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Do Christians Need to Think Theologically about Economics?

I had an article published with Worldnetdaily.com today that essentially answers in the affirmative.  Here is a snippet:

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 you, and perhaps few others, would have subsidized if left to your 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).

Read the rest of the article.

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7 comments

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    • Tim on January 21, 2010 at 10:31 am

    The question is, are you serious about doing it, or is this just another ‘nice thought’, somebody ought to do something?

    • Anthony on January 21, 2010 at 11:34 am
      Author

    I’m sorry Tim, I don’t understand your question. Given that, I offer this tentative response: as is perfectly evident from reading this blog, it should be clear that I invest a fair bit of time thinking through the intersection between economics and theology. However, having said that since I am not a theologian or an economist, it is unlikely that anyone will be looking to me as a credible person to work out such a theology. Hence, the need for real theologians and real economists to put their heads together.

    • Tim on January 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Anthony,
    I’m sorry for not filling in the details a bit more.
    This is actually an area of interest for me for a number of reasons I won’t go into here.
    The main problem is education. If a coherent result is expected, a lot of work would need to be done to take the ‘shoot from the hip’ opinions out of it.
    Off and on for three years, I spent considerable time learning the rudiments of legal research, it took me two years to unlearn what I that I knew. The beginning of the third year coincides with my coming to faith in Christ in 2000. I no longer believe in coincidence or randomness, ( I’m a YEC, 6 literal day adherent). I had no one directly witnessing to me, but I had developed an intense interest in our founders and the political history of our nation. I spent quite a bit of time reading their writings, not just what someone said they said. In short, it was the Christian witness of some of our founders that lead me to Christ.
    In the interest of not succumbing to ‘RTS’ ( Rabbit Trail Syndrome) I’ll get to the main point of my original post.
    The proper understanding of scripture requires an exegetec hermeneutic. The same discipline applies to what you’re suggesting, both from the Biblical side and the legal side.
    If you would be interested, I would like to give you my take on the misconceptions about the render unto Ceaser passage and why it does but shouldn’t apply to general taxation in our nation to day.
    I don’t mean to discourage this type of application of scripture in this area, in fact it is long over due, but a ‘let’s do something even if it’s wrong’, approach will do more harm than good.
    Respectfully yours,
    Tim

    • Anthony on January 22, 2010 at 9:06 am
      Author

    Hi Tim,

    I agree with everything that you’ve said here so far, with the exception of the biographical elements which of course are not the sort of thing one concurs with. 🙂

    I guess my thing is that I had hoped that I didn’t give the impression that I was the man for the job I was calling to be done. I strongly believe it should be done, and privately am working through the issues on my own, but do not think I’m the dude.

    Having said that, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts about the Caesar passage even though I suspect there might be agreement there, too.

    • Tim on January 22, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Anthony,
    Actually I guess I did jump to the wrong conclusion. We all probably risk that when we touch someones ‘hot botton issue’.
    For the sake of brevity, I’ll dispense with the full quotes. The ‘render to Caesar’ passages are found in Mt22 & Luke20. My purpose is to show what is actually going on.
    1st, who are the main players? Jesus of course, but He is a Jew born under the law. In Mathew’s account His antagonists are Pharisees, also Jews under the law. Under these specific circumstances, it would be absurd for a Jew under the law to ask another Jew under the law if it is lawful to pay taxes.
    Second, the 1611 has the proper translation, ‘tribute’ Mat 22:17 etc. The tribute, although a tax, was a tax only paid by the conquered to the conquerer.
    In short Jesus’ reply is affirming that the Jews were bound as a conquered people, to pay tribute to Caesar. But, given God’s history of judging Israel, Jesus would have been understood to mean that Rome’s domination of Israel was God’s judgement on Israel. You can imagine how well that would set with a Pharisee! It was Israel’s idolatry and moral decay that caused God’s judgement through out their history. The issue now wasn’t ‘graven image’s, but hardened hearts(Heb3:7-11).
    I don’t think I need to go much farther along this line. I think you can see why I would agree that these passages can be applied to U.S. tax law today, but and oh what a big but, (talk about walking on thin ice with todays ‘body image’ fetishes), we as Christians need to hang our heads in shame precisely because these passages do apply to America’s spiritual and moral decay.
    As I became aware of what was really at play in these passages, I left the ‘Tax Honesty Movement’, and now spend most of my time trying to further the Kingdom.
    Here’s one of those hermeneutic gymnastic exercises. Given that Paul was a Roman citizen, did the tribute tax apply to him? I’m not sure how much value there would be in spending much time on the answer, but it does cause one to think. My personal opinion is that after his Damascus Road experience, Paul may have paid that tax for the sake of the Gospel even though it didn’t technically apply to him.
    One final thing. As I was debating pulling away from the Tax Honesty Movement, I was really struggling with it. It was at that time that I read Gamaliel’s advice to the council in Acts 5:33-39, in particular the part about ‘fighting agaisnt God’ in verse 39. If a Biblical based teaching on taxes is to be developed, I feel we had better do some house cleaning in God’s house first, and anyone who attempts to address the government on it’s tax policcies had better have a thorough understanding of law and tax law in particular. Yaint gona git it at H&R Block neither!
    Here’s a hint of what one would be up against: ‘The government is enforncing administrative remedies, found in the codes and regulations (IRC26), outside of the jurisdictions of the statutes (USC26) the codes & regulations were promulgated to administer.’
    Sound confusing? Like I said, it took me two years to unlearn what I thought I knew. One of the keys is understanding the differences between (IRC26) and USC26)codes/regulations and statutes. The government would have us believe they are the same, but only one (statutes) is actually law, and can therefore impute liability. Codes merely describe the processes by which a tax will be collected. Repeal the statute and the codes have no force. More to the point: Don’t engage in the activity covered under the statute, and the codes have virtually no force.
    ANYHOO, there’s the issues. I put myself under God’s hand of protection when I backed away from the tax movement, as right as they were, because I felt if I didn’t back away I would be ‘fighting God.’ BTY my wife and I did take a huge hit from the government, you don’t start down that path and turn back and not expect them to come after you in a big way, but God was faithful and we grew in our trust in Him.
    Thanks for your time,
    Tim

    • Tim on January 23, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Anthony,
    I posted a reply with my view on taxation theology, but it didn’t show up. I’ll address it next week.

    • Anthony on January 26, 2010 at 10:14 am
      Author

    Looks like the reason your post was lost was because WordPress called it spam. I hardly ever check it but today I did and here it was.

    Looks like you’ve got quite a history of dealing with this issue. To be honest, I’ve never heard of the Tax Honesty Movement. Some of the things you allude to are things I haven’t come across and will take at your word. I do agree that the Church needs to clean up its own act first. We may of course disagree on what we think it needs to clean up.

    I also agree that our emphasis should be furthering the kingdom. I made this decision a little over five years ago when I decided that I didn’t want to be a professional politician. However, this does not mean that I think that what happens in politics is ‘spiritually neutral.’ There is a balance here, and I am striving for it.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m glad it wasn’t lost!

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