The Dominion Covenant: The Foundation of Christian Economics
The Dominion Covenant: Genesis
by Gary North
The Institute for Christian Economics, P.O. Box 8000, Tyler, TX 75711, 1982.
Hardcover, Introduction, xv, 496 pp. including Bibliography, Scripture Index,
Topical Index; $15.95 ppd. from publisher.
Gary North has produced a groundbreaking and seminal work which marks a major attainment in the confrontation between Biblical Christianity and evolutionism. As North points out, it "is difficult to recommend a list of books on Christian economics, since the Christian world has neglected the whole question for three centuries." (p.445) The Dominion Covenant Genesis, is dedicated to Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, pioneers of today's creationist movement. North acknowledges that he could not have written his book without the pioneering work of Morris and Whitcomb, and he is right. Only uncompromising, bold and faithful creation belief, as we have by God's grace seen and participated in these past few years of our own generation, presents an invincible challenge to the brazen evolutionist mirage deceiving the world in the disguise of "science."
The Dominion Covenant Genesis presents the Bible, and specifically the book of Genesis, as the foundation of Christian economic thought and practice, and more, as the only world view which can stand upon its own epistemological premises, and which is consistent with reality. North shows that we live in a world marked by "cosmic personalism" because it is created by the word and sustained by the moment-by-moment providence of the God of the Bible Who is a Person. The importance of the inescapable personalism and theocentrism of our world for all human action, and in particular for academic disciplines dealing with the social relationships of people the social sciences and humanities has been part and parcel of the research and published material of our own organization, the Creation Social Science & Humanities Society, from its inception. An enormous amount of North's discussions and conclusions can be paralleled by similar discussions and conclusions in CSSHS publications, for example, our past research on John Dewey, Pitirim A. Sorokin, or modern pantheist mystic evolutionists. This is not surprising, for our starting point Biblical creation of man in God's image and likeness, and man's creation mandate to have dominion over the earth as God's steward - is the same as North's.
In addition to presenting an outline of Biblical creationist economics, The Dominion Covenant Genesis also strikingly demonstrates the intellectual bankruptcy of all secular economic systems, including Marxism, Keynesianism, and also the Austrian or Chicago schools of free market economics. All these systems are rooted in and shaped by the faulty, inconsistent, and epistemologically unfounded premises of secular evolutionism, We all realize that evolutionism is the indispensable ingredient of Marxism and other state monopoly economic systems. What may come as a surprise to some is the explicit and emphatic adherence of contemporary free market champions, such as Ludwig von Mises and Frederick A. Hayek, to unabashed and unadulterated evolutionism. North takes great care to substantiate this point by lengthy and numerous quotes from leaders of both the Austrian and the Chicago schools for free market economics, including, of course, Von Mises and Hayek. An entire section of The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (Appendix B: "The Evolutionists' Defense of the Market". pp.323-356), is specifically set aside for this discussion, and it complements various other similar passages earlier in the book.
The following section is indicative of the total thrust of North's argument:
The demise of nineteenth-century Classical liberal economics was assured from the start, precisely because Darwinism really does not believe in the "survival of the fittest" and "evolution through natural selection," once man, the rational planner, appears in history.... the humanistic economists. . cannot tell us why human minds agree, or why such minds can interpret the universe, or why the universe is coherent (since it has its origins in randomness or chaos), or why there is human freedom in a deterministic universe, or why the noumenal realm of ethics (outside of the determined realm of scientific law) can determine affairs in the external, cause-determined world of matter. Yet they say they can make all kinds of statements about economic events. How can they do this? They do not say.
The Christian economist can say. He points to a sovereign God who is the Creator. He points to a record of the creation in Genesis, chapter 1. He points to man, who is made in the image of God. He points to God's assignment to man in Genesis 1:28 to subdue the earth. He points to man's ability to name the animals. All of these facts of the Genesis account provide the foundation of Christian thought in general and Christian economics in particular. The orderly creation reflects an orderly, sovereign God. Man has been made in God's image, so he can understand the external world, for which he is responsible before God as a steward. Nature and man are not chance-determined, for how can anything be determined in a chance universe? Nor are nature and man determined by a law-chained system of impersonal, freedom-denying cause and effect. God is sovereign, man is responsible, and nature is orderly. The Christian announces this in confidence. The humanistic economists deny the first assertion, so they have found no logical, universally acceptable arguments to affirm the second and third. They are intellectually defenseless. (pp.325-326)
One very interesting point made by North is that there have been two forms of rationalism in the West. Both are present in Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolutionism as well as in the economic systems founded upon them. The roots of the first form go back to the social theorists of the eighteenth century (Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and others) and postulates that human institutions gradually arise from long periods of unregulated, unplanned economic development (much like the view of evolution preceding the advent of man). The second form, going back to the French Revolution (but also perennially present in human history as Igor Shafarevich shows dramatically and thoroughly in his excellent book The Socialist Phenomenon) emphasizes central, elitist planning for a nation and ultimately for unified mankind. This second form of rationalism is represented by modern evolutionism which sees man as seizing control over evolution. "What must be understood," North writes, "is that eighteenth-century social theory influenced the development of nineteenth-century scientific evolutionary thought, not the other way around." (p.328)
North believes that socialist interventionist economic system builders are obviously more appealing to most people, chiefly because "people want to live in a 'fair' regime, in which nobody is faced with total disaster. The concept of the equitable nature of the civil government undergirds the socialists' system" (p.332). But in addition there is a great deal of internal contradiction in secular free market systems, because they are essentially utilitarian and hence beset with the insoluble problem plaguing utilitarianism in general, namely, how to measure aggregate well-being. Furthermore, if one argues, as does Hayek, that all values are evolutionary, one cannot help but fall victim to the implication of historicism, that is, that the free market economic system may be simply obsolete, and certainly cannot claim to be true or even best in the future merely because it seemed true or best in the past. (I once argued this point with a good "classical liberal" but, alas, atheist friend; he, like Hayek, had no real answer, yet would not abandon his atheism either.)
North argues on Biblical grounds that a tree market economy and free trade most closely resemble a true Biblical Christian economy. One of the book's few shortcomings is its omission of the importance of private charity to help those who are in need through no fault of their own, and its omissions of a discussion of the role of government (the courts) in punishing fraud, However, The Dominion Covenant Genesis is Volume I in a planned multi-volume economic commentary on the Bible, which doubtless will address issues now omitted or postponed.
There is an excellent discussion of evolutionist socialistic, state-monopoly economic and social planning outlined as early as 1883 by Lester F. Ward in his book Dynamic Sociology. Ward, a hard-working, self-disciplined man, worked for the U.S. Treasury, the Bureau of Statistics, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Finally he was appointed to the chair of sociology in 1906 at Brown University, and he was elected the first president of the newly formed American Sociological Association in the same year (p.297).
All tenets of modern state socialism, based upon modern social evolutionists philosophy, and rejecting both Christianity and also Social Darwinism (championed by Herbert Spencer in England, and William Graham Sumner in America), are explicitly present in Ward's Dynamic Sociology. John Dewey's notorious "progressive" educational theories, administered by the government through teachers as social change agents, is fully anticipated. Ward's proposals included state-operated businesses, elimination of "waste" inherent in competition and private enterprise, elitist administration superseding public debate in elected legislatures, elimination of profit, and population control. In only one area of life no government regulation was desired morality. Mankind, Ward said, was not innately evil but honest, and "if all the people knew what course of action was for their best interest, they would certainly pursue thai course. . The inmates of our prisons are but the victims of untoward circumstances." (p.310, quoting Ward).
North rightly calls Ward's system a "version of the dominion covenant". In his conclusion to the larger part of his book in which Ward is discussed he states: "Man cannot escape the dominion covenant. It is inherent in his being. He can only modify it." (p.318) Evolutionism, too, places upon man the exercise of dominion over this earth (and over the future course of evolution!). In the evolutionist scheme, of course, there is no superior court of appeal, and there is no standard by which to decide what counts as right or wrong, good or evil absolutely. One limit to man's dominion is the finite environment: "It means that man will face either the limits to population growth a sign of his own finitude or else the limit of time, namely, the day of judgment. Both limits thwart autonomous, evolution-directing man. Man must thereby voluntarily limit his population, meaning that some men the elite will have to pass laws limiting the population growth of the stubborn, traditional, uneducated masses." (p.318)
North also argues that men long for cosmic personalism, of which humanism's version is deified Man. (p.319) An underlying strand of thought emerging time after time in the book is that no matter how eager men may be to throw off God and His creation decrees and law for their nature, they cannot escape Him and His decree. In His image they are made, and His dominion covenant they must exercise; their rebellion will only pervert God's design to their own hurt. This is, of course, a message recurrent throughout the Bible itself, but appallingly neglected by would-be Christian teachers and preachers today.
The Dominion Covenant Genesis is full of important information; I found myself marking almost every page for future reference. A list of vital topics discussed systematically, in scholarly depth, and, most importantly, in consciously chosen conformity with Scripture, would certainly include (1) the God-designed harmony of interests between people of varying abilities and backgrounds, both individually and among nations; (2) scarcity and time as both curses and also as blessings when rightly understood and employed; (3) management of the ecology by Biblical dominion covenant principles; (4) the relationship between investment, accumulation of capital, prosperity, and character; (5) a Biblical understanding of the notions of intrinsic and imputed value, so important to economics; North beautifully begins this discussion with God's imputation of perfect value to His creation during and at the end of creation week; (6) the entrepreneurial function in a godly economy. There is a marvelous chapter on "God's week and man's week" (pp.66-78) drawing a deeply spiritual and totally applicable lesson from the fact that man was created on the sixth day of creation week, the day before God's rest. Thus the day of God's rest, the seventh day for God, was also the first full day of man's existence, implying that man must properly start out all his endeavors with rest in God. (It is a point which was also at the root of the evaluation of John Dewey's philosophy in the CSSH Quarterly.)
This emphasis upon resting in God and beginning and anchoring our Biblical dominion task on this earth in that rest brings me to the one area of North's thought which is fraught, it seems to me, with problems from the Biblical perspective. It is North's belief in a visible kingdom of God to be constructed by us on this present earth ("post-millenialism"). Already in his introduction to Dominion Covenant Genesis North names as a corollary of the false notion that there is no distinctly Christian economics (psychology, political theory, education, etc.) the false view that
there are no specifically biblical standards that we can use in constructing the kingdom of God. (Those who like to argue that there is no such thing as Christian economics also have a tendency to deny that there is now, or ever shall be, a visible kingdom of God on earth, unless Jesus Christ rules it directly by means of standards which He never revealed in the Bible, but which He will tell us about when He returns. Until He returns, we are off the hook; we have no kingdom-building guidelines or responsibilities.) The rules of the kingdom are indeterminate. In fact, the kingdom itself may be indeterminate. (xii-xiii)
In numerous other passages, North also speaks of the "future-orientedness" as an indispensable characteristic of men and women who would be good economic stewards.
Now it is true that a good steward must be aware of and wisely prepare for future needs, as shown, for instance, in the excellent stewardship qualities of the exemplary, godly woman of Proverbs 31. It is also certainly true that much of professing Christendom has been guilty of poor stewardship. However, the remedy for faulty stewardship is not belief in some future, visible, kingdom of God; it is simply neither more nor less than repentance and the exercise of godly stewardship henceforth, by God's grace.
We should see the kingdom of God as now present here on earth, within and/or among us, but not as "coming with observation." This is what our Lord Himself taught us (Luke 17:20-21), in answer to the Pharisees' question when the kingdom of God should come. Christ's answer to His apostles in Acts 1:6-7 teaches the same lesson. What we are looking forward to in the future, is not the kingdom's but our Lord's visible Coming Again as King. His kingdom, we repeat, cometh not with observation" because, as Christ also tells us, it is not of this world (John 18:36). (Compare also His words to His earthly brothers in John 7:2-8, and Matthew 6:25-34).
How can we reconcile this seeming paradox that His kingdom is within and/or among us, yet does not come with observation and is not of this world? The answer lies in precisely that which is at issue in our entire discussion: the godly exercise of our stewardship, in His Spirit and in His rest, accepting His disposal of our labors as it pleases Him (as did Job, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away blessed be the name of the Lord"), while we are waiting for the visible revelation ("Coming Again") of His Person among us (Luke 22:69; Acts 1:9-11). This is an event which will come unexpectedly, and whose exact date "no man knoweth, no, not the Son, but the Father only" (Matthew 24:36; 42-51; Mark 13:32-37, Luke 21:34-36).
It is really not a problem We are here and now "kings and priests" to our Lord (I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6), fulfilling our several callings faithfully in His sight and before men, so He might receive His own with increase at His return. This is in agreement with our Lord's parable about the pounds (Luke 19:11-27) and parallel Scripture passages.
The kingdom is His right now, and though not coming with observation, and though not being of this world, it is real it is, in fact, the only true reality. This is proclaimed triumphantly in Scripture after Scripture from the Old Testament through the New. Our Lord Omnipotent reigneth right now. Once this glorious truth is anchored in our hearts and minds by His grace, how can we not be willing and active stewards over His marvelous works and goods, even all His creation entrusted to our care?
In bestowing His grace unto stewardship upon us, He is today using our "posimillenialist" or "reconstructionist" brothers and sisters, including Gary North. No matter what our own eschatological persuasions may be, let us by all means heed their just rebukes about our neglect ot or retreat from, active, total stewardship from despising God's Dominion Covenant with us and mind their exhortations to repent and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. God forbid that it should be said of us that, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, "the trumpet no longer seriously disturbs our rest when we have murmured post-millenialist' or 'reconstructionist'."
The book's hundreds of footnotes, many of which substantially enlarge upon the text, and the outstanding, detailed and encyclopaedic bibliography are a researcher's delight and open door upon door to an inquiring, diligent reader. Through the bibliography, as well as through the listing in the footnotes of dozens of additional books serving as sources for the text, the Christian scholar intent to serve his or her Lord can acquire further knowledge not only in economics but also in many other areas.
This book is not written for the popular market but for what North calls "a remnant" people recognizing the theoretical and practical problems of secular economics, and convinced that there is such a thing as Biblical economics. This "remnant" must also have certain academic preparation and scholarly diligence; not everyone will be able, as I was (due to college semester break) to read it straight through within a few days. It is closely reasoned, and I do not believe it can be "skimmed". The style is terse and, to me, totally interesting, with many touches of humor and a certain straightforward simplicity. The documentation and quotations from other authors are more than ample; one really gets much more than just one book, one gets Ward, Hayek, Eiseley, Dobzhansky as well to name but a few. If you fit the "remnant" characteristics mentioned above, you certainly should get read, and absorb this book. It is a God-given weapon in the Christian-creationist arsenal of our time, and a tremendous addition to the storehouse of Christian-creationist knowledge and scholarship in the social sciences (and economics in particular). In the best sense of the word, The Dominion Covenant Genesis edifies builds up the Body of Christ which is the Church, at this point in time.