And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).
The theocentric focus of this verse is the absolute sovereignty of God over every aspect of history. Those who love God can legitimately be confident about the beneficial personal outcomes of their decisions. They can also be confident that God will thwart the outcomes of the decisions of God's covenantal enemies. God providentially sustains the universe in such a way that His people will be victorious in the end. Every fact of history leads to this victorious end.
Paul says here that all things work for good for God's elect -- not just a few things, but all things. There is no indication in the text that "all" means anything except "all." Even the painful things that afflict covenant-keepers in history are for their good, just as Paul's thorn in the flesh was for his good (II Cor. 12). The universe is completely rigged by God in favor of God and His people. It is inherently good, but only for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For covenant-breakers, the reverse is true: all things in history work against them in eternity. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
It takes enormous faith to believe this. It flies in the face of many visible facts in the lives of Christians. In the chapter immediately preceding his discussion of the thorn in his flesh, Paul wrote of his own experience: "Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" (II Cor. 11:23-29). Nevertheless, Paul tells us here that all things work for the good of those who love God. To believe this requires the adoption of a personal eschatology of victory. In fact, no passage in the Bible is more expressive of a personal eschatology of victory than this one. This verse is the great affirmation of personal victory.
The cross is the supreme example of this two-fold process of historical causation. It initially appeared to bring an ignominious end to Jesus' ministry. His enemies believed that it had. So did His disciples. They scattered. The cross was so horrendous a prospect that Jesus asked God the Father that this burden might be kept from him (Matt. 26:39). Nevertheless, without Jesus' bodily victory over death after the cross, there would be no guarantee of the promise of Romans 8:28. Paul wrote this twice: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (I Cor. 15:14). "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (I Cor. 15:17). Christ's bodily resurrection is the legal foundation for covenant-keepers' confidence regarding the comprehensive, one-sided benevolence of the providence of God.
Jesus said of Judas before the betrayal, "And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!" (Luke 22:22). Judas had his goal and motivation; God had His. The Jewish leaders had their motivation; God had His. "Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death" (John 11:47-53).
Joseph in Egypt
Consider the story of Joseph in Egypt. Things turned out very differently from what his brothers had planned for him, as well as what Potiphar had planned for him. After their father died, Joseph's brothers feared that Joseph would impose vengeance on them. They had kidnapped him and then sold him to slave traders. Now he was second in command in Egypt, and they were dependent on Egypt for food. "And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him" (Gen. 50:15). "And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Gen. 50:19-20).
Here we have the clearest statement in the Old Testament regarding the superiority of God's decree over the plans of men. Man proposes, but God disposes. There is no doubt that the brothers had acted in an evil manner. Their intentions had been evil. Yet their actions resulted in their blessing. Joseph assured them, "Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them" (v. 21). Out of evil came good -- not just for Joseph but for the brothers, too. Their decision to sell him to slave traders became the means of their families' deliverance from famine.
The Pharaoh of the exodus provides another example of evil's producing good, though not for the perpetrator. His refusal to allow the Israelites to make a three-day journey to sacrifice to God led to their complete deliverance from Egypt. This was God's doing. "And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses" (Ex. 9:12). In the next chapter of Romans, Paul uses this example in his defense of God's absolute sovereignty in God's electing some to salvation and some to perdition. "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth" (Rom. 9:16-17). Pharaoh had his priorities; God had His. God's were triumphant.
God was sovereign over the decisions of the brothers, Joseph said. God had intended their actions for good. The brothers had an evil motivation, and this had led to their action. This evil action led to other evil actions: lies by Potiphar's wife, forgetfullness by the Pharaoh's butler. Each evil action put Joseph closer to the office of deliverer. God had not only intended the brothers' evil actions for good, He had intended all of the evil actions that had afflicted Joseph to result in good for the family of Jacob. The brothers and their families would be blessed. God had predestinated the entire process. This is what Joseph told his brothers. There had never been any doubt in God's mind about the outcome of this series of decisions by people whose intentions were evil. They had their goals; God had His. They had their motivations; God had His. God's motivation and goal was for good for the sons of Jacob. Joseph told them that they had done evil, but the results were good. Joseph honored God's goal. He did not seek to avenge himself on them. In imagining otherwise, they had thought evil of him, again. They were wrong, again.
The doctrine of God's absolute predestination undergirds Paul's promise in Romans 8:28. In Romans 9, he spells out this doctrine in detail. God is the grand coordinator of all events. Because the free-will theology of Arminianism is today almost universal in Christian circles, even as Calvinism had been almost universal in Protestant circles in the days of Arminius, Christians refuse to accept the plain teaching of these passages. They may give lip service to them, but they do not emotionally and intellectually accept them. They do not believe Paul when Paul writes: "And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid" (Rom. 9:10-14). Before Esau had done good or evil, God hated him. And why not? Esau was an heir of Adam. The amazing fact is that God loved Jacob, not that he hated Esau. But the Arminian reverses this assessment. He is amazed that God hated Esau. He is more than amazed; he does not believe it. But the text is quite clear. God hated Esau in the womb. Calvinist commentator John Murray has commented on this passage. "Since the oracle points to a discrimination that existed before the children were born or had done good or evil (vs. 11), so must the differentiation in the present instance. Thus the definitive actions denoted by 'love' and 'hatred' are represented as actuated not by any character differences in the two children but solely by the sovereign will of God, 'the purpose of God according to election' (vs. 11)."(1)
The Bible teaches that there is coordination from above. There are human actions in history, but coordination is imposed by God from beyond history. God is completely in charge. "I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?" (Isa. 45:5-10). Paul paraphrased this passage in chapter 9 of Romans. "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. 9:19-21). Murray writes: "The similitude is that of the potter making vessels of different character from the same lump of clay, one to serve a high purpose, another a less noble. No one questions his right to make these distinctions. He has not merely the power; he has the authority."(2)
There is an objective decree over history: God's. His decree is not a matter of guesswork on God's part. Neither is its outcome. His decree comes to pass in history. "The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isa. 14:24). With his sanity restored after seven years of madness, Nebuchadnezzar announced: "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:35). The coordination of human affairs and nonhuman affairs is theocratic: God rules. There is a one-to-one correlation between what God proposes and God disposes.
Social theorists who deny Augustinianism/Calvinism must offer some other theory of social coordination. These theorists search for cause-and-effect patterns within the creation that provide an explanation for the presence of social order in the midst of innumerable events that no man can begin to comprehend, and which no god is allowed to interfere with except sporadically. They search for an explanation for the correspondence between the one and the many, between the social order and the myriad decisions of individuals. Every time a new explanatory system is suggested by some social theorist or historian, it is refuted by other theorists as being insufficient as an explanatory device.
Adam Smith made famous the phrase, "the invisible hand." His metaphor was supposed to explain how it is possible for public good to emerge from self-interested decisions by individuals who buy and sell.(3) This metaphor invoked an image of an all-powerful God along the lines of Scottish Presbyterian Calvinism. But Smith did not believe in Calvin's God. He believed in a more deistic sort of God, more Newtonian than Calvinistic. He did not believe that God personally intervenes in history to bring social utility out of individual utility, social order out of seeming chaos. He believed that the free market performs this crucial service. Yet he used the metaphor of an invisible hand. A century later, Darwin adopted the same rhetorical strategy. He denied that nature has goals, yet his language of natural selection implied that something did the selecting. He compared nature to a professional breeder, even as he denied that nature did any such thing.
Smith was part of the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment. He and his intellectual peers believed in undesigned social evolution. Smith's intellectual predecessor Adam Fergusson had argued in the mid-eighteenth century that society is the outcome of human actions, but not of human design. There is no designer of social order. Darwin used this insight a century later to structure his theory of evolution through natural selection. Darwin taught that there is no cosmic designer; nevertheless, there is biological order.
A rival view of the Scottish Enlightenment's theory of decentralized social order was more common on the European continent, especially in France. Order was seen as the product of rationalism. The French Enlightenment believed that the State can and should direct the economy into profitable lines -- for the State. This had been the view of the mercantilists for at least a century by 1776. It became the view of the French revolutionaries under Robespierre. It has been the view of socialists, communists, and Keynesian economists ever since.
Hayek contrasted these two views of Enlightenment rationalism in his book, The Counter-Revolution of Science (1954). The debate continues, though with much less confidence on the part of the defenders of government planning than existed before the visible collapse of the Soviet Union's economy in the late 1980's and the collapse of the Soviet government itself in the summer of 1991. Socialists may today be willing to accept grudgingly the fact that the free market is more efficient than socialism in the delivery of goods and services to consumers, but they deny that the initial distribution of wealth was morally just. Those who have the money to consume are not the people who deserve to consume all that they do consume, the socialist-interventionist argues. Thus, the free market's greater efficiency is not good enough for the socialist -- good enough in all senses: social, moral, and economic. There must also be fair play -- non-market intervention by the State -- in order to establish a just society. State coercion is required to redistribute wealth and thereby ensure morally fair outcomes of individual decision-making in the marketplace.
Individual economic decisions to buy and sell can and do produce a stable economic order. This is no longer widely debated. On this point, the intellectual defenders of the free market triumphed in the final decade of the twentieth century, a triumph that did not seem remotely possible in 1974, the year that Hayek won the Nobel Prize in economic science, also won by the socialist, Gunnar Myrdal. Hayek was taken far more seriously in the final decade of the twentieth century (he died in 1992) than he was in 1974. Before 1974, he was not taken seriously by most economists, and he was regarded as an anomalous throwback to the nineteenth century by the few non-economists in the academic community who had heard of him. There has been a major shift in the climate of academic opinion.
The debate today is over ethics: the moral legitimacy of the outcome of market transactions. There is also the secondary issue of market failure, especially economic recessions. Here, most economists agree: there is a legitimate role for the State, especially the State-granted monopoly of central banking. But the role of civil government is today viewed as limited, more supplementary than determinative. This represents an intellectual victory of the Scottish Enlightenment over the French Revolution's Enlightenment. Today, there is not much opposition to Smith's basic insight that a productive form of economic order predictably arises from the decisions of individuals to enter into voluntary exchange. Out of millions of exchanges arises a recognizable market order. Although no one planned this order, it nevertheless exists. It provides the means of subsistence and far more than mere subsistence. There is coordination through the price system. Hayek called this the spontaneous order. This view of society is evolutionistic.(4)
Hayek's theory of social order rests on the insight of the Scottish Enlightenment rationalists, especially Fergusson, that the coordination of society is unplanned. It is the unintended product of individual human action. This is a powerful argument, though it is difficult to believe for most people. When most men hear the words, "invisible hand," they imagine a god or demon that pushes people around. The metaphor is either not understood as a metaphor or else it is not understood at all. The same problem of perception undermines Darwin's metaphor of nature as an animal breeder. It makes nature sound providential or at least scheming -- the exact opposite of what Darwin was arguing.
When men see a watch, they think "watchmaker." When men see order, they think "planner." They find it comforting to attribute social order to a benevolent administrator. If this administrator is not supernatural, then he must be a bureaucrat. He must have planned, decreed, and brought to pass. Yet it is obvious that no administrator coordinates the complex affairs of the market. But if there is no administrator, can men be confident in the benevolence of the system? This is the question that socialists have kept asking rhetorically since the early nineteenth century? They keep giving the same answer: no. The familiar phrase, "President Roosevelt [or Keynes] saved capitalism from itself" is representative. The capitalist order is neither self-sustaining nor self-justifying, its critics insist. They seek an administrator who can secure the benevolence of the system. This is true in the realm of cosmology.(5) It is true in the realm of economics.
Ethics is important. Legitimacy is important. Appeals to economic efficiency have not answered the nagging doubts of the masses, let alone professors of sociology. Men want to believe that things will work out well for them. They want a world in which their children will live happily ever after. It takes an act of faith to believe in the benevolence of an impersonal market: the product of human action but not design. There is a tendency for men to search out inherent defects in the market order -- "market failures," as they are called -- in order to assure themselves that the market is not autonomous, that it responds positively to creative political tinkering, that administrators can make it better and secure the benevolence that systemic impersonalism cannot guarantee. Men do not wish to entrust their futures to impersonalism, whether cosmic or economic.
When men trust each other, there is greater cooperation. The cost of policing deception and unreliable performance falls. The degree of trust in a society, and its distribution among contending institutions, dramatically shape and limits a national economy. The chief issue here is the division of labor -- social cooperation. Where trust is lacking in institutions, economies remain backward, limited to family businesses and local trade.(6) The degree of men's faith in the benevolence of the economic order affects the degree of social cooperation. If they believe that things will go well for them in the end, they are more willing to invest time and money in present projects than if they suspect that things may go badly. This is why optimism regarding the long-term benevolence of the social order in the broadest sense is so important in calling forth men's commitment. When people believe that the system is stacked against them, they will seek out ways to beat the system. One of the major ways that they attempted to beat the system in the twentieth century was to transfer their allegiance to the State.
Men also want to believe that positive outcomes are a product of moral behavior. They want to believe that right makes might, that truth will triumph over lies, that honesty is the best policy. They want to believe that their sacrifice on behalf of morality will be rewarded, at least in heaven but preferably in history. They are convinced that the relationship between justice and earthly success must be enforced by someone in authority. If this is not God, then it has to be someone with a great deal of political power. Men do not readily believe that impersonal market forces, described by value-free economists, are reliable enforcers of moral cause and effect.
Academic economists assure the public and their students that their science is value-free. They insist that they are not coming in the name of a higher morality. On this point, they are self-deluded. There is no neutrality. Every social theory rests on a view of moral cause and effect. Every social theory offers a system of law and a system of sanctions.
For example, the anarcho-capitalist denies the legitimacy of civil law. He offers a theory of consumer sovereignty that places negative sanctions into the hands of consumers: their legal authority to refuse to buy. Profit and loss are surely sanctions. To defend this system intellectually, the anarcho-capitalist equates consumer sovereignty with moral right. It is regarded as morally wrong -- unjust -- for the civil government to interfere with private ownership and the right of contract: an act of theft. But why is theft wrong? Why is an economic order that promotes such theft illegitimate? The theory rests on morality that is outside the market. Rothbard recognized this. He was an Aristotelian. But most economists, including Mises, prefer to appeal to utilitarianism rather than morality. They invoke efficiency rather than morality.
Free market economists come in the name of buyer's sovereignty: "high bid wins." They also come in the name of seller's efficiency: "low bid wins." This is the famous law of supply and demand. Economists favor certain government policies. They speak of social utility as if they or others who use scientific economics can add up the utilities of individuals, and then subtract from this total all individual disutilities. They assume that they can make scientifically validated interpersonal comparisons of subjective utility. They are wrong on this point. They cannot make such comparisons scientifically. Their methodological individualism prevents this. They cannot, as neutral scientists, move from individual value scales to corporate value scales. There is no common utility scale. There is no measure of individual utility. There are rankings -- "first, second, third" -- but no measure: "how much more."
Thus, they cannot legitimately invoke social utility in their defense of the free market's social order. At best, they can defend the individual property owner against theft. But even here, some free market economists are unwilling to do this. The school of thought known as law and economics specifically denies the suggestion that civil judges must always defend the existing property rights of owners. Instead, they say, judges must use social utility as their guide, determining who owes whom what payment based on the maximization of social utility.(7)
Social theorists continue to debate the moral legitimacy of the outcomes of economic decisions by profit-seeking individuals. Most men want to believe that they are doing the right thing. Economists want to believe that their recommended form of society honors valid, authoritative standards of justice. Yet they also want to separate economic science from all moral and theological assumptions, just as physics supposedly is separated. Academic defenders of the free market necessarily must surrender the case for justice whenever they come in the name of value-free economic analysis. But this is how almost all economists come.
Adam Smith did not attempt to prove in Wealth of Nations the moral legitimacy of the outcome of free-market competition. He assumed that all men prefer greater wealth as individuals. That is, men will choose a lower price over a higher price, other things being equal. He used this motivation to describe the increasing wealth of nations as the product of allowing individuals to pursue their economic self-interest through trade. Smith's economics rests on the idea of ever-increasing wealth as a legitimate goal of both individuals and nations. To the extent that the pursuit of wealth is not a self-validating moral goal, Smith's economics lacks moral legitimacy.
Jesus taught that the pursuit of ever-increasing individual wealth is not a legitimate goal, if it is a man's only goal or his main goal.(8) Yet Smith in Wealth of Nations, in contrast to his earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), offered no analytical tool other than the pursuit of individual wealth. Economists rarely read The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and the morality-based analytical tools suggested in that book were not developed by Smith in The Wealth of Nations. Modern economics rests on an assumption: more is better than less because individuals want more. Jesus taught that more is worse than less if individuals pursue only this world's wealth. "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36). "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matt. 6:19-20).(9)
Smith explained the social market order in terms of men's pursuit of individual self-interest. He demonstrated that national wealth is normally increased by adopting the political policy of laissez-faire, but he proved this by implicitly assuming that it is analytically possible to add up individual wealth to compare aggregate wealth among nations. He offered a strong case for the idea that economic order is the result of individual decisions far more than it is the result of central planning by government bureaucrats. But this did not make the case for the moral legitimacy of the corporate outcome produced by the free market.
Paul here sets forth the case for the comprehensive providence of God. It is a beneficent providence for covenant-keepers. All things work for good for covenant-keepers. This is true in every period of history, under every social order. This means that providence is malignant for covenant-breakers: vessels of dishonor. "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. 9:18-21).
The question then arises: Is one social system superior to another? If all things work together for good, does it make any difference which social order is dominant? It surely mattered under the Mosaic Covenant. Biblical law was mandatory for Mosaic Israel. God also sent Jonah to Nineveh to call that nation to repentance. In modern times, Christians have abandoned the Old Testament in the name of . . . what? They do not say. All they say is that the Mosaic law was temporary and confined to Israel, and therefore it must be completely abandoned unless the New Testament revives one or another of the Mosaic statutes. (It does not revive the Mosaic statute against bestiality,(10) so New Testament antinomians conveniently ignore bestiality as a legal issue.) They have concluded that any social order is superior to the one that God revealed to Moses. They assure us that Christians can live holy lives under any social order, except one -- the Mosaic law -- which is wrong to defend because God has annulled it. They attack biblical law -- and only biblical law -- in the name of Christ. They proclaim, "We're under grace, not law!" In fact, they are today under humanistic lawyers and bureaucrats.
This hostility to the Old Testament has left Christians as defenders of this or that system of humanist economics. Generally, most of them defend the economic status quo: either the academic status quo or the political status quo. Those few Christians who have attended graduate school in the social sciences or humanities tend to be more socialistic than the people in the pews, but neither group believes that the Mosaic law sets forth fundamental principles of social and economic order. They do not believe that the Bible provides a blueprint for economics. They may selectively defend this or that Old Testament law, but only as an example of the "Christian spiritual attitude." There is no attempt to look at the whole of the Mosaic law and then use it to develop a framework for jurisprudence. This is why no one wrote an economic commentary on the Bible before mine. The same holds true for other academic disciplines: education, political science, sociology, law.
Thus, Christian social theory has not previously been Bible-based. It has been humanistic and eclectic. Christian social theorists do not come in the name of God and His written revelation to declare the nature of the good society. They have surrendered social theory to humanists. They have baptized this or that humanist theory, usually one that is out of date in humanist circles, but they have not sought to develop a uniquely biblical social theory. The New Testament does not offer sufficient guidance, they say, and the Old Testament is not trusted.
This has created a condition in which Christians have been excluded, with their consent, from debates about the good society. Since about 1700, Christians have had to choose between right-wing Enlightenment social theory and left-wing Enlightenment social theory. They have baptized Locke, Smith, Burke and their disciples, or else Rousseau, Marx, Sorel, and their disciples -- all filtered through the cosmic impersonalism of Charles Darwin.
In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, we read of God's corporate sanctions in history. The covenantal issue in both passages is society's obedience to God's specially revealed civil law, not just civil law in general. If Christians reject the idea of God's predictable corporate sanctions in history, they are left intellectually defenseless in the debate over social theory. This has been the case for three centuries. Before 1700, they were compromised by Aristotelian categories imported by the medieval scholastics.
Today, a tiny minority of Protestant Christians have begun to understand that there is no neutrality. Nevertheless, they still remain defenders of "equal time for Jesus." They do not perceive that the humanists' "equal time" doctrine was historically conditioned. It was formulated to silence the few traces of Christianity that still remained in public discourse. The slogan was always an illusion. This became obvious in the early 1920's in the United States when William Jennings Bryan challenged the right of taxpayer-funded schools to teach Darwinism. He lost.(11) Today, it is illegal to teach anything in taxpayer-funded schools regarding origins except materialistic evolution. There is no neutrality. But the moment that a Christian declares, "There is no neutrality," he faces a question: "If not biblical law, then what?" Modern Christians hate that question. They hate it almost as much as they hate this question: "If God hardened Pharaoh's heart, why was Pharaoh responsible?" Paul answered that question in Romans 9.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Rom. 9:17-21).
God predestinates all things to work together in order to benefit covenant-keepers. God proposes, and God disposes. Men have their purposes; God has His. God's are absolute. Men's are conditioned.
Paul makes it clear that God brings His decree to pass in history. Men are responsible for what they think and do, but God brings all things to pass according to His decree. "And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!" (Luke 22:22) There is order in history. God provides it. Men make individual decisions, but God directs the outcome. "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Prov. 21:1). God is absolutely sovereign; men are nonetheless responsible. This is what Paul teaches. He is rarely believed.
This passage is important for social theory. It teaches that there is social order despite individual decisions. Men make plans; God brings His plan to pass. The source of social order is the decree of God. Any theoretical system of cause and effect that does not rest on the decree of God and the providence in bringing His decree to pass is man's attempt to escape Paul's plain teaching in Romans 8 and 9.
Adam Smith explained social order as the product of self-interested decision-making by individuals. He established this as the methodological starting point of modern economics. It is a powerful paradigm, and it has steadily triumphed over rival views. But his conclusion rests on assumptions that are inconsistent with methodological individualism. His disciples cannot prove scientifically that increased wealth is a morally legitimate ideal, or that economic growth benefits the whole society. Smith's analytical tools in Wealth of Nations left no place for morality, which is the basis of social legitimacy. The free market social order is the product of certain legal arrangements, but the legitimacy of these legal arrangements is still debated. There is no religious neutrality when it comes to morals. There is therefore no religious neutrality when it comes to the wealth of nations.
1. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1959, 1965), II, p. 23.
2. Ibid., II, p. 32.
3. "Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally indeed neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it." Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (New York: Modern Library, ), p. 432.
4. Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (2nd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), Appendix B.
5. Michael J. Denton, Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe (New York: Free Press, 1998). Denton is Senior Research Fellow in molecular genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
6. Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: Macmillan, 1995).
7. Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), Appendix D.
8. Gary North, Treasure and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Luke, electronic edition (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 2000).
9. Gary North, Priorities and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Matthew, electronic edition (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 2000), ch. 13.
10. "And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them" (Lev. 20:15-16).
11. Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), ch. 7.
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