Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christian Socialism?

My article from last week, “Christian Economics,” contains this thesis: There is no such thing as voluntary socialism. Socialism is primarily about one thing: The forced redistribution of wealth. The forced redistribution of wealth is entirely unbiblical for it denies private property and equity; and ultimately, it undermines industry, which inevitably precludes compassion.

Naturally, my position did not go unchallenged. The advocates of what I shall term, Christian Socialism, came to the defense of their beloved economic system, with Bibles firmly in hand. But please be advised: Though they enjoy an abundance of Bibles they suffer from a poverty of verses. Metaphorically speaking, the Christian socialist defends his position with big guns firing big blanks. That is, there is nothing of biblical substance to Christian socialism. Thus, the Christian socialist, like the Christian atheist, is a living, breathing oxymoron. 

My challenge to the aspiring Christian socialist is simply this: Present one verse of scripture which calls for the civil government to take by force the property of one group of citizens and give it to another group. I'll take just one.

To begin, some Christian socialists challenge the idea that there is no such thing as voluntary socialism; that socialism is the forced redistribution of wealth. They argue that because America, Britain, France, and others consistently vote socialistically, socialism is therefore not involuntary nor is it about the use of force.

The simplistic implication is that when a majority votes socialistically, socialism is NOT to be equated with the forced redistribution of wealth. But this ignores the very real coercion of the minority who thinks otherwise. It also overlooks the fact that those who most want socialism are the people who will be RECEIVING the wealth which is being TAKEN--by force--from other folks. As H.L. Mencken observed, some people work for a living while others vote for a living.

By in large, tax consumers--not tax payers--vote socialistically. Thus, "social democracies" are indeed guilty of redistributing wealth by FORCE. Said another way, that group of citizens, from which the government takes wealth, must--UNDER PENALTY OF LAW--depart with its property; so that it may be given to others.

Consider this: Are taxes paid in America voluntarily? Are taxes compulsory in Europe? Once these questions are answered it becomes clear that even the Brits and the French prove my thesis correct.

Some Christian socialists deny the principle of “private ownership.” They will say things like, “God owns all things. Man owns nothing. Therefore, to speak of private ownership is to speak of that which is impossible.” Such a notion betrays a total confusion of categories. True, in relation to God, man can call nothing his own. In relation to God, not even one’s mind or one’s body is his own. Man is the Lord’s.

But we are not here speaking of private ownership in relation to God. We are dealing with private ownership in relation to other men. In relation to other men, one may biblically say: This is mine. This is not yours. To insist otherwise is to stand the word of God on its head.

Christian socialists are fond of Leviticus 19:9-10 and 25:23-28. However, such passages actually undermine their position. These scriptures, which speak of crop gleaning and buying, selling, and redeeming private property; FORBID the taking by force of private property. These verses very strongly uphold the principle of private property rights.

There is nothing socialistic in these passages. In no sense is Mosaic Law analogous to our welfare system. To insist otherwise is nothing more than contrivance. Any attempt to shoehorn God’s Law or the redemptive principle of Jubilee to fit into the modern idea of the welfare State is utterly ridiculous.

Other Christian socialists insist that Christians have a biblical duty to pay taxes which cover "the cost of government." And this is true. However, the enormous tax burden which is bankrupting and crushing America and Europe has very little to do with "the cost of government." Rather, it has to do with ENTITLEMENTS.

I do not consider welfare and entitlements to be "the cost of government." Socialist governments are simply taking by force the wealth of those who earn it and giving it to others who do not earn it. Where does God instruct the civil magistrate to do this?

The civil magistrate/government may enforce only what God ordains in His word. The authority of the State is NOT absolute, but derivative. The civil magistrate is to punish evil and reward good (Romans 13). And it is God's word which determines what is "good" and what is "evil"--not the leftist social agenda.

Nowhere in the Bible does God give the State the authority or the right to TAKE its citizens' wealth by FORCE and then give that STOLEN wealth to other citizens. There's not even a hint of this in God's word.

(And yes, taking something by force which rightfully belongs to another is theft; whether an individual does this or a corporation or a government. YOU SHALL NOT STEAL applies to all persons and entities.)

Which brings me to this: In addition to my initial challenge for the Christian socialist--to present one socialistic passage or verse--I have another. Please demonstrate, from scripture, how "YOU SHALL NOT STEAL" does not properly pertain to the civil government plundering its citizens' wealth.

The State which believes it has the authority to redistribute wealth by force is guilty of breaking the 8th Commandment of God: YOU SHALL NOT STEAL. The government which does this elevates itself above its God-given authority and thereby sets itself up as though it is absolute and autonomous and above God's Law.

When a government determines that it can usurp one's wealth and give it to others, what can prevent it from spoiling its people of everything they hold dear? If Christian socialists are correct, what recourse is left, what court of appeal exists if not God in His word?

2 comments:

  1. Good comments, Steve, but your argument contains a logical fallacy (note that I am not a Christian socialist). The state has a power called Taxation that can, indeed "TAKE its citizens' wealth by FORCE and then give that STOLEN wealth to other citizens." The powers of the state in taxation and welfare can be extreme in some situations, thus leveling the disparity between rich and poor. In a democracy, hopefully this is done by the will of the people rather than imposed by the state, but it is still a power that state possesses. Note that, if care for the poor is biblically viewed as a good thing, then the state's effort to do so, even if it is not a socialist view of enforced leveling of disparity, can also be seen as good. I prefer methods agreed to by the population rather than imposed from above, but our need to protect what is ours needs to be tempered by compassion for those who are suffering and disenfranchised.

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  2. William,
    Thank you for reading and commmenting.

    We are agreed, as stated in my article, that Christians are to pay taxes. We are disagreed as to the right of the State to take the wealth of one group of citizens and then give that wealth to others.

    Scripture--and less importantly, the U.S. Constitution--prescribes taxation for what we may call "general welfare." "General welfare" is not to be confused with the modern "welfare State" and its entitlements.

    Biblically speaking, taxes--taken from all not simply a few--should be used for things such as national defense, infrastructure, law enforcement, etc. Such things are not to be confused with entitlement programs for only a certain "class" of people.

    Care for the poor is indeed "good." However, to care for the poor by taking money--by force--from one's neighbor is "evil." The government has no independent source of income. The money it gives to some is the money it has taken from others.

    William, it is impossible to be generous with other people's money! And as has been so often observed: When one group of citizens disovers that it can vote for taxes which it does not have to pay; when it discovers that it can take what others have earned...democracy comes to a tragic end. This seems to be where America is today: vote for the candidate who promises the most things for which one does not have to pay.

    While I can appreciate the idea of "methods agreed to by the population," we must always remember that morality is not determined by majority vote. We can scarcely hope for morally good methods coming from a selfish, depraved, and unregenerate majority. For this, we must submit to God's Law.

    Thanks again, for reading and commenting.

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