[This paper was first presented at Gutenberg College’s 2013 Summer Institute in response to Jack Crabtree’s paper, “How To Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast.”]
The major thesis of Jack Crabtree’s paper, “How To Follow Jesus When You Cannot Kill the Beast,” is that America is rapidly declining morally and that Christianity is playing less of a role in the culture. The cause of the decline, Jack thinks, is what he calls “Contrabiblicism” or “Leftism.” I will divide this paper into four sections. First, I will examine portions of Jack’s analysis and point out a couple of places where I’m not sure I understand his argument and terms and what really turns on them, or possibly that I disagree with his analysis. Second, I will examine his argument generally. Third, I will recount what I heard Jack to say “Leftism” is. Lastly, I will examine whether or not I am convinced that Jack’s argument for the locus of the beast is in Leftism. I will attempt to capture some of my journey to understanding Jack’s argument. In particular I will, by the end, have solved some of the problems that I had at the beginning.
Before I launch into the paper, I want to make a few personal remarks. We all have our unique, limited perspectives on life. None of us has a broad, overarching perspective from which to view life. My comments are from my very limited perspective. For reasons that will become clear as my analysis unfolds, I really do not enjoy the typical Left–Right fisticuffs that have been part of the American scene since before we were a country. Personally, I have found a number of them painful. As I understand American history, the worst fisticuff in US history by far was the presidential campaign of 1800. An election unsurpassed in its nastiness, it largely pitted the Federalists and the Anti-federalists. We were lucky to have survived it. Historically in the U.S., I believe that most of the interactions between the Left and the Right have been over social and political issues. It is not unprecedented that religion has played a part, but mostly the interactions have been over social and political issues. And, as Jack pointed out, what constitutes the Left and the Right changes over time. The issues that have given rise to the positions are often events or social and political perspectives. So it appears to me that these passionate sparring matches are part of our social fabric. My problem with them is that there are only two sides and the proponents of each side claim there is a clear black-and-white choice between them that must be made. In my view, it is usually the case that the issues involved in these Left–Right fisticuffs are complicated and that the choice to be made is not as black-and-white as the proponents on each side claim them to be.
Here at Gutenberg we try to provide a place where all questions and positions can be presented and discussed—not for the purposes of propaganda but for the purpose of finding the truth. Jack has raised serious issues that need to be addressed. So comfortable or not, I will proceed.
Section One: Exploration of Jack’s Analysis
I will begin by examining Jack’s argument and point to areas with which I admit I am not tracking or I disagree.
Jack believes that American culture appears to be collapsing before his very eyes. He is wondering what America will look like in the future. Also, as a follower of Jesus, he is asking how he should respond. These are all important concerns. I share with Jack the perception that we are witnessing a catastrophic decline of America and that the end seems inevitable without miraculous intervention. Jack centers his attention on the political arena as the sphere of greatest concern. As he sees it, the cause of the decline in America is what he terms “the Beast,” a term he uses to describe any effort inspired by Satan to oppose God and his purposes. So, the Beast can designate any person, culture, institution, or society—anywhere in the world and at any time in the world—that seeks to thwart and defeat God and his purposes and that asserts its superiority to God. Jack contends that American society has become a Beast in exactly this sense. This Beast is the cultural power that has increasingly shaped American culture since about 1860. This Satanic power is rooted in seduction, not violence or coercion.
At this point, there is one point that I wonder about: I become a little unsure where to draw the line between just sinful man and Satan-driven rebellion. However, Jack provides his three realities to help demarcate this Satanic-driven culture: 1) the existence of a superior class; 2) the emergence of “Contrabiblicism” as a new orthodox religion; and 3) the development of propaganda as a means of propagating this religion. The Beast’s agenda is to promote religious commitments to the set of beliefs and values that constitute the “religion” of Contrabiblicism. Propaganda’s job is to enhance the appeal of Contrabiblicism.
Up to this point, I am tracking with Jack, and I believe that he is right in his analysis. However, Jack then claims that this religion of the Beast (Contrabiblicism) is Leftism. Right here my discomfort meter is pegged. This is something out of Orwell; this is double-speak. Jack states, “It is important to keep in mind, however, that Leftism and Contrabiblicism as I am using the terms are exactly synonymous.” In other words, Jack is asserting that Contrabiblicism and Leftism are the same by definition. And so I take Jack to mean at least the following:
- The terms “Leftism” and “Contrabiblicism” have identical characteristics.
- The population of each group, Leftist and Contrabiblicist, are made up of exactly the same set of people.
I see two potential problems with Jack equating Contrabiblicism and Leftism.
First, I do not see how it can be true that Leftism and Contrabiblicism have identical characteristics. Jack defines Contrabiblicism as a religion explicitly rejecting biblical beliefs and values and replacing them piecemeal with contrary views. The result is an incoherent set of beliefs. My picture of a Contrabiblicist is someone picking a specific issue, like sexuality, and saying, “The Bible teaches X, but I believe Y,” where X and Y are contraries. Then the Contrabiblicist picks a different issue, like what one’s response to government should be, and believes something different than the Bible teaches. Because the beliefs or values that are contrary to Christianity are selected one at a time and in piecemeal fashion, they result in an incoherent system. While the Leftist’s beliefs are also contrary to Christianity, the process of selecting those beliefs seems to me to be very different from the piecemeal process used by the Contrabiblicist, and, consequently the results are different. The Leftist starts with Darwin (to replace Genesis), Freud (to replace a biblical view of man), Marx (to replace a Biblical account of history), and higher criticism (to reinterpret the Bible). Starting with Darwin, Freud, and Marx does not necessarily result in an incoherent set of beliefs like those of Contrabiblicism. Darwin, Freud, and Marx were all materialists, and it seems possible to construct a coherent theory from their three positions. The theory may be wrong and incomplete, but it could be made coherent. Therefore, I don’t see how the emphasis Jack places on the piecemeal nature of beliefs and the resulting incoherence is the same problem for Contrabiblicism and Leftism.
Second, it is hard for me to see the set of people in each group being identical. Contrabiblicism and Leftism appear to me to be very different intellectual exercises, and it is difficult for me to see the same people doing these very different projects.
As a result, I do not have a clear picture of who Jack has in mind. Contrabiblicists are people who, as they go from day-to-day experience, decide piecemeal to reject individual biblical values and beliefs. The Leftists, on the other hand, start with Darwin, Freud, and Marx. I seem unable to make these groups of people synonymous. I’m guessing I probably don’t have the picture right. We all can picture the Contrabiblicist, and I will provide an example of a group that I believe fits the second group, the Leftists, but not the first, the Contrabiblicists.
During the 1960s, which by my recollection actually ran from about 1968-1972, I attended James Madison College, a small residence-hall college within Michigan State University. As I understand it, James Madison College was started by a group of New Deal Democrats to train up the next generation of “Leftist” politicians. They called their perspective the “New Left.” The faculty was headed by Herbert Garfinkel, and the only conservative among the early faculty was George Will. (I believe that George Will’s current title is political analyst, but I did not check it.) Most of the curriculum fit Jack’s description of Leftism. There was a lot of Marx and classes dealing primarily with civil rights and class conflict. Darwin and Freud were not explicitly taught, but it seems clear to me that their ideas were more or less implied. There was also a lot of Nietzsche. So, on the surface, what was taught at James Madison would line up quite well with the content of Jack’s description of Leftism, but I can’t see it as easily fitting Contrabiblicism.
Jack defined Contrabiblicism as being characterized by a fragmentary content. Contrabiblicism results from an explicit piecemeal rejection of Christian beliefs and values. My difficulty is that at James Madison College, the project was largely to build a coherent political view starting with Marx, Darwin, Freud, and Nietzsche. Thinking back over the curriculum for this “New Left,” none of it—on the surface—was Christian or sympathetic to a Christian worldview. Nor would I say was there any explicit reference to Christianity in any context. Would such a program be antithetical to biblical Christianity? Of course. I can’t imagine anyone who would deny it. In my experience, I can easily see that the James Madison curriculum epitomized Leftism as Jack described it. But at this point, I find it difficult to see that the curriculum also epitomized “Contrabiblicism” as Jack described it.
I also want to provide some additional context about my James Madison experience. I believe it is necessary context for a later portion of my paper. I went to James Madison because I am interested in politics but only from afar. I can’t stand the fist-a-cuff, rough-and-tumble nature of the politics between the Left and the Right. I come from a long line of active Leftists in the traditional sense, not in Jack’s sense. My great-grandfather was an original Michigan homesteader, and he served for many years in the Michigan legislature. Since the farm was so far from the capital, my great-grandfather built a home not far from the capital to live in during legislative sessions. My grandmother and her brothers and sisters were all very active politically. One of my grandmother’s sisters was the hostess at a bachelor-governor’s mansion for, I believe, three terms. All five of them lived active lives into their nineties. When I was growing up they all lived together in the house my great-grandfather built near the capital. They had either never married or outlived their spouses. It was an active center within the state for politics. I spent a lot of time there, as my grandmother, the only clear biblical Christian of the group, took care of me while my mother finished her graduate education.
Given my background and interest in politics, James Madison College was a logical choice. However, it was my experience at James Madison College that caused me to abandon the Leftism that I had grown up with. As part of the curriculum, we were all required to read and discuss the Federalist Papers over a period of, I believe, a year. We spent a great deal of time on Federalist Number 10, and reading James Madison in particular caused me to reject Leftism as Jack has defined it and the traditional Leftism I had grown up with. I found Madison’s arguments thoroughly convincing. By this time, my grandmother and her brothers and sisters had died, so I just had to deal with my mother. Because of my rejection of the family values, I was not very welcome at home. I think I visited my mother three times during the next twenty years or so. To this day, my mother, who will be ninety-two next week, researches and collects inane and often evil things that the Right says and does. These are not just blurbs off talk radio but well researched little items with all the proper context provided. She does not write often now, but we talk every few weeks or so. She will have her list ready for me to challenge how I can possibly agree with people like this. So, then, my background contributes to my discomfort over political issues and makes it hard for me to see Leftists being the same as Contrabiblicists.
Having discussed two potential problems with Jack equating Contrabiblicism and Leftism, I now want to turn to Jack’s choice of terms. In the same paragraph in which Jack equates Contrabiblicism and Leftism, he says, “I introduce the term ‘Leftism’, not because it captures a new and different concept, but because it suggests connections to our experience that Contrabiblicism does not.” It is not clear to me what this means, but my discomfort meter is again off the scale at this point. Jack has defined Leftism differently from how we normally define it, so how does he want us to draw on our experience? Isn’t our experience of Leftism the Leftism of a more traditional sense, not his sense? If that is true, I worry that Jack wants us to import aspects of Leftism as it is traditionally defined. Surely this is not what Jack is trying to do.
I think his point is that Contrabiblicism does not conjure up to us a picture of political groups and the politics of power. Leftism, however, certainly does conjure up just such a picture. What Jack is claiming is that the Left as he has described it has developed in America since the 1860s within the greater American Left, and it has been part of the American political landscape. No argument there; it is undeniably true. But then “Leftism” as Jack has defined it is a sub-set of our traditional understanding of Leftism. I am not sure what elements of what Leftism we are to conjure up.
To summarize the first part of my argument: I am tracking with Jack, and I agree with him until he argues that “Contrabiblicism” is Leftism. First, I do not think that Contrabiblicism and Leftism have the same content, that they are equally piecemeal, and that they are made up of the same people. Second, when Jack claims that Contrabiblicism equals Leftism, he is asserting this to be true by definition—that is, by the way he has defined the terms “Contrabiblicism” and “Leftism”—and he emphasizes that there is no new content to the terms he is using. Yet it seems that he wants his terms to conjure up more. What exactly, I’m not sure. I know that I am highly sensitive to the sort of claim Jack is making, but I worry about equivocating his definition of Leftism with our traditional definition of Leftism. Also, the purpose of such a claim—that Contrabiblicism equals Leftism—seems easily misconstrued. But I’m guessing I don’t have it right.
Jack goes on to examine the opposition’s reaction to the Left’s attack on Christian values. He divides the reaction of the Right into two camps: the Right and the Pseudo-right. This is not how we usually carve up the Right, but Jack is certainly not wrong. I find no fault with Jack’s analysis here, but I will return to it later in the paper. For me this step turned out to be the key to my understanding Jack.
The last item I will discuss in this section is my critique of the elements of Jack’s analysis in his section titled, “Where Does the Follower of Jesus fit?” First, Jack claims that it is not possible to be a follower of Jesus Christ and a Leftist. (As mentioned previously, this claim is true by definition—that is, because of the way Jack has defined Leftism.) No problem there. No one should experience any discomfort over this. Jack then critiques the notion of a Christian Left. Again, there should be no problem here as long as one keeps in mind that this is Jack’s definition of Left.
On the top of page 25, Jack argues that if a “Christian” throws his support behind a Leftist agenda (such as justice, environmental stewardship, etc.), then it calls into question his commitment to the biblical truth because this agenda is ultimately rooted in hostility to Jesus. This is a profound insight. And, I believe, true. Christians have not thought through well their participation in things that would be considered the Leftist agenda. Following that, Jack presents a hypothetical case. If a person is existentially committed to Jesus, how can he throw his support behind a Leftist agenda? I agree entirely with Jack’s point here. But I will admit that I got a little uncomfortable. Why?
I have spent most of my life working in environmental stewardship. (Since becoming a Christian, I have been asked—I could not tell you how many times—how I can be a Christian and an ecologist at the same time. What interests me about this question is that it comes just as frequently from the traditional Left as from the traditional Right. Both sides view the notion of a Christian ecologist as an oxymoron. I think it would be very interesting to sort out the responses according to Jack’s definitions of Left and Right, but I don’t have enough knowledge about the people making the responses. I will return to this point later.) Is Jack saying that I can’t continue to work in environmental stewardship now that I am a Christian because environmental stewardship is part of the Left’s agenda against Christianity? No, but he is saying that I need to rethink my foundation for doing so based on the Bible.
This concludes the first part of my paper. I have completed not so much a critique as an exploration of the nuts and bolts of Jack’s analysis. I agree with Jack that America is in decline and that the future prospects are looking grim. I agree with his analysis except where he equates Contrabiblicism with Leftism. I have problems equating the two. I am puzzled. But otherwise, I agree with Jack.
Section Two: General Critique of Jack’s Analysis
Now I want to move to the second portion of the paper: my general critique of Jack’s analysis.
First, what Jack has done is to examine the notion of the political Left and Right through the eyes of a biblically based Christian. His analysis is insightful, rigorous, stimulating, and, of course, what we all ought to be doing with respect to all aspects of life. Above all, I believe his analysis is true. I cannot thank Jack more for his analysis. Because of the way Jack has defined his terms (especially the terms “Left” and “Leftism”), his analysis will be foreign to the analyses rooted in our culture. It is hard work for me to separate his analysis from our traditional analysis at points just because the traditional analysis is so deeply rooted. But we all ought to be working at this.
Second, I think that Jack is right that America is in profound trouble and that future prospects do not look promising. Why do I think that? I guess I have to say, “Because I’m an old guy.” I have experienced what seems to me to be a different America.
Third, while at the moment I have qualms about his argument that Contrabiblicism and Leftism are the same, I believe that he has identified a group that is at least a portion of the cause of the Beast.
Fourth, do I believe that Jack is right about the Left—as he has defined it—being the primary power of the “Beast”? At this point I am not sure.
Section Three: Jack’s Use of Leftism
While writing this paper, I had an epiphany. So now I would like to return to Jack’s claim that Contrabiblicism equals Leftism and his analysis of the Right. I believe that I did not understand it earlier. I still have a few loose ends, but what follows is my revised understanding.
I will give what I believe is an example of Leftism as Jack defined it: laissez-faire capitalism. I will define laissez-faire capitalism not as it is technically defined but as it is commonly understood—namely, that laissez-faire capitalism is capitalism unfettered by government or morality. Laissez-faire capitalists (as commonly understood) would argue (wrongly, as I will show later) that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” goes like this: through each individual pursuing his selfish interest, by the miraculous hand of God all things work together for good.
Let me give you an example of the common view of laissez-faire capitalism. When early English settlers landed in North America, one of the things they immediately noticed was the virtually limitless stands of white pine. Although the early settlers did not know it, the white pine would drive the timber industry of North America for the next two hundred years. It was worth more than the California Gold Rush. So what is the big deal about white pine? At first, white pine was recognized as the superior wood for masts of sailing ships. The British Crown immediately identified the king’s stands, and white pine masts were a primary reason that the British ruled the sea. In 1774, the colonies (whose first flag featured the white pine) stopped shipping white pine to England, and the British had to splice short pieces of wood together to make their masts. Their ships could no longer maneuver like American ships. Not to take anything away from John Paul Jones, but when he sailed the Ranger from Portsmouth, Maine, his ship had the three largest masts of white pine that ever went to sea. The British ships could not come close to the maneuverability of the Ranger, and John Paul Jones scored major victories at sea.
But by the 1860s, the white pine were gone in New England; the timber barons then moved through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. When they came through Michigan, they cut the majority of the white pine in the state in about forty years. They left the land with the remains of slashed trees, which made it vulnerable to forest fires. Fires of unprecedented size and intensity burned hundreds of square miles. It also burned cities; no one knows how many people died in the fires. In one fire alone, more people died in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, than were killed in the great Chicago fires that started on the same day. These fires ruined most of the soil so that most of these areas could no longer even grow white pine.
The harvest practiced by the timber barons was not sustainable harvest. Here is just one piece of evidence: In the early 1900s, Old Ironsides, veteran of the War of 1812, needed new masts. Nowhere in North America did three old-growth white pines exist to replace the masts. The masts had to be replaced with Douglas fir.
But the unsustainable harvest of white pine was only the tip of the iceberg. The lumber barons harvested the trees by cutting them and driving them down the streams. They cleared the streams of downed timber and dynamited the jams that occurred. In this process, the dominant salmonid in the region went extinct. When I was about six years of age, I saw my first Michigan grayling—in a museum. What would it have been like to see grayling and to have caught a live one? That experience was removed from all people born after 1930 when the last one died in the hands of scientists.
With the example of the lumber barons in mind, let us return to laissez-faire capitalism. Remember that Jack says three realities have been integrated by the Beast into American culture: 1) the existence of a superior class; 2) the emergence of Contrabiblicism, a new religion opposed to biblical Christianity; and 3) the development of propaganda to further the religion. Laissez-faire capitalism demonstrates all three.
First, laissez-faire capitalists clearly are a superior group. To be a member of this superior class is not, as Jack articulated earlier, just a matter of believing the right thing, however. (This is one of my loose ends.) To be part of this superior group takes lots of money. But they do have an influence far beyond their numbers.
Second, laissez-faire capitalism (as commonly understood) is clearly unbiblical, just as the “religion” of Contrabiblicism is built on views contrary to the Bible. As my example of the lumber barons shows, laissez-faire capitalism promotes economic activity unfettered not only by government but by morality, whereas the Bible establishes a link between morality and economic activity.
While there are not a lot of biblical passages dealing with the connection between morality and economic activity, I think there are more than enough to make my point, especially regarding economic activity and natural resources. First, in the Genesis account, during the first five days, God creates the universe and all the plants and animals and calls them good. Man is to have dominion over the animals; we are responsible for them. Then at the Fall, notice that not only does man fall, but that God curses the rest of the created order. Next, Noah saves a remnant not only of humans but of the animal kingdom as well. There are a few passages in the Law. And in Romans, chapter eight, Paul argues that all nature will be redeemed, not just man. Clearly in Christianity, redemption is to be experienced by all of creation, not just man. Lastly, I want to refer to Job, chapter 39 and chapter 40:15-34:
“Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the deer?
2 “Can you count the months they fulfill,
Or do you know the time they give birth?
3 “They kneel down, they bring forth their young,
They get rid of their labor pains.
4 “Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field;
They leave and do not return to them.
5 “Who sent out the wild donkey free?
And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
6 To whom I gave the wilderness for a home,
And the salt land for his dwelling place?
7 “He scorns the tumult of the city,
The shoutings of the driver he does not hear.
8 “He explores the mountains for his pasture,
And he searches after every green thing.
9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Or will he spend the night at your manger?
10 “Can you bind the wild ox in a furrow with ropes?
Or will he harrow the valleys after you?
11 “Will you trust him because his strength is great
And leave your labor to him?
12 “Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain,
And gather it from your threshing floor?
13 “The ostriches’ wings flap joyously
With the pinion and plumage of love,
14 For she abandons her eggs to the earth,
And warms them in the dust,
15 And she forgets that a foot may crush them,
Or that a wild beast may trample them.
16 “She treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers;
Though her labor be in vain, she is unconcerned;
17 Because God has made her forget wisdom,
And has not given her a share of understanding.
18 “When she lifts herself on high,
She laughs at the horse and his rider.
19 “Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
20 “Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrible.
21 “He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He goes out to meet the weapons.
22 “He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
And he does not turn back from the sword.
23 “The quiver rattles against him,
The flashing spear and javelin.
24 “With shaking and rage he races over the ground;
And he does not stand still at the voice of the trumpet.
25 “As often as the trumpet sounds he says, ‘Aha!’
And he scents the battle from afar,
And thunder of the captains, and the war cry.
26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars,
Stretching his wings toward the south?
27 “Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up,
And makes his nest on high?
28 “On the cliff he dwells and lodges,
Upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place.
29 “From there he spies out food;
His eyes see it from afar.
30 “His young ones also suck up blood;
And where the slain are, there is he.” (Job 39:1-30, NASB)
15 “Behold now, Behemoth, which I made as well as you;
He eats grass like an ox.
16 “Behold now, his strength in his loins,
And his power in the muscles of his belly.
17 “He bends his tail like a cedar;
The sinews of his thighs are knit together.
18 “His bones are tubes of bronze;
His limbs are like bars of iron.
19 “He is the first of the ways of God;
Let his maker bring near his sword.
20 “Surely the mountains bring him food,
And all the beasts of the field play there.
21 “Under the lotus plants he lies down,
In the covert of the reeds and the marsh.
22 “The lotus plants cover him with shade;
The willows of the brook surround him.
23 “If a river rages, he is not alarmed;
He is confident, though the Jordan rushes to his mouth.
24 “Can anyone capture him when he is on watch,
With barbs can anyone pierce his nose? (Job 40:15-24, NASB)
Clearly, this section of Job is dealing primarily with God’s power, but notice the descriptions of the animals. God delights in them. Here is what I think God might have said about the Michigan grayling:
He is among the most beautiful of all the salmonids, especially with his large dorsal fin that has more colors than a rainbow, especially underwater. He is a creation that will only be found in very cold, perfectly clear water. The grayling does not tolerate any mismanagement of the drainage basin. He is your canary in the mine. Care for him, and you will care for the land.
I think this brief sketch is enough to establish that there is a Christian morality with regard to economics. Laissez-faire economics, arguing for economic activity unfettered from morality, epitomizes the values of Contrabiblicism, which by Jack’s definition is Leftism. Laissez-faire economics, then, is just another Leftist agenda.
Third, laissez-faire capitalists clearly use propaganda. This propaganda is not hard to describe: In the view of laissez-faire capitalists, if there are no government regulations or any other encumbrances, the profit motive will lead to sustainable environmental stewardship. (This did not work for white pine or the Michigan grayling, nor is it working for the Pacific salmonids, as more than half of their populations are now considered endangered. This has never worked anywhere that I know of with regard to natural resources.)
Clearly, laissez-faire capitalists demonstrate by their actions the values of Contrabiblicism/Leftism. They use propaganda, the idea that the profit motive will lead to environmental stewardship, to propagate those values. They are Leftists as Jack has described them.
Having looked at the example of laissez-faire capitalism, let me return now to Adam Smith and show that he argued against laissez-faire capitalism as I have described it and that his “invisible hand” was misinterpreted by the laissez-faire capitalists. I will make a long argument short. Smith knew the philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism; he visited the Frenchmen who were its major proponents. Yet, in his one-thousand-and-thirty-eight-page book, the Wealth of Nations, the term ‘laissez-faire’ never occurs once; and there is a chapter on the expense of the Sovereign, or commonwealth—i.e., what role government needed to play in defense, justice, public works, and public institutions. Clearly, Adam Smith was not a laissez-faire capitalist. Although, to be fair, he did see the best government as one that had a limited role in the market economy.
In order to understand what Adam Smith was saying about economics, we need to understand his life’s work, which consisted of three written works: first, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which laid the moral foundation for the other two works; second, The Wealth of Nations, which dealt with economics; and third, an unfinished work on laws of a society. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith argues that the “invisible hand” is not based on selfishness but prudence. His example is a butcher. A butcher will view a customer from a long-term perspective. He does not want the customer’s business only for today but over the long-run; the butcher’s business depends on it. That is the basis for the win-win situation in Adam Smith’s perspective and the foundation of wealth in his view.
So then, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” was misinterpreted by the laissez-faire capitalists, but does this mean that his perspective is based on a biblical account? No. His account is just as contrabiblical as that of the laissez-faire economists. The Theory of Moral Sentiments was based on David Hume’s philosophy, which Hume claimed was a naturalistic account; it is probably as anti-biblical as any philosophy of the time. Adam Smith’s economics are another example of a Leftist agenda, and no committed Christian should support such a Leftist agenda.
Now do not misunderstand my argument here. I think that biblical Christianity is coherent with a capitalistic account. But my claim is that it will not be Adam Smith’s account.
So, how would I describe the economic scenario of laissez-faire capitalism from an historical perspective? In the 1860s, laissez-faire capitalism began to gain power. The goal of the laissez-faire capitalists was to separate morals from economics. They did this by devising corporations. According to the law, corporations are entities; and because they are responsible parties, the risk to individual stockholders is limited to what they have invested. So, for example, the number of superfund sites (abandoned hazardous waste sites) in the U.S. represents corporations that dissolved and left the damage they caused to the public. Corporate structure diffuses the responsibility for actions such that no one person is responsible—not the share-holders, the managers, or the board. Adam Smith warned us of this problem. In the last twenty years, corporate structure has become global; it is no longer limited by the laws of any country.
As Jack has described, when the seventh beast (from the book of Revelation) comes, he will be the most powerful king to date. He must harness the world’s economic resources for his power. It is most convenient if the majority of the world’s resources are held by a few corporations in which morals have been totally excluded from economic activity. No situation could be better for the seventh beast to gain and utilize economic power. When does this development become Satanic in nature? I don’t know for sure, but it clearly does at some point.
I will present one more example of the Beast, an example I originally thought was outside of Jack’s Left or Right definition. I thought this example (and others like it) was the ace in my argument against what Jack is proposing. But now I don’t think that it is. I will call the example “the science component.” My argument will be brief. About five hundred years ago, Francis Bacon started a project whose goal was to harness nature through science to enable us to solve all human problems. This project has evolved and grown over the centuries, and if it was not anti-biblical at the start, it soon became so. Today, the project is no longer characterized by Bacon’s conception. Today, scientists have tools such as genetic engineering that enable us to remake nature in our image or anything we want. And we can not only remake nature, but we can remake human beings as well. Through genetic engineering, we can begin to make humans into our conception, which is a total abandonment of God’s creation and therefore totally consistent with Contrabiblicism—that is, the unbiblical values, beliefs, and practices of the Beast.
Again I will use Jack’s three cultural realities: Science consists of a small number of a superior class (scientists), whose view is clearly contrabiblical and who use propaganda to further their goals. So scientists are also Leftists.
Section Four: Is Jack’s Argument Convincing?
I think I am now finally getting Jack’s message. First, anyone who is not a Bible-believing Christian is a Leftist by definition. That clears up who the Left is. Therefore, by definition, the Left is the power of the Beast, although I originally thought a number of things, like science, could be contrabiblical but outside Jack’s analysis.
Second, the piecemeal beliefs of the Left, as Jack describes them, refer not only to individual choices but also to the many factions that we historically would have called the Right but which now, in fact, comprise the Left. This greatly adds to the incoherence.
Third, in the end, all Leftists as Jack has defined them would (or should) accept Darwin, Freud, and Marx. So my problems equating Contrabiblicism and Leftism are greatly diminished.
Fourth, I think I now get Jack’s claim that Leftism introduces concepts familiar to our experience. Jack could have argued Contrabiblicism is “Rightism” and called a biblical view “Leftism,” but we normally refer to those trying to save conservative values as the Right. My reaction to the Jack’s labels is interesting; if Jack had said, “Contrabiblicism is Rightism,” I would have gotten his analysis immediately. In the past, I have described these issues as the errors of the Left and the errors of the Right. But Jack’s analysis makes the arguments clearer from a biblical perspective.
Furthermore, I now see that Jack could not have used a better word than Leftism to make his claim. People’s reaction to the word was critical because Jack wanted to raise this question: Is the reaction rooted in a religious commitment or in a philosophical commitment?
So then, while I still have a few loose ends in my understanding of Jack’s argument—like, for example, that some of the factions of Leftism use more coercive means than seduction—these sorts of loose ends are minor issues.
In conclusion, Jack has presented us with an interesting, rigorous, and profound analysis of the politics of our present time constructed through the lens of biblical Christianity. Mostly, I am still working through the ideas. I think that I am beginning to get a handle on his argument. In the end, the Left is the cause of the Beast because Jack has defined “Left” to mean all people who are not biblical Christians; that is, if Jack beamed the people he has defined as Leftists to a different planet, only those who are biblical Christians would be left. And if this were the case (that only biblical Christians remained), it is clearly true that the trajectory of America would be different. Jack’s analysis also helped me to understand my experience at James Madison College better. My rejection of the Left at Madison in some sense already signaled that God was at work in my life.
One more element of Jack’s argument bears thinking about, however. While Jack’s framework is very useful here at the Summer Institute, it would not fly outside at all. Is this situation not a reflection of the change in America that Jack talked about at the beginning of his paper? Even in the 1960s, I think Jack’s argument could have been talked about, but, like the Jesus movement, it would have been overwhelmed by Contrabiblicism. Is Jack’s view true today? Could it get any traction at all with the intellectual gurus of our current culture? I have my doubts. I hope that I am wrong.
Speaking of being wrong, Jack has proven me wrong again. I believed that all Left–Right tussles or conceptions of reality were not as black-and-white as any of the proponents think. Jack’s argument here looks pretty black-and-white to me. And my discomfort level is zero.