Book Review: Godonomics

Godonomics, by Chad Hovind

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Multnomah WaterBrook Press in exchange for an honest review.]

Despite previous experience, I had hopes when I began reading this book that it would fulfill the ambitious and noble claims of its author to provide a biblical view of economics, but these hopes were quickly dashed by the material that was contained within the books. Blithely dismissing the biblical doctrine of the Sabbath and its relevance in issues like debt forgiveness and the restoration of ancestral lands in the Jubilee to limit extreme inequalities of wealth and land ownership as being not applicable in our times and the result of a defunct theocracy, the author himself adopts the arguments about market economics, libertarian government, and the sacred rights of property and capital in a way that would make any disciple of van Mises proud [1]. Indeed, I had to look at the title page from time to time to make sure that it was not written by Gary DeMar as part of his series on Theonomy, seeing as it shared his worldview and even his endorsement of political activity by believers (so long as it was not directed in statist, left-wing, socialist ways). The author himself claims to be nonpartisan, but by that he wishes to condemn both Republicans and Democrats for spending too much money and taking away too many freedoms. In short, this book, while not explicitly pro-Republican, is a blatant and fairly open attempt to baptize Austrian Economics under the Christian rubric through a selective and partial use of scripture that highlights certain principles (notably thou shall not steal and thou shall not covet) while neglecting any biblical laws and principles that condemn the corrupt use of markets (like in slave trading) as irrelevant.

Reading a book like this [2] is hard to review because one does not wish to condemn either side in the false dilemma between the author and others of his ilk with those of the social gospel tradition (some of whom, like Jim Wallis, come under rather pointed and direct criticism here) whereby one side seeks to co-opt legitimate concerns about exploitation of the poor and denial of the biblical requirements about providing the chance for livelihood and dignity among even the poor by combining it with socialist redistribution schemes and an oppressive, paternalistic government and the other side seeks to co-opt legitimate concerns about such corrupt and tyrannical governments while combining it with a naïve belief in the trustworthiness of the wealthy and powerful in our society towards fulfilling their moral obligations. The larger problem, as is often the case, is one of trust. The author asks the reader to trust people to do the right thing on their own, despite admitting candidly that our world is fallen and deeply broken. On the other hand, his opponents ask people to trust the government to look after them, despite the fact that government does not have a good track record in fulfilling its promises of providing godly care for others. The larger problem is that there exists no political program that can succeed in an environment where no one can be trusted—where we lack the wisdom and skill to provide for success in our endeavors and where even our families cannot be trusted to provide us with material assistance in these goals.

The centrality of the issue of trust, which this book does not even begin to discuss, suggests the core problems of this book. It is almost superfluous to deal with the details given that the core is problematic. There are severe foundational faults with this book that prevent it from being the sort of pivotal work that the author wishes it to be. Among these are the fact that instead of looking from the Bible out, it looks from our contemporary and corrupt political system in, blasphemously imagining what God would say to people like Adam Smith and the Founding Fathers (who receive attaboys, which I would agree with, although not for the reasons that the author suggests), or Karl Marx, Alan Greenspan, Jim Wallis, and others. The failure to make the Bible itself, rather than the political worldview of the contemporary United States, the central element of this book makes the advice of the book, even where it is sound, more like the secular advice of someone like Dave Ramsey (i.e. debt is bad) than like the far more nuanced and balanced perspective of scripture. The fact that the author himself seeks to give biblical legitimacy to a particularly biased view of the legitimacy of free markets that neglects the need for moral behavior on the part of those in the markets (there are no comments about the biblical hostility to slave trading, for example) and the fact that the author totally ignores and disregards any biblical counterexamples to his own narrow ideology make this book an exercise in political propaganda rather than a legitimate exegetical view of the biblical principles of economics. As such, this book is a major wasted opportunity, and not one that is worth reading for someone who is interested in what the Bible really has to say about economic matters.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/a-broader-understanding-of-the-sabbath-day/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/missing-the-mark/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/slavery-in-the-bible/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/the-difference-between-prohibition-and-regulation/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/a-crisis-of-gratitude-on-the-confluence-of-hanukkah-thanksgiving-and-predatory-commercialism/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/book-review-and-musing-on-the-foundations-of-christian-scholarship/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/book-review-a-christian-survival-guide/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/book-review-the-5-money-personalities/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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