April 2013 – America is broken and needs repair. Do you agree? So where do we begin to fix her?
Do we start by pulling the plug on our foreign entanglements? Reforming immigration policies? Balancing the national budget? Outlawing abortion?
Nashville filmmaker Thomas Purifoy Jr. tackles such questions and many others in a new 12-part video series taught by R.C. Sproul Jr. and produced in partnership with Ligonier Ministries. Purifoy and Sproul make a convincing case that the key to an American turnaround is Christians who are willing to embrace and apply a two-part premise: God made and owns everything. He created man to be a steward of Creation for His glory.
That may sound simple and familiar. However, when Sproul, the on-camera teacher in the series, spreads out its implications, a clear hope begins to emerge that America could yet prosper.
According to Purifoy, America will begin a return to greatness when Christians open their Bibles as well as their history books and do the hard work necessary to gain a new understanding of an old subject – economics.
If your eyes glaze over at the mention of the word, you should know that according to Purifoy and Sproul, economics is not just about money and fiscal policies. Rather, it is an enlightening, encouraging and fascinating look at God’s ways of “giv[ing] us this day our daily bread.” Christians will come away convinced that the dynamic between theology, politics and economics can change history.
In an interview with AFA Journal Purifoy discussed Economics is for Everybody: Applying Biblical Principles to Work, Wealth and the World.
AFA Journal: Why should Christians understand the basics of economics?
Thomas Purifoy Jr.: Economics is the way we make choices to manage the resources God has given us as stewards. Every Christian is making economic decisions every day. Those decisions should be made in accordance with what we know of God’s Word and God’s world.
AFAJ: Summarize the key scriptures that lead you to believe that the system of economics that best reflects God’s character and will for mankind is a free market economy.
TP: Genesis 1 establishes that God owns everything. Genesis 2 outlines the “cultural mandate” God gave to Adam in which he is made economic steward over God’s world to work it and keep it for God’s glory. This, in turn, applies to all his children. A man can be a steward only if he is free to make economic choices based on his unique place in the world, his unique skills and his unique calling.
Sin came into the world, so the Ten Commandments provide a structure of law that enables man to be free: specifically, the fourth commandment establishes a pattern of work; the fifth, a protection of authority; the sixth, a protection of life; the seventh, a protection of marriage; the eighth, a protection of private property; the ninth, a protection of contracts and one’s word; and the tenth, a prohibition on greed.
Finally, the parable of the talents is a perfect picture of men being free to do what they want with the resources their master has given them.
AFAJ: Should American Christians be supportive of government intervention in areas other than defense or protection, areas such as poverty, health care, education, social security, etc.?
TP: God has established spheres of sovereign authority that complement each other, but are not over each other: the church, the family – which includes business – and government. Government was designed to protect property and life, which is why it “bears the sword.” The church and family are to address poverty and education. The family is to take care of the aged; the family and church work together in a business to take care of sick, especially through organizations like hospitals (which were originally started by Christians). Today, business is often detached from families and is assumed to have an end in itself. It does not, but rather business exists to serve individuals and families who in turn serve God.
AFAJ: For Christians, is the distinction between capitalism and free markets an important one?
TP: I think it is an important distinction. Although capitalism and free market economies share many things like private ownership of property and markets, capitalism is often applied to many systems that are not necessarily free. In many cases today, those systems are controlled by people or groups who work hard to keep them from being free. A free market by definition emphasizes the free control of property and ability to trade freely in markets. Capitalism as we know it today is not always free.
AFAJ: The video series makes a strong case that religious liberty brings economic freedom and prosperity, and that government intervention brings the opposite. So, how do you explain that time in America’s history when religious freedom was great and government intervention was small, yet many were not able to participate in that freedom because they lived in slavery – a situation in which the government played a significant role as rescuer. To some extent, did the government not act as the nation’s conscience in bringing equality to black Americans? The basic question: Is government intervention always a bad thing?
TP: Briefly, slavery is one of the great economic injustices, because it is the stealing of someone’s labor. But abortion is also one of the great economic injustices since it’s the stealing of someone’s life. In both cases, stealing and murder are the province of the government, so it should step in to protect people. I would not call this government intervention, but the preservation of our God-given rights.
The Civil Rights movement is complex. For instance, not allowing discrimination helps maintain the freedom of the market. However, establishing affirmative action is an interventionist economic tactic doomed to failure. As a case in point, the government has done a good job using laws to stop discrimination based on race; however, affirmative action is a disaster. Economic intervention may have good intentions, but it’s a case of one sphere stepping beyond its bounds, and that’s going to mess things up.
AFAJ: How can Christians apply the principles in this series to their family, community and workplace?
TP: Make sure your children understand the principles of economics. Understand how money works and seek to protect yourself as we move toward greater inflation and the increasing loss of the dollar’s purchasing power.
Get involved locally, and see where bad economic practices are happening. Then speak out about it to your elected representatives. The goal is to stop the government from being as involved, not try to get it involved doing more. What we need is dismantling.
AFAJ: How should what I’ve learned in this series impact my relationship to the poor?
TP: The poor need to be helped in real ways. Help someone get a job. Mentor someone to read or help train them in a skill.
AFAJ: Is there hope that America can turn away from the road to socialism and once again be prosperous and free?
TP: There is great hope. Christians are a large and potentially vocal majority. We have allies on the secular front from non-Christians who also recognize the dangers of bad economic policies.
But the process of dumbing down Americans has gone on for a long time. We have a lot of education to do – but we have a God who ultimately desires our freedom. And He will ultimately bring us toward it, so long as we follow His principles and truths.
R.C. Sproul Jr. is the teacher in Economics is for Everybody. The series uses vintage film footage to add a humorous tone to the subject.
The series is available at www.economicsforeverybody.com or 800-435-4343. It can be purchased on DVD or downloaded. The film includes a study guide and is suitable for teens, for small group, family or individual study. The first lesson can be viewed free online at the website above.