, and any increase in hoardings would have the following effect.
From the archives. Originally published April, 1991.
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.
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.
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. . . .
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.
Puritan preacher Richard Steele came straight to the point in the opening paragraph of his book on practical Christianity, The Religious Tradesman.
- Wordly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1986), p. 23.↵back
- 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
Ten Simple Rules for Determining the Right Political Candidate
A current dilemma in Christendom is the separation of the “religious” and “non-religious” spheres of life. It is assumed that the Bible speaks only of the former, and that as far as “secular” things go, God has very little to say. This dichotomy has its roots in Greek philosophy, with its division of life into physical and spiritual realms, rather than Scripture, which affirms the unity of God’s creation. In fact, the Biblical doctrine of creation does not allow the classification of the world into “religious” and “secular” spheres. This un-Biblical division is why much is heard of soul-saving and little concerning salvation which affects the total person, and the implications which flow from this. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should not be concerned with saving souls. But Christianity cannot be confined to this.
An example of what happens when the Platonic separation of spiritual and physical realms is accepted can be seen in a plethora of books in any Christian bookstore. One important author, the late Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, whose books and taped messages have had a world-wide influence, has unfortunately accepted the religious-secular division of reality. Thus he can write: “To me the greatest tragedy of all at the present time is that so many Christian ‘leaders,’ when they try to deal with this world situation, concentrate on what they think statesmen should do to resolve the recurring crises and to avert certain dangers. They state their opinions and give their advice. But neither they nor I are in any position to advise statesmen. That is the special task of the statesman; and the larger the number of Christian statesmen we have the better. As a Christian I have my own thoughts and ideas about such things, but they have no authority whatsoever above the thoughts of anyone else.”
Underlying these words is the clear implication that there are areas of life upon which God’s Word off ere no authoritative teaching. If the ideas of Christian statesmen have no more authority than another person’s ideas, we are in the bottomless ocean of relativism, where each opinion has equal validity and the truth or correctness of the various suggestions cannot be ascertained. On the other hand, a Christian statesman who takes his proposals and ideas for political action directly from the Bible is able to claim God’s authority over and above the thoughts of others. As the prophets of old, the Christian statesman who gleans his political programs from the pages of Scripture is able declare: “Thus saith the Lord!”
- D.M. Lloyd-Jones, God’s Ultimate Purpose: An Exposition of Ephesians One (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1978),p. 197.↵back
An address given in 1992 by Otto Scott
We are living in very strange times. Some are tempted to call them End Times, for our civilization seems to have lost the vision that was responsible for its rise to world dominance only a century ago, and seems now to have lost its direction. Some might even say that it has lost its soul.
This is odd, because other civilizations — and there are other civilizations — seem to have regained theirs. The Islamic world is rising again, thanks to the oil revenues the West has handed over to them. Islam is now arming with missiles containing nuclear warheads and the most advanced warplanes — all products of the West that the West is selling to anyone who pays the price.
China is rising. Its nuclear program is advanced, and again it is benefiting from that which the United States, Britain and France and the West in general is supplying to it. Western technology is changing the world, and is creating new and formidable powers.
In the Middle East Israel is the fourth largest nuclear power in the world. It has nuclear field weapons as well as nuclear-tipped missiles and bombs. And in terms of civilization, Israel must be numbered among the nations not simply because of its position in the Middle East, but because of its influential Diaspora around the world, which maintains cohesiveness today, as in previous centuries, beyond its territorial presence.
When we look at Islam and Israel and China we are looking at civilizations where religion remain a dominant force. One might object that China has no religion, but that would not be true. The religion of socialism has risen in this century to challenge Christianity not from the outside, but from within.
When Magna Carta laid down that no new taxes could be levied ‘without common consent of the realm’ it helped set the foundation for the current democratic system that allows 50% +1 of the voters to impose their view on the remaining 50% -1 of the people.
The modern nation-state and its method of financing, taxation, is built on a lie, that the ‘moral’ majority somehow gives legitimacy to the taxing legislation. When the monarchs established a Parliament, it was to do no more than provide a buffer between the king and the citizens to ‘protect’ his taxing power and to eventually ‘legitimize’ what he took. He took it with the consent of the parliamentarians, who of course, were supposed to represent, initially property owners, but it was eventually expanded to ‘we the people’ — everyone. When things got tough in 1688, the roles were switched. Now the monarch (or in the USA, the President) “legitimizes” the acts of Parliament or Congress by adding his (or her in the case of the British monarch) imprimatur to the legislation.
But . . .