Election Analysis

Two pieces caught my eye. The first is Doug Wilson’s (thanks to the always Moscovite Baylys):

1. The first principle is not just that Jesus is Lord. That wonderful phrase is our foundational confession; it is not simply a sweet sentiment to tide us over until the sweet by and by. Rather we must say that Jesus is the Lord of history, and so He is the one who gave this electoral outcome to us. We don’t fully know why He did, but we know that He did.

2. Given the wickedness of key elements in Obama’s agenda (abortion, sodomy, thievery through taxation, etc.) we know that whatever the Lord is doing, it is for judgment and not for blessing. And in Scripture, whenever judgment is pending, or has begun, the appropriate response is repentance — not mobilization or organizing our remaining tatters.

Postmillennial optimism does not mean the world gets better without repentance. It means that the gospel is powerful to save, and when the gospel is preached rightly it comes in the form of “repent and believe.” Repent of what? Repent of our sins. Believe what? Believe in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. . . .

4. Every unprincipled vote, offerred to the bitch goddess of the state on the left, or the bitch goddess of pragmatism on the soft right, or the bitch goddess of ideology on the libertarian right, was simply thrown away. Professing Christians who voted for Obama were either confusedly or rebelliously heaping up judgment for all of us. Christians on the right who voted for Romney for no other reason than that he was “electable” found out that he was not as electable as all that. And Christians who voted for absolute ideological purity (which is, remember, a form of impurity) found out that that kind of purity wasn’t in the running.

5. Consistent biblical thinking required us to be preparing to oppose the proposals of either a re-elected Obama or a newly-elected Romney. In my judgment, opposition to Obama will be much tougher, which is why I would have preferred to have been opposing Romney. But if the Lord has given us the tougher assignment, our responsibility is to take up that tougher assignment with a gladness that submits to His will.

So my predictions of a Romney victory did not proceed from support for Romney. I didn’t want to vote for Romney, and I didn’t. I didn’t want to work for Romney, and I didn’t. I was preparing myself to oppose either Obama and Romney, and would have preferred to go against Romney.

From a truly conservative source comes this from Noah Millman:

Based on exit polls, Romney has captured a percentage of the white vote comparable to the 1984 Reagan percentage. But, to look at it another way, the white vote still dominates the Democratic part of the electorate – over 60% of the Democratic vote came from white voters. Something like 45% of men will have voted Democratic. 41% of those who attend religious services weekly will have voted Democratic. If the goal is increased demographic polarization, there’s plenty of room for either or both parties to pursue such polarization.

The question is not whether you can win in the future on the basis of demographic polarization. The question is what the consequences would be – for the demographic groups in question, and for the country as a whole.

In my view, the fact that black and Hispanic voters overwhelmingly prefer the Democratic party hurts black and Hispanic voters more than it hurts the Republicans. Republicans don’t need to court these voters – these voters need to court the Republican Party. The fact that highly religious white voters overwhelmingly prefer the Republican party hurts highly religious white voters more than it hurts the Democrats. The Democrats don’t need to court these voters – these voters need to court the Democratic Party. And polarization on the basis of identity hurts the country more than it hurts either party.

Trench warfare is bad for privates – they get slaughtered going over the top – but good for generals – the front lines don’t move much, so nothing is likely to happen that will get them canned.

One way of reading between these posts’ lines is to say that Wilson’s theological interpretation is not conducive getting what (and some Christians) wants. If you continue to treat political elections like those of a synod or assembly’s moderator (as if), you going to be one of those privates who gets slaughtered in trench warfare. In other words, if you continue to conflate the kingdoms and promote Christendom, you’re actually get a politicized church and a sacralized state. Why a Reformed church consisting of members who enjoy quiet and peaceable lives is not enough, I do not know.

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366 Comments

  1. Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Point taken Jed :) But you must admit, that on the face of it, this Machen quote doesnt seem to fit the Escondido 2K paradigm of Church and culture.. His statement could have been uttered by me, and dreaded theonomists!

    BTW, I have enjoyed your back and forth on economics, very interesting. I tend to like Gary North, (shock of all shocks lol) and was pleased to hear that you admire his work.

    Keep pressing on!.

  2. mark mcculley
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink
  3. Zrim
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Doug, I’ll see your Machen:

    . . . you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political or social questions of the day, and you cannot expect cooperation with the state in anything involving the use of force. Important are the functions of the police, and members of the church, either individually or in such special associations as they may choose to form, should aid the police in every lawful way in the exercise of those functions. But the function of the church in its corporate capacity is of an entirely different kind. Its weapons against evil are spiritual, not carnal; and by becoming a political lobby, through the advocacy of political measures whether good or bad, the church is turning aside from its proper mission. . .

    And raise you Dabney:

    God has reserved for our spiritual concerns one day out of seven, and has appointed one place into which nothing shall enter, except the things of eternity, and has ordained an order of officers, whose sole charge is to remind their fellow-men of their duty to God…But when the world sees a portion or the whole of this sacred season abstracted from spiritual concerns, and given to secular agitations, and that by the appointed guardians of sacred things, it is the most emphatic possible disclosure of unbelief. It says to men, “Eternity is not of more moment than time; heaven is not better than earth; a man is profited if he gains the world and loses his soul, for do you not see that we postpone eternity to time, and heaven to earth, and redemption to political triumph—we who are the professed guardians of the former?” One great source, therefore, of political preaching may always be found in the practical unbelief of [the preacher] himself; as one of its sure fruits is infidelity among the people. He is not feeling the worth of souls, nor the “powers of the world to come,” nor “the constraining love of Christ” as he should; if he were, no sense of the temporal importance of his favorite political measures, however urgent, would cause the wish to abstract an hour from the few allowed him for saving souls.

    But since 2kers stand with the worldviewist Kuyper in his opposition to the theocratic Calvin then why can’t we bring the 2k Machen to bear on the worldviewist Machen? Like Calvin, he’s only a man.

  4. Posted November 17, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    @Zrim: What does that prove? Are you saying that Machen had a split personality? Was he someone who contradicted himself? I don’t think our Machen’s quotes are polar opposites. In other words, I don’t think you’re understanding Machen correctly, because I am able to interpret your Machen passages from a neo-cal persepctive but you can’t interpret my Machen passages from your R2K paradigm. My passages wipe out your passages! It’s like Moses snake eating up the evil wizards snakes.

  5. Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Jed,

    Good stuff there- both your comments and the links. Did you read the article by North that McCulley linked on his rationale for covenantal economics? His thinking totally undermines any statistical analysis in the field of economics because fallen man is helplessly limited to an subjective theory of value. Therefore, true Christians, who find there value in God, are the only ones who can make policy that will make any sense, ie., fallen economists are using data that is flawed due to this subjective value. So, if you are not seeking to think God’s thoughts (and part of the Law covenant) after Him you will come up with flawed policy. This was the kind of stuff which made me scratch my head in despair when studying economics. The Calvin faculty mostly rejected North and the reconstructionists (although there were a couple Austrian types on the faculty there). They mostly rejected the idea that you can use special revelation as a guide for economic policy too. I know both Robbins and North thought you should use special revelation to guide your thinking- especially as a philosophical undergirding and rationale (epistemology). How they got to where they believed the Austrian and Chicago schools were the best economic models was always a mystery to me too. I will have to read some of those articles you linked. Now you have got my appetite whetted to think more about this again. I have kind of lost my desire to spend a lot of time on cultural issues as I find that Gospel- issues are more important to me these days. I think inherent in a lot of reconstructionist thinking is the idea that Christian cultural involvement in taking dominion ushers in the kingdom of God. But that idea has been critiqued ad infinitum here at oldlife and it has failed to convince the reconstructionists one bit.

    Most of the ideas I picked up at Calvin about the problems in the business and financial sectors were from reading the works of Michael Porter and a guy who was at Michigan State when I was going to Calvin. I forget his name now but will find out and get back with you on that. The guy who wrote the text for the Industrial Organization class I took was also influential in the field. I will have to get his name too. I took a Money and Banking class at Calvin so I will have to peruse through those Banking articles you linked. I never did completely buy into the idea that the Federal Reserve and central banks should be abolished like the Austrians want to do. I never bought into the gold standard idea either. But I was influenced by the faculty at Calvin so who knows. I used to think that polishing the brass on a predestined to sink Titanic was faulty thinking and extremely misguided, now I am not so sure. That borders on hyper-Calvinism I suppose. It is fun to try to think through the issues though. The problem lies in determining what to think about the most.

  6. Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    McMark,

    Great find! Thanks for posting this, as it was a “missing piece” I have been trying to fill in as to how North marries the Austrian School to his concept of Biblical Economics. On many fronts, I can track with his critique of the subjectivism of his own Austrian school, and with the the collectivists attempts at an objective good, which is why I think North as an economist is well worth studying.

    But, the problem comes with North’s “covenantal” solution, and this exists at at least two levels I can readily identify – though there may be more. First, on the biblical front, possibly owing to his theonomic commitments, he seems to take a reading of the covenantal scope of Scripture that doesn’t fall in line with Scripture’s own testimony regarding the functions of it’s covenants. He seems to take a universalizing stance on the Mosaic covenant, extrapolating it’s covenantal force to nation states and economies today. However the covenant at Sinai was made between God and a specific people of his choosing, it was not international in scope. Furthermore, the Mosaic covenant was completed in Christ, meaning it’s economy of blessing and cursing were for Israel. As our Reformed confessions indicate, all but the moral law contained in the Mosaic Covenant were completed and abrogated in Christ (WCF 19). The New Covenant is international in character, available to anyone who by faith would enter into covenant with Christ; however this covenant, rather than being political in character, focuses on the forgiveness of sins and a life acceptable to God, and it is the means that he calls a people to himself to live forever with him under the blessings of this covenant. As for the curses, these only fall on those outside the New Covenant, who do not believe.

    Second, while North is rightly, and heavily critical of the Kantian bifurcation in reality (i.e. phenomenal/noumenal) that has consigned modern economics to an exercise in subjectivism, I think he unwittingly falls into the idealist trap of Kantianism, just like Van Til did before him. Here’s how I come to that conclusion; towards the end of the essay he says:

    The methodological covenantalist finds the solution to these inherent and permanent dualisms in the concept of a sovereign, omniscient God. God has a plan. He matches ends and means. He issues a decree for history, and this decree will be fulfilled. “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:35). The presupposition of a sovereign God replaces the presupposition of sovereign man.

    The great mistake I think North is making, is he is arguing, in modernist fashion, for nothing more than swapping isms, from subjectivism to covenantalism, on the basis of Van Til’s presuppositional model. All one must do, according to North’s argument is opt for theonomy, rather than autonomy, essentially trading one system of thought in for another. However, in matters of economics as a science (soft albeit), or theology as a science, all claims for truth must be subject to a process of falsification, whereby the truth claim is subject to the scrutiny of rational tests to ensure that it corresponds faithfully to the facts of the external world, or the truths revealed in God (in the case of theology). This means that before macro decisions can be made at the level of “which system should I choose”; the facts that comprise that system must be subject to rational tests. Far too often, however, whether in the Kantian systems that dominate the modern world, or the Van Tilian ones that are Kant’s correlative in the realm of Reformed theology (as well as beyond with respect to theonomy), the only test for validity seems to be whether or not the system is internally coherent, and whether or not the system possesses external referentiality is immaterial.

    If North had employed Natural Law reasoning in his critique, he would have come to many of the same conclusions, because NL involves discovering and applying objective notions of good, in economics or otherwise, and he would have escaped the idealistic tendencies that theonomists can’t seem to escape. Because of this, many theonomists, and hard core Van Tillians cannot take claims contrary to their presuppositional system seriously or grant merit to certain arguments, not because they are not a good accounting for the facts of the matter, but because they arise from the wrong presuppositional system.

  7. Zrim
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Doug, or maybe yours is the schizophrenia trying to claim all of a Reformed hero and the broader tradition for neo-Calvinism. But some 2kers are willing to admit there are different camps within the tradition that can even show up within one man. Better to affirm one thing said over there by a man but hedge over here on another than force him to say 2k friendly things in worldviewist words. When will we see you honestly disagree instead of play third-rate puppeteer?

  8. Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Zrim – I liked those Machen & Dabney quotes. Maybe interpreting these men is less a matter of drawing a hard line than it is discerning the overall thrust of their thinking. I think your quotes are more in line with their overall thrusts. If I could convey one thing to Neocalvinists/theonomists it is that the gospel transcends all of our worldly cares. This is a very sweet & comforting truth that I don’t think that these men, for whatever reason, grasp. I think they hunger and thirst for righteousness, but I think it is futile to expect it (or even demand it) in this age. These are things we will experience in the age to come..

  9. Posted November 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Jed,

    I got a hold of one of my old econ professors at Calvin (the one I took the Industrial Organization Class and Money and Banking classes from) and he sent me those names and some of the books they wrote. The guy at MSU was Walter Adams. He wrote an excellent satire (based on the ideas of the existentialist theater of the absurd) on how the United States government thinks about economic policy and regulatory issues. The name of the book is ANTITRUST- ECONOMICS ON TRIAL. It is a short but extremely insightful read. And it is fun to read too. I think you would really enjoy it. It might be out of print, if it is I will send you the copy I have if you want me too. You have to send it back to me though.

    The guy who wrote the Industrial Organization text was F.M. Sherer. It was a textbook that I was so interested in that I read the whole thing. It was not even the text we used at Calvin. That is pretty pathetic when you start reading college textbooks in your leisure time. I almost went to grad school at MSU on the subject but my family situation at the time prevented me from doing so.

    Michael Porter wrote a bunch of books in the Industrial Organization field- COMPETITIVE STRATEGY, COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE and the COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE OF NATIONS. He was know for his 5 forces of thinking when thinking through business strategy, economic policy and goverment regulation. Porter taught at Harvard for many years and may still be there. He was a very influential Clinton advisor.

  10. Jed Paschall
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Out and about right now so I can’t make a long response on my iPhone, but we have used Porter for a few of my textbooks at UoP. He is quite good. I think his organazational theory is very interesting, but I haven’t broken down his work in any systematic way. But I have access to most of his e-books through UoP’s online library. I’ll download a few and let you know what I think as I get a chance to dig in more. Thanks for the resources BTW. I’ll reapond to your other points later on as time allows.

  11. Posted November 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Doug, one, your quote says nothing about a biblical basis for limited federated republics. Machen was not stupid.

    Two, Machen changed later in his life and was not postmill.

  12. Posted November 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    @Darryl: Interesting, can you point me to a book or paper where I can read about Machen’s sea change on Postmillennialism? Did he discuss why he saw fit to change his perspective, or are you deducing this from later writings? Please elaborate!

    Thanks in advance

  13. Posted November 19, 2012 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    Doug, the article I wrote on Machen and culture for Mars Hill audio (I believe it is still on the website under resources) is one place to go.

  14. mark mcculley
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  15. Jon
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    CD Host,

    Sorry for the delayed reply to your previous post, but here goes:

    Jon: What is your definition of the “common good?”

    CHD: The standard, the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number. Pretty much assuming you can score goods you sum them across the person affected and that is the score for the common good.

    You propose the utilitarian model of ethics. From whence did you derive this? Is this a Biblical principle? Does God desire the “greatest good for the greatest number?” The fatal flaw with utilitarianism has always been choosing the definition of good. Your definition seems as arbitrary as any other.

    Jon: And why should I accept your definition over someone else’s?

    CDH: At least at this point Rawls vs. Bentham doesn’t matter. Choose either.

    What if I don’t want to choose a materialistic model? Isn’t there more to “good” than wealth?

    Jon: You like to wave your arms around and use fancy macroeconomic lingo, but you still can’t answer why it’s okay for you to steal from the fruit of your neighbor’s labor as long as you get a majority vote.

    CDH: I told you already. My neighbor choose to do his labor in a society that has always held unequivocally a right to tax his “fruit”. That society provided for him vast supports which he made use of. His production was the result of taxes and the society they supported that were applied to others going back for generations. Nothing he did or made was his in isolation. It was never exclusively his fruit in the absolute sense you are assuming, and taxation is not theft. If my neighbor would like complete 100% ownership he’s free to build on Jupiter. But if he wants to build in America, then it is subject to taxation.

    How has society always voted to tax his fruit? The income tax wasn’t even implemented until 1913. But even granted your limited argument, how does sharing the tax burden for infrastructure entitle a non-productive person to confiscate the wealth of a productive person? They both had the exact same infrastructure to work with. One chose to not utilize it; the other chose to use it to make money. You think this entitles the non-productive one to make his productive neighbor pay his taxes?

    Simply saying that no taxes are a form of stealing is not an argument, it is a bare assertion. I will need a logical argument if I am to be persuaded. I have already convincingly proven the logical inconsistency of holding that abortion is murder, but progressive taxation is not theft.

    Jon: What I said is that it should be a fair system where everyone pays an equal proportion. This is the fairest system possible.

    CDH: Which is fine, but it is not the system we have today. Today the marginal tax rates on the poor are much much higher. You are arguing against moving towards a system of equal proportion.

    What? “the marginal tax rates on the poor are much much higher?” How do you figure? Are you aware, as I showed earlier, that the bottom 50% pay zero federal income tax. Zero. How in the world am I arguing against equal proportion?

  16. Posted November 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jon just saw this.

    Jon: And why should I accept your definition over someone else’s?

    You can have your choice. You can work within absolute standards of morality, agreed upon notions of the good; or you can work outside them. If you work outside them your claims about “theft” become meaningless. If you work inside them then we can discuss best policy.

    Politics is about unifying the society so as to achieve shared objectives. Politics itself has nothing to do with evaluating whether those shared objectives are good or bad in some ultimate philosophical sense. Rather it assumes that it only needs to evaluate them in a shallow sense assuming that the society has enough of a shared culture to make moral judgements once the shallow analysis is complete. If you want to discuss philosophical ethics, that’s fine but is has nothing to do with politics. Politics assumes an already existent ethics.

    What if I don’t want to choose a materialistic model? Isn’t there more to “good” than wealth?

    The utility function I gave doesn’t assume wealth. It assumes that goods that political system is interested in regulating are mostly exchangeable for money. Since we are discussing tax policy which is about money that’s a reasonable assumption.

    How has society always voted to tax his fruit? The income tax wasn’t even implemented until 1913.

    Wealth taxes were implemented prior to 1913. Besides we are talking 2012 income not 1912 income.

    What? “the marginal tax rates on the poor are much much higher?” How do you figure? Are you aware, as I showed earlier, that the bottom 50% pay zero federal income tax. Zero. How in the world am I arguing against equal proportion?

    They pay sales taxes, social security taxes, medicare taxes, direct or indirect property taxes, usage fees. Income taxes aren’t the only kind of taxes.

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