Contrary to popular belief, the “Dark Ages” were no such thing. The Medieval era has long held a hidden picture of what Christian creativity and innovation look like. The Christian society that flourished after the collapse of Rome invented and produced in a way the world had never seen before. They harnessed the power of the horse, invented the printing press, the wheelbarrow, eyeglasses, wagons, astronomy, science, weapons of war, and fish farming. What is more, they invented the clock so that people could tell time, and organize their day for more efficient use of their time. Prior to the clock they only had the church bell to signal the approximate time at certain intervals in a day.
These inventions reduced manual labor and increased productivity and profits. This generated wealth which was then used as capital to produce more. Thus, capitalism was birthed. Only some areas of Europe flourished into a capitalistic economy, and then declined. The Protestant Reformation brought a rebirth to innovation and creativity that spread over into the New World.
A capitalistic society is a byproduct of certain conditions only present in a free society born out of the Christian worldview. It is not merely the freedom to make money and keep it or use it for whatever one likes. It is the flourishing of people who are innovatively producing goods and services, and using the values produced to generate more. Capitalism is practiced when people are free to use their God given ingenuity to produce a harvest from which a portion is sown again into continued reproduction.
Several key elements must be in place in order to sustain such an economy. Security of personal property is a necessary first development of a capitalistic society. If people are fighting to protect what they have from thieves or high taxes, they lack the stability to produce and steward their production. Instead they will hide, hoard, or under produce to limit the property they have to protect. Only in a society where personal property is protected by law will people feel safe enough to move from surviving to flourishing.
Innovation is the next indispensable ingredient to a capitalistic economy. Once property is secure, people will use ingenuity and creativity to find easier ways to produce, which in turn creates inventions to ease production and increase the ability for others to produce. For instance, only in Christianized Medieval Europe did the ability to produce paper create the desire for a greater method of manufacturing books. The invention of the printing press increased the ability of writers to produce literature, which increased the desire for learning, thereby benefiting education. All of this generated the production of book binders, ink, and newspapers. It’s Kingdom increase.
When we see capitalism as an “ism” – a philosophy to be imposed on a society, we fail to create the bedrock necessary to sustain it. It is not an “ism” like socialism, Marxism, and communism. It requires these elements of society that are only found in a Christian society. As the Christian worldview slips, it is only natural that capitalism is less sustainable.
A consumer economy will not serve this end. The idea of “disposable” income is antithetical to the thinking that produces capitalistic increase. One does not need to be a business owner to be a capitalist, nor are all business owners capitalists. If the person does not sow their produced wealth into the ground to make more, they are not practicing capitalism. The people who produce and use their production as capital to increase their gains are capitalists. A worker who works for wages, and uses those wages to reinvest for gains, is practicing capitalism. The worker or employer who consumes his or her earnings is not practicing capitalism or helping to sustain the economy.
If society wants goods and services that are produced at low quality and great quantity for fast consumption, they fail to create an economy of innovation. Why create something excellent if people are happy with mediocrity? People are consuming their capital when they expend their resources on goods and services that do not hold up with time and usage.
American Christians are looking for what they can do to stabilize an economy. But often we are not looking in the right places. We look for how we can change a system, but not how we can change our own living. Some will influence a system, but many will be most effective starting with their own finances.
Capitalism like anything else has its extremes to avoid. Big businesses that make massive amounts of wealth, and pay their employees only enough to eke out a living, are not aiding a healthy economy. Stifling health care laws and tax burdens cause business owners to take self-preservation measures that hinder the ability of their workers to flourish. Such conditions are not tantamount to production and innovation. Colonial American manufactures had to pay their employees high wages to compete with their ample ability to start their own business and enjoy their own profits. This created incentive for greater innovation as people raced to find solutions to reduce the need for labor workers so that they could reinvest resources for greater profits.
Becoming disgruntled with all big businesses because of the abuse of some is antithetical to building a great America. A healthy national economy necessitates everyone from big business owners to small business owners, as well as wage workers to sustain it. Everyone has a part, and the parts work together to form the whole.
Most importantly, the last essential element to creating and sustaining a capitalistic economy is a Christian worldview. Only in a world where man can have dominion over the earth rather than be a victim of the earth can the conditions be right for innovation and production. In many worldviews time is dominate over man, and man is at its mercy. In Christianized Europe man developed a way to use time for his purposes, just as he invented a way to use the horse for his purposes. Only in a Christian worldview is the idea of private property sustainable. If what I produce belongs equally to you, why would I produce it to be consumed by you? Or if what I earn is taken by high taxes, why would I work harder to make more? Only in Judeo-Christian ethics is personal property not to be stolen or coveted. It is in this worldview that a person has responsibility to grow what they have into more.
In light of these ideas, consider the verse Matthew 25:29: “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” We can apply this to economics. Those who have more shall be given. If they cannot keep what they have they cannot do with more. If they do not have the ability to keep anything, even what they produce will be taken.
In America the economic problems not only include government encroachment on personal property, and the ability to produce more, but a worldview of economic equality where people want what belongs to another. Moreover, this worldview includes those who want people to have access to what belongs to them. Socialism is not only being imposed by government, it is being home-grown amongst the citizenry. The lines of personal property are being blurred to where justice is served when all who have need partake from all who have resources. To protect one’s property is seen as unjust, and maybe even un-Christian. The problem is that when people take from the production of others, their resources are consumed and are not reinvested. The economy cannot maintain that kind of stress. The givers and the takers will pay that price if this mentality is not corrected.
Lastly, for those who still have a healthy view of personal property, there is danger in maintaining a prolonged defense to protect that property. The methods of defense often are contrary to the environment necessary for innovation and production. Setting one’s mind on self-preservation often creates a lack of generosity, as well as hoarding, hiding, and under producing as discussed above. Christians and concerned citizens who wish to aid economic progress will need to balance their decisions with love for their neighbor, and thus their nation. This will require creative, God-inspired thinking to avoid the pitfalls of protecting one’s own property and continuing to practice free enterprise.
It can be done. It has been done. Christians have stabilized economies before, and we can do it again. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. If we live from another Kingdom, the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, thereby practicing Kingdom economics, we will produce results in our nation. The Kingdom of God will be demonstrated, and the world will ask where our hope is coming from as our finances and businesses flourish despite the natural conditions. Then we will be able to give an answer that our hope comes from Christ Jesus.
 Stark, Rodney. Victory of Reason. New York; Random House, 2005, p 33-68.
 Stark, Rodney. Victory of Reason. New York; Random House, 2005, p. 39.
. Stark, Rodney. Victory of Reason. New York; Random House, 2005, p. 222-225.
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