Faith

No, the Bible Does Not Teach Socialism

Jim Wallis, a founder of Sojourners - (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Writer Peter Heck has found himself in a back-and-forth with Christian socialists Jim Wallis and Michael Wear. After writing an article for The Resurgent titled “There’s Not Much As Gross As Christian Socialists,” Heck found himself the target of Wear’s ire. Doubling down, Heck reasserted in an article for The Christian Post that socialism is not taught in the Bible.

Having been a Christian who used to read and admire Jim Wallis and who once mistakenly believed that the Bible teaches socialism, I am grateful for Peter Heck’s articles. It’s necessary to push back on the erroneous belief that socialism is taught in the Bible. Sadly, many Christians conflate the commands of Jesus that we are to care for the poor with the failed economic theory named socialism.

A friend recently asked me if I still believed the Bible teaches socialism. Immediately, and without equivocation, I responded, “No.”

Using my own past words and arguments to push back, he mentioned Acts 4:32-37, the passage that relates how the early Church “had everything in common” and that “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands and houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

Before he could finish, I interrupted, “They weren’t compelled by the government, but gave willingly.”

As Heck writes,

If the government takes from me and gives to the poor, I am not fulfilling the command of Jesus to be personally charitable. Anyone who teaches that deserves rebuke. Similarly, if I am in a position of power in government, and I use the force of law to take from certain citizens and redistribute to other citizens, I am not fulfilling the command of Jesus to be personally charitable. Anyone who teaches that also deserves rebuke.

Peter Heck is clear that he doesn’t believe that supporting socialist government programs means that an individual is not a Christian. That would be a violation of the Apostle Paul’s claim, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Responding to Wear’s accusation that he slandered Jim Wallis, Heck asserts:

I don’t believe anyone is unchristian for supporting the Social Security ponzi scheme. Politically wrong and unwise? Yes, but not unchristian. I don’t question the Christian bona fides of anyone who wants to ramp up Medicaid or the SNAP food stamp systems. I may disagree with them politically, but those aren’t issues of belittling or abusing the Word of God.

My objection to Wallis was and is that he teaches and many of his followers repeat that support of socialist redistribution policies is synonymous with obedience to the call of Christ to care for the “least of these”

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As an evangelical Christian who has conservative politics, I am more than happy to concede that policy differences are typically not matters where our faith compels us to be rigid and dogmatic. But when it comes to twisting and using Scripture to advance our policy preferences (particularly when those policies lead to dramatic suffering for the poor, as in the case of socialism), all believers must oppose such an offense.

It’s true that we should care for those in our community who are suffering. Failing to do so is a sin. However, twisting Scripture to support your pet economic theory is also a sin.