Taking Back Jesus From Socialism
“Christian Socialism” is neither Christian nor Socialism …. It is disappointing to Christians and irritating to Socialists. – R. A. Torrey
Socialist propagandists for over four centuries have claimed that the Bible teaches socialism, but we have yet to see a single Bible commentary written by a socialist. If the Bible teaches socialism, where is the expository evidence? – Gary North
Tis’ time for me to write this touchy and untimely subject. Namely, Jesus and with his supposedly correlation with socialist ideology. Egalitarianism, is probably the most misunderstood ideology among professing Christians. Either, because from insufficient study in this subject or simply because Christians has been too emotional.
Socialism is very attractive and popular not only among the secular but also among Christians as well. Christians who adhere to socialism, unfortunately, and deceitfully so believes that socialism champions the poor and that the opposite view i.e. capitalism which only encourages greed, envy and inequality, therefore inhumane and unbiblically incoherent.
Either Christians misunderstood its ideological stance on the account of what socialism is, or they just plainly ignore the fact that socialism goes against the teachings of the Scripture. In despite of many professing believers in Christ who thinks and believes that socialism is compatible with the Christian faith, I will, however, argue otherwise.
I believe that socialism or sometimes referred to as collectivism corrupts both the free-market enterprise and human freedom. I also believe that socialism is a nonbiblical teaching and I doubt that Jesus and his disciples adopted some sort of socialistic/communistic ideology since the idea itself surfaced during 1900 century. However, I will be very careful not to confine Jesus and his followers as capitalists. Yet, by a thorough exegesis of the Scripture I believe that capitalism fits more with the Bible than with socialism.
It really bothers and irritates me when well-intentioned Christians practices Marxism. Because, it certainly devalues Christ’s teachings and dehumanize those who opposes the ethos of socialism. Socialism as such is no more than biblical than the belief in anarchism (anti government is not to be confused with limited government).
It is sad to see that Christians seems to have been bewitched with the delusion that socialism and communism fights for the destitute, which is, of course, false if not outright misleading. All I can see and comprehend about socialism is that it deprives the individual’s freedom and self-worth (been to socialist countries lately?). Without any further complications let us first study, in brief, what socialism represents in reality.
It is evident that socialism is to be distinguished from communism with which it is often confused. The latter advocates a collective ownership of all wealth. Socialism does not deny the right of private property, but of private capital.
Socialism is an economic and social system based upon the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Socialism is system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control. In a lay person’s language this simply means that all people having ALL things in common, It also is used to refer to a government taking things and redistributing them as the government sees fit. Either way, socialism, so defined, denies private ownership. But, ’tis not so, since the Scripture clearly endorses private ownership (see Exo. 20:15; 2-17, Deu. 22:1, Lev. 19:35-36,Pro. 3:9).
Moreover, in a socialist country, the state is sovereign. Such an all-powerful state views itself as the grand authority. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Communist Manifesto calls for abolishing family, marriage, countries, and religion as well as private property. Under the socialist system the state determines what is right and wrong — without any competing loyalties to the Judeo-Christian God, family, or country. As you and I understands, surely, socialism is irreconcilable with Christianity. Not to mention that the founder of socialism/communism were atheists if not antitheists. Winston Churchill rightly says, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.”
Christian Socialism ?
Socialist and dictator Hugo Chavez, once commented that “Jesus was the greatest socialist in history.” I cannot, to be honest, see why he made such a ludicrous statement! In disagreement Christian evangelist R.A. Torrey wrote;
That He [Jesus] insisted upon justice, and brotherhood, and love, and self-sacrifice is evident; but to suggest that these virtues are the monopoly of any one political or economic party is presumptuous, and to prove that Christ advocated “collective ownership of property” is impossible. The fundamental economic problem relates to the division of wealth; and as to that Christ refused to speak. He rebuked social sins and injustice and selfishness, but when requested to divide a possession on a certain occasion He asked, “Who made Me a judge or a divider over you?” and that question has wide implications for the present day. [emphasis mine]
Christians who have been persuaded by the socialist ethos will argue that Jesus and, in fact, the New Testament endorses socialism and some form of communism. Christian socialists attempts to combine the fundamental aims of socialism with the religious and ethical convictions of Christianity, promoting cooperation over competition as a means of helping the poor. Christian socialism generally refers to those on the Christian left whose politics are both Christian and socialist and, who see these two philosophies as being interrelated. This category can include Liberation theology and the doctrine of the ‘social gospel.’
Heterodox Readings of the Holy Scripture
Of course, those who believe that socialism is compatible with the Christian faith are anxious to defend their faulty understanding of the Bible by quoting ample verses building their own arguments for egalitarianism. I can assure you that no such verses that supposedly supports socialism can ever be found in the mouth of Jesus, disciples, apostles and certainly not both Old and New Testament.
Market enterprise during the Old and New Testament time reflect the social and economic practices of the day without meaning to say that these particular practices are to be universal. But, when immorality is practised in biblical culture, it is always condemned by Scripture. If private ownership and wealth were sinful and in themselves oppressive to the poor, Scripture would condemn these. The Bible, however, never condemns wealth – it speaks of wealth as a blessing, and actually protects the concept of private ownership.
Socialists maintains and advances ludicrously arguments by using biblical texts to support their misapplication. For instance, in Matt. 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Does the texts above supports the socialist view? Not if you’re willing to read the texts out of contexts. First of all, the Bible is evidently clear how we can attain salvation––by faith. Salvation is neither achievable by being rich or by being poor. No. you’re saved by believing and by trusting in Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation. Now back to our “socialist” verse. Jesus did not rebuked the man by being rich per se. But, rather, Jesus saw the rich man failed by not loving his neighbour. His unwillingness to relinquish his wealth showed he did not love his neighbour as himself. His idolatry and full reliance upon his wealth only showed that he loves more the mammon than righteousness. Again, the verse (as shown above) has nothing to do with being rich but having more to do with idolatry and trust in wealth for salvation instead of having faith in God and live a righteous life.
What about Acts 2:44-45 it reads, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Does the passage above support the primitive communist mind-set? Again, I doubt it. There are difference between voluntary and obligatory. The former teaches and demonstrated their love for one another by giving self-sacrificingly. The latter, on the other hand, teaches that in a socialists or communists regime the state uses the authority to accomplish the desired result.
Acts 4:32 is yet another text that has been abused by egalitarian Christian. It reads, “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” It amazes me how this passage at hand can ever be reconciled with the socialistic ethos. Just because the early NT Christians gave and shared their positions in common with each other doesn’t concludes egalitarianism at large! After all, they didn’t only shared their positions in common but also “believed with one heart and soul.” The verse at hand is more characteristically spiritual and not an economical proposal. In addition, Torrey commented,
When we read the story of the early Church there are statements which suggest Socialism or even Communism, as for instance when we read that “they had all things common,” but a fuller investigation shows their Communism was local, voluntary, occasional, temporary. It was practiced only in Jerusalem, no one was compelled to divide or sell his property, not all adopted the practice, but many like Mary the mother of Mark kept their homes in the city. Furthermore, this Communism was only practiced for a time. It was prompted by love and designed to meet a special crisis, but never admitted or established as an abiding principle of Church life.
In addition, If you read 2 Cor. 9:7, the apostle Paul teaches the virtue of voluntary giving, and this is, for sure, without pressure of compulsion. And this is indeed a totally different idea than that of egalitarianism! The Old Testament can testify that wealth and even having a capital isn’t morally evil (read about Job for example). If you read both Old and New Testament you’ll get the impression that tis’ humans disobedience and other predicaments that is the culprit NOT having wealth or capital.
Biblical Christian orthodoxy should not compromise by correlating the secular ideology with socialism and communism which is the very antithesis of the Christian faith. I, among many believers in Christ Jesus stands firmly in the conviction that socialism as such is a non-Christian discipline and ought not to be embolden to adopt within the Christian community. Socialism as an economical, materialist theory goes against the biblical teaching of “justification by faith,” and not by works. A true Gospel of grace is inseparable from a Gospel of good works. Christian doctrines and Christian duties cannot be divorced. At last but not least, socialism is in a strong contrast with Christianity. Again, Torrey said that,
It insists that better social conditions will produce better men; Christianity teaches that better men are needed to produce better conditions. Socialism endeavors to elevate individuals by elevating society; Christianity contends that society can be elevated only by the regeneration of individuals. To secure such regeneration is the supreme effort and function of the Church, and its chief message to Socialism is that the “life is more than meat and the body than raiment.”
R. A. Torrey: “The Church and Socialism.” Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
Ronald H. Nash; Social Justice and the Christian Church
David A. Noebel; The Battle For The Truth