What is socialism? Is socialism biblical? Can a Christian be a socialist?

Socialism by Matt Slick
4/28/2020, updated 4/29/2020

 

In the present political and religious climate in America, the topic of socialism has become more prominent. On my radio show (truthnetwork.com1), I've noticed an increase in the questions related to socialism. I think this is because of the left-leaning media and schools which have produced a misguided sympathy for contra-constitutional ideas. According to Pew Research, 42% of Americans have a positive impression of socialism, 84% of Republicans are negative towards it, with 65% of Democrats having a positive view of it. 2 This is bad. CARM is against socialism. I will explain why. But, first things first.

What is socialism?

"Socialism, social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members." https://www.britannica.com/topic/socialism

Socialism: "any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods." https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism

So, socialism is a political and social system in which private property and the distribution of goods are subject to social and centralized governmental control. A socialist economy does discourages private ownership of property.  In fact, it often reduces and eliminates it. Socialism also increases the movement towards governmental control of the economy and businesses along with the confiscation of assets. But, this reduces efficiency and slows the economy. Furthermore, it demotivates individuals from taking risks to produce and be rewarded from what they provide because the means of  production can be "confiscated," and/or "controlled," by those in government.

Command Theory verses Demand Theory

In a very basic simplification, socialism is a command economy where capitalism is a demand economy. This means that in socialism, the means of production and distribution are commanded by governmental oversight. In capitalism, the demand that is produced by the needs of the population is met by the people, not the government. That is a huge difference. In socialism the means of production and distribution are decided by relatively few people who cannot possibly have enough knowledge to know which particular subcategories of production and distribution are needed so they can be applied to the varying situations and nuances of a broad and complicated economy. In capitalism, the demand/need of the people is manifested through consumption, and those individuals who meet the need of that consumption then govern their own means of production and distribution. They are rewarded for their efforts and are motivated to continue to produce. It is far more efficient. In socialism, individuality is reduced. In capitalism, it is increased. Which system produces a more robust and productive economy?  

Strengths of Socialism

Every political system has strengths and weaknesses. In Socialism it strengths are

  1. The goal of fairness to all in regard to obtaining goods.
  2. The intention of reducing poverty and increasing personal standard of living.
  3. The restriction of the rich having great power that is out of balance with the population.
  4. Cost of production can be controlled.
  5. Cost of distribution and sales can be controlled.

These are lofty goals, but reality does not meet those goals. Socialism has been tried in various countries (i.e., Venezuela) and failed miserably. And, for those who think some European countries do well in socialism, think again. Europe is not socialistic. See the following articles.

  1. forbes.com: Sorry Bernie Bros But Nordic Countries Are Not Socialist
    1. forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2018/07/08/sorry-bernie-bros-but-nordic-countries-are-not-socialist/#1f0d93374ad3
  2. nytimes.com: Finland Is a Capitalist Paradise
    1. nytimes.com/2019/12/07/opinion/sunday/finland-socialism-capitalism.html
  3. foreignpolicy.com: The Myth of Democratic Socialism (Norway, Denmark)
    1. foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/08/the-myth-of-democratic-socialism
  4. leftvoice.org: No, Europe is not Socialist (Germany)
    1. leftvoice.org/no-europe-is-not-socialist
  5. medium.com: Europe Is Not Socialist And Neither Are You
    1. medium.com/the-blunt-ogre/europe-is-not-socialist-and-neither-are-you-bca96671ce89

Weaknesses of Socialism

Socialism has definite problems. In it, the government owns or controls production and the distribution of what is produced. It decides what is best for the majority of people based on the analysis and opinions of those in power. But, it also has harmful side-effects.

  1. Inefficiency: Those in power cannot be aware of all the details necessary to run a large economy with its incredibly complex means of production on a variety of intricate and interrelated levels. Instead, those best able to manage their affairs are individuals who are involved with their work, not government-run agencies.
  2. Demotivation: When the government is in control and takes from individuals the right to produce and distribute goods as they see fit, it demotivates them to take risks in starting businesses and reaping the benefits of that risk. This reduces the efficiency and power of the economy.
  3. Slows economy: Socialism slows down the economy because of the risk-takers do not want to produce as much under penalty that their hard work would be confiscated for redistribution. When the economy slows down, everyone is affected.
  4. Encourages governmental oppression: The government, in order to continue its control of production and distribution, must continue to consolidate its own power. In order to do this, it must pass more laws to ensure its own control. This naturally leads to the oppression of people who would resist.
  5. Bureaucratic red tape: Red tape is like molasses (see point 3 above). It moves slowly. Red tape reduces the efficiency necessary to meet the immediate demands within an economy.
  6. Cost of production increases and money is devalued: With the demotivation of people to produce and manage their own affairs with detailed efficiency, the government slows, production decreases, and the costs of goods increases. The government will then look to imports to meet the needs of its own slowed economic growth. This means the money that is best used within its own economy will leave and go to other countries. This devalues the currency in that socialist country as well as decreases the rate and means of internal production.
  7. Misunderstand human nature: People are not basically good and altruistic. Socialism may have lofty goals, but history teaches us that people are not as good as they should be. For the most part, they don't look out for the welfare of others. They look out for themselves. But socialism reduces the security of the population and foils the lofty goal of equitability.

Analogy of Socialism and grades in a classroom

Let's say there are 30 students in a classroom. Ten of the students work very hard and get A's. Ten of the students do the minimal work and get C's. The remaining ten students hardly work at all and get F's. The socialist-teacher (government) decides to distribute all of the grades (goods) evenly for the betterment of the whole. Therefore, he averages all the grades and decides that everyone gets a grade of C. When the A-students discover that their grades do not reflect their hard work, they complain. The teacher disregards their complaints. The A-students are demotivated and don't work as hard. The C-students realize that the hard work of the A-students is given to them. So, they don't need to work even less because they are getting the redistributed-benefit of someone else's work. The F-students realize that if they do nothing, they will still get a better grade. So, they don't work at all. This causes a further reduction of overall, hard work (goods) in the classroom (society). The overall control of the grade distribution (socialism) required by the socialist-teacher (government), then drops from a C to a D. Seeing this, the A and C Students realize the lack of fairness of this system and are further demotivated.  But when they complain, they are threatened by the teacher with even lower grades (fines and imprisonment) if they resist his socialist governance. The lazy students, of course, like the system because it rewards their laziness. Therefore, the producers don't want to work at all, and everyone ends up failing. The teacher sees that the overall production of quality of grades (goods) has plummeted and that most everyone is now suffering from a lower quality product. Therefore, he passes a classroom rule requiring that everybody work harder, and he imposes the threat of giving an F to everyone if they don't work harder (fines and imprisonment). But this is met with resistance and futility since the system rewards the unproductive and penalizes the producers and bad grades (goods) are the new norm. Eventually, the whole system collapses, the productive students abandon the class and go elsewhere.

Venezuela and Socialism

A review of Venezuela's decline from the third richest country in the hemisphere to bankruptcy, riots, and starvation can be seen in the following timeline that began with the introduction of socialist policies.

  • 1992 Became third richest country in the hemisphere
  • 1998, Hugo Chavez elected president. Through the “Bolivarian Revolution” brings in new constitution that brought socialist policies.
  • 2001, Chavez passes laws aimed at redistribution of land and wealth.
  • 2004 Private healthcare is completely socialized
  • 2005, Chavez signs a decree to eliminate large estates and removal of private property
  • 2005, Stiff fines and prison terms for those in media who criticized public figures.
  • 2006, Chavez shifts buying military equipment from US to Russia.
  • 2007, Chavez announces that “key energy and telecommunication companies will be nationalized.”
  • 2007 All higher education becomes free
  • 2007, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhilips refused to hand over control of operations to the Venezuelan government and are then kicked out the country
  • 2009, Voters approve plan to abolish term limits.
  • 2009, Socialists banned private ownership of guns
  • 2012, Government enforces price controls on basic goods to battle against inflation.
  •  2014, 28 people die in the suppression of an antigovernment protest
  • 2017, Constitution and elections are suspended
  • 2018, U.N. says 2 million Venezuelans have fled to neighboring countries since 20143

Is this what we want for the United States?  No!  But, I have a question.  Why do so many politicians take an oat to uphold the constitution, yet they promote socialist ideas?

Is socialism biblical?

No, socialism is not biblical. Socialism stands in opposition to biblical principles. In the Bible people have the right to do with their property is they desire (Acts 5:4), as well as have a representative form of government (Ex. 18:21-22; Deut. 1:13), where there is self-governance (Matt. 18:15-17), private property rights (Ex. 20:17), the liberty to act freely (2 Cor. 3:17; 1 Pet. 2:16), along with capitalist principles (Matt. 21:33-41; 25:14-30) and where the law requires a fair trial with witnesses (Deut. 19:15; Matt. 18:16)

  1. A representative form of government
    1. Exodus 18:21-22, "Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. 22 Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you."
    2. Deut. 1:13, "Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.’"
  2. Self-governance
    1. Matthew 18:15-17, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
  3. Private Property rights
    1. Exodus 20:17, "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
    2. Acts 5:4, "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
  4. The principle of liberty and freedom
    1. 2 Cor. 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
    2. Gal. 5:1, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."
    3. 1 Peter 2:16, "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God."
  5. Capitalist Principles
    1. Matt. 25:14-30. This is the parable of the talents where the master gives to the servants different amounts of money and requires of them to produce more out of what they have been given.
    2. Matt. 21:33-41. this is the parable of the landowner leaving servants in charge of his vineyard. He owned the vineyard and required proper treatment of his people and his property.
  6. Witnesses and fair trial
    1. Deut. 19:15, "A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed."
    2. Matt. 18:16, "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED."

Can a Christian be a Socialist?

In light of the Scriptures, can a Christian be a socialist? In one sense, yes and another, no. Christians can be all kinds of things without realizing they contradict Scripture. Being a socialist or capitalist does not make someone a Christian or not Christian. Nevertheless, a Christian who studies the Bible and submits to its revelatory truth, cannot properly hold to socialistic ideas.

Conclusion

Socialism is nice in theory, but fails in practice. It seeks equity in the equal distribution of goods, but in so doing reduces efficiency, demotivates people, penalizes those who work hard, and rewards those who do not. It is a failed system and should not be adopted in the United States or anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, it is unbiblical in that it restricts freedom, reduces private property rights, endangers self-governance, denies representational governance, and essentially takes what one person has produced, in a form of legalized theft, and gives it to others.

 

 

 

  • 1. https://www.truthnetwork.com/show/#/matt-slick-live-matt-slick/
  • 2. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/25/stark-partisan-divisions-in-americans-views-of-socialism-capitalism/
  • 3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-19652436; https://www.worldtribune.com/for-the-record-timeline-of-venezuelas-descent-from-prosperity-to-socialist-hell/  https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/timeline-how-the-crisis-in-venezuela-unfolded/; https://timelines.ws/countries/VENEZUELA.HTML
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.