Friday, February 8, 2008

Creation Law, Moral Law and Economic Liberty

The Evangelical political left is coming into a prominence it has never seen before. A surprising number of Evangelicals are open to supporting Barack Obama in the coming election, and Democrats are open to returning the embrace. Consider Nicholas Kristof's recent column, "Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love" (New York Times, Feb. 3, 2008).

So it is timely to consider the relationship between Biblical principles and the political principles of the American political left and right, as one of my students is doing currently in his senior thesis. One of my earlier posts, "The Evangelical Left's Rejection of Reality," grew out of comments that I offered that student. In response to that post, not here but over on WORLD on the Web/Academy, Alisa asked this:

Maybe I’m not getting it, but this seems circular to me. Are we supposed to figure out what works based on our understanding of creation law, or are we supposed to deduce creation law based on what works?
I responded with this explanation. (I also refer to "RDean," an atheist who for some reason is a regular reader over there, but who does not trouble himself to understand what he criticizes.)

Alisa, good question. Of course economics is unlike chemistry in that it pertains essentially to human relations which are always moral in character. That is, it is governed by God's moral law. At the same time there is a strictly technical aspect to it. (I am a political scientist, not an economist, but I have had a healthy exposure to it.) When people do business, what are they doing? They are creating wealth, seeking prosperity. With a view to that end, some economic systems work better than others. In that respect, you can discern God's "creation law" by what "works" (i.e. creates wealth). Of course, as in all human decisions, the moral laws governs how we use those economic principles. We are stressed because we ignore God's command to rest on the Sabbath. We are stressed because people treat one another as "human resources" comparable to "mineral resources," i.e. as means rather than ends. These attitudes are entirely separable from the system of economic liberty called "capitalism." We are stressed because there are increasingly more people among us with RDean's understanding of reality [atheist materialism] (nothing personal RDean; perhaps your behavior is better than what your worldview justifies) than with the love-your-neighbor and walk-humbly-with-your-God Christian understanding that is our ever dwindling social heritage.
Of course, there is much more that needs to be said. I recommend again that anyone who is interested in the question reads Albert Wolters' book, Creation Regained. This is a book every Christian should read who wants to think Biblically and coherently about serving Christ in this world.

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