Economics 101 & Theology 101

What Does It Mean Biblically That All People Are Equal?

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Editor’s note: There is still time to register for a live, interactive webinar series with Dr. Anne Bradley called “The Christian Economic Model.” The first session is this Wednesday, November 2. Register for the free webinar series here.

Dr. Bradley was recently featured in an interview with Praxis Circle, part of which is featured below. You can watch the interview in full here.

Do the Christian values of equality and freedom conflict with each other?

It’s easy for people to understand the value of freedom, and I think this idea of the value of equality is a little bit trickier. What is the value of equality? If you asked a Bernie Sanders, or even if you asked a progressive evangelical, they would put that in material terms. They would say, “Well, equality is about material equality.” And I think that is not a Biblical understanding if you read the Bible front to back. We’re never promised material equality, and I don’t think that’s the Christian or Biblical understanding of that term. 

I think equality is that we’re equally loved by God, and we bear these equal characteristics in our creation. So that’s a very different conception. “We are equal in dignity” is how I would put that. We have equal dignity. Why? Because we are all created in the image and likeness of God. 

But we’re different. So equality is not even a possibility. We look different, we think differently, we have different skills and talents. So equality is actually contrary to our created image. We are created differently. We’re not created equal, but we’re equal in dignity. 

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Is equality the result of evil?

I think what you’re asking is that we want equal outcomes, right? It’s going back to, “Can we manufacture a society in which we all have equal outcomes?” Let me just give a little meat to that. What would that look like? We all have the same income, and we all have a house, and we all have a car, and we all get four years of education—whatever that equality of outcome is. If that’s what the question is, I think it may not have evil intentions for some who advocate for it, but I think it has evil results. And here’s why.

Go all the way back to Genesis. We’re created in the image of God; we’re unique; we’re different. It’s our differences that allow us to flourish. So trying to rectify our differences by making us all equal is destructive to our humanity. It means that we will be poor, that we will die early, often, and young. 

I think a lot of people come to this equality of result, income redistribution, let’s give everybody a car—I mean, this is what Hugo Chávez was doing in Venezuela. Everybody gets a car, everybody gets an apartment—it sounds good, it sounds like we’re going to be equal and have the same stuff.

The first question is, “How do you pay for that?” But the second question is, we want people to use their unique sets of gifts and skills and talents to be creative. That’s the agency God gave us, to be creative. And if people are the same, we strip them of their differences, they can’t do that. If we’re all actually equal, there’s nothing we can trade for—nothing.

So I think the outcomes of that are very evil. They destroy people.

(Watch this part of the interview here.)

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested to learn more on this topic, register here for Dr. Bradley’s upcoming interactive webinar series, “The Christian Economic Model.”

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