Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: socialism

Books I didn’t like

Among the thousands of books that I’ve read in my lifetime there have been books that were useful and informative, books that conveyed truths that have inspired me, books that were merely interesting, books that were so uninteresting that I never finished reading them and books that were well written but quite deceptive. Here are four books from that last category that stand out in my mind.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: I was young and impressionalbe when I read this book. Still, the idea of a better world that would be built by pure unbridled selfishness didn’t impress me as being a world where I would want to live. I didn’t find John Galt a very sympathetic hero, either.

In His Steps by Charles Sheldon: I have read this book four times, trying to figure out how anybody could consider this a Christian book. What I found was people who read the Bible but never got any direction from it; people who prayed but never got any direction through answers to prayer; people who sang hymns but never got any direction from the words of the hymns. The only way they got any direction was to ask themselves  “What would Jesus do?” Then they found the answers within themselves.

Well, actually the answers came from Charles Sheldon. The whole sin problem in the world is the fault of privately owned business and the solution is for ordinary people to band together to counteract the nefarious influence of big business. The newspaper owner is the epitome of Sheldon’s solution when he plans to turn the newspaper into an employee owned cooperative.

Sheldon called himself a Christian socialist. Notice that socialist is the noun and Christian is an adjective, mere camouflage for the real message Sheldon wants to convey. He uses Christian words all the way through, but they are eviscerated of all meaning. It is very skilfully done, but this book is actually a primer on socialism.

A Theology for the Social Gospel by Walter Rauschenbusch: Rauschenbusch follwed in Sheldon’s steps and coined the term “social gospel” in the early 1900’s. This book reveals the full scope of his thinking. There is no such thing as a sin against God. God appears to be a philosphical construction to provide a framework for ethical teaching, not a divine person who actually exists. Sin and redemption are not matters of personal concern, but involve all of society. The sins for which Jesus died are: religious bigotry; the combination of graft and political power; the corruption of justice; the mob spirit and mob action; militarism; and class contempt.

Rauschenbusch taught that there were two kinds of business organizations: the saved and the unsaved. Unsaved business are those that are privately owned, saved businesses are socially owned, such as cooperatives and goverment owned businesses.

One hundred years have passed since this book was published. I see the results all around me: churches, political parties, cooperatives and government owned businesses built on social gospel principles. I don’t see any evidence that they have succeeded in ushering in Rauschenbusch’s vision of the kingdom of God.

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whittal Smith: This is another pseudo-Christian book which I have read several times. All I could find was pop psychology couched in Christian language. If people are unhappy and unfulfilled, they might want to ask if there is some sin hindering them, or are they not hearing and following the voice of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of any of that in this book. It is do-it-yourself Christianity. I would recommend the Bible and genuine Christianity.

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Lazy thinking

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason (Proverbs 26:16).

My mother told the story of a poor farmer extolling the virtues of socialism to his neighbour who was even poorer.

“If everyone who has more than they need would share with those who do not have enough, what a wonderful place this world would be!”

“Sooo, does that mean that if you had two cows you would give me one?”

“Of course.”

“If you had two horses, you would give me one?”

“Certainly.”

“And if you had two pigs, you would give me one?”

“Oh come on now, that’s going too far. You know I have two pigs!”

That is the thinking of a sluggard. Sharing is a wonderful thing, if it means that you are giving to me. If I have to give something away, that is quite a different matter.

We all know people like that. If McDonald’s charges them five cents too much for a coffee, they are filled with indignation for days. If they see an opportunity to pick up a dollar that does not belong to them, it does not seem to cause the slightest twinge to their conscience.

Still, the majority of the people around us are honest; if they see a dollar laying around, they will try to find the owner. Why? Why is it that so many people still have a clear sense of right and wrong, even though they believe that we are just random agglomerations of protoplasm that appeared for no particular reason or purpose?

Isn’t this the reasoning of a sluggard? If there is a purpose for my existence, then there must somewhere be Someone who is the reason behind all that exists. The sluggard does have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, but wants to believe that this sense is just an evolutionary survival instinct. He would rather believe that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances and that he will never have to give account for cutting corners in life to the Lord of all that exists.

This is lazy thinking. If one seeks to search the reason for our sense of right and wrong, it quickly appears illogical that it could simply have arisen in response to the survival of the fittest in a dog eat dog world. Where then does our conscience come from? Evolution cannot even explain consciousness, let alone conscience.

There are people around us who appear to have stilled their conscience. Have they really succeeded? Or have they simply chosen to live with the terrors that dwell in their mind, hoping with all their might that death will be the end of it?

One of the greatest arguments for the existence of God is that those who have repented of the wrong they have done are blessed with a peaceful mind and a heart that forgives others who have wronged them.

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