Metzger Critiques Evangelical-Fundamentalist View on Capitalism

I would like to recommend to you a lecture I was privileged to hear at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School via the Carl F.H. Henry Center. The lecture was presented by Dr. Paul Metzger and was entitled Downward Mobility and Trickle-Up Economics: A Trinitarian Reflection on Money and Power. In this lecture Metzger presented a critique and examination of the typical American evangelical-fundamentalist view of economics, namely capitalism, and calls for a “capitalism of a higher order.” For example, he states, “While evangelicals are engaging increasingly [in] enterprises towards the poor, they’re not advocating for political policies that would fight against the structures that make and keep people poor.” And he points out what he sees as an inconsistency between the Fundamentalist-Evangelical rejection of evolution and its survival of the fittest but acceptance of capitalism and its survival of the economic fittest.”But would it not be difficult to challenge genetic determinism and natural selection if the [evangelical-fundamentalist] movement is conflicted, promoting an equally deterministic and naturalistic [economic] system.” “Evangelicals as a movement could not be an outspoken opponent because it often assumes the free and unregulated market economic narratives as gospel truth and embraces it with blind faith. . . . Evangelicals don’t simply assume the the market’s gospel-truthfulness, they champion it.”

I found this lecture incredibly interesting, provocative, and thought provoking. It is well worth your time. I appreciated this lecture largely because Metzger clearly shows the complexity of issues in opposition to what I feel is a inaccurately simplistic and reductionist view of many Evangelical-Fundamentalist political conservatives (although I believe political liberals can be equally reductionistic).

Diverting from direct comments on the lecture now–informed by Christian theology and the Biblical narrative, I believe the Christian’s political positions must take seriously the following:

  • Political engagement must not be primarily self-seeking or driven by self-preservation or a false sense of entitlement (e.g., “I have the right to . . .”; “it’s my right to . . .”). Christian political engagement is needed (in governments where it is possible of course), not as a means of promoting one’s own personal interests, but as a means of seeking the betterment of others and fulling the command to love one’s neighbors (Mk 12:31).
  • Socio-economic-political issues deal with real people with real hurts. We must take deliberate caution to avoid insensitivity in our political enthusiasm.
  • Socio-economic-political issues are complex. Christians, among all people, must avoid reductionistic arguments and keep clear of “straw-men” fallacies.
  • In light of the doctrine of sin, Christians must come to grips with how the human condition relates to socio-economic-political problems, realizing that although governments can restrain sin to a degree (Rom 13:1-7), they cannot ultimately provide a solution to the human condition and the fallen creation–the heart of all socio-political-economic problems. No government or economic system is perfect nor can perfectly and ultimately solve our problems. Therefore, Christians must demonstrate a level of humility when presenting their political views, realizing that whatever they propose is ultimately severely insufficient.
  • And therefore, in light of the above point as well as the overarching Biblical narrative, Christians must realize that the only ultimate socio-economic-political solution is christological and eschatological. That is, the solution is only ultimately found in the person of Jesus Christ at His second coming. Consequently, we currently live in a tension known as realism–we don’t posses the solution to our problems; but that’s the beauty of the Gospel.

Download lecture manuscript.

Certainly this lecture is open for various criticisms. So, I’d love to hear what you think of it. Please do so by leaving your comments below.