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Archive for the ‘biblical economics’ Category

See Part 2

Facepalmorangflipped

In my last post I had to respond to a red-herring attack concerning the meaning of the term Communism, Marxism, Socialism and their relationship to the Russian state.  In this post I will tackle Matthew 19:21 and Luke 14:33 as proof texts that the early Christians were Communists.  These two verses were offered by the same guy who I responded to in the previous post.  After quoting Matthew 19:21 and Luke 14:33 he went on to say:

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not proposing Communism, although I can certainly see the social benefits in it… Benefits clearly also seen by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. That part is clear. In fact, it’s beyond clear. It’s there in black and white. What I find utterly fascinating is the lengths you people are going to to navigate around what is written in the bible. Truly fascinating.

While our atheist friend assert that these verses are clearly Communistic, I think an interpretation of these two verses that is in harmony with the immediate context and the context of the book of Matthew and Luke as a whole will not yield support for “Communism.”

Remember our friend’s working definition of Communism hinges on “common property:”

Communism is, at its most basic, a socioeconomic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth.

Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 19:21 and Luke 14:33 and their respective context to see if “Communism” can be extrapolated from these verses.

Matthew 19:21

Matthew 19:21 states:

 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be [j]complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

In this passage did Jesus implemented “a socioeconomic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth”?  I would say that if we read this verse in context the answer is no.

First off, a closer look at Matthew 19:21 even apart from further context reveal that the verse does not support “a socioeconomic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth.”  Note the words “go and sell your possessions and give to the poor.”  When you “sell your possessions” these things are no longer yours, but now they have become someone else’s private property; that is, it is no longer something you possess in common with another.  Also, can we really say that one has given to the poor when that same individual still own what he has given?  A better verb for that would be “share,” but that does not appear in verse 21.  If Matthew 19:21 really implemented “Communism” as our friend has defined it, we expect the verse to say the following:

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be [j]complete, go and SHARE your possessions as COMMON PROPETY and SHARE OWNERSHIP with the poor, and you will have COMMON treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.

Of course, the verse doesn’t say that.

Secondly, we must dig deeper into the context: Who was Jesus addressing?  We need to know who the referent is that Jesus said these words to in order to answer the question, “Is this a norm that Jesus prescribe for all believers for all time?”  I would say it is not for everybody for all time; rather it is addressed specifically towards one individual in a unique situation.  In the context, Jesus was addressing the rich young ruler who has a problem of self-righteousness (more on that below).  Exegetically, the imperative “give” in the Greek is δος and is in the aorist tense.  I would argue that it is functioning as an ingressive aorist with the idea of a momentary or single act in view.  I think this verb ought to be taken this way in light of the fact that the verb is second person singular in form.  This is significant in that Jesus was only telling this one individual to do this even though there were other disciples around to hear Jesus (cf. vv.23-28) and he didn’t used the second person plural form of the verb.   Even after the rich young ruler left, Jesus never commanded the rest of the hearers to do the same.  If this command is really for all people in order to go to heaven which is the subject of the matter at hand, one should expect Jesus to re-issue this command for all to obey.  An interlocuter might reply by saying Peter himself confessed in verse 27 that “Behold, we have left everything and followed You,” which is an indication that Jesus has already implemented “Communism” among His disciples and this should be normative for all dispensations.  But towards the end of Jesus’ ministry He revealed that the reason why He commanded them to minister by leaving everything behind is to demonstrate that God is faithful and does provide:

35 And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”  (Luke 22:35)

This is just for a season and not something normative for all time because in the next verse Jesus reinstated the disciples’ right to bring along their private possession in ministry when He said the following:

36 And He said to them,“But now, [e]whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and[f]whoever has no sword is to sell his [g]coat and buy one.

Note that verse 36 indicate that Jesus never made the disciples give away everything since his words above indicate they still have it, although they did not have it with them when they went about ministering during those early years of ministry.  Temporarily not carrying one’ possession around for a season is not the same thing as Communism!

Thirdly, what was Jesus trying to accomplish when he said these words to the young man?  I don’t have the time to do a full exposition but if you want to see what the passage is about you can see my outline of the Marcan parallel to this periscope in Mark 10:17-31 to get an idea.

According to verse 16 a man came up to Jesus with the question, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”  Jesus’ response is recorded in verse 17-19.  When Jesus brought out the laws of God (v.18-19) the man foolishly responded, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” (v.20).  Of course, no one is perfect and sinless in keeping the law.  Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler really unmasks the self-righteousness of this man by going after his sin of being attached to his worldly possessions.  Verse 22 makes it very clear why the man left Jesus grieving: “for he was one who owned much property.”  We must not neglect the original intent of Jesus’ command for this specific situation.  Jesus is not telling everyone to go sell their possessions!

Fourthly, just because Jesus told someone in a certain specific context to forfeit every material possession does not necessarily make Jesus a Communist.  Think of a judge in a non-Communist state who fines a criminal that essentially require the state or the victim to possess everything he owns before he goes off to jail.  Does that necessarily make the judge a Communist just because in some instances the judge ordered someone to give up their property?  Of course not, because the rationale for the judge’s decision does not rest on any assumption of “a socio-economic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth.”  We can’t force the text to say that Jesus is a Communist in the same way we can’t say a judge is a Communist when he execute the task of taking away someone’s private property.  In both instances, the reason for the command to give away one’s possession has nothing to do with any socio-economic theory for the goal of achieving “common property.”

Exegetically, communism cannot be extrapolated from Matthew 19:21.

Luke 14:33

Luke 14:33 states

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

Again the question before us is this: Did Jesus in this verse implemented “a socioeconomic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth”?  I would say no for the following reasons:

First off, in order for this verse to teach communism we would expect the verse to say something about “common property.”  But the verse says nothing about that.

Secondly, note the phrase in this verse “give up all his own possessions.”  Can we really say that one has given “up all his own possessions” when he possesses it still as shared wealth?  Given that the verse does not teach shared community wealth and that shared wealth is a part of the definition of communism, I would say this verse does not teach Communism.

Thirdly, while this verse does teach that a prerequisite for being a disciples of Jesus is that one “give up all his own possessions,” it is important to ask whether Jesus here tells us to give all one’s possession into “a socioeconomic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth.”  If it does, then the passage would be practicing Communism; if it doesn’t, then obviously we cannot use Luke 14:33 as a proof text for Communism.  Again looking at Luke 14:33 there is an absence of any discussion of a group sharing common wealth.  This absence is also in the rest of the periscope (Luke 14:25-33).

Fourthly, the context strongly suggests that Luke 14:33 require a disciple to “give up all his own possessions” to JESUS and not to a community that shares common property.  Giving everything to Jesus is not Communism!  Note the context of Luke 14:25-33 is about counting the cost of the hard requirement in becoming a disciple of Jesus (“hating one’s own life,” “carrying his own cross,” etc).  All this suffering of course is for Jesus’ sake, which the context suggests very strongly given the repetition of the phrase “come after Me” twice in this passage (v.25, 27) and the repetition of “be my disciple” three times in this passage (v.26, 27, 33).  It’s in this contextual flow that when Jesus teaches a disciple “give up all his own possessions” it is to Jesus Himself and not to a communist group.

Fifthly, it does not logically follow that giving everything to Jesus means that Jesus is a Communist.  In Christian theology, it means that He is Lord over all area of one’s life!  Practically, what belongings that a Christian think he or she has in reality belongs to the Lord and we are stewards of it until we are judged for our stewardship when we appear before Him.

Sixthly, it also does not logically follow that giving everything to Jesus means that Jesus is against private property per se in order to support group common property.  In the same chapter of Luke 14 Jesus presupposes the right of private property and make no claims that private property ought to be communal.  For instance Jesus said to the Pharisees in verse 5, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?”  Note he didn’t say ” a son or an ox that you think is yours but isn’t since it belongs to the group.”  Anyone who thinks Jesus is a Communist and against private property ought to go the Greek text of Luke 14 and count how many singular genitive of possessions that appear in the Parable of the Guests (Luke 14:7-15) and the Parable of the Dinner (Luke 14:16-24).

Exegetically, communism cannot be extrapolated from Matthew 19:21.

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See Part 1

Lenin Face palm

Recall that the first post in this series was originally a comment I made on a friend’s blog responding to an nonbeliever who tries to argue that the early Christians were Communists. The same nonbeliever replied back to my friend concerning the content of my original comment/post.   Here I will only have time to respond to his first paragraph.  I have reproduced the entirety of the first paragraph below:

That doesn’t say anything. Your friend, like you, has made a colossal (although I’m starting to think quite deliberate) mistake in confusing the 20th Century Russian experiment with Communism and the Communism practiced by the Apostles of Jesus and their converts. As I have repeatedly said: Communism is, at its most basic, a socioeconomic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth. A Jewish Kibbutz is Communist. David Koresh’s Christian commune was Communist. Plato wrote about Communist societies in The Republic. Communism predates Jesus by hundreds, if not thousands of years. Just because you can’t think ”Communism” without immediately envisaging Marx is your failing, not mine.

As readers may see, the reply focuses more on the issue of the meaning of Communism rather than the exegetical issues of Acts 2-5.  Of all the things that I said that he could have interacted with he decides to focus on one sentence in which I said “I think the fact that Acts 5 still acknowledged private property does not sit well with a Marxist reading of Acts 5.”

Let’s take a closer look.

1.) “That doesn’t say anything.”

Response: This sentence is merely a wave of the hand in dismissing the actual observation of the context of the book of Acts in our first post.  Anyone can assert, “That doesn’t say anything,” but it is another thing to demonstrate it.  I wished he would have proved it contextually from within the book of Acts that what I was saying was nothing (which the guy failed to do).

2.) “Your friend, like you, has made a colossal (although I’m starting to think quite deliberate) mistake in confusing the 20th Century Russian experiment with Communism and the Communism practiced by the Apostles of Jesus and their converts.”

Response: First off, how could I make this alleged “colossal mistake” of “confusing the 20th Century Russian experiment with Communism and the Communism practiced by the Apostles of Jesus and their converts” when I didn’t even mention anything in my original comment and post about anything pertaining to “20th Century Russian” Communism?  Secondly, the only way I can see him making this fallacious reasoning is if he read into my phrase “a Marxist reading of Acts 5.”  But then he would have to err by thinking that “Marxist = 20th Century Russian experiment.”  This is incorrect since one can be a Marxist and not subscribe to the particulars of Leninism, or Stalin’s version of Communism.  Or one can be a totally non-Russian Marxist by being a Maoist, etc.  Thirdly, I did not “deliberately confused” “20th Century Russian experiment” with what the Apostles of Jesus practiced.  Again, I couldn’t have committed a deliberate confusion when I wasn’t even talking about “20th Century Russian experiment.”  I hope our guest would not flirt with the logical fallacy of appeal to motive.

3.) “As I have repeatedly said: Communism is, at its most basic, a socioeconomic system whereby a group practices common property and common wealth.”

Response: First off, what he defined as Communism technically sounds more like socialism.  I quote the Encyclopedia of Britannica:

Socialism, social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members.

Of course part of Communism include a Socialist vision.  In fact, I would say Communism is a form of Socialism.  Note the Encyclopedia of Britannica’s entry on Communism:

Communism, the political and economic doctrine that aims to replace private property and a profit-based economy with public ownership and communal control of at least the major means of production (e.g., mines, mills, and factories) and the natural resources of a society. Communism is thus a form of socialism—a higher and more advanced form, according to its advocates. Exactly how Communism differs from socialism has long been a matter of debate, but the distinction rests largely on the communists’ adherence to the revolutionary socialism of Karl Marx.

Note from the above that the distinction between Communism and Socialism “rests largely on the communists’ adherence to the revolutionary socialism of Karl Marx.”  According to the regular and common use of the term “Communism,” it is associated with the socialism of Karl Marx.  Thus our guest is incorrect when he asserts “Just because you can’t think ”Communism” without immediately envisaging Marx is your failing, not mine.”

4.) “A Jewish Kibbutz is Communist. David Koresh’s Christian commune was Communist. Plato wrote about Communist societies in The Republic.”

Response: First off, there is an incorrect definition of Communism that I have noted earlier in point 3.  Secondly, even if all those referents were Communists (in the traditional meaning of the term, or applying our guest’s incorrect usage of the term), what does that have to do with being an actual rebuttal towards the contextual argument I’ve offered that Acts 2-5 are not normative for Christians to be socialists/Communists then or now?

5.) “Communism predates Jesus by hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Response: Again, there is an incorrect definition of communism that I have noted earlier in point 3.  For argument sake, even if Communism predates Jesus what does this have to do with the contextual argument I’ve offered that Acts 2-5 are not normative for Christians to be socialists/Communists then or now?

6.) “Just because you can’t think ”Communism”without immediately envisaging Marx is your failing, not mine.

Response: I’ve pretty much answered this criticism up to this point.  I must add a reminder of the bigger picture of what is going on.  Our guest spent an entire paragraph lambasting my one sentence: “I think the fact that Acts 5 still acknowledged private property does not sit well with a Marxist reading of Acts 5.”  He apparently thinks the problem is my lack of an imagination to distinguish between Communism and Marxism but I don’t think that is the real issue at hand.  The real issue at hand is whether there is room for me to say that his interpretation is “a Marxist reading of Acts 5.”  Gregory Paul is someone who advocate a Marxist interpretation of Acts 5.  In a news opinion piece, Paul apparently thinks that Acts 5 teaches a “terror-enforced-Communism imposed by a God who thinks that Christians who fail to join the collective are worthy of death.”  Paul also comments on the relationship between Acts 2-5 and Marx: “Now folks, that’s outright socialism of the type described millennia later by Marx – who likely got the general idea from the gospels.”  Now of course I do not believe Gregory Paul’s interpretation since I’ve written a rebuttal against a Marxist interpretation of Acts 2-5.  Here I am merely noting that the Marxists interpretation is exactly the interpretation advanced by our nonbelieving friend.

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Economic Facts and Fallacies Sowell
Order on Amazon: Economic Facts and Fallacies, 2nd edition

Economist Thomas Sowell is the man. I first started reading his books back in January 2012 and this is the fourth book I read. I must say I enjoyed everyone of them! In this volume Sowell examines some of the economic myths and mantras by political pundits and debunks them with clear thinking, sound economic principles and actual statistics. In light of the sensitivity of some of the subject matter I appreciate Sowell’s tone of the book in which he bring to bear scholarship without inflammatory rhetoric. I think an economist that can write in a winsome manner (without being boring!) is a rare gift that few can pull off. Don’t expect the book to just knock on progressives—I found myself being challenged as well, especially with economic and political propositions that most people just assume is true. Especially insightful in this book is his discussion about government intervention in urban areas with affordable housing—and how ironically the more the government is involved the more it hurt the poor. There are many materials here that appear in Sowell’s The Housing Boom and Bust. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on the third world as well. Reading this book makes me realize how so little of economics must Americans grasp—and how that can be detrimental to one’s own interests and where one land in one’s opinion of government fiscal policies.

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end the fed Ron Paul

 (Order it on Amazon)

This is a book by former Congressman and Presidential candidate Ron Paul that focuses on monetary issue in the United States. And while it focuses on the specific situation in the United States Ron Paul does make the point in the book that the consequences of our bad monetary policy does have impact for the rest of the world. This book is critical of the Federal Reserve and argues that it is bad for our economy. It is not just merely an economic issue but Ron Paul argues that it is a moral issue as well. There is too much power given to the Federal Reserve with too little accountability and too much secrecy. To this day, the Federal Reserve has never been audited by the Congressional Budget Office. Some may object that the Federal Reserve does have Congressional oversight with the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board appearing before several Congressional committee; still, many questions are often not answered to Congress during these sessions. Still others might still defend the Federal Reserve as being a semi-private institution rather than a full government agency. Ron Paul argues in the book that the Federal Reserve has the worst of the Government and the Private Sector. In the end it boils down to the flawed economics of the Federal Reserve’s role end up causing the boom and bust cycle of today’s economy with messing with the supply of money. The printing of paper money and partial banking without any standard behind them is conducive to inflation. This is my first book by Ron Paul and I plan to read future works by him in the near future—he turns out to be more level headed than some of his followers I knew in college. Ron Paul does not believe that the Federal Reserve or the Government was behind 9/11, and does not unnecessarily demonize those in the Federal Reserve. I even appreciated the book sharing transcripts from Congressional hearings with different chairman of the Federal Reserve, be it Greenspan nor Bernake. The dialogue with Bernake about the housing bubble was the most interesting to me—Bernake totally didn’t see it coming despite Ron Paul’s concern. This was a year before the housing bubble burst. The book is also interesting for providing the personal background and influences driving Ron Paul—it also provides a personalize window into the connection of famous figures in the circle of Austrian School of Economics.

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Purchase: Amazon

I write this review during a time in the United States where Occupy Wall Street and protests against banks is on the front page news. In light of the attention on economics and banking, this book is one that would serve as a Christian introduction to the concept of money, and banking. I thoroughly recommend this book, since North’s argument follows and is presented clearly. Here I can only highlight a few points from the work: North makes the argument that historically money is valuable socially (and not when someone is alone on abandoned island) and not the invention of the state, since it was around even before state monopoly of money. Bringing his theology to bear, North states that the only one who can have absolute monopoly of anything is God, given our corrupt human nature and therefore government standardized money is not going to be a good thing, and has been the result of much ill (such as printing more money bills which leads to inflation that then affects the prices and quality of products, etc). North also explains in his book the difference between banking and lending to the poor with no interests, nothing that the Bible does not condemn the former (and passages even supporting it) while condemning the latter. North’s argument against the Federal Reserve is filled with interesting historical facts and paints a picture of the irrationality and danger of the system. I have always heard rumors that North was all for the gold standard backing the dollar, but I thought it was good to finally read in his own words that he was for the competition of gold, silver, dollars or yen as money and hence not an arbitrary position that gold must necessarily be the standard. This is important to note, and he even argues that one must not forget gold has no intrinstic value, though it does have historical power as currency and stable since more gold are rarely mined for given geological limitation and the costs of mining for them. Again, excellent work. I have also enjoyed his summary after every chapter, that capture each point made with a sentence. This is useful for readers to go back afterward and consult the summary without necessarily reading the whole chapter again.

OH AND YOU CAN READ THE WHOLE WORK ON PDF BY CLICKING HERE or EPUB VERSION HERE

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““You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” ” (Exodus 20:17)

[HT]

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Purchase: Amazon

I write this review in an election year (2008). There is a need for a biblical view to be expounded upon in regards to Government and welfare. Overall, I agree with the principles in this book and also its perspective of charity in the sphere of individual families and the church. There is much to be done, and he documents a bit of the failure of the state and the immorality of the state in its enterprise with Welfare. Other books could further establish this, if you wanted the argument concerning this to be more developed and documented. However, his aim is to have to a Biblical blueprint to resolve the problem. Non-theonomist and theonomists alike should read this book. The only concern for me is that at times I was extremely annoyed with some of the sloppy citation he gave of Scripture, where it does not logically support his idea. Despite this, I agree with the overall principles of this book.

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