The Bible and Economics (1)

Purpose and Meaning

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness: and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Gen. 1:25-27).

The most important Biblical doctrines have their origins in the first few chapters of Genesis. This means that to understand Biblical economics, we have to begin with Genesis 1.

Why is this?

Genesis 1 gives us an understanding of the Creator/Creature distinction, and our first glimpse of God’s purpose for people. People have responsibility under God.  Furthermore, Genesis 1 shows us that man has purpose, meaning and dignity, all flowing from God. Consequently, our lives should always reflect coherence, Biblical morality and accountability.

North’s points here are helpful:

In what ways is man special? First, man is made in the image of God. He can therefore understand God’s words to him. These words are the words of a master over a servant, but also a father over a son. God gives commands to man, and man is expected by God to respond obediently. To be obedient, man must be able to understand and act accordingly. Man has been given an understanding of cause and effect: first with respect to the coherence of ideas (hearing); second, with respect to human action (doing). This derivative creaturely coherence rests on the absolute coherence of God’s word and the absolute conformity of the creation to God’s coherent word: God’s comprehensive decree. God is absolutely sovereign over the creation, including man. This gives order to the creation.[1]

Later in scripture, the Psalmist returns to the creation/dominion theme:

When I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You take care of him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet (Ps.8:3-6).

Humanistic man wants to deny these facts, by denying the knowledge of God is even in the world. His view is that any suggestion of God in the universe has to be eradicated, otherwise humanism is doomed, and the world has to be surrendered to God and His people. And this hangs on the issue of an overall purpose, before and apart from man.

The purpose of God is specifically evident in the coming of Jesus. Immediately after the Fall, God promised the serpent that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel (Gen.3:15).

Later, Paul explained that “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal.4:4-5).

The issues that divide modern evolutionism from the Bible’s account of creation are not the main ones. From the 1830’s to the 1920’s, Protestant intellectuals accepted as truth the long chronology of the earth proposed by James Hutton and Charles Lyell. All of them, including anti-Darwinist Charles Hodge, rejected the six-day creation. The six-day creation has become a divisive issue within evangelicalism. But the six-day creation is not the really crucial theological issue; it is merely the academically representative issue. The real issue is covenantal: the question of purpose in the universe. The debate between Darwinism and biblical creationism is a debate over God’s sovereign purpose vs. autonomous man’s sovereign purpose.[2]

What does this mean? No aspect of creation or human behaviour is excluded from the purpose of God. Everything is to be subject to God and His Word, including economics. But when Christians through negligence or pessimism abandon the intellectual issues of their day, or glibly accept the faulty conclusions of humanists, history shows those intellectual issues go into decline. Economics has merely been one of many.

Jordan points out that

Culture follows from, arises from, and is dependent upon faith. Spiritual loyalty to God, in faith, must precede and be the ground of all cultural change. It not only must be, it inevitably will be. The gospel has inevitable consequences, and so does Baalism.[3]

This means that after a period of sustained decline, there must be a period of sustained recovery, or reconstruction. Christians, families, churches and other institutions (including nations) must steadily apply themselves wholeheartedly to scripture, so that whole subjects are re-examined and re-taken for God’s glory.

Economics must be one of these.

 

 

[1] Gary North, “Christian Economics in One Lesson,” I, “Knowledge and Dominion,” p.1. 2016.

[2] North, p.2.

[3] James Jordan, “Judges: God’s War on Humanism,” 1985, p.59.

Copyright © Christian Family Study Centre