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Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

 

rinkeby-riots

A policeman inspects a burned out vehicle following the riots in Rinkeby, Stockholm.

Some things seem to naturally go together. Peanut butter and jelly come to mind as a natural pairing. Baseball and summertime? I’m in. Even the terms “blowhard” and “politician” evoke a certain warmth of familiarity within me.

 

But riots and Sweden??!! Surely, you jest! Nevertheless, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction…

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2017

Out with the old and in with the new. Yes, it’s that time of year again. The time when we flip over our calendars. For some of us it’s a time of making resolutions. For others, a time for avoiding them. In my case, it’s a convenient time to look back at the prior year in blogging as well as an opportunity to consider the year ahead.

In the first place, I would like to that the Lord for providing me with this wonderful forum for writing. Perhaps because I didn’t grow up with the internet – I’ll be 51 in March, so yes, I’m an old guy! – I’m still constantly amazed at the reach even a small blog such as this one can have. Never before in history has a single Christian had the opportunity to, quite literally, reach the whole world and never so much as venture outside his front door. There is much that is evil on the internet. As Christians, it is our job to be salt and light to the world. And through website, blogs, and podcasts God has provided an amazing tool for believers to fulfill the Great Commission.

Secondly, my sincere thanks are due to you, the readers of this blog. Even though I began writing this blog in 2009, I’m still amazed to think that anyone would take the time to read my words. It has been my honor and privilege to serve you in 2016. And it has been my prayer that this blog has, as the name suggests, helped to bring the light of Christ to the various subjects under consideration.

Now with all that said, let’s take a look at this past year in blogging.

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egyptAmong the besetting sins of Old Testament Israel was an unfortunate tendency do what seemed right in their own eyes. When faced with a difficult situation, many times the Israelites, both the common people and the leadership, chose to wing it rather than to seek God’s face.

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, God condemned this way of thinking in no uncertain terms.

“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD,

“Who take counsel, but not of Me,

And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit,

That they may add sin to sin;

Who walk to go down to Egypt,

And have not asked My advice,

To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh,

And to trust in the shadow of Egypt!” (Isaiah 30:1, 2)

Some commentators believe that the likely targets of these words originally were King Hezekiah’s counselors. Assuming that is the case, how can we apply these words to what is going on in our own day? To do this, a little history is in order.

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jehoiakim-burns-the-scroll

Jehoiakim Burns the Scroll, Caspar Luiken 1672-1708.

What to write?  That’s the question all bloggers must face.  Sometimes the answer comes quickly.  Sometimes it doesn’t. 

With campaign season hitting its big crescendo last week, my mind’s been focused on the election. But now that it has passed, where do I go from here? There’s the series on immigration I’ve been writing. I haven’t forgotten about it. Lord willing, I plan to finish it sometime later this month. But today didn’t strike me as a day to write about immigration.

So back to the question of what to write about. Perhaps due in part to the recently concluded election, the specter of national and civilizational decline is often at the forefront of my thoughts.

Perhaps another reason for this is my Scripture reading. Recently, I’ve been focused on the prophets, Jeremiah in particular. And I never get very far in the prophets before I find myself saying “This could have been written yesterday about America!”

And it’s true, too. Edward Gibbons’ masterpiece of history The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is often cited by writers who want to advance some reason or another for the obvious, ongoing collapse of Western Civilization in our own time.

But there is a far better text to use if we want to gain insight on the problems we face in 21st century America. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible. And in particular the historical books of I and II Samuel,
I and II Kings,
I and II Chronicles and the prophets. Taken together, they could almost be subtitled The Decline and Fall of the Hebrew Republic.

Samuel was the last of the judges and the anointer of the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. It was during Samuel’s judgeship that Israel made the critical error in asking for a king (big government) in place of the limited, constitutional republic set up by God in the law of Moses.

If we were to summarize the history of Israel under the kings, we could say that the kingdom rapidly grew in power under the rule of David, hit its peak under his son Solomon, then split in two – the northern and southern kingdoms – under Solomon’s son Rehoboam. From there, the two kingdoms followed a centuries long trajectory of decline with the northern kingdom falling to Assyrian in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom to Babylon in 586 BC.

What makes the history of this decline and fall so relevant today is that the reader is not, as he is with secular history, left to decide for himself the reasons behind the disasters that befell Israel and Judah. The Word of God tells him explicitly: the people of Israel refused to heed the Lord and suffered the covenant curses pronounced in Deuteronomy 28.

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Wittenberg-1536.jpg

Wittenberg as seen from the Elbe, 1536.

October 31 is known to much of the world as the pagan holiday of Halloween. But for Christians, October 31 represents something quite different. It’s what we call Reformation Day.

 

For it was on that date in 1517 that Martin Luther’s nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door and forever changed the world for the better.

The Gospel of Justification By Faith Alone – the idea that sinful men are saved, not by doing good works, but solely by faith in Christ Jesus – once again shone forth in all its brilliance after a millennium of suppression by the Roman Church-State and millions were saved as a result.

But Luther’s rejection of church tradition in favor of the objective, written Word of God did not revolutionize the church only. It resulted in a whole new civilization, what we now call the West, coming into existence.

Ideas such as the sanctity of private property, honesty in exchange, the rule of law, capitalism, written constitutions, secular work as pleasing to God all found their origin in the Protestant Reformation that began with Luther.

Though it is not commonly understood by Americans, our nation owes its very existence to the Biblical ideas recovered at the time of the Reformation.

Most of us are taught to trace the foundations of our republic to Greece and Rome. But limited, constitutional government did not begin with Greco-Roman civilization. It began with the Hebrew Republic as recorded for us in the Old Testament. Thus the Bible is foundational to our political system.

In like manner, our economic system of capitalism or free enterprise finds its origins, not in the writings of pagan philosophers, nor in the thought of medieval scholastics, nor in the principles of the Renaissance, but in the propositions of the Word of God, the 66 books of the Bible.

To put it another way: No Protestant Reformation, no United States of America. To quote John Robbins,

One of Luther’s most brilliant followers, John Calvin, systematized the theology of the Reformation. The seventeenth-century Calvinists laid the foundations for both English and American civil rights and liberties: freedom of speech, pres, and religion, the privilege against self-incrimination, the independence of juries, and right of habeas corpus, the right not to be imprisoned without cause. The nineteenth-century German historian Leopold von Ranke referred to Calvin as the “virtual founder of America” (Civilization and the Protestant Reformation).

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trump_clinton_2

The Bible distinguishes knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is the ideas taught in Scripture either by direct statement or by implication. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the correct application of knowledge to the particular men and circumstances that we encounter in our lives.

As a way of getting them to apply their knowledge, John Robbins sometimes would tell people they needed to decide what is more important, what is less important, and what is not important at all. This approach can be a helpful way for Christians to think through a host of different issues, including the decision how to vote in elections.

And given the stakes inherent in any presidential election, maybe especially this election, it is important for Christians to have a Biblical framework for evaluating the candidates.

For my part, I have struggled with the election more than any other. There are numerous reason why I would never consider voting for Hillary Clinton. Some of them I have outlined below.

On the other hand, the thought of voting for Trump presents challenges as well.

One Christian writer, put off as he is by the release of a video with Trump making lewd sexual remarks, has equated support for Trump with idolatry and a decision that harms our witness for Christ, “Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord” (Andy Crouch, Speak Truth to Trump).

Over at World, Marvin Olasky penned Unfit for power, an editorial calling for Trump to step aside as Republican nominee.

One suspects that the arguments put forth by both these writers reflect the thoughts of many Christians. And it is not hard to understand their agreement with Crouch and Olasky.

My view is different. As I shall argue, I believe both these gentlemen miss the mark with their commentaries. Given the circumstances, In my opinion a vote for Trump, rather than being idolatry, may very well be an act of good judgment.

Concerning the call for Trump to step down, it’s worth asking whether there have been any calls from World for Mrs. Clinton to step aside for her many, blatant and serious crimes, not to mention several other significant problems that make her unfit for office.

Before presenting my argument, there are a few points I would like to make.

First, what I say in this post is an opinion. I do not offer it up as a necessary deduction from Scripture. I do not claim it as knowledge. As one who’s spent more than a year struggling with what to think about Trump, and to some extent avoiding commentary on the subject, I can appreciate Crouch’s and Olasky’s concerns and do not doubt their good intentions.

Further, there are many good brothers and sisters in Christ who, as a matter of conscience believe they cannot vote for Trump. This post is not aimed at them. If someone believes voting for Trump is wrong, he should by no means go against his conscious. To do so would be sin.

Third, I acknowledge my own biases, sinfulness and ignorance and realize that all of these shortcomings color any analysis that I do. A Hillary Clinton administration will be, in my view, a heavy burden upon the American people. Perhaps my own intense dislike for her has unfairly colored by assessment of Trump. In light of this, it is possible that I am wrong and those who oppose a Trump presidency are right. That I will leave for others to decide.

Fourth, I write what I do in good faith in the hope that the body of Christ may find it edifying. It is not my intention to castigate those who come to conclusions that are at odds with mine. And if I’ve made errors in my reasoning, perhaps at least some of what I’ve set forth will stimulate thought concerning the election choice facing the nation.

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