Economics 101 & Public Square

Concluding Acts 2-5

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

Today we conclude a discussion on Acts 2-5 and socialism by reviewing our previous points on the subject.

We’ve been exploring the claim made in the Washington Post’s On Faith blog and elsewhere that Acts 2-5 mandates socialism as a practice for the church.

In order to show that Acts 2-5 teaches socialism, you would have to show that the passage teaches that:

  • All believers in Jerusalem sold all their possessions and put them in a communal pot which was then controlled by the state. Such state-control is the distinctive mark of socialism.
  • Private property rights, upheld through the rest of Scripture, were abolished by this passage.
  • The voluntary giving demonstrated by individuals in this passage gives the state the right to coerce people to give up their property.
  • The pattern shown here was not temporary but permanent – you would have to show that it was the rule throughout the rest of the New Testament.
  • That you can get an ‘ought’ out of an ‘is,’ a necessary mandate out of a historical example.
  • There is clear teaching that entails government ownership of the means of production, coercive taxation, and wealth distribution (socialism) in the rest of Scripture.

Wise teachers have maintained that it is not good to base an important doctrine on a single passage of Scripture. But if you do, surely in that passage the doctrine should be taught.

Not only is socialism not taught in Acts 2-5, it is impossible to show that it does so.

What do you think? Could you show that Acts 2-5 teaches socialism? 

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  • Robert H Smith

    This is a great article. To me, the most important point here is that the giving of property was not mandated by a government. There are two classes of laws: civil and gospel. The difference lies in the consequences for breaking each. When you break a civil law, the consequence is the confiscation of property (fines), liberty (jail), and life (if you really resist arrest)– in that order of escallation. The consequence of breaking a gospel law is expulsion from the society of the church to which you belongor the inability to enter God’s kingdom. (Even with that note the property rights that God maintains– you can’t enter HIS kingdom if you don’t comply with his terms).
    Also, if the government had not allowed people to own property, then they would not be able to GIVE it and therefore they could not individually extend charity.
    Material blessings come from God, not the government. We are therefore answerable to him for how we use that stewardship and not to the state.

  • My biggest takeaway is that the Bible exemplifies that socialistic principles are not inherently evil…we know that that’s true, even when mandated by a government (public education, public health and safety, medicare, etc.)

  • Outstanding article! I hold a B.S. in Agriculture and M.Div in Theology and Biblical Interpretation and I agree 99.9% with this analysis. The .1% caveat is for this claim, ‘That you can get an ‘ought’ out of an ‘is,’ a necessary mandate out of a historical example.’ I would say that it needs to be shown that you can get a “must” not an “ought” from an “is”. If the imperative were used it would indicate a ‘command’ which signals that one “must” do what is commanded, not simply that they “ought” to do it. An “ought” is a strong recommendation, but it is not a command that could be enforced against the person’s will. For this to teach socialism it would have to be an enforceable command, which no indicative could teach. Thank you for your scholarly and biblical treatment of this important subject. Blessings to you always

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