Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Kingdom, Government and Greed

From the American Spectator consider this excerpt on the presence of the Religious Left at OWS:
This call towards utopia, enshrouded simultaneously in grievance, entitlement, idealism, and youthful naiveté, has understandably seduced old-style street activists like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, or even Brian McLaren of the emergent church movement. "When they stand with the poor, they stand with Jesus," Wallis has pronounced, even before himself visiting the Occupation, which doubtless only amplified his excited nostalgia. "'The occupation of God has begun'" might inspire the same fear and hope among people today as 'the Kingdom of God is at hand' inspired in the first century," gushed McLaren, after attending his own local Occupation protest. 
Representing a newer generation of Evangelical liberal is Shane Claiborne, a winsome young white man who typically sports dreadlocks, a bandana, and a rustic smock, while proclaiming good news for the poor to attentive middle class evangelical students. "In a world where 1 percent of the world owns half the world's stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone's need, but there is not enough for everyone's greed," he recently insisted. "Lots of folks are beginning to say, 'Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.'" 
The dubious statistic about the wicked "1 percent" aside, Claiborne speaks some truth. But he and the other religious enthusiasts for Wall Street aren't calling for individuals to shed their wealth for God's Kingdom. Of course, they primarily want an all powerful state to seize and redistribute wealth according to some imagined just formula, after which the lion will lie peaceably with the lamb. It's a utopian dream, not based on the Gospels, always monstrous when attempted, and premised more on resentment than godly generosity. But it's a message that will always have an audience in a covetous world. (emphasis mine)
...

While I'm no fan of the politico-theological agenda of the Religious Right, this has been precisely the point of criticism that needs to be made about the so-called Evangelical Left (e.g. Jim Wallis, et al). {an example of a start may be here} It is not that they have NO kingdom ethic (a la some radical dispensationalists). Rather it is that they are not thoroughgoing enough in their kingdom ethic. They only apply their kingdom ethic to half the problem and are rather naive in using Caesar to accomplish kingdom ends.

Rather than allowing the kingdom ethic to be subversive and challenge BOTH the greedy economic swindlers and Caesar power-strength ethic, they are quite willing to use and even empower the later to enforce the kingdom ethic on the former. Certainly we should all pay taxes, regardless of if we think the rates to high or too low--citizens of God's kingdom submit to the earth's kings (Romans 13). However, while kingdom ethics are to be concerned with the poor and the downtrodden--kingdom ethics are equally concerned with liberty and the kingly-priesthood imparted to all Adam's descendants (albeit only finding his redemption and telos in Christ).

Ending economic oppression while increasing and centralizing the power of Ceasar is a bit like engorging a leashed dragon to help you fight another dragon. In the end once he's hungry again who thinks he'll stay on his leash? Redistributional ethics as a means of social justice practiced by a secular rule are hardly "kingdom" ethics, nor do they effect the kingdom (it is another argument whether or not secular authorities should engage in them). I would argue it is more CREATIONAL to expand the economic pie of human endeavor and in these ways seek to lift up the powerless and enabling aspects of the the image bearing function even amongst the fallen. Short of the full realization of the kingdom, power is best when decentralized and dispersed rather than concentrated--this curtails a reality of the fall: greed takes all forms in all kinds of people. The citizens of the kingdom have liberty and power when they bring challenge to Caesar through self-sacrifice rather than organizing to strengthen Caesars hand assuming he will in the end be truly benevolent.

Indulging Caesar's megalomania to fight Laodicean opulence is hardly "kingdom" minded.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Don't Forget How Blessed You Are

This past Sunday I was talking about God's blessing in causing us to see the Gospel. One of my illustrations was the Occupy Wall Street Movement. This is what I said:

Right now we can look at the protests going on and while corporate greed is a problem--look at how greedy and selfish the protestors are. Even in America the poor have more riches than most.  
Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; (Heritage Foundation) 
Seventythree percent of poor households in America own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher. 
Only 9% of the poor in America sometimes go without food. 
Worldwide:
925 million people are undernourished. (2010 Estimate; UN Food and Agriculture Org.)
32% of children in developing countries go malnourished. Averaging about 160 days of illness a year per child. 
As of 2008 (2005 statistics), the World Bank has estimated that there were an estimated 1,345 million poor people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or less. 
The point is this: how selfish we look by comparison. People are complaining about college debt they willingly took on, when poor people around the world live on less than $1.25 a day. But our point isn’t about economics. It is that inside the church--we often do not realized how blessed we are.
Here is another article entitled "We are Just Crybabies in the West" that makes similar points. Here are some excerpts:


“We are the 99 per cent,” the protesters chant, eyes aflame with reformist zeal. It’s a compelling slogan, well-suited to the times and to the social-media soup in which we are increasingly immersed. 
The wrinkle: It’s not true. North America and Europe, geographic epicentres of the Occupy Wall Street movement, are the fattest of fat cats, globally speaking. For any North American, least of all a Canadian, to claim economic kinship with the globally disadvantaged is silly. Mention that to an Indian. Mention it to a Chinese. Cry me a river, will be the likely response. Followed by a wry chuckle, or perhaps an expletive... 
Drilling in, the numbers are striking. For example: North America accounts for only 6.1 per cent of the world’s adult population. But North Americans (again, as of the year 2000) held 34.4 per cent of the world’s household wealth. Europeans, with a much larger share of population, 14.9 per cent, held 29.6 per cent of the wealth. And rich Asia-Pacific nations, just five per cent of the global population, accounted for 24.1 per cent of household wealth... 
The irony? The financial districts of Beijing, Mumbai and Nairobi, last time I checked, aren’t teeming with people yearning for the downfall of capitalism. Indeed, an attempt to launch Occupy Mumbai this week fizzled and died. That’s because, to most Indians, capitalism means investment and the possibility of a better job.
In an era of debt retrenchment, Canadians have good reason to fear declining living standards — but only compared to ourselves, and only in the context of a golden age of prosperity, perhaps just now waning, unlike anything the world has ever seen.

The reality is virtually all the opportunities that you and I have to have a decent life, all of the medicines, all of the technology and food on the table has come from our views of human liberty which is coupled to our views on capitalism. Are there problems in America right now? Sure. But they pale in comparison to what individuals and families struggle with around the world.

Even more, it is not the overthrow of capitalism that is the solution. As Jay Richards has argued capitalism is the solution not the problem. If we took serious a view of human liberty we would recognize that when people are allowed to be free they are allowed to work and determine for themselves what flourishing looks like. This view of human liberty logically carried out brings about what has become known as a capitalist system of economics. Reductions in human liberty tend to lead to the corruption of a thriving economy not stabilization as history has shown. What Winston Churchill said of democracy as a form of government we might say of capitalism as system of human interaction and economics, 'its the worst system there is except for all the others that have been tried.'

At the end of the day, we have more that we have been blessed by common grace in this realm then we have been cursed by man's greed and perversion of economic interaction.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#OccupyFerenginar



Calvin and Servetus

Lots of people know that Servetus was killed in Geneva for heresy during the days of John Calvin. Most times this issue is raised in an attempt to malign Calvin and further impugn the doctrines of Calvinism. Few people take the time to understand the historical truths surrounding the event. The issue is not often placed within the historical context. For example, the Roman Catholics wanted to condemn Servetus just as much for his heresies. Servetus had been warned not to come to Geneva. 

While we should not minimize the issue of Servetus being put to death. It is not the conspiracy that it is often made out to be. While Geneva as a whole and Calvin specifically were involved--it is not nearly as damn to Calvin's character or his theology has it is trumped up to be.

This week I found this post with 7 points of historical detail. You can find other good writings on this incident but one thing that I had not considered before was the actual pastoral care that Calvin showed. Consider the following:
4. Nearly two decades earlier, Servetus asked Calvin to leave the safety of Geneva to discuss their differences. Though Calvin was wanted by the authorities in the area in which they were to meet, he went at the risk of his own life to reconcile Servetus to the truth of the gospel. Servetus never showed. 
5. Calvin corresponded with Servetus before and during his imprisonment, imploring him to recant. One letter read, “I neither hate you nor despise you; nor do I wish to persecute you; but I would be as hard as iron when I behold you insulting sound doctrine with so great audacity.” Reflecting later, Calvin wrote, “I reminded him gently how I had risked my life more than sixteen years before to gain him for our saviour. I would faithfully do my best to reconcile him to all good servants of God. Although he had avoided the contest I had never ceased to remonstrate kindly with him in letters. In a word, I had used all humanity to the very end, until he being embittered by my good advice hurled all manner of rage and anger against me.” 
6. Calvin visited Servetus in prison and prayed with and for him. J.I. Packer stated, “Calvin, for the record, showed more pastoral concern for Servetus than anyone else connected with the episode.”

Hardly the actions of a hell-beant murder that Calvin is often maligned as.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pastors: Show your Work

Jim Hamilton has a helpful little essay on his blog arguing that good preaching should "show your work." By this he means that you don't just tell people how to apply the text, you show them how you know it says what it says and how you reach the conclusions and applications you did.

He writes:

What’s wrong with preaching where the work isn’t shown? 
It’s too easy for preachers who don’t show their work to make assertions that the text of Scripture does not make, and this is complicated when they make applications from their own assertions. If you can’t show it to me from the Scriptures, it does not carry the authority of the word of God. In such a case, it is not the word of God that is being preached. 
As I listen to preaching, I want to hear what the Bible teaches. I want the preacher to prove to me that what he’s claiming is what the Bible teaches. I want him to show me enough of his work to earn my trust, I want his applications to come from what the Bible actually teaches, and I would like to go away with a better understanding of the passage that has been preached.

I concur wholeheartedly that good preaching should show its work. This has always been my philosophy (theology really) of preaching. I have seen it modeled. I have seen its impact in church life and in my personal life. Granted preaching isn't a lecture but if preaching doesn't declare "this is what God's Word says" and at the same time show people that it clearly says that, the preaching can either (a) be hollow or (b) create a situation where people trust the preacher not the Word of God.

In response I left this comment over on Hamilton's blog:

We want our listeners to be able to be good Bereans to see if what we have said is in the word and how we know that it is in the word. 
Good expository preaching doesn’t just tell people what the application is from a particular text but it models for people. It shows them how to see this is what the Word says and this is how it applies. 
The pastor who mentored me has had a long term ministry of 25+ years in his church. When I went there fresh out of Bible college and seminary I found people in that church with no formal degree who were often better at studying the Bible, interpreting it and applying it than some of the people with whom I had graduated. It has always been a testimony to me of the powerful effects of “showing your work” in the pulpit.

Read Jim Hamilton's essay here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jesus, Parables and Marketing

In his book Marketing the Church, George Barna the go-to-guy for statistics about the state of Christianity in America, writes “The parable of the sown seeds (Matthew 13) portrays marketing the faith as a process in which there are hot prospects and not-so-hot prospects and shows how we should gear our efforts toward greatest productivity" (p.31). He suggests this is the essence of ‘target marketing’ despite the obvious fact the seed goes out all not a marketing focus group. The sower in the parable indiscriminately sows the seed. 

“Marketing cannot occur without clear and meaningful communication...Companies that have not developed means of conveying their message with clarity are rarely successful. Jesus was a communications specialist. He communicated His message in diverse ways, and with results, that would be a credit to modern advertising and marketing agencies” (p.32).

How many marketing specialist do you know that put out commercial designed to hide what they are selling? How many ad campaigns do companies design for the purpose of turning more people away then it attracts? Imagine a car commercial that kept people from seeing the usefulness or benefits of the car--otherwise they might buy the car.

Jesus was emphatically not a marketing specialist. Yes, he could talk directly to Niccodemus and the women at the well and expose their great need of the gospel. But when it came to the public crowds, Jesus does the exact opposite. 

Jesus’ public ministry calls people to repent--it hits the reality of sin--often not very attractive to the sinner, just ask the Pharisees. Jesus’ whole ministry is designed to show us that only God gives us the ability to turn to God.

“Companies that have not developed means of conveying their message with clarity are rarely successful.” Jesus actually uses parables to keep the message from being clear to all but a few.


Matthew 13:10-13 ESV: Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

Mark 4:10-12 ESV: And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”



Thursday, October 13, 2011

2 Economic Freedom Videos Worth Watching

There is a relationship between political freedom, economic freedom, personal liberty and societal flourishing. The more you have the the first three, the more you will have of the last one. Here are two videos on economic freedom worth the five minutes they take to watch.





If I post much more of this stuff, I'll have to turn my blog into an economics blog.

(HT: @Frank_Turk)

A Review of a Review

I have always said "What I like about N.T. Wright, I can find in Reformed theology" this is especially true when it comes to the emphasis on Biblical theology, historia salutis and the need to read the NT in light of redemptive history. This was strongly emphasized in my Westminster Theological Seminary education and the required reading.

So I was delighted to read Michael Horton's review of Scot McKnight's new book.


I have yet to purchase and read McKnight's book--and I am interested in reading it. However I find the review by Michael Horton to be quite commendable. 

Sadly I think too many on the Reformed side dismiss N.T. Wright and McKnight where we can share common concerns and emphasis about historia salutis. This is not to deny valid and important differences. For example, N.T. Wright's view on justification by faith and imputation of righteousness. Even if you argue he gets to something similar via union with Christ, this is still not Reformed theology (even with RT's strong impact of union with Christ). Important difference--yet this is not to deny some important areas of similarity where the arguments can overlap--for example the role of Adam and Israel's story for redemptive history. Horton's review, I think, brings some of these overlaps and commonalities to the forefront. While the 'two sides' disagree, we can and should be intellectually honest and charitable about areas of similarities. 

Perhaps in some there is a fear if we find too much agreement and commendation we won't strongly disagree on areas of genuine disagreement. To put it bluntly if we agree too much for some we've compromised genuine disagreements over justification by faith and its relationship within 'the gospel'. No small disagreement but not one that necessarily polarizes us on every other issue. We don't have to have absolute polarizations like a Democrat and a Republican disagreeing in principle just because the other said it. Again for example, Reformed theology has a strong first Adam/Second Adam emphasis--and even the role of Israel in vice regency.

On the non-Reformed side however, I also think too many who view Wright & McKnight favorably miss that many of their strengths have long found a home in the Reformed movement prior to their work. Reacting against the popular evangelicalism of one's youth is not the same as reacting against the rich history of Reformed theology. Sadly too many assume that one is the other. While McKnight & Wright don't have to major on the Reformational heritage (as Horton's review points out), their consistent caricatures are shaming, particularly in light of the Biblical Theology/ historia salutis emphasis the Reformed have maintained via Vos, Ridderbos & Gaffin. Reformed theology often shares a common critique w/ McKnight & Wright against popular evangelicalism.

I guess for me, Horton's review puts pen to paper on a number of ways I have viewed the differences and commonalities between Reformed Theology with its Biblical Theology and the Biblical Theology and cultural critiques of scholars like McKnight and Wright. It my own reading and thinking I have tried to learn from both streams of academia even if I have clear leanings and favorings towards one.

Despite important differences and needed clarifications there is far too much talking past each other. Horton's review, to me, demonstrates a saner approach. His 4 volumes on systematic theology shows he can address current issues and allow Reformed theology to speak to them without parroting the past. I have appreciate Horton's work and how he consistently labor to engage those with whom he has strong disagreements. It seems to me a model of how Reformed theologians can operate in big tent Christianity without losing their distinctive.

Horton's review makes me "bump up" McKnight's book on my reading wishlist.
Read Horton's lengthy review.

Ben Witherington on Taxes & Economics

Ben Witherington is a brilliant New Testament scholar. I love his work. I have read and profited from a number of his works. I don't always agree, but I am always challenged. And I would venture a guess that most times the weight of scholarship is on his side.

However, I am becoming more and more convinced that pastors and theologians should not weigh in much on economics, taxes and politics. The more a read when theologians jump into the political and economic fray (particularly the latter) the more I think it is wise not too.* Two of the few exceptions are Michael Novak's work for example his The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism or Jay Richards' Money, Greed and God.  We often don't know what we are talking about the way we do in our own field. (I guess I should not break my own conviction here, but I will). 

In my estimation Ben Witherington's recent post of Elizabeth Warren jumps the shark. He writes for example:

Frankly there are two things needed for that to happen: 1) of course we need to be fiscally responsible, and 2) no matter what, we need to RAISE TAXES.  Yes you heard me, raise taxes.  We need to all pay our fair share for living in the country we do, with the lowest tax rate in any industrialized Western democracy.  Sooooooo, it’s time to stop whining about taxes.    Do we need to reform the tax code so the wealthy pay their fair share—– you bet we do.  Do we need to reform the tax code to eliminate ridiculous loop holes?  Of course we do.  Should major corporations have to pay their fair share of taxes?  Of course they should.   Are there some people paying a disproportionate amount in taxes—- yes there are (see Warren Buffet’s point about himself and his secretary).
It is interesting that one of the things that both Jesus and Paul insist on is——- paying your taxes!    I’m just sayin’ –do your civic duty and stop whining. The fact that the tax code is not perfect is no excuse for screaming for lower taxes—- fix the code, and make sure everyone, including major corporations pays their fair share.   Enough said. 


Here's my response (I've added links which I didn't put in the post in his comments section):


Dear Ben Witherinton,

You are an excellent Biblical scholar and I have tremendous respect for you. I have benefited from many of your published writings. However, on taxes and economic policies, this short blog post without actually discussing numbers and rates in effect “jumps the shark.” I think a fair examination of the facts leads to an alternative conclusion. Let me highlight a few points of response.

First, Elizabeth Warren is deconstructing arguments that no one--not even the Tea Party is making. There have been so many responses to this already. Two problems in short order are (1) Warren assumes corporations aren’t paying enough already and (2) Warren assumes that corporations contribute little or nothing back in terms of societal benefits. This false to consider the jobs they provide and the skills and education that often give directly to workers. In effect, she assume corporations don’t pay it forward, when indeed they already do. This is Adam Smith 101, that even though they may not intentionally do good, the aggregate effects are that they do pay it forward in multiple ways. 

Second, show me any person in this country that does not pay for police, fire and roads? Warren and others debunk a straw man. Even a company that owns its property where its factories and warehouse reside pays for these services. In fact, local regulations often require a company putting in a new facility to upgrade local roads. Antidotal evidence, up the road from my house a Lowe’s is building a large facility. They have had to pay for re-pavement and widening of two major intersections nearby. This is true of the nearby WalMart distribution center as well.

Third, our corporate tax rate is actually one of the highest in the world. In 2005 it was near 40%. Only Japan was higher. The effective U.S. corporate tax on new investment was 34.6% in 2010. In 2010 only Argentina, Chad, Brazil and Uzbekistan were higher. Yes some corporations exploit loopholes which are unjust when not comprehensively offered. The tax code needs to be reformed but corporate taxes need to be reduced because it results in unfair double taxation (money is tax 1st in the corporation’s earnings, and again in the individual earnings received out of what the business made). However, we will not continue to attract corporations or retain them given increased regulatory burden and our high corporate tax rate in comparison to the rest of the world (including the 1st world).

Corporate tax rate:

Fourth, I don’t think Warren Buffet is a fair example of someone genuinely thinking his tax rate is unfair. His own investment has been delinquent for several years on the current taxes that they owe. So if he really wants to pay more taxes perhaps he should have is company pay the ones it currently owes. Buffet own statements have been debunked again and again. In fact a few years ago buffet claimed that his his secretary making $60,000 was charged a 30% tax rate. One IRS tax chart would simply dissolve this perpetual misrepresentations by Warren.


Take note that Buffet probably profits more from the taxes he supports:

Although see here for an analysis that favors Buffet's statement a bit more:


Fifth, what exactly is the “fair share” the wealthy owe? The top 1% of wages earners already pay 38% of the income taxes while they make only 20% of all the income. The top 10% of wages earners shoulder 70% of the income tax burden while making only 46% of the income. How is that not more than “fair”? In fact, it is more than fair by any reasonable definition. This is not necessarily an argument against reducing their taxes but it is at least an argument against raising their taxes claiming that they “don’t pay their fair share.” 

(addendum: The bottom 50% of wage earners pay 2.7% of the taxes while making 13% of the income)


Sixth the problem isn’t a revenue problem, it is a spending problem. This is true according the CBO’s own analysis. Average federal spending from 1950-2000 was 19.8% of GDP. During that time tax revenue averaged 18% of GDP. Projected tax revenues by the CBO between 2016 and 2021 will be 18.2% of GDP (even assuming the Bush tax cuts are made permanent). However federal spending levels are projected by the CBO at 23.8% of GDP far higher than historic averages. This examination of long term trends clearly demonstrates that it is not as if suddenly taxes are too low. Federal spending has markedly increased beyond historic levels (and these budgetary figures do not include items like social security).

Dan Mitchell summarizes the CBO numbers here:

If you are suspicious (because of his libertarian beliefs--everybody should check their presuppositions) check the CBO numbers yourself in the data:

I agree that it is our civic duty to pay taxes. Even the Tea Party is arguing for this. However the issue is fiscal restraint. It is also our civic duty (an option the first century did not have) to hold our government accountable through fair elections. Of course the tax code is not perfect. This is why Paul Ryan and most Tea Party folks are in favor of closing loopholes. Here they agree with Demoncrat’s policy statement (N.B. Democrats are just as guilty of corporate favoritism as Republicans are accused of being). 

However an honest approach to the numbers demonstrates that tax rates are unbalanced and extremely high already. When the largest wages earners (individuals and corporations) are already paying the largest percentages of our taxes it is irresponsible to balk about their need to be “paying their fair share.” Given the percentages they already pay it is reasonable to ask what indeed is a fair share?

Respectfully,
Tim B

...
I realize that most of my numbers come from Libertarians, especially CATO. However, from them you can track down the actual data--this was the short information that I had access to this morning. Most of the links documented above cite or link to original data that can be digested.

I in no way tend to be exhaustive here. Nor do I claim to be an expert on politics or economics. I am a amateur at best. However, I stand by what I have written.

At best, if you are going to use the concept "fair share" you should lay out numbers and argue for what a fair share is. It is a moral argument--one that not many advocates actually make. It has become an emotional appeal rather than a rational argument. Everybody in principle wants taxes to be fair--but very few are arguing what fair should look like.

Let me reiterate my tremendous respect for Ben Witherington. He is one of the best New Testament scholars of our day. His blog post on economics and politics... well not so much.

*This isn't to imply that these things can't be discussed, or people are idiots when they speak outside their field. Ben Witherington is obviously highly intelligent. I only mean people are more at home in their area of expertise. It opens up the potential of more vulnerability to an argument or opinion. Occasionally pastors make basic blunders because they aren't aware of the range of the field of knowledge and theories on a particular topic outside their area. I know as a pastor people often ask me questions about areas I am not conversant in and the danger is to weigh in on everything when I should just be more cautious because it is not my main passion or area of devoted study. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

J.C. Ryle on the Parable of the Sower

Here is the J.C. Ryle's conclusion to the parable of the sower:
In the last place, let us learn from this parable, that there is only one evidence of hearing the word rightly. That evidence is to bear fruit. 
The fruit here spoken of is the fruit of the Spirit. Repentance towards God, faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ, holiness of life and character, prayerfulness, humility, charity, spiritual-mindedness--these are the only satisfactory proofs that the seed of God's word is doing its proper work in our souls. Without such proofs, our religion is vain, however high our profession. It is no better than sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Christ has said, "I have chosen you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit." (John 15:16.) 
There is no part of the whole parable more important than this. We must never be content with a barren orthodoxy, and a cold maintenance of correct theological views. We must not be satisfied with clear knowledge, warm feelings, and a decent profession. We must see to it that the Gospel we profess to love, produces positive "fruit" in our hearts and lives. This is real Christianity. Those words of James should often ring in our ears, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves." (James 1:22.) 
Let us not leave these verses without putting to ourselves the important question, "How do WE hear?" We live in a Christian country. We go to a place of worship Sunday after Sunday, and hear sermons. In what spirit do we hear them? What effect have they upon our characters? Can we point to anything that deserves the name of "fruit?" 
We may rest assured that to reach heaven at last, it needs something more than to go to Church regularly on Sundays, and listen to preachers. The word of God must be received into our hearts, and become the mainspring of our conduct. It must produce practical impressions on our inward man, that shall appear in our outward behavior. If it does not do this, it will only add to our condemnation in the day of judgment.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Jesus' Parables as Economic Policy

One reason Jesus' parables are not designed to teach us about economic policy:

Matthew 13:12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Ironically I can't find an "explaining [of] the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning" for this one. But then, silly me, if we pay attention to original intent we don't have to worry about such things.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Love a local church

One of the biggest problems of American evangelicalism is that we think we can love "the church" without actually doing the hard work of sacrificially loving the local church--binding ourselves to her, serving her, and staying put within her walls through the hard times for the sake of those "difficult" saints that gather as her expression.

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...