I recently did an interview with John Shuck on the radio show/podcast progressive spirit, also on youtube about my book “All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians.” I hope you enjoy it.
In this article, we have a great reminder by Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart of just how alien first Century Christianity was to our contemporary culture. What is and is not taken literally, or seriously, in the New Testament; or what is, or is not, read back into early Christianity often depends on the cultural and ideological framework of the reader. As Hart points out this is obviously apparent when it comes to the issue of wealth.
Modern liberal/capitalist ideology insists that property, wealth, and the maximization of profit are simply eternal laws of nature, period. The laws of the market are prior to all other law, even moral law; so when someone steeped in that ideology encounters the New Testament text, there is somewhat a dilemma. Hart puts it this way:
In first kings 21 you’re gonna see an example of a wicked king who wants to buy private property from a citizen. You know what the citizen tells him? No, and so then there’s a woman named Jezebel … who sees the king all distraught … He wants the guys property, they guy tells him No, he’s the government … But you know what she does? Jezebel actually forges something to have the State go against the guy, and they claimed and they found false witnesses to say that he actually blasphemed the king, and so then they kill him. They kill the guy, Jezebel has him murdered, so that the king can actually take his land.
Whenever an American conservative Calvinist decides to preach on politics you can be sure you’re going to get as much shallow and cheap theology as you’ll get when listening to a liberal Episcopalian talking about homosexuality. Jeff Durbin, a few months ago, put out a sermon on the topic of “socialism” and “biblical economics.” Just as expected, it was full of misapplication of scriptures, full of shallow and fallacious theology and really beneath anyone who takes biblical theology seriously.
Most of his argument comes from the commandment not to steal. To make that argument apply to questions of Economic institutions or legal arrangements he tries to derive a defense of private property as foundational from scripture. After reading the story of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5 he says:
The mainline protestant Churches in the United States are in decline, this is news to no one who are paying attention. Some people have bemoaned the decline, some people have delighted in it, most people simply are ambivalent to it, to be honest I don’t know what I feel about it, culturally I think it’s a sad thing to lose, theologically I think they don’t have a leg to stand on. Chris Hedges, liberal Christian activist, has recently put out an article on his take on the liberal mainline decline. As one would expect Christ Hedges doesn’t link their decline to the mainline Church’s theological un-seriousness, their more or less complete secularization or their complete abandonment of the Christian message of the sovereignty of God over all creation. Rather he puts the blame on the idea that the mainline Churches aren’t political enough, that they aren’t focusing on Social issues enough, he says:
John Locke is probable the most important enlightenment thinker when it comes to modern Anglo-American Liberalism, which has come to dominate the world. The second book of his “treatises of government” is one of the seminal works of Liberalism, creating a philosophical framework on which both Democracy, Capitalism, and Liberalism have built upon. John Locke is, in my opinion, hugely mistaken when it comes to the nature of man and the nature of rights (especially property), this mistake shakes the entire foundation of John Locke’s Liberalism and I think it is unfortunate that modern ideology more or less takes John Locke’s political philosophy as axiomatic, despite it being extremely problematic when examined. Anyone interested in modern Liberal ideology should examine John Locke’s “two treatises of government,” since it is so important to the development of Liberal ideology. In this post, I’ll be critiquing what I find problematic in his political theory found in “Two Treatises of Government – Book 2”, specifically on the nature of man and rights.
To start with let’s take a look at his concept of a “state of Nature,” he says in Chapter 2:
Earlier, on this blog I predicted that purely secular/liberal effects to overcome Capitalism are doomed from the start. I laud their efforts, and I think most of the Marxian critiques of Capitalism (as well as other critiques such as the Anarchist critique) are absolutely accurate. Recently the Erik Olin Wright wrote an article in the Jacobin magazine called “How to be an Anti-Capitalist Today” Where he outlined 4 approaches to be an anti-Capitalist. The first two are obvious, the revolutionary model of the Anarchists and Marxists, and the Social-Democratic Model, the problems with those models are obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the 20th century. Wright puts it quite succinctly in his article, first with the revolutionary model: