Craig’s second talk was on the question in the title of this post and he came at this with another ‘Neither…Nor’ framework – neither capitalism nor socialism. And I’m summarising here – Craig has thought and written about this stuff at depth and had much to say.
It’s quite a hermeneutical jump to evaluate contemporary socialism or capitalism since neither system existed in Bible times. The Bible does not support a particular economic system.
Both systems can appeal to the biblical texts for support, but both are inevitably inadequate. Both have strengths and weaknesses. And both fail to take seriously the depth of human sinfulness, the danger of power, the need for a counter-cultural generosity and how the elites will use and manipulate the system for their own gain.
Capitalism has no inherent concern for the poor and marginalised. Socialism does, but it often takes the form of the powerful exploiting the powerless.
Craig sees a stalemate between the two in terms of a biblical theology of possessions. Capitalism especially downplays or ignores the way material possessions are a temptation to great evil.
Craig’s suggested counter-cultural responses by Christians include:
– administering help of all kinds to the genuinely needy
– developing a ‘theology of enough’ within a consumer society
– rein in indebtedness
– make provision for those for whom we are responsible and some surplus to enjoy life (which is good)
– give generously from the rest to those most in need, physically and spiritually
– keep an eternal focus that radically relativises our entire perspective on material possessions
It is when the church is failing to be counter-cultural like this that it becomes complicit with the idols of the surrounding capitalist system.
Time ran out somewhat here, but it would have been good to talk more about an answer to the question ‘Are Christians complicit?’
But what would such complicity actually look like in practice? What do you think?
And a couple of comments here:
There can be a sense of Western guilt complex in answering this question: we’re all complicit just by being Westerners. But that doesn’t get anyone very far. Are we complicit by shopping at Tescos? By owning a house? By buying an iPhone? By owning shares? What specifically is complicity?
There can also be begrudgery at work here too: those who are better off than me are complicit; I’m obviously not since I don’t have much money!
So, what’s complicity with the god of mammon look like?
And linking back to the previous post by David Smith, a localised call to individual Christians and churches to be counter cultural can leave the prophetic role of the church to one side. It can leave the system itself untouched.
IMHO what we need are Christian economists and thinkers who understand how contemporary ‘turbo-capitalism’ actually works and who can offer a prophetic critique and constructive alternatives that help promote justice.
For it is this out-of-control system that has led most of the West into what could easily now be another great Depression. And the more we’ve learned of how the system ‘works’ over the last 3 years or so, the more exposed it has become as a voracious monster propelled by greed, injustice and unsustainable myths of endless economic growth and prosperity, all supposedly effected without consequences.
And for a brilliant post by my friend Tom Gilliam on the financial crisis and the need to distingush what sort of capitalism we are talking about see here