I am frequently asked something to the effect of the following: “R.J – you say that your socio-economic convictions, which are decidedly pro-free market in nature, are primarily informed by your Christian worldview. How did you arrive at these conclusions? What concepts, doctrines, or even specific verses have led you to this ideological point?”
As with most complex questions I am asked to give a specific answer to, I first turn to G.K. Chesterton to see if he can help explain how I am feeling. In responding to those skeptics who questioned his own belief in a Higher Power, Chesterton explained:
When someone begins to believe in a creed, he is proud of its complexity, as scientists are proud of the complexity of science. It shows how rich it is in discoveries. If it is right at all, it is a compliment to say that it’s elaborately right.
A stick might fit a hole or a stone a hollow by accident. But a key and a lock are both complex. And if a key fits a lock, you know it is the right key.
But this complex accuracy of the thing makes it very difficult to do what I now have to do: to describe this accumulation of truth.
It is very hard for a man to defend anything of which he is entirely convinced. It is comparatively easy when he is only partially convinced. He is partially convinced because he has found this or that specific proof of the thing, and he can eloquently expound on that one point. But a man is not really convinced of a philosophic theory when he finds that only one thing proves it.
He is only really convinced when he finds that everything proves it.
And the more reasons he finds piling up and pointing to this conviction, the more bewildered he is if asked suddenly to sum them all up. Thus, if one asked an ordinary intelligent man, on the spur of the moment, “Why do you prefer civilization to savagery?” he would look wildly round at object after object, and would only be able to answer vaguely, “Why, there is that bookcase . . . and the coals in the furnace . . . and pianos . . . and policemen.”
The whole case for civilization is that the case for it is complex. It has done so many things. But that very multiplicity of proof which ought to make a reply to the question overwhelmingly simple makes a reply impossible.
There is, therefore, about all complete certainty a kind of huge helplessness. The belief is so big that it takes a long time to get it into action. And this hesitation chiefly arises, oddly enough, from an indifference about where one should begin.
All roads lead to Rome; which is one reason why many people never get there.
With the attention spans of Americans being what they are these days I apologize for the long quote here, but it saves me twice the amount of space trying to say the same things.
I am torn whenever I’m asked to give a theological defense for my free market leanings. Part of me feels the overwhelming anxiousness Chesterton describes above. I see the case for freedom and liberty on nearly every page of the Bible. I hear the call for God’s highest creation to embrace his (or her) role to be hard-working creators, entrepreneurs and innovators in nearly every sermon or Sunday School lesson I’ve ever sat through. I saw and heard these things before I even knew how to describe them, and certainly long before I ever read a single syllable of Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, or Thomas Sowell. How does one explain all of this in a lifetime, let alone a brief, passing conversation?
The other part of me wants to sit the person asking the question down in a comfortable chair and yap their ear off for hours upon hours, going verse by verse, and theological concept by theological concept, as to why it is I have cast my lot in with the free enterprise system.
Large ideas that one believes to be so demonstrably true are often difficult to explain in the deep, profound way that the person has come to understand them. I think this is why many traditional, conservative, evangelical parents have a difficult time articulating their own convictions to their children. We’ve been (correctly) taught that to live out our beliefs is paramount, but if the Bible commands us to proclaim and explain the truth about the spiritual things we believe, wouldn’t it make sense to proclaim and explain less important, tangential things in this life as well?
If the most important thing about us – our understanding of God – requires some definition and discourse, is it so ridiculous to infer that nearly everything else in our life should be thought through and fleshed out if we are to live God-honoring lives?
For the sake of full disclosure, my allegiances can be delineated as follows: I am a Christian. I am an evangelical. I am a member of the Moeller family. I am an American. I am a free market conservative.
What follows over the next few months in my posts at this blog will be my humble attempt at explaining how my first two allegiances trickle down all the way to the last one on the list.
Verse by verse. Theological concept by theological concept.