"ICE" is a convenient acronym for the Institute for Christian Economics. When you think about ICE, just think about the "cold, hard facts" of the modern economy.
The Institute for Christian Economics is a non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization which is devoted to research and publishing in the field of Christian ethics. The perspective of those associated with the ICE is straightforwardly conservative and pro-free market. The ICE is dedicated to the proposition that biblical ethics requires full personal responsibility, and this responsible human action flourishes most productively within a framework of limited government, political decentralization, and minimum interference with the economy by the civil government.
For well over half a century, the loudest voices favoring Christian social action have been outspokenly pro-government intervention. Anyone needing proof of this statement needs to read Dr. Gregg Singer's comprehensive study, The Unholy Alliance (Arlington House Books, 1975), the definitive history of the National Council of Churches. An important policy statement from the National Council's General Board in 1967 called for comprehensive economic planning:
Accompanying this growing diversity in the structures of national life has been a growing recognition of the importance of competent planning within and among all resource sectors of the society: education, economic development, land use, social health services, the family system and congregational life. It is not generally recognized that an effective approach to problem solving requires a comprehensive planning process and coordination in the development of all these resource areas.
The silence from the conservative denominations in response to such policy proposals has been deafening. Not that conservative church members agree with such nonsense; they don't. But the conservative denominations and associations have remained silent because they have convinced themselves that any policy statement of any sort regarding social and economic life is always illegitimate. In short, there is no such thing as a correct, valid policy statement that a church or denomination can make. The results of this opinion have been universally devastating. The popular press assumes that the radicals who do speak out in the name of Christ are representative of the membership (or at least the press goes along with the illusion). The public is convinced that to speak out on social matters in the name of Christ is to be radical. Christians are losing by default.
The ICE is convinced that conservative Christians must devote resources to create alternative proposals. There is an old rule of political life which argues that "You can't beat something with nothing." We agree. It is not enough to adopt a whining negativism whenever someone or some group comes up with another nutty economic program. We need a comprehensive alternative.
Society is broader than politics. The State is not a substitute for society. Society encompasses all social institutions: church, State, family, economy, kinship groups, voluntary clubs and associations, schools, and non-profit educational organizations (such as ICE). Can we say that there are no standards of righteousness - justice - for these social institutions? Are they lawless? The Bible says no. We do not live in a lawless universe. But this does not mean that the State is the source of all law. On the contrary, God, not the imitation god of the State, is the source.
Christianity is innately decentralist. From the beginning, orthodox Christians have denied the divinity of the State. This is why the Caesars of Rome had them persecuted and executed. They denied the operating presupposition of the ancient world, namely, the legitimacy of a divine rule or a divine State.
It is true that modern liberalism has eroded Christian orthodoxy. There are literally thousands of supposedly evangelical pastors who have been compromised by the liberalism of the universities and seminaries they attended. The popularity in the 1970's and early 1980's of Prof. Ronald Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, copublished by InterVarsity Press (evangelical Protestant) and the Paulist Press (liberal Roman Catholic), is indicative of the crisis. It sold like hotcakes, and it called for mandatory wealth redistribution by the State on a massive scale. Yet he is a professor at a Baptist seminary.
The ICE rejects the theology of the total State. This is why we countered the book by Sider when we published David Chilton's Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators (fifth printing, 1990). Chilton's book shows that the Bible is the foundation of our economic freedom, and that the call for compulsory wealth transfers and higher taxes on the rich is simply baptized socialism. Socialism is anti-Christian to the core.
What we find is that laymen in evangelical churches tend to be more conservative theologically and politically than their pastors. But this conservatism is a kind of instinctive conservatism. It is not self-consciously grounded in the Bible. So the laymen are unprepared to counter the sermons and Sunday School materials that bombard them week after week.
It is ICE's contention that the only way to turn the tide in this nation is to capture the minds of the evangelical community, which numbers in the tens of millions. We have to convince the liberal-leaning evangelicals of the biblical nature of the free market system. And we have to convince the conservative evangelicals of the same thing, in order to get them into the social and intellectual battles of our day.
In other words, retreat is not biblical, any more than
We have to ask ourselves this question: "By what standard?" By what standard do we evaluate the claims of the socialists and interventionists? By what standard do we evaluate the claims of the secular free market economists who reject socialism? By what standard are we to construct intellectual alternatives to the humanism of our day? And by what standard do we criticize the social institutions of our era?
If we say that the standard is "reason," we have a problem: Whose reason? If the economists cannot agree with each other, how do we decide who is correct? Why hasn't reason produced agreement after centuries of debate? We need an alternative.
It is the Bible. The ICE is dedicated to the defense of the Bible's reliability. But don't we face the same problem? Why don't Christians agree about what the Bible says concerning economics?
One of the main reasons why they do not agree is that the question of biblical economics has not been taken seriously. Christian scholars have ignored economic theory for generations. This is why the ICE devotes so much time, money, and effort to studying what the Bible teaches about economic affairs.
There will always be some disagreements, since men are not perfect,
and their minds are imperfect. But when men agree about the basic
issue of the starting point of the debate, they have a far better
opportunity to discuss and learn than if they offer only "reason,
rightly understood" as their standard.
The ICE exists in order to serve Christians and other people who are vitally interested in finding moral solutions to the economic crisis of our day. The organization is a support ministry to other Christian ministries. It is nonsectarian, nondenominational, and dedicated to the proposition that a moral economy is a truly practical, productive economy.
The ICE produces several newsletters. These are aimed at intelligent
laymen, church officers, and pastors. The reports are non-technical
in nature. Included in our publication schedule are these monthly
and bimonthly publications:
Biblical Economics Today is a four page report that covers economic theory from a specifically Christian point of view. It also deals with questions of economic policy. Christian Reconstruction is more action-oriented, but it also covers various aspects of Christian social theory. Dispensationalism in Transition is a critique of the various theological and historical errors in Dispensationalism and reports on the massive revisions of contemporary dispensational theology. Biblical Chronology deals with studies in the chronology of the Bible as they relate to the reconstruction of ancient history.
The purpose of the ICE is to relate biblical ethics to Christian activities in the field of economics. To cite the title of Francis Schaeffer's book, "How should we then live?" How should we apply biblical wisdom in the field of economics to our lives, our culture, our civil government, and our businesses and callings?
If God calls men to responsible decision making, then He must have standards of righteousness that guide men in their decision making. It is the work of the ICE to discover, illuminate, explain, and suggest applications of these guidelines in the field of economics. We publish the results of our findings in the newsletters.
The ICE sends out the newsletters free of charge. Anyone can sign up for six months to receive them. This gives the reader the opportunity of seeing "what we're up to." At the end of six months, he or she can renew for another six months.
Donors receive a one year subscription. This reduces the extra trouble associated with sending out renewal notices, and it also means less trouble for the subscriber.
There are also donors who pledge to pay $15 a month. They are members of the ICE's "Reconstruction Committee." They help to provide a predictable stream of income which finances the day-to-day operations of the ICE. Then the donations from others can finance special projects, such as the publication of a new book.
The basic service that ICE offers is education. We are presenting ideas and approaches to Christian ethical behavior that few other organizations even suspect are major problem areas. The Christian world has for too long acted as though we were not responsible citizens on earth, as well as citizens of heaven. ("For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven" [Philippians 3:20a].) We must be godly stewards of all our assets, which includes our lives, minds, and skills.
Because economics affects every sphere of life, the ICE's reports and surveys are relevant to all areas of life. Because scarcity affects every area, the whole world needs to be governed by biblical requirements for honest stewardship of the earth's resources. The various publications are wide-ranging, since the effects of the curse of the ground (Genesis 3:1719) are wide-ranging.
What the ICE offers the readers and supporters is an introduction to a world of responsibility that few Christians have recognized. This limits our audience, since most people think they have too many responsibilities already. But if more people understood the Bible's solutions to economic problems, they would have more capital available to take greater responsibility - and prosper from it.
There ain't no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL). Someone has to pay for those six month renewable free subscriptions. Existing donors are, in effect, supporting a kind of intellectual missionary organization. Except for the newsletters sent to ministers and teachers, we "clean" the mailing lists each year: less waste.
The ICE runs very, very lean. We dare not waste donors' money. Our paid staff: a full-time manager, part-time shipping clerk, and a part-time computer operator. As president of ICE, I have never taken a salary, although over half my work week is donated to ICE projects. We pay those who write for the ICE, except for me. Our goal is to remain good stewards of donors' funds.
We cannot expect to raise money by emotional appeals. We have
no photographs of starving children, no orphanages in Asia. We
generate ideas. There is always a very limited market for ideas,
which is why some of them have to be subsidized by people who
understand the power of ideas - a limited group, to be sure.
John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of this century
(which speaks poorly of this century), spoke the truth in the
final paragraph of his General Theory of Employment, Interest,
and Money (1936):
. . . the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
Do you believe this? If so, then the program of long-term education which the ICE has created should be of considerable interest to you. What we need are people with a vested interest in ideas, a commitment to principle rather than class position.
There will be few short-term, visible successes for the ICE's program. There will be new and interesting books. There will be a constant stream of newsletters. There will educational audio and video tapes. But the world is not likely to beat a path to ICE's door, as long as today's policies of high taxes and statism have not yet produced a catastrophe. We are investing in the future, for the far side of humanism's economic failure. This is a long-term investment in intellectual capital.
Contact us at: ICE, Box 8000, Tyler, TX 75711.