Christian Economics: Teacher’s Edition
The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities’ (Luke 19:16 – 19). That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. – Bertrand Russell (1903)
AnalysisI cited Bertrand Russell’s statement in Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of my 1982 economic commentary on the Bible. That chapter is an exposition of Genesis 1:1. It is titled ‘Cosmic Personalism.’ Here I am, 35 years later, ending this book where I began. But I am not dealing here with the doctrine of origins. I am dealing with the doctrine of eschatology.
Eschatology is the doctrine of the last things. Every social philosophy has a distinctive eschatology, either implicit or explicit. There is no such thing as a social philosophy with no eschatology.
I begin with Christianity’s eschatology. Luke’s version of Matthew’s parable of the talents teaches that there is a close relationship between productivity in history and productivity beyond the grave. Economic success in history produces a reward: rulership in eternity. There is a close relationship between God’s imputed value to covenant keepers’ work (point four of the biblical covenant) and His transfer of authority to them after the final judgment (point five). Matthew’s version of this parable appears immediately before the description of the final judgment. Immediately before the parable of the talents is the parable of the ten virgins and their lamps: another description of events leading up to the final judgment. Luke’s version is slightly different. It connects economic success with a broader form of authority: rulership. This makes Luke’s version of the parable the most important passage in the Bible on work beyond the grave. Work in history is a training ground for service beyond the resurrection. Success in history provides personal capital beyond the resurrection.
This post was published at Gary North on August 11, 2017.