Advanced Worldview Analysis - Lesson 13

Socialism and Capitalism

The Bible and Socialism, Moral Defense of Capitalism

Ronald Nash
Advanced Worldview Analysis
Lesson 13
Watching Now
Socialism and Capitalism

The Christian Worldview and Economics

Part 7

I.  The Bible and Socialism

A.  The Jubilee Year

1.  Leviticus 25

2.  Freedom for slaves and return of land

B.  A Reexamination of the Jubilee Concept

1.  Redistribution did not affect every kind of wealth

2.  Not all the poor benefited from the redistribution

3.  Land would be leased instead of sold

C.  Abraham's Purchase of a Grave for Sarah - Gen. 23


II.  A Moral Defense of Capitalism

A.  Help for the Masses

1.  Makes a bigger pie

2.  Made poor more noticeable

B.  Social Cooperation

C.  Private Ownership and Moral Behavior

1.  Arthur Shenfield

2.  Personal property is treated differently

D.  Everything has a Cost

1.  Capitalism teaches this truth.

2.  Socialism urges people to behave as if there were no cost.

E.  Conclusion

1.  The alternative to free exchange is coercion and violence.

2.  Capitalism is the most more, most effective, and most equitable system of economic exchange.

  • Discussion of the content of a worldview and the criteria used to evaluate worldviews.

  • Discussion of liberalism and conservatism, and statism and anti-statism.

  • Political systems fall along a continuum between the extremes of anarchism and totalitarianism.

  • People favoring statism support extensive government involvement in education and social programs.

  • From a biblical point of view, statism is evil.

  • Discussion of justice on an individual and corporate level.

  • An economy based on capitalism has much less government involvement than an economy based on socialism.

  • Interventionism is a capitalistic economic system in which government gets involved to allow free exchange within a framework of laws.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism.

  • Two basic concepts of economics are limited resources and the choices we make that reflect our values.

  • Marxism is an economic system based on the idea of a class struggle with the goal of a classless society.

  • Article from The Free Market

  • The Bible and Socialism, Moral Defense of Capitalism

  • We are responsible to be a good steward of the wealth God gives us to manage.

  • Some of the root causes of poverty are government, social and religious systems.

  • Liberation theology is an ideology promoted by people trained in Marxism. True liberation theology delivers people from tyranny, poverty and sin.

  • Christians ought to care about poverty and oppression. People who hold differing economic and social theories propose very different approaches and solutions to these problems.

  • Discussion of the differences between evangelical liberals and conservatives.

  • Guest Lecturer, Alejandro Moreno-Morrison discussing the inflation of rights.

  • Guest Lecturer, Alejandro Moreno-Morrison discusses legal positivism.

  • A balanced approach toward environmentalism is needed because it can be a serious threat to individual liberty.

  • Discussion of how people work in a capitalistic system to address environmental concerns.

  • The public school system in the United States has fostered functional illiteracy, cultural illiteracy, and moral/spiritual illiteracy.

  • Discussion of the pros and cons of setting up a voucher system to fund the education system.

In this class, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of advanced worldview analysis, starting with an introduction to the concept of a worldview and its importance. You will explore the various components that make up a worldview, including epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and anthropology. The course delves into analyzing different worldviews such as theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, and existentialism. Finally, you will learn about the role of the church and individual believers in engaging with culture and responding to worldview challenges, as well as strategies for effective communication of your own worldview.

Dr. Ronald Nash

Advanced Worldview Analysis


Socialism and Capitalism

Lesson Transcript


[00:00:03] What you have in your hand are precious pages from my newest book called A Biblical Economics Manifesto, published in 2002. What I want to do here is go through these particular pages. Most of the stuff is in the Poverty and Wealth book, but it's excerpted here and it's a little bit more to the point. The first thing I want to talk about is the politically liberal Christian use of the Jubilee Year idea in Leviticus chapter 25. I have very vivid memories right now of speaking at a college in northwestern Indiana. I think it was called Bethel College and I think it was in Mishawaka, Indiana. Private college, church related to some denomination or other. And I was in the Chapel of Bethel College giving an evening lecture on the folly of the religious left. Ron Snyder and company and I presented arguments that you've already heard. And then we opened it up for discussion and a hand went up. And the way the hand waved in the air, I knew it was a liberal. I won't tell you how I knew it was a liberal. And this person rose and said, But what about the Jubilee? Well, I should have known that that was coming. So let me explain what that liberal and that particular audience meant. And then let me relay to you the fallacies involved in that whole appeal to Leviticus 25. Leviticus 25 talks about a Jubilee year. This is a brief description of it every 50th year. Leviticus says will be the Jubilee year and all kinds of nice things will happen in the Jubilee year. Some people who have been slaves will be delivered from their slavery. Now, first of all, let me explain the slavery. This is not slavery that is related to race.


[00:02:14] These are people who, in many cases were bound into slavery because of debt. And so in order to pay off their debt, they were bound to work for a certain farm or a certain group of people for a certain number of years. That was one kind of slavery. Another kind of slavery is that these were just people who were enemies of Israel and they were slaves. Now, not all slaves were freed in the Jubilee year. You got to understand that only some and for the details, you can read Leviticus 25. Another thing that happened in the year of the Jubilee was that all land. That had been. Now watch what I'm going to do here. I'm going to utter the words sold, but I'm going to insist that the word sold be put in quotation marks because this land was never really sold. As I will explain shortly, all land that had been sold during the previous 49 years would be returned to the family that had originally owned the land. Ooh, now that sounds good. See, because in the minds and the hearts of certain kinds of liberals, that smells like the redistribution of wealth. The redistribution of wealth, and nothing makes the heart of a liberal beat more rapidly than the prospect of some kind of governmental redistribution of wealth. I'm going to tell you in a moment, there is no redistribution of wealth anywhere in Leviticus chapter 25. None. None in the Bible. Now. Let me just add one more point here. For Liberals, then Leviticus 25 is God's blueprint for the perfect society. And what kind of society is God blueprint for us? And it. It is a socialist society. It is an anti-capitalist society. In which whenever you get a certain proper, appropriate imbalance in possessions, you just go out and you redistribute wealth and let everybody start all over again.


[00:04:32] That's how this was interpreted by Ronald Sider in his book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and by many Other People in the Religious Left. So this chapter in the Bible is proof that God is a socialist. Is in favor of the welfare state and supports the redistribution of wealth as though that will eliminate poverty anywhere in the world. Now, let me start showing you the mistakes in this. For one thing, the Jubilee concept covers a very long period of time. 50 years in our lives. Today is not that long. In my case, 50 years would take me back to nine teen. 51, 1952. How old was I? 17. 16 years old. I can still remember that. But back in those days, a lot of people didn't live to reach the age of 50, let alone their adult years. Being that long, it is important to realize. I want you to read Leviticus 25 for yourself to make sure that I'm telling you the truth as I am. Not all land reverted to its original owner under the principles of the Jubilee. There were certain kinds of land and there were certain kinds of property that were not subject to what we could loosely call the redistribution of the Jubilee principle. For one thing, property within walled cities. Once sold was forever sold that would never return to the original owners. Now, the walled cities would include, of course, Jericho until the walls came tumbling down, I guess, and Jerusalem and any other walled city in the Holy Land. There were also kinds of property of fishing vessels. For example, if somebody sold a fleet of fishing vessels, they did not return to the ownership of the original family. And what I take that to mean is that other forms of capital producing enterprises, which would today include restaurants, hotels.


[00:07:03] I mean, this is capital, just like fishing vessels. They, too, especially if they're inside walled cities, would remain in the hands of the person who would purchase them. It was largely farmland. That was subject to the provisions of the Jubilee. Now, once you recognize that certain kinds of land would revert back to the original owner of the family after 50 years, you know what the consequence of that would be? It would put an end to the buying and the selling of land outside of walled cities. There would no longer be any buying or selling of land outside of walled cities. All that people would be able to do with land like that is rent. It is lease it. Because you would be able to control it only until the next jubilee came. And that meant that if you wanted to lease land, its value would be your best guess on the value of the crops that you would produce during the years remaining before the next Jubilee. Now, I sometimes tell a story about a fictional character that we could call Little Abraham. I first used this example in a debate with Ronald Sider and Holden College, all in the late 1980s. Because Ronald Sider was talking, as he often does, about socialism and the redistribution of wealth. Certainly in the first edition of his book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Sider certainly regarded the Jubilee as a socialist process. So I said to the audience at this debate in the chapel at Hilton College, I said, Imagine a young little Jewish boy named Abraham, whose father dies right after the beginning of a new jubilee cycle. I was going to assume there's 48, 47, 46 years left in this new jubilee cycle.


[00:09:05] And the only people left in this family now are little Abraham and his widowed mother. And their farmland. Now, little Abraham, after he comforts his mother over the loss of his father and her husband, little Abraham, says to his mother, Mother, don't you worry. I will take care of you and I will take care of myself. And so what we're going to do is we're going to follow the principles of the Jubilee year and we're going to lease our land until the next jubilee. And every year we will have a regular income from the lease of that land. And with that income, Mother, I will take care of you. I will house you, I will feed you, I will clothe you, and I will pay for my own education and the education of my own family. That's the way God has chosen to take care of us. So little Abraham goes off to college. His mother is being taken care of with the money they get from leasing of the land. And little Abraham, he majors in business. He takes some philosophy on the side because he's a bright kid and he loves philosophy the way all bright people love philosophy. And then he starts certain businesses. First of all, he buys a big fishing fleet on the Sea of Galilee. And guess how long his family's going to own those ships on them until those ships sink? Because he doesn't have to give those back. Then he starts building McDonald's restaurants inside walled cities. Now, Abraham's no fool he does doesn't go out on a dirt road in the desert and build a McDonald's. What? Some other idiot do that because that's going to return to the original owner. But he builds his McDonald's restaurants inside Jerusalem and Jericho and all the other walled cities.


[00:11:00] Then he starts some holiday ends. Now, this was a long time ago. Nobody wants to buy a holiday in today. But, you know, this was a long time ago and this produces income. And then little Abraham's sons and daughters grow up and they go to college. And because little Abraham is appreciative of capitalism, he donates money to those institutions that support capitalism. He gives some money to the von Mises Institute and to Hillsdale College and to and he likes Jerry Falwell. Now, little Abraham is a Jewish boy, but he loves Jerry Falwell because Jerry Falwell believes in an earthly Israel during the millennium, saying, I don't know what they're going to do with the Palestinians during the millennium. But anyway, that Jerry Falwell's got an answer for that, I'm sure. Now I know if someone just tuning into the tape at this particular moment, he's going to think that this is a pretty crazy thing we're doing here, but we're simply laying out the implications of the Jubilee principle in Leviticus chapter 25. Now. The new Jubilee comes. Little Abraham has lived a long, rich, happy life. His mother has long since passed away. Abraham now gets back all of the land, the farm, and he brings his sons and his daughters together. And he says, Now what are we going to do with all this land? The different children. They have different expectations and of course, they're in pretty good shape financially. Fortunately, they tie their money. But one of the son says, Well, you know, dad, I want to be a farmer. I want the land because I want to live on the land. This was always God's plan for us that we keep the land. So I don't want to go into business.


[00:12:52] And another one wants to teach philosophy, bless his heart. And I'm sure that the world would be blessed by that. But let me ask you this. As I said to my audience at Holden College, I said, Does any of this sound like socialism? Not on your life. Where is the head of any person who says to you that Leviticus 25 models, a socialist blueprint for society, they're out of their mind. This is capitalism. This is free market exchange. This is the peaceful means of exchange. One more thing. Please realize that the Jubilee Principle in Leviticus 25. How many times was that Jubilee actually put into practice? Do any of you remember? Never. It was never put into practice. Now, that ought to tell you something. But among the things it ought to tell you is that maybe that whole Jubilee principle is designed to teach us something else. If it teaches anything about economics, it teaches capitalism, not socialism. But maybe its whole purpose is to teach us something else entirely. And in fact, as you probably know, or at least as I tell you, there would be no way, no way in the world in which you could effectively institute the Jubilee principle today, because there's no way to identify the original owners of this particular land. I mean, that's a hopeless enterprise. But now, Page 43, Genesis Chapter 23. If we're looking for biblical passages that will help us understand the biblical mindset about property and economic systems. Let's look at Genesis 23 and Abraham's purchase of a grave for Sarah. Genesis 23 begins by reporting the death of Abraham's beloved wife, Sarah. After a suitable time of mourning. Abraham begins the sad task of finding and buying the land that will serve as Sarah's grave.


[00:15:01] As Genesis 23 states. Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead. After searching for a suitable gravesite, Abraham enters into negotiations with a Hittite named Ephron, who agrees to sell the land for 400 shekels of silver. We encourage the reader to study the chapter, for it provides a classic example of what we earlier called the peaceful means of exchange. Abraham essentially says to Ephron, quote, If you do something good for me, give me title to the land I desire, then I will do something good for you, give you the money you desire in exchange. Now, I know some people are going to hunt through Genesis 23 for those exact words, and they're going to have a little trouble finding them. But that's a paraphrase, a literal paraphrase in the King Ron translation. Now, according to Genesis 2316, now, this is a quote from the Bible. Abraham agreed to Ephron's terms and wait out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites 400 shekels of silver, according to the wait current among the merchants. Abraham clearly entered into a free economic exchange that observed the rules mentioned in my earlier chapter. No coercion, no lying, no stealing, and no violation of contracts. My goodness. If you're looking for the biblical model of economic exchange, don't look for it in socialism. Look forward in the peaceful means of exchange. Abraham's exchange was clearly what we today would call a capitalist exchange. When God's people in Scripture enter into economic exchanges and behave in God's appointed ways. Those exchanges model the peaceful means of exchange.


[00:17:02] Without question. Then capitalism passes the biblical test. Amen. Now, there's a chapter here. We're reading again from this great new book. I don't know if it's on the Oprah list yet or not. The Biblical Economics manifesto, Moral Objections to Capitalism. Well, a lot of this we've already covered. Remember that capitalism is immoral because it encourages the attitude of greed. It produces situations in which some benefit at the expense of others. We've already answered that stuff. But what I want to get to here is some material that we have not covered earlier. And I guess the good place to begin is the bottom of page 49. Now, this also is in the Poverty and wealth book. See, after I defend capitalism against the misinformation and the misrepresentation by its enemies, I provide a moral defense of capitalism. And let me read here bottom of page 49. Many of capitalism's religious critics fail to appreciate that capitalism can be defended not only on the grounds of its economic superiority, but also on moral grounds. Critics of capitalism fail to see the extent to which the market process is a force for improving the lot of the masses. History shows that the poor have benefited greatly from market system. It is impossible to ease, reduce or eliminate poverty through a continued division of the economic pie into increasingly smaller pieces. There simply is not enough wealth to go around. What the poor of any nation need is not continuing smaller pieces of a pie that keeps getting smaller. They need a bigger pie. Hmm. Write that down and give me credit. Poverty did not begin with capitalism. Capitalism simply made poverty easier to recognize as the poor flocked to urban areas where work was to be found. Visit any movie showing Oliver Twist.


[00:19:14] London in the 1800s. There weren't any more poor people, but they were all concentrated in the cities. Capitalism also made poverty more noticeable as more members of the middle class rose to modest affluence, making the contrast between them and the poor more apparent. Capitalism does more than make it possible for people to make money. It provides the basis for a social structure that encourages the development of important personal and social virtues such as community and cooperation. Now notice this next section private ownership and moral behavior. This is important stuff. More attention needs to be given to the important ways in which private ownership can serve as a stimulus to the development of moral behavior. Here's a quote from a British economist named Arthur Shenfield. Quote, Every time we treat property with diligence and care, we learn a lesson in morality. The reason for the moral training of private property is that it induces at least part of me. I got to tell a story on my grandson. The story fits right in here. He's visiting us one day this week and he's hinting this is a kid who loves Legos, loves that toy. When my son was growing up, they had Legos. But you had to use your own imagination on the old Legos. You could make anything, but you had to use your imagination. The trouble with the new Legos is when you follow the blueprint, you can't do anything else with those particular pieces of the Lego stuff. So my grandson and he's a good kid. Andrew If you're listening, you're probably 35 by now. It's the middle of the tribulation period. Okay. But you did do this, Andrew. I know you'll deny this, but you eight years old, you said, Boy, there's a Lego thing that I really would like to get.


[00:21:18] And I said, Well, how much is it, Andrew? He says, Well, it's $101. I said, That's a lot of money, Andrew, Especially once you make it, you're never going to play with it again. He says, Well, I really need it. I said, Well, why don't you start saving the money, saving $101? You know, all my mother's got to do is use her credit card. Now get this. He doesn't understand that when you use a credit card, you've got to pay that off. He doesn't understand that. So we're explaining that to him, Andrew. Well, if your mother uses a credit card, she's still going to have to pay for it. Well, he says, I don't care. I wish I had a credit card of my own. Well, we're a good family, but with eight year olds and five year olds, they're not ready to understand how money operates, how credit cards operate. They don't know yet that everything has a cost. Until their grandfather says you're not going to get a Lego set. Every time we treat property with diligence and care, we learn a lesson in morality. The reason for the moral training of private property is that it induces at least some of its owners to treat it as a trust, even if only for their children or children's children. Keep reading here. And those who so treat it tend to be best at accumulating at. When people treat property as a trust, they're going to be better at accumulating more of this stuff. Contrary to popular notions about the conspicuous consumption of the rich, the incidence of luck or of gambling. Contrast our attitudes to private property with our treatment of public property. Every army, quartermaster, every state, school administrator, every bureaucratic office controller knows with what carelessness and lack of diligence most of us deal with private property.


[00:23:22] This applies everywhere, but especially in socialist countries where most property is public. Nobody takes care of it. Shenfield is right. This is my unbiased, open minded reaction. Shenfield is right. People do treat their own personal property differently than they treat public property or the property of others. This fact can be used to teach people some important moral lessons. Now, lesson number two Everything has a cost. You've heard this before. Once people realize that few things in life are free, that most things carry a price tag and that therefore we will have to work for most of the things we want. We are in a position to learn a vital truth about life. Capitalism helps teach this truth, But Shenfield warns under socialism, quote, Everything still has a cost, but everyone is tempted, even urged to behave as if there is no cost or as if the cost will be borne by somebody else. This is one of the most corrosive effects of socialism upon the moral character of people. Many critics of capitalism focus their attacks on what they take to be its moral shortcomings. In truth, the moral objections to capitalism turn out to be a sorry collection of arguments that reflect, more than anything else, serious confusion about the true nature of a market system. When capitalism is put to the moral test, it more than holds its own against the competition, after all. It makes little sense to reject one system on moral grounds when all of the alternatives turn out in the real world to have more serious problems. To quote Shenfield among all the economic options, only capitalism operates on the basis of respect for free, independent, responsible persons. All other systems, in varying degrees treat men as less than this.


[00:25:28] Socialist systems above all, treat men as pawns to be moved about by the authorities or as children to be given what the rulers decide as good for them or as serfs or slaves. Oh man, he's given it to him. The rulers begin by boasting about their compassion, which in any case is fraudulent. But after a time they drop this pretense which they find unnecessary for the maintenance of power in all things. They act on the presumption that they know best. Therefore, they and their systems are morally stunted. Only the free system, the much assailed capitalism, is morally mature. The alternative to free exchange is coercion and violence. Capitalism is a mechanism that allows natural human desires to be satisfied in a nonviolent way. Little can be done to prevent human beings from wanting to be rich. But what capitalism does is channel the desire to be rich into peaceful means that benefit many beside those who wish to improve their own situation. One last quote from Shenfield. The alternative to serving other men's wants is seizing power from them, as it always has been. Hence, it is not surprising that wherever the enemies of capitalism have prevailed, the result has been not only the debasement of consumption standards for the masses, but also their reduction to serfdom by the new privileged class of socialist rulers. Now here is my humble, non dogmatic opinion. Capitalism is quite simply the most moral, most effective and most equitable system of economic exchange. When capitalism, the system of free economic exchange is described fairly, there can be no question that it, rather than socialism or interventionism, comes close to matching the demands of the biblical ethic. Well, there is my position here. I stand. I can do no other.


[00:27:35] Thank you for listening to this lecture. Brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Your prayers and financial support enable us to provide a biblical and theological education that all people around the world can access. Blessings. As you continue to study and live out your faith and as you grow in your relationship with the Lord.