Was Moses A Socialist?

I have been thinking about the loose way many people use the term socialist and I began to wonder if Moses would fit the pattern. After all the laws of Israel do not prescribe a free market economy, rather there is a concept of justice which is completely lacking from free market economics,namely social justice. The year of the Jubilee prevented the accumulation of wealth and made sure that the wealth was periodically redistributed. The laws forbidding interest also are contrary to our free market economy. I can imagine many people claiming that this is socialistic if we tried to reintroduce it. If true social justice is called socialistic then Moses and the people of Israel were socialists.

But this really begs the question what is socialism? The loose way that many use the word socialist as a scare tactic is most unhelpful. After all to call Barak Obama a socialist bears no resemblance to his ideology, in Britain he would be on the left wing of the Conservative Party. This loose use of the term socialist is obscuring helpful reflection and replaces it with scare tactics. The term socialist has a definite ideological and philosophical content which does not seem to be understood by those using the word as a scare tactic.

Socialism itself is a diverse movement with some interesting variations obviously National socialism is very different from communism, but even within communism there are variations. The Marxist-Leninist view of society has various interpretations for instance contrast the views of Stalin and Trotsky, or the differences between Cuban,Russian and Chinese Communists. But this does not end the variations because there is the more moderate social democrat tradition which is not Marxist, one only has to look at the history of Britain’s Labour Party to see this. What all views of socialism have in common however is that they give priority to the communal nature of man, everything is seen through the lenses of society. at the extremes this leads to tyranny, this however does not have to be the case. No one in their right minds has ever asserted that the the Labour Party is not a democratic party which denounces revolution and seeks to use the ballot box to achieve power.

We keep hearing people say that in contrast to socialism, capitalism is the answer to all our ills. Free market economics philosophy is set forth by Adam Smith in his works that predate the socialist movement. If one wants to realise how important Smith is to the way we see society, all we have to do is to look at a £20 note to see his portrait. It was a Labour Government that authorised the use of this image.Smith and others promoted the idea that if we all seek our own self interest,then we would see economic growth that would benefit us all. In other word capitalism is founded on the greed of the individual. If this is the case, how can Capitalism be Christian? In its practical outworking Capitalism has always favoured the rich and in contrast to socialism it views society through individualistic lenses. In other words both socialism and capitalism lead us down blind alleys. We need to get back to the Bible.

The Biblical view of man: when we look in the Scriptures we see a very different view of man than any secular view. Man is made in the image of God, he is created to have relationships both with God and his fellow men (see Genesis chapters 1-2). because is created the image of God he is the steward of God’s creation and should take that responsibility seriously. This means too that the Bible throughout its pages shows a concern for the poor and oppressed. Indeed in the Mosaic law we find measures to prevent the gross accumulation of wealth. The prophets spoke strongly against the exploitation of the poor and needy. Listen to Amos,

6 This is what the LORD says:

“For three sins of Israel,
even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
7 They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed. (Amos 2::6-7)

In his fourth chapter he says,

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
2 The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness:
“The time will surely come
when you will be taken away with hooks,
the last of you with fishhooks.
3 You will each go straight out
through breaches in the wall,
and you will be cast out toward Harmon,”
declares the LORD.
4 “Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years. f
5 Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
and brag about your freewill offerings—
boast about them, you Israelites,
for this is what you love to do,”
declares the Sovereign LORD.

6 “I gave you empty stomachs in every city
and lack of bread in every town,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

7 “I also withheld rain from you
when the harvest was still three months away.
I sent rain on one town,
but withheld it from another.
One field had rain;
another had none and dried up.
8 People staggered from town to town for water
but did not get enough to drink,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

9 “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards,
destroying them with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees,
yet you have not returned to me,”
declares the LORD.

Can you imagine what sort of reception Amos would get at a Conservative  Party Conference or a Republican convention, he would be booed off the platform and branded an extreme leftist.

Yet we must maintain the biblical balance because here individual responsibility is upheld, revolution is not the answer, repentance is.

Yet we must also stress that as man was made in the image of God, he was made to create, to be artistic and to enrich others by his or her uniqueness.

In the Seventies I was searching for an expression that would express the biblical view of man, I came up with this rather clumsy phrase but I am still convinced it expresses the biblical view best, Man is an individual-communal creature. Capitalism exalts the individual at the expense of society, socialism exalts the communal at the expense of the individual. The biblical view calls us to a reflection of God’s image in man, only when we have a society that reflects this duality in society will we have anything that approximates to justice as God ordains it.


About pneumaandlogos

David Rollings was born in Luton in1949 and raised by my Christian parents in the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist denomination( Hyper-Calvinistic} in the sixties I rebelled against this background and got involved in left-wing politics. I became a Christian in 1969 and soon started reading Francis Schaeffer's books and came to embrace a Christian Worldview. I had the privilege of being on the staff of L'Abti Fellowship from1975 - 1979. After L'abri I studied at London School of Theology where I gained my BA.(1983) A few years later I studied for my MA by distance learning with The Nazarene Theological College Manchester (1999) For the last 25 years, I have been an elder of Shoreham-by-Sea Baptist Church. I also regularly attend the Christian Doctrine Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship.
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3 Responses to Was Moses A Socialist?

  1. click says:

    An insightful blog post there mate . Thanks for posting !

  2. trestone.com says:

    trestone.com I greatly appreciate your work. You must keep up the good work.

  3. Sean Jarvis says:

    I liked this post, even though it was written in 2012 – it may be more relevant today since Sanders is a serious candidate for president in the US. I was a neo-con republican until I finally read the bible, and then declared myself a socialist. I appreciate the time you put into this

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