Category Archives: Philosophy

Language and Dominion: Results of the Image of God (Part 3)

(2) Language and Creativity as the image of God:

The following two views are seen by their proponents as being the imago dei.  I would like to demonstrate that although these views come close to hitting the mark, they fail to see the difference between the the results of man being created in the image of God and man being the image of God.

The second view has many things to commend to itself.(1) Language is definitely something unique to man, and we see the first thing God did in the beginning was create, and man likewise is a creative being. After all, a few contrasts can be given between man and the beasts in this regard. While humans construct beautiful architecture, communicate in propositions, build societies and make things for the purpose of beauty, beasts do not. They don’t speak an intelligent language or communicate in propositions.  However, I do not think we are totally left to speculation as to what the image of God in man is. We have already quoted thus far from Genesis and Job. The Job passage makes clear part of this image is understanding and Colossians mentions knowledge. That language is unique to man is clear, and that man has knowledge, indeed, innate knowledge is clear from such passages as Romans 1 and 2. But is there something more foundational to the image of God in man than language and creativity? The point is that we don’t have the biblical basis to say the image is language and creativity. We have conjectures once again. We will leave this view and come back to it later. We come now to the third view.

(3) Dominion in Righteousness as the image of God:

Some Scriptures seemingly show the third view to be correct:

Genesis 1:26-28:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (28) And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

However, an aspect of the image of God should be noted which I think makes this view not as plausible as perhaps might be seen from a superficial reading of Genesis 1. It is this: before and after the fall, man is the image of God.(2) There are a few problems with asserting that dominion is the image of God. First, some men don’t take dominion. Most men are rebels against God and don’t think they need to take dominion. Secondly, whatever limited dominion some men may take in an analogous fashion, is not the dominion talked about in Genesis 1 which is dominion under God or in righteousness.. One could say the Socialist is taking dominion in terms of his Socialistic ideals, but to say dominion in general is what is referred to in Genesis 1 cannot be substantiated by the context. Even Christians are not as faithful as they ought to be in taking dominion for Christ the Lord. Does this mean in a Christian’s life he wavers from being the image of God and not being the image of God? Scripturally and Confessionally, this cannot be so. Man is the image of God; he is not, as some have put it “imaging God” as if the image of God in man is something man does.(2) It is who he is. As Dr. Robert Reymond writes,

“[I]t is because man is God’s image that God bestows dominion over the earth upon him”.

Gordon Clark says something along the same lines,

“The image of God is not something man has, somewhere inside of him, or somewhere on the surface, as if God had first created man and then stamped him with a signet ring. No, the image is not something man has, man is the image. First Corinthians 11:7 pointedly says “He [man] is the image and glory of God.” (4)

“[And since man is the image] the image must in some way or other be a permanent characteristic of personality.” (5)

One reason adduced in the Scripture for the immorality of killing an innocent person is man is the image of God (see Gen 9:6). This was stated after the fall.  Note too that this bears upon those who assert that the image of God is an activity of man (“imaging God”) rather than something man is. The full significance of all this will be elaborated on later. However, the conclusion from what has been presented is clear: Dominion in righteousness is not the image of God. Dominion is given to man as a result of his being the image of God, just like language, but it is not what constitutes that image. This does not alter the significance of dominion under God but this just means that this will not be discussed at this point. Dominion in righteousness is an application of the image of God in man, but is not the image. Next we shall come to the fourth view.

(1) See for an example of this view.

(2) See Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, page 449. The logical implication of Rushdoony’s position is that after the fall man ceases to be the image of God. The reformed view is that the image of God in man has been marred, not eradicated.

(3) See Stewart, The image of God in man: A Reformed Reassessment:

(4) Clark, The Biblical doctrine of man, pg. 9

(5) Ibid. pg. 8

Christian Exceptionalism

Does President Obama believe in “American exceptionalism?” This has been a subject of debate between liberals and conservatives for months and will no doubt continue until he is out of office. Conservative pundits on the one hand claim that because the president made a particular statement, and because his policies represent a desire on his part for the country to be socialized like many of our European neighbors,  he cannot possibly believe in American exceptionalism. Liberals on the other hand (yes, the left hand) claim the President does believe in American exceptionalism and has, in fact, employed the phrase in affirmation more than George Bush or even Ronald Reagan [1].

The phrase from the president that has the conservative pundits so outraged (as if they weren’t glad to hear it) comes from the April 4, 2009 press conference in Strasbourg, France when the President was asked if he subscribed “to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world”. His answer, in part, was as follows:

“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I am enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world…. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality that, though imperfect, are exceptional.[2]”

What is American exceptionalism? Fundamentally it is the view that America is qualitatively different than other political states. America, because of it’s jurisprudence, moral superiority, economic power, and overall love and defense of liberty (I snicker slightly as I type this),  has the right, and even the duty to dispense this superiority across the globe.

President Obama no doubt equivocated somewhat in answering the question about American exceptionalism, regarding it as some sort of pride or esteem of one’s country and its history, not as a right and duty of America to lead the world.

My goal in writing on this subject, however, is not to take sides on whether President Obama believes in American exceptionalism, and whether he is Satan if he disbelieves it. Rather, as usual, I will use this debate as an occasion to advance my exclusively Christian philosophical agenda.

Though I don’t think this was the President’s intent, he did stumble upon some truth: Every worldview believes in its own superiority. So, indeed, the British believe in British exceptionalism (to the degree they are truly British), likewise the Greeks and the Americans. Even the “love everybody equally, except for  Christians, ’cause they’re haters” crowd, with all of their guise of humility (“I’m not better than you, nor you me”) believe in the superiority of thinking as they do (which is self-refuting on its face, nevertheless, it is their confession).

To the degree that one doubts the superiority or exceptional nature of his own beliefs, to that degree he doubts his own beliefs. If I believe 2+2=4 as truth, I believe it is superior to 2+2=39. If I begin to say 2+2=39 is also true, I am not only denying the superiority of 2+2=4, but denying 2+2=4 altogether because they cannot both be true.

Scripture claims exclusivity to it’s truths. As Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Christ claims to be truth, so that his words are truth:  “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” His “words” are not only the audible words he spoke to the Pharisees that day and during his time on earth, but all of Scripture, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) All Christ’s words, all Scripture is truth. In logical form: all a is b. Now, if we combine this truth with Christ’s words, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad,” (Matthew 12:30) we may add to our formula no c is b — c representing anything that is not Christ’s truth — anything that is not Christ‘s truth is not truth at all, but opposed to it. All a is b and no c is b. All Christ’s words are truth, and nothing else is.

Allow me to point out the obvious: this makes Christianity exceptional.  Therefore, America is only exceptional to the degree it practices Christianity in it’s jurisprudence, moral acceptance or rejection of certain practices, in its economics, and in its overall system of liberty. Conversely, to the degree America rejects Christian principles, it becomes not just non-exceptional, but polluted,  poisoned, corrupt and destitute of any goodness. This may be said of any state, any philosophy, and of every person individually.

The wisdom we have must be the wisdom of God — wisdom as God defines it. The knowledge that we have must be the knowledge from God — knowledge as God defines it, or else it is not truly wisdom or knowledge. We are to “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The wisdom and knowledge we have from Scripture that we receive by the grace of God alone through regeneration of the Sprit, the propitiation of Christ, according to the calling and election of God, is superior to the wisdom and knowledge of the rest of the world which Scripture describes as “foolish.”

So there is no cause to accept in any form the dribbling irrationality of the wicked. Rather we should hate it: “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” (Psalms 119:104).  We have the best knowledge, the best wisdom, the only truth; a nation built on these will be exceptional. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” Let‘s act like this is true. May we as Christians proclaim with confidence God’s truth to a people who view it as foolishness.

-Ben Murch

[1] Robert Schlesinger wrote an editorial for U.S.News with the catchy title “Obama Has Mentioned ‘American Exceptionalism’ More Than Bush” in which he makes this case.

[2] Full transcript here.

An Infallible Defense for the Resurrection of Christ

The resurrection of Christ is a most pivotal part of the Christian religion. On the doctrine of the resurrection our entire faith stands or falls. If Christ is not raised from the dead we have faith only in a dead Messiah and failed prophecies. Faith in failure is the quintessential expression  of vanity.

The Apostle Paul makes this inference in his first letter to the Corinthians, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

A defense of the resurrection is critical to the faith. For our faith to be sure we must have a sure argument for the resurrection. To the degree our evidence is weak, so is our faith.

Faith is not a blind hope in the improbable (e.g., I have faith the Red Sox will win the World Series this year). Faith is trusting assent to a proposition. If the proposition is found to be false you have no reason to have faith. You may have faith in your bank that they will keep your money safe (a foolish faith, but now is not the time to ramble about fractional reserve banking). You have faith in the proposition, “The money I have earned is safer in the bank than in my possession.”  But if the bank is robbed, your faith in that proposition is weak at best. This is to demonstrate you have reasons for your faith. If those reasons are fallacious or unreliable, so is your faith.

What we need then for a defense of the resurrection is an infallible defense. Therefore, when we argue for the resurrection we should not be content to spout off arguments to no profit. Far too often have we heard the arguments from silence (e.g., no body was produced) and appeals to empirical eyewitness accounts in an attempt to defend the resurrection. How definite are these arguments? Are they worth putting your faith in? Remember, faith does not bridge the gap where empirical evidence is insufficient. If your faith is based on empirical eyewitness accounts, your faith is only as strong as the human senses are reliable.

Are the senses infallible? There are optical illusions, mirages, hallucinations, waking dreams, varying sensation of color, taste, and touch. How many accidents have been the result of someone’s false perception of the situation? At best what can be said of the human sensory organs is that they are “generally” reliable. Which is only to say they are “probably” reliable. Which is only to say Jesus Christ was probably raised from the dead, so our faith is probably not in vain, and we are probably not false witnesses of God, and we are probably not still in our sins. When we preach, the most convicting thing we can say is, “You should probably repent and believe in Christ.”

This type of uncertainty is not necessary. It may be objected that Paul appeals to empirical eye witness accounts earlier in 1 Corinthians 15 where he says:

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (3-8)

At first glance it may appear as though Paul is saying that the eye witness accounts are the reason for believing the resurrection. But let’s look closely at the text. Paul is delivering to the Corinthians that which was delivered to him — the Gospel message. Within this Gospel message are the eye witness accounts. Paul says, “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” The Gospel is not confirmed by eyewitness accounts, but the eye witness accounts are part of the Gospel message, the message Paul received, and also preached. Paul does not place his confidence in the sense organs of the disciples.

It may even be argued that Paul is not speaking of a literal seeing, as in images of color perceived through the retina. Paul adds his vision of Christ to the list of those that saw Christ, but Paul never actually saw Him with the physical eye. The accounts of Paul’s encounter with Christ in Acts 9 and 22 tell us that Paul never saw Christ’s resurrected body. Paul expressed this when he said, “I could not see for the glory of that light.” When Paul says that Christ was “seen of him” in 1 Corinthians, he is not speaking of an eye witness account of Christ. Because Paul says, “he was seen of me also” all of the “seeing” must be figurative, as the word “also“ identifies the “seeing” as the same.  If it was a figurative seeing for Paul (and it seems from the two Acts accounts that it is) it must also be for all the other witnesses. “Seeing” seems to be referring to conversion, not to eyewitness testimony.

This becomes more evident in examining the two appearances of Christ in Luke 24; the appearing of Christ to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus (13-32) and the appearing of Christ to the Eleven and those that were with them in Jerusalem (33-49).

The road to Emmaus

When Christ approached the two on their way to Emmaus the Scripture says, “their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” No doubt, they physically saw the resurrected Christ who was speaking to them but they did not see Him for who He was. At His inquiry they told Christ of all the events that took place. It is obvious from their words they did not believe as of  yet the resurrection. They did not believe because of an empty tomb or even the testimony of the women who saw the vision of angels.

Christ rebukes them, not for disbelieving the women or doubting the implications of the empty tomb, but for disbelieving the prophets recorded in Scripture, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Then, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” It was after Christ expounded Scripture and after He blessed the bread that “their eyes were opened, and they knew him.”

The appearing of Christ to the disciples in Jerusalem is even more clear. Christ appears to them and they don’t recognize Him as the risen Christ; they think he must be a spirit. Like the two on the way to Emmaus their eyes did not behold Him for who He was. Christ shows them that He is not a spirit and allows them to touch him. Yet even after this they did not believe: “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered….” They didn’t believe until He supped with them, “and he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”

What is the infallible evidence for the resurrection? The same evidence Christ delivered unto the disciples, the same evidence that Paul received and preach –the Scripture. Because the Bible is the infallible Word of God, its testimony of the resurrection is an infallible testimony. “But that’s not convincing to most people,” one may object. To which I answer: It wasn’t convincing to those staring the resurrected  Christ in the face until he opened their eyes to see. Without God enabling a sinner to believe His Word he cannot believe even if Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate, put to death and resurrected the third day, was the one delivering the message.

But God by His grace does enable some to believe and what He enables them to believe is not a probability, but the sure Word of the Scriptures. May the same Scripture that Christ opened and explained to those He walked with be our source for every argument and our foundation for faith.

-Ben Murch

Rampant Fundamentalism; How I know You’re A Fundamentalist

Not all fundamentalists look like this

Definition: strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles:

Often a major objection to Christianity by secular humanists is that it is too dogmatic.  Another observation (usually stated with a bit of annoyance) is that we believe we have an infallible starting point which is finally authoritative, namely, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. When the Bible is cited as the authority or foundation for some belief it is usually met with an intense wagging of the head with the words “Fundamentalist!” said between clenched teeth in a less-than-loving tone (This is particularly ironic since the accusation of being unloving frequently follows). Usually some invective is thrown in the mix, which I will not quote for the sake of decency. Suffice it to say they do not appear to be happy individuals in the discussion.

What I find ironic is the hypocrisy. The secular humanists are fundamentalists! They have a doctrine of infallibility just like the Christian to which they appeal dogmatically. A retort might be that humanists generally view things as relative and that therefore my assertion is ill founded. However, in order to make any judgment on truth-value, one must have an objective framework to operate from.  If according to humanism, morality and value are social conventions and are relative, no charge of absurdity or falsity can be attributed to the Bible, nor to anything for that matter, because their is no standard in which to contrast truth from error — rational from absurd. Seeing as humanists do make such truth claims, they have a doctrine of infallibility which they dogmatically appeal to.

So what is it?

  1. Infallibility is an inescapable concept

If the humanist objects to dogmatic appeal of the Christian to the infallible nature of the Bible, it must be based on a prior acceptance of a rival doctrine of infallibility. Let’s produce the opposing views of infallibility to prove the point:

  • Democracy

    "vox popula vox dei" is just a cool way of saying the mob rules

The alleged infallible starting point for many folks is the voice of the majority and is captured in the words of Pythagoras, “Vox Popula, Vox Dei” or “The voice of the people is the voice of God”. In this view the majority can infallibly dictate things like societal policy, ethics, economics, law and morality. This could very well be called the most popular view today.

  • Deism

This starting point is not usually stated to be infallible, but implicitly it has a doctrine of infallibility. It is seen in the fact that is believes that the mind of man can find infallibly fixed laws that govern the universe, colloquially called “natures laws” conceived as both moral and physical. A short summation of this view would be: What is is infallibly right.

  • Philosopher-Kings

This view has a few variations like the divine right of kings, Marxism or even the Roman catholic church. Philosopher-kings is an ancient concept that thought that only the philosophers were fit to rule because they were the only ones who could rule competently and infallibly since all others were too ignorant and therefore fallible. For men like Plato, who advocated the view, sin and error was always the result of ignorance.

There are more views, but this will suffice. The basic premise is, in the words of theologian Rousas J. Rushdoony, “if the infallibility of Scripture is denied, it is denied only in order to ascribe infallibility to nature, to man, or to some other aspect of institution of man.”

2. What are the necessary preconditions for infallibility?

  • Total self-consciousness

In order for someone or some institution to be infallible, they must have no hidden potentialities within themselves.  But man does not have this. He is not totally  self-conscious for their are hidden recesses in his mind and hidden potentialities that he may never be aware of.

  • Total knowledge of oneself and abilities

In order to speak infallibly, one must know oneself and abilities in total. Without knowledge, there can be no infallible authority. And without full knowledge, how could one know whether they have the truth? What if they are missing key aspects that would change their perspective? This happens all the time with science and is evidenced by its history. We never know if we have arrived at truth on our own.

  • Total control

In order to have an infallible word, one must not only know something, but be able to bring it to pass. Man cannot say that he has obtained this since, lacking both full knowledge and self-consciousness, man changes in his mind. He cannot make absolute judgments on anything and thus does cannot bring things infallibly to pass. In short, anything rooted in man cannot be said to be infallible. As Rushdoony wrote, “God, being omnipotent and totally self-conscious, can predict because His word is the controlling word. God’s word comes out of His unchanging and omnipotent being, and the word of God is thus of necessity infallible. The only word the sovereign and triune God can speak is an infallible word.” (Emphasis original)

So what do we have? We have Christian fundamentalism vs. humanistic fundamentalism with the key difference that the humanist must confess his starting point is woefully fallible since he does not have the preconditions for infallibility, whereas the Christian’s is rooted in the infallible God of Scripture. Also, we have shown the humanist is not justified in accusing the Christian of dogmatism as he is “guilty” of the same.

If the secular humanist wishes to hold any ideal, he can only do so by a doctrine of infallibility. If he wishes to maintain a relativistic starting point, he cannot make any judgments of falsity of absurdity to any belief. He cannot claim infallibility because he doesn’t have the preconditions of infallibility. So, why be dogmatic against Christianity? Why call the laws of God cruel and malicious? Why be angry with fundamentalists in the first place?

There is a war taking place, and a rather unfair one at that. It is between the Almighty God of Scripture and the wavering fickle and uncertain word of man. The more man tries to sustain his existence outside God’s laws, God’s purpose and God creating man in his image, the more destructive, irrational and  animal-like he makes himself out to be. His origin will be chaotic, and his end disastrous nonsense.

-Jesse Murch

Morality, Neutrality, Law, and Reformed Theology

Photo by steakpinball, flickr.comWith Congress in session we’re hearing many liberal proponents peddling phrases such as, “Laws are to be morally neutral and objective” or “You cannot legislate morality.” These statements (and many others like them couched in various forms, but always with the utmost vehemence) have been used to defend a variety of  governmental funding  and legislation, as well as to avoid legislation with particular moral implications.

I recently heard an argument intended to defend the federal funding of Planed Parenthood that went something like this: It costs $x00 (Some figure in the hundreds) to have an abortion, and it costs $x,000 (Some figure in the thousands; the exact number varies) for a child to be born in the hospital. It’s less expensive to abort a child than for him to be born. Therefore, if we were objective in our funding and legislation we would see the great benefit in funding organizations such as Planned Parenthood which provides abortions (the person making the argument claimed to be “personally pro-life” to demonstrate, no doubt, just how objective she is).

Now, the puerility and ignorance of such an argument runs so deep it would take too long to refute in total. But I do like to take such arguments as soapbox opportunities to push my agenda of Reformation thinking, so I will address the overarching idea of moral neutrality in legislation.

Because this is a soapbox opportunity I’m going to jump right in with some broad sweeping universals: All laws are moral in nature. All morals require a system of thought. All systems of thought are religious in nature.  All religions have a god. No liberal will recognize this. No neo-con will dare be this dogmatic or even shake hands with those who are.

Concerning my first dogmatic statement: How are all laws moral is nature? Because, morality concerns itself with what is right or wrong. And law[1], at the very least, even according  to the most liberal, concerns itself with the social well being (or good) of society. Combine these two truths and you’ve just admitted that law is very much concerned with morality . Romans 1:3-4 is very clear on this, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Laws do not make one moral, only the regenerating power of God does that, but they do restrain moral evils.

So, all laws are moral in nature. But couldn’t there be some morals that are neutral? This leads us to my second broad sweeping universal: all morals require a system of thought. There is no neutrality in thought. All thoughts spring forth from presuppositions (I know, more universals. For more on this read No Matter What You Think You’re a Presuppositionalist). From these presuppositions we deduce logically subsequent propositions. The collection of these propositions is a system of thought. This makes a person’s propositions or ideas only as strong as his starting presupposition. A person who doesn’t have a system but just one presupposition after another not rooted in any foundational principle is not only arbitrary, but untenable. One who claims it is good to save the trees must have an answer as to why. If they have an answer they have a starting principle (and thus, a system of thought). If they don’t have an answer, there is no reason to believe them.

Religion is simply a system of beliefs that worship and serve a being (anything, whether nature, an object of nature, the human ego, or the Triune Godhead). The being worshiped and served is the god of that system. Even the most liberal of individuals then who passionately oppose morals in legislation are just as religious as the Christian. Their religion has a different god with a different system of thought and different morals and thus, they desire different laws, but it is no less religious. To claim moral neutrality is simply to be dishonest or uncertain as to your religion.

Battles over legislation are religious battles. Religious battles are not as antiquated as one may think. When we push for or support legislation or support a congressman or senator as Christians (especially as Reformed) we must be sure what we are supporting is the religion of Christ and not some other religion. Is the law founded on Christ and His Word, or is it founded on some other god? Have you opted for the myth that there are neutral laws? Christ is sovereign over all things. Let us leave nothing for the rule of another god.

-Ben Murch

End notes:

[1] Every mention of law in this article is in reference to civil law.

I. Theory and Theology of Economics, part 1

(1) What is economics?

“What is economics?”  How much bearing does the subject have? Is economics important? Why must we even bother reading lengthy books and boring lectures by dead men (And you would find them boring)? Can economics justify its existence in a college course or as a topic of interest? Should it be taught on the High-school level? Perhaps we should stay out of it and leave it up to the “scholars” that will handle the perplexing subject while we live our more simple lives never needing to worry our heads about the subject. To answer any of these questions right now would be premature, but let us answer the first: What is economics?

Economics, generally speaking, is the study of distribution, consumption and production. It deals with scarcity and choices that rational beings make. But this is not all. When speaking of economics we differentiate between positive and normative economics. When speaking of positive economics, we are speaking of the pure science of the matter that stresses scientific procedures. Normative economics is concerned with the application of economic analysis. Positive economics asks the question, “What is the most efficient means of achieving ends that have already been determined”[i] Thus, positive economics doesn’t deal with norms, thus the distinction between the two. Normative economics is concerned about the ends toward which the analysis will work towards. Although this distinction is made, the “pure science” or the means are never separated from the ends. Every economist must be both dealing with the science and the application. Therefore, every economist must know what it is he is going to base his science off of. Although this may seem technical, the concepts are things we deal with every day, indeed, in every choice you make.

(2) Theology as the base for all economic policy

As in all things, the base for economics is the theological level. If one wants to know the base for the economic policies of any given nation, one must look to the theology that is adopted. Is it Statist? Is there freedom? We may trace the theology of economics down to the application of economic policy in this fashion:

1.      All men have a theological position and this theological position directly bears upon what sort of philosophy will be adopted. Does his theology teach man as autonomous? Then his philosophy will reflect a sort of Rationalism or Empiricism where the mind of man is the guide for truth. God’s Word, then, will not be consulted since man is seen as self-sufficient

2.      As the philosophy is developed views will be formed on all disciplines of thought, namely, morality, ethics, politics, etc. and since the foundation for these studies are a sort of Rationalism or Empiricism (which we will designate with the more simple term “Humanism”), it will all always be man-centered. Given that man is still viewed as self-reliant, no revelatory theories will be permitted in the system thus all disciplines in life will be humanistic.

3.      The laws and political theory that are formed out of the humanistic starting point (theology) will determine what sort of economic theory he will maintain. So far we have Theology influencing philosophy, philosophy all disciplines of life, and these disciplines encompass economics. If he deems men incompetent (except himself, of course) he will most likely adopt a fascist view of economics or some other totalitarian scheme. For since men are so incompetent, who will lead them? “Ah!” He says to himself, “I will lead these fools into the way that they should go!” Unfortunately, the majority of individuals in your governments that lead the direction of our economy are of this mindset. We are all but little piglets in their grand experiments for the “good” of man-kind. But I digress.

4.      Thus, it follows,  the economic theory determines what sort of economic policy one will work for, which are, as described above, the ends of economics. We are now in the realm of norms once again.

This argument shows the logical progression how one’s theological starting point will affect their economic policy. There is a dynamic here, however, that was not produced in the argument. Depending on what sort of economic policy is adopted, a nation will either be a free nation or an enslaved nation.  You may stand in doubt of this and still may not be convinced of the importance of economics, but perhaps your curiosity is piqued enough to continue reading.

If indeed, one’s economic policy will determine the freedom or slavery of its people, the topic of economics is intimately involved in your life. Your finances, your house, you cars, your property, your investments, all of it, are all things that are directly related to one’s economic theory. It is my position that the the standing of any nation is, indeed, of any individual, according to the above argument, determined by the theology of that nation or person. You will either be a slave or free man according to your own economic views (and you do have them) and the direction our federal government is leading us in their economic policies that affect us.

(3) No neutrality

If the argument was not sufficient enough to state it, it should be noted that this makes neutrality impossible. One either has a humanistic theology or a God-centered one. Scientists cannot feign that while we speak of theology, they will speak of  “Scientific facts”. The scientist, the layman, the pastor, the businessmen, the husband, the wife, fathers and mothers and all must be theologians. In fact, it is technically inaccurate to speak of them as becoming theologians as if they do not currently now have their theological presuppositions. They do indeed.

The different theories in economics, both revelatory and non-revelatory cannot be discussed at length since a lot of philosophical ground would need to be covered that is not in the scope of a paper on economics. However, let us state at the outset that it is from the position of the revelation of the Christian Scriptures one can expect to see progress in the area of economics. The non-revelatory theories will not be formally discussed, but some problems in their system will be highlighted to address this point.

Perhaps one example will be permitted: How does any scientific theory get from analyzing the is and getting an ought? How can a positivistic scientist deduce from the observed phenomena what sort of policy should be adopted? What is tells him nothing; only that such and such a thing occurs. Is it desirable though? Is it good? Suppose he thinks it is good. On what basis does he draw the conclusion? Does his fellow scientist think it is good? What if they should disagree? The problem is that in such a situation where both are operating on humanistic principles, there is no higher authority for them to appeal to but themselves and thus all distinctions of good and evil policies are gone. And regardless, any scientist that gets into the ought of things needs to appeal to something besides his science.

In a real sense, then, what is being talked about is the difference between a good economic policy and a bad economic policy. Or more accurately we can make the distinction between a God honoring policy and a God dishonoring policy. At this point the Christian Scripture of the Old and New Testaments will be the source whereby we analyze whether an economic policy is good or bad, ethical or unethical. The humanist will doubtless call it unfair that we assume at the outset that the Bible is the source of authority in economic policy. However, the humanist is likewise adopting his humanistic philosophy to determine his economic policy, so cannot the Christian do the same? Why should I accept the starting point of the humanist? Also, since something besides the mind of fallible and wicked man is adopted as the starting point, we have an advantage in not falling into subjective analysis, as the humanist must necessarily do. It is only with the conscious decision to work from the Scripture that we can expect progression in this matter. Instead of the subjective analysis of humanism, we have the revelation of the mind of God to give use direction, and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” And the flip side of that, where God’s words are despised and refused, there is economic slavery.

Part 2 will deal with the implications of a explicitly Christian economy. Stay tuned.

– Jesse Murch

[i] Economics: principles and policy, Tom Rose pg. 27

The Biblical Philosophy of Art

(Left: Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa". Right: Pablo Picasso's "Dora Maar au Chat".) Is there really any comparison? No.

In this brief post I wish to expound three basic points in the philosophy of art that have been greatly perverted in our day: the definition of art, the motive for art, and the goal of art.

What is Art?

Some dictionaries define art as “the products of human creativity”, others define it as “the means by which a community develops for itself a medium for self-expression and interpretation”, and many other ones define it similar to these two. The first definition is extremely vague—if the definition of art is as broad as a “product of human creativity” then almost everything could be considered as “art”; everything from Advanced Technology, to the post I now write, to throwing up on a canvas.

The second definition is not much better: if “art” is merely “a medium for self-expression and interpretation”, then it would be plausible to say that for a mad man to scribble on a piece of paper is “art” because he’s expressing himself.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” We ought to model our art after God’s art.

The secularists cannot define art because they seek to change what art is supposed to be. The so-called “artist”, Picasso said,

“Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon (or rule).”

Picasso had an antinomian (anti-law) world-view, and thus, did not like to conform his work and art to God’s Law; he believed that man is the definer of right and wrong. Picasso often referred to the brain, or what he thinks, to be the final authority for his actions instead of the Scriptures.

In opposition to the secularists’ definitions, visual art, as we Christians ought to define it, is a tool by which we may reflect upon God’s creation and attributes through images.  “All things were created by Him and for Him,” including art.

Most of what is considered today as “art” therefore, is not art, but is the fruit of deluded and depraved minds that seek to destroy any remembrance of God from the world.

The Motive for Art

The motive for art has probably been the most butchered out of all of its aspects. Most people today think that the sole purpose of art is “self expression”; but we should ask the question “Is such a motive founded by Scripture?”

I Corinthians 10:31 states,

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

The anthropocentric artist Picasso said, “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.” The problem with this is that “the imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is evil continually,” the work above shows the result of his depraved mind and ideology.

This passage does not give an exception for art, but it says whatsoever we do our motive ought to be soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone). A question may arise: “Is there no room for self-expression?” The question is, “What is the motive for expressing yourself?” If anyone’s motive is any less than glorifying God, that man has a sinful and an anthropocentric motive. When the motive of art is anthropocentric (man-centered) instead of Theo-centric (God-centered) art degrades to be more and more twisted and more and more nonsensical and you end up coming up with some twisted thing that does not even resemble true art.

The Goal of Art

What should be the goal of our Art? Should our goal be to make people feel good? Or is it to let the world know how you’re feeling today? What should the aim of art be? To make people feel good about themselves isn’t even necessarily even a good thing; what if the person is under the wrath of God, and should actually feel really bad about himself and thus flee to Christ for refuge? And who on earth will care how you feel when you’ve been buried six feet deep for a thousand years?

Without an eternal goal—i.e., a goal that is Christ-ward, for His Kingdom, the conversion of sinners, and the edification of the saints—art is useless. You might as well twiddle your thumbs.

II Corinthians 10:5 says that we are to,

“Cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

– Evan Murch