Establishing the Boundaries of a Biblical Worldview

capitalism

team of architects on construciton site

It is always possible to get a rigorous debate on capitalism versus socialism from business owners. One of my first clients as a consultant in 1996 was a former union leader, now in his own business and beginning to see things were not the way he imagined.

He was the man now cutting the checks. And when he cut checks, he expected to get value for money. He resented paying workers for poor and inefficient performance.

The regular model of business, however, showing the business owner as the “owner” of the business is misleading. It misleads because it fails to address property ownership in its broader context.

If you look at ancient Israel, land was determined for the twelve tribes, then every 50 years, the year of Jubilee returned the land to the original family.

But land is not the only asset of ownership. A person “owns” his labor and the skills he has acquired. People ought to be permitted — and encouraged — to manage their assets in the same way land owners can manage their land.

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How To Change An Empire

statue of julius caesar augustus in rome

When Constantine opened the door to pluralism in religious belief in the Empire through his “Edict of Milan,” his goal was unification of the Empire. Before him, Diocletian had tried persecution as a unification process, but in his retirement, observed it’s failure.

Meanwhile, Christianity expanded throughout the Empire. Christian belief came out of the closet, helped by the agreement of both Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian Christians “that it was the duty of a bishop to act as the high priest of his city.”[1] Christianity already had a tenuous relationship with Judaism, and once the Christians were thrown out of the synagogues for refusing to join the Bar-Kochba revolution (132-136 A.D.) the relationship was mostly downhill from thereon. It was not helped by Marcion’s view at that same time, even though his view was subsequently declared heretical.

But 300 years have passed, and it’s the midst of the fifth century. The bishops in the cities of the Empire celebrated the Eucharist at the Great Liturgy, a public rite that was designed to ensure God’s favor for the entire community. “The bishop’s relations with his city were expressed by formal ceremonies.”[2] He led his clergy through the city chanting supplications. It was a grand spectacle, a parade of the triumph of Christianity, even if the faith was mixed with error, as it was in many instances.

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Footnotes    (↵back returns to text)
  1. Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000, 2nd Edition (The Making of Europe) (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), p. 166.↵back
  2. Brown, p. 166↵back

How to Kill Enthusiasm

I wrote this ezine some time ago in a hotel room in a near-deserted region of Alberta, Canada—Fort Assiniboine. Don’t try to find the town on your map; it probably isn’t there. I went there one January—winter—with snow drifting down and found the town, despite my GPS telling me the town was 25 miles shorter than where I actually found it.  You might say I drove through and past the town in order to find it.

On this journey, however, I could not help but reflect on how God treats us and how we are to treat those with whom we work, especially those we must supervise in some capacity.

In the consulting world, I’ve met all kinds of business owners and managers. Some of them have real difficulty working with other people, because they believe that if it is to be done right, they are the best ones to do it. Delegation is almost impossible for these folk. And usually when they do delegate they don’t take sufficient time to explain what they want.  They are too impatient for this. Then it doesn’t get done right, and their response is, “I told you I’m the best person for that job.”

More than that, they now want to tell others how to do everything. But when they go this far, they have become control freaks who cannot leave staff alone for a moment.

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The erosion of man and of money goes hand in hand. As men become worthless, their economy becomes worthless also, because they are both spiritually and materially decapitalized.

The heir of such exhaustion is a totalitarian regime which climaxes the decapitalization by attacking Christianity and by issuing fiat money, purely political money. Capital is the product of work and thrift, i.e., of character of some degree, of the ability to work productively and by thrift to accumulate capital in order to increase productivity. The basic decapitalization is the decapitalization of character. It is followed by the decapitalization of material wealth. The cry of the people then is for a return to the slavery of Egypt. This return can be forestalled only by a Christian recapitalization.[1]

Footnotes    (↵back returns to text)
  1. Rousas J. Rushdoony, Politics of Guilt and Pity (Fairax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978), p. 233.↵back

When people speak of capitalism they immediately think of the profit motive — making money. But is this what the Scriptures teach?

The Scriptures certainly encourage the wise use of money and prudent management. But is this the same as the “profit motive” spoken about in contemporary capitalism?

When an entrepreneur starts a business and he experiences some success, he soon has the excuse to offer an opportunity for someone to share in the business activities. It might be a bookkeeper, a receptionist, or a salesperson.

Step back, for a moment, and consider the scene. God has blessed this individual. God has enabled this person to use use his God-ordained talents to the point where now, in order to take his God-given talents to the next level, he needs help. So he offers employment to someone. But to whom should he offer employment?

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