Meeting America’s Economic Challenges: Christianity, Values and Public Policy
By Bob Dickson, Master’s News Service (MNS)
Dr. Brooks & Dr. MacArthur
In the aftermath of historic 2010 midterm elections there appears to be clear mandate by voters for their elected representatives to return the American economic system to the values upon which the nation was founded. “We’ve come to a juncture in American culture,” declared Dr. Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute during a forum held at The Master’s College in southern California. “The primary cultural conversation is revolving around the bedrock notion of how we work out the founder’s freedoms in our everyday lives … freedom means free enterprise to most Americans. This is not just an economic alternative. Free enterprise is a moral imperative.”
The forum focused on Christian values and their relationship to economic and public policy decisions. The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California teamed up to present the academic forum with a nationally renowned think tank, The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) based in Washington, D.C.
AEI was founded in 1943 and is one of the nation’s oldest and most influential think tanks. Its staff of 50 full-time scholars and 125 full-time staff members are committed to “expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise.”
Dr. Brooks has led AEI since January 2009. He is the author of eight books including The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future, published this year.
More than 160 civic, business and church leaders from across California gathered at the campus forum on November 11th, Veteran’s Day.
The Bible and Free Enterprise
Keynote speakers Dr. John MacArthur, President of The Master’s College and Brooks, President and CEO of AEI addressed the role of Christianity and a Christian worldview in shaping the future of public policy in the U.S. Specifically, MacArthur and Brooks tackled the issues surrounding public policy as it relates to economics—free enterprise and personal liberty.
An issue at the center of the forum was the question: Does the Bible advocate economic collectivism or does it mandate free enterprise or a market-based economy?
“As a Christian I can say the Bible supports free enterprise. It supports those principles. It doesn’t promote laziness. It doesn’t exalt people who lack integrity.” - Dr. John MacArthur, President of The Master’s College
MacArthur, who is best known for his worldwide Grace to You radio-teaching ministry, said, “You don’t find socialism anywhere in Scripture…God has granted us the freedom to become everything we can become. The world is packed with riches but they must be mined out. This has always been the enterprise of man.”
MacArthur also has served as pastor of Grace Community Church in Southern California for four decades, has written more than 100 books and serves as President of The Master’s College. More than 10,000 people attend the church each Sunday.
“Do your work to bring honor and glory to the Lord,” MacArthur said. “This is how you avoid the love of money. You love the opportunity. Love the privilege … as a Christian I can say the Bible supports free enterprise. It supports those principles. It doesn’t promote laziness. It doesn’t exalt people who lack integrity.”
According to Brooks, free market proponents need answers to the typical charges levied against free enterprise—charges of inequality, for example. The challenge lies in bringing a clear argument for free enterprise to the public square.
“We have to look at the moral case for free enterprise,” Brooks said. “If we don’t, we’ll get a European style social democracy. We have to make this [argument] about principles.”
The Case for “Earned Success”
The principles, Brooks argues, are there. Studies conducted by Brooks and AEI empirically support a principle Brooks called “earned success.” Earned success, he said, “Is the belief that you have created value in your life and in the lives of others through hard work and merit.” Brooks’ research indicates people who believe they have earned their success will empirically be happier than those who believe they haven’t. They will lead more productive, more fulfilled lives. As a result, society will benefit.
“We have to look at the moral case for free enterprise. If we don’t, we’ll get a European style social democracy. We have to make this [argument] about principles.” - Dr. Arthur Brooks, President and CEO, AE
“The government can’t hand out earned success. Businesses and entrepreneurs do that,” Brooks said. “…When we worry about people’s earned success, we are the ones who benefit. This isn’t even theology. It’s subordinate to theology. But when people help others, people get healthier and happier. Evidence supports this.”
The kind of help Brooks referred to is the opportunity and liberty to work and to pursue the dreams of the individual as opposed to the socialist model seen in Europe—a model he called the “road to serfdom.”
The forum was moderated by Master’s College Vice President of Advancement, Jack Cox. Cox began his 40-year career in public affairs, including serving as a California broadcast journalist and as chief of staff to U.S. Congressman, Barry Goldwater, Jr. He also was president of two national institutes focused on economics, public policy and communications. He believes the forum represents an important step in the growth of The Master’s College as a voice of biblical reason on the events shaping the nation and the world.
This first-ever joint forum is part of a new Master’s College initiative on biblical values and the economy.
“The way the world sees Christianity approaching the public square has been focused primarily on issues such as abortion and gay rights,” he said. “But there is so much more regarding the public square that the Bible addresses including economics and stewardship. This forum focused on the fact that as Christians our work for the Lord is not confined purely to the church but rather to everything we do, from a stay at home mom to a doctor to a brick layer—to any vocation.”
Forum attendees included members of the state legislature, judges, representatives from the County of Los Angeles as well as church and business leaders. They concluded the forum by asking questions on such issues such as the role of a Christian in politics, the balance of separation of church and state and reformation of the U.S. court system.
The Master’s College: Forging a New Approach
Dr. Mark Tatlock, The Master’s College Provost and Senior Vice President, saw the forum as important step for the college as well as a natural fit with its 80-plus-year mission to both support Christian churches and Christians in the society at large.
“We need to begin to engage the public arena.” Tatlock continued, “Our goal is to produce the next generation of Christian leaders across all vocations. If we don’t bring a biblical perspective and voice to the issues of our time, who will?”
“Our goal is to produce the next generation of Christian leaders across all vocations. If we don’t bring a biblical perspective and voice to the issues of our time, who will?” - Dr. Mark Tatlock, Senior Vice President and Provost
“Traditionally, you’ve got three tracks on how we as Christians view our approach to the public square,” Cox said. “The first track is the religious right and it focus on social issues and advocating the idea of taking back the culture. Then you have the religious left, which attempts to twist Scripture to substantiate collectivism, which is not in the Bible. Finally, you have the third rail, which is the monastic or a purity stage, where you essentially pull up the drawbridge and live life in a Christian world and let the world destroy itself.”
“What Dr. MacArthur and Dr. Brooks articulated is a fourth approach which rests totally on Scripture. God wants us involved in society as servants. We should be involved, but based on biblical principles and not political ones.” The Master’s College, home to more than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students across more than 50 majors, is poised to play an important role.
“The most important element about the college is that we hold to a solid and truthful interpretation of Scripture,” Cox said. “We don’t twist it to create or advocate some point of view. We aspire the highest standard of excellence in academics. Our academics are a synthesis of the Bible’s truth and objective analysis.”
Cox said the college is already planning more efforts to bring biblical truth to bear on the issues of our time, in part through the development of the Master’s Institute on Public Issues. The school is looking at the next series of initiatives, which the college hopes to announce in the coming months that will serve both our students and society..