Broadly speaking, I am an American “Evangelical,” if by the meaning of this word we denote a Christian who believes in being born of God’s Spirit and who holds both a high view of scripture and an internal need to share our faith in Christ. Unfortunately, “Evangelicalism” in America carries with it, in many cases, other baggage with which I do not identify and find highly problematic. Because ideas have consequences, and our theology really does matter, some of this baggage carries with it economic marketplace consequences that need to be noted and even rejected for the sake of the effectiveness of Christ’s witness and Kingdom here on Earth.
At the outset, let me also say that all of us, to greater or lesser degrees, do not necessarily live out all of our theology in a consistent manner. I am not talking about either hypocrisy or confusion here, but rather that other motives or ideas within us trump, so to speak, what we say we believe, in terms of creeds or theological assent. Sometimes this is negative, and sometimes it is positive, depending upon the soundness of our theological convictions. For example, I know of cases where people hold what I believe to be sound theology but consistently cut across it negatively with their actions. Conversely, I know of others whose theology is highly problematic; however, they live out ideas which, on the one hand, contradict their theology, but these contradictions produce very good fruit for Christ. What follows, therefore, is not an attack per se on Evangelicals, who are either dualistic or dispensational in their theology, but rather a rigorous challenge to the negative debris those concepts produce if and when they are lived out. Likewise, I am assuming that we all understand that our theology underpins what is increasingly being called our “worldview.”
Some of the Catastrophic Effects of Dualism
Dualism is a view of reality that creates a radical and non-biblical separation between the unseen spiritual reality and the earthly-related matters pertaining to so-called natural things. Anti-Christ in its spiritual origins, dualism most prominently revealed itself in the ancient Greek mode of thinking. In Plato’s world, to think and philosophize was the highest of all living virtues, whereas to do manual labor was lowest and not worthy of an advanced human being. While this denigrating view of working with one’s body or even one’s mind being applied to common-natural things would require a deeper discussion that we can do here, it carries with it deep obvious problems.
Firstly, God declared that what He had created in the natural cosmos and world was “good.” Indeed, He repeats His declaration of the natural world’s value and goodness in Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25 and finishes off in verse 31 with the view that the material creation is “very good.” To assert that it was good before The Fall, but became carnal or fatally corrupted after The Fall, reveals a fundamental ignorance of what Saint Paul clearly lays out in Romans 8:17-23. In these verses, Paul describes a creation that needs to be set free from the corruption that came upon it through that Fall, and will be set free by Christ’s work through His brethren. Redeeming what was marred by sin is the very work and way of Christ. Since all of the cosmos was polluted by sin, Christ has redeemed all of it. As the writer of the Christmas song, “Joy to the World,” points out in verse two, Christ’s work extends “far as the curse is found.”
Secondly, the “world is God’s,” as Psalm 24:1 and other scriptures remind us. If the world is valueless as a “perishing mud ball” whose fate is destruction, rather than redemption, God identifies evil as something He values owning. God forbid! Fallen, yes; in need of redemption, yes; to be cultivated and dominated, yes (Gen. 1:26-28); but even in its falleness, God makes sure that it is renewed, not annihilated because it is evil (Rev. 21:5). Please take note that this scripture says that Christ makes all things new rather than making all new things.
Thirdly, working with the Earth and tending it preceded The Fall and, therefore, work per se can never be evil. What The Fall did was make work much, much more difficult, for sin creates “sand” in the human relational gears and thorns in garden and vineyards (Gen. 3:17-19). Even these three simplest of examples of the non-biblical nature of a dualistic worldview should suffice to cause a serious believer the gravest concerns as to dualism’s possible effects upon the affairs of man and the believers work upon the Earth. The Hebrew worldview eschews dualism and always embraced a wholistic view of a material cosmos interwoven and directed by the spiritual, unseen laws of God. Indeed, the crops and weather reflected man’s spiritual condition, and the very dirt itself was joined to the spiritual realm to the degree that it could be polluted by blood and sin (Leviticus).
So what do these few obvious theological concerns have to do with business and marketplace ministry? Listen to these common statements and phrases as you consider with God’s Spirit the connections:
1. “Filthy lucre” (the making of money is a carnal calling).
2. “I want to quit my secular job and go into the spiritual ministry where I can really serve God.”
3. “Religion and the Bible have no place influencing government, economic theory, or business practices.”
4. “Economic justice has little to do with religion; it is a practical problem.”
5. “The government has the primary responsibility for those in need.”
6. “Debt-financing and currency issues belong to the economists, not the theologians.”
7. “The separation of church and state precludes basing any economic policy on Bible verses or concepts.”
8. “We should never look to businessmen for virtue or guidance; they are greedy, insensitive people who immorally exploit people and pollute the environment.”
9. “A truly Christian businessmen is almost an oxymoron.”
10. “Jesus was poor and sided with the poor; if you make a lot of money or have a lot of money, you are obviously not a true Christian.”
11. “To be in business runs very close to endorsing the falleness of the world-system, which is, by its very nature, satanic.”
12. “Going to church on Sunday is fine, but on Monday I must operate by the world’s practical rules.”
Trust me. The list could go on and on. By the way, if Earth-related material things are “carnal,” why did Jesus go to heaven in His renewed earthly body?
The point of all this is simply this: A dualistic worldview has plagued and eviscerated Christianity for centuries. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants have been plagued by it. Many American Evangelicals are riddled with it. It must go. It is not biblical and has resulted in Christianity’s neglect in bringing Christ’s redeeming truths to forcefully bear upon both the marketplace and the larger macro-economic issues of banking, currency, taxation, and a host of other issues.
How Futurism Has Damaged Our Economic Influence in the Nations
Christ told us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Does He mean for us to be praying simply to hasten His coming, or to increasingly manifest the current work of His Kingdom on Earth now? Indeed, He set the Kingdom in motion during His earthly ministry and death-burial-and-resurrection. Perhaps it means both. However, let us briefly explore this question and how it has effected us in terms of our Christian impact on society, in general, and the business-economic world, in particular.
Most serious biblical theologians recognize that the Kingdom of God was, is, and is yet to come. His rule and reign over His creation has always been, is presently operating, and will increasingly manifest itself as the Church matures on Earth and comes to its full “harvest” (Matt. 13:30). Equally clear is that, as Christ physically returns to the Earth, He will take the Kingdom of God on Earth to new and greater levels (Rev. 21:10; 22:1-5).
What is absolutely clear is that Christ took full control over the Earth and its satanic worldly powers at Calvary. Can any believer dispute these clear statements by Christ and God’s Spirit?
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
“…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”
However we interpret these verses, we would do very well to not put off to the second coming of Christ what He already achieved in His first coming.
The thorny question remains, however, how do we account for this present world’s seeming death grip upon so much of human culture and government? A good question which deserves a simple answer. Jesus gave us those answers in many places in scripture, but I choose to focus on Matthew 13:25.
“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares
among the wheat, and went away.”
While I am very aware that even after Calvary, man’s heart is still corrupted until redeemed and sanctified by Christ, the issue is this: When believers “sleep,” evil expands in the world. As Burke’s famous dictum states, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.” Amen.
Futurism, that is, putting off into the future those benefits of Christ’s Kingdom already secured by His earthly ministry and the coming of the Holy Spirit, has caused a soundly sleeping church in many quarters. Theology which demands that things must get worse before Christ returns actually makes Christian involvement in the real things of the world now a kind of sin that attempts to resist God’s true will for social collapse.
The popularity of the Left Behind series of books and movie has been no friend to Christians manifesting spiritual “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13).
Nature abhors a vacuum, we are told, and so it seems, spiritually speaking. When Christians don’t show up to confront evil, evil wins by default.
Let’s now discuss some of the most obvious defaults the absence of Bible-based economic theory and practice has helped lend to us as our nation and world is increasingly ensnared by secular economic theory and practice. Where were the Christian economists when John Maynard Keynes gave us the debt-based economy which is piling up catastrophic levels of personal, corporate, and governmental debt? Debt is viewed by God as needing highly regulated borders in terms of seven year payoffs, while at the same time avoiding usury. A “curse” which ensnares people and generations, it contributes to inflation, which is a form of theft, and the usage of fiat money without substance to stabilize its true value. How much is the United States government (people) in debt? Only God knows, and He isn’t saying. As a research economist in the 1960s, my job caused me to work with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in order to ascertain specific economic statistics. As a result of that experience, I can guarantee you that no person or agency on Earth really knows the exact amount of that debt. The National Budgets, with their offline, sideline, and “let me give you a line,” items are designed to make accurate accounting an exercise in approximate guessing. That debt not only threatens us all but contributes to a national spirit of debt which is enslaving even the majority of Christians in terms of their personal financial management. If the Bible isn’t to be used to oversee real life things like economics; and the church should stay out of government because of a “wall of separation”; and if Christ’s Kingdom’s expanding influence is “for the future,” then why not run up the debt, boys, and leave it to the anti-Christ or the False Prophet to pay it off?
Should we discuss our currency system? How about our banking system? Maybe taxation and its blasphemous demand for multiple amounts more to support Caesar’s coffers than even God sets as a standard to support its work through the church? How about the social welfare systems? The list could go on and on. I trust you don’t hear this as some kind of right wing conservative sounding off. The Bible’s economic policies transcend and indict both conservatives and liberals for their follies. What we need is a public platform of biblically-based economic principles that not only transcends the left-right game but reveals its futility!
Futurism, that set of found ideas in much of conventional dispensationalism, lends itself to our intentional defeat in terms of “occupying until He comes” (Luke 19:13). Our children and grandchildren will pay the price. Never before in the history of the Christian world has there been so much “spiritual activity” with so little effect on the surrounding culture. That is a huge and staggering fact. We can thank the effect of futurist theology for its significant contribution to our growing list of cultural depravities.
“Evangelicalism” and Polite Christianity
“Evangelicalism” is a broad umbrella which, I believe, has lost sufficient definition to be essentially useful in helping Christians in America define themselves. As I pointed out in the beginning of this brief article, the word captures certain elements of what people like me believe, while at the same time carrying with it baggage which I vehemently oppose. Having said that, let us proceed.
Evangelicalism has ended up largely being culturally absorbed by the surrounding milieu. While Evangelicals claim to hold scriptural validity as to being “born again,” their lifestyles and belief systems often parallel the culture more than the scriptures. With some estimated sixty million “born again” Evangelicals in America, how is it possible that the surrounding culture has come to where it is? The answer is simple: Their belief systems do not stand in sufficient opposition to the surrounding culture so as to motivate them to help change it.
The Evangelical divorce rates are comparable to those who claim no religious affiliation. Elected official “Evangelicals” in our own city and county recently voted through city and county ordinances approving of gay marriage. An exception? I am sure not. Numbers of Evangelicals are pro-choice and even if they are pro-life, their silence is deafening. Evangelicals, as a movement, seem to be more interested in running for the approval of the surrounding culture than to take a public stand for wholistic biblical truth. Christianity is a “reasonable religion” and produces reasonable, well-balanced citizens. It is commonly said that only right-wing, fundamentalist extremists actually press for scriptural principles to undergird public law. So much for the founders of our Constitution! Combine dualism with futurism and add domesticated Evangelicalism, and we get what we now see around us. It will eventually change as the consequences continue to encircle us, but it serves us all well as a lesson in the truth that ideas really do have consequences.
Economically speaking, virtually every time I hear the President or some other political figure talk about the relationship between tax cuts and capital creation I laugh. Do they really believe that the American public has the vaguest notion of how they relate? For that matter, how many Christians do? Should they? If an adult Christian answers “no,” it only shows the effect of dualism, futurism, and elements of Evangelicalism upon them and those they may influence.
Economics, derived from the Greek work “oikos,” literally means household management. To separate economics from practicing Christianity is to indirectly attack the Abrahamic covenantal promise that, through him, “all the families of the Earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Economics is about how God wants to bring order and blessing to both individual family management and national family management. Family management is about the here-and-now, not the future. Family management is about a wholistic lifestyle, not a compartmentalized form of “Christianity.” Family management is about following God, not the media or public propaganda machines and educational systems. Family management is about the Spirit-based reality of God, not the higher criticism-based reality of man using his own meager understanding of reason to evaluate his willingness to build upon God’s truths in every realm of life.
To separate Christianity from the wholistic application of God’s Word to our present reality is to produce something quite different than “the faith once delivered to our fathers.” Since economics is ultimately about the stewardship of God’s resources, Christianity without a practicing understanding of economics runs perilously close to “baptized” secularism. May God deliver us from the full consequences of what has happened as a result of these noted fallacies before the full consequences of our errors deliver us to those who oppose Him. As has been said before, we don’t break God’s laws because, in the end, they break us.
By Dennis Peacocke. This article originally appeared in the July 20042 edition of Business Reform Magazine.