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Market Decentralization and Covenantal Organization

Written by Gary North on July 30, 2016

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (I Cor. 11:1).


The individual Christian has a model: Paul. He had a model: Jesus Christ. But this does not solve the institutional problem: What is the biblical model within each of these categories: Church, State, and family?

For almost two millennia, Christians have argued concerning the proper model of the institutional church. They argued with equal intensity, though less frequently, over the proper model of civil government. Finally, they have remained remarkably silent regarding the biblical model of the family, despite the fact that various Christian societies have, at different times, adopted two remarkably different versions of the family: patriarchal and nuclear.

Modern free market capitalism has forced societies to restructure their operating models of these three covenantal institutions. If capitalism is not biblical, then we must reject the modern models. if we refuse to reject these modern institutional models as being the biblical models, then we need to answer this question: How did it come about that a non-biblical economic institutional arrangement, free market capitalism, pressured society to adopt what are supposedly biblical covenantal models?

The Nuclear Family

Let us begin with the least controversial model in today’s world, the nuclear family. While vestiges of the patriarchal family remain in the West, the near-universal absence of the parent-arranged marriages testifies to how few vestiges remain. Within a single generation, immigrant groups in the West have abandoned a millennium or more of supposedly fixed marital traditions. The poverty of non-capitalist cultures kept patriarchs in control of the family for almost 6,000 years. Sons and daughters-in-law dwelt under the roof of the father. They ate at his table and took his orders. This arrangement broke God’s commandment in Eden: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Sons did not leave.

There are Christian social commentators–“social philosophers” is too laudatory a phrase–who do not believe that free market capitalism is the Bible’s prescribed economy. They fall to recognize what is under their noses, namely, that the economic growth which alone is possible by free market capitalism has made possible the re-establishment of the original requirement for marriage: separate households for fathers and adult sons. If fathers dwell with sons, it should be only because they are feeble, i.e., defenseless. They are to dwell as servants rather than as masters of the household. It is in Marxist countries, not capitalist countries, that housing is so scarce that married sons live as servants in their fathers’ tiny apartments.

Thus, we have a biblical model to work with: the nuclear family. Today, few who can afford to live in the separate household of the Western nuclear family choose to dwell in their father’s houses. To live under one roof is to live in dire straits, either as a son who cannot afford to escape or as a father who cannot safely live alone. It is a system of enforced childhood, either for married sons or aged fathers.

Capitalist society, with its commitment to decentralization, has allowed mankind to move toward the standards of Eden.

The Constitutional Republic

There was no king in ancient Israel. There was instead a system of law courts. Jethro instructed Moses:

Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said (Ex. 18:19-24).

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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