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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 2

by Providence Crowder

Wealth is Not Evil

The Bible indicated that certain believers had been entrusted with riches (Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Job, etc.) and others had lived in poverty.  Although Christ encouraged the idea of community and admonished believers to care for the poor, He never guaranteed any man an income, poor or otherwise, nor did He rectify inequalities in material wealth (see the parable of the talents Matt. 25:14-30).  In the book of Luke, a man from the crowd asked Christ to make his brother share his wealth with him.  The man demanded, ‘“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’  But Jesus said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’  And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’” (Lk. 12:13-14). 

 Jesus observed men’s attitudes towards money and possessions, and He addressed the very condition of their heart, which Scripture taught was deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9).   Christ rebuked men, both rich and poor; those who would make money their idol, those who suffered greed, those who coveted, and those who would seek after riches instead of seeking the kingdom.  Over and over again Jesus redirected mankind away from being consumed with material possessions and the accumulation of them, because serving God and serving possessions were incompatible.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24). 

 Community not Communism

Certainly some modern Christian communities have taken to modeling after the first century church in Jerusalem, where the believers were said to have given all of their possessions and they held all things in common (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-35).  This idea of a communal church in which no property was privately owned and all things were shared equally has had some appeal for modern believers.  Yet, in the context of the early church, which suffered great persecution at the hands of the Roman government, community was all they had.  Until the rule of fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity was outlawed and Christians did not share in the wealth that is common for some Christians today.  Christians held no positions of authority, they had no political power, and they did not live peacefully among other Roman citizens, and they could in no way look to their government for any type of assistance or help. 

 Because persecution was so severe in the land, these citizens voluntarily gave all they had for their common good, so that all of their brethren may both worship God AND eat.  Consistent with the teachings in the Bible, they did what they wished with their own property.  As in Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard, the landowner proclaimed, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own things?  Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt. 20:15) These early Christians did not cling to material wealth or possessions but lived each moment not knowing if it would be their last. 

 The early church’s communal experience in Jerusalem ended as early as the first century with the scattering of the saints to other regions due to persecution (Acts 8:1).  And despite persecution, Christians preached the gospel everywhere.  They, like their Messiah, cared for the poor in spirit above all and in addressing the physical needs of a man, that man became more receptive to God’s message of salvation and redemption.  Christians were generous in giving and they served the underprivileged while sharing God’s message of love and hope to the unsaved masses.   Secular governments, on the other hand have robbed and oppressed in the name of righteousness, tyrants have abused their citizens in the name of goodwill; all under the guise of equality.

The Need for Evangelism

Many societies have felt the social and moral obligation to help those working poor who struggle to make ends meet and to provide for those who are unable to care for themselves; and rightfully so.  Still, with more people on the welfare rolls than ever before and billions of dollars being pumped into impoverished communities all over the world, poverty remains.  Resultantly, many Christian proponents of socialism have become, as Justo Gonzalez has asserted, “preoccupied with the existing social conditions” instead of focusing on Christian evangelism and discipleship.  Were the needy to know the true and living God, they would recognize that their existing social conditions are temporal and that their happiness doesn’t persist in material wealth.  Were the more fortunate to rightly know Him, their hearts and desires would be turned from self toward others, generosity would be instinctive, and they would take to the business of blessing other people.  Were people to know God through His Son Jesus, serving one another would be an inherent virtue.  However, because of the perpetual selfishness and wickedness of the ungodly, and because many in the church often fail to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) in their clamor to erect buildings instead of building people, greed, vanity, and covetousness reign above charity.

Government “Charity”

In any nation, governments do not produce wealth but merely collect and redistribute it.  In a constitutional republic such as America, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land; and under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the authority to collect taxes so that the government may properly function in its governing.  As the Apostle Paul said, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing” (Rom. 13:1, 6).  Taxes do serve their purpose and through paying them, taxpayers receive some product, good, or service from their government in exchange for their money; as well, the citizens who pay no taxes directly benefit from the public services that are provided at taxpayer expense.  Yet concerning taxpayer subsidies to the poor, no such exchange exists.  Giving in exchange for nothing in return is charity.  Christian charity is voluntary; government charity is extortion.  The term government charity is an oxymoron because the term implies choice. Outside of our biblical responsibility to those in our family and of our household, no person should be forced to pay for another person’s education, health care, or housing. 

 Joel McDurmon has noted that although, “God does require that we not let our poor neighbors languish,” the question remains, “Does He authorize the State to use force toward this end?” That answer is no.  Government should not exercise force upon its citizens unless, as Charles G. Finney has warned, “It is demanded to promote the highest public good; it is the duty of government to inflict penalties when their infliction is demanded by the public interest.” But what if a man is poor and starving?  Should the government then force its citizens to feed the poor?  The biblical answer is no.  The Bible proclaims, “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.  Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house” (Prov. 6:30-31).  And though most can empathize, stealing is wrong even in the worst instances of poverty.  Like Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. proclaimed, “It is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.”  Government is not justified in stealing from one family to feed another. 

Jay W. Richards said: 

The government functions stem from our inalienable rights.  We have a right to protect ourselves, for instance, so we can delegate that right to government.  We don’t have the right to take the property of one person and give it to another.  Therefore, we can’t rightfully delegate that function to the state.  Delegated theft is still theft . . . Using the state to redistribute wealth from one citizen to another is different from general taxation for legitimate governmental functions, such as those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.  Rather than promoting the general welfare, redistribution schemes involve a group of citizens voting to have the government take property from others and give it to them.  Rather than celebrating such schemes, Christians should be holding them to the light of moral scrutiny.

Stay tuned for Does the Bible Promote Socialism Part 3, “So How then Can Government Help?”

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Does the Bible Promote Socialism – Part 1

by Providence Crowder

Was Jesus a Socialist?

Many people question whether or not Jesus of Nazareth promoted and supported the ideas of a socialist government.  That question can be emphatically answered no.   Socialism can be defined as “an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state.  It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels” (World English Dictionary).  By this definition, Jesus can be said to espouse some socialist views, but he does so only within the confines of His Church, not secular government.  Out of love for God and fellow man, Christ taught His followers to voluntarily and charitably give of their possessions to care for and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in society; the sick, elderly, poor, widow, and orphan.

The visible church, the people of God, was to be a conduit for healing and deliverance through proclaiming the good news that Jesus Christ saves; a message of hope to a lost and dying world.  All who acknowledged and turned from their sin, received Him and placed their trust in His name (whether rich in this world or poor) would be awarded eternal life (Jn. 1:12).  Through Christ’s example, His disciples were taught that preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, the worship of God Almighty, and righteous living were to be primary focuses in this life, not accumulation of wealth or material goods.  The poor were warned not to covet (Lk. 12:13-21) or be anxious about temporal hardships (Phil. 4:6), and the rich were cautioned not to trust in uncertain riches (1 Tim. 6:17) and admonished to give generously.  Because of sin, the poor and the rich alike were both spiritually depraved and in need of salvation.  The Church was tasked to share the gospel, while showing the same concern for the needs of all people as Christ did.

The Problem with Socialism

The concept of socialism in government (government sanctioned equality of outcome) is not biblical.  Joel McDurmon said it best when he affirmed that the Bible has “never spoke a single verse in support of government involvement in charity, health, education, or business . . . Where is universal health care in the Bible?  Where is government-guaranteed minimum wage in the Bible?  Jesus accepted wages to be negotiated between workers and employers, not guaranteed by government decree.”  Jesus never proposed that any secular king or government should take on the role of provider or savior.  Government was established by God to punish evil and promote good (Rom. 13:1-5), and administer justice (1 Pt. 2:13-15).  Its function was not to make victims of its citizens by robbing and forcing charitable acts upon the most productive in society to subsidize government prioritized charity; where its citizens were forced to succumb to that government’s definition of equity and fairness concerning one’s fortune, health, and personal sustenance; where acquiring wealth was considered criminal and immoral; where a man’s worth was measured merely by earthly standards; where Christ was nowhere preached. 

Besides increasing poverty through minimizing economic growth and opportunity, socialism creates a vast social and financial imbalance by placing most societal resources in the hands of a few bureaucratic bandits and politicians who relegate individual freedoms.  These bandits, as McDurmon has noted, “redistribute wealth evenly despite an individuals’ productivity.”  Thus, socialism reduces incentive and motivation, and discourages hard work.  Scripture taught just the opposite.  Individual responsibility, owning private property, inheritance of wealth, hard work in exchange of personal reward or profit, and wise stewardship were encouraged throughout Scripture.  Laziness, idleness, and gratuitously remaining a monetary burden to others were rebuked.  All able-bodied men, poor or otherwise, were required to work (Ex. 23:11, Lev. 19:9).  The poor were encouraged to help themselves; the disciples taught that every able-bodied individual was to work and contribute toward their own livelihood.  The Apostle Paul commanded this, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:6-10).  Other biblical passages support the same. Socialism remains unbiblical even, like McDurmon said, when you use the poor to try and justify it.

Some proponents of socialism claim the advice such as the Apostle Paul gave to the Church at Corinth in His second epistle to them prove equality of outcome is a biblical principle that should be held by all.  The Apostle stated,

 “I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others.  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.   And in this I give advice . . .  by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:9-13).

 Essentially, Paul knew that all wealth belonged to the Lord, and men were mere stewards.  His advice and challenge for believers was to emulate Christ’s selflessness in giving.  People with material wealth, because of their abundance, were in a position to help the poor.  If everyone followed Christ’s example, then men’s basic needs would be met.  Jesus showed mercy to all people and He especially cared for the poor; He loved them, He rebuked them, He corrected them, He taught them, He fed them.  Believers should do the same. 

 Generosity was a principle strongly promoted throughout the Bible and the concept of giving was valued, not only so that none should lack anything, but so that money would not become their taskmaster.  Those who gave charitably were considered good stewards (1 Pet. 4:9-10).  Christian giving was always voluntary and “as each has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Cor. 9:7) unlike in socialist governments in which giving is coerced and involuntary.  Biblical charity involved choice.  God commanded men that when they gave, they were to give generously and do so without a grudging heart” (Deut. 15:10). 

Stay tuned for Does the Bible Promote Socialism Part 2, “Wealth is Not Evil.”

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Unsinking the Titanic: Repairing the Hole that is America’s Debt Dilemma – Part 3

by Providence Crowder

Suggestions, Solutions, Reflections

If we as a nation truly want to do right by our poor, we must urge our politicians to get out of salvation politics and leave the “saving” of the poor and needy of society to the faith-based communities.  A safety net of government services can be a good thing, but it profits no one if we put so much on it that it rips under the bureaucratic pressure of big government.   If our federal government truly respected American citizens, then they would stop robbing us and selling us back our own goods at a higher price!  They would end the practice of deficit spending for programs and entitlements that do more harm than help and pass a balanced budget amendment requiring the federal government to exercise responsibility and restraint concerning its outrageous spending.  All Americans are expected to live within their means; therefore, so should the government we elect. 

Seemingly, our current President, Barack Obama, has a vision for America different than the vision of the founders of the great American experiment.  They envisioned a nation of free peoples whom—unlike all the nations before her— would govern themselves and share in ruling.  American colonists became disenfranchised and disillusioned by monarchial British rule; therefore, personal liberty and limited government were central themes to the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  Many nations have since emulated the American model and have tried to duplicate America’s ingenuity and success. 

Yet President Obama envisions big government and limited liberty because he has no confidence that Americans are capable enough to make responsible choices with their money and with their lives.  He believes in a ruling class, the government.  He promotes class distinctions by demonizing the rich and demoralizing the poor.  His ideology is reminiscent of German revolutionary and socialist Karl Marx.  Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro is quoted as stating this of Marxism;

Marxism taught me what society was.  I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn’t even know where the north or south is.  If you don’t eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you’re lost in a forest, not knowing anything.[14]

 But the grand communist experiment was just a secularized attempt to establish God’s Kingdom on earth, but without the God of heaven.  Richards notes that:

Marx’s story has the main elements of the Christian story: primeval paradise, fall, redemption, eternal paradise.  It’s just stripped of reverences to God, sin, Jesus, and the afterlife.”[15]  Christ established his Church, and we are expected to be salt and light—reflecting God’s kingdom though sin and death are among us.  Yet our good works will never bring about God’s kingdom.[16]  It’s a delusion to believe that we can build a utopia if we try hard enough.[17]  This vision doesn’t take in account human sinfulness and God’s mercy.  Jesus Christ will establish his Kingdom and if we try, we will not only fail, but “do more harm than good.[18] 

I believe Marx, Castro, and Obama genuinely want a world in which the ordering of society is more fair and just.  But when we speak of building a just society, we must ask ourselves, “just compared with what?  It does no good to tear down a society that is ‘unjust’ compared with the Kingdom of God if that society is more just than any of the ones that will replace it.”[19]  Compared to God’s Kingdom, every society gets failing grades.[20] Therefore, to hate capitalism and prefer socialism or communism is not more just.  Socialism has proven to bring greater poverty and injustice among the people and “never has there been a greater gap between ideas and outcomes than in communism.”[21]  Jay Richards notes that socialists, “talk a good talk, denouncing inequality and defending the poor, and despite the nasty outcome of their experiments, they can still get a pass from those who sympathize with their ideals.”[22]  

The current administration, under the lead of President Obama, should end its love affair with socialism and end his policies of taxing and spending.  The more that the government does for its people, the more dependent the people become and less likely they are to provide for themselves.  Without the safety net of big government, out-of-wedlock pregnancies look less attractive, hard work becomes necessary to eat, saving for hard times becomes a priority, community becomes important again to care for the least in society, and the government can focus on governing and protecting our freedoms.  America is still a great nation, and with the right leadership, the ideas upon which she was founded upon will again be respected.


 [1] Jay W. Richards is an author and theologian.  He has a PhD in philosophy and a Master of Ministry.  He has written dozens of books and articles on the topics of economics, theology, and science.  He has published in academic journals all over the country and he is an editor and contributor to numerous apologetic and theological research publications.

[2] Jay W. Richards, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and Not the Problem (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009), 94.

[3] Joel McDurmon, God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2009), 43.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2010), 273-74.

[5] McDurmon, 43.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Grudem, 274.

[8] 2011 Chart Book, “Federal Spending Chart 7.”  Retrieved from http://blog.heritage.org/2011/08/21/chart-of-the-week-defense-spending-has-declined-while-entitlement-spending-has-increased/ on January 10, 2012.

[9] A baby boomer is a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom and who grew up during the period between 1946 and 1964.  Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomer

[10] John Wihbey, “2011 Annual Report by the Social Security Board of Trustees,” Retrieved from http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/politics/social-security-report-2011/.

 [11] McDurmon, 47.

[12] Richards 51.

[13] Ibid., 47.

[14] Castro, Fidel; Ramonet, Ignacio (interviewer) (2009). My Life: A Spoken Autobiography. New York: Scribner.

[15] Richards, 30.

[16] Richards, 30.

[17] Richards, 31.

[18] Richards, 30.

[19] Ibid., 31.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid., 25.

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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Unsinking the Titanic: Repairing the Hole that is America’s Debt Dilemma – Part 2

by Providence Crowder

Ethical Implications

Spending of this sort is immoral; it is sure to hurt the poor and others who are dependent upon the government for their livelihood.  America’s reckless entitlement spending has baited many American’s into dependency and has promised future payments that won’t be worth the paper they are printed on.  Even the social security program—the biggest entitlement program to date—is set to have major problems, and soon!  Started under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1930’s New Deal, the idea behind social security was admirable.  The pay-as-you-go structure of the system worked well as long as there were more people paying into the system than receiving benefits, and it has been a lifeline to many retired and disabled Americans.  The program was designed to be self-sustaining, and it was in 1935 when it was first implemented.

However, the program did not take into account factors such as population spikes, rising life expectancy, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and a smaller working-aged population in comparison to a much larger elderly population.  With the retirement of millions of baby boomers[9] on the horizon, the ratio of workers to retirees will soon shift.  Additionally, many of the young and disabled recipients of social security/disability insurance and benefits have never paid into the system, adding to the imbalanced debt to income ratio.  According to the 2011 annual report by the program’s Board of Trustees, within the next 10 years, the interest and income received from payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover expenditures to Social Security beneficiaries.[10]  

Even though working citizens are required by law to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes from their wages, they have no promise or guarantee from the government that in their elderly years, they will receive benefits.  Social Security reform should be at the top of every elected officials list.  Reform is needed to end the government’s policy of taxing the income of working citizens on the premise that they may or may not receive future payments.  It’s like the government is playing the scratch-off lottery tickets with other peoples earned income—and like the lottery, not everyone’s a winner. The federal government should, at a minimum, allow citizens the option of opting out of the current high risk government system with proof that they are allocating a comparable retirement savings elsewhere. 

Contrary to popular belief, America is not too big to fail.  However, on her current path, she is a sinking ship.  Thankfully, it’s not too late for America.  If only she would repent of her sinful monetary squandering and return to God, because only God himself can unsink the Titanic.  If the American government does not curb its appetite for spending and end its experimentations and flirtations with socialism, she will become as all the great empires before her, a celebrated chronicle of a fallen nation.  Our current president, Barack Obama, has expressed a desire to “spread the wealth around” in what I suppose is an effort to minimize the gaps between the rich and the poor, alleviating the effects of poverty.  He has pushed for increased government control over schools, banks, housing, and healthcare—to name a few.  He apparently has not heard of the disastrous results of the first socialism experiment of early European settlers in America—the Pilgrims.  Widespread poverty and starvation resulted and nearby Indians had to bail them out!

Enough with the mechanics; America’s problem is more than political, it’s moral.   America is facing a very real ethical dilemma.   I say this because not all of our spending is the result of greed and politics.  Some is the result of good intentions but bad methodology.  Well-intended people have supported policies that have had egregious, unintended consequences for American industry as a whole.  Much of our federal government entitlement and social program spending were efforts to help those in need—the poor, the indigent, the socially rejected and economically depraved.  For example, President FDR’s New Deal government programs were meant to end the Great Depression, but instead deepened and lengthened it.  Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” started in the mid-1960’s cost trillions of dollars to date and has not worked.  It has essentially turned America into a welfare state.[11]  

As a compassionate people who care about the poor, sick, and elderly, America cannot afford not to pursue entitlement reform.  Excessive entitlement spending is intricately related to other issues that adversely affect the poor, such as an unfair tax code, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and rising costs of goods and services due to inflation.  Talks of reducing entitlements sound cruel to some Americans.  Some believe that if the federal government cuts entitlement spending, the poor, disabled, single parents, women, and minority groups in this nation will suffer.  But to date, the welfare state has caused economic and social problems even worse than those it was meant to eradicate.  The unintended consequences of increased government control through massive entitlement programs are: “the breakdown of the family and illegitimacy, especially among poor and urban minorities, and white Appalachians—and creating cycles of dependency that transfer from one generation to the next.”[12]    

Besides that, welfare system abuses have exploded the number of voluntarily unemployed because welfare is generally a disincentive to work.  It has caused anger and class warfare, and a poverty trap that is difficult to escape.  It has caused despair, hopelessness, and envy.   Long-term dependency upon welfare is degrading and has adversely affected poor black and white communities all around the country.  In black American homes, illegitimate children, poverty, and illiteracy rates are greater today than they were in the 1920’s when racism was rampant and blacks faced harsh discrimination and vast societal disparities.[13]   The harsh reality is, though federal spending has skyrocketed over the past few decades as a result of entitlement spending, we have zilch to show for our looming debt except generations of dependent citizens of a welfare state.  We need serious reforms to the welfare system and policies that would promote a strong job market to draw those on welfare into the workforce.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of Unsinking the Titanic.  Excerpt: ” If we as a nation truly want to do right by our poor, we must urge our politicians to get out of salvation politics and leave the “saving” of the poor and needy of society to the faith-based communities.  A safety net of government services can be a good thing, but it profits no one if we put so much on it that it rips under the bureaucratic pressure of big government.   If our federal government truly respected American citizens, then they would stop robbing us and selling us back our own goods at a higher price!”

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Beware of the Gospel Killers – Part 2

 by Providence Crowder

The Prosperity Gospel, the Wrong Gospel

Many church leaders in the twenty-first century have aided in the oppression and bondage of the scripturally illiterate masses by promoting material worship through the “prosperity” gospel.  Advances in technology, such as the advent of television and internet, make the preaching of a false gospel more devastating as it is able to quickly reach large audiences.[25]  These false prophets promise prosperity and healing, often in exchange for an offering or a fee.  Prominent twenty-first century televangelist and Pastor Frederick K. Price is quoted as saying on his Ever Increasing Faith television broadcast that “The Bible says that he (Jesus) has left us an example that we should follow in his steps.  That’s why I drive a Rolls Royce.  I’m following Jesus’ steps.”[26] 

Likewise, televangelist and Pastor Juanita Bynum is quoted as telling a massive viewing audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network Praise-a-Thon, “You watching me in television land and you saying all I got is $900.  But I hear the Lord saying, I double dare people that are watching me right now, this one is for you, I double-dare you to empty your checking account.  If you got $79.36, empty it out.  Empty it out, at the voice of the prophet.”[27]  The statements made by these preachers sound characteristic of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the ones he rebuked saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (Mt. 23:25). 

Finding Balance Between Social Justice and Evangelism

Christians should continue their plight for social justice.  Dr. Martin Luther King summed up beautifully the Christian response to the social evils that plague this world:

The Kingdom of God as a universal reality is not yet.  Because sin exists on every level of man’s existence, the death of one tyranny is followed by the emergence of another . . . Although man’s moral pilgrimage may never reach a destination point on earth, his never-ceasing strivings may bring him ever closer to the city of righteousness.[28]

In North America, Christian abolitionists—evangelicals—used political means to bring about an end to slavery; Baptist preacher Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well, became politically active in his plight for civil rights for black Americans; and theologian Gustavo Gutierrez urged the Church to use political means to bring about liberation for the peoples in the countries of Latin America, where “the situation of injustice and oppression is characterized as a sinful situation”[29] because the oppression is so great. 

Unfortunately, many of the Church’s recent movements for liberation have abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ, the fountain from which her good works should flow.  These Christians have instead allowed gospel killers to inform their theology.  Many Christian social justice proponents have become overly concerned with materialism and balancing material wealth among peoples as a means for providing justice to the poor.  They do little in “balancing the scale” with their own wealth; yet in the name of justice, they use the powerful arm of government to rob Peter to pay Paul. 

They have done the very thing that Christ warned not to do, seek after worldly possessions and covet others wealth.  They fight the sin of oppression but stumble into the sin of materialism.  In doing so, they have inadvertently deepened inequalities and dependency, victimization and suffering.[30]  Again, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offers his wisdom by advising his Christian brethren that laws do not change a man’s internal feelings.  Government cannot make a man love his neighbor or give to feed the hungry—religion and education must do that—but government can and should control the external effects of sin; it can control a man’s efforts to lynch and kill, enslave and abuse.  Dr. King suggests that one way Christians in America, who as citizens are afforded a voice in governing, can continue the struggle for justice is through gaining control of the ballot box—by promoting legislation that will restrain the effects of sin.[31] 

Conclusion

The happenings of the nineteenth and twentieth century should inform the twenty-first century Church that she should not discount the great sufferings in the world on account of human sinfulness—such indifference can lead to apathy and skepticism among those in whom the gospel seeks to influence.[32]   Christians should follow the example left by Christ and exhibit care and concern for their neighbors, because “to know God is to do justice.”[33] One aspect of Christian life is charity—feeding the hungry and giving to the poor—charity is a necessary aspect of God’s message of love. 

The Apostle James emphasized further God’s intentions for his people to not only believe him but obey him when he said, “Faith divorced from deeds is barren.”[34] (James 2:20).  Christian’s should not be merely concerned with external worship while ignoring God’s commandment to “love your neighbor.”[35] Social justice has a passion that seems right; yet the Church should be warned—she is no more than a self-righteous social movement if the heart of her aspirations and the object of her adoration are not centered on Christ.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Beware of the Gospel Killers – Part 1

Imageby Providence Crowder

At certain times throughout history, the Church had failed to side with the oppressed, choosing for erroneous reasons to instead to side with oppressive human governments.  They had negated their charge to “dispense justice to the cause of the lowly and poor.”[1]  The Church’s silence on social matters had spoken volumes to those who, like black slaves in America, suffered grave injustices at the hands of ill-willed men.  If theology intended to, as Karl Barth has suggested, “apprehend, understand, and speak of the God of the gospel,”[2] then understandably the theological tendencies of the poor and oppressed would be towards the God who dispensed justice to the cause of the poor; they would cleave to Christ the liberator of the world who sets the captives free.[3] 

The liberating nature of the words of Jesus that expressed his care and concern for the hungry, depraved, widow, and orphan, have given hope to the hopeless.  Liberation theology was birthed out of the aspirations of the oppressed; out of their hopes to change social class structures, instances of poverty, and occurrences of injustice and oppression—all consequences of sin.  Liberation theology had given a voice to the marginalized groups of the world who had, in recent times, became theologians in their own right by emphasizing the socially sensitive aspects of Scripture; “Though you offer countless prayers, I will not listen.  There is blood on your hands . . . Cease to do evil and learn to do right, pursue justice and champion the oppressed; give the orphan his rights, plead the widow’s cause”[4] (Isa. 1:10-17).  The Second Vatican Council under Pope John XXIII had propelled liberation theology to its heights by challenging the Church to break with its past practices and side with the poor.[5]  Yet, the challenge for the Church has continually been to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10) without minimizing the gospel to a social justice contract.[6] 

Marxism, a Gospel Killer

In their zest for economic liberty and liberation of the poor in the world, Christians have often abandoned the gospel of Christ for “other” gospels—social, prosperity, and liberal gospels.  The Church must avoid submitting to the ideologies of “gospel killers” in her plight to care for the oppressed.  For example, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, various challenges for the church paved the way for philosophies such as Fascism, Socialism, Marxism, and Communism to influence Christian thought[7]—each political system brought about their own perversions of societal justice and economic equality by using governmental power, coercive measures, and oftentimes violence.

Marxism[8] in particular had a huge impact upon Christian theology in the nineteenth century.[9] The concept of materialism is central to the Marxism doctrine.[10]   Karl Marx claimed that “The way in which human beings respond to their material needs determines everything else.  Ideas, including religious ideas, are responses to material reality.”[11]   He further argued that religion was thus, “the result of a certain set of social and economic conditions. Change those conditions, so that the economic alienation is eliminated, and religion will cease to exist.”[12]   One of his primary arguments was that religion will exist as long as it meets some economic need in the life of the disenfranchised.  Remove the economic need through Communism, a system in which everything is commonly owned and material goods are distributed equally among the people, and religion will cease to exist.[13]

While recognizing that materialism is a very real problem, Christians must guard against the Marxist spirit—killer of the gospel—because it robs the oppressed of true liberation in this world and the next; true liberation is only accomplished in the redemptive work of Christ.[14]  Marxism and materialism are synonymous; they both focus on the corporeal and disregard the eternal.  Therefore, Marxism is antithetical to the gospel’s message of selfless giving, love, and Christian service in response to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Black Liberation Theology, A Gospel Killer

Numerous theological movements surfaced during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, each having varying criticisms and interpretations.  Modern trends attributed truth no longer to the God of Scripture, but to nature and humanity.[15]  Indifference to religion became a worldwide phenomenon.[16]  As a result of biblical criticism, a feminist critique of the Bible surfaced in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Women had suffered great oppression and mistreatment at the hands of men.  Many of these men had used the Bible, particularly the writings of the Apostle Paul, to justify their oppression of women.[17]   

As well, black slaves in America were kept under subjection in part by their slave master’s improper exegesis of the Pauline writings.[18]   Once freed, blacks sought to rightly read the Scriptures, refusing to exploit the Scriptures to manipulate people[19] as their slave masters had done.  Unfortunately, much like their oppressors, many of the marginalized during the modern era began to interpret Scripture through the lens of their social and economic experiences and needs.[20]   Some Christians had begun to dwell so much on social issues that they became preoccupied with the existing social conditions and forsook Christian evangelism and discipleship.   

For example, black liberation theology was a fruit of the black man’s experience in America.  “Black liberation theology began with the life experience of oppression and formulated theology respectively . . . It viewed the Christian gospel to that end.”[21]  Black liberation theology sought the dignity and improvement of the physical condition of the black man above all else.[22]  Black liberation theology failed to account that “full humanity is achieved through a union with Christ not through any material means, social class, or institutional structure.[23]   Christianity was reduced to “a means for poor blacks to achieve upward social mobility and economic liberation.”[24]  With liberal theologies such as black liberation, the gospel was no longer Christ centered but man centered.

Stay tuned for Beware of the Gospel Killers Part 2,The Prosperity Gospel, The Wrong Gospel.  Excerpt: “Televangelist and Pastor Juanita Bynum is quoted as telling a massive viewing audience on the Trinity Broadcasting Network Praise-a-Thon, “You watching me in television land and you saying all I got is $900.  But I hear the Lord saying, I double dare people that are watching me right now, this one is for you, I double-dare you to empty your checking account.  If you got $79.36, empty it out.  Empty it out, at the voice of the prophet.”[27] 


[1] Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1988), 110.

[2] Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 5.

[3] Gutierrez, 111.

[4] Ibid., 111

[5] Ibid., xxi

[6] Gutierrez, xxi

[7] Ibid.

[8] Bradley, 87.  “Marxism’s fundamental presupposition is that human beings have no inherent nature.  Marxism views man not as an individual but rather as a species.  Early Marxism regarded man, not as an isolated individual but as ‘man in society,’ as primary.  In this way, Marxism is willing to give up the notion of a “person” in exchange for the community.  Overall, Marxism is centrally concerned with social ethics in such a way that ontological and epistemological categories often go uncategorized.  Marxism radically erases the individuality of the person, even to such an extent that acting in history with the potential to be productive or unproductive, the person must bow his will completely to the community and its objectives.”

[9] McGrath, Historical Theology, 229.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 230.

[12] Ibid., 231.

[13] McGrath, Historical Theology, 231.

[14] Bradley, 27.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Alister E. McGrath, Historical Theology, 214.

[17] Carolyn Osiek, “Reading the Bible as Women,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 181.

 [18] James Earl Massey, ‘Reading the Bible as African Americans,’ in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995), 155.

[19] Massey, ‘Reading the Bible as African Americans, 155.

[20] James Earl Massey, “Reading the Bible from Particular Social Locations” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995),  introduction.

[21] Bradley 19.

[22] Ibid., 19.

[23] Ibid., 31.

[24] Ibid., 30.

[25] Dawn, 23.

[26]Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis in the 21st Century (Nashville:  Nelson Publishing, 2009), 198.

[27] Hanegraaff, 209.

[28] Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (Cleveland, Ohio: Fortress Press, 2010), 83-84.

[29] Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation, rev. ed. (Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 1988), 64.

[30] Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity (New York, NY:  HaprerCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003), 12.

[31] Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, Writings & Speeches that Changed the World, 25.

 [32] McGrath, Historical Theology, 238.

[33] Ibid., 110.

[34] Ibid., 113.

[35] Ibid., 111.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Problem of Evil

by Dr. Tommy Davis  revdrtommydavis@gmail.com

There is an unavoidable dilemma that the world has had to contend with since the beginning of humanity.  It is clearly defined and noticeable, but there is little consensus as to its purposeful origin.  No suitable explanation of the origin of evil has ever been formulated.   The problem of evil is a reality that affects every segment of our society.  Natural evil concerns the devastation, suffering and loss caused by tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, fire, disease, famine, to name some; moral evils that reflects the underlying philosophy of the culture; and social evils, which deals with ethical relationships between humans.    As a metaphysical entity, evil is entirely opposed to good in nature and function.  Perhaps it is necessary to point out the person behind all the forces of evil.

One of the most misunderstood characters in the history of the world is Satan himself.  There are many assumptions concerning him.  Some people believe that he does not exist, and some believe him to be a powerless personality; and some people go to the far extremes and place the devil everywhere which gives him the status of omnipresence.  We will examine the Scriptures to see how the Bible describes the devil.  It is crucial that this subject matter be analyzed from a biblical perspective to dismiss the false assumptions and portray the reality of this spiritual being.

One need only to look around at the calamitous events that takes place daily in the world to notice that some form of adversary exists.  Hopefully we can conclude that all contributions of evil are a result of Satan’s fall from heaven.  It should also be noted that Satan does not desire to be identified as the culprit.  While he seeks to hide his identity, God rather exposes him!  Satan exists because God created him and later determined (as opposed to being good) that Satan was evil.

In the book of Ezekiel, Satan is described as being the most beautiful of angels.  The prophet wrote:  “ You were the anointed cherub who covers;  I established you; thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire, thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezekiel 28:14-15 KJV).  Again, it is important to establish that only God can determine the nature of a thing.  During the week of creation, it was God who said that it “was good” (Genesis 1).  God alone reserves the right to determine all things (see Isaiah 45:7).

Satan, which means adversary, is mentioned quite often in the Bible.  He is referred to by every New Testament writer and cited at least 13 times by Christ Himself in the New Testament.  Satan has many names in Scripture.  He is called Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24), the deceiver (Rev. 20:10), the dragon (Rev. 12:7), a liar (Jn. 8:44), the accuser (Rev. 12:10), the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the ruler of darkness (Eph. 6:12), the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4), and Belial (2 Cor. 6:15).  What did Satan do that God would find iniquity in him? Most scholars agree that the prophet Isaiah records the fall of Lucifer.  He writes,

“How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How you are cut to the ground, You who weakened the nations!  For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north.  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14 NKJV).

Lucifer was so beautiful and powerful that he wanted to usurp God’s authority.  Therefore, his chief sin was pride.  It is evil because God said it was.  The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Thus, as we see, Satan has characteristics that identifies with rationality and deceit.  Such actions are emulated by humans.  Our ignorance and rejection of the truth is contradictory to God’s standard.

Various perspectives have been formulated in an attempt to identify the origin of evil.  Dr. Norman Geisler wrote:

“Although every worldview has had to deal with the problem of evil, it is an especially acute problem for theism.  Of the three major worldviews, Atheism affirms the reality of evil and denies the reality of God.  Pantheism affirms the reality of God but denies the reality of evil.  Theism affirms the reality of both God and evil.  Herein is the problem; how can an absolutely good Being (God) be compatible with evil, the opposite of good?”[1]

In respect to Dr. Geisler’s quote, the major worldviews at least allows for the word “evil” to exist in their vocabulary.  Thus, those who would actually deny that evil exists still incorporate the term as a concept.  To be more clear, if the skeptics, who deny evil, really believe it does not exist, then they would not even indicate the term!  The moral wickedness that humanity experiences involve sickness, misery, self-centeredness, folly, and crime in revolt against God.  People who deny that evil exist often have complaints when they are offended!  Take for example, social evils, which can be identified as corrupt politics, drunkenness, cheating, and racial discrimination.  Do we redefine these problems, or call it what is— vice?

God is omnipotent (all powerful); omniscient (all knowing); and omnipresent (everywhere).  Since God is all powerful, evil can only exist at His pronouncement.  At some point in time when evil was brought forth, it had already taken its toll before mankind was created.  In Genesis 1:4-31, God had proclaimed at least seven times that what He created was “good.”   Why do the Scriptures record this?  There had to be an opposing idea—-something contrasting with good.   Since God is all knowing, He was aware of evil or there would have been little reason (logic) to make pronouncements by calling His creation good.  God is not subject to rules and regulations because he is God.  Therefore, even if God created evil, He would still be a just God.  This is a prerogative that we fail to attribute to an all-powerful God. He writes ALL the rules!  He is NOT subject to them!

When God created man, He gave him direct instructions and said to him: “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….” (Genesis 2:16-17a).  In his sinless position before God, Adam obeyed naturally.  Perhaps he asked himself what good and evil was.  One cannot be recognized apart from the other.  At this point, evil was a nonrepresentational perception.  Adam would only know “good” after the Fall.  Only God was aware of the distinction.  After the Fall, evil became a problem for mankind because the consequences was now physical (see Genesis 2:17b).  The aftermaths of sin now saturated the thoughts of humanity which influenced our desires.  The only antidote to such evil is the cleansing work of Christ.

In Ephesians chapter six, the Apostle Paul gives vivid illustration how we can guard against and overcome satanic influences.  In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he encouraged them to put on the whole armor of God;  not some of it, but all of the armor of God.  Paul wrote,  “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10).

It is significant to note how we go about doing this.  First we have to recognize that we are fighting a spiritual enemy.  After taking up the whole armor of God we have to resist Satan by taking a stand against him and receive the truth of God’s Word (v. 14).  Then, believers are instructed to “put on the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14).  This tells us that we have to be sure we believe in the righteousness that only comes through Christ alone.  We are justified and made righteous by grace through faith.  It is God’s Word that matters—not our presuppositions.

Believers are also instructed to have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (v. 15).  Thus, we have to be ready at all times to present the Gospel. We have to make sure that we are feasting on the Word of God and be quipped to preach the Gospel.  Also, the shield of faith (v. 16) protects us from the satanic influences like doubt, discouragement, and the zodiac (false prophecies).  These are things that CANNOT penetrate our armor, but we will not lift our armor if we don’t recognize this as an attack (opposing ideas).  Wayne Grudem wrote, “In thinking about God using evil to fulfill His purposes, we should remember that there are things that are right for God to do but wrong for us to do: He requires others to worship Him, and He accepts worship from them.  He seeks glory for Himself.”[2]

Evil is real; and the effects of it will surround us whether we acknowledge it or deny it.  Since God is ALL powerful (omnipotent), ALL knowing (omniscient), and present everywhere (omnipresent), it is impossible for Him to be unrighteous because He is the One who wrote ALL the rules!  Whatever God says—GOES!  Good and evil exists because God defined the terms.


[1] Norman Geisler,  Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 219

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 329

 

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