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Capitalism closest to biblical model, Land says

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Capitalism represents the closest model to a biblical economic system, Richard Land told students and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in October.

“I would argue that a biblical economic theory has to start with reality — man is not necessarily as we would like for him to be,” Land said.

Referencing Jeremiah 17:9, Land said, “One of the things the Bible does is show us our sinfulness.”

“If this is true, then Marxism and socialism will never work (to produce productive and growing wealth societies). Man is not going to work with great productivity and only receive according to his need. Capitalism works best at producing wealth because it is most in accord with the biblical truth about man’s nature.”

Land pointed to examples of this in nations that have benefited from changing their economic system. China exchanged its communist economy and India exchanged its socialist economy for capitalist economies, and they are becoming the first- and second-largest economies in the world, he said.

“Capitalism produces pies,” Land said. “All socialism can do is try to evermore equitably distribute a never-growing pie. Capitalism produces pies. People will work hard if they get to keep a significant portion of that which they make.”

Four times in the last century, Land said, the U.S. government cut tax rates on the highest wage earners, and each time it produced significant growth in government revenue and national economic wealth.

“This is not a defense of laissez faire, unlimited capitalism, which is also impacted by human sinfulness,” Land said. “If there are no restrictions and no regulations on capitalists, they will exploit workers, and they will seek to monopolize markets.”

“With no external controls, unfettered capitalism will exploit workers because they’re going to seek to maximize profits and minimize taxes.”

Because human sinfulness also extends to labor unions and government officials — everybody is “corruptible,” he said — a system of checks and balances must be implemented. He likened it to the three branches of American government: executive, judicial and legislative.

“America’s federal government system is an instructive example on how to resolve the conflict caused by human depravity when it comes to the marketplace,” Land said.

“You have management, you have labor unions, and you have government, the regulatory agency. They circulate around the law of supply and demand. Our system has worked best when there’s been a healthy balance of power between these three elements of the economy.”

His comments came at a luncheon on the theology of work and economics sponsored by the seminary’s Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement.

On other issues, Land called for Christians to follow the biblical mandate for being salt and light. He said many poor models for the church-state relationship have been implemented with disastrous effects. Rather than ignore or retreat from involvement in the governmental process, Christians should work to influence it, he said.

“I believe the Bible is very clear about this — there is no division between the social Gospel and the spiritual Gospel,” Land said. “There is one Gospel, and it is a whole Gospel for whole people.”

“Let me be clear,” Land said at the Oct. 12 event, “it is blasphemous as Christians for us to go out in the name of Christ to feed the hungry and not tell them about the Bread of Life, or to seek to house the homeless and not tell them that in our Father’s house there are many mansions, or to seek to clothe the naked and not tell them about the whole armor of God, or to seek to give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name and not tell them about the river of living water.

“But it’s also a denial of the incarnation for us to go out and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and ignore the fact that people are hungry, thirsty, homeless and naked. We’re to do both; it’s both/and.”

Christians must influence the moral tone of society, Land said. As they do, they can expect — according to the Bible — to face opposition and discrimination. Even so, Christians must recognize their own responsibility to be faithful stewards of whatever amount of wealth the Lord has entrusted to them, he said.
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Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews). For more information on the Richard Land Center for Cultural engagement and its series on the theology of work and economics, visit swbts.edu/landcenter.

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  • Keith Collier