In this pilot episode Kurt Jaros introduces the mission of Veracity Hill and interviews Dr. Jay Richards on why Christians should think about politics and economics.
Kurt: Hey. This is the host of Veracity Hill, Kurt Jaros. Thanks so much for finding this show. I hope that it can be a blessing to you as you think through some of life’s important and deep and difficult questions. In this episode, I’d like to introduce you to myself, share the mission of this show, explain what the name means, and then we’re going to hear from Dr. Jay Richards on a few of his thoughts on why Christians should think about the relationship between their faith and politics and economics.
So, I was born and raised in the Western suburbs of Chicago to a Christian family. While I come from a Christian background, I began to doubt the truthfulness of that belief when I was in High School. I didn’t give up my faith during that time. I continued to believe what I did, but there was a time where I had these doubts and I started to explore other worldviews to see whether or not they were superior to the Christian one.
I grew up in the public school system so seeking out different worldviews was actually quite simple. It’s called lunchtime. Lunchtime provided a great opportunity to talk with my peers. We would fellowship by having food together and then talking about some of life’s tough questions. As I began to converse with people from different religions and philosophies, I also began to learn more about Christianity. Eventually, one of my peers noted that I was reconverting people to Christianity. What he meant was that people claimed they were Christian, but they didn’t really know what it was that they believed. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. So I would talk with them and help them learn what it was that they believed, or at the very least, supposed to believe and this is part of the task of apologetics. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, apologetics broadly speaking is the defense of the Christian worldview, so in order to know why you believe something, you first have to know what it is that you believe. Now ultimately I decided to remain a follower of Jesus and by reading a number of different authors, I became more confident in my faith. I became confident in the reliability of the Gospel message and that was a confidence that I hadn’t experienced before.
I went off to college and studied some philosophy and political science and then I jumped over to theological disciplines in grad school. In some ways, I’d like to consider myself an aspiring statesman. If you reflect back on who the American founders were, they not only were political figures, but many of them were also religious leaders and even if they weren’t religious leaders, they wrote on some of their thoughts on religion and philosophy, but before I jump into the political arena, I have a few things I’d like to do in the theological realm, some things I’d like to write and some speaking, perhaps some debating.
Also, I presently love the ministry work that I do and yet for a number of years I’ve had a desire to be more active on the ideological front lines of the Christian worldview. Much of my work over the past few years in ministry has been more administrative behind the scenes, from web site creation and management, including maintenance, to just researching cost saving measures for budgets and finding innovative ways to put content in front of people, so my work as an apologist has been more limited relatively speaking to a few blog posts here and there, public speaking, especially to youth groups, some radio interviews, and a big annual conference that I plan and host in the Chicago area, but now I’d like to take the next step by committing to creating weekly content in conjunction to my administrative work with Defenders Media.
The mission of Veracity Hill is to present insightful commentary on a variety of issues such as contemporary news, theology, apologetics, politics, economics, and ethics, and other issues in society that we may be talking about. The idea here is to present well-reasoned arguments for why we should adopt certain beliefs consistent with the Christian worldview. As you may or may not know, there are a lot of podcasts already devoted to looking at arguments for the existence of God or why God allows evil or just theology podcasts that teach people about Christianity and what Christians believe such as with regard to the nature of God and the Trinity and Christ’s deity and humanity, etc. But what I haven’t found yet is a show that couples both those things, that is theology and apologetics, in addition to having a certain view or approach to understanding political and economic theory, and so that’s why I think bringing them here in terms of Veracity Hill is an approach for Christians that are seeking answers not just to the theological and apologetic questions they may have, including the doubts of their faith, but also the political questions they may have and economic questions.
See I don’t think that a number of Christians are doing enough if any thinking at all on how we should think about politics and economics so while it’s the case that I’ll be devoting some of the shows to that, there’s going to be a wide spectrum of topics that we’re going to be looking at, so with that, I’d like to share a little bit with you about the name of this show.
Originally I was thinking about what I should name this podcast and I settled on the concept of veracity because veracity is about habitually truthful, and I’ve always thought of myself, or at least I’d like to think of myself as someone who tries to get to the bottom of the matter. I really want to know what the truth is. We also see the concept of veracity in the Scriptures. Luke, for instance, was a historical investigator because he interviewed people and wanted to make sure that he was providing an accurate account of what he had been taught. In the first chapter of Luke we read
“In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time passed, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)
The first chapter of Luke provides here a good instance where Luke is being quite truthful in what he is presenting and writing to this Theophilus. Some people aren’t sure if this is a specific person or just in general, the person that is reading it, because Theophilus here means God-friend, so if you’re reading this document you might just be a friend of God. At any rate, Luke had this veracity about him and you see this in his book in the Gospel there of Luke, but also in the book of Acts which he also penned.
So there’s this concept of veracity in the name and as I was staring at the word veracity, it just stuck out to me, there’s the word city. You see, there’s a concept of a city on a hill in the Bible in Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 5. Jesus tells us His disciples that you are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. This concept here of being a light to and for people to see is something I wanted to incorporate into this show. I hope that Veracity Hill will be a light to you and perhaps to someone that you may know.
And hey, guess what it turns out that the concept of a city on a hill is also found in the American political landscape. In 1630 the Puritan leader John Winthrope used the image of a city on a hill to describe the forthcoming settlements of New England and the settlers were to be a shining example of religious liberty and Christian charity to the old world. He said “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”
Now looking at this passage in context, you can recognize and learn that what the Puritans were concerned with was about being charitable to each other, living a pious life, so this would include getting rid of all the things that are unnecessary in life such as certain entertainments, and that you would see the kingdom of God basically being worked in their societies and some of his concern is also seen here that they may fail in their experiment and if they were to fail then people would know about it for generations to come so it was really important to be faithful to God and you can see this in the passage if you look it up. I’ll post it at VeracityHill.com. He cites here in the beginning of his sermon Micah 6:8, that the Puritans are to be just in their actions, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God.
He concludes this section of his sermon by citing the exultation of Moses in Deuteronomy 30 so Winthrope says “Beloved, there is now set before us life or death, good and evil, and that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His ordinances,” but He notes “If our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced and worship other gods, our pleasures and profits and serve them, it is propounded unto us this day and we shall surely perish out of the good land whether we pass over this vast sea to possess it. Therefore let us choose life that we and our seed may live, by obeying His voice and clinging to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity.”
So you see the themes here that Winthrope uses from the Bible. He applies the teaching from Moses and the Israelites right before they are to enter the Promised Land and Winthrope and his company right before they are to enter the new world. Again, he says “We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”
When we return from this short break from our sponsor, Rethinking Hell, we’ll hear a clip from a president who often spoke of that shining city on a hill, and then we’ll consider why it is that Christians should think about politics and economics.
We appreciate the sponsorship from Rethinking Hell. When you have a chance go ahead and check them out at RethinkingHell.com. Before the break I introduced you to myself, I shared a little bit about the mission of this show, and then we even started talking a little bit about what the name Veracity Hill was about. Veracity deals with habitual truthfulness, something that I found myself aspiring to, and something that we also see in the Bible. And the concept of a city on a hill is also found not only in Matthew 5 and the teachings of Jesus but it’s also later implemented in the American political landscape. While the city on a hill motif is closely related to the concept of American exceptionalism, we’ll see a future show devoted just to that topic, the city on a hill motif was also heard in the 1980’s under President Reagan. In his final speech to the American public, he eloquently said this
Reagan: I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it, but in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace. A city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still and how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago, but more than that, after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge and her glow is held steady no matter what storm.
Kurt: And he continued by saying “And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims, from all the lost places who are hurdling through the darkness toward home.”
Today America has to continue to be that city on a hill defending the truth against evils that ensnare our nation. The political and ethical battles we fight in the public square often happen to be theological battles. Some would like us to think that we have to keep separate our faith from the political realm, but this just isn’t true. From a proper understanding of the theology of worship, we need to worship God with our minds and if we’re to love God with our minds and worship God with our minds, then we ought to ask ourselves what it is that we believe about how the government should function and what we think about economic theory, so to help me out in understanding these issues I sat down with Dr. Jay Richards and he elaborated on why it is that Christians should think about politics and economics.
Jay. Tell me a little bit about why you think that Christians can talk about issues of politics and economics.
Dr. Richards: Well, honestly I always quote Abraham Kuyper’s famous statement that there’s not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ has not declared “Mine!” The created order’s as it is because that’s how God created and the economic and political realm is part of God’s creative order and it’s the place in which ideas work out those sort of practical consequences and affect people and so to me it’s absurd to say “Well Christians should kind of avoid talking about politics and economics” because that implies that the faith doesn’t have anything to say in that space and obviously it does and if, you know, we refuse to accept our responsibility for applying the Christian worldview to economic questions, I mean, basically we’re just leaving it to the materialists to do that.
Kurt: This short answer is something that I hope every Christian could hear. There are so many Christians that haven’t given any consideration to economic policy and yet we have a duty to be well-informed. This is one of the reasons why I’m starting Veracity Hill, that by making accessible different theories, we might be better informed in important aspects to our public lives. Now while I may have my own views on political theory and economic theory, and surely I’ll be presenting the case for those from time to time, that doesn’t mean I’m closed-minded on the issue. I hope to bring on scholars from a variety of viewpoints to have myself challenged, but also to present cordial challenges to their views too, so I hope that this show can appeal to people that identify as conservative or liberal. Labels do sometimes serve as poor demarcations for policy positions, and let’s face it the tough reality is that the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us who we should vote for in the American elections of the 21st century.
Kurt: So you’re coming from more of a conservative, economic perspective. Do you think there’s room for intellectual dissent for more liberal economic views among Christians.
Dr. Richards: Sure. I mean, most economic judgments are prudential judgments so it’s not like there’s a Christian answer to the tax rate, right? The Bible requires 23.2% marginal income tax. Right? It’s nothing like that. Simple obviously. There are key moral principles that we have to bring to bear. I mean, any action or any activity that compels us to participate in moral evil is obviously something we can’t do and so the way I see it is our task is to integrate the perennial truth of ethics and theology with the empirical discoveries of economics and we usually bring those together and so even though there’s several different economic ideas that are compatible with Christian theology, there aren’t lots of different economic ideas that are compatible with economic reality so my concern, especially for Christians, is that we apply our moral intuitions in a way that is actually connects to how economic reality works, because otherwise good intentions can actually lead to destructive consequences.
Kurt: As Jay Richards says, there are empirical discoveries we can make in the field of economics and we need to see if and how these discoveries are compatible with a Christian worldview and that’s what Veracity Hill will do, at least in part. I also intend to devote some episodes to issues in theology and apologetics, but this doesn’t mean it’s just going to be bent towards the Christian perspective, because I’ll be inviting scholars from a variety of different backgrounds, Christians, atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, etc. We’re gonna be looking at challenging issues and I hope that by having these conversations with folks from different backgrounds, it will be iron sharpening iron where I’ll be asking tough questions to people that I may agree with or I may not agree with and I hope that through these conversations you can learn as well.
I hope that you’ll consider adding me to your podcast list because while this is a pre-recorded show, I’m hoping to broadcast Veracity Hill live to you every week at VeracityHill.com and you’ll be able to call in or comment online and we’ll be able to participate with you live on the spot. Please do check out VeracityHill.com and consider becoming a patron at our website. There are different levels of support with a variety of perks for helping me out. You see, this is going to be a listener supported podcast so without your help I can’t do it.