Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2: The Gospels as a Source of Christian Ethics - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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2: The Gospels as a Source of Christian Ethics - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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The Gospels as a Source of Christian Ethics
To the believer Holy Writ is the deposit of divine revelation, God’s word to humanity, which must forever be the unshakable foundation of all religion and all conduct controlled by it. This is true not only of the Protestant, who accepts the teaching of the pulpit only in so far as it can be reconciled with Holy Writ; it is true also of the Catholics who, on the one hand, derive the authority of Holy Writ from the Church, but, on the other, ascribe Holy Writ itself to divine origin by teaching that it came into being with the help of the Holy Ghost. The dualism here is resolved by entitling the Church alone to make what is the finally authentic—infallible—interpretation of Holy Writ. Both creeds assume the logical and systematic unity of the whole of the sacred writings; to bridge over the difficulties arising from this assumption must, therefore, be one of the most important tasks of ecclesiastical doctrine and science.
Scientific research regards the writings of the Old and New Testament as historical sources to be approached in the same manner as all other historical documents. It breaks up the unity of the Bible and tries to give each section its place in the history of literature. Now, modern biblical research of this order is incompatible with theology. The Catholic Church has recognized this fact but the Protestant Church still tries to delude itself. It is senseless to reconstruct the character of an historical Jesus in order to build up a doctrine of faith and morals on the results. Efforts of this kind hamper documentary research of a scientific kind by deflecting it from its real aim and assigning to it tasks which it cannot fulfill without introducing modern scales of value; moreover they are contradictory in themselves. On the one hand they try to explain Christ and the origin of Christianity historically; on the other, to regard these historical phenomena as the eternal source from which spring all the rules of ecclesiastical conduct, even in the totally different world of today. What is it but a contradiction to examine Christianity with the eye of a historian and then to seek a clue to the present in the results of the study. History can never present Christianity in its “pure form,” but only in its “original form.” To confuse the two is to shut one’s eyes to two thousand years of development.20 The error into which many Protestant theologians fall in this matter is the same as that committed by a section of the historical school of law when it attempted to impose the results of its researches into the history of jurisprudence upon present-day legislation and administration of justice. This is not the procedure of the true historian but rather of one who denies all evolution and all possibility of evolution. Contrasted with the absolutism of this point of view, the absolutism of the much condemned “shallow” eighteenth-century rationalists, who stressed precisely this element of progress and evolution, seems genuinely historical in its outlook.
The relation of Christian ethics to the problem of Socialism must not therefore be viewed through the eyes of Protestant theologians whose research is directed towards an unchangeable and immovable “essence” of Christianity. If one looks on Christianity as a living, and hence a constantly changing, phenomenon—a view not so incompatible with the outlook of the Catholic Church as one might at first imagine—then one must decline a priori to inquire whether Socialism or private property is more in keeping with its idea. The best we can do is to pass the history of Christianity in review and consider whether it has ever shown a bias in favour of this or that form of social organization. The attention we pay to the writings of the Old and New Testament in the process is justified by their importance even today as sources of ecclesiastical doctrine, but not by the supposition that from them alone can one glean what Christianity really is.
The ultimate aim of research of this kind should be to ascertain whether, both now and in the future, Christianity must necessarily reject an economy based on private property in the means of production. This question cannot be settled merely by establishing the fact, already familiar, that ever since its inception close on two thousand years ago Christianity has found its own ways of coming to terms with private property. For it might happen that either Christianity or “private property” should reach a point in its evolution Which renders the compatibility of the two impossible—supposing that it had ever existed.
[20. ]Troeltsch, Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. II (Tübingen, 1913), pp. 386 ff.