This week I have been engaged in a stimulating email conversation with Christian thinkers from around the world. It started when my Chinese lawyer friend posted a study from the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS):
The Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) was tasked with discovering what accounted for the West’s ascendancy over the rest of the world. What they found surprised them and challenged the assumption of Western Intellectuals. In a lecture in Beijing 2002, a member of the Academy known as Dr. Wu presented the CASS’s findings :
“One of the things we [Chinese Scholars] were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact the pre-eminence of the West over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first we thought it was because you [the West] had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on the economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized tat the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”
One of the first responses really got the conversation going:
I wonder what Jesus would say about the assumption that as people follow him, consequently, through cause and effect, they become profitable capitalists (i.e. rich), democratic (i.e. ruled by human majority vote), and powerful? Sounds like the ultimate demonic deception. Come visit America.
There were several comments back and forth regarding the virtues and the lack of virtues of capitalism and democracy. At one point chimed in with:
It seems to me that the way we choose to live our lives, individually or corporately, has consequences. It makes sense that when individuals, and even more-so societies, order their lives according to God’s principles, that they tend to prosper. I’m not sure whether to categorize this as a spiritual principle or natural law. For example, I observe that societies who allow greater levels of corruption tend to be more poor. Societies who grant dignity to higher percentages of the population tend to be more wealthy. Therefore, if Christians have introduced the checks and balances that tend to be part of capitalistic economies there is a link between the resulting wealth and the gospel. Likewise, if Christians have introduced the concept that every person has the dignity of a vote, there is a link between democracy and and the gospel.
What do you think?