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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Retraction

Mark your calendar, folks - Team Hammer is taking back an assertion!

In my series on "Liberal Christians", I stated that the liberal position of wealth redistribution was one that could not be held by Christians because it is, in effect, legal theft - taking from one person and giving to another, by the government.

UK John challenged me on my thinking on the subject, and I have realized that I was wrong.

I still think it is legal theft. Mere government sanction does not make an action less theft any less than it made the rape of Bosniac women by Serbs less rape. However, my realization is not that wealth redistribution is any less a policy I should oppose, but as a government action it is not a Christian issue, per se. Why?

Simply put, the commands of Christ are commands for individuals, not governments. Thus, while a abortion is an act by an individual, and therefore merits consideration under Christianity, wealth redistribution in the form of taxation and welfare entitlements is the action of a government. The only Christian commands with reference to the government are to pay our taxes, obey authority when they do not contradict the commands of God, and to not fear when we are inevitably persecuted by governments.

Hence, governmental wealth redistribution can be a pro or con issue for Christians.

I still think it is crap, though.


  • Hi Hammer,

    Hopefully, you will also retract your retraction.

    You are right, the Bible and the message of Jesus is to individuals, not government. However, in America and every other democracy, individuals are the government. Individuals vote for representatives who vote for legislation.

    In all other forms of government, individual leaders decide and compel compliance to laws. That is why democracies, while not perfect, are still the most Biblically moral form of government. It is also why individual instructions from Scripture are applicable to the dictates of government.

    Redistribution of wealth is legalized theft. It is against the eighth commandment and is therefore highly immoral. No amount of rationalization on the part of “Liberals” will ever make it acceptable to the God of the Bible.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 6/22/2005 11:49:00 AM  

  • BTW, Christ didn’t say a single thing about corporations; would you and John also claim the teachings of Jesus are not applicable to corporations? Jesus didn’t really have much to say about Church. Are churches exempt from the teaching of the Bible?

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 6/22/2005 06:25:00 PM  

  • David, I love your comments!

    First, I did not mean to exclude the rest of the NT when I said, "commands of Christ", as I hold the "commands of St. Paul" to be of equal value. Otherwise my inerrancy posts are silly. Paul gives commands to the church. Thus the church question is answered.

    Corporations are not addressed, but business practices are. Thus, the corporation question is answered.

    Governments are specifically mentioned, as I noted. What you propose has some truth, as individuals are in the government and make the decisions. Here's the rub - Hammer's money is not earmarked for Welfare recipient Phil. It all goes in a big pot, which goes everywhere, including to Phil. You could easily say that none of Hammer's money goes to Phil - it is actually from taxes on overseas goods. We can't prove it either way, which is why SS is a joke - its money is similarly in the pot.

    So, on one hand, we can't prove that wealth redistribution actually occurs in the "take A from Y and give to Z" fashion that is certainly theft.

    On the second hand, we have this: government decision maker David is in charge of a cool 5 billion dollars annually. Are you telling me that he is wrong by earmarking some of it for the poor, because some of that money could have been from income taxes?

    Christians are commanded to render unto Ceasar, without justification for what Caesar will do with the money, so we do. When Caesar takes our money rendered, and gives it to to poor, we can oppose the mechanisms on various grounds. What I cannot see is a logical, inexorable way of painting it as a Christian issue with regard to the 7th commandment (for Catholics, that is!)

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/01/2005 12:35:00 AM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    As we learned in the third grade; corporations are to business as governments are to public policy. The Bible does address the public policy of wealth redistribution and clearly, clearly, says it is wrong to steal.

    You are rationalizing. Why does it matter if tax money goes into a big pot before it is redistributed? Oversees goods do not pay taxes; people pay taxes and when people have their tax money given to someone else it is stealing from one person and giving to another. If the Bible is to be taken seriously, stealing is wrong.

    Do you really believe “rendering unto Caesar” is about paying taxes and not being concerned about how the tax money is used? If our government had a policy to kill every baby under the age of two, would you claim we should allow killing babies because it is “rendering unto Caesar”? Of course not; you would rightly claim it is against the dictates of our Lord. So is stealing!

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 7/01/2005 11:08:00 AM  

  • David,
    I am rationalizing, I admit. While I disagree with forced wealth redistribution I also think there are too many mitigated circumstances to make it a moral issue. I think it is an issue of results, honestly. Simply put, the welfare system doesn't work. Where are the libs yelling for an exit strategy to the "War on Poverty"? How long have we been in that now? What progress has been made?

    The right answer is voluntary wealth redistribution, which we both would participate in. That we are commanded to do, but I fear that the government trying to do it for us relieves people of the responsibility to do so (in their minds, at least) and results in less overall benefit for the recipients - in several areas.

    I fear we must agree to disagree that it is an issue of our faith which we should be compelled to fight against. The love of Christ constrains me to both render unto Caesar and to give myself, and not let the first affect the second. That's the sum of my position, I guess.

    Thanks for making me think about it a lot more.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/02/2005 12:44:00 AM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    I am not arguing for not paying taxes. People who don’t pay their taxes are “stealing” from those of us who do always pay our taxes.

    There are appropriate and moral uses of tax money and there are inappropriate and immoral uses of tax money. Tax money that is used to perform abortions is an immoral use of tax money as is tax money that is given to anyone without requiring the person receiving the tax money to provide a good or service for taxpayers. In effect, it is taking from one person and giving to another person. In the clear language of the Bible, it is stealing.

    There are many topics in the Bible that are debatable, taking the possessions of some and giving those possessions to others does not seem to be a debatable topic to me. It is clearly wrong.

    On a side note, I think you have misused what Jesus said about Caesar. The emphasis of the point Jesus was trying to make was that while on earth we have to live in two worlds not that we have to blindly follow what we are told to do by government. The way you have used the verse exonerates all of the loyal Germans in the 1930s and 40s.

    Sorry to drag this out, but since you have shown yourself to be a clear thinker most of the time, I am still hoping to get you to retract your retraction. Also, if my thinking is wrong, I want to know, but I still haven’t heard any good arguments for why wealth redistribution by government is morally acceptable. I do not differentiate between morality and the God as I do not differentiate between government actions and individual actions. In a civilized society, some actions need the authority of the government, but an action that is immoral for an individual is immoral for a government.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 7/02/2005 11:51:00 AM  

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