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.
Socialism is the enemy of the people. Thus argued Ludwig von Mises in his book by that name, Socialism. It is the enemy of the people for economic and political reasons. But it is also the enemy of the people when it comes to Church Planting. And this is the view of David Garrison in his book, Church Planting Movements: How God is Reclaiming a Lost World (2004).
The Church Planting Movement (hereafter, CPM) has literally become church planting on steroids in some parts of the world. When missionary David Watson was sent to India in about 1991, he asked God to give him five converts in the first year. That prayer was honored by God and David got his five workers. From there it was all a downhill run. Or so it seems. Fifteen years later, the results were 80,000 churches with an average membership of around 64 people, and about three million baptisms. Church growth may be dead in your neck of the woods, but in other places it is alive and well on planet earth.
The CPM movement developed a number of important ‘steps’ to successful church planting. One of them, for example, was the idea that church planting was a relative failure when the teaching carried with it cultural baggage. That is, trying to plant western-style churches with stain-glass windows into a culture such as India was a commitment to failure. In the words of Garrison, “When the gospel is perceived to be alien to a culture or is viewed as belonging to another people group or culture, Church Planting Movements face an uphill battle.” David Watson explained that it was necessary for them to strip western culture out of the Gospel in order for the Gospel to do its work. And it would be the Holy Spirit in the lives of the new believers that would eventually bring cultural change in India.
Sustainable church growth must learn to find its own resources.
This article, however, is not about CPM in general, but only about socialism and its identified impact on the CPM movement.
Socialism is a term that refers to ownership of the means of production. It is different from communism in one respect. Under communism, all property is owned by the state. It is therefore controlled by the state. Under socialism, property may well be ‘owned’ by individuals and corporations, but it is still controlled by the state. But there are two aspects to socialism that cause it to fail. First, it takes the decision-making away from those who should be making decisions. Second, it can turn finances into a perpetual state of subsidy.
- Garrison, Church Planting Movements, Kindle edition, Loc. 4090.↵back
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.
How To Change An Empire
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.” 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.” 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.