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A Theology of Taxation? Horvath column published at Worldnetdaily.com

This is a column of mine that Worldnetdaily.com published several years back.  In light of recent events concerning the IRS targeting of tea party and conservative groups (and anyone else opposed to Obama’s policies), it seemed appropriate to highlight it again.


I am not a theologian or an economist and have never received formal instruction on the morality of taxation. That, though, is a bit of the point: Little effort is made to educate young Christians about matters of importance or otherwise equip them for the actual challenges they face when they come of age. It might seem odd to propose the development of a theology of taxation. Isn’t a theology on civil government enough?

No, it isn’t, especially when we the people (theoretically) constitute the government. Unfortunately, “taxation” is relegated off as mere “politics,” and in many minds most political issues are considered “spiritually neutral.” The feeling is that a Christian can in good conscience embrace any number of views and be within the revealed Word of God.

 Certainly, in ultimate terms Christians understand that the highest concern is the eternal fate of every human soul on the planet. Thus, temporal issues are of limited importance. True, but not of no importance. We must remind ourselves that God created the material world and our physical bodies and called it “good.” Though we will be resurrected with a “spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44), it is still a body. Even Jesus in his resurrected body retained the physical marks of his crucifixion.

Taxation is a subset of a larger issue. As Christians, we know that we cannot be indifferent to the welfare of our fellow man. We know that we should attempt to end or curtail atrocities such as abortion on demand and the Holocaust. We know that we should not look the other way when we see whole nations terrorized by tyrants and tyrannical ideologies. We know that, insofar as it is within our power, we should increase freedom and oppose slavery whenever we can. Slavery has many forms but is marked essentially by the forceful repression of individual human will. Taxation, all taxation, is in some respect and to some degree just such a repression.

Every increase in taxation represents a proportional decrease in human freedom.

How can that be? The easiest way to see it is to look at one of the most extreme examples ever to be manifested in human history: communism. Indisputably, wherever communism went, tyranny and enslavement – and worse – went with it. The grand experiment in mass redistribution of wealth had horrific consequences. However, it may be surprising and unexpected that religious persecution, torment and torture accompanied communism on its long march.

Why is that the case? Simply put, those who tax feel that they have the right, justification and authority to do so. When people believe that there is no higher authority than man himself, then they do not believe they answer to anyone, except of course their fellow man, and these they might be able to control – for the “common good” of course. This describes the communists to a T.

Religion, and Christianity in particular, stands in the way of that attitude, and the communists understood that acutely. The only ones who don’t seem to understand it are Christians.

Can it really be said, though, that all taxation represents a reduction in freedom? The answer to this must be yes, even if we recognize that the effect on freedom might be slight in some cases. To illustrate, imagine a small income tax of a dollar. It might be an easy matter to get by without that dollar, but it is still one more dollar that you cannot spend according to your own priorities. Consider what the impact is if instead the tax is 25 percent of your income!

We also have to ask about those who are doing the taxing. They obviously believe they have the right to take your resources from you. They must believe that they can obtain some good that people would not have subsidized if left to their own devices. They must believe that they know how much they can fairly extract from you. They must believe that they have the right, if you protest, to incarcerate you and take your possessions by force if need be. In sum, they are almost indistinguishable from tyrants.

Christians should not support tyrants or adopt their methods and so become tyrants ourselves. If there is a cause we wish to support, we ought to do so from our own resources out of the free expression of our own hearts (2 Corinthians 8).

Where does theology come into the picture? After all, Jesus is on the record saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Clearly, we must pay our taxes. Note, however, that in this passage Jesus was speaking to the people being taxed. What would He have said if he were speaking to the ones doing the taxing? What would He have said to Caesar? In a country such as ours, which is theoretically ruled at the consent of the governed, are we not in some way Caesar?

In light of the foregoing, Christians should carefully test their attitudes about taxation (and governing) against the Scriptures, not merely as those who are taxed and governed but as those who tax and govern.

Remember what Samuel told the Israelites when they demanded a king: “This is what [he] will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses … he will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendances. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage. … He will take a tenth of your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves” (1 Samuel 8).

Note: Samuel does not think any of these things are good things. In America there is no king – so why do we still see all the things that Samuel warned the Israelites about?

True Christian theologians and economists should sit down and work out a “theology of taxation” and present it before the church. Then we should teach our children that what happens in the world matters and has eternal reverberations (e.g., 1 Timothy 5:24-25). If we don’t teach our children, their secularist humanistic professors will.

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6 Responses to A Theology of Taxation? Horvath column published at Worldnetdaily.com

  1. Interesting article, but I have two points to make:

    1. “those who tax feel that they have the right”
    They do by the 16 amendment of the constitution. We elect congress members and endowed them with the right to tax; thus, taxation with representation.
    2.“When people believe that there is no higher authority than man himself, then they do not believe they answer to anyone, except of course their fellow man, and these they might be able to control – for the “common good” of course. This describes the communists to a T.

    You make a humongous leap that I don’t see as true. James Madison references regularly to a common good and certainly was not a communist. Also, you loosely tie god into this statement. Muslim’s believe in a higher authority, and regularly commit atrocities. Christian examples do exist as well.

  2. Let’s look at that paragraph again:

    Why is that the case? Simply put, those who tax feel that they have the right, justification and authority to do so. When people believe that there is no higher authority than man himself, then they do not believe they answer to anyone, except of course their fellow man, and these they might be able to control – for the “common good” of course. This describes the communists to a T.

    In the first place, your referral to the 16th amendment merely illustrates what I said. People who tax always provide a justification for it. Transition to your second point: by citing the 16th amendment, you imply that you are holding the Constitution to be a “higher authority” than yourself, or even the community; while the amendment is in force, a set of abstract propositions is said to bind us all. But now what about the special case of people who believe there is no higher authority–not even words on a 250 page document? They still want to tax, and they still will provide a rationale for this. However, having jettisoned God, or the Constitution, they must generate this rationale from within their own mind.

    The idea that they can be trusted to do this and have everything work out just dandy is in fact illustrated well by the Communists. Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that they each thought they were helping humanity.

    James Madison cited the common good, but this did not rest on his own private fancy. And since it did not, it was hemmed in by the source, and could not be stretched infinitely according to the infinite whims of individual men. But people who do not believe they answer to anything higher than themselves feel concern only insofar as it is possible they may push the population they wish to rule so far it pushes back.

    And these are the sorts of men that now populate the American government, at all levels, local, state and Federal. But especially the latter.

    As for the abuses of the Muslims and Christians, that’s really not relevant to the point I was making. You might say that it is precisely because Muslims, Christians, etc, commit atrocities (often using tax dollars) that Christians really ought to sit down and think through what the Scriptures have to say about it, beyond an instinctive citation of Romans 13.

    Some how you missed this:

    “Christians should not support tyrants or adopt their methods and so become tyrants ourselves.”

  3. “those who tax feel that they have the right “
    then
    “your referral to the 16th amendment merely illustrates what I said. People who tax always provide a justification for it”

    When you write “feel” and “justification” you are making an innuendo that congress does not have legitimate power to tax.

    “by citing the 16th amendment, you imply that you are holding the Constitution to be a “higher authority” than yourself”
    The statement is false. I enter contracts all the time, and we agree to conditions. As an American You enter in an agreement with the government. I hold the Constitution as an agreement between me and the government. Being bound by an agreement is not submitting to a “higher authority”. I think this leads to an interesting point you vaguely make: Has Congress violated the terms of the agreement?

  4. “When you write “feel” and “justification” you are making an innuendo that congress does not have legitimate power to tax.”

    No, I am not. But I have already explained myself further on the point. All that is left is for you to assume that the man who originally wrote the words knows what he meant more than YOU do.

    “The statement is false.”

    It’s not false. To make it false, you have to make some equivocations. Let’s take the example of your entering contracts– “we agree to conditions.” But what holds you to those conditions? If it is only your own sense of ‘right and wrong’ then theoretically, you could just as easily break the agreement as make it. If this is how you perceive contracts, such as the one you apparently have with the Constitution, then my sentence is false… at least, when applied narrowly to these kinds of ‘agreements.’

    But if what holds you to the condition is the fact that you know, if you violate the conditions, a lawsuit will be filed, or worse, and you could end up in a very bad situation–because OTHER PEOPLE will enforce their will on you, you are indeed submitting to a higher authority. The fact that it was voluntary was irrelevant. Of course, you likely did this because you were hoping that the other party would be similarly constrained. In other words, you both submitted to being bound by something higher then you. If this were not the case, I don’t think you’d waste time drawing up the contract.

    But you equivocate, suggesting that the aforementioned type of contract is like the one with the Constitution. I’m sorry, but where exactly did we enter into an agreement with the government? I know I didn’t sign the Constitution. Did you?

    You are less then candid in your analogy. You abide by the Constitution for the same reason I do: if you don’t, the ‘higher ups’ will come and put the hurt down on us. Show me I’m wrong by sending me a pic of your sig on the Constitution, and the ‘other party’ signing beneath yours.

    The two types of situations are entirely different. In the former, it is voluntary, in the latter, it is involuntary, and de facto, but in either case, implies the existence of a higher authority.

    Yes, I think it is an interesting question: “Has Congress violated the terms of the agreement?”

    But why just Congress? Why not the Executive Branch and the Judiciary? And so on?

    Interesting thing about this little ‘agreement’ we got going: The ‘government’ entered into this agreement with us (presumably) with a sly smile, knowing the agreement also grants the government with the sole power of interpretation and enforcement. I doubt very much you’d enter an agreement with X where it goes on to say, “in case of dispute, of the two parties, whatever X determines will rule.”

    You (Y) enter into an agreement with X on the view that if there is a problem between him and you, Z will arbitrate. Not so with the ‘government.’ In this agreement with the government, you give him the right as final arbiter. What are YOU going to do if the government violates the agreement and you appeal to the Supreme Court (established by the Constitution, ie, part of the government) and lose your case? Where is ‘Z’ in this case?

    The Constitution as it has been interpreted by the government, back at least to Marbury vs. Madison, assigns to itself the final word on all things. What can possibly go wrong?

  5. I read your amusing comments. Your babbling is truly something to be enjoyed in a public forum. I will comment again to read your belligerent incoherent ramblings. I would love a video for the full effect!!! I see you as the ranting bible guy screaming at people walking by. Either way, thanks for taking to time to respond.

  6. Stathei, is that you?

    If so, then you know of course that I don’t care one lick how you see me as, because I don’t perceive you to be a rational person. But if we’re sharing perceptions, I’d like to play! The one I have of you is of a very young person who just recently read the latest Sam Harris screed and realizes he doesn’t know enough to back up any of his assertions beyond 1 or 2 posts against someone who DOES know what he’s talking about. Time to sling and insult and run and hide! A tried and true tactic, to be sure, but one that fools no one.

    😉

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