Monday, August 13, 2007

Say What?

Yo dudes and dudettes. I didn’t mean to do a follow-up so soon after the last post. But I peeped brother JT’s mention of JP Moreland’s view that Jesus would have never supported government sponsored universal healthcare after I had written and posted my last piece and once more wanted to pose a few questions. Moreland’s premise and that of many who commented on the article presume that God would never command nor endorse a government to take taxes from its populace to provide service, goods, etc. for those who could not provide fully for themselves. Thus, if the Roman government had enacted and run some kind of state sponsored universal healthcare system we can be totally certain that Jesus would have spoken out against it. But can we?
Take Deut. 14:28-29 which says ‘At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.’

This passage commands those who produced wealth to give ten percent of it away. It isn’t a suggestion, doesn’t seem to be an option and though corporate Israel didn’t have the kind of central government we or the ancient Romans had, it does seem that God imposed a tax on His people for the express purpose of providing for the needs of the poor. In light of this command how can we proclaim with absolute certainty that Jesus would have without a doubt condemned a Roman sponsored UHC system?
Moreland says A careful study of Jesus and New Testament teaching proves beyond reasonable doubt that he took the state to be the guardian of negative rights, not the provider of positive ones.

Unfortunately Moreland doesn’t provide a careful study. We do know that the subject of government was rarely if ever a central issue to Jesus or the apostles. From what we know both our Lord and His apostles basically said to pay your taxes, submit to government rule as long as it doesn’t directly conflict with loyalty to our God, pray for our political leaders and give them the respect and honor their position calls for. (yes that means no Hillary jokes folks) Whether we like it or not how a particular state decided to use its taxes just wasn’t a subject of their teaching. That does not mean that God’s people should be silent in the face of state sponsored oppression, injustice and immorality. But does it mean that we can we say with any sort of accuracy that Jesus would have categorically condemned Roman sponsored UHC?

Another issue related to this is the call for the church to care for the poor in place of the government. Please don’t misunderstand me. This post is not an argument for or against government sponsored UHC. But how should the church care for those who cannot care for themselves fully? Let’s take childbirth as an example. According to one agency the average cost of a vaginal birth is around $5,500.00. A cesarean section on average costs double that amount or just over $11,000.00. With that in mind what would it cost the church to provide for the health care needs of the working and dependent poor? Are we really able and willing to take on that cost or is it just something we like to say as an argument against government subsidized health care?

Finally, is it wise for us to appeal to Jesus to speak to the details of government policy when we honestly don’t have biblical warrant for it? What if someone reading our take on what Jesus most assuredly thought on an issue like this decided to thoroughly search the gospels along with the rest of the New Testament and came to the conclusion that our appeal to the Lord to buttress our particular political slant was tenuous at best and disingenuous at worst? Might they conclude that Jesus isn’t really a historical figure that spoke on issues pertinent to His Father, kingdom, people, right, wrong and eternity, but instead He’s just another dead religious guru used by His followers to bolster whatever current cause has captured our imagination? Is it possible that in portraying our living Lord as the spokesman for this season’s temporary political cause (whether liberal or conservative) we are those ones guilty of muting His witness on eternal spiritual matters?
Come on folks. Is it really a good idea for God’s people who can’t completely agree on the mode and age of baptism, or the right form of church government to speak with eternal authority on universal health care?

The Lord’s Peace


Anonymous said...

Right on. Jesus rarely speaks to the political issues that we use as such convenient excuses for not running hard for evangelism and the edification of the church. When He does, though, we had better pursue His ends with a perseverance and vigor that will make the world stand up and take notice.

Brian said...

I agree with you on most of the last paragraph, but echo what anonymous said. "When He does, though, we had better pursue His ends with a perserverance and vigor that will make the world stand up and take notice."

I'm just hoping that the brothers premise was just to open the discussion and that he wasn't declaring to the masses that the inerrant Word of God has been and forever will be utterly opposed to UHC.

Trying to give the gentelman the benefit of doubt,