Modern Socialism contrasted with the community of Actsby Rit Nosotro
How does the socialism practiced in Acts compare to the socialism of modern times?
In today's world, Christians are some of the most active and out-spoken people against all forms of socialism. However, in Acts, the book of the Bible which focuses on the small Christian community in the years immediately following Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascent to heaven, a form of socialism is practiced. What makes this form of socialism superior to the other forms such as Marxism, Nazism, Fascism, and Communism that Christians call evil? Among many reasons, this essay will focus on the ideology, the leadership, the way that socialism in Acts functioned as compared to modern socialism.
It is extremely important to note that socialism is a very broad term. It is "any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively."1 It is also important to note that we do not know a lot about the economics of the community of believers. "No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had."2 This means that their possessions were owned collectively, in accordance with the above definition, but we know little else. Thus, the way the community of believers functioned is very open to interpretation. However, I think it is clear that the first community of the believers practiced a form of socialism.
A huge, glaring problem with modern socialistic forms are the deaths they cause, especially those of innocent people. Because of Nazism, Fascism, and Communism millions died in the World War II and Cold War eras. Their disregard for life is stunning. The problem, then, is in the ideology of these socialistic forms. "Thou shall not murder"3, one of the ten commandments, clearly shows the glaring problem with modern socialism. Over seven hundred thousand people were executed in the U.S.S.R during its socialistic reign. This excludes the millions who died while in prison, deportation, exile, camps, or of starvation.4 Many of these deaths were inflicted upon innocent people, in which case they are murders. The ideology of the U.S.S.R, and other recent socialistic governments, was atheistic and expansionistic by force of arms. In Acts, however, the ideology is completely different. The community of believers banded together in a theistic socialist body to expand the Good News of Jesus Christ by force of love. The will to do this governed every aspect of their lives. They wanted to bring the knowledge of Christ's saving power to everyone. While Nazism and Fascism attempted to conquer the world, through whatever means necessary, including the extinction of "inferior" ethnic groups and millions of murders, the first believers attempted to save the world.
In addition, modern socialism is now based on a secular humanist, evolutionistic world view. Karl Marx was heavily influenced by Charles Darwin in the formation of scientific socialism. This worldview is distinctly unbiblical, choosing to ignore the evidence that there is a Creator, the saving power of Jesus Christ, and the absolutes of right and wrong. With such worldviews dominating the socialism of recent history, it is no wonder that horrible turmoil, grief, despair, and destruction have become frequent in the socialistic parts of the world.
Thus, the greatest distinction between modern socialism and socialism in Acts lies in the motivating ideology driving the various forms of socialism. The ideology of the first community of believers was biblical and godly, helping the poor in order to spread the gospel. The ideology of Nazism, Fascism, Communism, and other modern socialistic forms were unbiblical and ungodly. The poor were assisted only to the extent that it benefited the expansion of the state, whose leaders displayed a horrifying disregard for life.
The variation of modern socialistic forms are determined by the beliefs of the leader. Since modern socialism has an ideology inconsistent with Biblical values, and the leaders often control the ideology of their socialistic form, the leaders must have values inconsistent with the Bible. Conversely, the leaders of socialism in Acts, the Apostles, were consistent with Biblical values and thus their form of socialism had good ideology. They had known Jesus, watched him give his life for them on the cross, seen him after his glorious resurrection, and stood awestruck when he ascended into heaven. They knew what God and his Son wanted them to accomplish in life, and did everything they could do accomplish it.
The way the first community of believers practiced socialism is radically different than the way modern socialism has been practiced. The socialism in Acts was entirely voluntary. It did not encompass a whole nation whose citizens were forced to participate in some arbitrary form of government as was attempted in the 20th century. Forced socialism breeds fear, hatred, and discontent. With these three emotions existing in millions of people, a nation will eventually fall from the inside. Communism in the U.S.S.R during the Cold War is an excellent example as Russia and its satelite nations collapsed under an military economy bent on maintaining equality with the United States. Discontented citizens of the U.S.S.R. demanded an end to the murderous, atheistic experiment of communism. History has shown that a full-scale socialistic government cannot stand for long. Generosity that lasts cannot be legislated. It must come from a heart which acknowledges the gifts of God and the temporal stewardship of material possessions. As love for the community of believers casts out all fear, it also removes jealousy, greed, gluttony, pride, and a host of lusts that would otherwise devour the community.
Lastly, where was God in all of this? Did God really support a form of socialism, even though the Bible repeatedly advocates that each man shall work for himself, and own property? Some scholars claim that the believers acted upon their own, without blessing or instruction to share all things in common. They point to the economic depression and famine in Jerusalem came as a result of their socialism. This is why the Apostle Paul was moved to take up a collection from the churches in Asia Minor to send to Jerusalem.
However, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.”5 This is not possible without the hand of God upon this community. Thus, God must have blessed this community and supported it. The believers banded together because at the time they simply could not carry out the order of Jesus to “Go and make disciples of all nations,”6 while scattered and without connections. Sharing their possessions voluntarily allowed them to support each other and build bridges to span the gaps that separated them. Each man still worked for himself, but instead of keeping all his possessions and gains for himself, each man shared them willingly, allowing the Apostles to dictate how the wealth was used. It is still socialism, but a voluntary, God-blessed, purpose-driven socialism.
In conclusion, the socialism in Acts was a strong form of socialism because it had a Biblical purpose, godly leaders, and a pure motive that kept internal strife from entering the community. The community was designed to allow the believers to best share the good news of Jesus Christ, which they did very effectively, with the intervention of God to make them of the same heart and mind. On the other hand, the socialistic forms of Marxism, Fascism, Nazism, and Communism of recent history have been, and still are, based on personal power and state control. As leaders of socialism have been obsessed with worldly things, fear, hatred, and death have spread along with their ideologies. These socialistic forms rely on involuntary control over every aspect of their citizen's lives through secret police and armed force, adding to the fear and hatred. They cause death instead of spreading the Life that exists in Jesus Christ.
1. What is a "huge, glaring problem" with modern socialistic forms such as Nazism, Fascism, and Communism?
a) The innocent deaths they caused.
b) Their ungodly leaders
c) They didn't eat their vegetables.
d) They are unbiblical.
2. Who cannot be divorced from their government's ideology?
a) The CIA
b) The Apostle
c) The Prime Minister
d) The KGB
3. What is the most important difference between the way the believers in Acts
practiced socialism and the way modern socialism is practiced.
a) The amount of fear as a motivator
b) Greed as a primary motivation of successful capitalism
c) There is no difference
d) Voluntary participation to share wealth
4. What was Jesus' order to his disciples
a) "Go wash. Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
b) "Go and make disciples of all nations."
c) "Go save pennies for a penny saved is a penny earned."
d) "Go save souls to eat, drink, and be merry."
1. www.dictionary.com, “socialism”
2. Acts 4:32b
3. Exodus 20:13
5. Acts 4:32a
6. Matthew 28:19
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