Economics 101 & Public Square

Christians of the World Unite?

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Ed. Note: This post has been adapted from its original form. Read the full paper here.

We’ve been examining whether or not Acts 2-5 teaches socialism. Specifically, we’re looking at the alternative argument that suggests Acts 2-5 is inconsistent with socialist principles.

Yesterday we discovered that the early believers gave away some – but not all – of their possessions. More importantly, this sharing was totally voluntary.

Karl Marx, author of The Communist Manifesto, viewed ownership of private property as oppressive. He wanted workers to revolt against the owners of the means of production and take control over private property. He wanted the state to own the means production and private property abolished.

Again, in Acts 2-5, there is no mention of the state at all. 

These early believers contributed their goods freely, and without coercion. Their generosity was voluntary.

Elsewhere in Scripture we see that Christians are even instructed to give in just this manner, freely, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7).

There is plenty of indication that property rights were still in effect – remember Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira. This indicates that there is neither communism (abolition of private property), nor socialism (state-ownership of the means of production). The generosity of the early church was not even socialism defined as a community-owned or regulated system.

But even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that it was socialism (of some sort), why is it only seen here in Acts 2-5 and not seen throughout the rest of the New Testament?

We’ll answer that question tomorrow. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What do you think? Were the actions of the early church socialist? Leave your comments here.

 

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  • The consequences of regeneration are crucial to understanding what the Acts2-5 believers were capable of accomplishing and what we may be able to accomplish looking forward.
    F.A. Hayek warns that statism leading to totalitarianism involved universal adoption of a singular plan or set of values or preferences. Interestingly, with a singular shared set of preferences most of the economic problems dissolve. Voluntary exchange is only meaningful when individuals have different preferences.
    But regeneration is peculiar in that those who have experienced the grace purchased for us by Christ’s sacrifice have had our ultimate desire satisfied permanently. What more reward can I hope for, having been given Jesus? I am sated.
    Being so satisfied, my fleshly appetite becomes a servant rather than a master, and I desire in the Holy Spirit the same that Jesus desires. And so does every believer. We have the unified plan-giver, the shared set of preferences. We are capable, when obedient to the Holy Spirit under the standard of Scripture to become a holy collective movement. No other collective is capable of this. Either they agree to a set of ends together which are mutually beneficial in order to satisfy individual desires, or they secretly plan to devour one another after the collective aim is achieved. But the church already has her desires satisfied. We each come together for the purpose of giving, not getting.
    The church is the only legitimate political collective in existence.
    I mean political in the sense that we represent the Kingdom of God taking dominion through sacrifice.
    The socialism observed among the early believers is to be understood as an act of worship to God, an external third party, not to the benefit of those engaged in personal sacrifice. There exists no consequentialist justification for employing the early church as a model for political organization beyond the continuing redemption of men through individuals making personal sacrifices in obedience to the Holy Spirit.

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