An Exchange: My Correspondence With Milton Friedman About God, Economics, Evolution And “Values”
By John Lofton, Editor
The death of conservative economist Milton Friedman reminded me of an exchange of correspondence I had with him many years ago and an article I wrote about this exchange. Here’s what I wrote:
DR. FRIEDMAN an evolutionist with ‘values’ of unknown origin but he said they were not ‘accidental.’
One of the saddest things to see is a truly brilliant individual, with a keen intellect, but who does not believe in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Bible. A case in point: Dr. Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning, libertarian, free market economist. In a letter-to-the-editor to the “Wall Street Journal” (10/30/92), Dr. Friedman made the point that he is a “radical,” get-to-the-root-of-the-problem kind of guy. So, although I knew, generally, what his answer would be, but not exactly, I wrote Dr. Friedman, at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, and asked him:
Do you believe in God? And what, if anything, does God have to do with economics? He replied, in a handwritten note on my original letter:
“I am an agnostic. I do not ‘believe in’ God, but I am not an atheist, because I believe the statement, ‘There is a god’ does not admit of being either confirmed or rejected. I do not believe God has anything to do with economics. But values do.”
Okay. So, I write Dr. Friedman again, thank him for his prompt response, and ask: What is the distinction you make between ‘agnosticism’ and ‘atheism?” And where do these ‘values’ you say you believe in come from? Again, Dr. Friedman writes back, quickly:
“(1) Agnosticism ‘I do not know.’ (2) Atheism ‘I know that there is no god.’ (3) I do not know where my values come from, but that does not mean (a) I don’t have them, (b) I don’t hold them as strongly as you hold your belief in God. (c) They turn out — not accidentally, I believe — to be very much like these held by most other people whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, or abstract. (d) Which leads me to believe that they are a product of the same evolutionary process that accounts for the rest of our customs as well as physical characterizations.”
Well, now. One must give Dr. Friedman an A+ for candor. But let’s test what he says by the Bible, the inerrant, infallible Word of God. For openers, there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as an “agnostic,” or an “atheist,” for that matter. St. Paul, in the first chapter of Romans makes it clear that all men know God. indeed, in the book of James (chapter 2, verse 19) we are told that even the devils “also believe” in God, and they “tremble.” But, back to St. Paul, In Romans 1:18ff, he tells us:
“For the wrath of God is revealed against from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (emphasis mine).
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools….Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
So, to repeat: St. Paul makes it crystal clear here that all men know there is a God, because God has made this fact known to them. This is why all men are without excuse who say either (A) There is no God. Or (B) I cannot know, it cannot be known, if there is a God. Thus, “agnosticism” and/or “atheism” are precisely the kinds of “vain imaginings” St. Paul is talking about. And Dr. Friedman, alas, is very wrong when he says that whether there is or is not a God is not something that can be confirmed or rejected. This most certainly can be confirmed. Indeed, God, through St. Paul, has already confirmed this and told us why. Thus saith the Lord. And He knows because He made everything that is made, including Dr. Friedman.
So, one more time, at the risk of belaboring the point, because it is so crucial: Forget the option of being an “agnostic” or “atheist” because God says there is no such thing! And anyone who thinks there is such an option is deluding himself with one of these “vain imaginings” St. Paul is denouncing. You either believe in the one, true God, and worship Him. Or you believe, in the sense of intellectual assent only, in the one, true God, and you do not worship Him. There is no one — never has been, ever — who does not fit into one of these two categories, the only two categories there are.
And notice, please, how Dr. Friedman’s professed unbelief leads him, immediately, into an admitted blind alley, where he’s speaking gibberish fluently. He says, candidly, that he has no idea where his values come from but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them. He insists this doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in his values as strongly as I believe in God. And then, contradicting himself, he tells me he does know where his values come from! He says — begging the question of origins — that his values are very much like those held by others. Then he (more “vain imaginings”) lists a number of religious groups, and philosophical beliefs, whose “values” are not the same! And then he gives us his creed, his “belief’: That all these “values,” which are not alike, are the product of some “evolutionary process” but not by “accident.”
See what St. Paul is talking about? Starting out by saying that he doesn’t really know if there is a God — in fact denying that this can be known — Dr. Friedman, quickly, professes himself to be wise, and reveals that he does believe in a god, some non-accidental “evolutionary process.” His foolish heart darkened, the unthankful Dr. Friedman, denying God and His Truth, actually wants us to believe that “evolution” produces “values.” In other words, he believes, as St. Paul puts it, “a lie.” And “evolution” is one of the biggest lies around today. There is no more absurd notion current today than that things just happen.
We must pray that Dr. Milton Friedman repents of his sinful thinking, changes his mind and worships the real God, Jesus Christ, instead of the creature (himself) and his own thinking.
Note from webmaster of Jesus-is-Savior:
It is tragic that such a great man (i.e., in the eye's of the world), who enjoyed so much recognition and honor, would die in his sins without Jesus Christ. Milton Friedman died November 16th, 2006. As I read Mr. Friedman's words, it reminded me of several foolish people whom I have personally witnessed to in my lifetime, who made light of the Gospel, jested about eternal consequences, and showed little or no regard for the Scriptures. They acted as if they could have cared less about their soul, and truthfully, they didn't. Milton Friedman could analyze and discern economics, but he rejected the Gospel, and went to Hell (2nd Thessalonians 1:8). How could such a man be so wise when it came to world economics, but so foolish when it came to eternity? Oh listen friend, nothing will matter 100 years from now except whether you died in the Lord (Revelation 14:13), or in your sins (John 8:24).