Biblical Creation as the Foundation of Sound Economics
(A Bibliographical Essay)
A successful young Christian business executive recently told this writer that "it is simply amazing how fundamental biblical creation is to all areas of decision-making." He was of course correct. The crucial relevance of biblical creation for the theory and practice of sound economics has been recognized in recent years by an increasing number of authors. Two important works on economics explicitly based upon biblical creation have been reviewed at length in past issues of the CSSH Quarterly. They are The Dominion Covenant Genesis by Gary North1 and WeaIth for All: Religion, Politics and War by P.E. McMaster, Jr.1 Several of these writers' key conclusions are reiterated below to lay a basis for subsequent brief discussion of additional similar works recommended for further reading.
(1) Because this is a world created by the Personal Triune God of the Bible, we live in a reality which is not impersonal but personal.
(2) All secular economic systems including Marxism, Socialism, Keynesianism, and also the Austrian and Chicago schools of free market economics led by such well-known economic conservatives as Ludwig von Mises, Frederick Hayek and Milton Friedman, are faulty because they begin with and are shaped by belief in evolution. While the free market is closest to biblically based and hence true-reality-oriented economics, it must be defended on the absolute grounds of biblical creation rather than the relativistic grounds of evolution and utilitarianism.
(3) Christian economists and entrepreneurs who truly love me God of the Bible with all their heart, mind, soul and strength understand and rejoice in the fact that "(t)he 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."3
(4) Evolutionist economic thought may lean towards unfettered competition in line with Darwinist "survival of the fittest," or towards man's control of evolutionist processes through collectivist, totalitarian, elitist planning by some men for the rest of nature including their allegedly less capable or less "right-thinking" fellow men. Historically both the brutally individualistic "social Darwinism" and the socialistic, government-interventionist "reform Darwinism" of nineteenth century America were logically and plausibly deduced from Darwinian evolutionism.4
(5) The biblical creation "model" or 'paradigm' for economics excludes such gross ambiguity of interpretation because
The Biblical God is both the individual and the group (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, separate yet united) And, in time, the rights of the individual are balanced with the rights of the group, where each man responsibly seeks his own self-interest long-term by serving his fellow man in the free market. . just plow through the 'Great Commandment," the "Golden Rule," and the "Ten Commandments." Their correct application results in a "Win-Win-Win" situation for the individual, the group, and God.5
It cannot be overemphasized that reality as fashioned by the Creator God of the Bible demands and establishes mutual harmony and benefit among all men, whose individual, unique created identities are designed to complement each other by the exercise of their various abilities and the pursuit of each individual's true long-range interest. The existence of fraud, theft, unethical business practices and exploitation Snot, as with "survival of the fittest" evolution, an outgrowth of the "model" itself and inseparable from it, but is rather due to man's sinful rejection of God and His true created reality so man can in some manner be a god himself (Genesis 3:5).
(6) Both North and McMaster attack inflation, that is, the adulteration of honest money and true wealth by government printing press fiat money, and through vastly overexpanded credit "creation of wealth" by the banks' fractional reserve lending system. However, neither government "fiat money" nor the "multiplier" credits issued by bankers really "create" new wealth "out of nothing "(True creation out of nothing is the sovereign privilege of only One, God Himself (Inflation and traditional reserve banking credits merely "monetize" government and private indebtedness, which is not wealth but a drain upon the making and keeping of property as weal) realize in time.6 The price for human pseudo-creation of fictitious "wealth" is paid in decrease of purchasing power of our income; in soaring interest rates: finally, in impending bankruptcy when debtors default on payments of loans or interest. We now observe this ominous course of events (predictable on the basis of biblical creation in true, God-established reality!) with American monetary loans to insolvent Communist and third world countries, an international economic time bomb. McMaster also opposes the lending of capital at interest,7 an issue on which Christian commentators are divided.6
All economic thought rejecting the biblical creation perspective is utopian in principle. The serpent's question "Yea, hath God said ...?" prompting man to gamble true reality established by God's Word for an experimental, ever "evolving" environment of his own making (a utopia) initiates all secular evolutionist economic systems. They all claim to "liberate" man but instead impoverish and enslave him, bringing not "life, and life more abundantly" as does Christ (John 10:10), but death as did the father of lies in Eden. In his upbeat, racily written Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators David Chilton puts it thusly:
Christian economics begins with God the Creator What we call physical laws (such as gravity, photosynthesis and the principles of thermodynamics) are simply the outworking of God's eternal decree and continual providence. And the same is true of economic laws. You may (as one man did) write to Congress and request that our legislators repeal the law of supply and demand, but it is God's law, not subject to human control.. . If you defy God's law of gravity you will go splat, if the state defies God's law of honest money, the economy will go splat.9
Chilton successfully combats the precepts of socialism now unfortunately taught in the name of Christian charity towards the world's poor among many economically illiterate Bible-believing evangelicals. The well-known book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald J. Sider, published by InterVarsity Press in 1977, is probably the most controversial example of such socialistic teaching. Much of Chilton's discussion addresses Sider's unscriptural (often Scripture passages which Sider interprets "privately" to suit his message) and therefore unrealistic arguments. Chilton's critique always begins with Scripture and then also adduces facts of concrete, observed economic reality. The facts amply confirm that Scripture and true reality always coincide. In particular the administration of aid to the poor through government institutions rather than from person to person preached by Sider clearly contradicts God's commandment of private, voluntary sharing with the needy, and is clearly self-defeating in practice.
The basic and inescapable truth that acknowledgment and obedience of God's created law order and man's individual and social well-being go hand in hand is also often noted in the excellent glossary at the end of Chilton's book This glossary is really a mini-primer of biblical free market economics. Most definitions are straightforward enough, but occasionally Chilton's sense of humor breaks through strikingly. Here is his capsule description of "fiat money.
Fiat money comes from the biblical account of creation, when God said (in the Latin translation), "Fiat lux," which means "Let there be light." The government says, "Fiat bucks! Let there be money!" This is done by printing paper money or expanding credit beyond actual gold or silver reserves. It is a modern form of alchemy, in which the government magicians try to turn base materials into gold The government, knowing that its magic money Is really worthless, backs it with "legal tender" laws, forcing people to accept it. Fiat money is theft. See Inflation.10
On occasion his humor is excessively sardonic, as with his one-paragraph biography of John Maynard Keynes, who
was an advocate of price inflation as a remedy for unemployment. He reasoned that if there is more paper money and credit, it will be easier to employ more people even though the actual purchasing power of the money will be lower. Laborers will accept lower real wages (fewer goods and services), so employers will hire them. He figured that working people who didn't have degrees in economics wouldn't notice the difference.11
Chilton then adds, "Lord Keynes died in 1946. He has been receiving his proper wages ever since" and a tasteless remark about Keynes"s homosexual practices.12 Despite occasional lapses of this nature, Chilton's book is full of easy-to-understand, useful facts on economics in the light of Scripture, and "hardline" recommended reading for anyone confronted in his church or Christian study group with the socialistic teachings of such as Ronald J. Sider. Distrust and condemnation of material goods and property as somehow inherently evil sometimes underlies the preaching of an ascetic lifestyle as supposedly more pleasing to God or as part of sharing one's worldly possessions with the poor. John R. Richardson deals with this matter in Christian Economics: Studies in the Christian Message to the Market Place. He begins by pointing out that because God created matter and called all His creation "very good" (Genesis 1:31), matter "is to be highly regarded and appreciated" hut not to be idolized since "to God alone belongs worship,"13 "Matter " he says, "is to be used in the service of God to meet human needs. Our Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount, 'Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.' We cannot, therefore, glorify God and serve men when we renounce God's gifts."14
Richardson shows that Christ was not interested in man collectively but individually, indicating that "man's first duty is to get right as an individual before God. It is useless to talk of the salvation of society until one's individual salvation is attended to."15 He emphasizes the importance of honest work, a "purposeful activity, not a necessary evil appointed by God for our welfare."
In an important footnote Richardson stales that "(a) free market is not possible for any length of time apart from adherence to Christian principles."17 In other words, adherence to Christian principles precedes and transcends the free market economy, the corollary of the fact, emphasized by other Christian writers, that a free market economy is the only one compatible with true, God-created reality. However, this primacy and priority of adherence to Christian principles is discounted by secular free market economists reasoning on evolutionist and utilitarian grounds. Nevertheless research done by secular free market economists can be and is profitably used by Christian economic thinkers in showing the practical superiority of the free market economy over its socialist-collectivist, totalitarian rivals.
In a chapter on God's moral law as expressed in the Ten Commandments Richardson makes a good case both Scripturally and economically for rest from work on the seventh day. He shows that socialist-style government-decreed redistribution of private property through taxation is really theft, as is gambling under the eighth commandment. Other chapters address the problem of poverty, the sinfulness of waste, the godly use of money and national prosperity. This is an older but always timely and relevant book of sound Bible-based economic advice.
A more recently published discussion of economics from a mixed modern conservative; biblical perspective is Social Justice and the Christian Church by Ronald H. Nash, professor of philosophy at Western Kentucky University. This book, with a thrust like Chilton's but much more scholarly and moderate in tone, argues against socialist-collectivist redistribution of property teachings rampant today among evangelical Christians in the name of "social justice." Nash lists a number of books "that illustrate how easily Christian sentiments can be used to support collectivist policies," and which lack either competence in economics or "familiarity with the literature of responsible conservatism."18 The fuzzy notion of "social justice" itself is minutely examined and found wanting. Nash agrees with Frank Meyer, a modern conservative author who
came to see that freedom must be grounded on a Christian view of being and man. Man's essential freedom and his right to exercise that freedom are his by virtue of his creation in God's image. To be truly human, lobe most expressive of all the potential that being a carrier of the divine image implies, requires that human beings be free; they must be able to choose. When the state deprives man of his liberty, man loses an essential part of his humanness the first error of nineteenth century liberalism was its failure to ground human freedom in the nature of man's created being.19
Nash also shares Meyer's view that "freedom can only be defended in a context where men acknowledge the existence of objective and unchanging moral laws" and "absolute truth and good."20 Now "objective and unchanging moral laws, ""absolute truth," "absolute good," like the "eternal verities" lingering in the minds of many deist or non-religious adherents of the antiChristian eighteenth-century Enlightenment, must never be described by Christian believers as though they were self-existing impersonal entities in any way apart from or alongside of God Himself. As stated at the beginning of this article, because this is a world created by the Personal Triune God of the Bible we live in a reality which is not impersonal but personal in every respect. God's eternal, absolute, unchanging law, truth and goodness must be understood as inherent in Himself, His Person and character: "l am the way, the truth and the life," says Jesus Christ (John 14:6). To abstract and impersonalize them as though they were entities-in-themselves is the fault of pagan philosophy, medieval Western church scholasticism, and Christian conservatives influenced by these thought systems. To add anything whatsoever to "In the beginning God" is misleading and wrong.
Apart from possible overreliance upon Aristotle and modern secular philosophers (for example, Robert Nozick) Nash's discussion is helpful to the novice in economic theory in many respects and contains important facts on capitalism, socialism, and the "mixed economy" of America today. The chapters "The Nature of Capitalism" and "Is Capitalism Immoral?" ate particularly good. The final chapter on "Liberation Theology" is must reading. Nash responds here mainly to Ronald J. Sider's essay "An Evangelical Theology of Liberation" but also to statements by Catholic liberation theologians such as Jose Miranda (who sees Karl Marx as a "Christian Humanist") or the notorious Archbishop Dom Helder Camara of Brazil. Recommended as a gift to scholarly, undecided Christian friends who may have listened to "social justice" pleading and teaching and who are largely ignorant of basic general principles of sound economics truly in conformity with all Bible texts on the subject.
A good book written strictly from a free market economics standpoint is Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls: How Not to Fight Inflation21 by Robert Schuettinger and Eamono Butler. The authors have examined over 100 cases of wage and price controls spanning over 40 centuries in 30 countries on six continents. This book merits close reading and purchase for future reference by yourself and your family. Well referenced and with a fine selected bibliography, plus wonderful cartoon illustrations by McNeely, it is a very valuable addition to the library of anyone who would be knowledgeable about economics. Finally, Frederic Bastiat Ideas and iinfiuence by Dean Russell is a fine weapon in the free market defender's arsenal. Bastiat (1801 1850) defended free trade in France. His "broken window fallacy" alone earns him a place among good economists: it deals with the "unseen" and hence totally overlooked consequences of an event such as the breaking of a window in a bakery shop by a hoodlum which, it is true, generates business and thus income for the glazier, but which deprives the baker of money he might have used for a suit, and thus denies the tailor the income he would have received if the baker had not had to replace his broken window. In the same manner there are "unseen" losses every time someone is deprived of wealth and/or decision making by outside unlawful interference with his freedom of economic decision.
In his major work Economic Harmonies Bastiat discussed the fact of the harmony of economic interests of individuals and groups (such as employers and workers) which, of course, is part of God's creation design of reality. Bastiat also wrote in his famous pamphlet "The Law" that
We hold from God the gift that includes all others. This gift is life -physical, intellectual, and moral life. But life cannot sustain itself alone. The Creator of Life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving. developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, he has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And he has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources, Life, faculties, production in other words, individuality, liberty, property this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation and are superior to it.22
Mutual harmony and general welfare while true individual long term interest is pursued freely and honestly by each individual; an orderly, personal reality where not impersonal "forces" of random evolutionist processes but the Personal Triune God Creator rules and is worshipped and glorified by His obedient and hence truly free creatures, especially men made in His own image and likeness and restored to that likeness in Christ that is the invigorating and joyous vision of sound, biblical creation-based economics.
1 Gary North, The Dominion Covenant Genesis (The Institute for Christian Economics, P.O. Box 8000, Tyler, TX 75711,1982). Hardcover, xv, 496 pp. md. Bibliography, Scripture Index, Topical Index. Si 5.95 ppd. from publisher. Reviewed in CSSH Quarterly, Vol. V, No.1 (Fall 1982), pp.18-23.
2 R.E. McMaster, Jr, Wealth for All: Religion, Politics and War (A.N Inc., P.O. Box 67, Whitefish, Montana 59937, 1982). 305 pp. mcI. Notes and Selected Bibliography. $14.95 ppd. from publisher. Reviewed in CSSH Quarterly, Vol. V, No.3 (Spring 1983), pp.17-20.
3 North, The Dominion Covenant, pp. 325-326.
4 Ibid, p.328. Also see Ellen Myers, "Monistic Evolutionism as a Pseudo-Paradigm for Theories of Human Action," CSSH Quarterly, Vol. V, No.2 (Winter 1982), pp 14-28, especially pp. 15-16.
5 McMaster, Wealth For Alt p.27
6 Cf. Edward Coleson, "Creation and Inflation: Does the Bible Speak to Our Practical Problems?," CSSH Quarterly, Vol.11, No.4 Summer 1980), pp. 17-19.
7 McMaster, Wealth for Alt p. 17.
8 C.S. Lewis is doubtful about whether interest charging is biblically permissible. See Mere Christianity (Macmillan, New york, 19th printing 1975), p 81 R.J. Rushdoony, on the other hand, believes it is biblically correct.
See, for example, The Roots of Inflation (Ross House Books, Vallecito, CA, 1982), p.38
9 David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators (Institute for Christian Economics, P.O. Box 6116, Tyler, Texas 75711, 1981), p. 18
10 Ibid, p. 211.
11 Ibid, p. 214
13 John R. Richardson, Christian Economics: Studies in the Christian Message to the Market Place) St. Thomas Press, P.O. Box 35096, Houston, Texas 77035, 1966), p.6.
14 Ibid, p.10
15 Ibid, p.16.
18 Ronald H. Nash, Social Justice and the Christian Church (Mott Media, 100 East Huron Street, Miltord, Ml 48042), p 5.
19 Ibid, p.77.
20 Ibid, p.12.
21 Robert Scnuettinger and Eamonn Butler, Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls: How Not to Fight Inflation (Washington, D.C., The Heritage Foundation, distributed by Caroline House Publishers, Thornwood, NY, 1979) Order from Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002 at s4.95 ppd.
22 Dean Russell, Frederic Bastiat Ideas and Influence (The Foundation for Economic Education, lrvington-on-Hudson, NY 10533, 1969), p 2