Thursday, September 22, 2005There's been a lot of said over the last few years about the Christian worldview, its positives and its excesses. Let me offer this piece as a means of detailing where I agree and where I disagree with the prevailing worldview and its implications. The catalyst for this was this piece by the Internet Monk, Michael Spencer. I'm not in total opposition to Spencer's viewpoint, but I want to offer my own slant on the topic.
To begin, let me offer this much: A great deal of the worldview thinking has gone overboard. I think the Worldview Weekend is lame. It goes to ridiculous lengths to endorse the GOP as God's Party. I'm not on board with that. I think Nancy Pearcey takes some absurd leaps when she tries to suggest that rock music is inappropriate for the Christian believer. While I respect Francis Schaeffer's work, I also think he drew some unnecessary philosophical lines that labeled lots of things as "dangerous" when they needn't be, i.e. anything influenced by Kirkegaard or Barth. I didn't say we had to agree with it, mind you, I'm just saying that those ideas aren't immediately dangerous in the way that Sartre or Camus are.
Having said that, and I hope to revisit my criticism of Pearcey soon enough, let me detail where I am on board with the notion that Biblical orthodoxy can lead to certain social, economic and political beliefs. It's true enough that there is no Scripture arguing for the creation of a capitalist state, but I can look at the Bible and see a basic endorsement of personal freedom, the right to private property, and the freedom to ply one's craft without any sort of major interference from an oppressive government. Scripture suggests that we should maintain communal bonds, caring for one another and those who cannot care for themselves. The New Testament doesn't go a long way in suggesting that we care for others by taxing ourselves and then practicing a generic redistribution of wealth. My point here is to suggest that some degree of free-market economics can easily be justified by Scripture. Can free market economics be abused? Absolutely, and I reject any idea that says the market rules above all. Christians in business and government must be fair and euitable in all their dealings.
Now as it relates to specific government proposals, of course the Bible doesn't offer an opinion on health care. But I can look at the problem of socialized health care and see that it leads to ridiculously high taxes, a lack of choice for the individial and, typically, a decrease in the quality of health care. That may not be explicitly Biblical, but it sure is common sense. We might call it natural law, no? And like Aquinas, I believe that natural law was instituted by God, and any government program that consistenly tries to kick against natural law and first principles just isn't going to work. And yes, we're fallen humans, so nothing is going to flourish forever, but there's a significant difference between an idea that has problems and an idea that is an unmitigated disaster.
So what then does the Christian think about tax policy and welfare? Specifically, I don't know that a believer could argue for the Reagan tax policy as opposed to the Bush policy. But given the intentions of the government, I do think one could make a case that the Reagan policy was better than the LBJ policy or that Margaret Thatcher's ideas were better than Tony Blair's. Why? Well, not to sound too pragmatic, but they worked. And I don't mean that God's on the side of the winner, but I mean that Thatcher and Reagan worked (while LBJ and Blair haven't) because they've adhered to first principles of natural law when developing their economic policies, believing that individuals and communities know best, that government should stay out of the way and that private charity is most effective. Is that the Christian position? I don't know. I don't want a sermon on it this Sunday, but at the same time, I don't want us to pretend that God hasn't laid down certain natural precepts that will lead to a smoother (not necessarily perfect - totally depravity and all that) flow in the economy. To suggest that a Christian can be for any old party is to suggest that those parties don't take a stance on these matters and that perhaps God doesn't either. That's just plain false.
If what I've endorsed sounds an awful lot like conservatism, well, so be it. The simple truth is that the major American conservatives of the last fifty years have, on the whole, been both orthodox Christians and Jews (with a few agnostic exceptions), meaning that they held to certains understandings of natural law that are easily extrapolated from Scripture. Likewise, a brief perusal of the Conservative Reader shows a fair number of Christians, Lewis, Eliot and Muggeridge included, within its ranks. If that makes some people uncomfortable, then so be it. I don't want the church to wave the banner for the Republican party, but on this aspect of politics, I'm generally persuaded that the traditionally conservative position is the more defensible one for the Christian tradition.
Consider this part one of a series. I will return, hopefully tonight or tomorrow, with my thoughts on where the Christian worldview is perhaps off on matters of art and where, despite some terrible Evangelical public relations, is still pretty much right on matters of family and marriage.