Archive for August, 2009

Obamacare Part 1

If you’ve watched the news over the past few weeks, no doubt you’ve seen numerous video clips of angry people shouting down their congressmen at townhall meetings.  From all the uproar, it’s clear that people take health care to heart in a way they do few other things.  Wall Street can steal obscene amounts of money from taxpayers, and for the most part people take it with a few murmurs of discontent.  But let the federal government try to expand its role in health care, and townhall meetings are filled to bursting with angry protesters.  

Several commentators on the liberal side have put forth the notion that the protests are motivated by latent racism, but there’s no evidence for this.   Some on the conservative side view the uproar as evidence that the principles of limited government are gaining popularity.  But I’m skeptical of this as well.  As one who loves liberty, I have to say it’s nice to see arrogant public “servants” getting an earful from the folks back home.  And the Obama administration’s whining about organized protests is hilariously ironic, considering that Obama himself was a community organizer back in the day.  But while watching the protest scene unfold, I also detect an underlying problem.  For all their anger at Obama’s health care proposal, the protesters don’t seem to have any consistent philosophy of liberty to support their opposition to the latest federal government power grab.   Generally speaking people are upset not that the government is getting involved in health care, but rather that it is getting more deeply involved than in the past.  Perhaps some don’t even realize that our healthcare system is, far from being a bastion of free market economics, already heavily socialized.    

In any debate, the more logically consistent party has the advantage and tends to prevail.  By calling for greater socialization of health care, Obama and his supporters are consistently applying their socialist principles, whereas those who oppose Obamacare have failed to clearly state why the government should not play doctor.  Unless those what advocate liberty make philosophically sound, non-contradictory arguments against further government intrusion into the health care industry, I think it likely that the proponents of medical socialism will prevail and some form of Obama’s plan will pass. 

This raises the question, where do supporters of liberty find such arguments?  Some may invoke natural law, believing that liberty can be defended by the study of nature.  But, as the Marquis de Sade demonstrated, nature can be called upon to defend things other than freedom.  Others prefer arguments from tradition.  “We’ve never done this before,” is their mantra.  Common sense persuades many.  “Everyone knows this is a bad idea,” they say.  “Government health care doesn’t work,” is the claim of the pragmatists, who seek “results” however that word is defined.   While all of these methods are frequently tried, none is adequate for defending liberty in health care, or, for that matter, in society generally. 

A wiser head may argue that control over healthcare is not one of the enumerated powers of the Federal Government in the US Constitution; therefore, since nationalized health care is unconstitutional, it should be rejected.  This is a valid argument, and at one time it would have ended the dispute.  For that matter, it likely would have prevented the dispute from arising in the first place.  But Americans long ago rejected the Constitution as the touchstone for judging the worth of legislative proposals.  The rejection of the Constitution as the nation’s supreme law followed hard upon, and was caused by, the rejection of biblical Christianity in the nation’s churches.   This should not be surprising, for the idea of a limited government of enumerated powers was a product of the Protestant Reformation.  When the American people rejected Christianity, the constitutional superstructure erected upon it inevitably began to crumble.  

Therefore, although it’s true that a federal takeover of the nation’s health care industry is unconsitutional, pointing this out is not enough to win the argument.  If we are to have freedom in healthcare, people must first be convinced that this is the ethical position.  For that to take place, we must demonstrate this by sound arguments.  And the only place to find those arguments is God’s revealed word: the Bible.   Now some may protest that the Bible has nothing to say about medical care or the government’s role in society.  But recall what the apostle Paul said to Timothy,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim.3:16).

If every good work includes politics and providing medical care, and it does, then Scripture has much to teach us on these subjects.  What does it say?

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In the winter of 2001 a friend gave me a book on justification titled The Everlasting Righteousness by Horatius Bonar.  Being relatively new to reformed theology, I was eager to read about the doctrine on which the church stands or falls.  I started reading at the Foreword, and immediately found myself riveted by the stirring introduction.  Here’s what I read,

  It has been nearly 2,000 years since the apostle Paul wrote his letters explaining the gospel of justification by faith alone to the churches in Asia and Europe, and the light of the Gospel shone brilliantly in the spiritual, intellectual, and moral darkness of ancient Rome.  But Antichrist, already at work in the first century, soon sat in the temple of God, expelling and persecuting the saints and suppressing the Gospel of Christ for a millennium.  His dominion ended when God raised another witness to his truth in the sixteenth century.

It has been nearly 500 years since Martin Luther recovered the Gospel in Europe.  Once again, in the sixteenth century, the light of justification by faith alone dispelled the spiritual, intellectual, and moral darkness of medieval Rome.  The resulting civilization owed its salient features to the Gospel of Jesus Christ – to the first Christians and the Reformers – but for the past century the proclamation of that Gospel – and civilization – has been waning…

Clarity, brevity and power were the hallmarks of this writer, who in three brief pages did more to explode false gospels and proclaim the true one than many authors could do in thiry.  “Who writes like this?”  I asked myself.  And at the end of the  essay on page xi I found my answer:  John W. Robbins. 

I had never heard of John Robbins and knew nothing about his work.  The book’s publisher, The Trinity Foundation, was completely unknown to me.  But I was intrigued and wanted to find out more.  Over the next year I was a regular visitor to the Foundation’s web site, and what began with one small book soon turned into a whole library of Trinity Foundation material.  But the effect on me was far greater than the further stuffing of my alrealy overstuffed book shelves.  It was nothing short of a spiritual and intellectual revolution.

After several years of corresponding by email, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Robbins in January of 2007.  By this time I had read and listened to so much of his work I felt that I already knew him.  But what was he like in person?  When we met he was wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and some old work boots.  Not the sort of thing you’d expect from a brilliant scholar, but Dr. Robbins, or John as he insisted,  was not an ordinary sort of man.  The apostle Paul commented that knowledge puffs up, and I have witnessed many men with a fraction of John’s accomplishments bear witness to the truth of this statement.  But John, like the Savior he loved so well, was not a pretentious man.  He was easy to talk to and quick with a laugh.  He showed me into his study where he had to move stacks of books and papers just so I could find a place to sit on the couch.  And while I was concerned about imposing on his schedule, far from being too busy to talk, he graciously gave me three hours of his time.  In fact, I probably could have stayed longer, but I still had a long drive home that night and had to get on the road.

In the providence of God, John entered into glory a year ago this week.  He was for me and elder brother in the Lord, a mentor, and a friend. Selfishly I wish he were still here.  But though the Lord took him this life, his bold proclamation of God’s truth, which is all truth, remains.

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