Wealth and Poverty: Four Christian Views

Ed. by Robert Clouse (IVP)

I understand why IVP pulled this book after a year of successful selling.  North publicly destroyed everyone in it.  That wouldn’t work with IVP’s “proto-SJW turn.” Gary North offers the free-market view.  William Diehl offers a mostly free-market view, with a little govt thrown in. Art Gish offers the hippie commune.  John Gladwin is a Communist.

Aside from North, only Diehl actually shows some knowledge of economics. (And despite Diehl’s antipathy towards the Old Testament, his essay and most of his responses were quite good).  All of the responders attacked North on his insistence that the Bible gives a blueprint to stuff like law, politics, and economics.  Admittedly, OT law is a hard sell to hippie evangelicals, but North’s comeback is unanswerable: what good does it do to speak of “Christian guidelines” if you don’t fill in the content?

Art Gish’s essay on decentralist economics should be interesting today, given the current Benedict Option fad.  It’s the standard “Let’s live in community, man” and “God liberates the poor.”  North gives a wise response:

“The Bible also does not teach that “God intervenes in history to liberate the oppressed poor” (p. 135). What the Bible does teach is that God intervenes in history to liberate the righteous oppressed, whether rich or poor. Did God liberate the poor who lived in Canaan? No. He had his people exterminate them. There were wicked poor people in Canaan, after all. They lived under the domination of “unrighteous structures,” to use a popular phrase. God destroyed both Canaan’s oppressed and Canaan’s “unrighteous structures” when Joshua and the Israelites invaded the land (163).”

It does no good to say “Let’s look to Jesus” if we divorce Jesus from the Bible he read.  Diehl moves in for the finishing blow:

but to advocate a nonsystem seems irresponsible. Koinonia, on a global scale, without any blueprint, is a nonsystem. Because it is a nonsystem it can hardly be called a “New Testament economic program.” Utopia it is; an economic program it is not” (Diehl 173).

Gladwin’s essay is pure Communism, so no need to refute it here.  The book is a let-down.  Don’t pay money for it.  Read it here.

http://garynorth.com/NorthDebate.pdf

Review: Unholy Spirits

Interesting historical review of 20th century occultism practiced by the secular establishment. I knew that the CIA and KGB conducted paranormal tests on their victims. North provides a bit more documentation than do others.  The running thesis is that occultism is simply the latest stage of humanism:  it is the promise that men shall be as gods.  North explains that many of these New Age techniques seek to do an end-run around man as created being.  For the godly man, time is not evil.  It is limited and under the curse, but it also provides the conditions for planning for the future and building wealth.

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Societies that reject this worldview cannot progress. North writes: “It is a fact that only by means of Western science has a centuries-long period of constant improvement of skills, equipment, and treatment been maintained. Scientific progress, which was originally grounded on the Christian ideas of providence, progress, and the subduing of the earth to the glory of a pre-eminently rational and personal God, was exponentially increased by the social and intellectual aftermath of the Reformation.  The idea that men can increase their control over nature by an ever-increasing division of labor, including intellectual labor, is at the heart of Western progress (247).

Conclusion: By personalizing the techniques of healing, primitive societies have in principle abandoned the idea of medical, economic, or any other kind of progress through more impersonal organizations of human talent (248).

Much of the book is dated but the general idea is sound.  In fact, it’s a very well-written book.  It narrates and evaluates “testimonies” (giving the book an anecdotal feel at times).  We end with this urgent call:

“The fact that Western man counts the cost accurately, i.e., can calculate the weight of each burden, enables him to reduce the burden through effective planning, discipline, and above all, capital formation. The socialist or communist, who affirms the religion of the occult – that the limits of scarcity are not natural, but are man-created – is less rational, cannot calculate economically, and threatens economic productivity whenever he takes over the reigns of political power (348)

Review: Marx’s Religion of Revolution

By Gary North

North explores a different angle of Marx’s thought:  Marx was more heavily influenced by the earlier pagan, chaos religions than previously recognized.  This is a legitimate approach.  We all have axioms that we take for granted and that filter the rest of our thought.  This is the foundation for his later thought.  North writes: ““Marx held to the orderly Newtonian worldview of physical-natural cause and effect, but he resurrected and baptized an ancient tradition of social chaos. His worldview was a strange mixture of Western linear history (Augustine), Western utopian-ism (communism), scientific rationalism (Newton), eighteenth- century classical economics (the labor theory of value and the cost of production theory of value), atheism (dialectical materialism), and pagan cyclical history (the chaos festivals)” (North xviii).

Chaos religion–and its festivals–allowed man to tap into the primal unformed chaos.  Thus, the violence, the overturning of social norms, the sexual orgies that one always found in pagan festivals–and in Communist Revolutions.  North suggests that this ritual morphs into a secularized form:  secret societies (76).

Rather than giving an analytical review of Marx’s thought, I will simply list five or six problems embedded in Marxist thought.

Problem 1: Lenin’s problem:  “the Social-Democratic consciousness of proletarians does not develop by itself.” (xxxix).

Problem 2: Problem with the labor theory of value:  activity is a meaningful economic substitute for value.  Contrast with subjective theory of value.

Problem 3: Problem in Marxian doctrine:  progress only comes from the clash of classes.  How then will progress be possible “after the Revolution” (North 51)?

Problem 4: how does a lawlike determinism arise from flux and chance (60)?

Problem 5: North: If all profits stem from the employment of human labor, then it follows that greater profits can be made in businesses that are labor intensive. The more machinery one employs in the production process, the less profit should be available, since there are fewer laborers present to exploit….Yet what we do see is precisely the. reverse: the most profitable industries tend to be those in which large quantities of constant capital are employed  (123).

Problem 6: North: Here is the central flaw of all socialist systems: how can the allocation of scarce resources take place in a society devoid of money (142)? How much is x worth?  How do you know?

Problem 7:  how can the total wealth of nature be released under socialism without the use of mass production methods that require the division of labor? Perhaps even more fundamental, how can the socialist planning board allocate scarce resources efficiently without some kind of pricing mechanism involving the use of money (182-183)?

Gary North on Charismatics

I am sort of a quiet charismatic.  North has an interesting take on part of the history of the movement.  Early Charismatic antinomianism was wrong, as it inadvertently emphasized a power from below.  But what if later ones corrected that and got it right?

Then, in the late 1970’s, a handful of Pentecostal-charismatics discovered Christian Reconstruction. They finally got the answer they had been waiting for: God can heal a sick society. Better yet: God will heal a sick world through a great movement of the Holy Spirit. These men dropped dispensationalism, and adopted a world-and-life view that is consistent with the victories that charismatics have seen first-hand.

Meanwhile, within the “Tyler” branch of the Reconstructionist movement, there came a new emphasis on liturgy, especially the power of the sacraments, and especially weekly communion. This emphasis on communion soon led to the split between “Tyler” and “Vallecito,” for Mr. Rushdoony adamantly refuses to take communion-weekly, monthly, or annually. The Tyler church also adopted formal healing services as a part of public worship. The elders went to sick people and anointed them with oil. (The first step, it must never be forgotten, is the sick person’s confession of sin. Ethics is primary, not the details of liturgy.) My wife was healed miraculously of a life-long affliction as a result of one such visit. So were others in the church.

This growing alliance between charismatics and Reconstructionists has disturbed Reformed Presbyterians almost as much as it has disturbed premillennial dispensationalists. it has led to accusations of heresy against both groups from all sides: pietistic Pentecostalism, pietistic Scofieldism, and pietistic Presbyterianism. The critics worry about the fact that the Pentecostalism’s infantry is at last being armed with Reconstructionism’s field artillery. They should be worried. This represents one of the most fundamental realignments in U.S. Protestant church history.

The Babel Answer Man

Perry and I have had our disagreements, but I appreciate his diligence in this regard. (Also see this post: https://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2017/05/11/a-hankadox-intermezzo/)

Long story short, the fangirl apologetics sites like Orthodox Bridge are going to have egg on their faces when this stuff comes to light.  OB doesn’t know anything about epistemology or metaphysics; they do not go beyond standard pop questions like “Oh yeah, wise guy, how do you know which books of the canon belong?”

Perry is a caliber above me.  I don’t deny that.  I have learned much from him, both in content and in debating style.  I just want to quote some of his words and more or less endorse them: (sorry for the formatting.  Most of these quotes are from Perry but wordpress didn’t quote them)

What is more, all the calls to the BAM show are screened. Hank gets those questions that he can answer and b y and large those he can’t are screened out. This is why, if you listen to the BAM show long enough, you hear the same questions over and over again with little diversity. And this is why the show tends to stay at a very low level of apologetic sophistication.

 

The Lutherans.  LOL.

 

And of course, Hank has no real field experience talking to cultic or aberrant groups on his own (let alone taking on university professors). When you have a JW at your door or you are taking on three JW elders and an overseer by yourself for four hours straight, you don’t get to screen out questions. (I once went over 9 hours with JW apologist Greg Stafford when I lived in Garden Grove, CA. My Lutheran neighbors used to sit out on their lawn chairs in the front yard to listen  whenever the JW’s came around.)

This next quote is the cream of the crop:

 

Just ask yourself, do you really think Hank could answer questions and hold a sustained conversation about the Kalaam argument in relation to whether actual infinities are possible or not? How about the technical details of New Testament Greek? Or maybe questions on the communicatio idiomatum in Chalcedonian Christology compared with say Assyrian Christology? How about Gettier Counter examples or Contextualism in Epistemology? How about the principle of Double Effect? Uhuh, exactly. While I have my theological issues with Bill Craig, Hank is no Bill Craig.

The next quote echoes something Kevin Johnson told me.  I like to do book reviews but I try to keep them relatively short.

 

But because Hank thinks of education as memorizing and arranging discrete facts, he tends to use language like an undergraduate to embellish the delivery. If you have ever graded undergraduate papers, you know of what I speak. Undergraduates do not understand that the purpose of technical language is not only precision, but to say more with less

 

Energetic Procession

Haven’t you heard? Hank Hanegraaff has become Orthodox! Well, yes I have heard. The noise Scan0001.jpgproduced by the collective freak out at one end of the theological spectrum from the Pauper and Pooper blog representing the bottom of the barrel of Protestantism and the unquestioning adulation of Orthodox fangirls and bloggers rushing headlong to his defense is rather difficult to miss. But I sit here poised to wish a pox on both houses, as it were. As most of you know, I am Orthodox and have been for about 17 years. And as a few of you may know, I worked for the Christian Research Institute (CRI) from 1990-1992.  (That’s yours truly, bottom left, right next to Hank!) So I have a somewhat unique perspective to offer on the whole affair. In the posts that follow I explain why this is probably not a good thing for anyone, maybe not even…

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