Property & the Bible: A Response to Stoker (Part 2)

This article was jointly written by Doug Stuart and Jessica Hooker. See Part 1 here.

Elizabeth Stoker has argued against what she presumes to be the incompatibility of Christianity and libertarianism.  In our first post we examined the first of her three arguments. Here we begin to look at the subject of private property.

2.) Not only does the Bible indicate that God values private property, in it we see God’s desire to see property stewarded for its value to humanity. 

John Locke began his Second Treatise on Government with a comment on property:

“…we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit…”

The idea of private property is fundamental to libertarian philosophy and is clearly supported in the Bible.  We find in the book of Exodus the laws God gave the people of Israel as they emerged from Egypt.  This covenant between God and the Israelites ordered justice in their community.  Part of that covenant and establishment of justice included property rights.  Exodus 22 deals solely with laws regarding property—both livestock and land—and also lists the restitution that is required if these laws are violated. While this may be an oversimplification, the concept of property rights was a part of God’s arrangement with Israel in ordering a just society. God expected them to share, yes, but how can one share what is not one’s own? Perhaps the phrase “stewardship rights” is more accurate a description than “property rights.” We each “own” something, which is to say, we are stewards of real property, and God has certain expectations of us.

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Is Progress Possible?

CS_LewisThis essay by C.S. Lewis was originally published in The Observer in 1958. It was subsequently printed in the book God In the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, subtitled “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State.”

Intro from God in the Dock: From the French Revolution to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, it was generally assumed that progress in human affairs was not only possible but inevitable. Since then two terrible wars and the discovery of the hydrogen bomb have made men question this confident assumption. The Observer invited five well-known writers to give their answers to the following questions: ‘Is man progressing today?’ ‘Is progress even possible?’ This second article in the series is a reply to the opening article by C.P. Snow, ‘Man in Society’, The Observer (13 July 1958).

Progress means movement in a desired direction, and we do not all desire the same things for our species. In “Possible Worlds” Professor Haldane1 pictured a future in which Man, foreseeing that Earth would soon be uninhabitable, adapted himself for migration to Venus by drastically modifying his physiology and abandoning justice, pity and happiness. The desire here is for mere survival. Now I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.

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Politics, Left and Right

Tim Suttle, author of An Evangelical Social Gospel? (which I reviewed here) recently posted an article in the Huffington Post Religion section titled, "What is the Chief Political Concern of the Bible?" Suttle comes from a neither-left-nor-right perspective, though seems…

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