Saturday, June 22, 2013

"If I was Jesus, which my wife often thinks I think I am ... "

So, how bad is the state of the church?
"I think we're moving into a place of more appropriate humility in the church. We're not that flash, we're not always getting it right in many cases. And we can no longer believe in a Christendom where the church must be the centre of society. That's well and truly gone. I think it's good for the church to stop resting on its history."
It seems as though +Justin of Wellington agrees with the direction of my previous post!
Anyway, the brilliant Dominion article about +Justin, from which the title and cited words above are taken, is here (H/T Taonga).


BC said...

"I saw in Justin something that was quite radical, different, crazy. But I also saw somebody who was very authentic about the best of the ancient tradition of the church" - what an excellent summary of how Anglicanism can be renewed.

Shawn Herles said...


a living wage is certainly a no brainer, just not in the way he thinks.

God save us from Anglican clergy preaching on economics.

Avoiding the hard issues of the day by jumping on trendy political bandwagons is not "radical."

Swapping the Gospel for the Socialist Gospel is not radical. This was being done by mainline churches a hundred years ago and led to the demise of those churches and their demographic collapse.

Socialist economics is not radical, nor is advocating that the State steal from the productive by force anything to do with justice.

Oh and sheep. It's always a good clue that your dealing with economic illiteracy when a person starts using livestock swapping metaphors.

Simon said...

+Justin is one of the most authentic servants of the Gospel I've met for a long time, Shawn. You appear quick to judge and rather harsh. What sort of Gospel are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

When it comes to 'economic illiteracy', even Nobel laureates (no, not That One!) can be counted in that number. See Paul Krugman's latest musings on somewhat intractable unemployment in the USA - 4+ years on, stubbornly higher than ever it was under Bush - and the woeful recognition that a lot of 'work' today - such as Apple's - produces megabucks for a glittering few, but not a lot of jobs for the many - unlike IBM, GM and the great corporations of the past. If the future is going to be McJobs for the masses, it's going to be hard indeed, and very bitter. Look at all that unhappiness in Brazil right now - with a left-wing president, too.

Martin Freedman ('Eleutherios')

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Simon,

If I sound harsh it is because there is far too much trendy politics and not enough Gospel in the preaching and focus of ministers and Bishops. And by Gospel I mean the Good News of God's salvation in Christ.

Economic issues may well be a legitimate concern of Church leaders at times, but not at the expense of the Gospel.

And for goodness sake, SOCIALISM DOES NOT WORK!

It impoverishes nations, destroys freedom and personal responsibility, distorts economic markets, and ignores reality.

Socialism is just a way to get something for nothing. The living wage notion is something for nothing.

Something for nothing is what caused the economic crisis and gave us Greece.

Father Ron Smith said...

Having read the Taonga article, I am more convinced than ever that the Holy Spirit has broken through the cozy bulwarks of traditional Anglicanism, furnishing ACANZP with an episcopal model for future Church that emulates that of Blessed Francis of Assisi. May God continue to enrich the Church with such bearers of Gospel integrity.

Jethro said...

Shawn, I always hear you going on about socialism on this blog and it sounds like you have made an idol out of capitalism.

The only economic system we should be trying to enact is the economics of God, which to me seems like we get a lot for nothing. Just look at jubilee years in the Torah (Deut 15:1), what about the early church sharing all things in common (Acts 2:44), and Christ coming especially for those who are poor and marginalized (Luke 4:18-19), Not to mention the whole point of the gospel which is grace given freely!? This is not socialism, this is what God sees as a desirable way to live. A life and society lived out of generosity; giving freely and sacrificially. To divorce economics from the gospel is a kind of gnosticism.

Capitalism and consumerism are idolatrous because they are based on greed, which I am pretty sure the bible (especially Jesus and Paul) has a whole load to say about. And I am pretty sure it was greed that has caused the recent economic problems, whether on Wall st or Greece. So if it is politically trendy to want to give people a wage they can feed their families with surely that is something all Christians should be behind?

Or do you believe our lives should be dictated by the invisible hand of the market rather than the living God? What is the gospel to you Shawn?

Anonymous said...

Jethro, I imagine Shawn will answer for himself (he usually does!), but a rhetorical slogan is not an economic argument. Of course it is our duty to help the weak and vulnerable (I grew up on social security and in real financial poverty and know whereof I speak), but the cycles of poverty and dependence must be broken if they can, and there must be some hard thinking about the causes of poverty as well. Why do some demographics leave poverty behind and others get enmeshed in it? Why do so many Maori do so badly, generation after generation, while other minorities seem to pull ahead? Why are US blacks still at the bottom, despite enormous public spending? How have South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore become so successful? Education, family, marriage, illegitimacy, career aspirations, alcohol, drug use, criminality, cultural values - all of these have to figure in the mix somewhere. But these are political hot potatoes as well, and in many ways the left has done a great disservice to (some) ethnic minorities, treating them like clients for its political projects.
The way out of poverty for the vast majority has three strands to it: finishing your education, getting and staying married, and sticking at a job, even a crummy one to being with, until the personal disciplines of work are learned.
But in a world of feminized poverty and fatherless families, how is that going to happen?


Jethro said...

I here you Martin! The point I would like to make is that God's economics transcend human arguments between socialism/Marxism and capitalism/neo-liberalism.

Martin, you have succinctly pointed out what I am getting at and that is exactly where the Church and God's way transcends any human economic and political system to deal with human sinfulness. Sin that destroys families, keeps people oppressed and ignorant, and creates selfishness and laziness.

I think the Church should not wed itself to any such system (especially capitalism which is based on greed, and Marxism which starts with atheism), but endeavour to do the work of the Kingdom: invite people into a relationship with Christ to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and have their lives transformed by the Father. At a meta level the Church should be part of transforming society so it is easier to gain access to education, fair wages and creating stronger families. All of which our current political system(s) are either unwilling or unable to do.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Jethro,

The purpose of Jubillee was to ensure that land remained in the hands of the twelve tribes in order to maintain religious purity and keep out foreign gods. While Jubilee had some elements, such as debt relief, that may look to a modern person like social welfare, but in reality Jubilee had far more to do with religious nationalism than any modern notion of social justice.

The church at Antioch shared things. Voluntary sharing is not socialism. Socialism is a system of state control of the economy that, far from ensuring a "fair" distribution of goods, creates poverty by crippling the ability of free persons and civil society to create wealth to share in the first place.

I agree we must not divorce the Gospel from economics, but Gospel charity and state enforced Socialism are not the same thing. Charity is given freely. The State steals by force.

Greed is a problem of the human heart. Socialism encourages greed by encouraging the view that peole have an automatic right to other peoples property. This is in direct contradiction to the Biblical prohibition against stealing and coveting.

"Capitalism" means different things to different people. Most people who claim to oppose capitalism are usually describing something that has nothing to do with a genuine free market, but is usually a mixed economy, or crony capitalism, nor a genuine free market.

The current economic crisis was caused by governments inflating the money supply to create easy credit. While greed played a role in that, free market economics did not.

If I don't eat I will die. I must consume food. How is that bad?

If large numbers of people consume less what will happen?

Businesses will go broke. They will lay off workers. Unemployment will skyrocket. Poverty will increase.

Scripture does teach moderation, and is opposed to gluttony and greed. But it does not teach that business or wealth creation are wrong. Jesus' ministry and that of the early church was supported by people who had created wealth.

In order to share wealth, wealth must be created, and this requires economic freedom.

As Martin points out, social welfare, far from helping the poor, has actually created poverty by destroying the strong, independent, stable family life needed for wealth creation. And it should be noted that many churches cheered on welfare socialism as "Jubilee" and "Kingdom" values. But instead of liberation the poor got entrenched inter-generational welfare dependence, millions of fatherless families, and fatherless boys who join gangs.

Welfare statism does not work.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jethro,
I am going to call you out on this line:

"All of which our current political system(s) are either unwilling or unable to do. "

There has never been a better time than now in the life of NZers for gaining access to education (so many more courses available than in the 1950s), fair wages (we now have a minimum wage) and opportunities for creating stronger families (which particularly arise when the adults in the family have opportunity to work and there are great employment opportunities in NZ ... they are called dairy farms and vineyards, yet we have to import labour from other nations to fill the jobs).

Capitalism can be slated as a system but it could be celebrated as the means by which production enables lives to be improved. Our lives are immeasurably better than previously, measured by access to benefits brought about by human endeavour. One of which is the means by which we have this conversation: computers, internet, wireless.

Paise the Lord for capitalism!

Shawn Herles said...

In many places in the US where the opportunity is available "poor" and working class families are abandoning state run education in favour of private and charter schools, because they better prepare pupils for getting ahead in life and having a work ethic.

In seeking to provide access to education for all the State ended up limiting opportunities for poor and working class families and forcing them into third rate state schools that are dominated by self-serving left wing unions and more interested in trendy social engineering than real education.

Economic freedom is the answer to poverty, not the state.

Shawn Herles said...

The problem with ideas like fair wages is that they beggar the question of who's definition of fair are we talking about?

One of the important insights of the Austrian school economists is that economic values and goals are fundamentally subjective. The goals of a married man and a single man are different, and thus their economic needs or desires are different. This is true of all individuals.

For example, if my goal is to earn enough to buy a house, then my economic needs are different to the other guy down the street who wants to buy a lawnmower.

Take the minimum wage. If the State sets the minimum wage at say 12 dollars an hour, and I want to sell my labour (which is my property) at 11 dollars an hour to improve my chances of gaining employment, then the State has stolen from me, limited my God given freedom arbitrarily, and probably forced me into unemplyment by limiting my freedom and the markets.

None of which is fair to me.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn
I agree and disagree with you!

I agree to the extent that it is a pity if the minimum wage at (say) $13 an hour inhibits my selling my labour for (say) $11 an hour.

I disagree to the extent that a recent example reported here of a businessman inveigling people to work for him for $4 per hour (with a few 'extortionate' factors going on as well) is beyond the pale.

Put another way, yes, who is to say whether $11 or $13 is a 'fair wage'.

But I am quite comfortable with saying that $4 is an unfair wage!

Janice said...

I suggest that anyone who wants to talk sensibly about how to help the poor should read Why Nations Fail: The origins of power, prosperity and poverty by IMF economists Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson.

The authors' thesis is that poverty arises because of extractive political and economic institutions in which a narrow elite (e.g., absolutist monarchies, one party states and other oligarchies) use their power to enrich themselves and their friends/colleagues at the expense of everybody else.

For a nation to become prosperous requires, at a minimum, a state apparatus able to maintain law and order. To see what happens when this is lacking look at Somalia. Also required for prosperity are secure property rights and inclusive power sharing arrangements, e.g. universal suffrage.

Acemoglu and Robinson argue that the Glorious Revolution set up the conditions that allowed England, first, not just to prosper during the subsequent Industrial Revolution but to actually have the Industrial Revolution. It never happened in Eastern Europe because the aristocracy there preferred to maintain their own power and lifestyles by keeping their populations in serfdom.

What Acemoglu and Robinson don't mention (probably because they are IMF economists) is the role Christianity played in England in curtailing the power of the king and thus making power sharing more inclusive.

Anonymous said...

Put me down on the capitalist side of this question! There has been no better way in the history of mankind for creating wealth and opportunity for people, encouraging and rewarding innovation and effort. Socialism is backward looking and sclerotic, and will always degenerate into toadyism, corruption, rent-seeking and statism. As they used to say in the USSR, 'We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.' But let me add that capitalism that isn't infused by the principles and commands of the Gospel will quickly succumb to the same evils. Crony capitalism, corporate greed without responsibility or personal consequences (as we have seen in the global banking crisis) and the ever expanding income gap - leading to the pauperization and helplessness of millions at the bottom of the pile - all tell me that the market (as the free exercise of human desire) is not enough.
Let me also add that global capitalism doesn't care much about the fate of nations, and immigration, so ballyhooed by globalists, can have a devastating effect on the poor of nation, discouraging them from taking entry-level work or acquiring the skills to better their lot. Why are there so many unemployed in the US when there are millions of illegal immigrants? Why is the hospitality industry in the UK dominated by East Europeans - who do an excellent job, btw (tidy, courteous and with better English than the locals)?
But whatever way we slice it, the fact remains that poverty and wealth are largely created by culture; and culture means the core values for living you seek to transmit to your children.


Jethro said...

I suppose capitalism does look great as white well educated middle class kiwi blokes.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jethro,
It looks good to everyone of all colours. That's why people migrate to Britain, Canada, Germany, US, Australia, NZ etc from all over the world.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Jethro,

I was born in the USA, in a trailer park to an unwed teenage mother, then given up for adoption to a working class military family.

And I'm 3 quarters French and 1quarter Cherokee.

Not a lot of white middle class privilege going on here.

Shawn Herles said...

Oh and I'm a highschool dropout! Forgot about that. Apparently in order to be in school you actually have to attend classes. Whoda thought?

Shawn Herles said...

This should be required reading for ministers and Bishops. I read it ten years ago and it radically transformed my understanding of economic issues.

'An Introduction to Economic Reasoning' by David Gordon. It's written for lay people (as in non-academic) and designed to be used as a high school text book.

The Ludwig Von Mises Institute and the author have kindly allowed it to be downloaded as a free PDF book.

Anonymous said...

Whodathought indeed, Shawn! Are you sure you're not really a Yorkshireman?

Martin from down t' mill

Jethro said...

I do not understand why a bunch a great and godly blokes are continuing to defend a system that says that the goal of human life is the acquirement wealth and possessions!

Peter, those people come to western countries because our economic policies have ruined theirs! Shawn your story sounds tough, but surely we would like to credit your success to the work of God not capitalism.

Martin is right it is culture that creates poverty. We live in a culture that says selfishness and greed will actually help a country because that is what creates wealth, which is the very goal of this culture. Never mind about the impact that it is having on others, whether at home or those overseas that wish they could live in a place where they could get the opportunity to be the oppressors rather than the oppressed. For example if you are the person making Nike trainers for 5cents a day, being the person who stands on a street in Christchurch NZ wearing those trainers looks pretty good!

I am not a socialist, and as you can see I am not capitalist, but I do believe that if society followed Christ then these two systems could be subverted to work for the glory of God. To actually have a selfless and generous society where share holders and governments understand their God given responsibilities to love others, not simply acquire wealth.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jethro
If you and I ruled the world, it would be neither socialist nor capitalist and much more like the Acts of the Apostles. Let's take that ideal as agreed.

We do not rule the world and the world has various 'systems' on offer. We make choices, both politically when we vote and personally when we (e.g.) shift towns to get a job or shift countries to make a new life. In that world, a great choice remains capitalism.

To be for capitalism does not mean one is for every implication of it: low wages should be an anathema, not least because high wages enable more purchasing power for goods which is good for capitalism.

Also, to be for capitalism as a realistic system for organising production and distribution of goods is not necessarily to be for "the acquirement wealth and possessions! ". It could be (as it is in my case) to be 'for' efficiency in making available the necessities of life, to say nothing of cool luxuries like advanced medicines, technology and cars which start on frosty mornings.

I suggest you think again about " those people come to western countries because our economic policies have ruined theirs!" That is an extraordinary claim to make when, for instance, we think about how China has advanced in fifty years or so from being a basket case (arguably at the exploitation of Western powers) to an economic powerhouse. Far from ruining China, "our economic policies" seemed to have worked very well for their advancement, allied with their own decision-making processes and harvesting of their own intellectual and social capital.

Shawn Herles said...

Martin, (3:52 AM)

Ha! Those guys had it easy.

No Yorksiremen in my family tree sir!

Actually, there might be on my adopted mother's side, but you'll never get me to admit it. ;)

Anonymous said...

Jethro, kids in Pakistan are making Nike trainers for (rather more than) 5 cents a day precisely because those medieval Islamic societies are unfree, ignorant and hierarchical - and the alternative would be starvation or actual serfdom in a top-down subsistence agricultural, patron-client, labour-intensive society where wealth and power are concentrated in very few hands. What we (or I at least) advocate is *democratic capitalism (read Robert Novak), where human rights and freedoms are championed. Even the crony capitalists of China - who have quadrupled that nation's wealth in 30 years through market forces - are beginning to understand that they can't continue forever on a low wage economy and that investing in an educated and prosperous workforce is the only way to stay ahead of India or Africa. But read the Catholic writer Robert Novak - that's whence I get my very rudimentary ideas about culture - which is inescapably religious. Putting things very crudely, Islamic societies will probably stay poor and dependent because they keep girls ignorant and are tradition-bound.

Martin Oecolampadius

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Jethro,

Capitalism, rightly understood, does not say that the goal of life is to acquire wealth, in fact it says nothing about that issue at all, because it is merely an economic system, not a philosophy.

Capitalism, as in a free market, is merely a system of economic freedom and rights. How people choose to use that freedom and what goals they choose, and what they believe life is for, is up to them. Capitalism says nothing on that subject.

Capitalism does not encourage selfishness or greed. Humans do.

Economic freedom is not selfish. Legitimate self-interest is not selfish. And creating wealth is a goodness that God blesses.

You cannot help the poor if you do not create wealth. You cannot share what has not first been created by work.

Capitalism did not create poverty in the Third World. It was already there. It has in fact lifted millions out of poverty.

You cannot "subvert" any system to work for the Glory of God if the system does not work in the first place, such as socialism.

And you cannot subvert reality. If I have 50 dollars and I need 150 to feed my family that is reality. No amount of Gospel values ever means that 2+2 = anything other than 4. And that is the problem with most Christian "social justice" ideas when it comes to economics. They ignore economic reality. They insist that 2+2 can equal 12 if we just tax enough, spend enough, or regulate enough. If we just have enough high minded policies with the word "fair" in them, 2+2 can = anything we want.

But it just ain't so.

So if subversion means economic policies that will not work in practice, then that is, to me at least, neither Gospel nor justice.

On the other hand I do agree that we need to subvert the human heart. Bringing hearts under the Lordship of Christ is a far more effective means of social transformation than killing off economic freedom.

Shawn Herles said...

I nearly couldn't get my car open this morning, let alone started. The doors were frozen shut!

Jethro said...

Again I am amazed that such a godly person would defend a system that has given birth to an economic monster like China! I do not disagree that there has been economic advancement in China, but at what cost? They have some of the worst labour rights in the world just so they can produce cheap rubbish, that we don't need, for us Westerners! The cost is peoples lives and ecological sustainability. Just because China has grown economically does not mean it is a good thing. Loan sharks get wealthy too, is that s good thing? Is China style advancement what we want? Is Kingdom living just not a viable option for the Church?

Here is an interesting video on some of these issues:

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jethro,
My point was not defending the system which has given birth to a China which has made decisions we disagree with but to counteract your assertion, general as it was, that Western economies are responsible for poor economies in other nations.

Capitalism generally has the advantage, noted above, of enabling democracy, that is, a society in which debate may occur, as it has in the West about the pursuit of growth versus the pursuit of responsible stewardship. One of China's follies has been the pursuit of capitalist goals of growth without attention to democracy.

Either way I am happier to live in a world in which China is the way it is than in a world with China the way it was, e.g. the forced deaths of millions through government controlled famine and then the Cultural Revolution.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Jethro,

The problem is that I do not believe you understand what Capitalism is in the first place. I am seeing a lot of slogans, not a lot of hard or accurate analysis. Much of what you describe as bad has nothing to do with Capitalism or free markets.

The assumption that "capitalism" as it is practiced now is real capitalism is wrong. Capitalism means free markets. There are no free markets anywhere in the world right now, thus there is no real Capitalism in the world right now.

What your describing in every case are state run mixed economies.

That failure to accurately distinguish between real free market Capitalism and State run mixed economies is why I reject your point.

Talking of privileged points of view, it is a very Western, white, middle class point of view, not to mention naive, to demand that developing countries like India and China immediately have the same level of development as us. The real world does not work like that.

Wealth creation takes time and hard work, it does not fall from the sky. Countries like China and India cannot create wealth for all overnight, or have the same wage levels as us. Real economic growth does not work like that and no amount of sloganeering about "Kingdom values" will change that.

What terrible conditions still exist in China or India are due to the fact that both countries are still trying to pull themselves out of poverty ridden feudal societies, not Capitalism.

In fact the one thing that IS helping China and India to pull people out of poverty is the very economic freedom your attacking. That makes no logical sense.

Christians thinking about economic issues need to have a serious understanding of how economies actually work, not merely trendy lefty propaganda, or easy slogans about "Kingdom values."

Jethro said...

My original point Shawn was that you have made an idol of your political and economic views. So far you have not refuted that. I am happy being naive and ignorant, if that is what you think I am. I happy with "easy" slogans about Kingdom values and support workers rights, even if you think it is just lefty in disguise. I just hope I never worship at the alter of Mammon and call it being an economically realistic Christian.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jethro/Shawn
Might I suggest we steer away from words like "naive" and "idol." All too quickly we will be in the land called Ad Hominem.

Let's assume that we are agreed that a Christian does not worship Mammon but Christians might discuss what kingdom values are, how we best organise economies (for the sake of people, not for the sake of greed and acquisition).

Shawn Herles said...

In fact my economics are based on Kingdom values and the central teaching of the Gospel.

Economics is simply the exchange of goods and services, and in reality there are only two forms of economic exchange, the violent way and the peaceful way. Thus, in reality, all the various economic theories can be reduced to these two basic forms of violence and peace.

In the peaceful means of economic exchange two people exchange a good or service voluntarily. Both do so for mutual benefit, because one has something the other needs.

In the violent means one person, or group of persons, uses force to take a good or service from another, to get something for nothing by violence or fraud.

Charity would also qualify as a peaceful means of exchange, but it is not strictly speaking an economic one,

Only the peaceful means of exchange is I believe consistent with the Gospel moral imperatives that we love our neighbor and treat others as we want to be treated, as well as the Biblical moral imperatives of not stealing or coveting our neighbors property.

So if the peaceful means of exchange, also known as the non-aggression principle, is applied consistently to every aspect of economics, then only the free, voluntary mutual exchange of goods and services is consistent with peace and love of neighbor.

And if one or more persons use force to take a good or service from another, that surely is inconsistent with the Gospel.

Now here is the important point. If two people wish to freely exchange goods or services, and another person or group of persons steps in and, using the threat of force and violence, insists on taking a fee or regulating our exchange, that is violence inconsistent with the Gospel, and it is violence even IF the person or persons doing the violence call themselves the State, and it is still violence even IF several other persons got together and voted Mr State into power.

Thus the only form of economic exchange consistent with the Gospel is peaceful, voluntary exchange in a free market (meaning a market free from force and violence).

And here is the kicker. With rare exceptions almost all the "Social Justice" and "Kingdom Values" policy proposals I have seen are based using force and violence ( compulsory taxation, "redistributive" economics, social welfare, compulsory regulations and labour laws ).

The policy that sparked this debate, the living wage, would be funded through compulsory taxation, through violence.

And while violence is legitimate for self-defense against an aggressor, it is not consistent with the Gospel to ever initiate violence.

So I assert that only the free market, that is, a market free from force, in which people peacefully, voluntarily exchange goods and services for mutual benefit, and in which Mr State's only role is to maintain the peace, is consistent with the non-aggression principle.

Thus only free market capitalism and strictly limited (small) government are consistent with the Gospel.