THE ECONOMIC RE-EDUCATION OF RONALD J. SIDER
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isa. 8:20).
I began this economic commentary project in the spring of 1973: monthly essays in the Chalcedon Report. I escalated it in August of 1977, when I moved to Durham, North Carolina. At that time, I began to devote ten hours a week, 50 weeks a year, to this commentary project. I still do. I am writing these words in late August, 1997.
In that same year, 1977, another historian, Ronald J. Sider, had his book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study, co-published by the Paulist Press (liberal Roman Catholic) and InterVarsity Press (neo-evangelical Protestant). The fate of these rival publishing projects throws light on contemporary Protestant evangelical theology.
In mid-1997, a 20th anniversary edition of Sider's book appeared. On the cover, it proclaims: "Over 350,000 copies in print." Most of these copies were the first edition. The original publishers surrendered control over it in 1990, when Word Books picked it up and issued the third edition. Publishers do not surrender books that are still selling well. The second edition was forced on Sider in 1984 by David Chilton's book, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators (1981), which I hired Chilton to write and which ICE published. Sider prudently refused to mention Chilton in that second edition . . . also in the third edition/latest edition.
In a Christianity Today interview, published in the same issue as an obituary for David Chilton (April 28, 1997), Sider made it clear that he no longer is of the same opinion as he had been in 1977. "The times have changed, and so have I" (p. 68). Furthermore, "I admit, though, that I didn't know a great deal of economics when I wrote the first edition of Rich Christians" (pp. 68-69). Or, he could accurately have added, the second and third editions. It is clear who his nemesis has been since 1981, the unnamed David Chilton: "I had no interest in trying to psychologically manipulate people into some kind of false guilt" (p. 68). Chilton had recognized the appeal to guilt throughout Sider's book. Sider now says that was not his intention.
Then came the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Times have changed, and so has he. Like so many academics who have switched in the 1990's, he no longer argues for socialism. It was not David Chilton's arguments that persuaded him; it was a shift in liberalism's climate of opinion, and therefore academic neo-evangelicalism's opinions.
Sider's popularity began to fade about the time ICE published Chilton's book. Chilton's writing style -- he was a master of clarity as well as rhetoric -- his mastery of the Bible,(1) and his mastery of free market economics turned Sider's book into a retroactive embarrassment. I heard the following on many occasions: "I don't believe everything in Sider's book, but don't you think Chilton went to extremes?" Obviously, I didn't. Strong rhetoric catches people's attention. This was true of Sider's first edition, too. He used very strong rhetoric -- most of which has disappeared from the 1997 edition. If strong rhetoric is backed up by proof, it will accomplish its task far more effectively than the verbal equivalent of lukewarm oatmeal. Chilton's book was designed to teach biblical free market principles by means of a public dissection of a popular anti-free market book. Chilton's book did its work well. It has sold better than any book that ICE has published. I thought at the time that it was an almost perfect book. I still do.(2)
Let me use an analogy. To stop a group of amateur sportsmen from going over a waterfall in a rented motor boat, you have to yell really loud and wave your arms at them. They may complain later about all the undignified shouting and waving, but they may pull over to the shore. Even Sider has pulled over, although not because of Chilton's shouting or mine. His ideology's outboard motor just broke down -- a familiar experience with socialist products. He has publicly tossed this burnt-out motor overboard. He deserves credit for this.
Still, he really owed it to his readers to have written something like this at the beginning of the new edition: "David Chilton was basically correct in his criticisms of my economic views. I have adopted many of his proposals, including the following: . . . ." But there is not a word about Chilton or his book. This is consistent with the second and third editions.
Sider Led an Ideological Exodus
We are all familiar with the student who goes off to college and comes home after the first year spouting liberal nonsense that he learned in the classroom. This phenomenon has been around since the days of classical Greece. Aristophanes wrote a comedy about such a youth: Clouds. A young man goes off to Socrates' academy and comes home a know-it-all jerk. Students usually get over this phase by age 30 unless they go to graduate school. In grad school, the damage to both common sense and moral sense can become permanent.
The Christian version of this tale is the youth who comes home spouting nonsense and quoting the Bible out of context to defend his views. Maybe he quotes Israel's jubilee law (Lev. 25) as a model of State-directed wealth-redistribution. No one told him that the jubilee's legal basis was genocide: the destruction of an entire civilization by the Israelites, i.e., wealth-distribution by military conquest. No one told him that the same jubilee law authorized the permanent enslavement of foreigners and their children (Lev. 25:44-46).
He insists that he is still a Christian, but he declares that a Christian can be a liberal: an in-your-face, in-your-wallet, tax-collectors' gun-in-your-belly kind of liberal. He announces, in so many words, "You'll have to pay; government gets to spend the money on the poor (after skimming off 50% for handling); and it's all in the name of Jesus. Jesus loves a cheerful taxpayer."
With the publication of Rich Christians in 1977, Ronald Sider became the Moses of the American Protestant evangelicals' version of this kind of home-from-college liberal. (John R. Stott has long served this role in England.) The trouble was, Sider never came home from college: he was still there -- teaching. He led the neo-evangelicals in a unique kind of exodus: out of the fundamentalist prayer closets of their youth. They thought they were on the cutting edge of a new, caring kind of Christianity. They imagined that they were headed into the Promised Land of social relevance and political influence. They believed that their students would follow them. The students did, too, for about three years. Then they changed their minds, voted for Ronald Reagan, and went into real estate development or the brokerage business. (This, too, shall pass, but that is another story.)
The original version of Rich Christians was a tract for the times. They were rotten times, ideologically speaking. The economic debate, as far as Christian intellectuals knew, was between Keynesians and Marxists. Not today. Everything has changed. Marxism is dead. Keynesianism is in its terminal stages, taking tiny, halting steps like an octogenarian with a walker. Sider has recognized this, and he has turned back toward what he used to call Egypt. "No, no: the Promised Land lies in this direction!" Most of this army turned back in the 1980's, and they have bought up all the choice real estate.
Sider begins his revised edition with this admission: "My thinking has changed. I've learned more about economics."(3) So have his former readers. Socialist radicalism has fallen out of favor all over the world. The climate of opinion in the liberal media changed in 1991. Ron Sider has changed right along with it. I think of Joe Sobran's warning: he would rather be in a church that has not changed its beliefs in 5,000 years than in one that spends its days huffing and puffing to catch up with the latest shift in media opinion.
The 20th edition is barely recognizable. It even has a new subtitle: Moving from Affluence to Generosity. The earlier editions had been subtitled, A Biblical Study. The new subtitle is less pretentious. It also sounds more private than statist, which reflects the book's perspective. Here is an example of how much the book has changed. You may also remember Sider's call to statist action on behalf of the poor. That is because God is on the side of the poor: ". . . the God of the Bible is on the side of the poor just because he is not biased, for he is a God of impartial justice."(4) What does he say now? "Is God biased in favor of the poor? Is he on their side in a way that he is not on the side of the rich? Some theologians say yes. But until we clarify the meaning of the question, we cannot answer it correctly."(5) This is followed by a chapter that backpeddles away from the first edition.
In his 1985 edition, Chilton summarized Sider's policy recommendations, and he offered footnotes from Rich Christians for every point: national (state) food policy, (state to state) foreign aid, a guaranteed national income, international taxation, land reform, bureaucratically determined "just prices," national health care, population control, and the right of developing nations to nationalize foreign holdings.(6) In the 1997 edition, foreign aid is mentioned briefly.(7) But even here, Sider cites reports on how recipient governments have misused this aid in the past. Sider uses the same kind of bureaucratic examples that Chilton used against his early editions.(8) As for the recycled oil money loaned to the Third World, "Too much of what was loaned was spent on armaments, ill-planned projects, or wasted because of official corruption."(9) He still mentions land reform, but only briefly.(10) He wants lower tariffs against foreign products. He is adamant about this.(11) This was Chilton's suggestion.(12)
As he has become more cautious -- openly so -- he has dropped almost all traces of his previous toying with socialism and statist coercion. The new edition is not the same book. It is not even a first cousin of the first three editions. His new edition is basically a retraction of the earlier editions -- a kind of belated apology to the 350,000 buyers of his book who bought intellectually damaged goods.
But he still refuses to mention Chilton's book, even in the bibliography. He reminds me of Winston Smith in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, who dutifully dropped inconvenient historical information into the "memory hole." Nevertheless, the new bibliography contains some very good books by such fine free market scholars as P. T. Bauer -- to whom Chilton dedicated the third edition, since Bauer was a big fan of Productive Christians(13) -- George Gilder, Brian Griffiths,(14) Julian Simon, and Cal Beisner. Unfortunately, he does not actually quote from any of these authors in his 37 pages of endnotes, except to attack Bauer as an extremist.(15) He quotes mainly from UNICEF, other United Nations agencies, and the World Bank. He still avoids citing economists generally and free market economists specifically. But at least his bibliography gives the illusion that he has thought through the reasons why his first three editions were wrong.
How did this happen? I attribute it to a dramatic shift in the climate of public opinion. This climate of opinion was beginning to change in 1981, when Chilton's book appeared and when I debated Sider at Gordon-Conwell Divinity School. But it was not yet changing among Christian academics. They follow the lead of secular humanist opinion leaders, usually by about five to ten years. I was not well received by the faculty of Gordon-Conwell (or at any other seminary, now that I think of it).
Harbinger and Fad
Sider's book was part harbinger, part fad. It was a harbinger of things to come because, in 1977, Protestant evangelicals were just barely coming back into American politics as an identifiable voting bloc. The 1976 Presidential candidacy of Southern Baptist and Trilateral Commission member Jimmy Carter had made acceptable the label "evangelical" in the political arena. A majority of white Southern Protestants actually voted against Carter, but hardly anyone recognized this in 1977 or even today. The pundits incorrectly attributed his victory to the unpredicted appearance of the evangelicals.(16)
From the era of the media-orchestrated humiliation of fundamentalist Christianity at the Scopes' "monkey" trial in 1925 until the election of 1976, American evangelicals had been conspicuous by their absence.(17) They generally opposed politics, or at least identifiably Christian participation in partisan politics. Roman Catholics did that sort of thing, it was widely believed, "and you know what we think about Catholicism!" For decades, political liberals who controlled the theologically liberal National Council of Churches had chided fundamentalists, calling on them to get out of their prayer closets and get active in politics. They got their wish answered in 1980: the election of Ronald Reagan, whose personal commitment to salvation through faith in Christ was never proclaimed by him in public, and by his defeat of Carter, whose public commitment to Christ was considered media-worthy, but whose personal commitment was to theologians such as Paul Tillich. The National Council crowd never knew what hit them. Reagan stood firm, at least rhetorically, against the NCC's version of the eighth commandment: "Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote." He was re-elected in 1984. The NCC has never recovered. Like some emphysemic middle-aged athlete still dreaming of his glory days, the NCC continues to issue study guides and newsletters. No one pays any attention.
After my debate with Sider at Gordon-Conwell, a reporter privately asked me what I thought of Sider. I told him that I appreciated Sider for softening up the market for my work. I told him that Sider was preparing the way for evangelicals to get involved in social action and politics, but that my economic opinions, not Sider's, were representative of the broad mass of evangelical opinion.(18) That statement had been verified the previous fall, with Reagan's defeat of Carter. Sider had been part of the minority of white evangelicals who were favorable to Carter's worldview and hostile to Reagan's. Sider's fame was based on the opinion of classroom professors and liberal arts editors, what I have referred to as the Wheaton College-Christianity Today-Calvin College axis. This cloistered non-profit community of liberal arts graduates is part of the modern chattering class, but it never has reflected the opinions of donors in the pews. The man in the pew always knew that socialism is simply Communism for people without the willingness to man the barricades.
I have maintained for over two decades that neo-evangelicals pick up fads that have been discarded by secular liberals. Sider's book is proof. The tenured academic community of Christians was mildly socialistic when the American media were. Now they are mildly free market, just as the media are. What caused the change? The failure of the Soviet Union. Mr. Gorbachev admitted in the late 1980's that his nation was economically bankrupt. This stunned the West's academics. They had always insisted that the USSR had a growing economy. Only a handful of free market economists had questioned this.(19) In 1991, Gorbachev was unceremoniously thrown out of power. So were the Communists. They had neither money nor power by August 21, 1991, the day the Communist coup against Boris Yeltsin failed. With neither money nor power, Communism fell out of favor in the West overnight. The secular humanist West worships money and power. Lose these, and you're instantly passť.
Overnight, discount book bins filled up with Marxist books written by and for the college market. Marxists in the Western academic community found that their peers were laughing at them. Never before had this happened. They had always been taken seriously. Why? Because the Communists had the power to terrorize people without threat of retaliation, and Western liberals have great respect for this degree of power. They had raged for decades selectively only against military dictatorships in small nations -- dictatorships that might be overthrown. Now the "impersonal forces of history" had turned against the Communists. This was bad news for tenured professors who had publicly worshipped the forces of history, as reported by the Times. They rushed in panic to get on board the last train out of socialism's world of empty promises and emptier souls.
They have now become born-again democratic capitalists. What is a democratic capitalist? Someone who has modified the eight commandment as follows: "Thou shalt not steal quite as much as before, except by majority vote."
The Echo Effect: Neo-evangelicalism
Sider's book was partly a fad because it promoted a kind of warmed-over political liberalism that suited the times. In 1977, Jimmy Carter had just been elected President of the United States. He was a political liberal, and he was a self-proclaimed evangelical, despite his commitment to neo-orthodox theologians. Two years later, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Great Britain. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. Those two politicians restructured political rhetoric in the West. They made political conservatism acceptable. More important, they made liberals look both weak and silly. They oversaw major shifts in public opinion, even among intellectuals. In the year after Reagan's retirement,(20) the Berlin Wall was torn down, and the East German troops did nothing to stop it, as if in response to Reagan's words to Mikhail Gorbachev: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall." Gorbachev sat tight. Two years after that, he was thrown out of office, along with Communism.
Overnight, the liberation theology fad died. Marxism became passť -- the ultimate humiliation in the modern intellectual world. This was the year after the third edition of Sider's book appeared, which sank without a trace. Ronald Reagan had destroyed the climate of opinion that had made Ronald Sider's book a best-seller among college-educated Christian evangelicals. Reagan had destroyed Sider's market as surely as David Chilton had destroyed Sider's arguments. Sider admits as much: "Communism has collapsed. Expanding market economies and new technologies have reduced poverty. `Democratic capitalism' has won the major economic/political debate of the twentieth century. Communism's state ownership and central planning have proven not to work; they are inefficient and totalitarian."(21) This was what David Chilton had argued back in 1981. Sider writes: "One of the last things we needed was another ghastly Marxist-Leninist experiment in the world."(22) Yet in 1977, he offered this bold-faced, capitalized question: IS GOD A MARXIST?(23) He never answered this question; instead, he wrote several pages on how God "wreaks horrendous havoc on the rich."(24) Now, he has answered his own question. This is progress. It took him only twenty years.
The New, Improved Version
Dr. Sider has admitted that he didn't understand much about economics in 1977. That was clear to Chilton and me when we finally got around to reading his book in 1980. Now he has changed his tune. In his new book, for example, he continues to call for a "graduated tithe." But he says this is strictly personal; he does not mention the State.(25) He assures us: "Certainly it is not a biblical norm to be prescribed legalistically for others."(26) Throughout the book, he calls for private Christian charity -- exactly what Chilton had called for. He makes a few gratuitous genuflections toward government intervention, but mainly in the most conventional areas, such as public health matters and education(27) -- activities that the typical Southern Baptist layman would agree with. Most revealing, he has stripped his book of confrontational rhetoric against the free market or in favor of big government. His rare negative rhetorical flourishes are now directed against Marxism. This edition is marked by academic caution. It is an apology rather than an apologetic.
Chilton's arguments did not change Sider's mind. By the time Communism fell, making anti-capitalism passť, he had written two revisions without even mentioning Chilton or his other free market critics. Even now, in his third revised edition, he has provided not one reference to Chilton's book, and not one to me or this commentary. The climate of opinion has not changed that much! It was not logic or the Bible that changed Sider's mind. It was the change in the climate of secular academic opinion. He was not prepared to swim upstream. Neo-evangelicals always swim downstream with the liberal current, for liberals can impose academic sanctions.
I have been swimming upstream since I was 14 years old, when I attended a lecture by the anti-Communist Fred Schwarz in 1956. Bit by bit, inch by inch, I have seen the intellectual tide of opinion turn -- not 180 degrees, but at least 110. Even Schwarz was surprised at how fast it turned after 1989.(28) He had been swimming upstream since the mid-1940's. Swimming upstream is the price of overcoming evil in an era in which evil is entrenched. It is the price of launching a paradigm shift.
Sider's earlier editions were subtitled, A Biblical Study. He has now moved away from that sort of unacceptable positioning. He now writes: "When the choice is communism or democratic capitalism, I support democratic government and market economics." Not quite. When the choice was between Communism and market economics, he was not ready to attack Marxism, and he attacked the free market with a vengeance. It was only after the academic world was laughing at Marxists that he made his choice.
He goes on to say, "That does not mean, however, that the Bible prescribes either democracy or markets."(29) To argue, as I have and Chilton did, that decentralized constitutional democracy and the free market are exactly what the Bible prescribes, is just too theonomic for Dr. Sider.(30)
Today, Ron Sider is closer to the biblical truth, but not on the basis of the Bible, and not on the basis of economic logic, which is as absent in his 1997 edition as it was in 1977.(31) He dismisses my defense of the free market(32) as little more than an extension of Adam Smith, whom he correctly identifies as an Enlightenment thinker.(33) He refuses to tell his readers about this economic commentary series or my public attack on right-wing Enlightenment political theory.(34) He does not mention theonomy's commitment to searching for judicially binding social blueprints in the Bible. He does not inform his readers that free market economics as a discipline began, not with the Enlightenment, but with the late-medieval scholastic school of Salamanca, a fact that I have tried to get people to understand ever since I published Murray Rothbard's article on the topic in 1975.(35) These scholastics used rationalism, not the Bible, to defend their case; so did the late-seventeenth-century mercantilists;(36) so did Smith; so does the entire economics profession. So what? Does he think that his favorite economists in 1977 -- there were not many cited in his footnotes -- and non-economists were not also heirs of the Enlightenment? As with his academic peers, and virtually the entire Christian world, he hates theonomy, yet he implies that the Enlightenment left an unreliable legacy. To which I ask, one more time: If not biblical law, then what?
Sider has affirmed what all of his academic peers affirm: the Bible offers no judicially binding economic, political, and social blueprints. But at least in this edition, we find no traces of his original inflammatory, anti-free market rhetoric -- the outlook and rhetoric that made his book a best-seller. There is also no hint at the existence of some as yet-unpublished plan that might make statism work. He knows that statism will not work. He cannot tell us theoretically why this should be true. He shows no familiarity with Mises' 1920 article on the economic irrationality of socialist planning.(37) That article was always the most important theoretical critique of socialism, which socialist economist Robert Heilbroner finally admitted in 1990 was correct.(38)
Anti-Communism is pragmatic if it is not based on economic theory, or biblical law, or some other moral grounds. Sider now rejects Communism as evil. Why did he wait so long? I contend that it was because the climate of secular liberal opinion had not shifted. Until secular pragmatists saw that the Communists could no longer maintain their terrorist apparatus, they rejected all economic criticisms of Communism that were based on its inherently irrationality and/or its moral evil. Until that point, the West's liberal media rejected all uncompromisingly anti-Communist authors and opinions as biased and unscholarly.(39)
How much civil government is appropriate? We just do not know, Sider says. "We need intensive study of how much and what kind of government activity promotes both political freedom and economic justice. Through painstaking analysis and careful experimentation, we must discover how much government can work within a basic market framework to empower the poor and restrain those aspects of today's markets that are destructive."(40) Notice what is the framework: markets, not government.
Guilt for poverty must now be shared internationally, perhaps like foreign aid. "As we saw in chapter 7, North Americans and Europeans are not to blame for all the poverty in the world today. Sin is not just a White European phenomenon."(41)
What of the effects of multinational corporations? "For the purposes of this book, however, we do not have to know the answer to the question of their overall impact."(42) Some of them do damage; others do not. (This is sociology's only known law: "some do; some don't.") What of colonialism? "It would be simplistic, of course, to suggest that the impact of colonialism and subsequent economic and political relations with industrialized nations was entirely negative. Among other things, literacy rates rose and health care improved."(43) This, from the man who wrote in the second edition, "It is now generally recognized by historians that the civilizations Europe discovered were not less developed or underdeveloped in any sense" (pp. 124-25). He goes on: "It would be silly, of course, to depict colonialism as the sole cause of present poverty. Wrong personal choices, misguided cultural values, disasters and inadequate technology all play a part."(44) They do, indeed -- Chilton's point in 1981. Well, then, is there enough food being produced in the Third World today? Is the Third World facing famine? Here, too, we just do not know. The World Bank says there is no threat. Lester Brown -- whose pessimistic assessment was prominent in the 1977 edition -- says there is a threat. "The final verdict? Non-specialists like you and me cannot be sure."(45)
Here is what we can be sure of: this is not the Rich Christians that sold 350,000 copies.
Sider offers reworked versions of his old "institutionalized evil" and jubilee year chapters, but his heart just isn't in it. Reading the 1997 edition of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger is like going to your college class's 20th reunion and running into the campus radical, who is there mainly to sing the old songs. He cannot remember half of the words, but he can still hum most of the tunes. A good time will be had by all -- all 350,000.
Who Is the Targeted Audience?
Every author should decide who his targeted audience is before he begins to write. He must also decide the time frame for this particular book's influence. Some books are tracts for the times. Others are written for the long haul. Some are aimed at large numbers of buyers. Others are aimed at opinion leaders.
For example, my commentary series has done well for a commentary, i.e., all volumes are still in print,(46) but none has sold as many as 10,000 copies; only two have sold well enough to be reprinted. Yet this commentary will be still be read by some opinion-makers in a hundred years. I say this in complete confidence. Why? Because pastors are always looking for help in dealing with problem passages, and the Pentateuch is filled with problem passages. Commentaries survive, in contrast to best-selling Christian books on contemporary issues. Recall that prior to the late 1960's, there were almost no books on contemporary Christian issues written by and for fundamentalists, and very few for academic evangelicals. This, too, is an aspect of the climate of opinion.
One idea or slogan in a book may long outlast the sale of the book, but who can successfully predict this? Not an author, surely. Not his publisher, either. Think of Malthus' formulation in his anonymous first edition of Essay on Population (1798): humans increase geometrically, while food supplies increase arithmetically. The idea was silly, the evidence was nonexistent, and the author dropped the phrase in subsequent editions. Nevertheless, it is the one thing most people who remember Malthus remember about him.
In contrast, another suggestion by Malthus, rarely associated with his name, was that nature produces huge numbers of offspring that perish. This idea was picked up six decades century later by an unknown naturalist, Alfred Wallace, and applied to a wholly new way: some of the survivors survive because of unique biological traits, and these traits are passed on to their offspring. This insight became the basis of Wallace's formulation of the concept of evolution through natural selection. He suggested this to Charles Darwin in a letter. Darwin instantly saw that Wallace was about to beat him to the punch. Darwin had seen the same passage in Malthus and had reached the same conclusion, but he had hesitated for two decades to publish his researches. Darwin then decided that joint credit was better than no credit at all. He convinced Wallace to publish a jointly signed article in 1858. It had no influence at all. A year later, Darwin's Origin of Species appeared. His publisher had not expected the book to sell well. His publisher was wrong. As it has turned out, Wallace received none of the credit and is long forgotten except among specialized historians. And all of this came as a result of Parson Malthus' observation about a factor in population dynamics. So it goes in the world of publishing.
How can a book survive the free market's competition?(47) There is fierce competition today in the oceans of new book titles that get printed each year. The general rule is that a book that hits the best-seller list rarely retains influence. It is too much a product of its time, i.e., tied to closely to the prevailing climate of opinion. It becomes a best-seller because it is an expression of the prevailing views of the day. Even if it is in opposition, it is within the dominant culture's acceptable boundaries of public discourse.(48) But any climate of opinion can and will change dramatically from time to time. That is why we call it a climate. The best-sellers of one era are seldom read in the next, except by historians who are trying to explain how such mediocre books could have prospered. The fable about the hare and the tortoise applies well to books whose authors hope will change people's opinions and keep them changed. This thought comforts authors whose books have not sold well.(49)
The trick here is keeping your book(s) in print. Slow sales kill books, especially in an age in which inventory taxes place negative sanctions on marginally profitable titles. The back list that was once the bread and butter for publishers has been undermined by taxation policies. The advent of CD-ROMs that can be produced on demand, and Internet Web sites that may some day prove profitable for downloaded books, should keep help to book titles alive until their day dawns (if ever). The bankruptcy and then collapse of the modern welfare State will also help.
I am writing for future generations of Christians that at long last become fed up with the results of compromises with humanism, whether right wing or left-wing. I say to them: to the law and to the testimony; trust and obey, for there's no other way; you can't beat something with nothing. I say a lot of things. Given the length of this book, I have said too much already. But this much I feel morally compelled say: over the last two decades, I have learned that it is far safer to trust in the Bible than in the climate of opinion, especially tenured Christian academic opinion. Better to write and then see one's first (and last) edition appear on a remaindered book discount list than to become a best-selling author, only to publish a disguised retraction two decades later with the belated admission: "Well, it sounded good at the time."
1. I used to sit in an office next to his. I would yell, "David, where is that passage about. . . ?" He would yell back, "It's somewhere in the middle of chapter [ ] of the Book of [ ]." It always was.
2. The fatter revised edition is longer and a bit harder to read, for it had to respond to Sider's second edition, the one that included "a response to my critics," except Chilton.
3. Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity (Dallas: Word, 1997), p. xiii.
4. Ronald L. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1977), p. 84.
5. Sider, Rich Christians (1997), p. 41.
6. David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider (3rd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics,  1996), p. 35.
7. Sider, Rich Christians, pp. 31-33.
8. Ibid., pp. 258-59.
9. Ibid., p. 154.
10. Ibid., p. 260.
11. Ibid., pp. 147-50, 244-45.
12. Chilton, Productive Christians, pp. 101-103.
13. He called Chilton on the phone at least once to tell him how much he liked the book. Chilton had initially thought it was someone who was pulling a trick on him.
14. When I visited him in 1985 -- the day that Margaret Thatcher's think tank hired him as an advisor -- Prof. Griffiths told me that he had not heard about Christian economics until he read my Introduction to Christian Economics.
15. Sider, Rich Christians, p. 307.
16. He won mainly because Gerald Ford had been a Vice President who came into office because of Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation under a cloud of scandal. Ford immediately pardoned Nixon for unnamed crimes that Nixon had not been tried for. Then the 1975 recession hit. Meanwhile, the newly created Trilateral Commission went looking for a political unknown who could be palmed off on the scandal-weary American voters as an outsider. It worked, but only for one election.
17. See Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), chaps. 7, 9. Cf. George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 184-86; Ralph Reed, After the Revolution: How the Christian Coalition is Impacting America. (Dallas: Word, 1996), p. 53. Note that Reed's publisher is also Sider's.
18. With respect to political opinions, I say the same thing about Ralph Reed. An international economic collapse, coupled with the bankruptcy and break-up of every national government larger than Jamaica's, would speed things theonomy's way nicely in the United States.
19. See Chapter 22, below: section of "Marxism and the West's Intellectuals."
20. Required by the U.S. Constitution; had he run again, he would almost certainly have been elected a third time.
21. Sider, Rich Christians, p. xiii.
22. Ibid., pp. 182-83.
23. Sider, Rich Christians (1977), p. 72.
24. Ibid., p. 77. See Chilton, Productive Christians, p. 267.
25. Ibid., pp. 193-96.
26. Ibid., p. 193.
27. Ibid., p. 237.
28. Frederick Schwarz, M.D., Beating the Unbeatable Foe (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1996), ch. 38.
30. My position on biblical law and economics is stated in Chapter 50, above: "Biblical moral law, when obeyed, produces a capitalist economic order. Socialism is anti-biblical. Where biblical moral law is self-enforced, and biblical civil law is publicly enforced, capitalism must develop. One reason why so many modern Christian college professors in the social sciences are vocal in their opposition to biblical law is that they are deeply influenced by socialist economic thought. They recognize clearly that their socialist conclusions are incompatible with biblical law, so they have abandoned biblical law."
31. There is nothing on the price mechanism as a means of coordination, nothing on the division of labor, nothing on entrepreneurship as the source of profits, etc.
32. See below, Appendix E.
33. Ibid., p. 92, note 5.
34. Gary North, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989).
35. Murray N. Rothbard, "Late Medieval Origins of Free Market Economic Thought," Journal of Christian Reconstruction, II (Summer 1975), pp. 62-75; Rothbard, Economic Thought before Adam Smith: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought (Brookfield, Vermont: Elgar, 1985), ch. 4.
36. William Letwin, The Origins of Scientific Economics (Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press, 1963).
37. Ludwig von Mises, "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" (1920), in F. A. Hayek (ed.), Socialist Economic Planning (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,  1963), ch. 3.
38. Robert Heilbroner, "After Communism," The New Yorker (Sept. 10, 1990), p. 92.
39. Jean-Francois Revel, The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information (New York: Random House,  1991).
40. Ibid., p. 236.
41. Ibid., p. 228.
42. Ibid., p. 176.
43. Ibid., p. 135.
44. Ibid., p. 136.
45. Ibid., p. 165.
46. I thank God for donor-subsidized publishing.
47. The book market is a free market. While college textbooks are subsidized indirectly by State-funded tuition, rarely does anyone change a deeply felt opinion because of something he read in a textbook. Nobody goes back to read his college textbooks (as distinguished from intelligent monographs or classics assigned in upper division classes).
48. Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind and William Bennett's Book of Virtues are recent examples of such opposition books: the first, an eloquent defense of classical education written for conservatives who have never had to trudge through that barren humanist ordeal; the second, a compilation of rewritten children's stories for grandmothers to give as Christmas presents to public school children who would be bored stiff by them if they ever bothered to read the book, which is unlikely.
49. There is always the hope of becoming another Herman Melville, who quit writing fiction at age 38 because of low book sales. "Quit now, while you're not ahead."
If this book helps you gain a new understanding of the Bible, please consider sending a small donation to the Institute for Christian Economics, P.O. Box 8000, Tyler, TX 75711. You may also want to buy a printed version of this book, if it is still in print. Contact ICE to find out. firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Contents