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.

366 thoughts on “Election Analysis

  1. the bishop of Moscow: “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.”

    mark: As a politically pacifist non-voter and as a justified sinner, I am interested to find out that, if I had voted for Obama, I could have heaped up judgment on Doug Wilson. But Tonto has reminded me that Wilson probably didn’t mean “all of us” who have been handed trinitarian water.

    This is why Hart’s point about synods and church assemblies is so important. If indeed those “in the covenant” have it in their power to place negative sanctions on those for whom Christ died, somebody is going to have to find a way to “cut off” from ‘the covenant” those who disqualify themselves by voting incorrectly.

    Some puritans wanted a creditable profession of a converting experience, but others (Stoddard) wanted to include as many generations in “the covenant” as possible so as to have more power over more people. In the new and improved Christendom dreamed of by Doug Wilson, will we need to tell somebody for whom we have voted to “stay in”? Will that somebody be the officers of “the church” or will it be the magistrates of the Mosaic nation-state?

    Purity is impurity. Freedom is slavery. Christians on earth heap us negative sanctions for “us all”. The good news of the new “international”….

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  2. McMark – Good observations.

    I for one look forward to going to church on Sunday and not hearing any commentary on the election. Just prayers for all of our leaders who won. We pray that God would steer them and cause them to rule justly for the sake of the church and the gospel.

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  3. 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

    When I read this I think I’m a bit slow on the uptake. So I just want to get clear on the scope of the judgement here. I’ll take NJ since that’s where I live.

    It appears that NJ was under judgement in 2008 when it went for Obama and then righteous in 2009 when it went for Christie but under judgement again this year, however since we are repenting in 2013 (likely) and going for Christie all will be good. But its worse than that.

    Souther Burlington is under judgement since it shares its district with Camden.

    Atlantic county with legalized gambling and tons of strip clubs is righteous though, because the Republicans stuck around to vote after Sandy. Similarly Ocean county. But in 2 years they’ll be under judgement.

    The southern part of my home county is righteous because it happens to sit in the same district as Monmouth while the northern part is under judgement for sitting in the same district as Middlesex and Somerset.

    This judgement stuff is complicated.

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  4. We had a guest over to the house this morning and the discussion moved pretty quickly to the election. This person could easily be classified as the typical “evangelical” (though I’m not always sure just exactly what that means nowadays) and is all about the culture wars. So I brought out a copy of FBGTSP and recommended that she read it for a better understanding of liberal vs. conservative when it comes to the actions of evangelicals’ involvement in politics. She seemed eager to read it and copied down the title and author, pledging to buy a copy.

    Then, as a sample, I read aloud the first full paragraph on page 199, the one about the dichotomy between the evangelicals as culture warriors on the one hand and their willingness to include all forms of not-so-appropriate secular types of music into their Sunday worship. I was met with a blank stare, confused about why this was a problem.

    I give up. I’m going back to just looking at them gape-jawed all the time.

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  5. CD

    You nailed it. This trying to read God’s mind is nasty business. Reminds me of the colonists who considered England God’s agent of salvation during the French and Indian War but a few years later the Anti-Christ during the American Revolution

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  6. IMPORTANT POINT: “Politics” will not save us. Our country is turning into Hell because the church in America has forgotten God (Psalm 9:17) and refuses to kiss His Son (Psalm 2.)

    John Lofton, Recovering Republican
    Editor, Archive.TheAmericanView.com
    Active Facebook Wall
    JLof@aol.com

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  7. CDH, indeed it is when read from an eeeevangelical lens. Makes one wonder what they think the simple phrase “it is finished” really means. Does Wilson realize how Pentecostal he sounds?

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  8. Wilson’s QIRC is evident here – how he know’s God’s secret will of decree in how he is executing his specific judgments on America is unfathomable. It’s like a sophisticated version of Pat Robertson. Unless Wilson considers himself a prophet…

    Last time I checked, God clearly revealed his wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, not just Wilson’s politically-motivated sins.

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  9. If I can cross-pollinate this thread with other recent threads, do the Dr. K-ish folks chastise Wilsonese like this or do they admire him for his strong stand? I’m just trying to put the 2k loathing into some kind of context.

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  10. Dr. Hart, how quiet and peacable will our lives be when the political-correctness enforcement troops charge into our services demanding an end to “hate speech?” Be a little late then for fully using op-portunities God grants His people now to forestall such an event thru political activism, won’t it!

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  11. Hi guys,

    This is ever so slightly off topic, but I wondered if any of you could help me understand something to do with American Christians and their politics. Why is it that so often, as in the Wilson quote above, taxation or at least certain forms of taxation, are equated with a form of theft? It’s peripheral to what Wilson said, but I noticed that Joel Beeke said something similar recently and indeed it’s common enough that nobody seems to be surprised. Here in the UK it sounds incredible, shocking even.

    Surely if the NT teaches us one thing about us and our relationship with the state again and again it’s that the state has every right to levy taxes. Every right – the money is even described as belonging to the government (they minted it, after all, ours over here still literally has the soveriegn’s image on every coin). I see nowhere that this right is limited or the government projects it funds are curtailed. (I guess reason might say the government shouldn’t tax you into absolute crushing poverty, but if it can pay for the roman oppression of God’s people in the Gospels – not to mention everything Nero spent his money on – then I’d be very careful about saying it can’t pay for healthcare for my neighbour)

    I ask because at least over here the idea that taxation is a form of theft (even one you shouldn’t resist) seems not only petulant and a refusal to play your role in society, it’s just a basic godliness issue in your relationship to the state. It’s to fail epically in the one political question that the NT seems to directly answer on multiple occasions. And that at least makes all the pontificating about Christianising the state and the political landscape seem rather hollow.

    So I ask, if it’s not the “I worked for this money, so it’s mine and the state shouldn’t take it from me” argument, which quite aside from being impossible to square with the idea that money made by Caesar belongs to Caesar, is incredibly naive in terms of thinking through where your money comes from (as if other actors in society, the stability brought by the state and the actions of your employees and coworkers didn’t help a bit) then where comes the justification for equating taxation and theft? Where does this idea first turn up in a Reformed exposition on the 8th commandment? Has any notable non American Reformed thinker or church reasoned in this way, and with what scripture justification?

    Many thanks, and sorry that I got a bit acidic there

    Ed

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  12. >>>>Then, as a sample, I read aloud the first full paragraph on page 199, the one about the dichotomy between the evangelicals as culture warriors on the one hand and their willingness to include all forms of not-so-appropriate secular types of music into their Sunday worship. I was met with a blank stare, confused about why this was a problem. I give up. I’m going back to just looking at them gape-jawed all the time.<<<<

    Your evangelical friend is simply telling you that she absolutely abhors abortion but she does not know much at all about the regulative principle.

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  13. 28whatever, well, if Paul could write to persecuted Christians about quiet and peaceable lives, it’s good enough for me. God’s word says it, I believe it, that settles it, right?

    Then again, if you are going to be politically active, perhaps you could be as wise as Noah Millman.

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  14. CD – I have to admit that was pretty good. Wilson’s paradigm is that whenever anything bad happens someone is being judged. For him, sometimes the bad behavior itself is the judgment (i.e., homosexuality). I think we just have to say that sometimes good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to bad people. That’s just life. Fortunately good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, too. As they say, s**t happens…

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  15. Ed, my sense is that this goes back to the Tea Party (the original) and no taxation without representation. Yanks don’t like to be taxed, period. And if you are having to pay taxes for which you don’t approve, then perhaps you can argue you’re not represented.

    But overall, my sense is that Americans view government and taxes differently from Europeans because we have the notion that we can take care of ourselves with state help. We are independent individuals. Europeans think more collectively (which could be collectist) but it comes from a shared national identity — English, French, German, etc. Americans have no common connection like that. So a tax on me for someone else’s welfare is like helping someone who is not one of mine.

    Just a thought, very intuitive.

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  16. Ed:

    In this country, the government is a representative republic. We the people elect sinful human beings to represent us. This govt. was crafted by several individuals who wanted the leadership to be accountable. Colonies, fresh off the defeat of a superpower nation, decided to create a national govt. comprised of elected officials.

    However, sometimes those people we elect like to spend OUR money in ways in which we do not approve. It is “our” money because if everyone in America quit their jobs and sat at home, the “currency” issued by Uncle Sam would not go very far (Gold, Silver and precious stones are also money but they are not a very common medium — the dollar is the most common medium and it is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States — read: the citizens). I can imagine that Americans like DGH who earn a great deal of money and pay a great deal of it in taxes, especially cringe when govt. is wasteful. As a citizen of this country, I do have an obligation to pay taxes but I also have an obligation to hold our leaders accountable for their stewardship. You have that same obligation in the U.K. God gave you that right whereas the people of North Korea have no such right.

    If our country melts down and we are eventually ruled by a Nero Caesar, I doubt there will be as much grumbling by the taxpayers . . . at least not in public. But until that happens, every American Citizen that can cast a vote is a “little Caesar.” Caesar is a servant of God and I can assure you that much is expected because TENS of TRILLIONS have been given.

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  17. @Ed: Taxes are not immoral per se. But taxes *can* be immoral; how you ask? A graduated tax is unethical. How can a Magistrate say: “you’re making so much money, over against other people, that we will tax you a higher percentage? He can not! That is called stealing! In other words, the Government may not ethically play Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, which is what is happening in America, and probably what Douglas Wilson was referring too. Taking from the rich, and giving it to the poor is evil, its sin, and it *should* be criminal. Regardless if its voted in the affirmative by the democratic process. For something to be intrinsically moral, means its doesn’t depend on majority vote.

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  18. Ed,

    One of the leading figures in the Reconstructioist movement is Gary North. North is an economist, and son in law to modern theonomy forefather Rushadoony. North is a highly respected economist in the Austrian School of economics which is highly influential amongst, ironically, both political libertarians, and the theonomy/reconstruction school. As an aside, as someone who has some Austrian sympathies, especially with respect to Austrian analysis of monetary policy, and their understanding of the business chcle. I think North as an economist has many valuable economic insights. However, it is not uncommon for those of an Austrian school persuasion to view many if not most forms of taxation as theft at worst, or an government imposition on economic freedom. Theonomists tend to add to this the fact that taxation is not only theft, but that taxes are spent often on sinful ends which they by virtue of taxation are coerced to support.

    If you want more resources on the topic, let me know and I can e-mail you some helpful discussions on the topic. On the whole, I can understand their objections on the matter of taxation, but I think their wholesale baptism of Austrian economics is problematic on a couple of fronts.

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  19. @ dgh I think that’s probably a good cultural observation and to a good extent I’d agree. But it kind of makes it sound like it’s an American dislike of paying taxes masquerading as a moral argument about their rectitude. Would you agree that the Bible doesn’t say anything which would suggest some kinds of taxes are theft, specifically the ones Obama’s government are proposing? If it doesn’t why do we stand for a serious and unbiblical accusation being thrown at people to whom we are commanded to show honour?

    @ Paul, lots of agreement there. Happy for you to say that the taxes Obama will levy are unwise, are paying for bad programs, are paying for immoral programs. Happy as a citizen of a democracy to object to your tax bill and the way it’s spent. Happy for you as an American citizen to argue that it’s unconstitutional. Very unhappy to equate it with theft. That’s a serious accusation and lacking in biblical support.

    @Doug You assert rather more than you actually argue here. Where in the scripture do you get the idea that Caesar can’t levy a graduated tax if that’s what he wants to do? Why shouldn’t he take the relative wealth of his citizens into account? What specifically does the Bible condemn about a means based tax?

    And once again, where is this idea found in the teaching of the reformed churches?

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  20. Doug,

    No, that is not what I said, nor is it what I am saying. For example, I think that tax supplements abortion is unethical. I also think that tax funded (even partially) wars from Korea to present are definitely unethical, with a good deal of our wars preceding these as well. Which is why I said I understood their position, however, many of the theonomy crowd think that the immorality of taxes extends far beyond these matters, which I am less than inclined to agree with. There are taxes that are absolutely necessary, and others that are discretionary, but benefit society, and the productive economy as well. If you want me to parse those out, let me know.

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  21. BTW Doug,

    The last time I checked, Jesus said render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. I am sure that Roman taxes went to all sorts of sinful ends, but Jesus said pay anyway. So regardless of the moral end of taxation, God demands we pay it. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with the tax, or that we cannot protest it, but I see nowhere in Scripture that allows us the liberty to not pay.

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  22. Right back atya, Dr. Hart. Paul in the preceding verse urges that “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority. . . ” Is it OK if some of us “intercede” and make “requests” via democratic means in our constitutional republic (aka “political activism”)? Oh, yes, Paul says do these things “first of all”.

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  23. @2866 I’m here engaging in a different conversation, but bad Bible handling is always bad bible handling an it doesn’t come much worse than the argument you’ve just advanced. That passage is fairly obviously not talking about using the then non existent recourse of a democratic process, it’s about the much neglected duty of giving thanks and praying for our leaders. It’s almost too ridiculous to warrant a refutation. In any case it’s requests being made FOR leaders whereas political activism makes requests TO leaders. Your way of distorting the text mistakes the president for God (which I’ll admit is an all too common mistake).

    So praps rather than being first of all, lobbying isn’t mentioned at all.

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  24. >>>>Very unhappy to equate it with theft. That’s a serious accusation and lacking in biblical support.<<<<

    I never said it was "theft." I don't know very much about Doug Wilson or his political views. I doubt there are very many Americans that think all taxation is theft. We probably would not have a very good police force if they had to depend on goodwill contributions. There certainly would not be two carrier battle groups in the Middle East region if it depended upon donations. I suspect that the charge of "theft" pertains to what is perceived to be taxation followed by very poor and irresponsible, maybe even immoral, spending.

    I certainly hope you are not suggesting that citizens of this country are to be taxed for any and every reason, without objection. God gave us a nation that came attached with a constitution designed to hold the electorate accountable. Was it not your own "Lord Acton" that said, "Power corrupts . . . absolute power corrupts absolutely?" People have the propensity to do the wrong thing. When somebody describes certain types of "taxation" as stealing, I take that to mean they are disgruntled with the corrupt human beings in our govt. The same God who sets up nations and levels others gave us a nation with the right to speak freely and worship as we wish. And I would argue that the 1st amendment to the United States Constitution is a whole lot more important than the 16th.

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  25. James White also came down on the judgement angle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1T0rLHgBWg

    Though his version makes more sense in that he sees the judgement as the people being given over more globally and a longer fall. Its interesting how much he equates “socialism” with moral degradation, and by Socialism he seems to mean welfare economics not state ownership of industries.

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  26. >>>>Happy for you to say that the taxes Obama will levy are unwise, are paying for bad programs, are paying for immoral programs.<<<<

    It's not just Obama. Spending like there is no tomorrow has been a problem for several presidents and congresses from all parties. Spending money is fun! But there is nothing sacred about a president signing a spending plan into law.

    BTW, Reformed types usually prefer to follow where the Bible instructs rather than pursue what God does not explicitly forbid. I don't recall where God spelled out the "fairness," "equity," "goodness," or "justice" of the so called "progressive" income tax structure.

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  27. CDH, sorry, but White’s attempt to read the headlines and discern the judgment of God still doesn’t make any more sense to those of us who seriously confess along with Belgic 13 (in part) that,

    We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

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  28. Jed Paschall: The last time I checked, Jesus said render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. I am sure that Roman taxes went to all sorts of sinful ends, but Jesus said pay anyway. So regardless of the moral end of taxation, God demands we pay it. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with the tax, or that we cannot protest it, but I see nowhere in Scripture that allows us the liberty to not pay.

    RS: What is Caesar’s is Caesar’s, but that is a different thing than Caesar taking what others have worked for and giving it to other groups to advance his own political causes. In that case Caesar is guilty of stealing.

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  29. Richard,

    In Jesus’ time Roman taxes went to the construction of Pagan temples, wars that unjustly enslaved war refugees, went to the construction of bath houses where sexual immorality abounded, funded the brutal gladiatorial games…I could go on. Jesus was well aware of this, yet commanded that we render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Oh and BTW, some of those Roman taxes went to the construction of roads that enabled theswift spread of the gospel, and went to the enforcement of a decent legal system. But, from your vantage of 21st century politics, I forgot, you get to pick and choose which taxes are “theft” andwhich ones are not… making you know better than the Lord himself in ca. AD 29.

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  30. Zrim: CDH, sorry, but White’s attempt to read the headlines and discern the judgment of God still doesn’t make any more sense to those of us who seriously confess along with Belgic 13 (in part) that,

    We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

    RS: How is it undo curiosity to see what the Bible says is judgment and then observe it in our culture and think that is the judgment of God? It is not going beyond the Scriptures to see sinful behavior and know that God has turned those people over to a sinful heart and has given them blinded eyes. I am not sure how anyone could see what is going on in the United States and not see that the Bible declares that we are under the judging hand of God.

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  31. Jed Paschall: Richard, In Jesus’ time Roman taxes went to the construction of Pagan temples, wars that unjustly enslaved war refugees, went to the construction of bath houses where sexual immorality abounded, funded the brutal gladiatorial games…I could go on. Jesus was well aware of this, yet commanded that we render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

    RS: But He was holding a coin in His hand that had the likeness of Caesar on it. He did not say what was Ceasar’s and was not Caesar’s.

    Jed Paschall: Oh and BTW, some of those Roman taxes went to the construction of roads that enabled theswift spread of the gospel, and went to the enforcement of a decent legal system. But, from your vantage of 21st century politics, I forgot, you get to pick and choose which taxes are “theft” andwhich ones are not… making you know better than the Lord himself in ca. AD 29.

    RS: I don’t know better than the Lord Himself at all, but I don’t think you are interpreting the Lord’s words correctly.

    Mat 22: 15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said.
    16 And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.
    17 “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”

    RS: We are let in on a secret here and that is some Pharisees were wanting to trap Jesus. The question they issued in an effort to trap Him is given in v. 17. Notice, they were trying to trap Him by forming the question in this way.

    18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?
    19 “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius.
    20 And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”
    21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

    RS: What was the intent of Jesus? Is He making a statment on a taxation system or is He confusing those who wanted to trap Him? The coin used to pay the temple tax had the likeness and inscription of Caesar on it. So He said to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. It appears that you are wanting this to stand as a statement that we are to submit to the government regardless of what it does. I don’t think the words of Jesus should be stretched so far. A government that takes from its people and gives it to other people for its own purposes is stealing. The intent of the hearts of the people that make up the government are doing it for their own selfish purposes and it is sinful.

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  32. Richard,

    It is pretty simple, stop paying taxes then, if they are so immoral…the good thing is you can still comment here from Sing Sing.

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  33. BTW Richard,

    Jesus said render to Caesar what is Caesar’s with respect to the question of taxation, Peter and Paul follow suit, urging the church to submit to governing authorities. Now I know I advocate certain limited expressions of civil disobedience within the strictures of NL, but tax evasion to me is not a protest that Christ, or the apostles left open as a live option to the churches. Unless you can supply some credible Reformed sources to back up your interpretation, I will take this as one more instance of an idiosyncratic pontification of “The Bible according to Richard”. Now you argue against the plain meaning of the text, please don’t start sawing of your nose to spite your face.

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  34. Nero Caesar lined his pockets with the take of the treasury. He was most certainly stealing. Yet Jesus said, render to Caesar . . .

    Barak Obama is the closest thing we have to Caesar . . . he’s the most powerful man in the world. Does that make it acceptable for him to lift a few gold bars out of Fort Knox?

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  35. Paul, enter enter if you think that Barack Obama is the most powerful man in the world then you are mistaken. There are very powerful interests that paid to put him into office, if you don’t think that they are in charge then you don’t understand the dynamics of power in Washington. After the Kennedy presidency is more than likely that the Presidential office has been a foil for greater powers that stand behind the office then the office itself.

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  36. Richard,

    Nero used tax money to hang Christians on crosses. Jesus said to pay taxes to the very government that crucified him. I honestly don’t get where you, or any Christians, get off saying that Christians need to rise up in mass protest because we’re being unjustly taxed.

    In fact, one of the most prominent marks of Christians is that we endure unjust suffering while giving glory to God. Paul didn’t tell slaves to rise up against their cruel, mean masters but to submit, end of story. To rebel against your master (whoever he is), even if what he does is unjust, is to rebel against God. Unless the Christian is asked/forced by their master to commit sin, they must submit.

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  37. Hi Paul,

    It wasn’t my intention to insinuate that you’d said taxation was theft and I’m sorry if I came across that way. I don’t imagine Wilson or Beeke equate all taxation with theft, but they clearly do consider some taxes to be not only objectionable as to the way they are spent, but actual violations of the eighth commandment. It appears to be a reasonably common thing for American Conservative Christians to say, certainly nobody seems to fall off their chairs when it’s bandied around. Richard here evidently thinks something relatively similar as does Doug. Nobody seems willing to offer even an attempted justification of this view of taxes from the Bible. Indeed the idea that the government doesn’t have the authority to raise taxes as it sees fit seems to run absolutely contrary to the explicit statements of Scripture in regard to paying your taxes. I see any accusation of theft on the part of the state in exercising its legitimate God given right to be at the very least a violation of the 5th and 9th commandments and unacceptable in a person in Christian leadership. It is a very serious slander against someone to whom we should show all honour.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to say that you can’t object to the taxes you are being asked to pay. As a citizen of a constitutional democracy you have the luxury of a leader who has sworn a solemn oath to uphold the constitution and that constitution accords you the right to criticise the government’s taxation policies. So by all means criticise policies and if there are good grounds, question the constitutionality of certain taxes.

    I think that should answer you question about the President and gold bars in Fort Knox. The president is not quite like caesar in that respect because he is not the federal government incarnate, and the regulations by which the government operate do not accord him that authority. the true equivalent to caesar in America I think is probably the federal government and the individual state governments (which I understand is are somewhat abstract entities in America).

    I’m certainly not suggesting, either, that taxes can’t be unethical, that all taxes are good taxes. Taxes can be raised to pay for something immoral, like abortion or an unjust war. Taxes can be badly misspent, Taxes can place an undue burden on a citizenry which is unable to afford them. What I’m suggesting is that one way in which a tax cannot possibly be immoral is by being an act of theft on the part of the government. It’s something the Bible accords to the government as a right. When we all have to give an account on the last day, I am sure the President, and his predecessors will have to answer for many of the programs they have funded, but I don’t think one of the charges they’ll have to answer is theft by taxation. Even Nero lining his pockets could have been many things, but unless Roman law works rather differently than I thought, he wasn’t stealing; he was basically the state incarnate. As you quoted, render unto caear that which is… caesar’s! You can’t steal something that effectively and rightfully belongs to you already.

    For what it’s worth, I’m also very glad that we live in two reasonably democratic countries with a reasonable freedom of expression as regards government policy. I wouldn’t want to live in Medieval Europe or Roman Galatia. But as glad as I am for the democratic rights the state accords me, I see nothing in the Bible to suggest the state is obliged to accord me those rights. I think you can infer that the state shouldn’t be as violent as a North Korea, or even a Rome, but it doesn’t seem like the NT thinks it’s sinful to be an autocrat. Very glad to be free of autocrats, but concerned we don’t allow Enlightenment thinking and modern sensibilities to dictate what must be the right way to run a state.

    My concern is that in a desire to speak as hyperbolically as possible some people are saying things that are ungodly and my basic point is that the Bible’s teaching seems to be that bad leaders are still legitimate leaders, bad policies are still the policies of a legitimate authority and bad taxes are just that, bad taxes but legitimate taxes, not theft.

    As for the reformed churches I don’t know of a place where they have delivered confessional teaching on the fairness, justice or equity of *any* tax structure. Surely one of the biggest concerns of this blog is the idea that broadly speaking the Bible doesn’t tell the President how to levy income tax and I think it leaves him freedom to do so as he sees fit, within the confines of the law. Besides, again I’m not arguing that graduated taxes for example are necessarily fair, or equitable. I’m very happy for people to argue, if that is their conviction, that they are unfair to the rich and give an unfair advantage to the poor. but the one thing they certainly aren’t is stealing. They are, at worst, the government using it’s rights in an unethical way.

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  38. Ed,

    Back to your original comment regarding money, if I understand you correctly, you are asserting that the government has a claim too all money because it created the coins and currency. But I think you err by not seeing money for what it really is – a store of wealth and medium of exchange. Generally, you get money by providing something of value to somebody else, e.g. by working, so your cash represents the reward for your effort and initiative. So, when you say that the government owns all of the money, you are essentially saying that the government owns or has a rightful claim to 100% the results of your and everybody elses toil and effort, and that is an idea that U.S. citizens reject categorically. Generally, our conviction is that the citizens have the rightful claim to their property (whether land, various kinds of stuff, or greenbacks) and government has a legitimate claim only on that portion needed to fund its essential services. And we fight quite a bit about what services ought to be provided by our various levels of government.

    Adding to what Darryl said about our view of government and our relationship to it, the theme of many of our national myths, from the Puritans in Massachusetts to pioneers in the Wild West, is that of individuals, families, or small groups of people toughing it out against great odds in order to make better lives for themselves and their descendents. In the case of settling the West, for example, the federal government gave you title to a piece of land, but after that you were on your own – the government was not going to be there for you in any way, shape, or form if you failed. I think the idea of being responsible for yourself, and not looking to the government, continues to influence the way Americans think of themselves and their view of the proper role of government, and thus, taxes.

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  39. “Back to your original comment regarding money, if I understand you correctly, you are asserting that the government has a claim too all money because it created the coins and currency. But I think you err by not seeing money for what it really is – a store of wealth and medium of exchange.”

    That is what money has become, but that was as true in 1st Century Palestine as it is in the 21st Century West. The particularly bit of background wasn’t really any different when Jesus made his ‘Render unto Caesar’ remark.

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  40. @Doug Sowers – You say that graduated rates are unethical, but then what do you make of the various deductions and credits that blunt the intended effect of graduated rates? I think the picture gets pretty muddied up given the reality (or, better, unreality) of our tax code.

    For example, in 2012 taxpayers with kids 17 years old or younger can get a $1,000 tax credit per kid, and it’s refundable, meaning you get the cash even if your income is such that you don’t have any income tax liability – you would have essentially negative income tax. Would you say this is a form of redistribution? Why should my wife and I, with our five kids, get a $5,000 break on our taxes merely for being prolific? (Relatively speaking; we’re pikers compared to J.S. Bach, though I believe we tie Michelle Bachmann.)

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  41. Ed, agreed on the Bible and taxes and here’s the 2k twist. Conservative Protestants in the US generally don’t have a language of political conservatism (aside from maybe the cliche — no taxation without representation). So they use biblical categories invariably to voice their objection. I am a limited govt. and modest republic man and I object to tax policies as much as the next theonomic whacko. But theft?

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  42. 28yadayadayada, you’re kidding, right? Paul says pray for governors and you render this voting and political activism. Remember when Gareth in THE Office has the policeman cookie jar that says “stay away from the cookiejar” when ever you open the lid. 28. . . you need to stay away from the Bible.

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  43. Darryl,

    Thanks for this post. The Heetderks family was pretty much in the tank for Romney-Ryan and our kids picked up on this and ran in a pretty much Manichean direction. We found it necessary to try and correct them, pointing out that Romney supporters are not necessarily the righteous, and Obama supporters are not necessarily evildoers. But, thanks to you directing us to Doug Wilson, I see now that we were wrong; the revised lesson for our kids is:

    Vote for Mitt Romney = Sin of commission
    Vote for Barack Obama = Off-the-charts sin of commission
    Vote for Virgil Goode = Likely sin of commission, though mitigated by the fact that he’s from Virginia
    Non-write-in vote for a post-mill neo-Constantinian = Sin of omission

    I haven’t decided yet what our penance will be.

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  44. Rube, thanks for the link. What Mohler should add is that the case for hetero marriage and protecting the unborn needs to be given to people like Noah Millman rather than the vast array of evangelicals. What we need specifically is an economic argument for marriage and pro-life. Given the staggering financial disasters of cities and boomers about to retire, the idea that middle-class parents and more human workers has some appeal. Americans never passed on argument designed to enhance the economy.

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  45. Erik Charter: I left out bad things happen to good people. That happens, too. Mostly to me.

    RS: Jesus said that no one was good.

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  46. Jed Paschall: Richard, It is pretty simple, stop paying taxes then, if they are so immoral…the good thing is you can still comment here from Sing Sing.

    RS: I didn’t say all taxes were immoral. I said that a government (made up of sinful human beings) that takes tax money from one group and gives it to another group in order to get or keep power is immoral. That is not the same as saying that all taxes are immoral.

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  47. We can submit to injustice without approving it. Of course in theory this specific tax was not for Caesar, but for “the church”. So perhaps the analogy would be your continuing to give to your congregation even when your elders use the money to buy Tim Keller books for the library.

    Matthew 17: 24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.[a] Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

    On the matter of giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and judgments about what is Caesar’s (and not God’s), my question is this—-isn’t giving to Caesar one more way to give to God? If not, should we count taxes as one more thing we fail to give to God?

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  48. @DGH

    What we need specifically is an economic argument for marriage and pro-life.

    First off if you want a secular argument you can look to European politicians. From Russia to Sweden many of them are taking a very strong pro-marriage and pro-procreation stance. Just about every European country has abortion rates that are only about 1/3 to a 1/4 of US rates.

    Evangelicals have already made the case.

    In the US Phillip Longman who is an atheist is the author of the book, The Empty Cradle. He was very popular with evangelicals, and a successful spokesperson for the pro-procreation cause since he speaks the language of the secular population. He makes the argument that late marriage / low procreation attitudes (what evangelicals call the “culture of death”) are being created by governmental policies that are changeable. We choose to create that morality by considering the surplus value of a worker to be a societal asset while at the same time only subsidizing a low percentage of the cost of children. We made children into an expensive luxury that diminish their parents quality of life and the society has acted in a purely rational fashion by constructing a value system consistent with that tax policy.

    These sorts of arguments have gone out of fashion with the rise of the Tea Party as pro-government conservatism (i.e. Bush’s big government conservatism) has gone out of fashion. What Longman is talking about is massive redistributive policies on the order of about an additional $2m per child over the course of their lives (much higher credit for children, college tuition and support money paid by the state…). But that being said if you want an argument that evangelicals have made that the left is willing to engage with and mostly agrees to, it exists.

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  49. Jude 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

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  50. In the case of settling the West, for example, the federal government gave you title to a piece of land, but after that you were on your own – the government was not going to be there for you in any way, shape, or form if you failed.

    Which is of course total baloney history. For settling the near west (Kentucky) the government supported and maintained the Virginia slave system which created the huge numbers of men needed to clear land and make it viable farm country under lethal conditions. For the further west, as soon as the North started winning the civil war they began a massive governmental infrastructure project to create the transcontinental railroad. They also funded several wars to clear the land like the Mexican wars and the second set of Indian wars. They subsidized and insured loans from International Banks to state banking systems.

    Entrepreneurship is a method the government encouraged to achieve population migration, nothing more.

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  51. Ed and D G Hart say I’ve a wrong understanding of 1 Tim. 2. God places our rulers, correct? He grants them authority–regardless of the means thru which they attain authority over us. I certainly don’t confuse the President with God, and will always concede that our first recourse is definitely prayer and request to our Lord on behalf of our leaders. What shall we request? Among other things, faithful exercise of our present rights as citizens to appraise and petition state officials. Paul didn’t miss using his Roman citizenship to avoid punishment and seek legal recourse to Caesar. “Ora et labora,” I believe the Latin may be–“prayer and work.”

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  52. CD-H – I agree with you that the federal government was heavily involved in western migration, but the people who settled the western states early on took significant risks and had little or nothing to fall back in the case of failure. My point is that stories of people who survived and even prospered under exceedingly difficult conditions inform American’s ideas about what our relationship with our government should look like.

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  53. According to R.C. Sproul’s exposition of the Ten Commandments in the current Table Talk anything but a flat tax is theft and anything over 10% is at best arrogant. While I find the class warfare rhetoric disturbing, I fail to understand how a tax that puts the heavier burden on the poor is more moral than one that allows those who have more to keep more so all can have the same %.

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  54. My point is that stories of people who survived and even prospered under exceedingly difficult conditions inform American’s ideas about what our relationship with our government should look like.

    Why? Why should our relationship with government be based on the myths about western expansion rather than the reality of western expansion? It doesn’t make sense to agree that western expansion was a massively subsidized government program, and then argue that we should ignore that it treat it like was all about hardy individuals overcoming adversity on their own. What’s the advantage of deliberately lying to ourselves?

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  55. That Del Tackett guy from the Truth Project made the claim about taxes and theft as well. I think he said any taxes for the express purpose of the redistribution of wealth is theft. For him, not all things that governments spend money is redistribution of wealth. If the government picks you for some sort of job, and you do it, then it isn’t redistribution (i.e. police, judges, etc.). However, most things the government does still fall under his category of redistribution of wealth.

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  56. Cd-H, why do you think Demographic Winter is evangelical? The Family First Foundation, its sponsor, shows nothing overtly evangelical. And one of its board members, Allan Carlson, has just written a book about evangelicals and contraception which argues ev’s have been largely ignorant of the social significance of procreation. Of course, they get the morality. Boy, do they get the morality.

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  57. Mark G. said:

    “According to R.C. Sproul’s exposition of the Ten Commandments in the current Table Talk anything but a flat tax is theft and anything over 10% is at best arrogant. While I find the class warfare rhetoric disturbing, I fail to understand how a tax that puts the heavier burden on the poor is more moral than one that allows those who have more to keep more so all can have the same %.”

    Mark, please explain how a flat tax would put a greater burden on the poor? Actually, it would tax everyone equally, hence the name “flat.”

    While you are at it, please define the word “poor.” If you mean someone who lacks sufficient food, shelter, and clothing (the classic definition of poor), then no one in the USA is poor. If you mean the humanists’ constantly changing definition of poor, then anyone of the 99% is poor.

    I recommend all here read Herbert Schlossberg’s excellent book “Idols For Destruction.” He speaks directly to this subject.

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  58. Richard,

    You will never convince Jed that any taxes can possibly be immoral. If we instituted a tax that made the top 1% give 99% of their income and didn’t tax the bottom 99% at all, he would not see that as theft. His theory is that if government does it, you cannot apply ethical principles to it since that would destroy his radical two kingdom theory. Taking his reasoning to its logical conclusion, if the government had people killed for no reason, that would not be murder either.

    Basically, any legislation that can be passed by majority vote, is morally neutral. So if we voted to give government bureaucrats the power to take anyone’s vehicle they wanted at random, that would not be stealing.

    Government resides in an ethereal state of moral neutrality. Nothing it does is good or bad, since God is the standard for morality, but His standards don’t apply to the civic arena. Basically, this type of thinking is setting the stage for the worst kind of government tyranny and the chance of Darryl achieving his “quiet and peaceable” life is non-existent.

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  59. Erik Charter: “Jesus said that no one was good.”
    Not even Jonathan Edwards?

    RS: Well, since Jesus cannot be wrong I guess we will have to say that while Edwards was almost perfectly good, he must have just missed it by a little.

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  60. Jon: Richard, You will never convince Jed that any taxes can possibly be immoral. If we instituted a tax that made the top 1% give 99% of their income and didn’t tax the bottom 99% at all, he would not see that as theft. His theory is that if government does it, you cannot apply ethical principles to it since that would destroy his radical two kingdom theory. Taking his reasoning to its logical conclusion, if the government had people killed for no reason, that would not be murder either.

    Basically, any legislation that can be passed by majority vote, is morally neutral. So if we voted to give government bureaucrats the power to take anyone’s vehicle they wanted at random, that would not be stealing.

    Government resides in an ethereal state of moral neutrality. Nothing it does is good or bad, since God is the standard for morality, but His standards don’t apply to the civic arena. Basically, this type of thinking is setting the stage for the worst kind of government tyranny and the chance of Darryl achieving his “quiet and peaceable” life is non-existent.

    RS: Thanks for giving me a broader perspective. I would add, however, that Romans 1:18ff has something to say on this subject: ” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

    Government people who make unjust laws are sinful because God has made the basics of Himself known to them. I would also add that this is buttressed by the book of Genesis which has all Ten Commandments in it (not in direct form) and that was before the Law was given in Exodus. The people in Government will answer to God for their sin and God has made that known to their consciences as well. There is a reason that in the OT God brought many unjust governments down. He brought the people of Israel into the Land to carry out His wrath on the people there who had reached a limit regarding their sin.

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  61. RS: says: How is it undo curiosity to see what the Bible says is judgment and then observe it in our culture and think that is the judgment of God? It is not going beyond the Scriptures to see sinful behavior and know that God has turned those people over to a sinful heart and has given them blinded eyes. I am not sure how anyone could see what is going on in the United States and not see that the Bible declares that we are under the judging hand of God.

    Me: Amen! Amen! Amen!

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  62. Jon, the point of immoral taxes is immaterial, for a Christian, as to whether or not we should pay them. As Christians, we pay taxes, even if those taxes eventually go to our government that uses them to persecute Christians (the highest form of immorality), abort babies, carry out unjust wars, etc (like they have pretty much done since the fall…)

    2K actually helps to resolve this because immoral taxes are not immaterial for us as citizens of that nation as to whether we should seek through government process to overturn the immoral taxes. You see Paul exercising this when he appeals in Acts to his Roman Citizenship as to why the Romans shouldn’t punish him unjustly. He doesn’t appeal to Christ’s Lordship over them, but to the Authority of the State/Government that is already in place.

    So, as Christians, we pay taxes. As National Citizens (for us, of the USA), we are free to use the law-appointed means of overturning immoral/unethical laws and taxes, all the while paying taxes to the government that carries out the very things we want to overturn.

    The point is not the supposed moral neutrality of the state – but that how we as Christians understand and approach government as seen within the dual aspects of “living in two kingdoms”.

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  63. Jon,

    Once again, you display your refusal to simply read what I have written, on this thread no less:

    Doug,

    No, that is not what I said, nor is it what I am saying. For example, I think that tax supplements abortion is unethical. I also think that tax funded (even partially) wars from Korea to present are definitely unethical, with a good deal of our wars preceding these as well. Which is why I said I understood their position, however, many of the theonomy crowd think that the immorality of taxes extends far beyond these matters, which I am less than inclined to agree with. There are taxes that are absolutely necessary, and others that are discretionary, but benefit society, and the productive economy as well. If you want me to parse those out, let me know.

    Like I had said earlier, I have even said that there are many aspects of Gary North’s economics that I think are right and correct – especially with respect to his understanding of Austrian school monetary policy, and the business cycle. However, as much as I appreciate Austrian school economics, I do not think they are right on all issues – especially on matters of regulation. They basically want a self-regulating laissez faire economy, but I think this runs directly against the facts of human depravity, and Natural Law in many areas, leaving the door wide open to fraud. This is where I see the economic contributions of William K. Black and Michael Hudson out of Univ of Missouri Kansas City to be far more sensible.

    When it comes to taxes, we know statistically that the government maxes out on tax revenue when the median rate is at the 20-22% range, meaning that the government doesn’t actually collect any more tax revenue when the mean tax rate rises beyond this. I frankly can see a number of tax structures that can work within this framework, and can contribute to a maximally efficient economy. So to argue as you do, that I am somehow in favor of high taxes, or that I think all taxes are moral is a blatant misrepresentation of what I actually hold to – something I have come to expect from you. That’s ok, paint me with whatever brush you’d like, if it makes you feel better – but, if you want to know what I think on these matters, it’s better to just ask.

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  64. Jon, If one family makes $25,000 and pays $2,500 in tax and another makes $250,000 and pays $25,000 in tax the one who makes $25K has $22,500 to live on and the one who makes $250K has $225,000 to live on. Given that people in general don’t favor being burdened which family would you rather be? Who gave more, the poor widow who had only one coin, or the rich who gave much more in terms of absolute monetary value?

    Or flip it around. If an employer pays his employees a flat increase who is going to benefit more? The guy starting at a low salary or the guy starting at a high salary?

    However, my underlying point is that these are issues on which Christians can and do disagree.
    (I think it is problematic to argue from the 10 commandments apart from their historic and covenantal context in ancient Israel.) Christianity is not defined with American political/economic conservatism, flat tax, gold standard, anti-global warming, anti-amnesty for alians, etc.

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  65. Jed,

    It appears you are the one who hasn’t read their opponent. I never claimed you supported high taxes. I merely performed a reductio ad absurdum to show the flaw in your view (based on previous comments) that the government can’t be guilty of theft regarding its tax laws.

    Now your comments above don’t help your case any because they are purely pragmatic: talking about what WORKS, not what is RIGHT.

    I don’t care if 20% income tax optimizes government “revenue.” I care about what taxes are just or unjust, based on God’s clear law and the testimony of nature.

    My point is actually quite narrow and specific: The government is indeed capable of levying taxes that constitute theft. Period. Now we can argue about which ones are theft, but the initial point remains. If the government can commit murder by wrongly killing someone, then it can commit theft by legalizing something that would land a private citizen in jail.

    I am glad that you can at least admit that using funds for abortion are immoral. But you need to go the step further and realize that ANYTHING the civil government does outside the scope that God has laid out for it is immoral. Civil government’s role is to punish evil and defend its citizens (Rom. 13). Nothing more, nothing less.

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  66. BTW Jon, Richard, et. al.

    None of you are offering affirmative biblical answers to how Christians are warranted in dodging taxes because they constitute theft. Wealth redistribution as a matter of Law is not theft, even in Scripture, where land owners were commanded to cordon off large tracts of their productive land for the poor to glean. There were also conventions of debt forgiveness that essentially took funds, and property owned by the wealthy and re-assigned these to those who had succumbed to poverty. So the principle of wealth redistribution is not even theft per se in the economic regulations in Scripture. If you were to calculate the income ancient Israelites were to keep, pre-Monarchy under the Mosaic administration under the judges, if they were following Scripture, they were living off of 33-45% of their net income – if you’d like to see how those numbers are achieved – you would have to take into account the assests that would have been allocated to the Levites – 10% off the top, their property allocated for gleaning by the poor – 15-25% of their productive assets, attending to the commanded feasts – 5-10% of their annual incomes; and then the grain and livestock allocated to sacrifices, another 5-10%. So when God’s people were following his Laws, they were coming nowhere near even the 80-90 percent of their annual income that many Christians now think is their right after taxes and tithe.

    But the real issue here is that God has instituted human governments – even ones we would deem bad or deficient only exist because he has willed them to. Scripture demands that we submit to our governing authorities, respect and pray for them. Even where I have argued that there are instances where civil disobedience is warranted, it is not in support of anarchy, or meant to violate this fundamental principle. Regardless of whether taxes are ethical, fair, or sensible, Christian’s are called to submit to them. If they want to see this changed – which I certainly do as well, they can engage the political system to see taxation policy changed, but we have no right to be a law unto ourselves, and deem taxation to be theft, when governments are instituted by God, and we are called to submit.

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  67. Mark G,

    The problem with your argument is this is not about who I “would rather be.” It is about what is just. Who I would rather be is completely irrelevant to what is morally right.

    You’re argument is not really an argument at all, it is just an emotional appeal. Unfortunately, Americans as a whole have little ability to think logically, so these type of arguments are very persuasive for most people.

    But you need to have a moral basis for your desire to impose a progressive tax code. And by the way, who decides what the scale is? Currently, the top 10% earners pay 70% of the federal tax burden (http://www.ntu.org/tax-basics/who-pays-income-taxes.html). But why 70%? Perhaps you would make it 90%. Someone else would make it 40%. But who’s right? What’s the basis for judging the fairness of such a system?

    The answer is there is absolutely none. Once you decide that government’s job is to be God and decide who has what and who wins and loses, the game is over. Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. You are left with arbitrary, emotional arguments based on nothing.

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  68. God’s giving people over to sin (i.e., judgement) in the contemporary situation is not identical to God’s judging in the OT. The judgements in the OT have an eschatalogical/typological and revelatory character and point to God’s ultimate end time judgement (which Jesus also suffered on the cross for the elect). The flipside of the OT judgements against nations are the covenant blessings to Israel or covenant curses falling upon Isreal. The U.S. is not a theocracy. The only theocracy this side of the resurrection of Christ is his kingdom which transcends political boundaries. His judgments are against “the seed of the serpent.”

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  69. Jed,

    “None of you are offering affirmative biblical answers to how Christians are warranted in dodging taxes because they constitute theft.”

    Another straw man? Who is dodging taxes?

    Are we getting back into the argument that calling taxes theft is failing to submit to authority? Please, let’s not. Otherwise, you’re statements above about funding for abortion being wrong would fall under the same condemnation.

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  70. Mark G: God’s giving people over to sin (i.e., judgement) in the contemporary situation is not identical to God’s judging in the OT. The judgements in the OT have an eschatalogical/typological and revelatory character and point to God’s ultimate end time judgement (which Jesus also suffered on the cross for the elect). The flipside of the OT judgements against nations are the covenant blessings to Israel or covenant curses falling upon Isreal. The U.S. is not a theocracy. The only theocracy this side of the resurrection of Christ is his kingdom which transcends political boundaries. His judgments are against “the seed of the serpent.”

    RS: I am not sure anyone is arguing that the judgments now are the same as Israel. However, God still judges. When God judges the individuals of a nation, the nation is judged in some way. When a majority of the people are the seed of the serpent, His judgments against the seed of the serpent will certainly have a great effect on a nation.

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  71. Mark,

    Your point, if I follow correctly, is that these matters (ie, progressive taxation) are not directed by God’s law and thus open to debate among Christians, with no right or wrong answer. Is this fair?

    My reply is that Biblical principles speak to this issue and there is indeed a right and wrong answer.

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  72. Jon,

    I don’t care if 20% income tax optimizes government “revenue.” I care about what taxes are just or unjust, based on God’s clear law and the testimony of nature.

    Jesus says to render to Caesar what is Caesars, Paul says to be subject to governing authorities, and pray for them, and to pay taxes:

    For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
    (Romans 13:6-7 ESV)

    Were taxes in Jesus and Paul’s day any more ethical than they are now? Doubtful. I don’t see Paul decrying taxes allocated to the Imperial Cult (which they were) as theft – I see him saying pay them. Is he protesting governments use of these taxes to support the brutal games of the Roman Circuses or Gladiatorial games? No, but he is calling us to honor the ruling authorities as ministers of God for good. This is not to say that he didn’t recognize governments as capable of evil, or that the NT doesn’t elsewhere, especially in the scathing critiques of empire found in Revelation. But, Christians for their part were to be subject to these governments, and pay their taxes, and entrust the resolution of evil in to the capable hands of a Sovereign God who works all things according to the council of his will, and will deal with the evil of the world power structures in his own time and his own way.

    Peter only buttresses Paul and Jesus on the matter:

    Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)

    So, the reason why you will never, and I mean never, call taxation theft, is because I do not believe it is in my rights as a Christian to do so. Sure I can disagree with certain modes, or amounts of taxation, and I do – but there is a political process I can engage to strive to see this changed. To me calling the government’s right to taxation is to flout the authority of God, by assuming that I know better than he who should be allowed to govern me, and how much such a government is allowed to tax me and to what end. God knows that many of the taxes we pay are used for immoral ends, and those who enact them will be ultimately accountable to him, not me. The apostles managed to navigate the fine line of speaking truth to those in power in their day while still submitting themselves to their God-given authority; something that many Christians today completely fail to do, especially those of us on the conservative side of the political spectrum who are so self assured that our politics are right. We are so self-assured, we no longer see the need to respect those in authority, as we heap our self-righteous malice upon those who would have no power unless God had granted it to them.

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  73. RS: I think when one starts to talk about “Biblical judgement” and the contemporary situation there are important qualifications that need to be made. While it is clear that God judges, the exegesis of those judgements in the contemporary situation is much less clear, unless you’re a TV evangelist or the muslim cleric who said hurricane Sandy was Allah’s judgment on NYC.

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  74. Jed,

    The problem with using arguments about Old Testament tithes, offerings, and gleaning laws is that these are not Socialism. They were not mandated by the civil government and not enforced by the sword. Why? God knew that if he gave the state this power, it would absolutely abuse it!

    Surely, God himself would punish Israel if they “stole” from Him by not giving tithes, but the state was never to do so.

    Upon further analysis, this is actually an argument AGAINST socialism.

    Also, even gleaning laws forced people to go out and do the work themselves. The product was not confiscated from landowners by the state and redistributed to the masses. And there was no civil punishment if this wasn’t done (but there was Divine punishment).

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  75. Jed,

    Wait, so telling the civil government that it is immoral to use tax funds for abortions is okay, and still submitting to authority, but telling them that re-distributive taxes are immoral is not submitting to authority? My brain hurts.

    The onus is on you to tell me how calling a policy wicked and evil is equal to failure to submit to God’s authority.

    “But, Christians for their part were to be subject to these governments, and pay their taxes, and entrust the resolution of evil in to the capable hands of a Sovereign God who works all things according to the council of his will, and will deal with the evil of the world power structures in his own time and his own way.”

    So God doesn’t use means? This sounds very gnostic. What if WE are the means God uses to “deal with the evil of the world power?” Isn’t that the point of our form of self-government? Aren’t we supposed to work to change it?

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  76. Jon,

    To call taxation theft is to accuse government of a crime by virtue of that taxation, placing yourself as judge over the governing authority God has placed you underneath. There are more productive ways to engage the government over taxes you view as immoral, without making yourself an authority over them. In our country protest is legal, and there is also an electoral process, including referendum powers in many states – all of these are legal means of seeking change.

    BTW, if you are calling taxation theft, it is easy to draw the conclusion that you do not see yourself legally bound to pay what you view to be immoral – that is where the dodging comment came from; even if you pay your taxes, you don’t see a warranted basis for actually having to, since they are in your eyes immoral. If they are so immoral, and so disagreeable, why do you pay them?

    One of the points I will continue to bang on here is if the apostles, who had to pay taxes that most certainly went to immoral ends, and not only didn’t call these taxes theft, but demanded that believers pay them as an act of obedience to God, on what basis do you justify calling taxes theft?

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  77. Ed says: I see any accusation of theft on the part of the state in exercising its legitimate God given right to be at the very least a violation of the 5th and 9th commandments and unacceptable in a person in Christian leadership. It is a very serious slander against someone to whom we should show all honor.

    Yet Jed says: No, that is not what I said, nor is it what I am saying. For example, I think that tax supplements abortion is unethical.

    No one is on your side on this one Ed! Quck question Ed, is the unethical taking of someones money theft? Perhaps the English cant speak english, eh?

    Me: So “ahem” Ed, you don’t think forcing Christians to pay for abortion on demand is unethical? Ed, are you saying that forced taxation to fund abortion is ethical?

    And lets not forget *context* my brothers. Rome was not a Democratic Republic like America where all our rights sppossedly come from God. America asks her citizens to vote for their elected Representatives. In the USA our leaders/representatives are supposed to be our servants. Not Rulers, not dictators like under Rome!

    Ed you’re mixing apples with Sodomites

    In Rome the Cesar was considered a god. He didn’t care to know his subjects opinion, because he wasn’t up for an election every few years. He ruled until he died. In other words, the people had zero say. It follows from there, that unless Christians were ready to take up arms and overthrow the Roman Empire they *had* to pay taxes just to stay out of prison! It wasn’t optional. So for you to confuse our situation today, with living under a dictatorship is to mix apples with Sodomites.

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  78. Jon,

    First:

    They were not mandated by the civil government and not enforced by the sword.

    False. The Levites through the agency of the Judges, and after that the King, who was charged in Deuteronomy to enforce the whole Law, could and did enforce Mosaic Laws – otherwise how could the state wield the sword in capital crimes, much less civil, or economic ones? On top of this, God directly enforced his Law with periodic oppression from foreigners when Israel disobeyed – ultimately leading to their exile. You propose a system of Law that has no enforcement – which has never existed in human history much less Scripture.

    And, then there is your repeated failure to read what I have written:

    The apostles managed to navigate the fine line of speaking truth to those in power in their day while still submitting themselves to their God-given authority; something that many Christians today completely fail to do…

    Yes, Christians can and should speak the truth regardless of it’s cost – but this does not exonerate any of us to also submit to our rulers. Which is why it is such a fine line we should walk – it is fine to call abortion (your favorite rallying cry) what it is: sin against God as the giver of life; but we cannot use the sins of our authorities as a means to justify disrespecting them. Nor can we use it as a means of usurping their seat of power to place ourselves as judge over them.

    As for your charges of gnosticism, it’s more of the same from you – grasping however wildly you can to place a label on those whom you disagree with so you can continue to show contempt. You are, from what I can tell from your theonomy leanings post-millenial, which is an attested position in Reformed eschatology, which holds that God will use the agency of the church to establish his righteous rule. The fact of the matter is I am not gnostic, just amillenial, which means that I believe that God is securing for himself a people in the church, and that he will bring history to close, and consumate his kingdom without human agency while he works his purposes in history to bring it to that point. This is another attested Reformed view of eschatology, most certainly not gnostic – but I am sure you will just label me again.

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  79. Doug, with you it’s always about word games and definitional traps. But I’ll bite. Yes, it is theft. But taxes aren’t (or shouldn’t be) about ethics. It’s about paying for government services. What does ethics have to do with it? BTW, the left also views taxes as ethical, as in a righteous crusade against the 1%. It is striking how much the left has in common with theonomists and neo-Cals. Neither group can think 2kly, that is, see the difference between the heavenly and earthly kingdoms.

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  80. In Rome the Cesar was considered a god.

    Not really. Romans had familial cults what we would consider ancestor worship. Most Romans in Paul’s time did consider a living emperor taking on divine titles like the Egyptians did to be blaspheme, this was one of the reasons Nero was assassinated. Caligula’s use of such titles was meant to offend. The cult of the emperors were analogous in meaning to our pledge allegiance today to the flag. Titles like Divus Iulius (Julius Caesar’s divine title given to him after death by Augustus) meant that he was part of every family’s family cult.

    Diocletian who started his rule in 284 was the first Roman emperor to use a divine title while in office with popular acquiescence. Arguably you could say that the cult if the divine emperor wasn’t pagan so much as proto-Christian. The claims the Pope makes about himself as Christ’s vicar on earth, are more or less what the later emperors like Diocletian were claiming about themselves.

    So no, during Paul’s time that’s not true.

    He didn’t care to know his subjects opinion, because he wasn’t up for an election every few years.

    Actually he was. A Roman Dictator was an elected position by the Roman Senate. They frequently had none at all, and when they did they had a fixed term of office and could be removed by the Senate. Further since this was only a senate position, for laws that required the Tribune of the Plebs (sort of cross between the House of Representatives and Supreme Court in America) he still needed to win votes. Later emperors, still had to have the consent of the Army and the Senate and could be deposed by either. So yes, they had to worry about opinion.

    He ruled until he died. In other words, the people had zero say.

    No. Just look at the history. Many many emperors were deposed. It was rather frequent and various bodies had plenty of say.

    It follows from there, that unless Christians were ready to take up arms and overthrow the Roman Empire they *had* to pay taxes just to stay out of prison! It wasn’t optional.

    That’s the law now as well.

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  81. Ahem, One might want to think about whether treasury agents read blogs and can readily track who and where. If you don’t pay taxes, please don’t say so. Or if you do but want to grandstand that you don’t or even allude to the idea that you may not, please keep it to yourself. Now carry on. BTW, Jed is correct, the problem with the Austrian school is both the lack of controls and at least rhetorically the lack of graduation in employing their schemes.

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  82. @DGH

    It is striking how much the left has in common with theonomists and neo-Cals. Neither group can think 2kly, that is, see the difference between the heavenly and earthly kingdoms.

    Huh? First off a good chunk of the left doesn’t believe in the existence of heavenly kingdoms. For another huge chunk they tend to have mystical Christian or new ageish type beliefs about heavenly kingdoms, that is that heavenly kingdoms have properties that are impossible to achieve on earth under any circumstances. From a leftwing perspective the 2k battle doesn’t even make sense.

    the state is an agency designed to regulate human affairs, protect the common interest and advance the common agenda

    the church is an agency designed to promote individual enlightenment which often includes advancing the common interest through works of charity

    The church and state can assist one another in the same ways the corporate sector and the state can work together to achieve common objectives. This is analogous to the way utility companies work as semi-governmental agencies while using free market principles to achieve higher efficiencies.

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  83. CDH,

    Darryl can certainly answer for himself, but I tend to with him – there is an element of utopianism that many (not all, especially those more center-left) on the left hold to as a guiding principle in their policy, that functions for them in a manner similar to the eschatological impulses that motivate culture warriors on the right, namely that they can somehow aid in ushering in the kingdom. I see the eschatological/utopian impulse as a major driving force in American politics.

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  84. @DGH, @ CD Host

    “It is striking how much the left has in common with theonomists and neo-Cals. Neither group can think 2kly, that is, see the difference between the heavenly and earthly kingdoms.”

    Different ways of arriving at earthly mindedness.

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  85. @Jed & @Mark G —

    I don’t object to considering the left and theonomists to both be “earthly minded”. I don’t think its accurate to use “kingdom” terminology for the left. For the reason that subgroups within the left do have kingdom theologies and those theologies aren’t really centered around the state. Which is not to say that the left doesn’t believe the state can make the world a much better place but “kingdom” implies something better than improvement.

    By way of analogy I believe that the Apple laptop I buy in 2017 will be much better than the one I bought this year. I don’t believe it will be a perfect computer constructed under divine guidance which will perfectly satisfy all needs and wants. Those are hugely different beliefs.

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  86. The evangelical right, with its anti-tax, anti-state rhetoric has become ridiculous and scary. The flat tax nonsense comes out of theonomists like Rushdoony who badly misread the OT.

    Not to sound too Marxist (a little Marxism is ok),but just look at where and how the Sprouls and Mohlers of the world live. These guys aren’t exactly arguing for lower taxes for the rich from a particularly disinterested position. In fact, they are being downright dishonest about it.

    Perhaps they would like to be taxed a little less and then pay themselves for the weapons to defend their beloved Israel, and the roads to their large houses? Their is a complete lack of civic minded realism and charity in their view.

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  87. How is it undo curiosity to see what the Bible says is judgment and then observe it in our culture and think that is the judgment of God? It is not going beyond the Scriptures to see sinful behavior and know that God has turned those people over to a sinful heart and has given them blinded eyes. I am not sure how anyone could see what is going on in the United States and not see that the Bible declares that we are under the judging hand of God.

    Richard and Doug, I wonder what you think going beyond the limits of the Bible to speak on behalf of God where he has not spoken about specific judgment would be if not the self-important pontifications like White and Wilson. Maybe you think it’s only the wild-eyed zaniness of Pentecostals, but when it’s those who claim Reformed it’s kosher? But that would be a form of Reformed narcissism.

    So it’s little wonder to me that the local theonomist cheerleads the semi-revivalist’s assumption that when the Belgic makes a point about the limitations of creatures to speak on behalf of the Creator where he is utterly silent—limits are neither’s long suit. So I also wonder what either of you think God’s judgment looks like that it’s so obvious to you that it’s going on in the US at the moment. But if we follow the Belgic and go with the Bible to give us a picture, it looks like the cross or the second coming. The first already happened and it seems to me that the second will be unmistakable. Which means that everything in between doesn’t count. And what anybody who speculates that “what is going on in the United States” is the judgment of God really means is that they are particularly distressed about the state of the world and are over-interpreting things to lend greater weight to their social fears and worries. Some might call that taking the Lord’s name is vain, not too unlike smashing your finger with a hammer and bringing God’s name down on your personal misfortune.

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  88. Mark G: RS: I think when one starts to talk about “Biblical judgement” and the contemporary situation there are important qualifications that need to be made. While it is clear that God judges, the exegesis of those judgements in the contemporary situation is much less clear, unless you’re a TV evangelist or the muslim cleric who said hurricane Sandy was Allah’s judgment on NYC.

    RS: I am not sure that we have a lot of room to interpret these things any other way. I am not talking about how to interpret hurricanes or earthquakes and try to figure out to whom those are directed. I am speaking of those who seemingly cheer the death of the unborn andof homosexuality. I would also go on to include churches, idolatry, and false theology, but those were not the things that the topic was directly on. If we believe Romans 1:18-32, then the concept of the judgment of God on people because of sin is clear. Not only that, but God judges sin with more sin. He hardens hearts and turns people over to sin. A person that is a homosexual is not only sinning, but has been turned over to that sin by God as judgment. A nation and a government that says that homosexuality is not sin has been turned over to the judgment of blindness. So we live in a nation/government where homosexuality is applauded. The contemporary situation is crystal clear. The people of this nation have voted for a man that stands for the slaughter of the unborn and stands against those who call homosexuality a sin. Those are clear signs of a people/nation/government under the judgment of God. You think I am in dangerous territory for saying that we are under judgement, but I think you are in dangerous territory for not recognizing it as such.

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  89. @DGH

    Cd-H, why do you think Demographic Winter is evangelical? The Family First Foundation, its sponsor, shows nothing overtly evangelical.

    They do if you look deep, but by design it isn’t obvious. Virtually the entire board comes from the World Congress of Families (WCF) (interface religious family organization). WCF is an interfaith alliance among the religious right, that helps coordinate political activism on family issues. I’d say that Family First is them just going a step further, an attempt by WCF to reach out to a secular audience. It works to find allies with seculars who agree on the family but won’t agree to the “God stuff”. There isn’t anything explicitly evangelical on Family First by design. You’ll also notice deep funding ties with Concerned Women for America, Meridian (LDS but politically like evangelicals),

    As an aside I think this is a really good thing for the religious right. To use Reagan’s language this is the politics of addition not subtraction. Family First is an attempt to engage seculars or the religious left that may disagree with the religious number of other issues but do agree on the importance of marriage and would like to see pro-family policies enacted. An actual example of “reaching across the isle”.

    Allan Carlson, has just written a book about evangelicals and contraception which argues ev’s have been largely ignorant of the social significance of procreation.

    I assume you mean “American Way”. I haven’t read it but based on the reviews, this is a good case in point. Many people on the left support the pro-family policies that he’s advocating a return to, but can’t find right wing allies. This is where I think the WCF is doing such a good thing. They hear writers for Mother Jones, MSNBC and the Nation upset about and wanting to enact policies to help prevent high divorce rates and shacking up as opposed to marriage; they get support from tens of millions of hard core Democrats. Allan Carson’s feeling is that lower wages for male breadwinners among the lower middle class is the root cause. The left agrees that lower wages for male breadwinners among the lower middle class is the root cause. Both sides agree this is a bad thing. And most people in the religious right aren’t interested in trying to see if they get some legislation to fix the problem.

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  90. Caleb,

    Wow. It’s pretty clear from your post that you’re probably too far gone to reign in, but just look at your post: nothing but envy, envy, envy. You might want to pray about the 10th commandment.

    Does it mean anything to you that Marx was a committed atheist and his atheism formed the foundation for his anti-God worldview? And that all the major Marxist experiments in the 20th century were self-consciously anti-God? Or are you too far gone to even care?

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  91. DGH says, “BTW, the left also views taxes as ethical, as in a righteous crusade against the 1%. It is striking how much the left has in common with theonomists and neo-Cals.”

    Not sure what “ethical” is supposed to mean here, but I fail to see the connection you’re describing. Of course, some lefties (as well as righties and centrists, to include advocates of “limited government”) go on “righteous crusades” using apocalyptic and religious language, but what is inherently redemptive or utopian about redistributive and pro-labor policies? Most of us just think the working-class has gotten a raw deal, and that something should be done about it.

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  92. Jed,

    “False. The Levites through the agency of the Judges, and after that the King, who was charged in Deuteronomy to enforce the whole Law, could and did enforce Mosaic Laws – otherwise how could the state wield the sword in capital crimes, much less civil, or economic ones? On top of this, God directly enforced his Law with periodic oppression from foreigners when Israel disobeyed – ultimately leading to their exile. You propose a system of Law that has no enforcement – which has never existed in human history much less Scripture.”

    False. The tithes were not part of the civil law, they were ceremonial, and thus not enforced like the civil laws were. Did you read the article I linked to? Yes, of course God would punish them – I just said that (talk about not reading. . . . ).

    Furthermore, your ramblings about apostles walking fine lines and such are completely incoherent. This is the fruit of such a vacuous worldview. The abortion issue is not my rally cry, it is your own words that I am using against you to point out how wildly inconsistent you are. You say on the one hand that tax funding for abortion is immoral. Then, I say that progressive taxes are immoral. But you say that I can’t say that because that means I’m not submitting to rulers and standing in judgement over them. But you can say your bit about abortion and that’s okay? Huh?

    You have yet to prove how saying that re-distributive taxes are immoral is against God’s revealed will. You haven’t made anything close to a cogent argument for such. I guess I’ll keep waiting. . . .

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  93. Zrim: Richard and Doug, I wonder what you think going beyond the limits of the Bible to speak on behalf of God where he has not spoken about specific judgment would be if not the self-important pontifications like White and Wilson.

    RS: If God says A is judgment and you see A at any point in history, it is not wrong to say that A is the judgment of God and is most certainly not going beyond the limits of the Bible. Scripture says that death is the result of sin, so when we see death we know that sin is there. Indeed Christ was sinless in and of Himself, but the sins of many were imputed to Him. So when we see homosexuality and murder condemned and said to be the judgment of God, we can know that the judgment of God is being carried out. When the Bible says that blindness in spiritual and moral things is a judgment of God, then when you see those things you can know that the judgment of God is there. It is really not pontification or all that hard.

    Zrim: Maybe you think it’s only the wild-eyed zaniness of Pentecostals, but when it’s those who claim Reformed it’s kosher? But that would be a form of Reformed narcissism.

    RS: Your analogy here is extremely poor. I have stated direct Scripture and you try to compare that with the wild-eyed zaniness of Pentecostals. I guess you don’t see the need to read Scripture and answer the position with calm, rational, and even spiritual answers.

    Zrim: So it’s little wonder to me that the local theonomist cheerleads the semi-revivalist’s assumption that when the Belgic makes a point about the limitations of creatures to speak on behalf of the Creator where he is utterly silent—limits are neither’s long suit.

    RS: But you are simply wrong about what the Belgic is saying as well as thinking that is more important than Scripture. I quoted the Belgic below and gave it some more context.

    Zrim: So I also wonder what either of you think God’s judgment looks like that it’s so obvious to you that it’s going on in the US at the moment.

    RS: If you will calmly read Romans 1:18-32 (not to mention other places) you will see what the judgment of God looks like. He turns people over to sin. When you see people being turned over to sin, that is His judgment. There is no need for zaniness or anything like that.

    Zrim: But if we follow the Belgic and go with the Bible to give us a picture, it looks like the cross or the second coming.

    RS: Nonsense. If you really follow the Belgic and the Bible you will see the judgment of God.

    Zrim: The first already happened and it seems to me that the second will be unmistakable. Which means that everything in between doesn’t count.

    RS: I cannot argue what may or may not seem to you, but I can tell you that everything in between counts and that is according to the Belgic and the Scriptures.

    Zrim: And what anybody who speculates that “what is going on in the United States” is the judgment of God really means is that they are particularly distressed about the state of the world and are over-interpreting things to lend greater weight to their social fears and worries.

    RS: There is no need to speculate, just read your Bible. If you would read it, then maybe you would quite “speculating” about what it says and deal with it in reality.

    Zrim: Some might call that taking the Lord’s name is vain, not too unlike smashing your finger with a hammer and bringing God’s name down on your personal misfortune.

    RS: Or perhaps it is taking the Lord’s name in vain to dismiss the glory of His holiness and justice when He brings judgments on people and clearly tells us what those things are in His Word.

    Belgic Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence

    “We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.”

    RS: Notice that nothing is abandoned to chance or fortune but that all things are governed according to His holy will and noting happens without His orderly arrangement. In other words, does God “allow” sin to happen because He desires the good of those He turns over to hardened hearts or is it a judgment for their sin?

    Belgic continued: “Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.”

    Romans 1:18-32 is so clear that it simply cannot be misinterpreted without effort.
    ” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

    RS: How is that wrath seen and how is it carried out? By His turning people over to sin as punishment for sin. Read verse 24 and how God shows wrath and judgment by turning people over n the lusts of their hearts to impurity. Read v. 26 which shows us that God turns people over to degrading passions and that in the context of homosexuality. The fact that people are homosexuals is a judgment on them. Indeed you may not like that, but the Word of God is quite clear on this point. Read the text slowly.

    21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
    23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
    24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
    25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
    27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
    28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
    29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,
    30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
    31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
    32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

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  94. John, Caleb, Mark G,. . . wow, I am amazed to see the number of committed Marxists trolling this site. Is there a connection between R2K and Marxism? If theonomy is merely a cover to justify conservative views (so goes the slander), then perhaps R2K is an excuse to allow room for Marxism? I don’t know. Why else are there so many Marxists here?

    John, if you don’t know what’s utopian about redistributive policies, you really need to crack open a history book. The very essence of the socialism you espouse is man’s failed attempt to bring heaven on earth by his own sheer will.

    How can anyone in America possibly think the working class has gotten a bad deal? Unions are as strong as ever. The bottom 50% of earners pay zero income tax. Zero. Free healthcare. Free retirement. Free education. Where’s the bad deal? Are you serious?

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  95. Jon,

    Socialism existed before Karl Marx. Marx fused Christian Socialism (especially from Britain) and the philosophical foundation of the French Revolution to construct his form of socialism/communism.

    After Marx, Presbyterians in Scotland were as skeptical of Capitalism as any Socialist.

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  96. @Jon

    Unions are as strong as ever.

    The bottom 50% of earners pay zero income tax.

    So what? They pay sales taxes, heavy wage taxes and directly or indirectly property taxes. The bottom 50% would be thrilled to put an end to wage suppression, ave more income and have to pay income taxes on top of that.

    Free healthcare.

    Since when?

    Free education.

    No. We have a rather unfree education system in the United States. No support for nursery in most states. Declining quality of K-12. And huge cuts in support for college that was never free. Neither are vocational programs free.

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  97. The question for Jon, Richard Smith, and crew is – if said taxation law is immoral at worst and unethical at best, what do you do about that? I don’t think anyone is disputing whether or not certain tax laws are unethical or immoral (or at least what those taxes go to fund). The question is, when such a state of affairs exist (unfair/unethical/immoral taxation) how do Christians respond?

    My fear is that if we apply the theonomist/transformationalist perspective to its logical conclusion(s), then we’d all own our own farms and not trade with anyone for fear that our money might go to an unjust enterprise. I digress…

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  98. Nate,

    First of all, we don’t all agree that certain taxes are unethical – that is the very point I am trying to get many here to admit. Also, there’s a swarm of Marxist hovering over this site (wonder if they don’t have jobs?) that think that NOT having any tax is immoral.

    But to answer your question, the answer is simple: first, start by educating our children in a Christian worldview. That entails pulling them out of the socialist school system. Second, we move to regain control at the local level. Get involved in local politics and end wasteful spending. Third, focus on building up strong families that are independent of government hand-outs.

    That’s all we really need to do. If we just do #1 and pull our kids out of the self-reproducing government schools, that would be a momentous step in the right direction.

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  99. Jon, you haven’t exactly shown that redistribution and pro-labor politics (please don’t jump immediately to Socialism and the USSR) are somehow inherently utopian. We can agree to disagree on whether the working class is getting a raw deal, but having the idea that there’s something wrong with some people being unimaginably rich while others are very poor isn’t the same thing as thinking that we should try to construct heaven on earth.

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  100. Jon,

    I’m not a Marxist. I believe the kingdom of Christ transcends all political and economic systems and the function of the church is to make citizens of heaven, not to transform “this present evil age” to be a more comfortable place for Christians or to make culture look more superficially Christian.

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  101. CDH,

    You’re too far gone to help. Just know that your penchant for stealing your neighbors’ hard earned money via government fiat is a violation of the 8th commandment and you will be accountable for it.

    Maybe go out and work harder and seek to improve your own lot rather than siphon off those of us who stand on our own merits.

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  102. @Jon —

    So you whip off a whole bunch of obviously factually untrue statements to defend your point and the reason I happen to know they are factually untrue is because I’m “too far gone”. You don’t see why that argument might be less than convincing?

    As for my neighbors hard earned money. My neighbor choose to earn that hard earned money in a society that unequivocally indicated since even before it became an independent country that that production would be taxed for the common good. They made that money using resources that were created by others who were taxed for the common good. And their ability to hold that property comes directly from the protections offered by the state to support the common good.

    So no, there is no 8th amendment here. But feel free to build economic enterprises on Jupiter and then claim absolute ownership of them.

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  103. Jon,

    Capitalism (Marx’s term) or ‘Free Enterprise” are creations of modernity, not that there is anything wrong with that, but if you’re going to get all “Biblical” about it…you may have to do more than use Gary North and John Locke as your go-to theologians on the matter.

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  104. Oh boy, “taxes as theft” debate. I’ll throw in my 2 cents.

    As a citizen, I find the income tax to be unjust. Taking the fruits of a person’s labor and redistributing to someone else is unjust and tantamount to theft.

    As a citizen, I find slavery to be unjust. Taking the fruits of a person’s labor (the slave) and redistributing it to someone else (the slave owner) is unjust and tantamount to theft.

    Now to take off my citizen cap and put on my Christian cap (to use D.G.’s term), the Bible clearly states that Christians are to submit to all earthly institutions and authorities. Christian citizens are to submit to the government (no matter how tyrannical) and Christian slaves submit to masters. Therefore, I readily submit to these institutions and authorities (if present) in order to live a quiet and peaceful life. Thus as a citizen I choose to reform both these institutions through lawful and peaceful means.

    As a citizen, I do not need to baptize my political positions regarding taxes or slavery by appealing to the Bible just like I don’t need to baptize my bread making by appealing to Ezekiel 4:9. Do buyers of Ezekiel Bread realize the original recipe called for the bread to be baked over human poop! Poop is what you get, though, when you think the Bible is a guide to government, bread making, child rearing, or the million other activities that constitute the earthly kingdom.

    BTW, Austrian economics is positive not normative. Austrian economics of itself does not put forth a libertarian ideology, though many who study the Austrian School are or become libertarians.

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  105. I used to be one of those Christian Leftists, until I accepted Mark G’s observation:

    “I’m not a Marxist. I believe the kingdom of Christ transcends all political and economic systems and the function of the church is to make citizens of heaven, not to transform “this present evil age” to be a more comfortable place for Christians or to make culture look more superficially Christian.”

    And at the same time, I still do not trust the invisible hand of the market place.

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  106. Richard, if “death is the result of sin, so when we see death we know that sin is there” then is that really how you’d counsel the grieving? Sure, all death can be traced back to the reality of being a sinner east of Eden, but you seem completely incognizant of how reckless it is to suggest death is the judgment of God for sin as if it’s a direct punishment.

    And so your analysis (as well as White’s and Wilson’s) is the geo-political version of telling a man that his wife’s death is the judgment of God. You can do the same thing with a person you are doing with a nation—pick out the imperfections you don’t like the most and when she gets sick tell her it’s because of those pet peeves of yours (then add a raft of Scripture verses to give the appearance of piety). But that’s actually spiritual abuse that plays on some kernel of truth (sin is present, God judges, etc.) and then parlays it all into a diagnoses that sounds as if Jesus didn’t quite get he whole job done and there is more payment to be made. It’s an appealing diagnoses to sinners who haven’t grasped the fullness of Jesus’ work on the cross—both those who make the diagnoses and those who indulge it. You charge those who hold an orthodox view on this with having a dangerous view, but the irony is how your unorthodox view is the one that ends up harming sinners.

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  107. Hopefully Christian families are giving religious instruction to their children, but guess what? There are Christians who are poor at parenting and non-Christians who are quite good at it. That’s because the family is a common institution, the skills of which are not the exclusive domain of Christians.

    Isn’t that what your eyes tell you, Jon?

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  108. Oh Jon. Me, a committed Marxist? That’s a pretty big claim/accusation to make on very little evidence. As is the accusation of envy. Fear not. I do not envy Mohler or Sproul. It is an easy cop out to cite the 10th commandment when one questions why certain wealthy and influential Christian leaders use their influence to argue for economic policies that will benefit their income bracket.

    It is important to remember that one can read Marx as an insightful systems analyst, or as a useful (and still very popular) historical method. One doesn’t have to accept his atheism, nor does one have to read him as totalizing ideology. If conservative evangelicals get to have their Bahnsen without the theonomy then why can’t I read Marx and take what is useful or insightful? Indeed, John Piper did the same thing with that atheist Ayn Rand who seems to stir the passions of many Christian conservatives.

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  109. Zrim’s comments bear repeating, maybe even in bold, especially in light of some of the nonsense being proffered here as orthodoxy:

    And so your analysis (as well as White’s and Wilson’s) is the geo-political version of telling a man that his wife’s death is the judgment of God. You can do the same thing with a person you are doing with a nation—pick out the imperfections you don’t like the most and when she gets sick tell her it’s because of those pet peeves of yours (then add a raft of Scripture verses to give the appearance of piety). But that’s actually spiritual abuse that plays on some kernel of truth (sin is present, God judges, etc.) and then parlays it all into a diagnoses that sounds as if Jesus didn’t quite get he whole job done and there is more payment to be made. It’s an appealing diagnoses to sinners who haven’t grasped the fullness of Jesus’ work on the cross—both those who make the diagnoses and those who indulge it. You charge those who hold an orthodox view on this with having a dangerous view, but the irony is how your unorthodox view is the one that ends up harming sinners.

    Well said sir.

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  110. Jed:

    The President of the United States (POTUS) is far and away the most powerful man in the world. Except for Dick Cheney.

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  111. Zrim: Richard, if “death is the result of sin, so when we see death we know that sin is there” then is that really how you’d counsel the grieving?

    RS: But of course that was not the point I was making. However, if the grieving were slandering or attacking God then yes that might come up. The goal of counsel to the grieving is not necessarily to make them feel better, but as always we are to take the side of God which is what is really good for people.

    Zrim: Sure, all death can be traced back to the reality of being a sinner east of Eden, but you seem completely incognizant of how reckless it is to suggest death is the judgment of God for sin as if it’s a direct punishment.

    RS: It is not reckless at all to recognize this, but instead it is reckless to disregard it. The promise of God is that death is the result of sin. It is not a “natural” result of some universe that our actions have no effects and no real results.

    Zrim: And so your analysis (as well as White’s and Wilson’s) is the geo-political version of telling a man that his wife’s death is the judgment of God.

    RS: That is pure rubbish. I gave this as an example that one can look at things now and see that what the Bible has said is true. Of course one does not go around saying that on all occasions, but if you never say it then you are not being faithful to the truth.

    Zrim: You can do the same thing with a person you are doing with a nation—pick out the imperfections you don’t like the most and when she gets sick tell her it’s because of those pet peeves of yours (then add a raft of Scripture verses to give the appearance of piety).

    RS: More rubbish. The Bible says with the utmost clarity that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. It is not that I am the one picking out the imperfections, but the Word of God does. It tells us very clearly the fact that He does show wrath and this was after the cross and during NT times. It states very clearly the way He shows wrath day after day. He hardens hearts and turns people over to specific sins. If you don’t like it, then you don’t like it. But you have no right to deny it.

    Zrim: But that’s actually spiritual abuse that plays on some kernel of truth (sin is present, God judges, etc.) and then parlays it all into a diagnoses that sounds as if Jesus didn’t quite get he whole job done and there is more payment to be made.

    RS: No, your way is spiritual abuse because it is lying to people about what God does in judgment of sin. Jesus didn’t pay for the sins of all people and so there is a lot of wrath that needs to be satisfied. You either have to accept the fact that Jesus died for all or He did not. If He died for all and actually suffered the wrath of God for all, then all are saved. But if He did not die for all, then there is still wrath left for unbelievers. Romans 1 is so very clear that the wrath of God is revealed (on a continuous basis) from heaven.

    Zrim: It’s an appealing diagnoses to sinners who haven’t grasped the fullness of Jesus’ work on the cross—both those who make the diagnoses and those who indulge it.

    RS: Again, you don’t have an orthodox view of the atonement. Christ satisfied the wrath of the Father for the elect and the elect only. He still displays wrath day after day on all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. As John 3: 36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” For those that do not believe the wrath of God abides on them.

    Zrim: You charge those who hold an orthodox view on this with having a dangerous view, but the irony is how your unorthodox view is the one that ends up harming sinners.

    RS: But you don’t have an orthodox view and your view is dangerous. My view is that we are to warn sinners of the wrath to come in this life and in the life to come. Your view is much like the false prophets of the Old Testament who kept telling people that they were safe when in fact God had promised wrath on the nation. It does no harm to sinners to warn them to flee from the wrath of God, but it does great harm to sinners not to warn them of the wrath of God that He shows day after day.

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  112. Jed Paschall: Zrim’s comments bear repeating, maybe even in bold, especially in light of some of the nonsense being proffered here as orthodoxy:

    RS: Jed, if you think that Zrim’s comments are orthodox and mine are not, then you are not orthodox yourself. Zrim’s position may make one feel good in a nice and fuzzy way, but they are far from orthodoxy.

    Zrim’s unorthodox comments that Jed agrees with: And so your analysis (as well as White’s and Wilson’s) is the geo-political version of telling a man that his wife’s death is the judgment of God. You can do the same thing with a person you are doing with a nation—pick out the imperfections you don’t like the most and when she gets sick tell her it’s because of those pet peeves of yours (then add a raft of Scripture verses to give the appearance of piety). But that’s actually spiritual abuse that plays on some kernel of truth (sin is present, God judges, etc.) and then parlays it all into a diagnoses that sounds as if Jesus didn’t quite get he whole job done and there is more payment to be made. It’s an appealing diagnoses to sinners who haven’t grasped the fullness of Jesus’ work on the cross—both those who make the diagnoses and those who indulge it. You charge those who hold an orthodox view on this with having a dangerous view, but the irony is how your unorthodox view is the one that ends up harming sinners.

    Jed Paschall: Well said sir.

    RS: It may have been well said, but it was unbiblical and unorthodox teaching that was said well. 1. God displays His wrath and it is clearly seen. 2. God’s wrath is for this day and all days. 3. Christ suffered and died for only the elect and satisfied the wrath of the Father for them only. Those three statements are orthodox and Zrim denies them.

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  113. Yes Jon, even child rearing. Instead of repeating what mikelmann said, I’ll provide an example.

    My wife was recently scolded (on facebook of all places) by Christian couple we know because of her parenting techniques. My wife feeds our infant son when he cries or is fussy and likes to wear him in moby wrap (google it) while she runs errands around town. She was scolded and told these activities can lead to “child worship” and we should instead be rearing our infant son according to biblical standards.

    My question is this: where in the bible does it tell us how and when to feed an infant? Where does it tell us how and when we must hold our infant son? To imply that a chosen parenting technique or preference is not biblical seems rather odd to me. These are matters of wisdom and wisdom is something most Christians do not have category for.

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  114. You mean I fail to adhere to orthodoxy according to the unassalible standards of Richard? I am almost hurt. But, I think I’ll just stick to the Westminster Standards, thanks though.

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  115. @Lewis

    You are running into Gary Ezzo’s nonsense it sounds like. He’s very popular in reformed circles particularly since C.J. used to push him very hard. Not following Ezzo’s parenting methods was grounds for excommunication in the early 90s in SGM (though it wasn’t called SGM at the time).

    The idea this is biblically mandated comes if you assume Bill Gothard’s theory of scripture.

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  116. Zrim says Richard, if “death is the result of sin, so when we see death we know that sin is there” then is that really how you’d counsel the grieving?

    Me: Your example does not hold up. All men are sinners, yet No believes that when a Saint dies, his death is a result of him him walking unfaithfully before God. So as per usual, you’re not making a bit of sense.

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  117. I was looking around the Bible for the verse which tells us if we are to use cloth diapers, and I could not even find the verse which teaches that the father is the federal priest of his family before God.

    I did read where Adam represented his seed and where Christ represented His seed, but not the one which taught that only the father of all families is a priest, with his spouses and children represented by him. But I never found the anti-atomism verse which teaches us that each family has one “soul” and one earthly priest

    Matthew 10:37— “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

    Matthew 23:6 —they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

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  118. Job’s comforters were not Pelagians or Arminians. They believed in the sovereignty of God to make sure that good people reap what they sow. By good and necessary consequence, they deduced that bad reaping was occasioned by bad sowing.

    Job’s comforters did not know the gospel. They did not have any hope in grace, much less grace based on the Sowing (obedience even to death) of a Substitute.

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  119. I really have opened quite the can of worms here. I can’t possibly interact with everything everyone’s said, but since Doug addressed me personally I’ll post a reply.

    I can’t speak for my countrymen more generally, but I assure you that I am eminently capable of speaking English. What I seriously doubt is your inclination to read it. There’s nothing really your post says that you couldn’t have found an answer to in things I’ve written already if you read what I’m actually saying.

    In the question of whether “noone is on my side” in this there are a number of thoughts that spring to mind. The first is that I’m fairly confident that Jed and I are on roughly the same page with regards to whether a tax can be considered theft. When he says “No, that is not what I said, nor is it what I am saying. For example, I think that tax supplements abortion is unethical.” and I say “I’m certainly not suggesting, either, that taxes can’t be unethical, that all taxes are good taxes. Taxes can be raised to pay for something immoral, like abortion or an unjust war.” it really doesn’t sound like we disagree too much. So like I said, I can speak English, can you read it?

    The second thing that springs to mind is that one of the big questions I’ve asked all along is where this teaching fits into the Reformed tradition. From the replies here nobody seems to know of a Non-American, PreWWII, Reformed thinker who teaches that certain taxes can be thought of as theft rather than a legitimate exercise of the rights of the state. Which isn’t to say that nobody nonAmerican or PreWWII has taught this, but don’t be too fast to say noone agrees with me. It might be that the rest of the Reformed church outside America and before the 50s is with me. Certainly I’d not be idiosyncratic among the British Reformed. Outside your little cultural bubble I suspect you’re seriously lacking friends on this question.

    On the more substantial matter I can not only speak English, but I can draw distinctions too. Can you? It ought to be obvious from what Jed and I (and others) are contending for is the idea that money can be acquired for an unethical end without being acquired by an unethical means. So it might be unethical to raise money for abortions, but that doesn’t automatically make the means by which that money is raised theft. To repeat what I’ve already said elsewhere, levying a tax to pay for abortion for one example, might be unethical because of the end to which the tax is aimed. That does not mean that the means by which the money was raised was an act of theft. To simplify; raising taxes=fine if you’re the state. Paying for abortions = not fine if you’re the state. Problem = paying for a murder, not theft.

    So to answer the question you asked before, levying a tax to pay for abortions is a wrong thing for the state to do. It is unethical. I’d have thought a master of the English language would have inferred that I thought that from the quote above.

    As for your point about context, I’d agree that the constitution puts limits on the taxes the government can raise. For what it’s worth the constitutionally ordained authority for assessing this question seems to have indicated that the kinds of taxes Obama raises are perfectly constitutional. But in any case, the constitution didn’t fall out of the sky and I’ve mentioned that as Christians (and we’re Christians before we’re Americans, right?) we shouldn’t absolutise the constitution. It’s not fundamentally sinful for a government to rule by some other rule, and that seems to extend even to the sort of absolute personal rule exercised by a Roman emperor.

    To be honest I didn’t start this to win a debate. I simply asked for Biblical justification for the idea that certain types of taxation constitute theft, especially in the light of the explicit teaching of the NT on taxation. To my mind nobody has really attempted to do that, they’ve just asserted that sometimes it does. I also asked where this teaching features in the teaching of the Churches of the Reformed Confession and the answers so far given seem to indicate it is a peculiarity of the extremely fiscally conservative fringe of the American postwar church. I think I’ve probably seen enough to have my suspicions in this regard confirmed.

    And “mixing apples with sodomites”??? Seriously, next time you’re polishing your English, grab a dictionary and look up “euphony”…

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  120. Ed says: To be honest I didn’t start this to win a debate. I simply asked for Biblical justification for the idea that certain types of taxation constitute theft, especially in the light of the explicit teaching of the NT on taxation.

    Me: I apologize Ed, let me attempt to answer your question. In one sense you’re correct, since taxes are legal, but are they ethical? The Bible does have much to say on this subject please read the whole chapter. In 1 Samuel 8 but specifically starting with this solemn warns.

    “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to low his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards a give them to his servants”.

    Me: It goes on Ed to describe even more thieveries. The King taking what wasn’t his under the force of taxes. Now Ed, read verse 18

    “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day”.

    @Ed, as you see God describes this form of taxing as a curse. You asked for Biblical proof, now you got some. BTW there a plenty of other examples to show how unjust Rulers can be, using their authority to take whatever they want. It’s called legalized stealing!

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  121. @Ed: Moreover, when Richard calls some forms of taxation stealing, it’s because our Government takes from those who earned it legally, and gives it to whom they call the poor. That is wealth redistribution aka theft. Where does the Bible teach us that we can take from someone, and give what they worked for to others? Short answer, it does not! The Government should never take on that kind of role in a Christian society. Charity comes from the heart; and can not be compelled by force. When its compelled by force that is unethical, or as I prefer *theft*.

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  122. @Doug. I don’t have a Bible in front of me so I’m going by memory but I would say it is important to consider these passages in their redemptive-historical (covenantal) context. Israel was a theocracy ruled by God through men appointed by God. However, Israel was hard-hearted and wanted to be ruled by a king like the surrounding ungodly nations. The closest parallel to Israel in the OT is the church in the NT, not the U.S. or any other nation. I think it’s far from clear that God’s dealings with Israel as corporate Adam & its unbelief apply to the operations of contemporary states. At the very least this must be filtered through the historical and covenantal context, and fulfillment in Christ.

    A significant issue in this whole discussion is how one understands redemptive history and the relationship between the OT and the NT. I don’t believe that God’s dealings with the theocracy before Christ are directly applicable to the modern state post the death and resurrection of Christ the ultimate king who reigns from heaven.

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  123. Caleb W.

    If conservative evangelicals get to have their Bahnsen without the theonomy then why can’t I read Marx and take what is useful or insightful? Indeed, John Piper did the same thing with that atheist Ayn Rand who seems to stir the passions of many Christian conservatives.

    Amen to that.

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  124. @Mark G. I suggest you read the whole chapter of 1 Samuel 8 to help your memory out. God is most certainly warning Israel that their King will take advantage of them, by taking their best vineyards, sons, daughters, and best lands, in the form of taxation.

    Of course the conditions with Israel and America are not *exactly* analogous. But concepts like justice and thievery are analogous. If even Israel could over tax, (and they did) which was sin, then why is it okay now?

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  125. @Ed: Have you been keeping track of what’s going on over at Cosmic Eye? They have a very robust disscussion going on about R2K. However, the R2K side is getting clobbered in my humble opinion. I do want to ask your forgiveness for not answering your question regarding how we see taxes addressed in the Bible. I should have taken the time to show you a few days ago.

    God bless you bro

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  126. Ed,

    It might be that the rest of the Reformed church outside America and before the 50s is with me. Certainly I’d not be idiosyncratic among the British Reformed. Outside your little cultural bubble I suspect you’re seriously lacking friends on this question.

    You should research how Reformed communities viewed Capitalism and/or Free Enterprise, in the 19th century. The welfare state was embraced by many Protestants to counteract Christian and atheist socialism. In the US, the welfare state has been fused with socialism, but not in Europe.

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  127. Not that I totally agree with everything stated here but…

    “Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” Jimmy Reid – Rector’s address 1971

    From:
    http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/3704-can-scottish-socialism-rediscover-itself

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  128. Again, i have had to learn to let go of my ability to use the Gospel to justify some of my rabid leftist views, and see Christian libertarians as brothers in Christ. However, in the US, I still feel some of my brothers have confused the Gospel with the ability to acculate Capital.

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  129. CD-H, Some historians look at Communism as a Christian heresy — it is an attempt to embody heaven on earth. One man’s postmillennialism is another man’s secular postmillennialism.

    I sure hope the left believes in some kind of heaven since they seem to desire some kind of utopia.

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  130. John, ethical came from an earlier commenter who wanted to say that taxes are unethical. I don’t think they have much to do with ethics or redemption. As for raw deal, is that a biblical category?

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  131. Jed Paschall: You mean I fail to adhere to orthodoxy according to the unassalible standards of Richard? I am almost hurt. But, I think I’ll just stick to the Westminster Standards, thanks though.

    RS: Then read the Westminster Standards. If you agree with Zrim, you are not on the side of Westminster and it is not on your side either.

    WCF Ch 6 VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto,[13] does in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner,[14] whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God,[15] and curse of the law,[16] and so made subject to death,[17] with all miseries spiritual,[18] temporal,[19] and eternal.[20]

    WCF ch 8 V. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of His Father;[34] and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for those whom the Father has given unto Him.[35]

    VI. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever.[36]

    VIII. To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same;[39] making intercession for them,[40] and revealing unto them, in and by the word, the mysteries of salvation;[41] effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His word and Spirit;[42] overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.[43]

    WCF ch 19 I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.[1]

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  132. John Piper & Ayn Rand? Talk about strange bedfellows.

    Whenever I think of Rand I am reminded of the story that Buckley tells of meeting her. She told him (in her Russian accent), “You are much to intelligent to believe in Gott”. What does one say to that? Reading Buckley and Rand (but not Piper) have been influential in my life. I read “The Fountainhead” a decade ago and still marvel at aspects of it. Howard Roark is one of the most memorable characters I have ever encountered. He actually had aspects of his character that Christians should emulate.

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  133. Ed, I thought you were tracking with everyone over at Cosmic Eye so I reiterated “apples and sodomites” to focus the point. If you had been on CE I was hoping you would see the humor.

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  134. @Doug: Those “warnings” are more than warnings. They are God’s judgement on unbelieving Israel for desiring a king like those of the surrounding nations rather than their true theocratic King, God himself. Israel rejected God for an earthly king. These warnings cannot be taken a-historically, non-covenantally and be applied as a rule to the modern state.

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  135. I don’t much care about the ethics point, you didn’t answer my question about what is inherently redemptive/utopian/post-millennial about the modest policies put forward by the modern Left, i.e. redistribution (think Europe not the USSR), unions, universal healthcare, and Keynsianism.

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  136. Bottom line of taxes & economics in the U.S. Not enough rich people to tax to give our poor people the standard of living they think they are entitled to, given how poor people live in the rest of the world. As our education and our culture decline it will only get worse and worse. As long as there are rich people to put the blame on, the left will continue to do so. When all we are left with is a pot to piss in, a Democrat will make hay with the guy who has two to piss in. It’s a long, depressing downward spiral without spiritual awakening, and the seeker-friendly evangelicals aren’t the one to give it to us. Gloom, doom, despair. The only hope is Christ and his church.

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  137. Richard, point is that when speaking of God’s judgment it is personal, not geo-political. And it isn’t that personal judgment doesn’t rest on those who don’t believe. It does. Your mistake (and White’s and Wilson’s) seems to be to speak of God’s judgment as if it’s both geo-political and where to put the accent. Orthodoxy says God’s judgment is personal and that his grace is to be emphasized—you know, as in where sin increases grace abounds all the more.

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  138. DGH, I forgot to answer your question. No, raw deal’s not a biblical catergory, whatever that means. Is limited government?

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  139. @Ed, Mark G. and Jed, Zrim, and DGH

    How was Israel divided? This is very interesting because the revolt came down to taxes!!!

    1 Kings 12: 1-4

    Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. As soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt where he had fled from King Solomon, then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam.

    Your father made our yoke heavy on us. Now therefore lighten and hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.

    Me: This is just another way of saying LOWER OUR TAXES.

    Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?

    Me: The older wise men advised Rehoboam to lower their burden and the people would serve him forever. Sadly Rehoboam listened to young men who had grown up with him who said

    “My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions?

    Ironically Ed, Jed, and Mark, you fellows fail to appreciate that Israel was torn apart by unethical taxation. Ironic, isn’t it? And here you’ll wanted to know where the Bible addresses taxation! Look at how Israel was torn asunder!

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  140. Witness the upcoming debate on the fiscal cliff. Is Obama really going to cut entitlements when the people who just elected him are all about entitlements? Are the House Republicans really going to raise taxes when they know Obama and the Senate are just going to spend whatever they get, plus a Trillion more, on the people who just got them elected? Someone explain to me how Al Gore, who couldn’t profitably operate a lemonade stand, is now worth $200 million dollars, mostly from “green energy” investments. Somebody explain to me how the Communist Prime Minister of China, a life-long politician, is a billionaire. There is big, big money in “helping the poor”. The Republicans are all about stupid wars, I know, but eventually they will run out of people to fight. The poor will always be with us, though.

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  141. Erik Charter,

    But you do not tell the whole story. Wealthy people run our politics. They have the ability to construct the economy to make wage labor benefit them. The poor do not vote. Not in any way that they can make the economy benefit them. Unions have within their ranks, the working poor and upper-middle classes, and they do not agree how the economy should be organized. The wealthy (whether they are leftist, libertarian, or anything) do construct the economy to benefit their “world view.”

    Taxes, by-and-large, benefit the wealthy, from the upper middle-class to the uber-wealthy. If “the poor” voted in large numbers, I doubt we would be having this argument.

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  142. Luther:

    I am incredibly wealthy compared to the people of Haiti. I produce goods and offer services targeted exclusively to Haitians. But they can’t afford to buy what I have to offer. Unless I wish to remain poor (according to American standards) I’m going to support policies that will help the Haitians (all Haitians) become more prosperous economically.

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  143. I’m confused about the real nature of this debate. According to Ed, people in the U.K. pay taxes and like it because it is the right thing to do. It seems like Ed is upset because many reformed Americans are speaking hyperbolically about the act of taxation. No true reformer has ever done such a thing.

    Martin Luther spoke with hyperbole about a lot of things. He did not lead a very quiet and peaceable life. Neither did Paul. Neither did Jesus.

    The act of taxation in and of itself is not thievery. Nor is abortion murder — the Federal Govt., instituted by God, has said so.

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  144. Are the House Republicans really going to raise taxes when they know Obama and the Senate are just going to spend whatever they ge

    Yes because the House doesn’t have to vote to raise taxes. A bunch of tax cuts are set to automatically expire which would raise taxes quite a bit on their own:

    1. The payroll tax reduction passed in 2010 will end.
    2. The temporary tax rates passed under President Bush will lapse.
    3. Obamacare’s taxes will come due.
    4. The Alternative Minimum Tax will expand to many more taxpayers.

    That’s a much larger tax increase than Democrats want and much of it hits too low. That being said Senate Democrats, who are going to be much more liberal in 2013 than the ones in 2012 have already indicated they are willing to live with those hikes rather than be bullied by the Tea Party. So Obama has to thread the needle between a Tea Party that wants a showdown and Senate liberals that want war with the Tea Party. Which puts him in Clinton’s position of triangulating rather than bilateral negotiations.

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  145. Zrim: Richard, point is that when speaking of God’s judgment it is personal, not geo-political. And it isn’t that personal judgment doesn’t rest on those who don’t believe. It does. Your mistake (and White’s and Wilson’s) seems to be to speak of God’s judgment as if it’s both geo-political and where to put the accent. Orthodoxy says God’s judgment is personal and that his grace is to be emphasized—you know, as in where sin increases grace abounds all the more.

    RS: You may be correct to some degree, and I would not argue with a whole heart that God’s judgment is upon us in a geo-political way. However, when such a large group of people are under the judgment of God in one nation, the whole nation does suffer. I would not argue that God judges whole nations over individuals, but when judging the individuals of a nation it appears that the whole nation suffers. We also know that God judges people by giving them godless and unwise leaders, which then makes it difficult to separate individuals from nations. True enough that the US is not OT Israel, but when our leaders are passing laws that are at enmity with God and the people seem to love all that is anti-God, it sure appears that the nation is under judgment.

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  146. @Doug: You fail to appreciate that Israel was torn apart by unbelief in and their true king; God. God’s warnings to Israel point to the death of Christ on the cross, not to modern state’s tax policies.

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  147. @Doug: You fail to appreciate that Israel was torn apart by unbelief in and their true king; God. God’s warnings to Israel point to the death of Christ on the cross, not to modern state’s tax policies.

    Huh? God was warning Israel, that he would die for all her sins? Sure Mark, that would really put the fear of God in them LOL! I think you need to blow the dust off your Bible and read the story again. While Israel had been unfaithful, the reason God tore Israel away from Solomon was because of his sin with foreign wives, who turned his heart away from God. King Solomon was allowing sacrifices to Moleck! So your just flat out wrong.

    Me thinks you’ve smoked a pipe load of Kleinian Balderdash.

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  148. “God was warning Israel, that he would die for all her sins? Sure Mark, that would really put the fear of God in them LOL”!

    I find it disturbing how often Christians misrepresent and mock the views of others.

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  149. Luther & CD – First off, Luther – I appreciate your comments. You seem like an honest, straighforward guy. CD – You’re alright, too, although I disagree with most of what you say, but you are mostly interesting.

    The biggest thing I am looking for is something that is sustainable. Fighting stupid wars all over the world (while China isn’t) is not sustainable. Borrowing $1-$2 trillion per year is not sustainable. A welfare state that allows poor people to live better than poor people pretty much everywhere else in the world is not sustainable. Republicans talk low taxes, but they don’t cut spending to an appropriate level to match low taxes (i.e. Bush). Democrats talk big spending but they don’t raise taxes to the level necessary to support it, which would probably be at least double what we pay now. I pay more in state taxes than I do in Federal and have for several years, due to child tax credits, temporarily lower rates, etc. I would be o.k. paying more federal taxes if I had any faith at all that it would be “enough”. It will never be enough, though, because we have a system where people without self-control and with a covetous spirit elect politicians who will carry out their wishes. It just won’t work long-term. Our people lack the virtue that our system of self-government requires. Are there a lot of greedy rich people? Absolutely. Do they have the power to destroy our country? No – it takes a government to do that. Look at Soviet Russia and Communist China and all the citizens killed by those governments. Only government has the power to destroy on a massive scale.

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  150. CD – You’ll know politicans are getting stones when they allow the AMT to hit way more people and not apply the “patch” to the middle class like they do every time it comes up now. People can’t deduct their state income taxes or property taxes under the AMT and tons of people who get refunds every year would not get them. There will be a mini-revolt and congresspeople will definitely hear about it.

    When health insurance costs keep rising and employers face $2,000 or $3,000 fines for not covering employees congresspeople will definitely be hearing about that too. What will happen first is that full-time jobs will just disappear. People will start having 2-3 part time jobs, none of which will provide health insurance. They will get subsidies to buy their own coverage (or get fined) and the subsidies will go on the government credit card. Businesspeople almost always find a way to wiggle out of whatever straightjacket the government tries to put them in. They are crafty people, otherwise they wouldn’t own profitable businesses — they would be working for the government.

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  151. OK, then I’m not sure why we went down that rabbit trail. You were the one who asked me if my terms were biblical, remember?

    I was talking about European modes of redistribution, not justifications, and once again I’m not sure what you mean. When righties hear redistribution, they think USSR, when in fact there are present day examples of more redistributive economies than the U.S. You don’t think Europe is a utopia do you? Also, I hear a lot of rightest utopian visions where there’s no income tax and voluntary organizations provide for the poor, but I don’t impute utopianism to you.

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  152. Our founders created a system in which people could come here, work hard, and have a chance at a good life. They didn’t intend to provide for everyone and guarantee them a good life. These are two very different things. In trying to provide the latter we decrease the chances of the former being a possibility.

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  153. Richard, if you admit that 2012 America is not OT Israel then I don’t understand why you keep making points that suggest it is. If you really grasped that we live in the NT era then you’d look to the NT to see how to regard civil authorities and civic nations.

    If you did that you’d see that God gives godless leaders like Herod and Nero and then says this about them:

    “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

    Or:

    “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

    I can’t think of any NT instance where it is suggested that God is punishing civil nations because of what the authorities are doing legislatively or what the people are backing generally. All I ever see is stuff about the authorities being God’s ministers and commands for believers to behave accordingly. I see no room whatsoever to take the sort of liberties you do by saying things like “…when our leaders are passing laws that are at enmity with God and the people seem to love all that is anti-God, it sure appears that the nation is under judgment.” For a biblicist you sure aren’t very biblical.

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  154. I continue to be amazed how self-proclaimed christians in the states can have their economic theories nailed down to within an inch of their life and then sprinkled with ‘christian’ fairy dust(most professional economists do well to have a forecasting average somewhere near the ave. major league batting ave.) but we can’t manage to distinguish between God’s dealings with ethnic Israel and God’s dealing with the church post resurrection. Son of a biscuit eater. And I still got yahoo’s in my church worried about dead orthodoxy. Friggin frack.

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  155. DGH says: John, limited government isn’t biblical either. But you’re in 2k land. Government doesn’t have to be biblical. In fact, it can’t be (civil that is).

    Me. That’s rather queer for you to say Darryl. Because, Machen thought our limited form of Government was found in the Christian Holy Scriptures, no? This would put Machen in direct opposition to R2K. You had better regroup Darryl, or better yet, how about writing a *new* book on Machen? One that is accurate this time, eh?

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  156. Sean says: I continue to be amazed how self-proclaimed Christians in the states can have their economic theories nailed down to within an inch of their life and then sprinkled with ‘Christian’ fairy dust(most professional economists do well to have a forecasting average somewhere near the ave. major league batting ave.) but we can’t manage to distinguish between God’s dealings with ethnic Israel and God’s dealing with the church post resurrection. Son of a biscuit eater. And I still got yahoo’s in my church worried about dead orthodoxy. Friggin frack.

    Me: Well Sean, that’s because you can’t *mentally* walk and chew gum at the same time. You don’t read the Old Testament. Yet, the Apostle Paul said that

    “ *All* Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work”

    So Sean, to the degree that you can’t comprehend how to apply the Old Testament in a New Covenant context, makes you incompetent to even discuss these issues. You’ve already intimated you can’t conceive how principles can be derived from the Old Testament into today’s modern society, after all you say,”Israel was a special Covenant Nation, and America is not”. Face it Sean, you’re flummoxed, and certainly not teaching material, therefore, you should stay on the side lines and watch. But feel free to eat biscuits and ask questions.

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  157. Doug,

    I’m just pleased you so easily recognized yourself as one of ‘those’ who are part of the problem in my vent. Just goes to show you aren’t as obtuse as all your other comments would lead one to conclude.

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  158. America is not ancient Israel. They are very, very different. One was God’s chosen people thousands of years ago. The other is not – never was, never will be. Every American Christian would do well to remember that. I’m looking at you, RC Sproul (who thinks that the OT tithe should be the model for taxation now).

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  159. DG Hart,

    I don’t think all Protestants with a social democratic bent, believe they are trying to create utopia on earth. Maybe, at one time that discourse dominated Christian social democrats, but that was hardly the language of all of them. Capitalism destroys communities and families, and from what I’ve learned from Northern European Protestants, is that there must be limits to what the market views as value and what communities view as value. Those nice clean and quaint villages in Northern Europe survive, because the market is not allowed to place a value on them. That has nothing to do with “Heaven on Earth” but just survival.

    CD-Host’s observation:

    “Why should our relationship with government be based on the myths about western expansion rather than the reality of western expansion? It doesn’t make sense to agree that western expansion was a massively subsidized government program, and then argue that we should ignore that it treat it like was all about hardy individuals overcoming adversity on their own. What’s the advantage of deliberately lying to ourselves?”

    This also applies to the United States, 1950’s-1970s. Looking at the tax rates during that era, it was one of the biggest transfers of wealth in our history. It created modern suburbia. This transfer of wealth also brought poor whites (Anglo-Protestants) and urban working-class whites (Roman Catholic and Jewish) into the middle-classes and into those freshly built suburban homes. American social democracy and wealth transfers, still benefit the upper-classes in a bigger way, than it does for the poor. “The takers” aren’t “the poor”. It could be the case that the wealthy of that era were built from hardier stuff, and the wealthy of today just don’t have “the Right Stuff,” Galt’s Gulch, not withstanding…

    History of US taxation:

    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3151

    http://taxfoundation.org/article/us-federal-individual-income-tax-rates-history-1913-2011-nominal-and-inflation-adjusted-brackets

    http://www.ntu.org/tax-basics/history-of-federal-individual-1.html

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  160. . Fighting stupid wars all over the world (while China isn’t) is not sustainable.

    I agree. So do most democrats. No one on the left like’s Romney’s idea of starting a war with Iran.

    The biggest thing I am looking for is something that is sustainable Borrowing $1-$2 trillion per year is not sustainable. A welfare state that allows poor people to live better than poor people pretty much everywhere else in the world is not sustainable.

    Poor people in the US don’t live to close to better than most other places in the world. Our bottom fifth is likely the worst off of any developed country. Take a look at the statistics. Treating the poor well is sustainable because it creates mobility, increases productivity and thus increases growth.

    As for borrowing that doesn’t have to be sustainable. Right now the EU, Japan and China all want to run large trade surpluses. Which means someone needs to run a trade deficit. A trade deficit requires a currency account surplus, which with a fiat currency requires a deficit. When the EU, Japan and China become willing to run trade deficits the dollar falls, imports fall, exports explode and we change policy to stop running a budget deficit. But if you trust the free market the free market right now is pretty clearly signaling they want higher borrowing from the US with the ultra low long term interest rates.

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  161. Sometimes politicians don’t have a plan. Other times they have something like a four point plan. Not Doug – he has a 724 point plan, and each point has a proof text. But, really, it’s like Doug’s playing in a fantasy theonomy league, and berates anyone who won’t play.

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  162. John, where are the rightist utopian visions at OL? This is a 2k cite. We don’t believe in immanentizing the eschaton. If raw deal isn’t a biblical category fine. It’s not much of a political category either. Either way, while bureaucrats are redistributing funds, I’m wondering how much overhead there is in the govt. program.

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  163. Sorry, I forgot to place the “rural” in front of whites, for the Anglos.

    It created modern suburbia. This transfer of wealth also brought poor rural whites (Anglo-Protestants) and urban working-class whites (Roman Catholic and Jewish) into the middle-classes and into those freshly built suburban homes.

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  164. You are right.

    I was thinking about the amount of funds it takes those governments to help those small villages survive. Infrastructure stuff like sewage, electricity, public transportation.

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  165. “Limited government” is so vague. In addition, you can’t have a limited government if it’s also an empire. (Ron Paul is the most honest Republican on this)

    From republic to empire. Once Jefferson crossed the Rubicon (or in our case, the Mississippi River) and the US embraced expansion, any dreams of a small government evaporated.

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  166. But Luther, America is exceptional! It is a Christian nation; a city on a hill. And if God blesses it because it executes sodomites, leaves the poor to the churches, keeps mosques out of Manhattan, and lets insurance companies pay for healthcare, nothing is impossible. You can even cut taxes and spend trillions on the military and nothing bad will happen. Reaganomics is clearly laid out in the OT, if only you had the eyes to see you godless utopian leftist.🙂

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  167. CD – “Our bottom fifth is likely the worst off of any developed country”

    If that is true, which I by no means concede, it is largely because of the social pathologies of those groups in the U.S. Multiple generations of low-class behavior and out of wedlock births lead to poverty.

    Also, what is happening to the bottom fifth in Greece right now as their welfare state implodes? Why aren’t we headed there as well?

    CD & Luther – Why do you think humans are basically good people who are motivated to work hard for the benefit of others? Where is your evidence?

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  168. CD & Luther – Is the left concerned about the U.S. National debt or not? What beyond taxing “millionaires & billionaires” more do they plan to do about it? What do they plan to do when that money is not enough?

    The most honest left-wing piece I ever read on this subject was in “The Nation” a few years ago. A guy argued that what we need is a wealth tax. That rich people should be forced to surrender half their assets, or something like that. Since so much of those assets are not sitting in the bank in the form of cash I’m not sure who the wealthy were going to sell these things to to monetize them, but at least the guy was bluntly honest.

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  169. CD – “Treating the poor well is sustainable because it creates mobility, increases productivity and thus increases growth.”

    But there’s a basic of human nature that explains why a tax discourages certain behaviors while subsidies encourage the behavior. If you have kids you know what I mean. The left doesn’t sufficiently take this into account when it wants to sock it to the wealthy and support the poor.

    An illustration on the subsidy side was an 18 year old woman who had just had a baby. She explained that her mother received welfare for her being in the home, but that would be lost when she became 18, so her mother told her should have a baby to go on what was then ADC. A strong case can be made that our welfare system has done tremendous damage to the institution of the family.

    There are those who are truly needy, but our current system attracts those who might have otherwise transitioned into self-sufficiency.

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  170. The general trend for the top marginal tax rate has been downward since 1945. It fell from 94% in 1945 to 91% in the 1950s and 70% in the 1960s and 1970s to a low of 28% after the enactment of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA86; P.L. 99-514). The top marginal tax rate subsequently increased to 39.6% in the 1990s, before being reduced to its current level of 35% by the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA; P.L. 107-16).

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/news/business/0915taxesandeconomy.pdf

    mark: Of course pacifist non-voters must also pay taxes, but they must not complain about what they pay or what others are not paying or they stop being “real” pacifists (to be identified as those who spend their time instead giving thanks to those who killed those who were killing for their country).

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  171. If that is true, which I by no means concede, it is largely because of the social pathologies of those groups in the U.S. Multiple generations of low-class behavior and out of wedlock births lead to poverty.

    Why would the US be uniquely cursed with such a difficult group of poor people? Why was it that during the 50’s things like the GI bill which encouraged mobility were able to change the social pathologies of millions but today they wouldn’t work?

    Is the left concerned about the U.S. National debt or not?

    Somewhat. They are less concerned than the right

    What beyond taxing “millionaires & billionaires” more do they plan to do about it? What do they plan to do when that money is not enough?

    In 2010 the wealth of the US was held as follows:
    top 1% 42.1%
    next 19% 53.5%
    bottom 80% 4.7%

    Taxing millionaires and billionaires is all we need to do. That money is plenty. We need to get from 20% of GDP to 30% of GDP and there is plenty there to go after.

    Also, what is happening to the bottom fifth in Greece right now as their welfare state implodes?

    The welfare state of Greece isn’t imploding. The banking system of Greece imploded and the government decided to induce a depression as a condition for getting a German bailout.

    Why aren’t we headed there as well?

    Because we don’t borrow in a foreign currency. And for that matter Bush and Obama have worked hard to recapitalize the American banking system. Most of the structural problems with the banking sector which American and European banks had in 2007 have been fixed in the US.

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  172. @mikelmann
    But there’s a basic of human nature that explains why a tax discourages certain behaviors while subsidies encourage the behavior. If you have kids you know what I mean. The left doesn’t sufficiently take this into account when it wants to sock it to the wealthy and support the poor.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say the left doesn’t take this into account. The left makes use of subsidy / tax schemes to encourage or discourage behaviors. I’d argue switching subsidy / tax schemes is one of the major themes of the Obama’s economic policies.

    An illustration on the subsidy side was an 18 year old woman who had just had a baby. She explained that her mother received welfare for her being in the home, but that would be lost when she became 18, so her mother told her should have a baby to go on what was then ADC

    Agreed. ADC as it existed pre-Clinton was very destructive in terms of incentives. The effective tax rate on the poor is often over 100% and is almost always over 50%. That’s terrible policy that leftists like Moynihan attacked early. ADC was a compromise because anti-poverty programs were getting too expensive. Back at the time when Clinton was president the right support things like the EITC which cut those effective tax rates for the poor and thus encouraged the migration from poverty to earning every step of the way.

    A strong case can be made that our welfare system has done tremendous damage to the institution of the family.

    I agree. A far better system that would encourage families would be to drive up male wages at the bottom end of the socio-economic ladder.

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  173. CD – Why would the US be uniquely cursed with such a difficult group of poor people?

    Because we are cursed with liberals who facilitate bad behavior. Britain has similar problems.

    CD – Why was it that during the 50′s things like the GI bill which encouraged mobility were able to change the social pathologies of millions but today they wouldn’t work?

    We still make college money available for soldiers. What do soldiers have to do with poor people on welfare for generations?

    The Left is less concerned about the debt because they are mostly short term thinkers and less likely to have kids. See Keynes on the long term.

    What’s your source for the wealth figures? Do you want to tax wealth or income? I might own a farm worth millions but my income might not be that high. If I’m a doctor, what if I decide to retire and live on tax-free municipal bond interest instead of practicing medicine? Income tax problem gone. More leisure, less labor, less taxable income, less tax for you to spend.

    Why do the Germans have to bail the Greeks out? What do the Germans do/know that the Greeks don’t?

    CD – “And for that matter Bush and Obama have worked hard to recapitalize the American banking system. Most of the structural problems with the banking sector which American and European banks had in 2007 have been fixed in the US.”

    Read “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis. Nothing is really fixed here yet. Especially as long as we allow “too big to fail” financial institutions to exist.

    What do you do for a living? How well will you cope personally if our economy collapses? Have you ever worked outside of the government and not-for-profit sectors?

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  174. “pathologies of the poor” do not affect our society like the pathologies of the wealthy do. The poor do not construct our nation-state, foreign policy, the military-industrial complex, the porn valley in Los Angeles, vulture capitalism. Your obsession with crumbs for the poor is strange. Their effect on how you live is minuscule. If we got rid of all government programs that dealt with the poor, how much do you believe the government will save?

    Have you seen the family relationships of the wealthy? Have you watched any Bravo or Lifetime reality shows?

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  175. Luther, I’m not sure that Bravo or Lifetime capture the wealthy the way Charles Murray’s recent book does (which I have not read but have seen many reviews). It sounds like the wealthy are not nearly as unconventional as Hollywood’s execs.

    But part of the reason that some might mind the poor is the way they are used to moralize politics, as if conservatives are uncaring, selfish louts, and liberals are loving and caring.

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  176. Luther – “the porn valley in Los Angeles”

    I think the Mafia were mostly made up of Catholics. Not sure who runs porn today.

    What percentage of our budget goes toward entitlements — not just for the poor but for all people? If I have to listen to my dad & my dad-in-law brag again about how little they have to do in a given day now that they are both retired and collecting social security I think I’m going to go nuts.

    I concede there are a lot of frivolous rich people, but there are also an awful lot of rich people who made their money through honest hard work and they employ a lot of middle class and poor people. I should know, I work for one.

    Another thing you overlook is that the government has an awful lot of soldiers, guns, and bullets. I think I’m more afraid of them than rich people.

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  177. Recently watched Russ Meyer’s “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”. Roger Ebert wrote the screenplay and has a great commentary track. He said Meyer never made porn because he didn’t want to deal with the mafia who ran the porn theaters as a way to launder money in the 70s.

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  178. Another issue is that you & C.D. try to solve a lot of problems with money that are not really about money. You could give a lot of people a million dollars and in a year they would have nothing. You could take other people’s money away and in a year they would have a million dollars.

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  179. Mike1mann says: Sometimes politicians don’t have a plan. Other times they have something like a four point plan. Not Doug – he has a 724 point plan, and each point has a proof text. But, really, it’s like Doug’s playing in a fantasy theonomy league, and berates anyone who won’t play.

    Me: LOL! This IS funny Mike! However, ahem, what really ticks me off, is people like Sean who berate the *notion* that we should look to God’s Word for eternal principles that should be applied today. And yes, sometimes I go to far. Now, as for you Mike? I’ll cut you some slack, after all, it’s the Lord day. Keep pressng on!

    p.s. Just watch your mouth, okay? 🙂

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  180. CD – Why would the US be uniquely cursed with such a difficult group of poor people?
    EC: Because we are cursed with liberals who facilitate bad behavior. Britain has similar problems.

    You are claiming that there are more liberals and more facilitation of “bad behavior” in the US than in most other developed countries that have far more generous welfare states?

    We still make college money available for soldiers. What do soldiers have to do with poor people on welfare for generations?

    Because the money we made available for the GI bills were how we got people, including people who came from families that had been poor for generations into the middle class. It is a perfect disproof. And we don’t have people on welfare for generations anymore. That was a short term policies from the late 60s to the early 90s that doesn’t exist anymore.

    What’s your source for the wealth figures?

    US census 2010.

    Do you want to tax wealth or income?

    Wealth. Your claim was that there wasn’t enough money to tax.

    Why do the Germans have to bail the Greeks out?

    Stop making this national. In terms of why should Germans be interested in bailing out Greek banks, because they have a lot of Greek bank debt that would be wiped out in a Greek banking default. The Germans have interest in the Greek banking sector.

    Nothing is really fixed here yet. Especially as long as we allow “too big to fail” financial institutions to exist.

    Too big to fail is a different problem than capitalization ratios. You are jumping from talking point to talking point.

    Have you ever worked outside of the government and not-for-profit sectors?

    I’ve never been a direct government employee. Last time I worked for a non-profit was 1996. I get to see corporate corruption and incompetence up close everyday.

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  181. Erik says: Another issue is that you & C.D. try to solve a lot of problems with money that are not really about money. You could give a lot of people a million dollars and in a year they would have nothing. You could take other people’s money away and in a year they would have a million dollars.

    Amen! Amen! Amen! Couldnt have said it better myself. It’s kind of funny Erik, because when it comes to politcs we think alike. Yet we clash on theonomy. Hang in there bro!

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  182. The Left is less concerned about the debt because they are mostly short term thinkers and less likely to have kids. See Keynes on the long term.

    Which of course I think is rather disproved when you look at the various economic models of the two parties. The left is for example very concerned about investment in education which don’t pay off for decades but ultimately have tremendous impact, while the right is indifferent. The right has been stripping infrastructure which has short term savings for very high long term costs. Investing in America is not thinking short term.

    Finally of course if the right actually cared about the debt they wouldn’t be freaking out about the fiscal cliff. They would be thrilled. If all 7 aspects went into effect the deficits in 2013 would be well under 1/2 what they were in 2012. The fact that the Republicans are working desperately to avoid the fiscal cliff I think shows pretty clearly how genuinely concerned about the debt they are.

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  183. DG Hart,

    Luther, I’m not sure that Bravo or Lifetime capture the wealthy the way Charles Murray’s recent book does (which I have not read but have seen many reviews). It sounds like the wealthy are not nearly as unconventional as Hollywood’s execs.

    I was embracing my “desire to speak as hyperbolically as possible”, and I’ll bring it down a notch. And Charles Murray’s book is very interesting; he is someone I find hard to ignore. I TA at USC, and many of the children of entertainment executives (adult, mainstream and Christian entertainment, USC trained the founders of Vivid Entertainment and Focus on the Family) certainly wield their social capital with much humility, and I’m not saying that sarcastically.

    But part of the reason that some might mind the poor is the way they are used to moralize politics, as if conservatives are uncaring, selfish louts, and liberals are loving and caring.

    I guess what I’m arguing is that the amount of tax monies we spend on the poor does not correlate with the amount of time we spend debating about it. The military and other government expenditures are massive and is ignored by both Dems and Repubs. And I think they prefer it that way.

    Our government’s actions after 9-11, and the social conditions in the US that makes it possible (what was Iraq all about, again?)…the ability to spend billions on what now seems to have been…an innocent mistake? This seems to be as much about pathologies as it is about innocent ideological disagreements. (Although, the battle between neocons and paleocons, forced me to reevaluate my assumptions about the paleos).

    Erik Charter
    “I think the Mafia were mostly made up of Catholics. Not sure who runs porn today.”

    Jews, Catholics, Pentecostals and a few Mormons, when you do cultural studies in Los Angeles, you always come across interesting tidbits of information.

    It’s funny you should mention this! One of the classes I TA is “Los Angeles in Film & Literature”, and in various stories, Jews and Catholic producers, during the 1920s and 1930s, would mention their WASP financiers when they were accused of destroying the moral character of the nation.

    Then again, the 2k “w-v” keeps me from dragging the Cross into this stuff, and then dragging this stuff into the sanctuary. Among other things, my blood pressure and mental health has improved. Growing up with Pentecostals where you are either always “Hot” or “Cold” for Jesus and the lukewarm will be spit out…stoic-Protestantism has been a nice spiritual balm.

    Oh one more thing, many of the FOX news celebrities after the elections kept mentioning how sad they were that traditional America no longer existed or something like that. But I thought Papist and Christ killers were running that station? Whatever does FOX mean by “traditional”?

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  184. Whoa! The page ate my sarcasm indicators!

    Oh one more thing, many of the FOX news celebrities after the elections kept mentioning how sad they were that traditional America no longer existed or something like that. (old school sarcasm>But I thought Papist and Christ killers were running that station?</old school sarcasm) Whatever does FOX mean by “traditional”?

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  185. CD – In case you haven’t noticed, most of Europe is having issues paying for the welfare state. The far North may be an exception but these are relatively small countries with relatively homogeneous populations. They can get away with things that don’t translate well elsewhere. Oil wealth also helps in some cases.

    Who is stopping poor young people from joining the military today. What do you want to do, draft them?

    If you want to tax wealth I’ll grant you you will get a lot more money than just taxing income (although not as much as you think because a lot of it is intangible and can disappear rather than be taxed away). Are you honestly prepared for the political repercussions of that? The only wealth taxes we have now are the estate tax & local property taxes. There may be some other local things around the country I’m not aware of. You are proposing something revolutionary that would probably require a Constitutional Amendment, no? Your proposal could lead to bloodshed, people renouncing their citizenship, and lots of negative economic effects leading up to the revolutionary change you are proposing. If you get this money (which is presumably a one time thing because it will radically change the country) and you can’t fix the problems you are aiming at fixing, what is your next step? My contention is that you & Luther are trying to fix a lot of problems that are not really fixable because they are ultimately spiritual, not material problems.

    No cultural differences between Germany and Greece? Are you sure? Who has been more honest in paying taxes? Who has been more thrifty? You seem to have this paradigm of universal human goodness with no variations allowed for culture (or sin). What is your evidence for this? Have you ever read Thomas Sowell or Charles Murray?

    Did things really get “fixed” in the bailout or did a lot of bad assets just move from bank balance sheets to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet? How does the Federal Reserve create money to fund it’s balance sheet? Is this just all a free lunch? I move around but there is a common thread – liberalism, a denial of sin, an unwarranted optimism about human nature, and a denial of fundamental laws of economics.

    Big corporate corruption or small corporate corruption? I share your lack of faith in big business, thus my comment about “too big to fail” banks. Private profits and socialized risk are as bad as anything I am criticizing about the left. The left has their Fannie & Freddie to answer for, though. The rich and the poor cooperated to create the current economic mess.

    This may not be an issue for you, but how does Luther get around the 10th commandment against coveting? It is such an essential part of the Democratic Party worldview. It drives most of what they do. Even if rich people have too much, does God ordain taking their wealth away?

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  186. Doug – Tell your Neocalvinist friends that 2k folks aren’t automatically political liberals. I would have no problem worshiping with CD or Luther, though. I would just harass them during coffee time after the service.

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  187. Doug – I think I have biblical warrant for the things I am saying since most of it is based on what I think the Bible teaches about human nature (that it is corrupt, not good). I don’t think most of what I am saying touches on the gospel, though. The church is a place for sick people. If CD came I would hope he would trust Christ and as he grew in wisdom and maturity his political views might change. I do think a lot of liberals have compassion for people that is admirable (unfortunately this often doesn’t extend to unborn babies). I just question if their proposed solutions will work — that’s the issue. How do we really help people in a way that correctly understands human nature? This should be what the church’s diaconal ministry is about.

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  188. CD – I am not a big Republican defender. Education is important but I don’t think a lack of money is really the issue. It is a bottomless pit financially speaking. Iowa’s Republican governor wants to spend $170 million changing how teachers are paid and paying them more. I have a conflict of interest now because my daughter is studying to be an elementary teacher. If he does nothing to be able to fire bad teachers, though, more money will not help that much (although over time if he attracts better teachers this could pay off as the bad ones retire off). So much of being successful in education starts at home and depends on things like instilling discipline and good work habits. The left seems to be less excited about these “traditional” notions.

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  189. CD – I am with you on the fiscal cliff as long as new tax revenue is not just wasted. Things like Solyndra and Al Gore now being worth $200 million (per Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal) absolutely drive me nuts. People act like it will be Armageddon, but if we can actually show restraint and make people believe we have a fiscally sustainable plan that would help the economy. As mentioned, though, I have no faith in the left to show any restraint on spending (I don’t think they can do it politically — look at California). There are also factors like China that make me nervous about defense. I don’t want to spend any more money nation building overseas, though. The point of defense is defense. Nation building Islamic countries is not defense. Defense is killing people and blowing things up when people attack you. 9/11 attackers were not a country (although killing off al queda leaders has probably been a good move — but at what cost?).

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  190. Luther – “USC trained the founders of Vivid Entertainment and Focus on the Family”

    “Jews, Catholics, Pentecostals and a few Mormons, when you do cultural studies in Los Angeles, you always come across interesting tidbits of information.”

    ” I TA is “Los Angeles in Film & Literature”

    I taught on Mormonism in Sunday School this morning. We almost had a Mormon president. That is absolutely amazing given our Calvinistic, Puritan founders. I am a few months into a class on American Religious history. fascinating stuff with lots of different strands.

    I don’t watch anything on Fox News other than “The Wall Street Journal Report”. Those are some pretty sharp people.

    Great stuff. I would really enjoy having a beer with you. Hopefully you are covering “Chinatown” in your class. I saw it on the big screen with my 6th grade son a month or so ago.

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  191. CD & Luther – Re. the top 1%. You may have an issue there. The question is (1) can you get at it (2) If you get it, how do you use it wisely (3) What kind of economic dislocations will getting it cause? So much of our politics is a fight between left wing political elites and right wing economic elites. Unions & social liberals spend hundreds of millions and top 1% capitalists spend hundreds of millions. The rest of us just sit in between them and conclude that the status quo is not working. I sometimes wonder if all these debates don’t have their roots on Ivy League campuses where you have Jews and smart scholarship kids (many of them minorities like Obama) on one side and WASP legacies on the other. The former resent the latter who are in the powerful fraternities & sororities and social clubs (see “The Social Network”). The fight just continues on after graduation. Clinton and Obama were the former and Bush I & II were the latter. Once in a half-century a Reagan comes along from outside that world.

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  192. I am a business owner that employs 300 people, all of whom earn the lion’s share of income for their families. All of my personal wealth is tied up in my business.

    My accountant and financial advisor, Erik Charter, asks me if I really want to be in business because some clever little clover has devised a wealth tax. Erik advises me that we are going to have to borrow heavily against the assets of the corporation in order to pay this tax. After all, the govt. knows what they are doing. Erik also advises me that in order to pay the wealth tax, we are going to have to fire most of our employees. I assure Erik that I’m confident it will all work out since govt. will take care of us all.

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  193. In case you haven’t noticed, most of Europe is having issues paying for the welfare state

    Not really most of them are at 50-86% debt as a percentage of GDP. They are having far less trouble paying for their welfare states than we are without paying for tax cuts for the rich.

    Are you honestly prepared for the political repercussions of that? The only wealth taxes we have now are the estate tax & local property taxes. There may be some other local things around the country I’m not aware of. You are proposing something revolutionary that would probably require a Constitutional Amendment, no?

    IANAL but the argument against federal property taxes in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co.,(case that through out a wealth tax in 1894) was that were essentially an income tax which was illegal. I don’t see how that wouldn’t apply in reverse now that income taxes are legal. If that failed the wealth tax could be uniform through the states on the basis of population which would definitely be constitutional (i.e. each state has a wealth tax and has to collect $x * number of people in state).

    Its not really that revolutionary. I pay $15k a year on my home and the bank owns far more of it than I do. Its revolutionary to do it for financial assets but most of them generate dividends or interest so that’s sort of a wash.

    Your proposal could lead to bloodshed, people renouncing their citizenship, and lots of negative economic effects leading up to the revolutionary change you are proposing.

    I think you are overstating the effects of a change of tax policy. Certainly I wouldn’t expect the rich to be doing much in the way of bloodshed. They have plenty of access to the soap box, no reason to use the ammo box.

    You seem to have this paradigm of universal human goodness with no variations allowed for culture (or sin). What is your evidence for this?

    I assume by goodness you mean desire to contribute. I don’t need universal all I need is mostly, say 90%. And the evidence is the wonderful effects all throughout history you can see when people are given opportunity rather than held back by virtue of class based systems. Not always but quite often and far more than 1/2 the time.

    If you get this money (which is presumably a one time thing because it will radically change the country) and you can’t fix the problems you are aiming at fixing, what is your next step?

    I don’t think it would radically change the country. But yes I think it is mostly a tautology that taxing the rich to pay for programs rather than taxing the poor and middle class helps the poor and middle class. There is no next step, this is true in the way 2+2=4 is true.

    My contention is that you & Luther are trying to fix a lot of problems that are not really fixable because they are ultimately spiritual, not material problems.

    I don’t mean to fix spiritual problems with these policy shifts, just the material ones And further if money doesn’t change spirituality that doesn’t create a reason to prefer one system over another. It leaves the economic debate in the realm of pure economics.

    But in general no I don’t think the poor are particularly wicked. I agree with Jesus on that.

    Did things really get “fixed” in the bailout or did a lot of bad assets just move from bank balance sheets to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet?

    Both. But that doesn’t matter, what matters in terms of recapitalizing the banks is that it is off the bank balance sheets.

    How does the Federal Reserve create money to fund it’s balance sheet?

    Assuming treasury cooperates, by fiat.

    The left has their Fannie & Freddie to answer for, though

    I don’t think it was the left that decided to create a government corporation to securitize housing. That was more of the middle to right. I’ll agree the left didn’t object but I don’t think they get the blame.

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  194. . Erik also advises me that in order to pay the wealth tax, we are going to have to fire most of our employees

    Pity you had to close a few weeks earlier before you were going to run out of money from operations. Good thing that most business are finding a wealth tax less than the corporate tax they are currently paying and are saving a bunch of not having to engage in some many accounting gimmicks to speed up depreciation schedules.

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  195. Paul – Imagine the fights over valuing the non-publicly traded companies to figure out how much to tax? Maybe this isn’t a bad idea. I foresee endless work for CPA’s. If I go and get a law degree to add to it I’ll be set. I can set up a practice and hire my kids. Bring on the wealth tax!

    CD says – “Its revolutionary to do it for financial assets but most of them generate dividends or interest so that’s sort of a wash.”

    And you are already taxing the dividends and interest, as well as the capital gains once the asset is sold. Why am I reminded of the Beatles song “Taxman”:

    Let me tell you how it will be
    There’s one for you, nineteen for me
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

    Should five per cent appear too small
    Be thankful I don’t take it all
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
    If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

    Don’t ask me what I want it for
    If you don’t want to pay some more
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

    They must have written this after they started making money. The funniest thing in life is how young, naive people vote for Democrats, mature, start making money in the private sector, and become Republicans.

    Maybe no revolution when the wealth tax applies to the top 1%, buy my contention that all this stuff eventually gets applied broadly because the philosophy behind it is doomed (because of a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature). Remember how our country got started — with a tax revolt.

    CD – “And the evidence is the wonderful effects all throughout history you can see when people are given opportunity rather than held back by virtue of class based systems” – Where? The USSR?, Mao’s China? North Korea? I just fell off my chair laughing. Are you Paul Krugman in disguise? There’s an awful lot of inequality in “Communist” China today. The wealthy are the party members. Some of them are billionaires. Government service is good work if you can get it.

    The poor are no more wicked than the rich. The problem is that liberals view them as somehow LESS WICKED than the rich. They are out to stick it to their neighbor just like the rich are and we need to govern accordingly. Have you never heard of welfare fraud? Food Stamp fraud? People are basically a bottomless pit so if your plan is to give them things that are unconnected to them giving something back in return (like an honest day’s work), you will give until you are broke. Keep in mind everything you are advocating doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There is the matter of global competition to consider. China still has 300 million poor people who would love to raise their standard of living — at our expense if necessary. A wealthy U.S. is not just a given.

    So you’ll give up income taxes for a wealth tax? Interesting. How do you handle government employees & unionized employees who have better benefits & retirement plans than the public sector? Do they pay more? Are their vested retirement benefits “wealth” that gets taxed each year based on their theoretical lump sum value? How about people like you on the coasts who have houses worth more than those of us in the midwest? This isn’t sounding so bad after all.

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  196. And you are already taxing the dividends and interest, as well as the capital gains once the asset is sold.

    If you are taxing wealth I wouldn’t see any reason to tax the dividends nor interest nor cap gains. There is no reason to keep adding taxes. Wealthtax allow it to go negative i.e. Friedman’s “negative income tax” and also a VAT to replace the income tax. Get rid payroll taxes. Get rid of the income taxes. That way investment pays off, savings pays off when we need savings (i.e. interest rates are high) but during recessions savers have to take risk or lose principle. The poor get to keep lots of money if they save but pay a high rate on salary they spend.

    he funniest thing in life is how young, naive people vote for Democrats, mature, start making money in the private sector, and become Republicans.

    Yeah people vote their financial interests. Not too shocking. And also the social conservatives who don’t make much are an exception to that. As are minorities and social liberals who on average do make a lot.

    How do you handle government employees & unionized employees who have better benefits & retirement plans than the public sector? Do they pay more?

    Private pension funds would be taxed. Also when the money comes out and is spent, yes it is taxed. Government employees only pay when it comes out.

    How about people like you on the coasts who have houses worth more than those of us in the midwest?

    We get taxed on the equity and yes we pay more. But that’s the same as now, we pay more income taxes already which this is replacing.

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  197. CD – Paul made a really good point that you dismissed too quickly. Business owners don’t wait until their last dollar is gone from the till and then let people go. They look at the future impact of policy, discount that back to present value, and make decisions accordingly. This is what is happening with Obamacare. If the Democrats controlled all of government and advocated a wealth tax like you are talking about the stock market would tank. People don’t just standby and let themselves get fleeced.

    Once my kids are grown and out of the house I seriously consider just quitting productive society, living off the government, and sitting around reading books all day. Why not? What if everyone does this? Who will you tax then? My Christian faith is the only thing that stops me.

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  198. “Private pension funds would be taxed. Also when the money comes out and is spent, yes it is taxed. Government employees only pay when it comes out.”

    How in the world is that fair? Why do government employees get (yet another) free pass?

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  199. Here’s an example from my little town of 3,000 people why all of this stuff doesn’t work in the real world. My commentary is first, followed by an article from Friday’s paper:

    What an absolute mess. I live in the City and in the County so I guess I am suing myself? Carelessness at both the County and the City level. This is an example why well-meaning government schemes often fail. The private company had to realize they weren’t paying the taxes they had agreed to pay, but after the governments screwed up they were presumably legally off the hook. Whether they were morally off the hook is another question. The City and the County representatives, while presumably well meaning, apparently just did not pay close enough attention to the details. These mistakes of the County not making the correct assessment, the City not checking on the assessment and filing a timely appeal, and the taxpayer not bringing the error to either body’s attention, went on for several years (from 2007-2011).

    The rate I pay in Huxley is around 4% of taxable value. Commercial property is taxed at 100%. $3 million of unassessed value in 2007 plus $6 million in 2008-2011 is a total of $27 million. $27 million times 4% is $1,080,000 in lost taxes (minus whatever minimal amount was collected). This is nothing in Washington dollars, but in a City of 1,194 households (per the 2010 census) that is over $900 per household in lost property taxes. Ouch.

    Oh, and I get to pay both the city and the county’s legal bills, too.

    Story County Board Seeks Representation in Huxley Lawsuit

    By Luke Jennett
    Staff Writer

    After a closed session Tuesday, the Story County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to have the County Attorney’s Office send a second demand for legal representation to the county’s insurance carrier ICAP regarding the lawsuit against the county by the city of Huxley.

    It’s not known if or why ICAP rejected the county’s first demand for coverage; county officials declined to comment on the matter.

    The board also moved to allow the Story County Attorney’s Office to hire outside counsel to represent the county in the lawsuit. The rationale for this was not discussed in the public portion of the meeting.

    The city of Huxley filed a petition in equity against the county, the county assessor’s office, and County Assessor Wayne Schwickerath in December 2011. Huxley alleges that in June 2006, it entered into an agreement with Perry-based Interstate Land Properties LLC in which the city would annex land near the city and provide millions of dollars in infrastructure in exchange for a minimum assessment agreement with the developer.

    The property in question, intended to be for commercial and light industrial uses, sits between 560th Avenue and I-35 near Huxley.

    According to court documents, the city has spent about $3.6 million for engineering and construction of the water, sanitary sewer and street improvements at the site.

    The agreement Huxley says it struck between Huxley, the Story County Assessor’s Office and Interstate Land Properties was that the land would be assessed at a minimum value of $3 million in 2007 and $6 million from 2008 until 2024.

    The resulting cash from property taxes on the land would be used by the city to reimburse itself for the cost of the infrastructure it provided.

    However, when 2007 came around, Huxley says that Story County Assessor Wayne Schwickerath assessed the property at “substantially less” than the agreed-upon $3 million. According to the Story County Assessor’s website, in 2007 the four parcels owned by Interstate Land Properties were assessed at a total value of $82,600.

    The lawsuit alleges that the Story County Assessor continued to not abide by the agreement in 2008, when the minimum assessment was supposed to increase to $6 million. According to the assessor’s website, Interstate Land Properties’ total net taxes due in 2008 amounted to $2,445.

    This continued through 2011, alleges the lawsuit, with the Story County Assessor refusing to assess the land at the level specified in the agreement. As a result, Huxley alleges, the city has lost and is continuing to lose substantial property tax revenue.

    The county, meanwhile, has asked to be dismissed as a defendant in the lawsuit, saying that the Story County Board of Supervisors had no knowledge of the minimum assessment agreement and never reviewed the matter before it was signed by the Assessor’s Office.

    In court documents, the county has also noted that Huxley failed to file a tax protest in 2007, or any of the years up through 2011.

    An affidavit by Huxley City Administrator John Haldeman says that the city of Huxley didn’t receive any notice of the assessor’s failure to follow the minimum assessment agreement from those years.

    In August, the court ruled that Interstate Land Properties was an indispensable party in the lawsuit, and the company was added as a defendant. The development company has filed its own answer to Huxley’s complaint, saying that Huxley had failed to exhaust all of its administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit and that Huxley is barred from pursuing its claims by the statute of limitations.

    Huxley is seeking compensatory damages for lost tax revenues, as well as attorney fees and an order by the court that the properties be assessed as directed in the agreement.

    Luke Jennett can be reached at (515) 663-6919 or ljennett@amestrib.com

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  200. Luther, I don’t mind if the feds spend less on everything, though if the savings could allow the states to invest in our cities, I’d be interested. Places like New Orleans and Baltimore (David Simon’s favorites) need help.

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  201. Paul made a really good point that you dismissed too quickly. Business owners don’t wait until their last dollar is gone from the till and then let people go. They look at the future impact of policy, discount that back to present value, and make decisions accordingly.

    I agree. Tax policy effects investment return. One of the problems with a corporate tax vs. a wealth tax is it can make it more profitable to do things like layoff workers. A wealth tax forces the opposite behavior. Think of it this way. X has a $5m business.

    a) Current situation X pays 35% of profits which is way $500k so he pays $135k. If he tries to grow the business to $1m he pays $270k.

    b) Wealth tax. X pays $100k a year on the $5m business even if he shuts it down. His taxes don’t change regardless of how much money it is making (essentially). If he were to grow the business to $1m that would only generate another $10k in taxes year 1. He has much stronger incentives to earn.

    Now combine that with the VAT where say wages are VATed but expenses are not.

    a2) Current: X’s lays off workers he gets to keep 100% of their salary. Even if he loses 80% of that in lost earning he’s ahead and with taxes even further ahead.

    b2) Wealth: X’s lays off workers, and he immediate owes another 30% in taxes on top of the 80% loss in earnings. He’s way behind.

    You want to make this a little more complex but Paul has the math exactly backwards.

    b2)

    This is what is happening with Obamacare. If the Democrats controlled all of government and advocated a wealth tax like you are talking about the stock market would tank. People don’t just standby and let themselves get fleeced.

    Once my kids are grown and out of the house I seriously consider just quitting productive society, living off the government, and sitting around reading books all day. Why not? What if everyone does this? Who will you tax then? My Christian faith is the only thing that stops me.

    This is what is happening with Obamacare.

    No it is not. US business has been pushing for generation for government to get rid of employer provided insurance. The chamber of commerce is a bunch of rightwing and even they agree government insurance is a huge benefit to US business and advocated for a government takeover.

    . If the Democrats controlled all of government and advocated a wealth tax like you are talking about the stock market would tank.

    I don’t think so. A wealth tax would decrease the value of business equity. The stock market would need to readjust. Stocks would and should be worth less than they are today. On the other hand that would apply even moreso to bonds and even moreso to short term instruments (money of less than 1 year maturity). So you would see a huge flow away from short term instruments into equity at the same time. I think that effect would overwhelm the decrease in business equity.

    Once my kids are grown and out of the house I seriously consider just quitting productive society, living off the government, and sitting around reading books all day. Why not? What if everyone does this? Who will you tax then?

    Its very interesting how the poor in your theory are supposed to respond positively to higher taxes and a lower standard of living become industrious while the middle class and rich respond by becoming less industrious. Consider the possibility that everyone responds the same and looks to earn if they are given better opportunity to earn. And that while no one likes paying taxes people will look for opportunities to trade their labor even if they are taxed provided they are not taxed too much. And that right now we have a situation where the wealthy are keeping a very high percentage of their earnings while everyone else is keeping a much lower percentage. In the case of the poor they often have an effective marginal tax rate over 100%. And that is creating many of the problems.

    How in the world is that fair? Why do government employees get (yet another) free pass? </b

    It isn't fair. There is no such thing as fair. The government is like the referee it is not another team. It operates under entirely different rules than the private sector, fulfills entirely different functions.

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  202. Your example about the assessment is amusing. Yes organizations working at cross purposes are bad. I deal with that in private companies all the time. People in organizations don’t necessarily agree with the strategy of the organization and this can be quite expensive. I’m not sure how that is relevant to whether it is possible to tax the wealthy. I can site thousands of examples of business of that kind of behavior, so what?

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  203. CD – “Wealth tax. X pays $100k a year on the $5m business even if he shuts it down.

    O.K. Come clean. What do you do for a living? This has to be the most ridiculous statement you have made yet. If a business is shut down and all of the employees are gone, how is it worth the same amount? What gives a business its value that you so covet getting at? If all of Facebook’s employees quit and go work for Google tomorrow is Facebook worth the same amount? It must be nice to live on the Planet Lovetron or wherever you reside. Say “hi” to Darryl Dawkins for me.

    Re. Your other comments: Your faulty view of human nature causes your failure to recognize that if people can live at roughly the same level not working and taking advantage of welfare as they can working they will choose not to work. The more people who make this choice, the less you have to tax away. You act like people are inherently virtuous and won’t act according to incentives & disincentives. They are not robots. They will game any system you try to come up with that does not get human nature right.

    The point of the newspaper article is that government screws most things they try up because government employees flat out just don’t care that much about doing a good job and watching the details. Why should they? They get paid the same whether they succeed or fail. Neither of these guys will get fired. The private sector, however, tends to be savvy and watch the details, because they benefit from the bottom line.

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Turn from your atheistic liberalism before it’s too late.

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  204. And the city and county governments aren’t working at “cross purposes”. They are both screw-ups, a private company made out like a bandit, and the taxpayers (not the government employees) are the only ones paying the bill. Apply this to the federal government and we are talking billions of dollars, not millions of dollars.

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  205. If a business is shut down and all of the employees are gone, how is it worth the same amount? What gives a business its value that you so covet getting at?

    The value of the business in this case, is the assets held by the business, book value. We aren’t talking about taxing based on projected future earnings. This is basic accounting, business aren’t taxed today on changes to their projected earnings they are taxed today on their actualized earnings.

    Your other comments: Your faulty view of human nature causes your failure to recognize that if people can live at roughly the same level not working and taking advantage of welfare as they can working they will choose not to work.

    I agree. Work has to pay substantially more than welfare. More work has to pay substantially more than less work. I’m not disagreeing with that. You are. You are the one that is arguing that allowing the poor to advance via. work will diminish their incentives to work. You are the one that is arguing that the rich don’t care about incentives once they are taxed a few percentage points they lose all interest in work.

    The private sector, however, tends to be savvy and watch the details, because they benefit from the bottom line.

    You need to spend more time in the private sector.

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  206. “The value of the business in this case, is the assets held by the business, book value”

    You’ve never heard of the concept of “goodwill” on a balance sheet?

    A lot of businesses have very little “book value” but have large market value because of the value of their people and their ideas. How much does Facebook have on its balance sheet for hard assets compared to the market value of the company? Their buildings and equipment aren’t very important and they don’t have a lot of retained earnings. They have a lot of valuable people, though.

    How am I arguing against the poor working? I am all for offering them less welfare and more opportunity to work. You are talking about hurting business, though, which makes their jobs go away.

    I have been in nothing but the private sector for 20 years now, plus time before college. I was making tips in a restaurant at 16. I don’t know what private sector companies you are referring to who are as incompetent as government. Even if a private sector company is incompetent we have a free market to discipline them. How is Kodak doing these days? Sears? Montgomery Ward? KMart? No one disciplines incompetent government. The only way incompetent private sector companies succeed is if government subsidizes or facilitates their incompetence (i.e. Wall Street).

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  207. Read this and tell me welfare (and entitlements) don’t create disincentives to work. Everyone here knows seniors who talk about having to limit their work “so I don’t lose my social security”. It’s frankly sad to see what going on the government dole does to people who have worked hard their whole lives. My father & father-in-law are two of them. I see them becoming less sharp by the month.

    “The amount you can earn while receiving Social Security depends on your age. Your earnings in (and after) the month you reach full retirement age will not affect your Social Security benefits. However, your benefit is reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits for the months before you reach your full retirement age.
    If you are under full retirement age for the entire year:
    You can earn $14,640 gross wages or net self-employment a year and not lose any benefits in 2012.
    We will deduct $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above $14,640.
    In the year you reach full retirement age:

    You can earn $38,880 gross wages or net self-employment prior to the month you reach full retirement age and not lose any benefits in 2012.
    We will deduct $1 in benefits for every $3 earned above $38,880.

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  208. Well, moving beyond the ‘biblical’ arguments for which there are none(sanctioned) and moving beyond the discipline of economics, which while helpful and necessary to build models upon which to have some sort of structure, if not broad policy parameters, are as hotly contested and variable as the economy and civilization upon which they are imposed(meaning hard and fast principles are not only difficult to formulate, but when impressed upon a situation for which there is a lack of accounting for the relevant social structures, expectations, capacities, natural resources, etc. can be as destructive as they are helpful), experience says there is a wash between the monetary and labor inefficiencies of government bureaucracies and the mercenary and inherently uncompetitive practices of large multi-national corporations who’s business model ends up dictating that the best way to secure competitive advantage, normally via legislation, is to make competitive entry terribly expensive and lobby legislators, even buy legislators, to craft laws that favor and protect their particular business interests(crony capitalism). This does not secure or provide for the best available provision of OR exploitation of scarce resources but instead simply favors one company over another. A diverse LOCAL economy has about the best chance of equitable distribution of resources and reward for honest(meaning according to capacity and talent) pay. How you get there from where we are in the states, involves so much pain and monetary loss, not to mention losing at least one whole generation(probably more) to re-orientation(just in the workforce, never mind the geo-political turmoil caused by shrinking down to even just hemispheric military engagement, in fact I’m certain it’s not even viable much less safe to do-nuclear proliferation for one, or ancestral ties to Europe another), who has the wisdom or courage or even foolhardiness to even try.

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  209. Erik —

    You example about Social Security agrees with me. That’s a situation where a poor person is facing a very high marginal tax rate.

    You’ve never heard of the concept of “goodwill” on a balance sheet?

    Goodwill in the tax sense is not letting companies write down loses. There is no particular reason to change that under a wealth tax.

    A lot of businesses have very little “book value” but have large market value because of the value of their people and their ideas. How much does Facebook have on its balance sheet for hard assets compared to the market value of the company?

    Very little. And they don’t pay much in taxes now and they wouldn’t be paying much in taxes under a wealth tax. You can’t tax speculative money, we have to tax actual existant money.

    How am I arguing against the poor working? I am all for offering them less welfare and more opportunity to work.

    No you aren’t. You are cutting infrastructure, education, social welfare, job training, transportation. You are raising their tax rates so they pay close to 100% marginal taxes. That’s what you are proposing.

    And BTW. THERE IS NOT MUCH WELFARE IN THE UNITED STATES ANYMORE. AFDC MOSTLY DOES NOT EXIST AS A LONG TERM PROGRAM. IT HAS VERY LITTLE EFFECT ON THE BUDGET.

    The budget is is social security, medicare, medicaid (that does help the poor), discretionary. Welfare proper, is a strawman it has very little to do with spending.

    I don’t know what private sector companies you are referring to who are as incompetent as government.

    Pfizer, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Nokia, Health Net, Foundation Health Systems, Aetna, Merrill Lynch, Johnson and Johnson, Catholic Healthcare East, Dell, various private investment groups I’ve worked for, Microsoft, Verizon, Honeywell, Norwegian Cruise Lines, J.P. Morgan Chase. I’m sure I could keep going if I thought about it longer and went back further, like problems at Digital in the mid 90s.

    Businesses as they exist in the real wold today are owned by people whose strategic objectives are often quite contradictory with one another and with what people interested in the long term health of the company would advocate. The executives are often borderline criminals whose job it is to lie to other owners to help their faction of ownership achieve their objectives. Middle managers confronted with contradictory, impossible and ignorant instructions do precisely the sorts of things in your article. Though they mostly are interested in at least doing what they think is right. Lower managers are terrified and petty often killing worker productivity because they live in constant fear of attracting any negative attention.

    That’s what business really looks like in America.

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  210. DGH – Really? What if the poor just pick your pocket? Is that utopia?

    Conservatives like to say socialists immanentize the eschaton, but amillennialists should know better. As long as we don’t say, and after we adopt these policies everything will be perfect and the Lord doesn’t need to come (which is kind of nonsensical on the Left since most of us are atheists), the eschaton is just as far away as when we started. If I wanted to immanentize the eschaton, I would destroy the world with fire and judge the nations with equity. It wouldn’t look like a proletarian revolution.

    By the way, there’s already a negative income tax in Israel (the earthly one).

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  211. DGH says: Doug, you just blessed a 2k idolater. Yowza!

    How dare you, Darryl? Number one, if I was to call someone an idolater, it wouldn’t be a laughing matter. Please don’t put words in my mouth. Number two, I have not characterized either you or the men who hold to R2K as idolaters. Snarky smart alecks maybe, but not idolters.

    I *do* see you lacking in a proper understanding of the size and scope of the saving work of Christ. I think you and other R2K men are making an improper dichotomy with the sacred and the secular. But I wouldn’t call your err idolatry.

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  212. Doug, to accuse 2k of “not grasping size and scope of the saving work of Christ” is delicious. Theonomy wants to bring back the judicial codes Jesus fulfilled and thereby abrogated. Which means theonomists grasp messianic fulfillment about as well as the Judaizers adding circumcision to Christ. Both are forms of “Jesus plus something.” Where Paul wishes the latter would emasculate themselves, here’s to theonomists stoning themselves.

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  213. Doug, I know you have turned down the rhetoric of late and for that I am grateful. I assume Prozac is working. But if I went through your comments here and at Green Baggins I could find some serious name calling by you.

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  214. John – “If I wanted to immanentize the eschaton, I would destroy the world with fire and judge the nations with equity.”

    Wow, you’re powerful. I’ll bet Obama could do it if he wanted to.

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  215. zrim (fallible): Richard, if you admit that 2012 America is not OT Israel then I don’t understand why you keep making points that suggest it is. If you really grasped that we live in the NT era then you’d look to the NT to see how to regard civil authorities and civic nations.

    RS: It is a certainty that 2012 America (nor any other year) is not OT Israel. However, I don’t make any points that suggest that it is.

    Zrim (fallible): If you did that you’d see that God gives godless leaders like Herod and Nero and then says this about them:

    Zrim (fallible) quoting the Word of God (infallible): “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

    RS (between Zrim and Scripture): But what have I said that would contradict that?

    Zrim (fallible): Or:

    Zrim (fallible) quoting the Word of God (infallible): “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

    Word of God (infallible): Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

    Zrim (fallible): I can’t think of any NT instance where it is suggested that God is punishing civil nations because of what the authorities are doing legislatively or what the people are backing generally. All I ever see is stuff about the authorities being God’s ministers and commands for believers to behave accordingly. I see no room whatsoever to take the sort of liberties you do by saying things like “…when our leaders are passing laws that are at enmity with God and the people seem to love all that is anti-God, it sure appears that the nation is under judgment.” For a biblicist you sure aren’t very biblical.

    RS: Oh, I am very biblical. One of your problems is not seeing that the Old Testament is not to be dismissed at all points and in all ways. Romans 1:18-32 is so clear that God manifests His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. God will not suffer His name of His comandments to be mocked and to be broken. He is a perfectly holy, just, and righteous God and Lawmaker. When a nation makes laws, they are either in accordance with the eternal nature of God (Romans 1:18-21) or they are not. Those who pass laws that are against the attributes and eternal nature of God (not to mention the Word of God) “become futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart is darkened. A nation that votes people in as their lawmakers who are futile in their speculations and have darkened hearts demonstrate that these people are under judgment. God will not allow a group of people (filled with individuals) who are in open rebellion go unpunished.

    Every single thing each individual and each lawmaker does is either for God or against Him. You can split the kingdoms as you please in theory, but in reality every single person is before God and will answer to Him for every thought, word, and deed. A politician is making laws and living for God or against Him. Paul preached the Gospel to Festus and Agrippa, but also preached repentance to them. A politician that repents of his sin toward God will not make laws that are against God. So of course we are to submit to the rulers and pay the taxes, but that does not get the rulers off of the hook for making unrighteous laws and being in rebellion against God. The kingdom of the world is still ruled over by the King of Kings and all will answer to Him for their sin and for their sinful laws. There is no realm that is not under the sovereign hand of God and there is no realm that is free from its obligation to submit to God in all things. My position is quite biblical and I am not sure yours is free from the charge of trying to free people from their moment by moment obligation to the living God whether they are believers or not. It is no great stretch to think of people being under the judgment of God when vast numbers of them are being turned over to hardened hearts and are becoming foolish. The rulers and the people are now giving approval to those who practice the things that are worthy of death. When rulers give approval by passing laws that give that approval, they show that they are under the judgment of God in being darkened of heart to what is truly wicked.

    Rom 1:32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

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  216. Zrim: Doug, to accuse 2k of “not grasping size and scope of the saving work of Christ” is delicious. Theonomy wants to bring back the judicial codes Jesus fulfilled and thereby abrogated. Which means theonomists grasp messianic fulfillment about as well as the Judaizers adding circumcision to Christ. Both are forms of “Jesus plus something.” Where Paul wishes the latter would emasculate themselves, here’s to theonomists stoning themselves.

    RS: Did Jesus fulfill the law of not committing murder in the place of His elect? If He fulfilled that and imputed His righteousness to them, does that mean they are free from that law now? Remember, all the kings of the earth will be but a footstool for the Messiah. Then, of course, Dan 714 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”

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  217. Zrim says: Doug, to accuse 2k of “not grasping size and scope of the saving work of Christ” is delicious. Theonomy wants to bring back the judicial codes Jesus fulfilled and thereby abrogated.

    Sigh, (rolling my eyes) as per usual Zrim, your all wet. So Jesus abrogated the death penaltyfor murderers? So Jesus abrogated the death penalty for kidnappers? So Jesus abrogated the death penalty for child molestors? So Jesus abrogated forcing thiees to pay just restitution?

    To even ask these questions, is to answer in the negative. And it also points out that you know nothing about socio political justice.

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  218. Richard, when you say, “True enough that the US is not OT Israel, but when our leaders are passing laws that are at enmity with God and the people seem to love all that is anti-God, it sure appears that the nation is under judgment” it’s an example of saying 2012 America is not OT Israel but then making a point that suggests that the only difference is nominal—God more or less deals with civil nations the same way he did theocratic Israel. But my point is that the difference is substantive—no, he doesn’t. So if you don’t think 2012 American is OT Israel then stop speaking that way.

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  219. Doug, the theonomy you champion isn’t simply about punishing evil doers (and rewarding the good). If it were then 2k would have no problem with it since it also affirms earthly justice. The question is whether theonomists think such justice can be carried out without any reference at all to OT codes. Where 2k says absolutely yes, theonomy chokes. Aside from the fact that natural law provides all we need to carry out civil justice, the reason is that the point of those codes was messianic fulfillment to win salvation for his people, not blue prints for successful earthly statecraft. I know, you want it both ways, but you can’t have it all. Jesus lived and died for his people alone—maybe we need another sola in the face of the theonomic error.

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  220. Zrim: Richard, when you say, “True enough that the US is not OT Israel, but when our leaders are passing laws that are at enmity with God and the people seem to love all that is anti-God, it sure appears that the nation is under judgment” it’s an example of saying 2012 America is not OT Israel but then making a point that suggests that the only difference is nominal—God more or less deals with civil nations the same way he did theocratic Israel. But my point is that the difference is substantive—no, he doesn’t. So if you don’t think 2012 American is OT Israel then stop speaking that way.

    RS: I can barely believe that you are actually speaking this way. In no way am I saying that God deals with this nation in the same way He did Israel. However, He judged all the nations around Israel as well and they were not theocratic nations. There is a huge difference in saying that God judges nations today and saying that His judging a nation is then like He judged Israel.

    Romans 2:12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
    15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

    RS: All people are judged by the Law in one sense, though not the Law given to Israel. The nations around Israel were judged according to God. So is there a problem if God judges the US in the way that He judged the nations around Israel? This has nothing to do with a theocratic analogy, but instead is all about the character of God. He judges sin.

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  221. So many, many words rising up into the blogosphere. Although I tend to a particular persuasion expressed here, I’m wont to ask: is anyone listening and is anything being accomplished? Think of all those e-blog-word-starving children in Africa…

    (his lame attempt at late-night humor)

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  222. Zrim says: Aside from the fact that natural law provides all we need to carry out civil justice, the reason is that the point of those codes was messianic fulfillment to win salvation for his people,

    So executing a murderer in the OT was to win salvation for God’s people? LOL! Zrim, that is ridiculous! I think you need to go soak your head, in a tub of ice water. Or at least explain your thought process.

    Making a thief pay back double was only for Israel until Christ died on the cross? Zrim, that is absurd! Saying that Jesus changed socio political ethics is an oxymoron. Because true justice in the socio political context is universal. True justice gives an eye for and eye. True justice means the punishment fit the crime. Didn’t God’s Law personify eye for and eye? Zrim, do you understand what eye for and eye means?

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  223. Zrim, lets come at this from a different angle. God said that kidnappers were to be put to death, that was an eye for an eye. Capital punishment was what was required to satisfy socio political justice for kidnappers or man stealers. Now what did Jesus accomplish at Calvary that changed the waywe are to punish a kidnapper today? Where is that in the Bible? Oh, and please no arguments from silence, since that is a falacious way to argue.

    Please explain your thought process.

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  224. Zrim says: Doug, the theonomy you champion isn’t simply about punishing evil doers (and rewarding the good).

    Me: Balderdash!!! That is exactly what I am championing! Perfect socio political justice, where the punishment *always* fits the crime.

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  225. Doug, maybe the difference between the OT and now is involved in the notion that Christian fathers no longer sell their daughters into slavery. Ex. 21:7. Or is it that you think those OT rules still apply today?

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  226. And, Richard, there is a difference between passing judgment on nations and living peaceably among them and under rulers as God’s own viceroys. That is the point of the NT writers. They had every opportunity to pass judgment on nations just like ours, but they commanded humility. You sound amazed at these ideas. They were in Mark 12 as well.

    Doug, why are you striving for perfect justice of any kind when Jesus secured that in his life, death, and resurrection? All we have between the cross and the return is proximate justice. Your works righteousness is showing. Again.

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  227. Zrim: And, Richard, there is a difference between passing judgment on nations and living peaceably among them and under rulers as God’s own viceroys. That is the point of the NT writers. They had every opportunity to pass judgment on nations just like ours, but they commanded humility. You sound amazed at these ideas. They were in Mark 12 as well.

    RS: Read Romans 1:18-2:16. Sin brings judgment when it is one person or many. You can call it passing judgment on nations if you want, but it could also be a simple declaring of what God has declared. Do the Psalms point to Christ and was David a type of Christ as King? What of the Great Commission given to the Church in Matthew 28? Are we to make disciples of the nations or not? If people or nations are to become disciples, then they must repent of their sin to do so.

    Psa 9:17 The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God. 18 For the needy will not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever. 19 Arise, O LORD, do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged before You. 20 Put them in fear, O LORD; Let the nations know that they are but men. Selah.

    Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

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  228. Richard, this is the crux of it. Nations are not understood in geo-political terms but in personal terms. Making disciples from every tribe, tongue, and nation is a personal commission, not a geo-political quest. How does anybody baptize Pakistan and make it a member of a local church, along with its children? Constantinianism sounds fine until you think it through for more than 2 minutes.

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  229. CD – Have you ever worked in/with small business where most Americans are employed? What is your plan for them under your grand schemes?

    That ain’t true. If you define small business as 500 less employees (which I think is a silly definition), you still are at about 60m. And that includes a huge number of part time jobs. While I agree small business is important and one of the valuable parts of American capitalism lets not overstate the case.

    In terms of my person experience. Rarely. I worked for a family owned video store. But I own one now so I guess I work for one.

    Under my grand scheme small business do fine. They don’t have to engage in complexity to avoid taxes since the genuinely small business (like the 21.4m small businesses with 0-1 employees) would only have to pay VAT. The business is just as asset for the owner and so the wealth tax passes through. And with PEOing their employees they don’t have any regulatory burdon at all. I’m hard pressed to see how that is even bad for them.

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  230. Erik – Really? I haven’t heard anything about fire and brimstone in Obama’s policies, but then again I don’t watch Fox News. Anyway, I didn’t mean to imply that I or any human would be doing the eschatological work, and that’s kind of the point. To say that liberals are immanentizing the eschaton is to admit that your eschatological vision is too small.

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  231. DGH says: Doug, maybe the difference between the OT and now is involved in the notion that Christian fathers no longer sell their daughters into slavery. Ex. 21:7. Or is it that you think those OT rules still apply today?

    *Maybe* that’s the difference? What kind of comment is that? Maybe, maybe not.

    Quick question Darryl, if you couldn’t provide food or shelter for your children, would you let them starve? Why do you constantly disparage the Old Testament Law? It’s as if you never take context into account. So your *maybe* question is absurd!

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  232. WOW, lots of comments. It was a military holiday yesterday; don’t any of you guys have Vets in your family?

    I wish I could respond to the great observations in this thread, but then I would be eating into my work time, which in turn could be interpreted as theft from those who pay me to write. For the record, I do believe we are all fallen and thoroughly corrupted by sin. (Which, I think, separates me from CD-Host, plus I have no problems with God’s lottery system) But sin isn’t just regulated to “the poor” on the dole. (I’m still shocked by how many of those who are poor; still refuse to get public assistance, by the way.) The sin we have inherited from Adam, seems to be egalitarian🙂, that is it permeates even our wealthy and our elites…so thinking that government assistance only exasperates the sin of the poor is a bit naive.

    The term “limited government” is still vague, and the way our military permeates our political economy, just makes the notion of “limited government,’ queer. In addition, most of our government expenditures (military, SS, Medicare, farm subsidies, the war on drugs, etc), goes to, by-and-large, middle-classes-to-upper-classes. (Talk about pathologies). Republicans, (I guess in so far as they represent conservatism) and Democrats (in so far as they represent The Left) are thoroughly at a loss to deal with these things. It is much easier to emphasize stuff pertaining to the cultural wars (sexism, racism, the poor, abortion, divorce–Is that even a concern anymore?) than the nuts and bolts of our government spending.

    Again, the 2K persuasion interests me because I’m sick and tired of using scripture in every aspect of public policy and fusing scripture with popular culture “to be relevant”. I used to sound like DougS, but from the left, and that has just reached its limit, with me.

    By the way, American Conservative.Com has some interesting observations on our discussion:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/the-right-reason-to-raise-revenues/

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/prioritizing-entitlements/

    Just go to the site, they have quite a bit, today.

    I have to get some work done today, so I could then give my 2 cents on the Breaking Bad thread.

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  233. Doug, thanks for the lesson in historical knowledge. So the context in Exodus 21 is providing food and shelter for children. That must be the context for putting to death whichever child strikes his father or mother. If so, then when are you going to contextualize capital punishment for kidnappers or recalcitrant children.

    Be careful how testy you get, Doug. I’ll tell Dr. K.

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  234. If Obama can stop the oceans from rising surely he can destroy the earth with fire, do the judgment thing, etc. It’s all small potatoes for him (if only those pesky House Republicans would get out of his way).

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  235. Zrim,

    “Which means theonomists grasp messianic fulfillment about as well as the Judaizers adding circumcision to Christ. Both are forms of “Jesus plus something.” Where Paul wishes the latter would emasculate themselves, here’s to theonomists stoning themselves.”

    These are very strong words. Do you really mean to suggest Theonomists aren’t Christians? Should theonomists killing themselves be taken as humor?

    Let’s remember, we’re all Christians here.

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  236. Jon, it’s rhetorical language to make a point. It’s to say that theonomy isn’t Reformed and so should go the way of the dodo and in good riddance. It’s not to say that theos aren’t Christian, rather to say that theonomy is tripping up some Christians.

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  237. I think I recall the end of one of the greatest socialist empires in the history of the world, circa 1989. The Soviet Union employed a number of incredibly brilliant central planners. But they couldn’t make it work. Does anybody really expect the USSR wannabes in our govt. to come anywhere close to measuring up to the USSR?

    Regarding Old Europe and their experiment with socialism — Old Europe is going to have to carry their own water one day with respect to military ops. Failed in Serbia, failed in Libya. When the barbarians line up at the gates of Old Europe, they won’t be cooing at their socialist experiment.

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  238. Paul,

    Oh yeah? Well look at Cuba! Wait – it didn’t work too well there. Well, what about North Korea? No such luck. Well, how about China? Yeah, I guess they’re capitalists now, too. Hey – CD owns a video store and has apparently done some consulting for large, capitalistic enterprises filled with boneheads so he really might know best. It’s never the socialist plan that’s wrong, just the planners executing it. If humans are inherently good there just has to be a way to organize them so they can cheerfully cooperate to reach their potential. Maybe if we appointed Joel Osteen dictator…

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  239. Erik,

    Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. Socialism/Marxism/communism are all great ideas as long as you don’t believe in the fall. Unfortunately, if you believe in the Bible, you can’t believe socialism will work. But that won’t stop people from trying. Again and again and again.

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  240. Zrim: Richard, this is the crux of it. Nations are not understood in geo-political terms but in personal terms. Making disciples from every tribe, tongue, and nation is a personal commission, not a geo-political quest. How does anybody baptize Pakistan and make it a member of a local church, along with its children? Constantinianism sounds fine until you think it through for more than 2 minutes.

    RS: Ah, now I get it. You thought about this for two minutes and made up your mind. But, as is too common, you are not dealing with what has been pointed out already. Regardless of whether you think of in terms of nations or individuals, nations are formed by individuals. If God judges a nation, He is judging individuals. If God is judging all or most of the people in a nation, then He is judging the individuals as well. The United States, whether you view it as a nation or as a group of people, is demonstrative evidence of many people that God has given over to hardened and darkened hearts. The United States as a group of people are linked in many ways where judgment on one or many can influence many others.

    But again, the command to go and make disciples includes teaching them all that the ones receiving the command had been commanded. Earlier in the same book (Matthew) Jesus taught on a few of the commands. What do people need to be saved from? Sin, the devil, themselves, and hell. How can one make disciples without teaching them the Law of God? How can one preach the Gospel without preaching that Law which points to the utter and absolute need for the Gospel? There is no way around it, to obey the Great Commission requires us to preach the Law to other people. So how do you baptize Pakistan? Preach the Law and the Gospel. All who are regenerated and are given believing hearts should be baptized.

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  241. Why have other Anglo-Protestant (The UK, New Zeland, Australia, Canada) nations remain social democratic? The bank of Europe, aka Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland all remain strong social democratic nations.

    Using the old Eastern Bloc nations as your example of social democracy, is like using Somolia as an example of limited government.

    It’s interesting that you bring up the Soviet Union, though, have you been keeping up with their problems with crime and natural disasters? they have been leave those things to volunteer organizations, while government officials skip town and let the market work its magic.

    See:http://www.thelamron.com/opinion/sandy-further-evidence-of-fema-s-importance-1.2948478#.UKLsr-TmCSp

    To see what happens when natural disasters are handled at a local level, one only has to look at the 2010 Russian wildfires. Volunteers were responsible for subduing the fire after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had cut the number of forest rangers.

    In Moscow, authorities dodged questions about the danger of the fires as the air filled with toxic smoke and death rates quadrupled. Four relief shelters were eventually set up – for a city of almost 12 million. The wildfires resulted in $15 billion in damages and an estimated 56,000 deaths.

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  242. Luther – The answer lies in who we are as Americans and how the country was settled. Think of the frontier, rugged individualism, tax revolts. It will take awhile longer to make us as soft as Europeans. We still reproduce enough to not make ourselves extinct, too. It’s hard to argue that Europe has not basically had a death wish for the last 100 years — philosophically, spiritually, demographically. Study their film.

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  243. The biggest problem the left has is that they look at the bounty that capitalism produces (because it takes advantage of human nature as it is) and they try to redistibute that bounty in the way they believe to be fair, while at the same time not diminishing that bounty. They are forever balancing plucking the goose vs. killing the goose.

    Listened to the head of SEIU on NPR tonight saying she won’t even consider talking about cutting government spending until higher taxes on the rich are locked down. She said her priorities are higher taxes for the rich and more jobs. But what if those two goals work against each other? We might find out if that is the case soon.

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  244. Richard, distinguishing between the personal and political isn’t to have any quarrel with preaching the law and gospel. It’s to say that God makes disciples of people, not countries. Only people bear the imago Dei and it’s only people for whom Jesus lived and died. So what could you possibly mean that the way to baptize Pakistan is to preach the law and gospel? Baptism is to administer the sign and seal of the covenantal promise with water in the name of the Trinity. I know how one does that to a covenantal child or convert, but how does one do it to a country? How does Pakistan come before a Council, take vows of church membership, attend the means of grace, subject itself to discipline?

    Still, I wish for America’s sake she could become a member of the church. Maybe then you’d cease and desist with passing judgment on her when she fails since God doesn’t judge and punish his own. All we experience is either grace or correction, but never judgment. Then again, something tells me this also amazes you.

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  245. Luther – The answer lies in who we are as Americans and how the country was settled. Think of the frontier, rugged individualism, tax revolts….The biggest problem the left has is that they look at the bounty that capitalism produces (because it takes advantage of human nature as it is) and they try to redistibute that bounty in the way they believe to be fair, while at the same time not diminishing that bounty. They are forever balancing plucking the goose vs. killing the goose.

    I appeal, again, to CD-Host’s observation “Why should our relationship with government be based on the myths about western expansion rather than the reality of western expansion? It doesn’t make sense to agree that western expansion was a massively subsidized government program, and then argue that we should ignore that it treat it like was all about hardy individuals overcoming adversity on their own. What’s the advantage of deliberately lying to ourselves?”

    At what point in US history were there no taxes that were used to redistribute? Taxes were raised after the American Revolution and our government took lives because of it (I’m thinking of the Whiskey Rebellion).

    There is nothing wrong with romantic (even mythical) notions of the way we were, but it is a bit irresponsible to apply them to our current situation. Much of that “rugged individualism, tax revolts” was subsidized by government action, especially by way of the US military, during western expansion and the Cold War. I find it ironic that much of the New Right was raised in the government created suburbs of the West and the South. The UK and Denmark may have had romantic notions of their expanding Empires (they had the White-Man’s burden romance too as well as settler-colony frontier myths), but once sending all the surplus labor and trouble makers (especially in the case of the Scottish Calvinist to the Americas and certain Dutch Calvinists to South Africa and Indonesia) out of the home country ran its course, and the markets of Empire were primarily benefiting a minority at home, while the working-classes risked their lives to defend those markets…they eventually had to deal with nation they had. Misty water-colored memories of the way we were does not pay the bills.

    Look it, I still have the romantic notions of my wife that I constructed during our courtship, however clinging to them in order to use as a guide stick to measure our relationship today, after 3 three kids and 17 years of marriage, seems irresponsible. Fondly remembering how hot we were, and how passionate we were and free we were, and wishing we can go back to that just seems irresponsible. We were single and naïve with a lot of disposable income, and had the time to work-out every day. My rugged individualism came up against my responsibilities as father and husband…and lost. And thank God!

    By the way, if you read the beginning of the Communist Manifesto, Marx gives a list of the great things about the bourgeois and capitalism: its ability to drag primitive societies into civilization (he was a progressive, after all), its industrialism and scientific innovation, but most of all its ability to apply monetary value to all things, especially religion and religious practices. Once something had a price, it could be stripped of its status as divine and was forced to compete in the market place. This was the great advancement of market capitalism. And this seems to be why so many religious communities in Northern Europe did not trust various forms of capitalism, in spite of Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic thesis. What happens when that Protestant work ethic is a wage laborer and he is faced with the theories of the investor class’ work ethic, which equates human labor with mechanized labor? I think you get some type of social democracy. And I am careful not to use the term “social justice” or romanticize the “social gospel” because I don’t feel comfortable with using the Gospel that way. And I think it should not be necessary, there are other ways to organize the political economy without turning Christ into a working-class hero.

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  246. Zrim: Richard, distinguishing between the personal and political isn’t to have any quarrel with preaching the law and gospel. It’s to say that God makes disciples of people, not countries. Only people bear the imago Dei and it’s only people for whom Jesus lived and died. So what could you possibly mean that the way to baptize Pakistan is to preach the law and gospel? Baptism is to administer the sign and seal of the covenantal promise with water in the name of the Trinity. I know how one does that to a covenantal child or convert, but how does one do it to a country?
    How does Pakistan come before a Council, take vows of church membership, attend the means of grace, subject itself to discipline?

    RS: Again, you are taking a point and not grappling with it correctly (or at least as it was meant). How is the Great Commission to be fulfilled? It is by making disciples of all the nations. It does not say make disciples of the nation in and of itself, but make disciples from those nations (or people groups or…). The text does not, however, mention bringing disciples to a Council and taking vows of church membership. What it does say, however, is to make disciples and to teach them all things that Jesus had taught them. What I meant was that if the Law and the Gospel is proclaimed in Pakistan and enough people were converted and baptized, then one could say that Pakistan wa baptized when large numbers of people from there were baptized.

    Zrim: Still, I wish for America’s sake she could become a member of the church. Maybe then you’d cease and desist with passing judgment on her when she fails since God doesn’t judge and punish his own.

    RS: But God does discipline His own and it certainly feels like punishment. That is what scourging generall was. I might add that the Greek word translated here as “scourge” means to beat with a whip and punish. 5 “and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

    Zrim: All we experience is either grace or correction, but never judgment. Then again, something tells me this also amazes you.

    RS: Indeed, I am amazed that anyone but a rank liberal could say that. Though you may accuse me of using the OT incorrectly, did David endure punishment or simply correction? The wrath of God is upon unbelievers because Christ suffered the wrath and satisfied the wrath of the Father for His people. However, Christ did not suffer for all the temporal judgments that God brings, but the eternal wrath of the Father. For example, regarding the Lord’s Supper, some became sick and some died because of not discerning the Lord’s body in taking the Supper. Was that of grace and correction too? Sin is its own judgment and when God turns a believer over to a hard heart that person is being disciplines and scourged as a son. I suppose it is your turn to be amazed.

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  247. Erik,

    Please forgive the lengthy comment, it addresses some of the matters you are arguing here, and then matters that I think are germane to the discussion at hand irrespective of your arguments in favor of political conservatism…

    Don’t interpret this as an endorsement of Marxism or a condemnation of Capitalism, because I think the former is inferior to the later, both theoretically, and in practice (Jon,you too if you are still reading). But I think you are placing a lot of stock in capitalism’s ability to efficiently allocate capital, and moreover it’s ability to ethically allocate it. However, if you read Marx’s critique of late-stage capitalism, which I think there is an argument to be made we are currently in, you may find that he accurately saw the shortfalls of the capitalist system, even if his collectivist impulses totally whiffed with respect to solving these problems (I see this as a matter of historical fact – e.g the causes of the breakdowns in Marxism in the collapse of communism in Europe). The problem with a system that only thrives on greed, and the human will to advance material wealth and security, is that as those who succed in the capitalist system succeed, they also accumulate political and sociological power to further secure their interests. This leads to the centralization of economic power in a political economy more and more into the hands of a small, elite class, essentially creating oligarchies that control capital in a society, steering it to their own interests, creating capital inefficiencies, which often exist to their benefit.

    Where Marx failed to see the merger of late capitalism and his preferred collectivism is in how the oligarchic powers essentially can accumulate power in such a fashion to game the system, and can even support welfare systems that essentailly provide enough “crumbs” for the broader populace to survive off of, but not enough to allow them the upward mobility to escape the welfare system. This makes beneficiaries of the welfare state perpetual dependents to a system that ensures they will never pose a competitive threat to the oligarchic elite. Eventually, the power elite in a society, having created a sufficient base of welfare dependents, can then prey off of the remaining productive capital residing in society’s middle class by holding out the proverbial carrot of upward mobility, all the while siphoning off their assets through a system that ultimately benefits them (e.g public bailouts of the private banking elite, hidden tax of inflation through currency debasement that re-allocates capital through the simple mechanisms of consumption). So, in a sense, the lack of regulation inherent to the free-market system ultimately sows the seeds of its own demise – because once power becomes centralized in the hands of the elite, even regulation will be constructed in a way that might appear to reign them in, but ultimately benefits them in the end. One only needs to review the monstrosity of what the Dodd-Frank Act has morphed into – however well intentioned it may have begun with or appears now to have on the surface – to observe a living breathing example of this, there are also recent policies in the EU that function similarly.

    All that said, and moving beyond the points you haveraised here, for me, this is why I find the political narratives of both the left and the right to be so fundamentally misleading – the power elites fund both sides, ensuring that whatever “side” gains power, they still win. Moreover, this is the grand failure of the neo-calvinists and theonomists surfaces: they think through the proper system, that poseeses sufficient internal coherency to account for the massive complexity entailed in the ordering of society and the governance of the political economy that they can bring about a glorious Christian transformation and re-ordering of society that wholly reflects the presuppositions of their Christian worldview. The problem is no humansystem of thought or worldview, however coherent can account for all of realities, eventualities, and subsequent facts entailed from such macro-systems – only in the naive audacity of a classroom, lecture, or a book can such achievements be attained. I don’t think that neo-calvinists, or their hard-line cousins the theonomists realize how much their own thinking displays the same arrogance of other modernist “systems”, that threw out the tedious work of sifting through the facts of the massively complex external world in favor of the more palatable grid of modern intellectual systems and isms (rationalism, empiricism, presuppositionalism, et. al.) that only need internal coherence for one to latch on to them, regardless of how well these actually correspond to the external world where human society exists.

    This is also why I much prefer the older mode of relating to and understanding how to navigate the external world found in the Natural Law reasoning of the pre-moderns, wheather they were Reformed Scholastics, or mideval Thomists – because they saw the notion of total coherence within human intellectual systems as vain of a notion as trying to boil the ocean. Instead they opted to appeal to a Law written in nature that is rather simple: that which upholds and preserves the good and the just should be pursued in any political, social, economic, or other concievable eventuality. This meant they didn’t chase their proverbial tails trying to invent or discover the perfect system that accounted for all eventualities of the external world, rather that they drew upon the wisdom that flowed from the shared Categories of the Good and the Just that is shared universally by all humans because they, however fallen still bore the image of a Good and Just Creator who created all things within the perameters of these Categories (“…and God saw it was good…”). In spite of the incredible progress of modern man, I do not think we have improved upon our premodern counterparts in this respect, and we would do good to heed them.

    This is why I don’t ultimately hold out much hope for either conservatism or liberalism, or libertarianism (which is where much of my own political sympathies lie), or any other ism for that matter to come to the rescue in any meaningful political or economic sense. In many respects I think these systems are all attempting to push way too much spilled thread back on the spool, and these systems and isms will morph over time into something else, even our beloved Capitalism, and whether they will improve upon what preceeded them remains to be seen. This doesn’t absolve us, or me from seeking proximate goods, or improvement to the current situation, which is why I think the simpler rubric of ordering society based on very basic notions of goodness and justice, even if it is imperfect in its application, is far more preferable than trying to build or latch onto a proper system to seek improvements to our clearly languishing political economy.

    And allow me to show my amillenial slip here, even those of us who hold out some optimism and hope for future improvement, and the contribution that Natural Law reasoning might make to that end, we must concede God’s sovereign Providence over the seeming chaos of human history. As messy as the human story is from our view, he is ultimately working it all according to the council of his will, and he will at some point bring it all to a close, ushering in the eschatological age where goodness and justice are the uncontested norm. This might be why I give the nod of the cap at the end of the day to a meloncholic poet, and not a philosopher:

    All our systems have their day,
    They have their day and cease to be,
    They are but broken lights of Thee,
    And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.

    — Alfred Tennyson

    Sounds about right to me.

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  248. BTW, forgive the typos, I started the comment on an iPad, not realizing how lengthy it would become – if anything was unclear as a result, let me know and I’d be happy to clarify.

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  249. Richard, only a devout semi-revivalist would suggest rank liberalism for affirming the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work to satisfy God’s judgment, the preaching of law and gospel to people, and promoting church membership and the means of grace.

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  250. Jed,

    I’m open to any “system” that views human nature as it really is. Marxists & Socialists get human nature totally wrong. Capitalists at least get it partially right. This side of heaven that’s probably the best we are going to do.

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  251. Jed,

    Thanks for the lengthy post. I have many thoughts, but they will have to wait til I have time to respond.

    In the meantime, I highly suggest Herbert Schlossberg’s excellent book “Idols for Destuction” where he also criticizes both liberals and conservatives, but comes to very different conclusions than you do. He sees the root problem of these systems as idolatry. For instance both Marxism and Ayn Rand’s objectivism both suffer the same error of immanentism.

    One quick note: theonomy is NOT an external system. It finds no salvation in any political system. Conversely, it envisions a system founded upon genuine Christian beliefs which work their way out into the external legal code. This legal code is based on God’s unchanging principles. We don’t look “inside” the world to find some coherent principle (the root of all failed autonomous philosophies) but we look “up” to the Divine Lawgiver to give the only possible coherent system since it’s HIS world.

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  252. Zrim: Richard, only a devout semi-revivalist would suggest rank liberalism for affirming the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work to satisfy God’s judgment, the preaching of law and gospel to people, and promoting church membership and the means of grace.

    RS: But it is not the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work that you are asserting. As I tried to point out, God does send temporal judgments in this life and Christ did not die for our temporal judgments in the same way that He suffered the wrath of the Father for the eternal judgment of the elect. If you drop a heavy item on your foot, you will suffer the effects of that. If you violate the law of God, there will be effects to be suffered. God does judge sin, but indeed the reasons are different between unbelievers and believers. But again, David suffered a lot of the judgments of God and yet he was a man after God’s heart. We are told to kick some out of the church and turn them over to the devil for the destruction of the flesh so that the spirit may be saved.

    Hebrews 12: 28 -29 tells us that true worship is with reverence and awe. It also gives us a reason that we should worship in that way. “For our God is a consuming fire.” We must never lose the fear of sinning against God, which is not incompatible with the love of God. It seems that your position does that. “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

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  253. Zrim says: The question is whether theonomists think such justice can be carried out without any reference at all to OT codes. Where 2k says absolutely yes, theonomy chokes.

    When God says an (eye for an eye) or retribution in the socio political realm for a kidnapping is death, and the modern day Magistrate says, NO two to three in the State Pen, both *can* not reflect an eye for an eye. Zrim you’ve got double vision! Both can not be perfect socio political justice, unless you believe that justice is relative, which of course I suspect you do. I’m sorry Zrim, you’re busted!!! Be careful what you say!

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  254. Richard, your understanding of the temporal order and how it works doesn’t account for the realities of some getting away with their sin and other getting kicked in the teeth for doing the right thing. And are you really suggesting that the pain that comes from dropping a bag of hammers on my toes is a sign of divine judgment? Or is it just how the natural order works and to read more into it is more hyper-spiritualizing?

    Jon, nice try. But there are such things as bad questions and I try to avoid indulging them. But I will give you this: I affirm Kuyper when he says about the theocratic version of Belgic 36 that “We do not at all hide the fact that we disagree with Calvin, our Confessions, and our Reformed theologians.”

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  255. Erik,

    Wouldn’t you say that capitalists exploit human nature for profit? In fact, the kind of Randian/Nietzchean capitalism that doesn’t seem to trouble many conservative Christians encourages greed, selfishness, and exploitation while refusing to reward charity, etc. I think we can at least try for better ‘this side of heaven.’

    It seems unfair to say that Marxists and socialists get human nature TOTALLY wrong. Their critique of the exploitation of labour at the hands of the capitalist class seems to understand something of depravity in those with socio-economic power over labour, even if it is a lopsided view.

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  256. Doug, the point is proximate justice, not exact or relative justice.

    But why do you think so little of Jesus’ own accomplishment of perfect justice?

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  257. So much of the discussion about taxation here links taxes to ‘redistribution’, Could we define ‘redistribution’. Are military, infrastructure, education, and stewardship (etc) expenditures all considered the ‘redistribution of wealth’ by all of you??

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  258. Erik,

    Marxists & Socialists get human nature totally wrong. Capitalists at least get it partially right. This side of heaven that’s probably the best we are going to do.

    Agreed. My point about Marx was that one can occasionally find a light switch in a dark room if one fumbles along long enough. But, his failures notwithstanding, he did have a keen understanding of the blind spots of the capitalist system – and he saw with amazing clarity how the power elites in a society would ultimately rig the system in their favor. He was just blind to the fact that the power elites would corrupt his communist system just as easily, keeping the utopian age where government disappeared and all property was held in common a carrot that the proletariat would forever chase.

    The reason why I am cynical about the left/right narrative, and either side’s ability to affect meaningful change is because both have been co-opted. When it comes to politics, there is as much of a shortage of principled conservatives as there is of principled progressives – which is why the status quo doesn’t change much. Ultimately, I share the same opinion of Ron Paul, the economic system will basically have to collapse before we do anything to make meaningful political change – here’s 7 minute interview he did yesterday with Tish Regan on Bloomberg TV:

    No Chance for Grand Bargain on Fiscal Cliff

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  259. Jed,
    All I can say is ditto. And your point about the Medieval Reformers seems to be where I am gravitating towards.

    Jed,
    I’m open to any “system” that views human nature as it really is. Marxists & Socialists get human nature totally wrong. Capitalists at least get it partially right. This side of heaven that’s probably the best we are going to do.

    Again, I agree, human nature is corrupted, which seems to be why certain Puritans didn’t trust free trade and unfettered markets. The Genesis of Capitalism & the Origins of Modernity. On page 53 is a description of how Puritans sought to regulate markets. Page 49, makes the claim that the children of Calvinists rejected orthodoxy, and created an alliance with Armenians in order to advance “the spirit of capitalism.” Now, granted Luciano Pellicani is a Gramscian/Italian Marxist, but I found this book by way of Scottish Presbyterians who were rejecting Weber’s thesis.

    As an aside, I think many folks make claims about Weber’s thesis, that he does not make himself. However, I think Weber could have cleared up some of those misrepresentations if he would have separated secular Calvinism, or the “non-believing” children of Calvinists from the more orthodox Calvinists. I’m looking at you Benjamin Franklin. And I have to revisit Weber, but it seems he had left out Scottish Presbyterianism in Scotland, and focused heavily on French Huguenots and a generation of American Calvinists who ended up as Deists. Again, I point to Benjamin Franklin, since that is who Weber focuses on.

    As another aside, I think the US social sciences have fused Calvinism and Capitalism in a very irresponsible way. Calvinism has become short-hand for all the negative things one wishes to lay claim on American Protestantism. In this conception, even Pentecostals and Mormons are called Calvinists. The example I have which best represents this was a discussion group I was a part of exploring the effects of Protestant Missionaries in the western United States and the new colonies/common wealth/territories (New Mexico, Colorado, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Samoa).

    I had to remind the group that placing them all in the same bag hides a wealth of cultural information. New England Congregationalists and Presbyterians Missionaries in New Mexico may have had a different priorities that the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in California. Methodist and Mormons in Hawaii could not have been similar to the Pentecostal Missionaries in Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The ethnic and religious backgrounds of the missionaries, in addition to timelines, would tell us more than simply “the Protestant Missionaries were all aspects of Calvinism and White Supremacy”.

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  260. Zrim: Richard, your understanding of the temporal order and how it works doesn’t account for the realities of some getting away with their sin and other getting kicked in the teeth for doing the right thing.

    RS: But of course it does. God is sovereign and He brings punishment on some for their sin and yet uses hard things for the sanctification of others.

    Zrim: And are you really suggesting that the pain that comes from dropping a bag of hammers on my toes is a sign of divine judgment?

    RS: It can be, but my point was more to use that as an analogy to show that the death of Christ does not deliver us from pain and the usual ways that God brings to pass.

    Zrim: Or is it just how the natural order works and to read more into it is more hyper-spiritualizing?

    RS: No need to hyper (over)-spiritualize when you are prolific in your huper (under)-spiritualizing.
    But of course there is no real natural order since the WCF ch III says this: .” God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” If I am granted one or a trillion more breaths, God has ordained them all. I could not take one breath if God had not ordained it. If you drop a sack of hammers on your toes, that would have had to have been ordained by God or it would not have happened. But if God ordains all that happens, then He did so in all wisdom and as such He had a purpose in it. One event can be the punishment of some and the sanctification of others.

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  261. Zrim says: Doug, the point is proximate justice, not exact or relative justice.

    Bahahahahahha! Okay Zrim, is that what God meant byan eye for an eye? Proximate justice? I just love it when you say such foolish things. Why don’t you blow he dust off your Bible and start reading it!

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  262. Jon,

    I am glad you want to interact with my response, hopefully we can move toward a better mutual understanding of each others positions instead of talking past eachother…as fun as that can be. I look forward to your interaction with my comment as your time allows.

    It may be helpful if you could provide some links to Schlossberg’s work online, if any exist, so that I can familiarizie myself with the contours of his thought. You can either post them here, or e-mail me (jedpaschall at g mail) them.

    I don’t have much time this afternoon to interact further with the issues you raised in the last paragraph of your most recent response to me, but I hope to do so in the next day or so. With that said, one of the works that I have recently read that addresses some of the points I would like to raise is by D.R. Trethewie titled A Critique of Cornelius Van Til: Being a Defence of Traditional Evidential Christian Apologetics. Here he critiques not only Van Til but his theonomist disciples Bahnsen and Rushdoony, relying heavily on historic Reformed theologians such as Dabney, Thornwell, Warfield, and Hodge, in addition to some of the Reformed Scholastics, and to an extent Aquinas. I don’t entirely agree with Trethewie in all areas, but it is the most substantial critique of the shared assumptions of Kuyperianism, Van Tilianism, and modern theonomy that I have come across. At 90 pages, it isn’t exactly brief, but it can be finished fairly quickly if you are interested.

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  263. Zrim says: But why do you think so little of Jesus’ own accomplishment of perfect justice?

    I don’t; why do you? You only see the saving work of Christ individually, not corporately. Jesus encompasses the one of the many in its ultimatecy. And for whatever reason Zrim, you are not willing to come to grips with that reality. This forces you to view Salvation in a smaller truncated individual, me, only paradigm. You’re wrong! It’s not either or! It’s not one or the other! Jesus died for both personal and corporate saving realties because sin affected all of creation. Christ’s saving work provides saving benefits for all of creation! God contains both personhood and corporate realties within his very substance! Wake up Zrim! Finally Zrim God called a *people* not individuals by his name. Pleae think about that, because you’re an unbalanced man.

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  264. All,

    What seems to be missing with all the pro/con discussion of Marxism/capitalism is competition keeps the free market in check. If you don’t like a company, don’t patronize them! Sure, they may try to block competition, but how often does that actually happen in your day to day lives? But what if you don’t like the government? You have no choice! They bear the sword and it ain’t in vain!

    Also, capitalism is not based on greed. That is a ridiculous notion advanced by the movie Wall Street. Come on. Capitalism allows me to benefit from the fruit if my labor. Marxism allows my neighbor to steal my fruit while he is lazy. With no local control that a private org would at least have.

    As to the question of what constitutes redistribution, the main test is a tax that affects people disproportionately. So my school taxes that go to my neighbor’s kids while I homeschool my own is redistribution. Or to be more accurate, stealing. Pure and simple. And stealing is wrong per the 8th commandment.

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  265. Doug, if “Christ’s saving work provides saving benefits for all of creation” then does that mean Jesus lived and died for governments and fish? Is your dog communicant? But I only tote wife and kids to church. I’m sure you think these questions are asinine, but they follow from the implications of your all-of-lifery.

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  266. Jed – “he (Marx) saw with amazing clarity how the power elites in a society would ultimately rig the system in their favor”

    You mean like how Borders kept Amazon from taking over bookselling? Like Kodak stopped the development of digital photography? Like Blockbuster killed Netflix in the crib? Wait – none of those things happened.

    I forgot about how AOL totally killed off Google.

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  267. Jon,

    So is all public finance/tax (even a flat tax) redistribution/theft by your definition?

    When it comes to public education, are only homeschoolers being robbed?

    I never said capitalism was based on greed. I said it encourages greed.

    Is there a conservative Christian social contract? I would be curious to see it.

    Couldn’t you also say if you don’t like the government, vote them out? I know you would call that naive. I would call your ‘don’t pattronize them’ naive, too.

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  268. I think what scares me about r2k is that it removes all moral considerations from political discussions. For instance, all the Marxist sympathizes here seem to be forgetting the Biblical support for private property ownership. Both old and new testaments. If I asked you if you thought stealing was wrong, you would say yes. But if the government does it, it’s all the sudden okay.

    I think Daryl Hart is in a weird position here. He would probably advocate a limited government very similar to my own view. Yet his theology removes his ability to objectively support it. Now he finds himself bedfellows with Marxists. But he backed himself into a corner from which he cannot escape.

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  269. I’m not a Marxist sympathizer. I think Marx can be useful as a critique and a method but I certainly do not advocate his entire political program, nor that of his descendants. I can’t speak for others, but I’m not advocating the abolition of private property.

    I’m part of a segment of young people who grew up in the conservative, neo-calvinist church and then went to university. Once there, we discovered that the bogeymen we’d been warned about in the church weren’t so scary. We became sick and tired of being told what our politics must be in order to be a Christian. We’re tired of black and white political labels that render us an ‘atheistic communist’ for saying, ‘hey, not everything X said was evil’ or ‘hey, maybe some kind of ecological conscience doesn’t mean I’m a pagan.” We’re tired of being told which ‘secular’ writers we can read (Ayn Rand; unbelievable) and who we can’t (Karl Marx, antichrist?). We’re tired of the hagiographic (deceptive) church history that we were taught, which failed to mention some of the murkier parts of our past (Martin Luther: unreservedly a great man). It goes on.

    Unfortunately, the political/social philosophy that conservative evangelicals are embracing with ever greater fervor is driving us away from the church.

    2K, from what I can see here, offers more freedom for intellectual exploration and discussion. This is why I’ve found this site rather appealing. Maybe Professor Hart has some folks commenting here who you would call “Marxists” because this kind of discussion isn’t even allowed in our churches or among our Christian friends.

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  270. Erik,

    First, Marx didn’t see those in the productive economy – making stuff, and certain services, as members of the power elite, with the exception of the monopolies, duopolies, and a few oligopilies that existed in his day. Moreover, this holds true to this day, as production is always vulnerable to innovation and obsolescence, in addition to pure competition – all hallmarks of a healthy capital market. What you just listed, namely creative destruction, is the good stuff in capitalism.

    But, the sector Marx saw as most capable to “rigging the system” was that of finance, because they are a) insulated from the forces of innovation to a much greater degree; and b) the flow of credit within the capital markets – keys to growth and innovation and capital accumulation is controlled almost solely by them. Bankers, more so than members of any other sector comprised the power elite. If you look at one of the major behind the scenes undercurrents of our own American history, you will find a massive historical struggle between the forces of banking seeking a consolidation of power in the creation of a central bank, and those forces that opposed them because they saw the viability of the Republic on the line. For example, Jefferson saw a central bank as more dangerous than a standing army to the security of the state; and you have the central banker par excellence Nathan Rothschild asserting that you could show him who printed a nations money and he cared not who wrote it’s laws. You see these major struggles running their course down to the current day, when the most massive fraud(s) in financial history were committed primarily in the derivatives market (and MBS’) that lead to the implosion of the economy – and the bankers in power, responsible for the crash not only were not prosecuted for fraud (as they were two decades earlier in the S&L crisis), but they were given public bailouts for their largesse. You also had the outright fraud at MF Global under the highly politically connected CEO John Corzine, who pilfered sacrosanct customer accounts (the technical term is rehypothecation of segregated accounts) and not only gets away with it, but starts a new brokerage and goes on to continue his role as one of Obama’s most influential fundraiser’s and contributors.

    So, for the sake of clarification, there is a massive overlap between the banking elite, and the power elite of a society. And if you read Marx in this (one) respect, he has some sound points that are completely ancillary to his collectivism and utopianism. In a sense he has a knack for identifying a legitimate problem, and offers completely wrong-headed solutions to said problems.

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  271. Jon,

    I think what scares me about r2k is that it removes all moral considerations from political discussions. For instance, all the Marxist sympathizes here seem to be forgetting the Biblical support for private property ownership.

    There aren’t many believers among the stalwarts of the Austrian School and of the Chicago School, I think. Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard? I could be wrong. Adam Smith seemed pretty, Deistic and Liberal to boot. John Locke, on the other hand, seemed to be a sincere believer.

    And don’t get me started on the philosophies of Greek pagan pederasty had on the early church fathers and today’s Conservatives.

    I have attempted to show how Puritans and other Reformed communities were responding to free trade and markets, and how they believed property rights were not absolutes. It’s not an attempt to discredit small government thought, libertarianism, and capitalism, only to demonstrate that many of the assumptions we have today are, sometimes, grounded in the latest social theories and popular fads of our time, and not the time we claim to speak for. It seems some American Christians think the Reformation happened, and then free markets came to America!

    But if you want some fire-and-brimstone kind of stuff, I can get some of the stuff from the Presbyterian Socialists of Scotland. And we could start throwing scripture at each other to decide which tax structure and finance policy best represents the Cross.

    By the way, I remember and old school anti-marx leftist who remarked, “If religion is the opiate of the masses, pass me the pipe!”

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  272. That should read:

    And don’t get me started on how the philosophies of Greek pagan pederasty had influenced the early church fathers and today’s Conservatives.

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  273. Jed,

    When do you get the Skull & Bones, The Trilateral Commission, and The Illuminati?

    I kind of hear you — I think our Federal Reserve has gone nuts and there is still a day of reckoning coming from the recent mortgage-related meltdown, but Citigroup’s stock fell 89% from the time their recently departed CEO took over until when he left. The free market still works in correcting bad judgment and bad behavior. Read Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short” on the small group of people who got rich betting against almost everyone else.

    I just don’t generally find this kind of “big picture” theorizing to be very helpful — it becomes too easy to chalk things up to large, shadowy conspiracies that no one can do anything about. This is why Ron Paul (as much as I like the guy) never got above 10% of the population. It’s also why I don’t read most of a certain family member’s e-mails. If anyone wants to do big picture theorizing about Neocalvinists I’m totally there, though.

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  274. Erik,

    Dude, you need to keep my political associations on the down-low, after all “they’re” reading everything I write. Or at least I’d like to think I am that important.

    I am well aware of The Big Short, and one of the individuals that Lewis wrote about, Kyle Bass is probably one of the smartest guys in the marketplace. I trust his analysis of the markets far more than many Pulitzer Prize winners. I’d be inclined to quibble somewhat. over your analysis of Paul’s ability to only garner 10% of the electorate’s interest. I think Paul’s ideology, along with some on the left such as Dennis Kucinich, or Bernie Sanders represent a ground shift in American politics…10% based on grass roots campaigning outside the establishment is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

    But, my analysis of the power elite is not my “unifying theory” of what happens in the political economy, domestically or globally. While they may be able to game the system to their advantage to their benefit, they certainly do not account for all that happens within it… the system is far to big and complex for that. I also pay very close attention to the commodities and energy markets, since these, in many ways exist beyond the control of any one group, and represent the productive capacity ofthe global economy, and also play a major factor as to the when, where, and why of global conflict. I also try to pay attention to major social trends and changes, as this has a powerful capacity to shape the observable future. Even here, I by no means consider myself an expert on any of these matters, just someone who enjoys learning from them.

    One of the major factors precipitating the decline I think we are in has much to do with prevailing economic theory, that does inform almost all of our policy, fiscal, monetary, and otherwise is that nominal year overyear GDP growth is to be expected in perpetuity. But modern economics simply has not adequately wrestled with the realities of scarcity, and that over the long run infinite growth will be curbed by the finite resources of a finite planet. I think that the economic theories that best account for these facts in the future, and focus on sustainability and living within proper limits will be the winners, and neo-classical economics and it’s various schoools will be the loosers. As to living within proper limits, and respecting the value of human places and dwellings, I sure think the folks over at the Front Porch Republic get it, and are on the right track…an opinion not to popular with my CFR and Bilderberg colleagues, if they exist at all…

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  275. Jed –

    I think the biggest reason we are losing steam and other countries are gaining is they are getting a clue and we are…whatever the opposite of getting a clue is. That, and Honey Boo Boo. If there was ever a sign of decline, she is it (or I should say her parents are).

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  276. War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity, Hauerwas:—-My suggestion that justice is a bad idea was meant to call into question abstract accounts of justice often associated with liberal political theory, which assumes a just social order is possible without the people who constitute that order being just.

    My worry about appeals to justice in advanced capitalist societies has been that such appeals can blind us to the ways our lives are implicated in fundamental forms of injustice. Reinhold Niebuhr, in the interest of making Christianity politically responsible, argued that in matters of politics Jesus must be left behind, because the political work necessary for the achievement of justice requires coercion and even violence

    “Justice” so understood becomes more important that the justice of God found in the cross and resurrection of Christ. (p. 100)

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  277. DGH says: Jon, in case you didn’t notice, your appeal to the Bible to support limited government is not going to be objective to P. J. O’Roarke.

    Darryl, why do you suppose that J. Gresham Machen believed that our form limited government was founded on the Christian Scriptures?

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  278. What seems to be missing with all the pro/con discussion of Marxism/capitalism is competition keeps the free market in check. But what if you don’t like the government? You have no choice!

    First off there hasn’t been any discussion of Marxism except in your fevered imagination. There is a debate about a few percentage points of GDP being shifted and redistributed. No one here has advocated outlawing labor for pay or state controlling all the means of production. And the fact is you have a choice in the US to a limited extent among products where the government is mostly indifferent to that choice and as a society the cost of implementing choice is low.

    For example I don’t have a choice to use an alternative electrical grid, because as a country we decided to only produce one. While I have choice in electrical providers I don’t have meaningful choice. To get choice I’d have to convince other people to change the standard, that is get tens of millions of people to want to setup another electrical grid. And that is precisely what is the case with government. To have a choice of policy you start to convince other people that your solution to common problems are correct.

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  279. Doug S.

    Can you give me an era in American history that best represents the “form limited government was founded on the Christian Scriptures”?

    I get the ideal…but when, in American history, was the ideal actually practiced?

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  280. Luther says: Can you give me an era in American history that best represents the “form limited government was founded on the Christian Scriptures”?

    I get the ideal…but when, in American history, was the ideal actually practiced?

    We have a limited form of government right now! When was it practiced to the ideal degree? I wouldnt be able to answer that question.

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  281. Mark —

    I think the issue is that there isn’t really a way to step aside and be indifferent. We have to choose on most of these things. For example we need to choose protectionism vs. free trade.

    If we choose free trade we redistribute wealth up the socio economic ladder by driving down wages. We drive down cost of goods and this can help to compensate but generally not enough. If we choose not to redistribute that money then we choose a more unequal society with all the consummate problems of crime, illegitimacy, political violence… when we choose free trade.

    If we choose highly restricted trade we protect manufacturing jobs. We have reduce consumer choice. We choose to empower domestic unions and thus often disadvantage capital. If we choose not to address the problems of highly restricted trade then we are choosing stagnation.

    If we choose somewhat restricted trade then we need to make thousands of choices about what sorts of jobs we want internally and externally. We often effectively end up choosing what investment will pay off and which ones won’t. That sort of situation can result in a shockingly corrupt government. If we choose not to address the problems in such a system then we are choosing corruption.

    There is no if, only a what.

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  282. Cdh,

    The problem with your power grid analogy and just convincing other citizens to vote differently, is how do you get people to vote themselves a tax increase? Or alternatively, how do you get them to NOT vote to increase their higher income neighbor’s taxes so their own can be lower?

    The citizens of California recently voted to increase the taxes on wealthy people while keeping theirs at the same level. And why not? Why would you ever vote no? Most people don’t vote off principle. They won’t walk over to their neighbor’s house and steal their cash, but they will vote to do the same exact thing by ballot.

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  283. Jon says: The citizens of California recently voted to increase the taxes on wealthy people while keeping theirs at the same level. And why not? Why would you ever vote no? Most people don’t vote off principle. They won’t walk over to their neighbor’s house and steal their cash, but they will vote to do the same exact thing by ballot.

    Amen Jon! I believe you hit the nail on the head!

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  284. The problem with your power grid analogy and just convincing other citizens to vote differently, is how do you get people to vote themselves a tax increase? Or alternatively, how do you get them to NOT vote to increase their higher income neighbor’s taxes so their own can be lower?

    By returning to talking in terms of the common interest. In the 1970s the right was able to convince Americans that America suffered from a shortage of private investment capital. Shifting money up the socio economic ladder was needed to create a pool of capital to invest in American business, increase worker productivity and allow for higher wages for everyone. During the 1980s and 1990s that economic shift provided common benefits, for many tens of millions of people. The right made a credible case that their economic policies were the best vehicle for everyone to better achieve a higher standard of living. Incomes would become more unequal but economic opportunity would increase and even the poor would benefit.

    Republicans, traditionally never viewed the economy as a 0 sum game. They were Keynesians, just as much as Democrats, and as Keynesians saw that changes in government policy were the appropriate vehicle for shifting economic resources around to maximize the common good. The poor wouldn’t vote themselves lots of goodies because they have a long term vested interest in the economic success of America, just as much as the rich.

    If your approach to economics to create an economy where the wealthy benefit, particularly benefit by and no one else does, or even worse their standard of living gets worse. Well of course people aren’t going to vote for that. And why should they? Having an investment class is only of societal benefit if the investment class is doing a good job investing the society’s economic resources to achieve good for the resources. A wealthy class that is acting in their own interests is not much different than if Timothy Geithner decided to write a billion dollar check from treasury to himself and go live in the Cayman Islands.

    America is a very right wing country on economics, except when capitalism is failing to deliver. Contrary to your rhetoric we have and have always had 2 capitalist parties. The Democrats have traditional tempered the free market so as to maintain strong public support for it.

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  285. Jed,

    I enjoyed reading your long post. That brought back vivid memories of my days at Calvin and studying the various economic theorists. There were various professors at Calvin who held all the differing economic theories that you descibed in your post. There was one professor (John Tiemstra) who had studied Marx indepthly at MIT who constantly was saying the same thing about Marx as what you said (he received a lot of flack from the older Bush conservatives and Austrian types about it too). Marx critique of Capitalism was very accurate- especially in the latter stages. And, as I have stated before, Joseph Schumpeter said the same things in his beliefs in the “creative-destruction” of Capitalism.

    There have been a few Christian scholars (like John Robbins and Gary North) who have worked with Ron Paul in developing economic policy for his campaigns. They mostly came from an Austrian perspective and swore that you could develope economic theory from the scriptures. They thought the Austrian view did come closest to a Special Revelation point of view about economics. I could never come to any clear conclusions about whether using special revelation was really a wise thing to do or even possible in developing public policy. I know you go the general revelation, natural law route but I thought that had its problems too. Those questions went beyond my level of education. I have read critiques of the natural law approach, but I cannot really comment further because it has been so long.

    I am not sure if the economic system has to collapse in order for a necessary change to really come about. I was really drawn to the idea of really restructinging big business in ways that would promote more efficiencies in various important markets when I was at Calvin. I think I have mentioned this before but I took a Industrial Organization class at Calvin where we studied various markets in regards to their stucture, managerial behavior, and how the structure and management behavior was influential in how much innovation took place in the industry. We also studied how much government regulation helped or hindered in producting innovation and effeciencies in markets. It was a great class with a lot of research being done by then into this field of study. Is much of that still going on in the field today? You do not hear that much from politicians in regards to cleaning up very inefficent industries in their economic platforms. I think that is where the most good can be done in steering the economy in a better direction- if that is at all possible. Of course, this probably will never happen because big business and all the politicans are in bed together. Someone is going to have to challenge their affair with each other.

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  286. This is a bit confusing. (And I know you question my moral compass, but please believe me, I am not trying to play gotcha). I really am curious.

    Then wouldn’t you have to be arguing for a larger more active government, if you begin to enforce OT laws, concerning debt, sexuality, mixing of fabrics, jubilee, slavery, family relationships, etc.?

    And if your position is that “limited government was founded on the Christian Scriptures” why didn’t the American revolutionary generation include many of those OT laws into their conception of “limited government.”

    In criminal courts, since 2 witnesses seems to be the standard in OT laws, how would that effect circumstantial evidence?

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  287. I John 4: 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we have confidence for the day of judgment, because as Christ is so also are We in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

    No, we don’t have to choose how to make America work. We don’t have to propose a solution that we think will bring peace and prosperity for the other kingdom which has chosen to ignore Jesus. We don’t have to translate the law of Christ into something more “natural” and acceptable for those around us. Pointing to Jesus Christ is not a sectarian retreat from “justice”.

    This is why the justified elect do not fear being punished by God or by the pagans around them. The only way we are in the world as Christ is in the world is by legal solidarity (imputation) with the justice already done by Christ in His death and resurrection.

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  288. Hauerwas: “Liberalism produces people who know that they are fundamentally self-interested, not only descriptively, but as what they ought to be. Therefore they shouldn’t ask anyone else to follow what they themselves believe in. The problem is the results. If you just follow political liberalism, it looks like what you’d get is a society that is humbled. Instead you get people who are hungry for a cause. My way of putting this is there is nothing wrong with America for which a good war won’t be capable of providing a solution, because American people are absolutely desperate to be able to have something that will give their lives a sense of worth. “

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  289. DGH says: Doug, I don’t suppose that because Machen didn’t believe that limited government was founded on the Bible.

    Huh? I honestly don’t understand what you just wrote. Watch the double negatives, okay? Machen did in fact say that America’s form of limited government was founded on the Bible. Are you disputing that? If you are, I will be happy to find the quote.

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  290. CDH,

    What is your definition of the “common good?” And why should I accept your definition over someone else’s? What objective standard are you using to measure goodness?

    Darryl has said that the Bible has absolutely no bearing on the socio-political sphere. He says there is no objective way to compare economic systems at all. All is pure subjectivity, like choosing chocolate or vanilla. If this is the case, how do you make any sense I the phrase “common good?” It is completely useless as a term under the aforementioned 2k worldview.

    People like ourself like to speak of “social justice” as well. But how do we define justice? By who’s standard?

    What r2k does is removes ethical considerations from the socio-political sphere altogether. Therefore, all we are left with is might makes right. I guess Nietzsche was right after all.

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  291. Luther, the confusion lies not with you.

    It sure seems like the criminal courts would be abuzz in a Reconstructionist world, and the police force would have to be large enough and intrusive enough to catch the myriad transgressions. It wonder if there would be a safety net for the families of breadwinners who receive capital punishment? Look around your neighborhood or office and think of how many would have received the death penalty. I’m thinking 10% would be a low estimate.

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  292. CDH said: “If your approach to economics to create an economy where the wealthy benefit, particularly benefit by and no one else does, or even worse their standard of living gets worse. Well of course people aren’t going to vote for that. And why should they?”

    When did I advocate a system in which the wealthy benefit and no one else does? What I said is that it should be a fair system where everyone pays an equal proportion. This is the fairest system possible.

    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.

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  293. Luther P said :”Then wouldn’t you have to be arguing for a larger more active government, if you begin to enforce OT laws, concerning debt, sexuality, mixing of fabrics, jubilee, slavery, family relationships, etc.?”

    Luther, where have you ever read a theonomist advocate for the continuation of the ceremonial law (ie mixing if fabrics)? The answer is none. No theonomist believes that. That is just sloppy reasoning and completely false representation. But it makes it sound worse when you throw untrue comments like that in with your rants. You need to go back and research your opposition before you continue to sound foolish, and worse, bear false witness about your brothers in Christ.

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  294. @Jon

    What is your definition of the “common good?”

    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.

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

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

    What objective standard are you using to measure goodness?

    For financial goods the standard formula:
    utility = log(price)

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

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  295. MM said: “It sure seems like the criminal courts would be abuzz in a Reconstructionist world, and the police force would have to be large enough and intrusive enough to catch the myriad transgressions. It wonder if there would be a safety net for the families of breadwinners who receive capital punishment? Look around your neighborhood or office and think of how many would have received the death penalty. I’m thinking 10% would be a low estimate.”

    That always bothered me while reading the reconstructionists back in the 80’s. They seemed to enjoy the role of doling out words of judgment, wrath and punishment. I rarely came across anything about mercy, grace or forgiveness in reconstructionist literature. Even the prophets in the Old Testament had numerous passages in their books talking about comforting the people of Israel- especially after periods of severe judgment. Paul too in the New Testament talked of comforting the guy who was turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so he would not be overcome by such severe sorrow and perhaps go into despair over the possibility that he may never be restored (although I have heard some say that Paul in 2Corinthians is not talking about the same guy). Paul also talked about restoring those caught in a trasgression in a spirit of gentleness in Galatians 6. There seems to me to be something wrong with those who enjoy the role of chastiser and punisher. Discipline is easily abused. I also remember reading somewhere that heretics who were disciplined by churches in some medieval period were often checked upon by those who were worried that it might have destroyed their lives. They were offered restoration and reconciliation if they wanted it and came to the realization of their errors. Where is the weeping when discipline and punishment have to be doled out? And what about checking on those in a spirit of gentleness after the discipline has been implemented after a short period of time? I find this to be a very problematic and difficult subject to deal with.

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  296. John Y.,

    I replied to your response, but I included a couple links, so I’ll re-post it, sans links here (DGH, just go ahead and erase the comment in moderation if you’d like).

    John Y.,

    I am really glad you have chimed in here, you do have a really keen sense on economic matters and a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of various economic schools, so it is a lot of fun to interact with you on that. I envy your experience at Calvin, at UoP, we are instructed nearly exclusively by Keynesians, and our texts are definitely of a Keynesian commitment (typically a blend between London and Chicago School ideas). Here’s my reaction to a couple of the issues you bring up:

    There have been a few Christian scholars (like John Robbins and Gary North) who have worked with Ron Paul in developing economic policy for his campaigns. They mostly came from an Austrian perspective and swore that you could develope economic theory from the scriptures.

    I have never really understood why this is the case, I have read more North than Robbins, and as for his Austrian sensibilities, I think he is quite astute, even where I disagree. Unfortunately I have not read enough of how he synthesizes Austrian economics with his Reconstruction commitments, but to me they seem like an extraordinarily odd pairing. First of all, even though major Austrian scholars, like Hayek have political influences in classical conservatives like Burke, Austrian economics are philosophically built off of the subjectivism of post-enlightenment thinkers. I think I have a lecture up on my blog that talks about the origins of the Austrian School, and this is a key point that Hayek, Von Mises, et. al. all hold in common. All of Austrian school economics are built from the vantage point of the individual, and then extrapolated throughout the system – which seems to grossly contradict the Reconstructionist mantra (derived from Van Til), “autonomy or theonomy.” Furthermore, they want to say that their Austrian School economics can be defended biblically (as if it resembled the OT economic system), when it is rather clear that the OT economic laws were steeped in the broader economic traditions of the Ancient Near East, economist Michael Hudson has done a lot of work on ANE economic models, showing how we might learn from them today, and what he describes looks little like Austrian school (or any other modern capitalist school for that matter). He has some great articles and lectures on the topic of ANE economics at his blog, see link in comment below. Hudson is closely tied with the University of Missouri, ) City’s (UMKC) economics and law department, with scholars like William K. Black – and IMO, they are on the cutting edge of modern economic theory. But the Reconstructionists have more contradictions on the economic front than just this, many of them are ardent defenders of Empire, and a Constantinian model of rule (e.g. Leithart and Wilson), and not only are the economics of the Austrian school utterly unworkable in an imperial context, the economics of the ANE (including OT Israel) represent a system that is so vastly different than the economics of empire, it wouldn’t even do justice to either to call them opposites – both operate off of fundamentally different assumptions over what the proper ordering of a society should look like. So, while I think North’s economics are worth taking seriously, I haven’t seen sufficient cause to take their confluence of political and economic theory seriously, because of the plethora of competing ideals that they are trying to blend seamlessly into one theory, all the while calling it biblical.

    I am not sure if the economic system has to collapse in order for a necessary change to really come about. I was really drawn to the idea of really restructinging big business in ways that would promote more efficiencies in various important markets when I was at Calvin… We also studied how much government regulation helped or hindered in producting innovation and effeciencies in markets. It was a great class with a lot of research being done by then into this field of study.

    In a short answer, yes, there is some good research being done in this area, and on a couple of fronts. The work being done by Black, Hudson, and others at UMKC, are offering some of the most sensible solutions in terms of reforms in business regulations, especially in the banking sector. They are some of the leading advocates for re-instating Glass-Stegal, which would bring a lot of sanity back into the financial markets. The Austrian School, especially in organizations like the Von Misses Institute are doing a lot of good work on the matter of monetary reform, as well as urging that the market, and not the central bank set interest rates – which essentially regulates the cost of money; I think this would go a long way to abating the bubble-bust-bubble cycle we are currently in, because artificially low rates are a recipe for bubbles as we saw in the housing market. But, the biggest issue that I think almost ensures at minimum a hard landing, if not a crash in our domestic economy has been an utter lack of political will, on all sides of the political spectrum, to make the structural changes to our economic system that would promote it’s health – that and the fact that there are so many toxic assets in the form of derivatives that have not cleared the system, that the economy cannot return to healthy operations. And then there is the problem of the national debt which is, depending on how it is calculated between $16-23 trillion, and the sizable problem of unfunded SS/Mecicare liabilites (currently incurred) in the $60 trillion + range. If there was meaningful political will to address these, I would have more confidence that a crash isn’t on the mid-term horizon, but Republicans won’t budge on their sacred cow budgetary line items (defense), and Democrats won’t budge on theirs (social welfare programs) – a recipe for disaster IMO. If I had to make a prediction today of where that crash will occur, it would likely be a major disruption in the bond market (sovereign or municipal), that wouldn’t even have to originate in the US that would create a credit event that would cause a cascading effect in the global and domestic derivatives market. Here is a good graphic visualization of just how scary the derivatives market is: see link in comment below.

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  297. @Zrim: I think I put one two many*savings* in my paragraph above. Let me try again; Christ’s saving work has benefits for the whole created order. Everything, and I mean everything mankind enjoys food, sex, sports, the sun and rain is sourced in the saving work of Christ. Now, Christ’s saving work, only has *saving* benefits for his sheep, the elect he’s known before the foundation of the world. So no Zrim, I don’t take my dog to Church. But my dog benefits from Christ’s saving work. He’s a happy dog!

    To summarize, all enjoyment, wealth, health, and happiness is sourced in the saving work of Christ.

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  298. Doug, no 2ker disagrees that Jesus is Lord over every square inch. But 2k is careful how he rules and to distinguish between creation and redemption, such that whatever benefits the created order has flows from his creation and not his redemption. But when you say “Christ’s saving work has benefits for the whole created order” you aren’t being nearly as careful, and then you confuse things by going 2k seconds later and saying his saving work only has saving benefits for his elect. Well, which is it?

    But no 2ker would say that Christ’s work doesn’t have eventual effects on the non-imago Dei created order, as in the whole creation groans for the sons of God to be revealed. But there is the matter or priority–the benefits are the elect’s alone at the present moment. What you need a good dose of restraint and to pour some conservatism on all that rightistness. Quit applying redemption to all of creation and wait for God to do that his due time. Be content with redemption being a human project. Otherwise, yours is prosperity gospel for all of creation with an emphasis on legislation and statecraft.

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  299. Machen: “There is no such thing as an universally valid fund of religious principles”

    The responsibility of the Church in our New Age

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  300. Doug S.

    “Luther, where have you ever read a theonomist advocate for the continuation of the ceremonial law (ie mixing if fabrics)? The answer is none. No theonomist believes that. That is just sloppy reasoning and completely false representation. But it makes it sound worse when you throw untrue comments like that in with your rants. You need to go back and research your opposition before you continue to sound foolish, and worse, bear false witness about your brothers in Christ.”

    Sorry, I really sorry.

    However, what guarantee do you have that a Pentecostal Theonomist would not desire to bring the ceremonial law back? There is growing segment of the Christian Zionist movement who seem to be using all types of Jewish ceremonies with a Charismatic twist. If Rabbinical Judaism moves them, I suspect an even older more ancient ceremony would get the Holy Ghost moving, like no bodies business. And considering how popular and influential Pentecostals are among Protestants and Roman Catholics (better music, I think), their take on theonomy would be more popular than Rushdoony’s.

    By the way, what would you do about all the Roman Catholics?

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  301. Here’s a little cheanut from Dr Machen:

    Furthermore, the field of Christianity is the world. The Chrisitan cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection with Christianity. Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought. The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor. It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God.

    J. Gresham Machen

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  302. @DGH what do you think of Dr Machen’s quote here:

    Furthermore, the field of Christianity is the world. The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to Christianity or out of all connection with Christianity. Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought. The Christian, therefore, cannot be indifferent to any branch of earnest human endeavor. It must all be brought into some relation to the gospel. It must be studied either in order to be demonstrated as false, or else in order to be made useful in advancing the Kingdom of God.

    J. Gresham Machen

    Quick question Darryl, earlier you said Machen wasn’t stupid. What do you think of his statement above? And how does Dr Machen’s statement jibe with Escondido’s brand of 2K?

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  303. Doug,

    Like most of us, Machen underwent a process of intellectual development. So the period of his life when the quote you cited is almost as important as citing the man himself. My guess is this was a pre WW1 quote. By the way, almost any rational person would take Darryl’s understanding of Machen under far more consideration than your comments on a blog. fair or not, DGH has written a doctoral dissertation on Machen, and is in a small group pf experts in Machen studies. So, unless you can provide more context to your Machen citation, it is very hard to take ot with anything but a grain of salt. I find that theonomisrs are highly selective with Machen, peading to a highly distorted understanding to the man and his overall body of work.

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  304. 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!.

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  305. 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.

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  306. @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.

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  307. 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.

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  308. 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.

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  309. 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?

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  310. 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..

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  311. 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.

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  312. 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.

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  313. 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.

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  314. @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

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  315. 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?

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  316. 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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