By Chad Hovind
In September of this year, Chad Hovind gave an entertaining and challenging keynote presentation at the 10th CBMC World Convention in Orlando, Florida USA. He also generously gave out copies of his new book Godonomics: How to save our country and protect your wallet through Biblical principles of Finance.
As finance professional with over 30 years of marketplace experience and considerable education in the field, I was intrigued by what a “pastor” might have to tell us about our current weak economic condition and prospects. Hovind would like this book to “create a new context to think, dialogue, and reason together as fellow Americans” rather than “demonize one another.” In fact Godonomics was written to “encourage every Christ-follower to venture into the mine field of politics and to help influence our nation’s economic system.” At the very least, one has to admire Hovind’s desire to see his fellow believers become re-engaged in public dialogue.
Godonomics begins with an explanation of God’s economic principles as stated in the Bible: property rights, incentives and personal freedom. These are central to understanding Godonomics and form the basis of Hovind’s solution to helping the USA (although one can probably assume all economies) out of its “quagmire.” Having established the foundation of Godonomics, the author proceeds to address key historical and contemporary economic figures essentially with advice from God, the Bible and Godonomics. These figures include Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Alan Greenspan, Jim Wallis, Karl Marx, the IRS and finally the reader. It is a creative tool, which adds interest to the book: I have to say I was looking forward to what God would say to the IRS (among other things, God apparently thinks higher taxes are bad because they lead to more centralized control).
The “Biblical” principles Hovind presents are those he has carefully selected from the Bible. Technically however, many of these “principles” or practices may not have originated in the Bible. We know, for example, that human cooperation and exchange, the bedrock of all economy, have existed as fundamental human survival practices for all people: certainly before the Jewish law and Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites. It is safe to say that the concept of a village marketplace where goods and services are exchanged (bartered) is nearly universal. There are some “principles” in the Bible, which we still practice whole-heartedly today. Personal property, for example, is a respected teaching in the Old and New Testaments as an extension of the high respect accorded each individual made in the image of God. The individual and his rightful possessions have moral standing before God and so they should before God’s subjects, humankind.
Nevertheless, if God is endorsing one economic system over another in the Bible, it is hard to discern and Hovind does not make a convincing case for one. Moreover, if God is promoting one modern economic system over another (democratic capitalism, socialism or communism) then it would by definition be the system of the “kingdom of heaven” and the perfect system. But there is no perfect system currently on this earth whereby a person’s need to make a living is assured where basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter are perfectly met. Instead we find the problem is not with the “system,” but exists as sin in the hearts of men and women stoking selfishness and irresponsibility toward one’s neighbor. As Christians we believe this sin condition will be with us until “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15). In the meantime, we will all have to adapt to the power of globalization and rise of automation (merger of machines and artificial intelligence), which have probably done more to disrupt the global economy than unbiblical government policy.
Where I largely concur with the author is in endorsing his favored economic system, democratic capitalism, which has the world’s best track record for providing the broadest and most efficient overall life survival opportunities for the citizens of any society. Indeed, capitalism has shown itself to be the best wealth creation mechanism ever conceived. However, to say it is God’s economic system is a bridge too far.
This book is a bold project, which never quite reaches the level of workable economic insight. While Hovind presents Godonomics as “the best way to solve the deepening economic dilemma we face as a nation, as families, and as individuals,” it is probably most useful as pastoral advice to always consider God’s will, as presented in His Bible, in the details of one’s life. The Bible is less useful it seems for understanding economic dynamics, fine-tuning the workings of supply-side or demand theory or the monetary tools and workings of the U.S. Federal Reserve System’s Open Market Committee. Perhaps this distinction is embodied in Jesus’ famous teaching “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”