As the Biden administration continues to unleash its progressive economic policies in the country, it is important for Christians to ensure they are continually grounded in a biblical understanding of this area. There are many different streams of economic and ideological thought as it pertains to the government. One such group consists of those known as “Christian socialists” who advocate their vision in multiple different realms beyond mere economics. In fact, there is even an Institute For Christian Socialism.1 Yet, before we move into examining some of the foundational arguments on the part of these individuals, we must first back up and define our terms. Investopedia defines socialism in this manner:
“Socialism is a populist economic and political system based on collective, common, or public ownership of the means of production. Those means of production include the machinery, tools, and factories used to produce goods that aim to directly satisfy human needs. In contrast to capitalism, whereby business owners control the means of production and pay wages to workers to use those means, socialism envisions shared ownership and control among the laboring class.”
“In a purely socialist system, all production and distribution decisions are made by the collective, directed by a central planner or government body. Worker cooperatives, however, are also a form of socialized production. Socialist systems tend to have robust welfare systems and social safety net so that individuals rely on the state for everything from food to healthcare. The government determines the output and pricing levels of these goods and services.”2
Notice that the government is a majorly powerful determining force in a socialist society. In fact, they go on to say exactly how powerful the government is in this format:
“The government also determines all output and pricing levels and supplies its citizens with everything from food to healthcare.”3
High government control is a hallmark of the socialist system of thought. Taking wealth from the rich, and redistributing it to the poor is not the answer. God did not give the government authority to be a welfare state. He gave them a sword to bear to administer justice rewarding good and punishing evil (Romans 13:1-4). The government undertaking “fair” distributions to ensure “equality” will certainly not end well. Gary Demar rightly points out:
“Socialist economic systems see the State as messianic, and therefore, given authority to disrupt any “unequal” social order by whatever means deemed necessary.”4
All of this information demonstrates the great role the state has in a socialist viewpoint. But, is it biblical? Has God given this kind of authority to the government, and what exactly are the “Christian socialists” advocating?
A “Gospel” Issue
The Institute for Christian Socialism clearly states its mission:
“The mission of the Institute for Christian Socialism (ICS) is to support followers of Jesus in confronting the world’s captivity to capitalism and in claiming, embodying, and promoting the radical socialism of the Gospel.”5
Notice here the tie between their mission of advancing socialism is clearly connected to the Gospel according to ICS. They do not believe this is a peripheral issue by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, truthfully, their vision waxes full of the utopianism prominent in socialistic rhetoric. They state:
“Ultimately, we seek the creation of a new society marked by the interdependent health of our common earth, the shared enjoyment of our common wealth, and the just participation of all in our common social and political life.”6
Specifically, we need to zero in upon that word common used three times in that short sentence. That is what socialists believe, in commonality. Shared wealth and shared resources, all in the name of a Marxist definition of equality. Lest anyone think I am overstating the case, they assert:
“In our rejection of capitalism as antithetical to just and life-sustaining relations and our advocacy for socialist forms of political economy aligned with the Gospel, ICS is necessarily committed to the work of anti-racism, participatory democracy, feminism, ecological regeneration, queer liberation, anti-fascism, indigenous sovereignty, and related emancipatory struggles.”7
Queer liberation? I thought this was about the Gospel? Distinctly, I remember reading it was about pursuing political economics aligned with the Gospel? Clearly, this organization must have a different view of Christianity and the Gospel than what Scripture says, for the Word of God speaks of no category such as “queer liberation.” Here we see the ultimate goal of socialism and the “Christian socialists.” Joe Boot says it well:
“Far from dead, the Marxism of the new left is manifest as ecological and spiritualized socialism that seeks an androgynous, classless, discrimination- and distinction- free world of ‘social justice’ – a world ruled by a scientific, socialist, pagan elite.”8
However, a society with no distinctions is not what God has in mind. The Institute for Christian Socialism may claim to desire obedience to Christ, but its thought process is blatantly anti-Christian. Would God have us create a society with no distinctions?
Biblical Christianity runs in the opposite direction of socialism. Immediately, in the garden, we read of God creating Adam and Eve differently. A man is not a woman, neither is a woman a man, both are made equally for the glory of God in two distinct roles as determined by Him. Woman was made to be the man’s helpmeet (Genesis 2:18). Men and women both glorify God mightily, but God has ordained them to have different roles in life which means the opening chapters of the Bible automatically refutes the socialist drive on this point. However, we also read of the parable of the talents given by Christ in Matthew 25:14-30 where one servant is given five talents, another two, and yet another one. These servants were not given equal numbers of talents, because Christ is not a socialist! Scripture, in the Old Covenant Scriptures, explicitly upholds private property laws (Deuteronomy 19:14). In Hannah’s prayer she clearly asserts:
“The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.” -1 Samuel 2:7-8
Very clearly, both wealth and poverty are ascribed unto the Lord’s sovereign plan. He has not made human beings all exactly the same way, with equal wealth, or all with the same abilities. Many Christian socialists would appeal to Acts 2:44-45 which says:
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” -Acts 2:44-45
On the basis of this text, they would want us to sell all of our possessions and share all things in common. There are two issues with that point, first, this is a text dealing with church relations and not governmental. It is not talking about all of the citizens of a country, but rather members of a church body. Secondly, my dear friend, it is not a prescription dictating this as a practice for every church. The prerequisite for church giving is to be a cheerful giver from the heart (2 Corinthians 9:7). No command is given for all Christians everywhere to sell all of their possessions and have all things in common. Socialist interpretations of texts like Acts 2:44-45 end up twisting the Scripture to say something it never does.
No doubt, God gives great wealth to some, others never reach the economic status of a billionaire. Some humans are women skilled at homemaking, while God has also created some humans as men who are skilled builders or doctors. Whatever the case, God has given variety within humanity. This promotion of an idea of creating a humanity without distinctions fights against the Creator. No, biblical Christianity is not socialist, and we must not fall prey to these arguments. Let us instead encourage every human to work hard in the ways God has gifted them. Work hard for justice as defined by Scripture . . . not Marx. Labor for the sake of the real Gospel, not the socialist one. And glorify God who has made us all uniquely in His image, not without distinctions, but with them for the glory of His great name!
4 Gary Demar, God and Government, p. 335.
8 Joe Boot, The Mission of God, p. 198.