Is Socialism Satanic? – Why has the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals gone all Political?

Is Socialism Satanic

It was to say the least, an interesting prayer meeting. The former missionary from Northern Ireland stood up and prayed fervently that the Lord would deliver us from the evils of homosexuality, abortion, nationalism and socialism.   Afterwards when I was speaking to him, I called over three of my elders. “Donald, what’s your politics?” “Oh, I’m a true blue Tory.” My missionary friend nodded approvingly. “What about you Angus?” “I can’t stand the Tories, I’m a nationalist through and through.” “And you Ross?” “I’m a socialist.”   The look on my friend’s face was priceless…. “But, but…these are good and godly men.” “Indeed they are,” I told him, “And you will never pray in this prayer meeting again using political criteria rather than biblical.”

A couple of years later I was sitting at a conference in the US when I was approached by another minister who turned to me and said, “They hate you, you know.” Somewhat taken aback, I asked, “Who?” “The theonomists.” (For those who don’t know, theonomists are those who believe that the civil punishments of the Mosaic civil code should be enacted by the State today. The Free Church banned its office-bearers from being theonomists because, whilst we have a high regard for the Mosaic law, we regarded it as both unconfessional and unbiblical to ask for rebellious teenagers and homosexuals to be executed by the State!). “I used to be one of them….I know…they hate you,” my new found friend continued,”They can’t work out if you are a Satanist or a Socialist.”   What struck me was the implication that the two were synonymous!

Fast forward to today and an American friend who sent me this following link on the Reformation21 site. 

At first I smiled ruefully. I have seen plenty of this kind of stuff from the US before, usually from those who wear t-shirts saying ‘You’ll get my gun when you take it from my cold, dead fingers,’ as they head to the hills to check on their stock of tinned baked beans awaiting the coming apocalypse.   And then I did a double take. This was from Reformation 21…the blog site of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals!  

My first thought was “Is this a spoof?”   My second, “Whatever happened to Carl Trueman?” My third, “It’s no wonder that the US could end up with Donald Trump as President if this is the kind of nonsense that even sound, biblical evangelicals come up with.”  I stopped having thoughts after this because they were rapidly becoming unprintable!

Rick PhillipsThe author, Rick Phillips, has a very simple case. Socialism is inherently evil, on a par with government sponsored torture and racism. Biblically speaking, socialism is evil because it is:

  1. a system based on stealing,
  2. an anti-work system, and
  3. concentrates the power to do evil.

Apparently this is meant to be a serious comment and not a spoof, so I suppose we have to take it seriously, although I note in passing that despite claiming to be ‘biblically speaking’ there is little bible speak in the ensuing article.

It’s always helpful when discussing things to actually define and know what we are talking about. Socialism is a word that some evangelicals are far too quick to use when it comes to something that doesn’t agree with their particular political viewpoint (much the same can be said of the sloppy use of the term ‘Capitalism’ as though it were the obvious evil). Lets just go with the normal definition just now:

Socialism [noun] “A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

And then lets deal with each of Mr Phillips points.

1. Socialism is not stealing – unless you are prepared to say that all forms of taxation are stealing. If so, then you are of course going against Christ who said “Give to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s.” So what Mr Phillips is really saying is that if you do not like what the government is using your money for then you just call it stealing. This strikes me as a somewhat illogical and cavalier way to use the Scripture as some kind of justification for your politics.   We may disagree about what precisely the role of government is but that does not give us the right to claim that only our view is scriptural and all other views are evil. Defence, protecting the weak, punishing evil doers etc. are accepted by all but the most extremist libertarians. However, there has been a long Reformed tradition that argued that the role of government extends beyond that.

“Calvin saw civil government as an opportunity for good. Schools and roads could be provided to benefit both the rich and the poor. New hospitals and prisons were also a part of the social reforms he encouraged.”

Gary Z Cole – John Calvin on Civil Government.

Imagine that. Calvin was for ‘Socialised Medicine.’

Besides which there is a far stronger case to argue that unfettered market capitalism, with its reliance on high interest rates (which always harm the poor most), is far more unbiblical.

2. Socialism is not an anti-work system. To claim otherwise is just demonstrably false. Speaking of being biblical, doesn’t the bible say something about bearing false witness? If you are going to argue against a system then at least get your facts right. In fact socialism, like capitalism, could not work unless there were people who worked hard. Let me tell you about one of my wealthier Dutch friends – who pays about 60% in tax and is glad to do so. Why? It’s because he not only gets excellent health care, a good pension and excellent public facilities, he also knows that his hard earned money is going to provide the same things for those less fortunate than himself; the sick, disabled, unemployed, refugees. etc.

Of course the system can be, and is often abused, but the simplistic notions of Mr Phillips reveal only his own fears and prejudices and have nothing to do with the Bible.   I can think of many godly men I know who worked hard and were socialists, as I can think of many who were not.   The simplistic equation just does not work.

Mr Phillips seems to have a very low view of his own nature. Whilst his humility is commendable, can I suggest that the question “Why would I put myself through the ordeal of discipline, sacrifice, and sweat, much less risk-taking business endeavours, if I can have a wonderful life without working for it?” is not one worthy of him? Perhaps you might work hard because you are a God fearing Christian who knows that he is working for the Lord, not just for his own reward? Maybe you might just want to help the community and provide for others in need?   Mr Phillips’ attitude panders to the lowest common sinful denominator in human beings and thus strikes me as being profoundly unbiblical.

3. Socialism does not concentrate the power to do evil. The argument used here is economically, politically and biblically illiterate.

Firstly, in the socialist system the idea is meant to be common ownership, not a handful of people controlling or owning it all. (The fact that this does not often happen is a testimony to human sinfulness, not the inherent evil of the system).

Secondly, Capitalism is not primarily about individuals working hard to produce wealth. They work within systems.  Sometimes those systems can be corrupt; bribery, greed, exploitation (refusing to pay the workers their due reward cf. James) and corruption are as endemic within the capitalist system, as they are within any socialist system.

Thirdly it is unfettered free market Capitalism, not Socialism, which is concentrating the power to do evil in the hands of a few. It is the big corporations, headed up by a very few wealthy individuals who are pushing the LGBT agenda in the US and elsewhere.   It is they who are seeking to negotiate trade agreements that take them out of democratic control and leave them free to regulate their own affairs and control their massive wealth.

But this does not stop Mr Phillips hyperbole. In Socialism everyone is impoverished, everyone is in slavery and a culture of corruption is always produced. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the crass ignorance and grotesque cultural pride on display here. When I first went to the US I couldn’t believe what I saw with my own eyes in some American cities, in the richest country in the world. There was a level of third world poverty and degradation that should have been a shame to any civilised society – but no, some (rich) American evangelicals saw the evils of socialist Sweden, rather than the sick of St Louis.

But Mr Phillips is not yet done. He uses the platform given him by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals to urge all Christians not to support or praise any socialist candidates, although they are precious few in the US.   He states, “To students of such arcane history as the 20th Century, the prospect of socialism is chilling.” Well, I am a student of 20th Century history, but what I find ‘chilling’ and depressing is this kind of article masquerading as biblical teaching. Even more chilling is the notion of an unfettered market capitalism in a Godless America!  To paraphrase the Scotsman who invented modern Capitalism (Adam Smith – the Wealth of Nations), Capitalism without Christianity would be hell.

The article goes on to state, “There is a reason why some Americans want to erect a wall to keep illegal immigrants out, whereas socialist countries have built their walls to keep people in.”  I am not aware of a single socialist country that has built a wall to keep its citizens in. I am aware of communist countries that have done so but, as any serious student of 20th Century history would tell you, comparing communist Russia with socialist Sweden is as valid as comparing fascist Italy with capitalist America.

Mr Phillips speaks of the nightmare of living in a socialist country for those who have experienced it. Well I have. In his terms Scotland is very socialist. I like living in a country where everyone has access to clean water, good roads and good medical care – irrespective of their ability to pay.

Let me tell you what the real nightmare is – having your son being taken into hospital in the US after an accident and being told by the ambulance driver, you can’t go to the hospital first with your son, you have to go home and get your insurance documents.

Or having a friend being told that his mentally ill son cannot get insurance because he has ‘a pre-existing condition’, and therefore has no access to the proper treatment.

Or having another friend (as right wing as you can get) telling me that in his job he has to effectively bribe doctors to stay and work in his area because they can make far more money going off to California and becoming plastic surgeons for the rich.

On the other hand, whilst our NHS has many problems, it nonetheless caters for every citizen, and does so at half the cost to the economy that the US system does. I don’t know about you, but I find profiteering at the expense of the sick, a somewhat ‘unbiblical’ concept.   I could go on, but I won’t. And here’s why.

I am not here to defend socialism. I am not a socialist. And I am not a capitalist.  I am a Christian.  I don’t trust any system. And I think that socialism without Christ is as bad as capitalism without Christ. I am here to challenge ignorance and to plead with my American brothers and sisters to STOP identifying Christianity with your own politics/culture/economics.   You are causing the rest of the church a great deal of harm.

This is my real problem.

I think that this ACE blog indicates something that is deeply wrong within the US church, especially the evangelical world, but apparently also the Reformed world. It is far too wedded to the politics of the prevailing culture and as such has weakened the impact of the gospel, by allowing itself to be identified with one particular political, cultural and economic system.

And this gets played out in the church as well.  In fact as I have been thinking about this I am going to write a Part 2 ASAP as a follow up. Meanwhile I have a simple question for the Alliance.  Do you believe in total depravity, or is it only socialism that is depraved? 

As you have apparently decided to get involved in politics, can we look forward to future blogs on the evils of gambling on the stock market? The corruption on Wall Street? The evil of supporting a billionaire show business personality who makes his money out of gambling? And the sins of a political system where commercial companies can pay billions to politicians in order to ensure that the most favourable conditions are in place for their particular means of creating wealth for themselves? Or is it the case that you are just simply going to present one side?

As someone who loves and supports the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and who listens to and admires many of its speakers, I cannot describe how much I am disappointed in this political propaganda appearing on their website. It’s the kind of thing that puts many people off Christianity – and to be honest that includes an increasing number of Americans.   You are not going to win your country back by identifying the Gospel with one political/economic point of view. This kind of abuse of theology will only lead to disaster.   If I dare say it – ‘you’ve been Trumped’.


PS.  My deepest apologies to The Gospel Coalition – in the first draft of this I got them confused with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (there are just too many organisations and I was writing this on a train!).    I would simply say to the Alliance – is ‘Socialism is evil’  part of your confession?


There are two other posts in this series:  Click the links below:

Part 2 – Is the Church Capitalist?

Part Three – Is Capitalism Satanic


68 thoughts on “Is Socialism Satanic? – Why has the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals gone all Political?

  1. Good article. I particularly like, ‘ I am not a socialist. And I am not a capitalist. I am a Christian. I don’t trust any system.’. No system is perfect and none has divine rights. Our American brothers show real blinkers here ( course we have none). But is the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals the same as The Gospel Coalition?

  2. Interesting post David. As an American Christian, I wholeheartedly agree that we have aligned too much with one political party. I do not wish to be associated with many of the politicians who take on a preachy attitude in America and this sadly happens all the time. However, it is difficult when the other side fully supports abortion, SSM, and many wish to silence the Christian voice in the public square. Unlike the UK, Christians are still allowed to “do God” whilst campaigning (whether it’s genuine or not) and regular citizens aren’t ridiculed as much for expressing their faith in public. However, there is an increasing secular movement in America (the overwhelming majority of these people align with the democratic party) and many of us are aware of what has happened to Christianity in Europe, which is a largely Socialist continent and very liberal on social values.

    I’m not speaking on behalf of all Christians in America, but I think some may think there is a correlation between the two (I think this would be ridiculous though). This is most likely the reason why Christians here largely align with the Republican party–and can you really blame them for that? I’m not backing up what the article under criticism has argued, but just giving some background to the situation, and the reasons for the socialist skepticism.

  3. I appreciate the pastoral heart of this post, but if I may, I have a few points to offer as a counter-perspective. #1-Socialism is theft, as all taxation is theft. Yes, Christ told us to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and because of that, I do…but that doesn’t negate the act of taxation being theft just like “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” doesn’t negate the first slap from being assault. If I saw someone getting punched in the face, especially if they are a non-Christian, I wouldn’t tell him “That’s not assault, as Christ told you to turn your other cheek as well.” No, it’s assault and all taxation is theft. How are we to react? Just like Christ told us. But it doesn’t absolve the aggressor (Caesar or an abuser) of their sin. #2-Capitalism is not a system. It is merely the free exchange of goods and services predicated upon the notion that private property is, in fact, private. I see this as a theme in Scripture in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. “Thou shalt not steal” only makes sense if property is private. What does one do with one’s private property? That is up to them, but that human action is not a system….nor is America capitalistic. Acts 5 shows us that the early church recognized private property as private. There are others, but you get the point. #3-Socialism relies upon coercion, which I find morally unjustifiable. Does that make it Satanic? I have no idea what that even means. It is sinful, for sure.

    1. Are you seriously saying all taxation is theft? Kind of negates the rest of your post. And yes capitalism is a system. All law/government relies upon coercion. You want to get rid of taxation, government etc. That kind of makes you wiser than God!

      1. God ordains many things that are not “good”. He ordained that Joseph should go, unjustly, to prison…but I will still rail against false-imprisonment. And no, some governments….voluntary ones (Like Israel of Old) was not based on coercion. The current model of most developed countries stems from social contract theory, and yes, leverages coercion. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Of course, I am not wiser than God. But I do understand deontological ethics and what we “ought” to do. Un-voluntary taxation is theft, and ergo, is immoral.

      2. I guess we all agree that not all taxes are fair taxes. Christians, of course, should pay these whether fair or not; Caesar’s taxes were hardly the fairest but they had to be paid. However, unfair taxes do not mean taxation is in itself theft.

        In the OC the tithe was a form of tax. And there were other taxes above these (the temple tax for example). In th harvest some of the produce had to be left behind so that others could benefit. God did warn Israel (through Samuel) that choosing to go down the route of a monarchy would lead to much heavier and undesirable tax. Yet they chose this route.

        Some level of taxation is inevitable if a society is to have an infrastructure. In a democracy in particular it is hard to see how a tax is theft since the people who place it have been empowered to do so by the people who pay it. If the tax is so iniquitous then vote out the government.

        Scripture sees taxation as a legitimate even necessary part of good government.

        For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1-7)

      3. RAJ

        In what way was Israel a ‘voluntary’ government? And how do you reach the view that it was not based on coercion? Actually, as a form of government, I’d have thought democracy was more voluntary than Israel’s theocracy since it was imposed on a people politically but not spiritually redeemed. Yes, they had to agree to the covenant and its conditions ( though it was a kind of Hobson’s choice) but in a democracy we do something very similar each time we vote in a government.

      4. Are you seriously saying that taxation is not theft, simply because Christ told His followers to pay Caesar? What about our non-believing neighbors that abhor paying taxes? I understand that Christ’s words are binding on my soul, they compel me, but my non-Christian neighbor doesn’t feel that way. Is it theft for him? Who will stick up for him?

      5. Strange reply…..what if your non-Christian neighbour thinks that murder/abortion/theft is ok and does not listen to God’s word? Are you that libertarian?!

      6. weeflea, the phrasing “taxation is theft” may not sit right with you, but in the very broadest sense, it is a truth. Tax payments may not be strong-arm robbery, but they are relinquished under great duress.

        Example: Americans have the misconception that they own their own homes. A man’s home is his castle and all that. But it is a lie. You really never truly own your own home, even if you have paid back every last cent you borrowed to purchase it because, in truth, the government owns your home. I don’t know what the property tax rules are in the UK, but in the US, everyone, everywhere, pays property taxes on real estate that they own. For life. Doesn’t matter how old you are, how poor you are, how much you originally paid for your home or how much you’ve paid in property taxes over the decades. Doesn’t matter if it is your homesteaded property. If you miss paying your property taxes one year, guess what? A lien is put on your home and very soon thereafter you face foreclosure proceedings and then eviction. I’m not talking about taxes to cover the cost of services such as garbage disposal, etc. I’m talking about ad valorem taxes, which is an arbitrary demand from the government based on the current market value of your home. (How does living in a more expensive home increase your burden on society? Do you use the libraries more? The parks? Does it make your children more difficult to educate?) You may have owned your home 50 years, property values in your locality may have skyrocketed and if you are an elderly person on a fixed income you may find the tax burden unmanageable. The government’s answer to this is “tough luck” and they are very happy to steal your home from you.

        So are taxes theft? Absolutely. We submit to paying those taxes only because the consequences of not paying them are worse. This is no different than a highway bandit that positions himself at the beginning of a route and demands all passers-by pay a toll in exchange for “safe passage” along the road. Is the bandit a thief? Or a champion of wealth redistribution? You are splitting hairs.

        My two cent summation on the Socialism debate: Socialism is GREAT when practiced by churches for the benefit of their congregants (i.e. a small village/parish whose most prominent governing and charitable force is the local church and everyone who lives in that parish belongs to that church). Conversely, socialism is grotesque when practiced by secular governments for the supposed benefit of a hopelessly diverse population with no consensus of moral behavior.

        Socialism isn’t a bad idea on paper. But the people who think they can foist socialism on a population as heterogeneous as America are either delusional or do indeed have an evil hidden agenda. As culturally diverse as you THINK you are over there in the UK, the truth of the matter is you are exponentially more homogeneous than we are here in the US. You can take umbrage with that statement all you want, doesn’t make it any less true. Socialism may work… sort of… for you. But not in the US. So for us on this side of the pond, yes, socialism will always have a lingering scent of something vaguely evil in nature. In the name of friendship across a cultural divide, you are just going to have to excuse Americans when relating to us on this topic. Our opinion on it isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    2. Firstly, I know we share a love for the Lord Jesus, which thankfully is stronger and more lasting than any political dividing lines.
      As for the issues in this post… I don’t agree that taxes are stealing. We live in a society that has agreed that we want communal roads, hospitals and schools (as well as prisons and police); taxes are the way we make this happen. If there was no previous agreement that we accept this arrangement, the yes, taxes would be theft, but that’s not the case.

      Actually, I am genuinely intrigued by your non-state vision. If there was no state, who would build roads? Land owners? But what if they don’t want to; then the common good would suffer. And if I want to start a factory, how am I to pay my workers if there is no officially recognised money? Paying in kind only works in an agrarian society, and even there some kind of currency is generally needed to pay doctors etc.
      Who would train the doctors I need? Do I have to wait for somebody to decide they fancy starting a university? And when they do, how will they pay teachers? And who will check if their teachers are qualified to teach? How will the poor get health care if there’s no welfare? (I know Americans tend to dislike the whole idea of welfare; personally I think it’s perfectly biblical, whether organised by the state or by private initiative. And generally private initiatives can’t be fairly distributed.)

      What about protection against criminals? Do I just have my own gun (which I thought you disapproved of) and if my house is burgled, I either incapacitate the burglars or they get away with my stuff scot-free? If my neighbour decides he want to build a house on my land, and he has a bigger family than me, who do I go to if there’s no police force to call on? Even getting other neighbours together to mete out some kind of local, rough justice is a rudimentary state organisation (and no guarantee of justice; my neighbour might have bought them off with a couple of cows).

      These are genuine questions; I am no friend of ungodly governments, but I also can’t quite see how a state-free society would work. I think we’ll only see a functioning state-less society on the new earth, and even there it’s not anarchy because Jesus is King. Until then (mainly because of human sinfulness) some kind of system is needed (and capitalism is definitely a political system – don’t you copy the atheists who claim atheism isn’t a belief system!). Even the Bible endorses the state – while warning against its far too common abuses and shortcomings.

      1. Again, if I may, you are articulating the Social Contract theory as espoused by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hobbes, Locket et al. It is at that root where I would disagree the strongest. Torah was NOT a Social Contract, it was a covenant made with a living God. Where is this contract that I signed? Where did I consent to be governed by maniacs? Where did I consent to have X% taken from my check? Who would build the roads? Those interested in roads being built/maintained. Tire companies, oil companies, car companies, and of course, any business interested in people actually being able to arrive to their place of business. I do not own a gun, because I see no reason, Biblically, for me to. I was told to turn the other cheek, and should that day arrive, I pray I am strong enough to do just that. But I digress.

        I see Social Contract theory as a serious impediment to freedom. Likewise, socialism is as well. Covenant communities, like Israel of old, are far superior. These communities are entered into voluntarily, by both parties, with 100% consent. This becomes the difference between rulers and leaders. By the way, this happens for millions of people around the world, everyday. We call this “employment”. It’s not some obfuscated social contract, but a voluntary covenant, agreed on by both parties, able to be dissolved by both parties. This system is more moral, efficient, and effective than Hobbes’ Leviathan.

      2. Shame on me for not prefacing my remarks: Pastor David Hellsten enjoy a tremendous “social media” friendship and though we disagree on political philosophy, I rejoice to be counted as his brother. I listen to his messages on line and I know that he and agree that the Gospel of our risen Lord is the true hope of the world. This should be a fun, edifying conversation amongst the body, but not to the point where it causes division.

    3. Taxation is not theft, according to Romans 13:6, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.” And remember, Paul is writing the epistle of Romans to Christians whose taxes paid to Caesar went towards persecuting Christians!

      1. I do not believe that all taxation is theft, but it seems rather odd to use the example of taxes being paid toward persecution of Christians as a test case to show that taxation is fundamentally legitimate.

    4. What is your Biblical justification for saying that all tax is theft? As far as I can see, it is fully mandated by the Bible – (See some references here – https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=tax&qs_version=NIV) Israelites paid taxes as far as I can see, Jesus approves of paying taxes (I’m not convinced by your explanation here, if I am honest!)

      But perhaps most clearly, in Romans 13:6, the apostle Paul says “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing”. (see full passage below for context). Paul is not describing the “state” as thieves here who are wrong for taking taxes, he says quite the opposite – the state/authorities are God’s servants for “your good”, to bring punishment on the wrongdoer, who give their full time to governing. Paul seems to indicate that we owe taxes, so we should pay them in verse 7.

      Now of course there are good and bad governments, good and bad authorities, but Paul doesn’t seem to distinguish between them in verse 1 – all authority that exists has been established by God, they are God’s servants (verses 4 and 6).

      I don’t think you can support the principle that taxation is theft from the Bible’s teaching. I’m happy to be proved wrong, but I think that Romans 13, in conjunction with other Bible passages make it clear that taxation is perfectly justified from the ruling authorities and from citizens/subjects.

      Romans 13:1-7

      1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

      6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

      1. The taxes on Israel came AFTER they had established a king, as God had warned would happen. Taxation, then, is nothing more than their punishment for wanting to be like the other nations of the world. See I Samuel 8:10-18. Taxation is theft because it relies on coercion. Now, for the Christian, the coercion is mitigated because Christ and the Apostles, as you rightly demonstrated, instruct the believer to render them when due. (And I do, for the record). But there is also a 3rd party…non-Christians that do not have this Biblical mandate hanging over them and who have not consented to having their income taken from them. This group, in order to be taxes, is threatened with violence. I think it is right that Christians stand up for them. I wouldn’t expect them to turn the other cheek, though we are commanded to. And I would expect Christians to actually stop a non-Christian from being assaulted. Can we agree that the Scriptures have some commands that are universal “Thou shall not murder” and some commands that are unique to the covenant community of God “Do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith”? I place taxation in the latter category, not the former. Perhaps you see it as a universal mandate, like the prohibition against murder.

      2. R.A. Jameson

        With respect, sir, I notice that you did not really engage with the main point from Romans 13:6 which clearly seems to indicate that taxes are to be paid because the authorities are God’s servants, earlier described as servants for “your good” and to punish the wrongdoer (verse 4).

    5. Mr or Ms Jameson, this high view of private property is one I’ve only encountered in 18th century authors, so perhaps you can help us to understand how to reconcile it with the world of this millennium

      can just about see a Scottish laird being able to argue that his property was his since time immemorial, but surely the overwhelming majority of US real estate was obtained from its original (native American) occupants by deception or under duress, so the state is entitled to take what it wants. Would you therefore agree that private property of the type you describe is a therefore a fundamentally unAmerican concept and your views are essentially irrelevant to the US situation? If so, does that not legitimate all US taxation, because the state can act as God’s servant to confiscate stolen goods, and is merely showing mercy on not taking the whole lot?

      1. Well, presumably Mssrs Jameson also believes ‘property is theft’, after all in Israel, all the land belonged to God.

  4. Thank you for providing some common sense and Biblical perspective on this. I have just bookmarked it on order to pass it on the next time one of my American friends posts yet another article as ill-informed as it is outrageous

  5. Edmund burke told us that The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. In this case I would say when good men also say nothing. Thankyou David for standing up and saying something which is actually doing something. The apostle Paul was provoked and compelled when he went to Athens so I understand you having to write against and exposing such madness and I must say most courageous of you.
    When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. – Proverbs 16:7

  6. I lived in North Carolina for a year and had a wonderful time. But I would not like to get sick in the USA. I knew a couple who had to calculate the health care costs of having a baby! For me it is summed up in the joke that doesn’t work in the UK. The old pastor who was dying, asked for his doctor and attorney to come to his side because he wanted to die like his Lord – between two thieves. In the UK we don’t think of our doctors like that. I saw poverty in NC – trailer park poverty – where there was no plumbed-in sanitation or water. Socialism is not communism. The first socialists in Scotland were Christians. Would Americans condemn the early church for redistributing wealth as we read in Acts? David R is absolutely right.

    1. This is a misnomer, all contributions to the poor were voluntary. Ananias and Saphira were not punished for not helping, but for lying about their aid. The Apostles explicitly state that their property was their to do with. Socialism takes, by force or the threat thereof, the property of one and distributes it to another. That is not charity, that is coercion. And it is unbecoming. And certainly not Biblical.

  7. In reference to the comment earlier about the ‘other side’. If I were a Christian in America I would find it difficult to know who to vote for. To put it starkly – would I vote for someone who is happy to slaughter human beings in the Middle East (one of them wants to make the ‘sand glow”) or someone who is happy to allow the slaughter of human beings at home in the womb? I think the worst option might be Trump who, from what I have read, seems to have changed his mind on abortion to get votes – on the other hand, based on his comments to Jeb, he might not be as much of a warmonger as the other Republican candidates.

    By the way, I’m from Northern Ireland and I find it difficult to know who to vote for here as a Christian because we don’t have ‘normal’ politics so I’m not saying we are any better. I am saying this question needs much more biblical reflection that many Christians take the time to do. So thanks David for your comment – I’ll also be interested to read if you have any comment on the EU referendum…

  8. Thank you for this. I was amazed at the article as well–and it was obviously designed as a slap at one of our Presidential candidates. What was ironic is that Rick had a day previously written an article on the Ref 21 web site on the spirituality of the church as a way of countering some in the PCA who have been vocal on the issues of racism in the PCA.

  9. Phillips has spent a great deal of time extolling the virtues of the US military – and military life in general. Sad that the whole enterprise is funded by theft!

    1. From the Christian point of view, there cannot be virtue in national military. This thread loves to leverage Romans 13, but clearly Romans 12 would make it obvious that national military’s work in direct contrast to our Biblical duties. We don’t kill our enemies, we love them. We bring them water when thirsty, food when hungry. We certainly don’t shoot them. And yes, the entire military industrial complex is funded by theft. Which is not only sad, it’s tragic.

  10. All this talk about theft, coercion, force and duress makes me wonder if US culture is to a large extent a culture of fear.

    As an Australian, I wouldn’t say that I pay tax under duress, and I am very grateful for the services it provides. (And I’m pretty sure most Australians, Christian or not, are thankful for socialised medicine, and don’t begrudge paying for it). The things about our culture and politics which concern me have nothing to do with socialism. From a Christian perspective, the conservatives here are just as bad as the socialists. But God is in control, and we needn’t fear.

  11. I don’t think Romans 13 gives a carte blanche for governments to tax whatever they like.or do whatever they like, Paul’s focus is on punishing evil and praising the good. One side may be wrong in saying there should be no taxation, but the other side has not been clear on the limits on the other side of the scale.

    1. YES! This is critically important.

      How anybody could look at the Roman magistrates who were persecuting Christians as was claimed earlier and says that Paul was basically giving them carte blanche to take whatever they wanted does NOT fit with Romans 13:6 which says the purpose for taxation is for “governing” (defined previously as punishing the wicked and rewarding the righteous.

  12. So basically you’re saying that an FPCS member can hold to any Biblical view that they want EXCEPT that the Mosaic civil law should be implemented? [directed at the original post]. I have to say I find this odd. This theonomist certainly does not hate you but I have to say he is curious… what in the world is going on there?

    Honestly I agree with the OP on much, particularly the fact that evangelicalism has certainly started to identify Christianity with the Republican Party, and I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think its right to say that Christianity is essentially apolitical and that any political views go (to be clear this is NOT a charge against any of the elders you mentioned initially or the OP as being ungodly… it is certainly possible to have an ungodly view on a particular issue without being ungodly overall.) However, I do think one of the areas where evangelicals have compromised with the culture politically seems to be one that the FPCS has as well (at least as per the OP) namely that we do NOT take homosexuality as seriously as God does, seriously enough that it should be a capital offense (Leviticus 20:13.)

    I’m not exhaustively laying out my position here, but to be clear I certainly realize the tri-partite division and such things. However, as the enforcemnet of the moral law (both in the case of homosexuals and also incorrigible teenagers) it seems that this would clearly fall under general equity, as there is nothing in particular to Israel’s circumstances.

    And finally I would say that I believe it to be inconscienciable, in the light of 1 Samuel 8, to say that a king that takes 10% of income is anything but a tyrant. And so all of the west as well as the rest of the world has fallen into tyranny today. While I do NOT believe all taxation is theft, it is certainly theft to take as much as King Saul did or more.

    1. Nope – thats not what we are saying. We are saying that an ‘office bearer’ in the Free Church has to subscribe to the whole doctrine of the WCF and since it is opposed to theonomy then de facto a theonomist cannot be an office bearer.

      1. I suppose it depends on how one defines theonomy, but George Gillespie said that everyone who should have been put to death in the Old Testament should also be put to death now while those who were not subject to the death penalty then should not be now, and he was apparently able to sign the confession in good conscience. If that’s not theonomy, what is?

        It seems like back then (especially based on the original WCF 23.3 as opposed to the American revisions) “general equity” was interpreted to apply to a lot more things than it does now.

        I would be interested to see exegetically (as opposed to following the cultural spirit of our age, which I think is the more common situation) why men who practice homosexuality and incorrigible teenagers should not be executed by the State. An understanding here is really important in pursuing how political the church should be, and I think its too easy to just wave our hands and assume that we in the modern age know better (and keep in mind that at least some at Westminster Assembly did NOT agree with you, so you really can’t claim uniformity of historic Presbyterianism either) rather than giving actual exegetical argument.

      2. David

        Given that the new covenant historically arrived with Christ and by implication the OC became redundant and indeed in the times of the apostles was already passing away (it’s death knell heralded in Christ resulting in the funeral of AD 70) it’s hard to see how the imposing of that OC on life today has any legitimacy. In the NC all that the inferior shadow covenant pointed to is realised and fulfilled. Theonomy is blind, wilfully, to salvation history.

      3. I’ve read it. And I also notice that Gillespie is not interacted with at all. You can’t just take words and ignore the way the actual writers of the confession actually intended them to be used.

        And, to be perfectly frank, I am too intelligent to be shut down with “its ridiculous” particularly since I know that appeals to extremism like this are very relative to time and place. In today’s era it seems ridiculous to advocate executions for sexual sin, but in Calvin’s day (and I do realize Calvin was not a strict theonomist in the same way Bahnsen was) it was seen as absurd not to support executions for things such as adultery. I do find it interesting that you quote Calvin when you find it convenient (when he supports education run by the State) but not when he supports things that you don’t like? Why are you getting all political?

        You’ve bought into the very same political relativism that American evangelicals have. Thankfully men like Gillespie did not.

      4. Gillespie was just wrong. As are you….you seriously are writing in public on my blog that you think homosexuals should be executed today by the State? I am so thankful that we banned people like you from being office bearers in the Free Church – you could do incredible harm.

      5. Well John, I won’t accuse you of “willfully” bowing to cultural norms and misrepresenting theonomy, even though I think you are doing that.

        To simply package everything in the “Old Covenant” together and say it is all irrelevant is dispensationalism, clearly a bad hermaneutic.

        Its popular today to say that penalties we perceive as “harsh” in the Old Covenant, such as death for homosexuality, don’t apply to us. But it is hard to see why this is the case. The law against homosexuality is a moral case law. It has no tie in with ceremonial types and shadows. Homosexuality is just as morally bankrupt as ever. If this law does not apply because “the new covenant”, what about civil laws against murder? The same thing?

        Romans 13 is implicitly reaffirming that the magistrate should execute God’s wrath against moral acts.

        The FPCS says that crimes should still be punished proportionally, but by what standard if not the standards of the Old Testament? Is thieves having their hands chopped off “general equity”? Homosexuals being given no punishment instead of death?

        As mentioned again, George Gillespie didn’t interpret it that way, and there is simply no good reason to do so.

      6. Jon

        I didn’t actually accuse you, I accused theonomy. Theonomy builds an inverted pyramid on a faulty exegesis of Matt 5 and ignores or relativises the vast number of Scriptures that proclaim the end of the law. I am not a dispensationalist nor are many who recognise that law was ‘an interim covenant until the seed came’ (a paraphrase of Gals 3,4). The point is theonomy and to some extent Reformed theology in general (I am reformed with a small ‘r’) seeks to take a covenant which was time and people particular and universalise it. This is a big mistake and the cause of a lot of confusion. The OC was for Israel and intended to prepare her (by protecting her and convicting her) for the arrival of the Christ and the NC.

        The OC was not given to the nations nor were the nations ever held accountable for breaking it for they were never under it. It was ‘perfect’ for its purpose but it’s purpose was never to model universal law. There are, of course, universals contained in the law, but these are universals in themselves and not because they are included in the OC. They are included in the law because they are universals: they are not universals because they are included in the law.

        For example, capital punishment. Capital punishment for murder is legitimate because God mandated this for humanity as a whole after the flood. It is this and not its place in the OC that makes it Applicable to all human cultures and societies.

        The Free Church Paper on theonomy David referenced is helpful. The weakness Reformed theology has in dealing with theonomy is that Reformed theology wants to make part of the OC (the Ten Commandments, the so-called moral law ) universally applicable. Of course, many of these are, but not because they appear in the OC, but because they are universals in their own right. Again, they are not universals because they appear in the OC, they appear in the OC because they are universals.

        Theonomy, is logically more consistent than WCF. It treats the law as unitary (which it is) and so seeks to impose the whole law and not just the Ten Commandments ( though it does morph the ceremonial law). But although more consistent it is less biblical. The WCF realises biblically theonomy is mistaken. It realises that to apply the law in this way is extreme and wrong. However, its own (unbiblical) efforts to make the law ‘a rule of life’ places it in a weak position for refuting theonomy. It has to resort to breaking the law into three parts to sustain its insistence of imposing the law as a rule of life, a distinction that Scripture does not make.

        The law is a covenant. It must be accepted and applied completely and as it is or not at all. Both theonomists and Confessionally Reformed folks want to impose it but either partly (Reformed Confessinals) or in a partly modified form (theonomists) for both feel the strain of imposing the whole covenant. But altering the covenant is not possible. That is why a new covenant was necessary. It frees from the obligations of the old.

        I should add in closing that both OC and NC were only for people who profess to be, the people of God. Where this is not the case neither covenant applies.

      7. Ooh boy… I wish you realized how irrational you are being and to what extent you, despite your accusations against evangelicals for compromising by letting their political ideology get in the way of their understanding of scripture, that you have CERTAINLY allowed your modernist thought to influence your understanding of scripture.

        If you want to argue that Gillespie was wrong on his Biblical exegesis, that’s fine. But I think you need to demonstrate that rather than just freaking out about how radical it is. Just freaking out about how radical it is is no better than an American evangelical freaking out at the promotion of socialism. Actually, its worse because at least the American evangelical has a correct gut reaction that socialism is not consistent with the scriptures, even if he does not yet have good reasons for this.

        On the other hand, if you really want to argue that a view of the Mosaic Civil Law is not CONFESSIONAL, you really have to deal with the fact that one of the men who helped write the confession held to that view. While George Gillespie’s theonomy is a bit different than Bahnsen’s theonomy, Gillespie would have wholeheartedly agreed that homosexuals, rebellious teenagers, blasphemers, etc. should be executed by the State.

        You can say that’s unbiblical I guess, but its blatantly ignoring history to say that its not confessional.

        I’m going to note, again, that the only meaningful argument you have made is that its radical, which is purely based on enlightenment presuppositions that NOBODY at Westminster Assembly would have agreed to.

        I’m not looking to be an elder, frankly in part because I think that people that mock God’s law like you do should be excommunicated, even if they pretend to be confessional. And that’s not a position thats’ going to pass anywhere today, though I’d be surprised if Gillespie or Rutherford would tolerate this kind of nonsense.

      8. Not radical. Nuts. You do realise that the WCF was a compromise document and not everyone agreed with everything in it. The teaching of the WCF on the Mosaic Law is clear and it is not theonomic. Love the fact that you think I should be excommunicated because I don’t think we should stone homosexuals. As I said – surreal and nuts!

      9. Oh my… the list of contradictions grows and grows.

        So you’re seriously saying that the WCF was a compromise document, and using that as your reason to ignore the fact that Gillespie was a theonomist, and then you are using the WCF to say that office-holders shouldn’t be allowed to be theonomists. Do you hear yourself?

        I don’t put everyone who disagrees with the theonomic thesis in the same category. I have two categories. Those who have reasoned objections, and those that disagree because its “nuts” and not in conformity with their modernist values. I think you and I both know what camp you are in.

      10. David this is my last and therefore your last comment. It is actually embarrassing and surreal to have someone write on my blog that I should be excommunicated because I don’t advocate killing homosexuals! The fact that you cannot even see the absurdity of that is more than a little disturbing.

        Actually it is Sinclair Ferguson who says that the WCF is a compromise document (just read it this week in his latest book). But then what does he know?!

        And yes the WCF (as Rushdooney and others recognised) does not advocate theonomy and is explictly and implictly against it.

        And yes I have many reasoned objections to theonomy – as put forward in the Free Church paper on the issue. I have actually read the theonomists and I remember in particular Gary North saying that the way for theonomists to win was when they write a sentence, you write a paragraph, when they write a paragraph, you write a chapter, when they write a chapter your write a book and so on. In this way you will wear them down. I find it better not to get caught up in that kind of silly game. Its much easier just to point out the obvious – anyone who thinks that those who do not believe in killing homosexuals should be excommunicated should be put on the same level as those who believe the Pope is an alien from another planet. In other words ‘somewhat imbalanced and eccentric’.

  13. PS

    I should perhaps add that while I am not a dispensationalist every right-thinking Christian recognises there are dispensations. Dispensations are simply different epochs when God deals with people in different ways. Reformed theology speaks of dispensations (law and gospel at least). Vos’s Biblical Theology is an example of Reformed reflection on dispensations. Dispensations are intrinsic to salvation history.

  14. PPS

    Sorry about name error, David not Jon. Incidently, I don’t think the OC is irrelevant. All Scripture is profitable for teaching, correction, training in righteousness etc. We can learn principles from the OC (as the NT does) but that is different from saying it ought to be imposed on society or Christians. How did Jesus and the apostles understand and use the OT, whether law or prophets, that is the question? Their hermeneutic ought to be ours.

    John

  15. Sorry for a delayed response to David Robertson’s article–I first saw it in Clarion Magazine. Thus, this reply goes back to the original article–not the later discussion ontheonomy etc:

    I agree with Robertson that Phillips goes too far in criticizing socialism. We should not equate socialism with such evils as racism and government sponsored torture as Phillips does or with homosexuality and abortion as Robertson notes others have done. Nor, should we identify Christianity with our “own politics/ culture and economics”– as Robertson reports the American brothers and sisters are doing. Neither socialism or capitalism is the Christian alternative.

    Nevertheless, I believe that Robertson, himself, also goes more than a wee bit overboard. Please see my blog for a complete analysis at:

    http://johnmboersema.blogspot.ca/2016/09/is-socialism-satanic.html

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