The Good News and Economics

My view is that the good news of Jesus impacts every area of culture. When salvation comes to a family, for example, the family dynamics change. Even if not everyone in that family is saved, things change—especially if the head of the family is saved. There is the possibility of hostility against the gospel within families. However, when the family generally seeks to apply biblical principles, the family is blessed. For example, the children will seek to honor and obey parents. The parents will lovingly train and discipline the children. Husbands will remain faithful to their wives. And wives will submit to the leadership of their husbands. The blessing of obeying God’s Word is not limited to the family, however. When societies apply God’s Word, they are blessed. When civil governments apply God’s Word, they are equally blessed.

John MacArthur is one of my favorite preachers. I have listened to dozens and dozens of his sermons (perhaps hundreds) over the last ten years. However, I disagree with him strongly on some points. And that’s OK. Many people seem to think it is divisive to disagree. Not at all. If we cannot disagree, then we can never be challenged to think in different ways. I love MacArthur and think he is a great blessing to the church, but that does not mean I cannot disagree with him.

Recently, MacArthur said that, “What happens in America politically has absolutely nothing to do with the kingdom of God.” This type of two-kingdom theology is typical of MacArthur and dispensationalists. In fact, it is popular among most Christians today (even non-dispensationalists). The thinking is that the church and the gospel are spiritual matters which do not touch on political or cultural matters. However, godly men like MacArthur and others contradict themselves when they teach (rightly) that God blesses cultures which seek to apply his Word. I saw this very clearly today while reading a book for one of my seminary classes. The book is edited by MacArthur and contains articles from the faculty of his college (The Master’s College). One section in the chapter on economics was very interesting.

R.W. Mackey, II, the author of the chapter on economics, talks about how applying God’s principles to society leads to blessing. In fact, the chapter is called “Proposing a Biblical Approach to Economics.” He rightly points to the family as the heart of the society: “Since the home is the primary vehicle for value transmission within society, [the current] familial meltdown affects every sector of the economy, including: effectiveness of the legal system…need for more police officers…costs of insurance,” etc. Clearly, Mackey believes that applying God’s Word to the family leads to positive changes in the culture (which would include political aspects).

Mackey goes on: “Following the patterns established by God for the home (Deut 6; Prov 2, 31; Eph 5; Titus 2) positions a family and consequently a society for prosperity. Is it possible that poverty eventually accompanies a failure to cooperate with God’s order? Is the study of the sweep of successful endeavor in human history in reality a mapping of God’s sovereign movement geographically and culturally because His Spirit quickened hearts to obedience?” If I didn’t know better, I’d think Mackey was a Christian Reconstructionist.

Mackey defines redemption as a “reversing the effects of the Fall.” This is spot-on. He says that redemption is “temporally expressed by the believer in subduing the created world in all of its facets to the sole purpose of God’s glory.” This is essentially what Christian Reconstructionism is, even though Mackey would most certainly object.

I find it interesting that after proposing that we see the advances of human society as the “mapping” of the work of the Spirit in history, Mackey goes on the say (true to the pessimism of his theology) that “the chances of the church’s affecting the business cycle seem rather remote.” Hey, what about the “mapping of God’s sovereign movement geographically and culturally because His Spirit quickened hearts to obedience”? I also find it telling that Mackey first says the positive changes in culture are the result of God’s Spirit, but then when commenting on his lack of hope for more cultural change, cites the church as the agent of change. Which is it? I certainly believe God works through his church, but Mackey on the one hand tells us to see economic prosperity as a sign of the gospel spreading, and then tells us he doesn’t think the church can successfully complete the great commission. Anybody else see a disconnect here?

I agree with much of what Mackey has to say. The blessing of the gospel is not limited to spiritual matters, but touches all areas of life and society. What happens in America politically has everything to do with the kingdom of God. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s kingdom would come now—that God’s will would be done on earth now. This cannot simply be restricted to personal holiness. Every area of life and culture is under the authority of Christ—including economics. This is why Mackey is absolutely correct to say that obedience to God (brought about through the gospel, of course) leads to the success of human cultures!

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