Albert Mohler’s Assessment Of The Economic Situation: An Example Of What Evangelicalism Does To The Reformed Mind
Posted by Job on September 29, 2008
Please consider Albert Mohler’s A Christian View of the Economic Crisis. Now I generally agree with Mohler on matters related to religion and culture, but I am increasingly disagreeing with him in other areas. First I was disappointed by his embrace of Sarah Palin – the most depressing part of which is how even serious intelligent Christians like Mohler choose to be willfully ignorant of such matters as the influence of freemasonry on our political system – and now I must diverge with his view on the economy.
Mohler most prominently repeats the usual western evangelical theological approach on the merits of being an eager and fully engaged participant in capitalism with the only restraint being biblical admonitions of greed. While his views are not Biblically wrong, it is with issues like this – and again with Palin – that I am reminded that in many cases with Reformed evangelicals, the key term is not Reformed but evangelical. Now while the meaning of “evangelical” has evolved over time, but its basic meaning in the current context is a Christian who professes to adhere to both orthodox theology (or Bible based doctrine) and a modernist worldview simultaneously. (More conservative evangelicals detest postmodernism, but more modern and liberal evangelicals find postmodern constructs quite useful, and Rick Warren is an excellent example of a postmodern evangelical.)
With evangelicals, it is not so much that when the inevitable conflicts between modernism (the creation of Enlightenment philosophers, many of whom were atheists, deists, unitarians, and theological liberals) and orthodoxy arises, many evangelicals consciously choose modernism. (I am not going to list any examples of how because if I did it would be “hot button issues” like feminism, abortion, homosexuality, divorce which, by the usually shallow nature of the debate – which often concerns the issue itself or at times even the legal, political, and rhetorical maneuverings of the debate rather than the theological or spiritual truths at stake -conceals the true nature of the issue. ) Instead, the bigger problem is how often evangelical Christianity seems to choose modernism over Biblical doctrine with no considerations whatsoever. Often this does not even need to happen on some “subconscious” level because modernist tools (i.e. systems of logic and analysis), presuppositions, and worldviews are purposefully integrated within evangelical theology just as economic, political, and cultural Marxism is often (but not always!) integrated within liberal theology.
This is not to say that there is no difference between a John Stott and a John Shelby Spong. The former presupposes the Bible to be true and authoritative based on it being the inspired Word of God and the latter does not. Instead, it means that those such as Stott will in many cases inevitably interpret and apply Biblical truth and authority in a modernist manner. Contradicting my earlier promise not to pick an example, perhaps the best illustration of this is the nearly wholesale internalization of mind sciences (psychology and psychiatry) within Christian thought, creating this bizarre situation where the holy Word of God is scripture and primary, but the long discredited ideas of atheists and perverts like Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey comprise a secondary and authoritative tradition that is actually used to interpret the Bible in a similar manner that Jews use the Talmud and Roman Catholics use their tradition. In fairness to evangelicals, to whom I am not opposed, this is not nearly a new phenomenon as the pre – modern church used Greek philosophy in a similar fashion (although I should point out that figures ranging from Tertullian to reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin despised philosophy). Still, have you noticed how common it has become in the more recent evangelical devotionals and even commentaries to use psychoanalysis (in addition to social and behavioral sciences) to try to determine why certain Bible characters made the choices that they did? Small wonder that so many sermons now seem like a social science lecture or a self – help seminar.
So going back to how the key term is often not “Reformed” but “evangelical”, where I once felt that Reformed theology was a bulwark against modernism, it is apparent that in many instances being Reformed makes an evangelical a more confident and steadfast modernist! There perhaps is no better example of this than how the very Reformed Francis Schaeffer was one of the most prominent founding and guiding figures of the religious right with all that entails, including being a prominent supporter and enabler of the anti – Christ wickedness of Ronald Reagan.
So reading Mohler’s political statements on Palin and the economy (as well as going after Obama on bioethics while praising McCain for allegedly “moving in the right direction on this issue” and defending Sarah Palin’s pastor), it is another reminder of why I so often tend to align myself with legalistic Arminian premillennial dispensational fundamentalists! Mohler makes these statements:
Comparisons to the Great Depression are inevitable, but today’s crisis bears little resemblance to the total economic collapse of the late 1920s. Capitalism is not in crisis and the fundamentals of the American economy remain strong. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, the nation faced a genuine crisis and economic collapse. For the most part, the banks were closed and the nation was out of business. The fundamentals of the economy remain intact. These include American innovation, a dedicated labor force, strong consumer demand, vast natural resources, and unlimited intellectual capital. More than anything else, this crisis has to do with what happens when the markets come to term with excessive valuations. Put bluntly, wildly inflated valuations led to risky financial adventures and worse. The sub-prime mortgage collapse came as more realistic real estate valuations forced market corrections. The vast global financial system has accepted the inflated valuations as real and traded in the risky mortgages as if the game would go on forever. This was a fool’s errand.
This is typical neoconservative economics, virtually indistinguishable from what you would read on the pages of the Roman Catholic – Jewish dominated National Review and Weekly Standard, or hear Phil Gramm say. First, it is probably the effects of my premillennial rapturist doctrines (now renounced) that causes me to think that the vast global financial system is the problem to begin with! Read about the mystery Babylon global economic system in Revelation 17 and 18. Know that we are not only full participants but LEADERS in this system. Please recall that George W. Bush, especially in his first term, sought mightily to bribe and coerce reluctant third world governments into participating in this system using the carrot (debt relief, favorable trade terms, and foreign aid) and the stick (threats of economic and political isolation that make such nations ripe for internal strife and the aggressive designs of foreign enemies, especially Islam). And what does the Bible say about this global financial system? A) It is evil and B) it will fall. So why on earth does Mohler say “Capitalism is not in crisis and the fundamentals of the American economy remain strong”? Well that is what you get when you use neoconservatism to do your theology.
Even if you remove the overt Bible overtones, this is why what Mohler states is so problematic. At the time of the Great Depression, America had more tangible capital and wealth producing capacity. There was a gold standard for one thing (fatally wounded by Franklin Roosevelt before being finally killed by Richard Nixon), and our economy was based largely on what our farms, mines, and factories produced. Look at us now. Instead of an objective gold standard, our wealth valuation is subject to the decisions of a cadre of international bankers and NGOs along with the governments that they prop up. Instead of agricultural and industrial output, we have an “information and services” economy … if there is anything worse than the size and persistence of our trade deficits is the fact that neither neoliberal or neoconservative economists and politicians care about it. Our economy does not even produce its own vital raw materials but instead relies on other nations for it, especially in the case of energy. And worst of all, a nation whose economic wealth was largely based on populations that adhered to John Calvin’s doctrines of hard work, savings, and frugal modest living (please note that Calvin never intended to be an economist but was only giving practical advise to Christians based on the Bible that addressed their local situations … in other words not economic theory or philosophy but rather biblical theology) is now one that celebrates idleness and excess and thinks nothing of running up large debts while walking away from our responsibilities to creditors. If you think that our government’s debt to the domestic and international holders of its bonds is huge – and it is – please consider the aggregate amounts of the debts of private individuals AND the debts of our businesses.
That is one of the reasons why banks are so unwilling to lend money. It is not merely because of a shortage of cash (which Mohler does not acknowledge exists). It is because banks are dealing with 1) a society where people simply refuse to pay back their loans if it inconveniences them and 2) rising inflation and declining values of real estate and goods which makes any collateral that a bank would use to insure the loan worthless. In the past, it was worthwhile to use collateral because of the presumption that the value of the collateral at least keep up with the rate of inflation during the life of the loan. Now, even if a lender is able to actually deprive a borrower of his collateral (which is becoming increasingly difficult to do) there is a great chance that the bank will still lose a lot of money on the loan.
I will grant you, Albert Mohler is not an economist. So what … neither am I! As a matter of fact, Mohler’s education and experience in this area almost certainly far exceeds my own. So why on earth is Mohler claiming that we have “vast natural resources” knowing full well that those are hamstrung by the global warming Gaia worshiping environmentalists that John McCain supports, and “unlimited intellectual capital” when America has been having to use foreigners to fill the high tech jobs for decades because our educational system is not producing nearly enough qualified people, and now companies are outsourcing even low level management work (i.e. things done by near entry level employees with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, marketing and finance) overseas?
This is not to pick on Mohler, whom I greatly respect and am only using him as an example. But please understand that seeing him recite the neoconservative economic discourse on his religious blog reminds me of the many sermons that I am familiar with where the sinful actions of some Bible character is attributed to problems with self – esteem. Even were this true, the Bible refers to “self – esteem problems” as weaknesses of the flesh that are the result of a man’s fallen nature. It is a lot easier to tell a teenager prone to shoplifting “you have self – esteem problems resulting from your father’s abandoning your family and your mother’s having to work two jobs to support the family, depriving you of the critical bonding time with her that you needed to form a healthy emotional self image” than it is to say “you steal because you are a sinner, and if you repent of your sins and believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ, not only will you cease shoplifting but God will heal your broken heart.”
Now quite honestly, I am certain that Mohler would take the latter approach rather than the former one in preaching, teaching, and counseling. He rejects modernist evangelicalism in that area. The problem is that with he embraces them in his economic views by refusing to acknowledge that we have a mystery Babylon globalist economic system, that the system will fall, and that Republicans are as much a part of it as Democrats are.
Would a biblical theology movement address this? It is hard to know for sure. It is true that one biblical theology movement gave us the Protestant Reformation. It is also true that a second major biblical theology movement gave us “neo – orthodoxy”, which even Billy Graham rejected. Current Biblical theology efforts diverge. John MacArthur and several evangelical Reformed fellow travelers promote exegetical/expositional theology to combat the most negative effects of evangelicalism. Meanwhile, some free will Christians – both evangelical and fundamentalist – are investigating “biblicism” to produce a better foundation for rejecting double predestination than the one offered by Arminianism. We must pray that it is the Will of God that these and other movements result in a larger number of Christians more willing and able to reject worldly ideas in order to interpret, promote, apply, and live Biblical truths, especially when confronted with difficult circumstances, bad facts, and intense opposition.