Monthly Archives: March 2011

Economic suicide policy and promoting foolishness

Notice the misguided policies of the Fed and FDIC though. By preventing all bank runs for decades, the Fed instilled an artificial and undeserved confidence in banks.

It would be far better to disclose banks in trouble, let them go under one at a time quickly, rather than have a gigantic systemic mess at one time.

Secrecy, in conjunction with fractional reserve lending is an exceptionally toxic brew. Overnight trust can change on a dime, system-wide, and it did.

Moreover, by keeping poor banks alive (and my poster-boy for this is Chicago-based Corus Bank for making massive amounts of construction loans to build Florida condos), more money pours into failed institutions further increasing toxic loans.

via Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis: Fed Releases 895 PDFs in Response to Court Order; Fed Does Not Disclose Collateral for Loans; Why Secrecy is a Problem; FDIC’s Role in the Mess.

I’ve been trying to avoid political posts but I think this point by Mish deserves some thought.

According to Solomon, “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.” Public policy for the last century seems to be aimed at disproving Solomon on this point. The state claims it can protect us from bad economic choices and promote growth.

In the first place, as Mish points out in the case of banking, these interventions seem to have the effect of delaying small crises until they form one massive financial tsunami. The boom-bust mini-cycles are smoothed over until we have a massive crash.

But secondly, the real social safety net is destroyed in favor of a state safety net that cannot fail to cause extreme depression-level problems. The real social safety net was people learning to look after themselves. People new banks were not that reliable so they spread out their risk. They kept cash and used other means to diversify their savings. An occasional bank failure would reinforce this wisdom and cause people to adopt behaviors that would ameliorate the effects of these failures.

Something similar could be said for a continual boom-bust cycle (even thought that cycle itself is due to the State’s fiat currency). If people know that there will be economic downturns every three years then they will use the “fat years” to save for the “lean years.” By producing decades of artificial growth, the state has discouraged this basic rational and wise behavior.

Humans are treated by their governments like animals kept in a zoo. They are bred in captivity and never develop the survival habits they would need to live on their own. The difference is that while humans can provide for animals, they cannot turn the globe into a zoo for humans with any chance of actually continuing to provide for their wards.

Sooner or later, whether we like it or not, we are going to be turned loose. Learn wisdom now.

The social problem of sloth

He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.

via Passage: Proverbs 10 (ESV Bible Online).

Why shame? Why not hunger?

Perhaps because the family must look for help to get the job done. Or worse, maybe they will need to ask others to help them out with shortages because the field was not completely harvested.

The Bible tells people to help the poor but it never gives you the idea that the poor are going to be happy about it.  And if they can think of themselves as ultimately responsible for needing to ask for help, it will be that much worse.

Evidence that Lewis was worshiping wrong

“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

via Quote by C.S. Lewis from Weight of Glory.

I love Lewis. I think he is worth more than several Reformed theologians that wisdom forbids me to name. At his worst he proves Nietzsche’s dictum that the mistakes of great men are more important than the truths of others. I need to read all of his works and re-read what I have read. I thank God for his voice in modern times.

But this quotation shows that the form of Lewis’ discipleship in public worship had pointed him in the direction of madness.

Because if you don’t notice your neighbor with your senses there chewing and slurping next to you then you are

DOING IT FREAKING WRONG!!!

OK?

I also love all the Christians in all the communions whose way of doing the Lord’s Supper I have just attacked in public.

Some things just will not be denied. Had to write this and post it.

Grape juice is an abomination too. So is excluding young children (as is my point here since they are also neighbors). I’m not claiming to be without sin here. God have mercy on us all.

But your neighbors in Church are part of the Blessed Sacrament. Without them, you end up eating and drinking judgment on yourself.

Childhood is slavery

For those of you who have been following this blog, you know I’ve been listening to Proverbs a lot and it has affected my blogging and teaching (at least in content, I’d like to think it has had some other sanctifying effects as well). I’ve argued that Proverbs is about rule versus slavery. Rule yourself to rule the world.

Much of this informs the New Testament Theology of the childhood covenant era versus the adult covenant era that Christ has brought about through his faithfulness to death and the resulting resurrection and ascension of humanity. Paul argues in Galatians 3 and 4, for example, that the Law was a guardian for our time as children and that as children we were therefore treated as slaves. Now that our inheritance has come we should no longer be children.

So Paul uses the institutionalized care of children to explain the eschatology of the Bible.

But it just occurred to me that he uses childhood in other ways as well. Thus, from Ephesians 4 (which is Pauline, by the way):

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

If you have been following my writing on Proverbs you will know that being in control rather than controlled by one’s desires and passions is a huge deal for Biblical wisdom. Here we see another application of that fact.

It also spells out rather explicitly a way in which an adult can remain a child.

Not justified by works of the law, being chosen, being circumcised, being a son of Abraham

Amos 3.1-2:

Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:

“You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities.

Thus Paul in Romans:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one

He received the sign of circumcision…  to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

John the Baptist agreed with Amos and Paul:

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

James agrees as well:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

And again:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Wisdom means rule means skill at dominion

“By me kings reign,” says Wisdom (Proverbs 8.15). But also by wisdom does one become a metalworker or any other kind of craftsman:

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in golsd, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

The only problem with the ESV’s translation of Exodus 31.1ff is that the word they translated as “ability” in verse 3, is not the same word as the “able men” given “ability.” The first word is wisdom.

So how is wisdom related to skill in craftsmanship?

I think it is because that too is a realm in which one rules. In Proverbs we are exhorted to rule ourselves, our spirits, hands, feet, and eyes. With that wisdom comes the opportunity to learn how to rule over people in various ways. Thus Proverbs 22.29:

Do you see a man skillful in his work? [or "diligent in his business"]
He will stand before kings;
he will not stand before obscure men.

Rule in one area might mean one is ready for other kinds of authority.

Wisdom is both a result of and means of gaining dominion. You learn as you grow and you grow by what you have learned. Whether it is controlling your mouth, your artistic medium, or an army, it is all wisdom.

Abortion diminishes

While he can feel sympathy for the frightened young girl, Vanauken says, now “I know Marion and her children, too.” Had Davy undergone an abortion, Marion and her “three bright and beloved children, would never have existed at all.”

This is especially poignant in light of the fact that Davy and Vanauken had no children of their own. If Davy had aborted Marion, there would now be no loving woman who calls Vanauken “father,” nor her three children.

“I glimpse,” Vanauken writes, “what [John] Donne meant in saying that any man’s death diminished him. I should be diminished if half a century ago Davy had clutched at the straw of abortion. And all the folk who have touched or shall touch the lives of Marion and her children and their children-to-be would be diminished.”

Read the rest: The Little Lost Marion.

Israel’s failure as a nation

In Deuteronomy 4 Moses spelled out Israel’s mission to the nations:

Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

According to Paul, Israel had totally failed to spread this fear of God by his law. Instead of wisdom they had spread blasphemy:

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

What is obvious here is that Paul spends no time trying to convince Jews that they have indeed broken the Law. Quite the contrary, he writes as one who is sure that they know and admit to the truth of the situation.

What is also obvious is that Paul does not write to people who are trying to keep the Law but are failing to measure up despite all their efforts. He is speaking to people about their nation and its reputation for willfully violating the Law.

So in what way does Paul’s Jew “boast in God”? If Paul had felt compelled to make a case against the Jews that they violate the Law we might suppose that they boasted in keeping the Law. But that is not the case. They boast in having been entrusted with the Law. They boast that they possess the Law and therefore possess, they think, God.

Paul’s message is like John the Baptist’s:

And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

So the Jew’s boast that they are Jews who have the Law by nature–i.e. by birth. But Paul says that this possession of the Law will not justify them. They are supposed to actually keep the Law.

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Paul on the Lord’s Supper: include everyone equally and so discern the body rightly

PART ONE

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not….

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.

PART TWO

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without judging the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Is the adulteress a temptation to wage class warfare?

And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait.
She seizes him and kisses him,
and with bold face she says to him,
“I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey;
he took a bag of money with him;
at full moon he will come home.”

Proverbs 1-9 is a unified section–the first in the collection. It presents two idealize women, Wisdom and Folly. It makes pretty easy application to two more literal women, your wife and the woman who offers herself to you “for free” even though she is married to another man.

This section does not contain a great many of the aphoristic pairs and triplets that become prominent in later sections of Proverbs. But it does hit on some basics: stay away from violent gangs as a way to acquire wealth, don’t be lazy, be satisfied with your wife and don’t go wondering.

I wonder if the temptation of the adulterous woman is a temptation to engage in class warfare against a richer man. Someone who is attracted to the offer of quick money might also find this an issue. I’ve been listening to Proverbs four times a week for the last three months of more and this idea has become increasingly persuasive to me.

Almost none of the woman’s physical attractions are described except her eyelashes. (The wife of one’s youth is described in terms that are more sexually provocative.) What is described more is how rich she is (or her husband is). And how freely and publicly she makes her proposals. She offers a night in imported luxuries that I would guess the young man would not be able to afford.

(Was this a source of anxiety for wealthy men in the ANE in Solomon’s time? I recall what Boaz says to Ruth: “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.” Did some go after young men even after they were married?)

And what about the woman’s perspective on her husband? What kind of sexual ethic is she expecting from a man who “has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him”? I wonder if she sees her behavior as payback.

For the young man, surely there have to be other opportunities to commit fornication in Jerusalem. What would make a woman with a husband so tempting? I suspect it is simply to grab some luxury (in every sense) from someone else’s life. It is not stealing in the same way as robbery, but it is the use of another man’s property and wealth against his will.

Solomon’s warnings are that the rich man, no matter what his wife’s longstanding reputation, will be really jealous and will destroy an adulterer’s life (I assume by threatening capital punishment unless he pays a fine that requires him to sell himself as a slave in hard labor). No matter what you think about the fact that others have gotten away with it, or that he’s off having fun somewhere else, he will still take your crime against him very seriously. Stay away. Enjoy your wife.

And work hard so you two can put Egyptian cotton sheets on your own bed some day.