Tuesday, 30 September 2008

ChnMind 2:14 Christian Socialism is a Second Order Idolatry

Using the Devil's Means Is Always Wrong

We have been considering the duty of families to gather and increase capital, and to pass that capital down through their generations. To the extent families fail to do this, or deny their responsibilities to do it, they fail to perform their duties to be oases of light and generosity to their extended families and those in need in the church community and in the civil community.

In recent centuries, however, we have seen a terrible perversion of this duty—one which causes Jerusalem to hang its head in shame. In our counsels has arisen the notion that there is a limit to which wealth and property belongs to families. That limit is set by the “greater good” which is defined and determined by the State. In this frame, the State has a prior right over all wealth and property; in principal Athens asserts that the State has final and eminent domain over the entire creation. The State has a right and duty to ensure that the poor are taken care of, and that families are taxed appropriately so that wealth is redistributed to others.

Now, at this point many in Jerusalem have bowed down to Athens, and worshipped at its feet.
They have formally nodded towards the passages in our biblical Constitution which command that love, care, and welfare be extended to the poor. Then, they have entirely disregarded the means and directions and institutions by which we are commanded to fulfil this duty. Instead, they have welcomed to their bosom pagan means in an attempt to fulfil biblical ends.

This syncretism with Unbelief is blighted by God, and to be despised by Jerusalem. It is the same principle which led our fathers in Israel to set up false altars at Dan and Bethel ostensibly to worship the Lord. These were in express disregard of the commands of God: but many were fooled into thinking that as long as the objective and the intent was “good”, the how or the means was relatively unimportant.

In our history, the Lord sent prophets repeatedly to warn against such tactics. Elijah, Elisha, and Amos were sent to warn God's people against this false blending of belief and unbelief. They did not listen. We in our day should let the cries and groans of the disembowelled
ring somberly in our ears, as happened when the Assyrians utterly devastated Samaria in a divine judgment in 722BC . That is the end of all such pernicious compromises with idolatry.

In our day, then, “Christian” socialists have joined up with, and supported, the civil state's intrusion into the realms of love, welfare, and charity. They have sought to “christianise” socialism. They have argued that the socialists professed concern for the poor is really a Christian belief and responsibility—therefore, it is a duty of Christians to aid and abet the socialist programme. Sure, we don't agree with socialist secularism, but by making common cause with Unbelief in using the power of the State to take care of the poor we will win their respect, and they will listen to our Gospel witness. Fools. Disembowelling portends.

Jerusalem's testimony is clear and unequivocal: if you are not doing God's work, God's way then you are doing the Devil's work, period. No amount of compassion or emotional commitment to the poor and the suffering in our community will plaster over that ugly fact. It is better not to start at all—for the damage that will be done in the longer term is far, far greater, and the poor will have their faces ground all the more. If you truly care for the poor—as you must—for the sake of our Lord, and in fear of Him, do not make common cause with Unbelief. Do not worship at the feet of the State as if the government were to replace God.

Do not take short cuts. Do not let the tyranny of the urgent, or the exigencies of the moment deflect you from serving the Lord in truth. Actually, the way of the Lord and the way of Unbelief is strongly contrasted right at this very point. To take care of the poor and the needy as the Lord requires one must work hard oneself. It is slow, painstaking, difficult, heart-wrenching and exhausting as we strive to take care of our families and our extended families. It requires a life time of effort. It is never over. And that is the way it is deliberately meant to be. That is what the Lord intends. Through such suffering and faithful labour the Kingdom of God is truly built. Through such disciplines we learn how to be faithful stewards.

According to Athenian Unbelief taking care of the poor is easy. It is someone else's duty. “They” will arrange it through their vast impersonal bureaucratic machine. “They” will fund it through their relentless exorbitant exactions of tax. There. Problem solved. We feel good. Everyone's happy. We have done our “Christian” duty by voting in support of the Athenian solution. Now, we can go on to indulge ourselves.

Fools. If you don't employ God's ways to do God's work, you are doing the Devil's bidding. He is the most subtle of all creatures. He is always masquerading as an angel of light, subverting the holy desires of God's people into means and methods of evil. Satan, for example, would always endorse strongly the whole duty and glory of having children, but will ever suggest that going into a prostitute is the most efficient and effective way to achieve the outcome. The long term damage and devastation is incalculable.

But if citizens of Jerusalem can see so clearly the folly of using prostitutes as the most efficient and effective way to be fruitful and multiply, why cannot they see that using the State to take care of the poor is equally Satanic and equally wrong?

“Christian” socialists have been misled over many years by a superficial distortion of some biblical texts. They have read them with socialist glasses firmly in place. Unable to cast off the vestiges of Athenian welfarism, they have carried them over into the holy canons of Scripture. This deception has given “legs” to their folly.

There are three pivotal passages that have been repeatedly distorted. The first is the apostolic church in Jerusalem. The text says that the Church had all things in common. This, the “Christian” socialists tell us is the first Christian commune. It provides a model way for how the Church ought to be and live. Well no, actually it does and does not. The text says:
And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.
Acts: 2: 42—46
The situation in Jerusalem was an emergency and, therefore, highly irregular. But, once the irregularity of the actual historical situation is acknowledged, the actions of the Pentecostal church do indeed become normative—for those situations when the people of God find themselves in similar kinds of extraordinary circumstances, as they do from time to time.

The congregation consisted of large numbers of pilgrims (along with locals) who had come from all over the Mediterranean, African, and Eastern world (Acts 2: 9,10) as pilgrims to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Being pilgrims they carried sufficient for the journey, for celebrating Pentecost, feeding their families during the feast weeks, and returning home. That is all. There were thousands of these people who joined the apostolic church at Jerusalem (Acts 2: 41, 47; Acts 4:4).

Many of these converts stayed on in Jerusalem after Pentecost so that they could be further instructed and taught by the apostles. These people had nothing, once their provisions for pilgrimage were exhausted. For example, months afterwards, food was still being required for Hellenistic widows—that is, non-Palestinian Jewish widows who did not live permanently in Jerusalem or Palestine, but had stayed on in Jerusalem. (Acts 6: 1)

Faced with this enormous need, and convinced that it was important that these “strangers” spend as long as possible under the teaching of the apostles, the Jerusalem church did whatever it could to provide help and sustenance for the needy amongst them. They worked harder, they sold off as much as they could, and they brought it to the apostles for distribution to the needy and dependant in the congregation.

But, and here is the point, it was an emergency; it was like a huge influx of Christian refugees into a congregation. Such things happen from time to time—and when they do, churches usually respond in exactly the same way that the Jerusalem congregation did. They open their hearts and wallets and do all they can to help and sustain the needy which have come amongst them. So the churches did in Geneva at the time of the Reformation as hundred fled their to escape persecution in their homelands. So they have done repeatedly through history.

So Acts 2 is not teaching the norm of communal living. But it is teaching what God's people ought to do when large numbers of refugees, needy, and dependant are suddenly thrust upon them.

The second passage which has been repeatedly distorted by “Christian” socialists is the Rich Young Ruler. (Luke 18: 18—31). Here a young wealthy aristocrat seeks Jesus' instruction as to how to enter the Kingdom of God. He claimed to have followed all the commandments all his life. This, of course, was a self-deception on his part. Our Lord pricked his balloon: He commanded him to go away and sell all that he had, give it to the poor, then come and follow Jesus. The man of course, went away, saddened—for he was fabulously wealthy.

“Christian” socialists try to argue from this passage that no-one can truly follow Christ unless he makes himself penniless, and that fundamentally Marx was right: all property is theft. Once again, the “Christian” socialists strip this passage out of its historical context through their fixation with reading the Scriptures through socialist glasses.

The first thing to recall is that Messiah clearly intended to show this man that his real god was his money. All his self-righteousness was collapsed in a moment. Secondly, it is the prerogative of Lord to call and command some of His servants to give up all that they have and live in a manner dependant upon other people while they carry out their particular duties for the Lord. He continues to do this to this very day. Ministers of the Word of God, for example, are entirely dependant upon the care and provision of the people of God as they go about their tasks and duties. But this call and command is to isolated people—for not all are called to unreserved comprehensive careers of teaching and preaching God's Word.

Thirdly, there are many instances where Messiah did not give a similar command to wealthy people: Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Joanna being but three. But, and here is the point, all three showed that they regarded themselves as mere stewards, and that all which they had custody of was at the Lord's disposition and command. Though possessing many things, they lived before the Lord as a servant, possessing nothing. That indeed is the true Christian ethic with respect to wealth: we are to care for it, husband it, and increase it, not as owners but as faithful stewards. We are to use it and apply it as He has commanded.

Finally, the folly of the “Christian” socialist gloss on the story of the Rich Young Ruler is easily demonstrated if we but make it a universal command of God for all who would enter the Kingdom of God. That would require that all Christians give away everything they own and live a life of total poverty and make themselves dependant upon . . . Unbelievers for their sustenance and support. Absurd—everywhere condemned in Scripture.

The third passage often used by “Christian” socialists is found in I Timothy 6: 8—10:
And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.
Yet this passage says in a nutshell what the true heart and ethic of a steward of God is to be. A faithful steward of God is one who is content with the very simple and the meanest of lifestyles: food and clothing and something to keep the rain out. The truly faithful steward is one who can oversee millions of dollars, yet in heart and mind, believes that none of it really belongs to him personally. He must answer to the Lord for every cent: but it is kept in trust for present and future generations, for the works of charity and mercy, and for the building up of God's Kingdom. A true steward loves the Lord, not money.

The key requisite of a steward is that he be found faithful. As God's people, in their families, set themselves to do all they can to save and multiply capital, it is the Lord's capital they are amassing. They are involved in the work of redeeming creation so that good works might abound. Amassing money for the purposes of a self-indulgent lifestyle of waste and luxury is utterly abhorrent. Where, then, is the glory of God in that?

It is true that faithful stewards are made, not born. It is true that faithful stewards have to learn how to abound and yet maintain faithfulness to the Lord. Yet this is precisely how the Lord works: until one has proved himself faithful in a little, the Lord will not appoint him as steward over a lot. (This, we believe, is one reason why the Lord's people should never bestow large inheritances directly on their children, for their use and consumption—at least not until they have proved that they are faithful stewards before God, in their own right.)

“Christian” socialism, in all its forms, is diabolical. Anyone claiming that he is doing God's work while employing the Devil's means is abhorrent, and an utter disgrace to Jerusalem.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Caretakers and Heirs: Both Have Rights

When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
The moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained;
What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?
And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?
Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God,
And dost crown him with glory and majesty!
Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet.
Psalm 8: 3—6
When the entire human race fell into sin through Adam, the marvel was that all mankind was not obliterated on the spot. Such a comprehensive destructive judgment would have been holy, just, and good. The soul that sins, it shall die, says the Law. Mankind in its entirety was from that time under sin and the sentence of death.

Yet, for reasons known only to God, He determined that a new human race would be perfected out of the vitiated, ruined, and blighted detritus that remained. This new, perfected human race would have a new Head. Adam was dethroned as the head; a new human race would be created around a new Head—even Jesus, our Lord.

This meant that there were now going to be two human races: the first had its head in Satan—called the Seed of the Serpent; the second had its head in Christ, called the Seed of the Woman. (Genesis 3:15) Eventually, the Seed of the Woman would overcome and crush the Seed of the Serpent. The second race would come out of the first. The first-born and Head of this new race was to be the Lord Jesus Christ. He atoned for, and cleansed all the sin of all His people—the new human race. This second human race, eventually the only one which shall remain, is now working under its Head to subdue, restrain, grow, and develop the entire creation. The old creation is being re-created anew by the Lord and His people.

The first human race, the Seed of the Serpent, belongs to the old order and is passing away. Eventually, it will be completely gone—reaching the state of obliteration that has been pending and yet long delayed ever since the first sin of Adam. But they have been useful in their time—for a season. It has pleased the Lord to use the Seed of the Serpent to maintain the human race, to maintain some semblance of order over the creation and human society, until they become redundant and are replaced by the new human race descended from the Second Adam.

This means that even Unbelievers are the servants of God, although they know it not, nor will it to be so. Despite themselves, they do His bidding and will and serve His purposes. They act as caretakers throughout history, progressively being replaced by the true heirs, the new human race, led by Jesus the Lord—until finally they are removed and the Lord and His people inherit the entire earth. At this time, finally, all enemies of God will have been placed under His feet.

This biblical world-view, this sweep of history, provides the only foundation for human society: for justice, for ethics, for judgment, for rights, and for freedom. It demands that all mankind is granted privileges and rights for the sovereign Lord has declared that it be so. The Seed of the Serpent has been granted these rights (protection of life and property) temporarily while they carry out their role in the earth as temporary caretakers. The Seed of the Woman has been granted these rights in perpetuity—for eternity—for Christ has won the right to grant them, His people, eternal life.

Man was originally made in the very image of God, only a little lower than God. He was originally crowned with glory and majesty. All this was vitiated and lost when he fell, through Adam, into sin. But it pleased God to allow mankind to keep vestiges of his original glory: for some, they would keep the vestiges temporarily while judgement was prorogued while they acted as caretakers on the earth; for others, the vestiges of glory remained until Christ came forth to cleanse, perfect, and re-create them after His own perfect image.

As we live in this historical dynamic of ever-unfolding redemption and coming inheritance in Christ, God's people are thankful for the functions of caretaking performed by Unbelievers ultimately for their sake and inheritance. Therefore, they treat all men with respect, for the Lord's sake. They call all men--regardless of race, tribe, creed, or profession--to turn from their Unbelief and to come, serve the Living Saviour. Yet, while being servants to all men, they also strive and work diligently for Christ alone, hastening the day when the last enemy, Death shall be abolished and they will enter into the full inheritance that Christ has prepared for them that love Him.

That inheritance is to enjoy a new heavens and a new earth, to participate in a new, glorified, perfected, sinless human race, and to be with the Lord, our beloved Saviour forever.

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Thy name in all the earth!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

ChnMind 2.13 The Kingdom and Property

Pagan Principles Have Infected the Church Through the Portal of Property

We have argued that the constitutional documents of Jerusalem place the primary responsibility for welfare for both family and extended family firmly upon the shoulders of the Family itself. We have also argued that the State has no place at all to play in welfare, except indirectly, through restricting what it takes in taxation and through protecting the property rights of the Family. In fact, as we shall see in future essays, the State is explicitly forbidden by the constitution of the Kingdom of God to have any regard at all for the socio-economic situation of its people at all.

To the extent that modern Athens everywhere, not only disregards this divine prohibition, but is deliberately and relentlessly built upon the diametrically opposite principle—that is, that the State is the primary organ of welfare and that it must make the socio-economic condition of citizens its primary regard and concern—only serves to highlight just how far modern Athens has progressed in its rebellion against the Living God.

Since the Family is primarily responsible for social welfare, it follows that the heads of households must give themselves to ensure that all family members work diligently and effectively to achieve financial and material independence, so that they are not dependant upon welfare and charity from others. This is repeatedly insisted upon in the Scriptures. Hard work, diligence, thrift, and self-reliance are required. This is so fundamental that if anyone shows himself or herself unwilling to exert effort in these ways, they are to be allowed to starve—that is, no-one has a responsibility to take care of or extend welfare to them. This underscores more powerfully than anything else the importance of needing to strive to take care of oneself, and one's dependants, to the very best of one's ability.

But there is a very important constitutional corollary to this injunction to become self-supporting and independent: one of the most important reasons why we need to work hard to ensure self-support and self-reliance is that we then might have the resources and be able to help others who are less blessed and who, at least for a time, cannot make their way without help. These responsibilities and duties are repeatedly placed firmly upon the head of every household in the Scriptures.

We have also seen that these duties extend not just to the current generation, but thought and provision is also to be made for our children and grandchildren. In order to carry out these duties, it is necessary for the Family to amass and transmit capital down through generations. The modern Athenian State has set itself up as the greatest enemy and obstacle to this duty. It has put in place a phalanx of measures to strip capital away from the Family into its own coffers in order to carry out its own designs to be the primary dispenser of welfare. These measures include progressive taxation rates, high levels of taxation over all, capital gains taxes, and various estate tax measures to prevent wealth being left in trust to children and grandchildren. Once more we see the modern Athenian State being built upon principles of Unbelief and pagan values—forcing Christian citizens to comply with its ungodly, unjust, and rebellious actions.

Now this does not unduly alarm the citizens of Jerusalem. The Scriptures are very clear that this is to be expected. But He Who is with us is greater than he who is in the world. The Kingdom of God is coming despite the best exertions and endeavours of Unbelief. Every nation is going to be discipled and made obedient to the King of all kings. As the number of citizens in Jerusalem increase, and as they take up their God-given, constitutional responsibilities for family based welfare, the Athenian State, with its unjust dictats and institutions will eventually decay and wither away.

In the meantime, it is vitally important that Believers clearly understand their duties and responsibilities. Every Christian family must conform as much as possible to the stipulations and requirements of the Family as laid out in Jerusalem's constitutional documents. In order to do this, it is essential that we “clear the decks” so to speak of those pagan and idolatrous ideas which have historically insinuated themselves into Jerusalem, and done so much damage.

We would argue that the most debilitating influence has come from the syncretising of the Christian faith with pagan values and ideas. This attempt to blend two absolutely contradictory positions has poisoned and enervated the City of Belief for centuries. With great sadness we must acknowledge that much of Christendom to this point has reflected an attempt to build a superstructure of Christian faith upon a pagan foundation. It has failed—as it always will. If the foundation is not correct, the building will eventually collapse.

One central pagan idea which has been allowed to influence Jerusalem as a poison clutched to the heart is belief that the world of matter (the physical world) is intrinsically evil or unreal or devalued and that the immaterial world (spirit, ideas, invisible beings) is intrinsically good or real or better. You can still find this pagan view expressed everywhere within Jerusalem today, often unwittingly. This is decidedly and emphatically not the world-view of the Scriptures. This is vitally important, and if we do not get this right, we will get most other things wrong.

So, in a few brief paragraphs, let us attempt to present the biblical and truthful world-view once and for all.

Firstly, the absolute and fundamental disjunction and separation in reality is not between matter and spirit. It is between God and the creation. God dwells in unapproachable light. Everything else that exists has both come into existence and utterly depends for its continuing existence upon God. He alone is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable. All else is temporal, finite, and changeable.

Secondly, while the created order has both material and immaterial aspects and realms, these are not set against each other as if one realm were intrinsically superior or better than the other. Rather, the Scriptures make abundantly clear over and over that within the realms of the material and immaterial there are both good and evil influences. Thus in the heavenly spirit realm, there are both demons and angels—good and evil beings. In the world of matter, in our world, there are both the Righteous and the Unrighteous. There are evil men and there are justified men made perfect in Christ.

Thus, matter is not intrinsically evil. The temporal world, the world of the body, is not inferior or unspiritual or of lesser importance. It cannot be, because everything originally created by God was declared good, very good. Rather, the temporal world has been degraded because of sin; it has been subjected to slavery to evil because of rebellion against God. However, the Christ has entered into our temporal world, taken it upon Himself, and has cleansed it upon the Cross, rising again to commence a divine work of purification. In this purification, the last enemy that will abolished and vanquished will be death. The Devil and his demons and his human devotees and followers will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

But in the meantime, God's people are to strive and work as obedient servants to redeem all of God's creation, both the material and immaterial aspects. Thus, we are to redeem and purify the body as well as the mind; the family as well as the individual soul; the wider creation as well as our spirits. We are to do this in an utterly spiritual manner—that is, with all our work in all the realms of our God-given responsibility being subject to and empowered by the Holy Spirit of the Creator God.

In this scriptural frame of redemption of the entire realm of creation under Christ Jesus we must insist that wealth and capital, amassed by the Family, subject to the Spirit of God and the injunctions and laws of Jerusalem's constitution—such wealth is holy, just and good. It is a holy thing!

Now, those citizens of Jerusalem who remain infected with pagan thinking might find this a bit shocking. It is true there has been a long and ignoble tradition in Christendom to see wealth as worldly, intrinsically evil, and to be avoided at all costs. Spirituality has been seen as a call to live in poverty or degradation, at worst, or at best to see wealth as a necessary but intrinsic evil—a sort of compromise with evil as long as we live in the material world. But, says this ignoble tradition, one day, we will escape out of it. These views are infused with a pagan essence—they are more satanic than Christian.

But there are some very important issues here. If we do not get the doctrine of the spirituality of matter right; if we do not get the Bible's teaching on the importance of Family wealth and capital clear, we will consign Christian families and Jerusalem as a whole to a truncated and under resourced existence. But because “nature abhors a vacuum”, the Devil will ensure that someone or something else will take over those realms and duties which families neglect—and so his great tool, the modern Athenian secular, Unbelieving State has arisen as a perpetual enemy to the biblical Family. In part this is our own fault, for we—the citizens of Jerusalem—have nursed pagan and unbiblical concepts in our bosom for centuries. We have insisted and persisted in reading the Scriptures with the coloured glassed of paganism, interpreting them in a pagan manner.

Our next post on the Christian Mind will deal with those passages of Jerusalem's constitution which historically have been interpreted in a pagan manner, and which have been misused to claim that the Scriptures forbid the diligent husbanding of wealth and capital, or at least, if not forbid, imply that it is a second-grade, and worldly, unspiritual concern. This we believe is one of the great battlefields between the Unbelief and the Spirit of God in our day.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Let the Humble Inherit

Humility: Our Vanquished Virtue

There is an excellent piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, by Miranda Devine on the declension of humility in our modern culture. We have reproduced the article in full below. As you read it, keep a question at the back of your mind: of the political leaders currently running for office in the NZ election, which demonstrate more humility, and which ooze hubris from every pore?

At the Emmy Awards this week, the comedian Tina Fey made what could be seen as the defining comment of the age.

"I thank my parents for somehow raising me to have confidence that is disproportionate with my looks and abilities," said Fey, 38, the Sarah Palin mimic of Saturday Night Live fame. "Well done. This is what all parents should do."

Quite the contrary. The world is already too full of people with too much confidence, who somehow lack the insight to realise it. It would be cruel to say they spend their lives making fools of themselves, but it would be accurate. The pity is that the number of people who can recognise the foolishness is dwindling. No, parents should not be teaching their children to have confidence disproportionate to their looks and abilities. They should be teaching their children the opposite virtue - humility.

Humility is the ability to have an accurate opinion of yourself, to see your own inadequacy with clear eyes.

Even the new federal Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, an alpha male down to his jocks, recognised the value of at least paying lip service to humility when he described his elevation to the Liberal leadership last week as "a great honour, privilege, humbling". He wasn't saying he was a humble man - a claim no one would believe of the cocksure former merchant banker - but that he was "humbled" by the moment.

Everyone should have some capacity to feel humbled by something at some point, to be conscious, even fleetingly, of the fact you are not the centre of the universe, all-powerful, all-knowing. But some people never do, even when confronted by the full majesty of their ignorance or human limitations.

Turnbull, 53, a man tempted by pride more than most, you would imagine, said later at his first press conference as leader, "I believe that no individual has the sum total of human knowledge", which is another small lesson in humility learned.

Some people, such as the German philosopher Nietzsche, see humility as a weakness. But the ancient Greeks knew it to be an essential quality of heroes, a product of courage and self-knowledge. Humility is the antidote to pride, which the author C. S. Lewis once damned as the "greatest sin", the vice that leads to every other vice.

"There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves," he wrote last century.

Lewis also wrote that, unlike other vices, pride was intrinsically competitive, getting "no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man". He described it as a "spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love or contentment or even common sense".Humility has been the mainstay of Christian societies, and central to the Protestant ethic of the American Midwest of the last century, which fuelled the greatest period of prosperity the world has ever seen. Humility was the core value of people who built great wealth and created the moral capital for generations to come.

As Tom Wolfe wrote in his short story Two Young Men Went West, Intel's co-founder, Bob Noyce, the father of Silicon Valley, headed west from his small Presbyterian town in Iowa, in the 1960s, with the values of his forebears "sown into the lining of his coat". Noyce was not religious but he brought with him all the old habits that would make him a success: honesty, hard work, prudence, self-discipline, lack of ostentation and, of course, humility.

The stern virtues are now laughably anachronistic. Pride, self-confidence and an exaggerated sense of self-importance are the qualities most prized in our narcissistic times. They are the hallmarks of winners, while humility is the vanished virtue.

A lack of humility is not a necessary precondition for our leaders, but it is often a collateral quality. The self-belief necessary to push yourself to the top, trampling over the ambitions of other deserving people, too easily morphs into the delusion that you got to the top not because you got some lucky breaks, but because of your intrinsically superior qualities.

While strong leaders often exhibit little humility, it is the only inoculation against the ancient Greek sin of hubris - excessive pride leading to humiliation and tragedy. The former NSW treasurer Michael Costa may have had hubris in mind this week when he said, after quitting Parliament: "I've always said politics was a modern Greek tragedy, it always ends in failure … and I can say my career has fulfilled that adage."

Strong, decisive types who make the best leaders often have very little inclination for the introspection needed for humility. They have no self-doubt because they never take the time to inspect the self for flaws. They are always "going forward", pushing ahead, getting things done, looking on to the future, not a past that might discomfit them.

In fact, the phrase "going forward" was the latest big cliche in the business world. Now it serves as a motto for the collapse of the financial markets, so full of Masters of the Universe always "going forward".

Of course, we need people of unreasonable self-belief to take risks and attempt to conquer unconquerable problems. But a society composed of too many over-confident types is doomed.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


If Good Men Do Nothing

The alacrity and resolution of the FBI in tracking down the person who hacked into Sarah Palin's e-mail account (which is a federal offense in the US) must seem remarkable to all New Zealanders. So efficient, so quick, so decisive.

We are left comparing the slowness, turpitude, and uninterested desultory activities of the NZ Police Force in conducting its investigation into the theft of Don Brash's e-mails. Maybe the parliamentary computer system was far more complex. Maybe it was a much much more sophisticated operational theft. But still one suspects a complete lack of vigour, resolution, commitment and drive on the part of the NZ Police to be the real cause. Why might this be?

Contrast this with the vigour of their prosecution of Shane Adern for driving his tractor up the steps of Parliament Building during a protest on behalf of his constituents. Then contemplate the completely disgraceful poodle-like behaviour of the Commissioner of Police, one Howard Broad, dutifully distracting Parliament during an important Question Time recently when the government was under attack, with a completely disingenuous request to gauge the advice of Parliament over his decision to introduce Tasers.

The Labour Party has used many times the tactic of trying to run interference when it is under pressure. It may be leaked stories to the media. It may be creating a breathless announcement of something ostensibly important just as some major damaging report is coming forth. It may be the manipulation of Parliament. It has done it many times. But to use the NZ Police for these tawdry political purposes is unheard of.

It underscores just how much the NZ Police have corrupted themselves to become an extension of the partisan political machinations of the Labour Government. This is a sinister development in our country.

We hear the term “politicisation” a lot in these times. It has become a term of opprobrium, but few really stop to think what it represents. What it represents is subversive activity by the government of the day against the people of New Zealand. It indicates that the government of the day—in this case Helen Clark—using and manipulating the organs and powers of the State for one's own political ends. It is an egregious abuse of power.

In the previous century we saw the most terrible regimes
emerge. What they all had in common was a more-or-less complete subjugation of the powers of the state to the ruling political party or group. When the organs and institutions of government become the extension of a political party's power, tyranny follows in the wake.

In New Zealand it is the police force which has been captured and controlled by the current Prime Minister. This is a sinister development indeed.

It is not without significance that the President of the New Zealand Police Association (a union representing sworn police officers), the day after the Police Commissioner toadied to his political masters with his fake parliamentary question, fulminated publicly stating that the Commissioner's action constituted positive public proof of the politicisation of the NZ Police Force.

How shameful for the NZ Police. How threatening for the country. How disgraceful for the Government.

We at Contra Celsum call upon the NZ Police Association to do their duty on behalf of all true sworn police officers and go public, exposing the corrupt capture of senior police management to their political masters. Such subversive activity must not be allowed to continue.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Ian Wishart Asks Some More Embarrassing Questions

Sauce for the Goose

Two months ago, we blogged on Helen Clark's hyperventilation over John Key's share trading. We pointed out that the self-righteous Prime Minister was in fact also potentially guilty of conflicts of interest in that she is a substantial landlord, holding a well-above average number of properties in her investment portfolio.

Ian Wishart is alert to this hypocrisy and in our view he is right on the money in this regard. He has recently asked some embarrassing questions of the Prime Minister. We do not think they will be answered.

These questions have just been filed with Kathryn Street, the PM's chief press secretary, at 9.30am today:

Has the Prime Minister, or any other Minister in her government who owns investment property, ever excused themselves on the basis of a conflict of interest from discussing cabinet papers or legislation, or voting on legislation, that deal in any way with taxation issues on investment properties?

Has the Prime Minister, or any other Minister in her government who is any kind of beneficiary of a family trust, ever excused themselves on the basis of a conflict of interest from discussing cabinet papers or legislation, or voting on legislation, that deal in any way with taxation issues on family trusts?


Ian Wishart

TGIF Edition

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Blame Fannie Mae and The Democrats for the Credit Mess

Several days ago, we posted a piece on the fundamental failures that have led to the massive credit collapse in the United States. You can read it here.

We argued that the two government sponsored enterprises, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were substantially responsible for the problem. Today, in the Wall Street Journal an excellent piece was published explaining just how this came about, and how the Democrats remain primarily responsible for the mess.

Many monumental errors and misjudgments contributed to the acute financial turmoil in which we now find ourselves. Nevertheless, the vast accumulation of toxic mortgage debt that poisoned the global financial system was driven by the aggressive buying of subprime and Alt-A mortgages, and mortgage-backed securities, by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The poor choices of these two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) -- and their sponsors in Washington -- are largely to blame for our current mess.

How did we get here? Let's review:In order to curry congressional support after their accounting scandals in 2003 and 2004, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac committed to increased financing of "affordable housing." They became the largest buyers of subprime and Alt-A mortgages between 2004 and 2007, with total GSE exposure eventually exceeding $1 trillion. In doing so, they stimulated the growth of the subpar mortgage market and substantially magnified the costs of its collapse.

It is important to understand that, as GSEs, Fannie and Freddie were viewed in the capital markets as government-backed buyers (a belief that has now been reduced to fact). Thus they were able to borrow as much as they wanted for the purpose of buying mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Their buying patterns and interests were followed closely in the markets. If Fannie and Freddie wanted subprime or Alt-A loans, the mortgage markets would produce them. By late 2004, Fannie and Freddie very much wanted subprime and Alt-A loans. Their accounting had just been revealed as fraudulent, and they were under pressure from Congress to demonstrate that they deserved their considerable privileges. Among other problems, economists at the Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office had begun to study them in detail, and found that -- despite their subsidized borrowing rates -- they did not significantly reduce mortgage interest rates. In the wake of Freddie's 2003 accounting scandal, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan became a powerful opponent, and began to call for stricter regulation of the GSEs and limitations on the growth of their highly profitable, but risky, retained portfolios.

If they were not making mortgages cheaper and were creating risks for the taxpayers and the economy, what value were they providing? The answer was their affordable-housing mission. So it was that, beginning in 2004, their portfolios of subprime and Alt-A loans and securities began to grow. Subprime and Alt-A originations in the U.S. rose from less than 8% of all mortgages in 2003 to over 20% in 2006. During this period the quality of subprime loans also declined, going from fixed rate, long-term amortizing loans to loans with low down payments and low (but adjustable) initial rates, indicating that originators were scraping the bottom of the barrel to find product for buyers like the GSEs.

The strategy of presenting themselves to Congress as the champions of affordable housing appears to have worked. Fannie and Freddie retained the support of many in Congress, particularly Democrats, and they were allowed to continue unrestrained. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass), for example, now the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, openly described the "arrangement" with the GSEs at a committee hearing on GSE reform in 2003: "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have played a very useful role in helping to make housing more affordable . . . a mission that this Congress has given them in return for some of the arrangements which are of some benefit to them to focus on affordable housing." The hint to Fannie and Freddie was obvious: Concentrate on affordable housing and, despite your problems, your congressional support is secure.

In light of the collapse of Fannie and Freddie, both John McCain and Barack Obama now criticize the risk-tolerant regulatory regime that produced the current crisis. But Sen. McCain's criticisms are at least credible, since he has been pointing to systemic risks in the mortgage market and trying to do something about them for years. In contrast, Sen. Obama's conversion as a financial reformer marks a reversal from his actions in previous years, when he did nothing to disturb the status quo. The first head of Mr. Obama's vice-presidential search committee, Jim Johnson, a former chairman of Fannie Mae, was the one who announced Fannie's original affordable-housing program in 1991 -- just as Congress was taking up the first GSE regulatory legislation.

In 2005, the Senate Banking Committee, then under Republican control, adopted a strong reform bill, introduced by Republican Sens. Elizabeth Dole, John Sununu and Chuck Hagel, and supported by then chairman Richard Shelby. The bill prohibited the GSEs from holding portfolios, and gave their regulator prudential authority (such as setting capital requirements) roughly equivalent to a bank regulator. In light of the current financial crisis, this bill was probably the most important piece of financial regulation before Congress in 2005 and 2006. All the Republicans on the Committee supported the bill, and all the Democrats voted against it. Mr. McCain endorsed the legislation in a speech on the Senate floor. Mr. Obama, like all other Democrats, remained silent.

Now the Democrats are blaming the financial crisis on "deregulation." This is a canard. There has indeed been deregulation in our economy -- in long-distance telephone rates, airline fares, securities brokerage and trucking, to name just a few -- and this has produced much innovation and lower consumer prices. But the primary "deregulation" in the financial world in the last 30 years permitted banks to diversify their risks geographically and across different products, which is one of the things that has kept banks relatively stable in this storm.

As a result, U.S. commercial banks have been able to attract more than $100 billion of new capital in the past year to replace most of their subprime-related write-downs. Deregulation of branching restrictions and limitations on bank product offerings also made possible bank acquisition of Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, saving billions in likely resolution costs for taxpayers.

If the Democrats had let the 2005 legislation come to a vote, the huge growth in the subprime and Alt-A loan portfolios of Fannie and Freddie could not have occurred, and the scale of the financial meltdown would have been substantially less. The same politicians who today decry the lack of intervention to stop excess risk taking in 2005-2006 were the ones who blocked the only legislative effort that could have stopped it.

Mr. Calomiris is a professor of finance and economics at Columbia Business School and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Wallison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was general counsel of the Treasury Department in the Reagan administration.

Peters in Perspective

We believe that David Farrar's synopsis of the vital issues and questions surrounding the deceptive and misleading conduct of Winston Peters should be read and pondered by every New Zealander. Click to read.

The S-Files

Crossing the Line

Contra Celsum nominates the following political parties for an S-Award: the Maori Party, the United Future Party, the Greens, ACT and the National Party.


It is a sad, sad day in the life of our nation. Yesterday, the Privileges Committee of Parliament voted to censure the suspended Foreign Minister for lying to the House and for knowingly filing a false financial return. In the face of overwhelming evidence of corrupt behaviour on the part of the Foreign Minister, the parties named above voted to censure the Foreign Minister. The doubly sad aspect is that the vote was not unanimous.

Two parties did not vote to censure: the Foreign Minister's own party (NZ First—an unbelievably cynical name, given his self-serving unethical behaviour) and the Labour Party, which has deliberately and overtly placed party political advantage above considerations of ethics and morality in government.

As we have argued consistently, Mr Winston Peters has been a destructive and cancerous influence in our nation for many years. Further, it is likely that he will face criminal charges in the future over even worse corruption, and that he will likely end up in jail.

What is sad beyond any of this is the spectacle of the Prime Minister and her party clinging to Peters and supporting him, thereby approving his lying and unethical behaviour. Such approbation can only mean that the Prime Minister of this country believes his behaviour is acceptable for a Minister of the Crown.

The Privileges Committee has required that Mr Peters provide corrected and accurate returns declaring all gifts he has received over the past several years. There will be many. It will likely turn out that some of these gifts came from businessmen he has subsequently "thanked" by bestowing monetary favours upon them—tax payers money.

The Prime Minister has a duty to approve such gifts--otherwise they must be returned to the donors. The Privileges Committee said the hiding of the gifts was deliberately and knowingly done. She will, of course, give approval—or more likely, she will simply ignore them, thereby giving tacit approval.

If the Prime Minister has such a low ethical standard for her ministers; if she believes that the interests of the nation are thus well served; if she believes that bribery has a place in government; if she believes that partisan political posturing is more important than the vital fabric constitutional government; if she is willing to aid and abet lying and deceit, then she is truly beneath contempt.

The public (unwisely) will tolerate for a time political gamesmanship on the part of our representatives. We say unwisely, because such things ought never to be acceptable in the processes and responsibilities of government. Ultimately governments deal in justice, however that might be conceived, and justice is too weighty a matter to be manipulated or used for the playing of personal games.

But politics and government in our age of the glorious flowering of secular humanism has been allowed to devolve into perpetual gamesmanship. But generally this has been restrained by an understanding on the part of representatives and government officials that there is a line—albeit invisible—but a line nonetheless which must not be crossed. That line has to do with the genuine interests of good government, the structures of good government, and the good of the overall country.

In the past there may have been debate from time to time over where exactly that line fell. But crossing that line for the sake of political posturing was unacceptable. But over the past ten years we have seen a different kind of politician emerge. These are people who deny that there is such a line at all, and that all government consists in gamesmanship and posturing for personal advantage. At root, such politicians believe that the country can be damned—or more accurately, they come to believe that their desperate venal grip upon power is conterminous with the true interest of the country. They, themselves, have become the line. Government has become feral and personal.

The Soviet Communists used to speak about the cult of personality. They meant by this a governmental condition where the person of the leader was all determinative. The Prime Minister of New Zealand has now descended into the cult of personality. She has determined that the political risks prevent her from joining other political parties in censuring Mr Peters for unbecoming conduct. The damage done to the rule of law and to the fabric of government are mere collateral damage. The country be damned: the career of Helen Elizabeth Clark is more important.

We continue to believe that the nine years of successive Clark administrations will eventually be judged by history to have been the most corrupt, venal, self-serving, and mendacious government that New Zealand has ever had the misfortune under which to suffer.

We hope that in our lifetime, and that of our children and grandchildren we will never see the like again.

The Maori Party, the United Future Party, the Greens, ACT and the National Party: S-Award, Class I for actions in the course of duty that were Smart, Sound, and Salutary.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Breaking Pagan Societies Apart

But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
Luke 10: 29

It turns out that this dialectical question put to our Lord provoked one of the most profound responses in all human social ethics. It led to our Lord's parable of the Good Samaritan. It marked out some of the central social characteristics of the City of God. In this parable we have the ethic that ultimately breaks the unbelieving nations apart, from the inside out.

We are familiar with the interchange which led to the parable. A lawyer or scribe had asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded by asking him what the Law said. The lawyer knew the scriptures, and he answered very perceptively. The Law, he said, commanded that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” He was quoting, of course, from Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

Jesus affirmed his answer as correct. But, said the lawyer, who is my neighbour?

In reply, our Lord gives the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The simple story is so well known, it does not need repeating here. Yet, there is a profound subtlety to the parable that we often overlook. The lawyer was asking for a definition of who fell into the category of “neighbour”. The implication is that there are a whole lot of people who don't need to be loved as oneself because they don't qualify as being one's neighbour. Gentiles and Samaritans, for instance. Jesus' parable teaches us that the lawyer's question is a legitimate one, but the answer was not as he assumed it might be.

Jesus' parable did not directly answer the lawyer's question. It did not identify who the neighbour was. It, rather, identified who it was who acted in a neighbourly fashion—who loved in the way the Law required—and, of course, it was the Samaritan.

But the parable does identify the neighbour indirectly. The neighbour whom we are to love as we love ourselves is the person God puts in front of us in our ordinary course of life, and who is in need.

This is the heart of Jerusalem's social ethic. It is at the heart of the Law of God. We can summarise as follows: Christian social ethics are personal, occasional, near, and clear. In contrast, Christian social ethics are therefore not abstract, impersonal, programmatic, and removed.

Now, whenever we draw such a contrast as this, we run the risk of proposing a false dichotomy. Why cannot Christian social ethics be both? Why cannot love for one's neighbour (which is a complete summary of Commandments Five through Ten) be both personal and impersonal, occasional and programmatic, etc? The answer is simple. It is because programmes and abstractions, and impersonal entities cannot love. Love can only travel between human beings, heart to heart, soul to soul, person to person.

Now, we do not mean to imply that neighbourly charity cannot be supported by certain programmes or institutions—but they must always be structured in a neighbourly and personal fashion. There would be nothing inappropriate, for example, in the Samaritan of the parable gathering together with a few like-minded colleagues and setting up a rescue station along the Jerusalem to Jericho road, to patrol the road and rescue those set upon by thieves. But in the end, someone has to represent the Samaritan and his friends and administer love and compassion to the afflicted, in the name of the Samaritan and as his personal representative.

This means that the Samaritan, through his personal representative, would continue to encounter people in need as he goes about his daily tasks. Only then does it remain a love of neighbour; only then is the programme neighbourly, and personal.

But, if the Samaritan were to go to the government and call for people to be taxed to support a communal welfare project, the act would no longer be neighbourly, heart to heart, person to person. Or if the Samaritan were to set up a corporate charity run by an impersonal committee, so that its representatives could not minister personally to others on behalf of identifiable persons as their representatives, it would no longer be loving one's neighbour as oneself. It would generate more problems than it would solve. It would not comply with the requirements of the Law of God.

When you consider the matter, most social welfare and social ethical actions found in Athens are of the removed, programmatic, impersonal, legalistic, and abstract kind. There is a simple reason for this. It is because people in Athens cannot love their neighbour as themselves. They cannot obey God's Law; they are substantially dead to it. All they have left is the impersonal and the programmatic, the form without the substance. This explains why social ethics and welfare within the City of Unbelief are consistently destructive and create far greater problems than they purport to solve.

It is true that not a few welfare programmes in Jerusalem have copied leaves from Athenian books and are set up as programmatic, impersonal, removed institutions. These need changing to a more neighbourly, biblical frame. As God's people set themselves to love their neighbours as themselves—doing what they can to help those in need whom they encounter as they go about their personal business—they will eventually break the bands of Unbelief apart. No Unbelieving culture can long withstand such a spiritual assault on its very foundations.

But, of course, in order to love neighbour powerfully, God's people must first, and at the same time, love God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind—for only then will they be able to love their neighbour as themselves.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Intelligent Design and Primitive Irrationality

Intelligent Design Theory is a Christian Cop-Out

There has been a frenetic controversy swirling around the legitimacy or otherwise of teaching Intelligent Design as an alternative to Darwinian Evolution in schools. Christians have argued that Darwinian Evolution is only a cosmogenic theory; there are other theories, equally plausible, equally able to marshal supporting evidence. Intelligent Design is one. Christians have argued for “equal time.”

Now this has a ring of reasonableness attached to it. Scientific inquiry is supposed to be open, rational, reasoned, objective, non-prejudiced, and neutral. Therefore, nothing could or should be excluded from the outset. Open minded inquiry would argue that one should follow the facts wherever they lead. Refusing to give “air time” to Intelligent Design in schools seems to smack more of prejudice and propaganda than honestly objective self-critical scholarship. The resistance seems downright unscientific.

The other side, however, will have none of it. Intelligent Design is unscientific by definition. In their telling of it, Intelligent Design means that one has to deny the evidence, give up on the scientific method, lay rationality aside. To incorporate Intelligent Design theories in schools would be like going back to the ignorance of the Dark Ages where superstitious prejudice suppressed reason.

This debate is one great big hoot. But it does betray two fundamental weaknesses in the Christian camp. Firstly, it shows a regrettable naivety on the part of Christians over what the state school system is all about. The state school system is essentially an extended secular humanistic propaganda machine. It represents the received wisdom of Athens—a City which is deadly opposed to Christians and the Christian faith. We will use the term The Academy to represent the entire academic—instructional complex of secular humanism. It is completely unrealistic and naïve to expect the Academy to give any air time to Intelligent Design or similar theories.

Secondly, it demonstrates a fundamental compromise, by Christians, of the Christian faith itself. Jerusalem is being untrue to itself if it looks to The Academy to grant it even a modicum of credence. Both world-views, while being at root respectively fundamentally very simple, are diametrical contra-polar opposites. Jerusalem asserts that all truth, knowledge, and rationality turns around and depends upon the Living and Eternal God. Truth is what God says it is. The Academy asserts that all truth, knowledge, and rationality turns around man. Truth is what man says it is.

In going to The Academy and asking for an audience, Christians are wanting the Christian world view to be assessed, judged, and determined by man. In do doing, they are accepting the world-view of The Academy. If The Academy could authoritatively determine the truth of Jerusalem, if it were to be countenanced for a moment, then it clearly proves that Christianity is false and a lie. If all truth is subject to man, and determined by him, then clearly the Christian world-view cannot possibly be true; truth cannot be what God says it is.

Thus, we must regrettably conclude that Intelligent Design theories, and the campaign to have them accepted within The Academy, while well-meant, are both naïve and an implicit, denial, at root, of the Christian faith itself. Intelligent Design theories, as constructed and pitched to The Academy, are indeed sub-rational and inconsistent, a kind of Unbelief itself. Insofar as they look for the mind of man to be the canon and measure of all truth, they fundamentally agree with The Academy's world-view. It is indeed a return to Unbelieving dark ages. To this extent, The Academy is being true to itself, it is being consistent, in its lampooning of Intelligent Design and in its refusal to even consider for one moment Intelligent Design within its halls.

But this is not to say that Unbelief and The Academy has any credibility whatsoever. It is utterly and hopelessly bankrupt—intellectually, philosophically, and ethically. The Academy is one gigantic crock. The ignorance and contradictory blind prejudice of The Academy is far greater than any so-called medieval Dark Ages.

The Academy insists that the universe does not reflect Intelligent Design, but rather it is a brute (that is, unintelligent) chaos. At the same time, in the same breath, and with a straight face, The Academy not only wants to talk about rationality, order, structures, categories, laws, it uses these constructs to propound and describe its assumptions of a universe of brute chance. Breathtaking irrationality, inconsistency, and blindness.

What The Academy relentlessly suppresses—and it has to, for it is a truth most inconvenient—is that if it were actually true that there is somewhere in the vastness of the universe just one molecule or one particle or one entity that is truly random, then everything in the universe must be truly random and utterly chaotic in principle. All order is a mythical illusion. This has to be the case because order cannot withstand true chaos or brute chance. The least amount of true chaos breaks order apart and makes it meaningless, unpredictable and, therefore, ultimately unintelligible. This is what Chaos Theory, in part, has argued and demonstrated successfully.

But, The Academy has done far worse than that: it does not accept that somewhere in the universe is one a single particle of chaos—rather The Academy insists, from the outset, that the entire universe is grounded in brute chaotic chance. Yet it still insists upon its science, and its order, and its study, and its research—and insists still further that these things alone define and determine truth. And it wants to be taken seriously and have its self-claimed gravitas honoured and respected! Truly, The Academy represents the foolish babblers of our time.

The remarkable Mircea Eliade has given us reason to suspect that all Unbelief has been characterised by similar foolishness. This ignorance and intellectual bankruptcy of The Academy is not new. The bankruptcy of The Academy reflects the same motifs as the oldest primitive traditions of mankind.

Eliade has shown that one recurring motif of primitive religions is to believe in an all governing, all creating god, then over time gradually to banish that god out of frame, replacing it with contradictory deities because those constructs enable them to deal with the phenomenon of the world as it was actually experienced, and offer the promise of controlling the world. He writes:
. . . neither the religions called “primitive” nor those classed as polytheistic are ignorant of the idea of a god who is the creator, omniscient and all powerful. Yet we have only to look at things a little more closely to realise that such supreme deities enjoy hardly any religious worship. . . . These are not objects of worship: they are regarded as deities so remote as to be inactive, indifferent . . . in fact. . . .

There is no need to multiply examples. Everywhere, in these “primitive” religions, the highest heavenly being has declined in practical religious importance; he has withdrawn from human beings. He is remembered, however, and prayed to as a last resort, when all the petitions put up to other gods and goddesses, demons and ancestors, have been ineffectual. . . . .

(T)he divinities , who among the “primitives” are substituted for the Supreme Beings, are . . . divinities of fecundity, riches and the fullness of life; in short the deities who exalt and amplify life, the life of the cosmos—its vegetation, agriculture, herds and flocks—no less than the life of man. Their religious importance was due precisely to their strength, their illimitable reserves of vitality, their fecundity.

Mircea Eliade, Myths, Dreams and Mysteries: The Encounter Between Contemporary Faiths and Archaic Reality (Glasgow: William Collins, 1957), pp 135—137

This spiritual and intellectual legerdemain, so characteristic of primitives, the motif of positing a supreme entity responsible for all things yet only to banish it in favour of narrowing down and focusing upon mastery of man over the natural world, is precisely evident in The Academy.

In so doing it has taken up this age-old, primitive, deceit. It has posited chance as the supreme and most fundamental force of the cosmos, responsible for all things—then, banished it from consideration, while it focuses upon man and his mastering of nature, in complete contradiction of the supposed fundamental cosmic force. The radical disconnection of these two things, even while both are held to be true, is the mark of the superstitious primitive mind. It is why irrationality and ignorance lies embedded in all that The Academy does and represents. It is why The Academy can be so credulous and manipulated and easily led. Superstitions lie at its roots; its trees of knowledge draw deeply from them.

What, then, has Jerusalem to do with The Academy of Athens? Precisely nothing. You cannot test truth while lying upon an irrational bed of self-imposed, self-contradictory deceit.

Athens remains seduced and transfixed by the myths and contradictions of ancient, pagan primitivism. Its Academy is a crock.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Integrity--It's a Big Matter

It's Capitalism, Jim, But Not as We Know It

Over recent months we have seen some of the largest and apparently most powerful financial institutions in the United States fail. Understandably, people are panicked. They do not know how far things will go. Fear and financial manic depression is the order of the day. When people are fearful of losing their money they “run for the hills” so to speak, and try to put their savings and financial assets into things they regard as safe. What they regard as safe on any given day can vary.

One of the key reasons fear takes over is when people do not understand what is happening—or more precisely, why it is happening. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that these unprecedented events mean the end of the world as we know it. Some have openly argued that the collapse of these vast institutions means the end of capitalism—implying that Karl Marx was right after all and that capitalism is so internally contradicted that it will self-destruct.

Others have argued that there appears to be a critical mass to institutions—that when companies get to a certain size they become essentially ungovernable, and spin out of control. This makes them even more large and reckless—and in the end they become so large that their collapse threatens the financial system itself. Thus, the need is to regulate in some way to keep companies smaller and more manageable.

It turns out, however, that the issues are very simple—at least in concept.In the most recent debacle age old problems have been evident, even though their particular manifestation may have been unusual.

Let's see if we can identify some of the key problems.

1.Key financial institutions artificially protected and propped up by Government. In the US, the two semi-government mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been artificially protected from competitive market forces. As a consequence they were given a free ride, and able to grow exponentially with little regard for consequences and risks.

We have seen this pattern many times over, but in the case of Fannie and Freddie they provided much of the money for the home mortgage market in the United States. They were implicitly guaranteed by the US government—a hangover from the days when it was thought to be a good thing that the government ensured that every citizen had the opportunity to own his own house, yet banks were reluctant to lend at the time.

So Fannie and Freddie could go out and borrow money at low interest rates (because of the implicit government guarantee) and lend to home owners at far higher interest rates.

Add to this some populist left-wing politics and the recipe for disaster is perfect. The Congress (both houses) had a majority of left-wing, socialist politicians who believed that the poor had a right to own a house and that social justice demanded that regardless of their financial situation they should be able to own one. Suddenly, reckless lending became a social good and a moral imperative.

Management of these two institutions (through donations and “lobbying”—read bribery) effectively conspired with these politicians to ensure that no regulation controlling them was successful. Meanwhile management was paying itself exorbitantly outrageous bonuses and salaries because of relentless increasing earnings.

But when the housing market began to decline, Freddie and Fannie were left with huge pools of worthless mortgages. People were defaulting left, right and centre. It was a classic credit collapse.

Moral of the story: when governments protect, prop up, or subsidize commercial enterprises the outcome is always bad, and more often than not financially disastrous.

2.Unbacked (naked) derivatives. The explosion in size of the derivatives market has been unbelievable—dwarfing the actual market from which they are derived. Now the variety and complexity of these instruments is so extreme that usually people just shake their heads and walk away. But at root, derivatives are very, very simple conceptual instruments.

At base, derivative instruments are designed to function as an insurance policy against an untoward event taking place. Just as a homeowner will insure the contents of his home against an untoward event such as fire, theft, or an earthquake, so derivatives are designed to insure owners of assets against untoward losses through prices or values going up or down.

In concept, derivatives are very useful even as insurance is useful. They serve as effective, risk reducing tools. Now, in the ordinary functioning of an insurance company, the company will keep assets on its balance sheet so that it can pay out on any claims. Or it will seek additional insurance from other (re-insurance) companies when its own resources are insufficient. In other words, the insurance policies are backed by capital and financial assets. This is an implicit contractual obligation between the insurance company and the insured person, deriving from the insurance contract itself.

A derivative is no different. In general terms,the owner of the derivative has a legal, contractual right to demand payment from the seller of the derivative if goods or assets decline in value over a set period of time. The owner of the derivative contract can require the other party to “make good.” So far, so good.

However, the problem has arisen insofar as sellers of derivatives were not required to keep sufficient capital to ensure that they could honour their contractual commitments. Instead, they were allowed to “nett off.” Now, once again, this concept is very simple. If I write and sell a derivative contract that will require me to pay money to the owner of the contract if a (say) certain currency went lower over a period of time, I am exposed to risk if that particular currency were to decline. If however, I write and sell a derivative contract that promises the opposite—that is, that another owner will pay me if that same certain currency declines, then my net risk is zero. I have no risk.

Oh, but here's the rub. All I have done is effectively passed the risk on to someone else—to a counter party. I am relying that in the event I will have to pay out on my first contract, the owner of the second derivative will also be able to pay me. I don't actually need to own any capital myself to back the first derivative contract I created and sold. I am relying on the capital resources of someone else. Well, not quite. Due to "netting" my counterparty does not have any capital either: it just has its own set of "netted" off liabilities to another counterparty. Effectively the derivatives are all naked: there is little or no capital backing them. It is one vast daisy chain with no financial substance.

This ability to “nett off” derivatives contracts is the key reason why they have ballooned in size and number. No capital was needed: it was one great big money-go-round. Therefore, derivatives contracts could be written without constraint.

Now derivative contracts can be very lucrative, generating nice fees. So the leading investment banks on Wall Street (of which there were relatively few—and even fewer after recent days) made billions of dollars in fees through writing and selling derivatives—then turning around and cancelling out their risks by selling “opposite” derivatives, to, well other investment banks—of which there were precious few.

Several years ago it was pointed out that eighty percent of the global derivatives trade by volume volume was conducted between eight investment banks in the United States, as they bought and sold to each other, seeking to “nett off.”

What resulted was a huge concentration of risk in the hands of a very few large institutions--none of whom had adequate capital to support their risks. All it would take is for one link in the “counter party” chain to fail, and they would all fail. So, Lehman Bros going bankrupt is a perfect example. The other Wall Street investment banks would all own billions of dollars of derivative contracts which depend upon Lehman Bros as their “nett off” counter party, relying upon Lehmans to paying up in the case of certain events. Now that Lehmans is bankrupt, all of these Wall Street banks suddenly have hugely reduced “offsets” to their derivative risks. Overnight they desperately need to find more capital, or themselves go into bankruptcy. The weakest link has broken the whole chain.

Moral of the story: “netting off” allowed a huge expansion of derivatives liability and concentration of risk to occur, with little or no requirement for capital to back and support the obligations.

With these two problems (subsidized, uncontrolled federally supported mortgage companies out of control, and the ability for investment banks to "nett off" derivatives) we have all the ingredients for financial nuclear fission. The actual nuclear reaction began when financial derivates related to mortgages began to become popular--and the two problems merged into one great financial bubble.

So, these two problems effectively lie at the root of all the troubles. If these two problems had not been allowed to exist, there would have been no global problem: no bubble, no vast expansion of debt and credit, no huge unsupportable out-of-control institutions, no systemic collapses. We are not saying that there would have been no problems, or business failures, or bankruptcies. There will always be those. However, what we are saying is that there would have been no widespread systemic collapse requiring intervention by most of the governments of the world.

Is this a failure of capitalism? Absolutely. It turns out that if markets are going to work they have to be as free as possible from fraudulent activity. Any commercial contract must be backed by performance of the terms of contract: if the terms are not met, theft has occurred and judicial retribution must result. No market can long survive without this ethical and juridical foundation. All markets depend upon truth and trust if they are to survive. Therefore, any financial contractual arrangement has to be backed by sufficient capital to meet all potential obligations. Otherwise it is just flat out fraud.

This means that netting off financial derivatives must be severely regulated and curtailed and that the significant proportion of derivatives instruments must be held as liabilities on balance sheet and appropriate capital adequacy measures required by law. It also means that all government subsidies, protection, and implicit guarantees of private and semi-private financial institutions must be done away with.

Such measures will go a long long way to preventing such a systemic collapse ever occurring again. But this will only occur if the overwhelming consensus in the United States (or any country for that matter) is that integrity and honesty at every point is more important than personal or political advantage, making money, and advancing financially. And what are the chances of that being the case? Well, maybe we will see at least some steps in the right direction.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them

Integrity: It's a Small Matter

It's Election Time, and truth is unimportant.

We have repeatedly asserted that there are only two cities or kingdoms in the world: the City of Belief and the City of Unbelief. In principle these two Cities are contra-polar opposites. There is no common ground. They see every aspect of creation differently. In actual historical experience, however, neither City lives entirely consistently with its fundamental principles. Each City is more or less consistent at any one time.

For Jerusalem being more consistent with its fundamental principles means that its citizens and culture are comprehensively conformed to, the rule and law of Christ Jesus as revealed in His Word. For Athens, being consistent with its fundamental principles means that its citizens and culture are comprehensively conformed to its father and leader, the Devil himself.

As Athens becomes more ascendant, its people and institutions become increasingly diabolical in thought, word, and deed. The City comes more to reflect its true head.

They say that upon declaration of war, the first casualty is truth. In Athens also, truth is the first casualty. Its head is the Father of Lies, declared our Lord. Therefore, the more consistent the City of Unbelief comes to be with its head, the Devil, the more lies and untruth come to dominate its private and public discourse.

In Jerusalem (again, in principle) one's word is an extension of self: it is a dependable representation and extension of oneself. To utter a word is to offer an implicit contract to all hearers—they can trust their lives and property to one's word. As they used to say in more Christian times: “his word is his bond.” This primacy upon truth, the word being an extension of self, conveying an implicit warrant of truth and reliability, is derived from the Lord Himself.

Unlike the Father of Lies, when God speaks He speaks truthfully and He obligates Himself to carrying out what He has said. Thus, the holy man welcomed into God's presence, is one who walks with integrity . . . and speaks truth in his heart; he does not slander his neighbour, and swears even to his own hurt and does not change. (Psalm 15:2—4).

In Athens, truth is a worthless commodity to be sold or traded at a whim for personal advantage. Slander, misrepresentation, distortion, exaggeration, and flat-our lying are all the order of the day. The “truth” becomes subservient to a wider, more malevolent purpose. That purpose has to do with trampling over others, taking advantage of them, putting one over them, and getting on top. Truth becomes something to adhere to when it is advantageous to do so, otherwise, it is entirely worthless. In Athens, truth is a wax nose.

In this diabolical Athenian world, speech and words become nothing more than tools of manipulation, designed to achieve a certain effect or outcome. Artifice and craftiness are the order of the day.

In New Zealand we are currently going through a general election. All the players—almost universally—are Athenians, representing that wretched City. This is to be expected in our temporarily post-Christian world. But some of the players are more in tune with their true head than others. One way this is manifest is their relative commitment to the truth.

Those political leaders and actors who use words for affectation, who lie, who manipulate the truth, who misrepresent, exaggerate, slander and distort in an effort to win others over to their side—those political leaders show they have entered the ultimate diabolical pact. They have sold themselves to the Devil. They are his true servants. They are following in the footsteps of their true father, the Father of Lies.

As we said above, at any one time in history, Athens is more or less consistent with its fundamental principles and with its true head. In our day, given that Athens is temporarily ascendant, and Jerusalem is weak, it is not surprising that many who seek to lead the City would be emboldened in their efforts to walk after the steps and in the counsel of the Devil himself.

But those in Jerusalem can identify them relatively easily. Anyone who seeks to win electoral favour by dissembling, lying, misrepresentation, exaggeration, slander, and distortion shows thereby that they are truly of their father, the Devil, who has always been the Father of Lies from the very beginning.

In Athens, truth is despised as a small matter. In Jerusalem, truth is sacred.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

We've Been Here Before

Ancient Human Detritus Found in Melting Glaciers

As global temperatures fall, ice continues to melt in the northern hemisphere. At least one reputable scientific study has estimated that this in part is due to the greater intensity of the sun's effects arising from substantially clearer, less-polluted atmosphere in Europe.

Be that as it may, melting glaciers in the European Alps have led to some exciting discoveries. It turns out that human remains have been discovered in the ice—indicating the former human habitation of areas which have been until recently inhabitable because of the freezing conditions. These remains are estimated to be dated at 3,000BC. An arrow quiver, made of birch bark, has been discovered, along with a bow and arrows.

Surprisingly, a lot of additional organic matter has been discovered also, including leather, parts of shoes and a trouser leg. From later periods, a bronze age pin has been discovered, as well as Roman coins and a fibula—items dating from the early Middle Ages. These have been found in places where human beings have just not been able to go within living memory without special equipment and, then, only temporarily.

In addition, researchers in Canada's Yukon region have found evidence of farming and domesticated animals at high altitudes in areas usually covered in snow and ice.

The emergence of these relics from out of the melting ice are being used by climate change protagonists as “proof” of global warming. Unfortunately, the proof is too much. What it demonstrates beyond any doubt is that there have been periods in the past when the earth was considerably warmer than levels reached at the end of last century.

Consternation has been expressed recently about the opening up of the North West Passages due to melting ice in the Arctic region. What is conveniently forgotten is that the Northern passages were first navigated by Amundsen in 1903-6!

Without doubt, much warmer temperatures in the past cannot have been caused by man-made “greenhouse gases”. This incontrovertible evidence alone has to cast a pall of deep scepticism over modern global warming theories. So much so, that anyone who is not deeply sceptical of anthropogenic global warming theories is either ignorant of the past, or has chosen to blind themselves to the historical evidence.

Ignorance or blind prejudice are not appropriate foundations on which to build a monumental edifice of climate “mitigation” policies funded by economy-vitiating taxes.

The abject foolishness and superstition of Unbelief never cease to amaze us.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The S-Files

Yet Another Ideological Burp

Contra Celsum feels compelled to nominate Michael Cullen for an S-Award

Michael Cullen is the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the Minister of Finance.

Dr Michael Cullen deserves to be recognized for drawing what is arguably the longest bow in human history. Hearing of the takeover of Wall Street Investment bank, Merrill Lynch, Dr Cullen wasted no time causally connecting that takeover-before-collapse with the fact that his political opponent, John Key once worked for the same Merrill Lynch—albeit eight years ago

Dr Cullen is reported as saying:

“Given his (John Key's) background and the fact that Merrill Lynch has just gone belly up, I would have thought New Zealanders should draw the conclusion that you wouldn’t put a man like that in charge of the New Zealand economy.”

Dr Cullen deserves recognition for his “ideological burp” on two grounds:

1.The allegation that his opponent cannot be trusted to be in charge of the New Zealand economy because he worked for a company years ago which has subsequently got into financial difficulties is so long and so tenuous that it can only be described as clutching at desperate straws.

2.Secondly, it invites reasonable assessment of Dr Cullen's performance as one who has actually been in charge of the New Zealand economy for nine years. During Dr Cullen's watch over twenty finance companies have collapsed, leaving mum and dad investors with huge personal financial pain and millions of dollars out of pocket. If John Key is somehow responsible for Merrill Lynch's difficulties because he worked there eight years ago, Dr Cullen must be totally and personally responsible for every finance company collapse in New Zealand during the time he has been in charge.

If John Key's competence to run the New Zealand is in question due to the purchase of Merrill Lynch, Dr Cullen's incompetence, malfeasance, and dereliction of duty in being in charge of the New Zealand economy must by now have been completely exposed. Voters who have lost money in finance company collapses and scandals are perfectly entitled to hold Dr Cullen responsible for their misfortune—by his own admission.

Dr Michael Cullen, Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister: S-Award, Class II, for actions that have been Stupid, Short Sighted and Stupefied

Monday, 15 September 2008

Meditation on the Text of the Week

Forsaken--for a Reason

But Zion said, 'The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.'
Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion upon the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
Isaiah 49: 14—16
How do God's people respond when the forces of Unbelief are so much stronger and pervasive than Belief? That depends upon the circumstances. There are two kinds of such circumstances—and two only. The first circumstance is where the Kingdom of God is confronting widespread and dominant unbelief as part of a missionary beachhead. The ground had hitherto belonged to Unbelief; now the ambassadors of King Jesus are coming to proclaim His Lordship by preaching His Gospel of reconciliation with God.

The second is where the Kingdom had previously been strong and dominant, but is now in declension. The land is once again being laid waste to the ravages of injustice, extortion, corruption, murder, idolatry and dehumanisation. Unbelief is once again ascendant.

Our text is uttered during a time and circumstance belonging to the second category. The covenant people of God had been strong, and they had lived under the blessings of God Almighty. Now, Zion lay helpless, exposed, wasted and ruined. The powers of Unbelief had triumphed and had crushed God's people, whose numbers were shrinking by the day. The destruction of Jerusalem under the hand of the relentless Babylonians was drawing near.

Such, also, is the circumstance of our day in the West. It is a harder condition to cope with. It leads to the lament found in our text: “the Lord has forsaken us”. We are cast off. We are alone.

One of the most painful aspects of this circumstance is that always—without exception—always, the weakness and declension has come about because of our own sin, disobedience, and unfaithfulness. The Lord had indeed deserted us because we first deserted Him. We turned aside from His commandments.

We were wiser than God in our own eyes. We had sought to make a little common ground with Unbelief. We had tolerated, even encouraged, compromises that would gain us the respect of Unbelief—or so our fathers thought, at the time. It is not that they openly turned to Unbelief. Our fathers just wanted to be acknowledged by Unbelievers and respected by them. Therefore, we began by trying to reduce the offence of the Gospel. We tried to stand upon Unbelieving ground and present God and His people in terms and ways that would seem reasonable to Unbelieving men.

The people of God rarely turn to open apostasy; rather they seek their security and rest in syncretism—in blending the beliefs and practices of Unbelief with Belief. They seek a common, neutral ground where they can stand shoulder to shoulder with Unbelief and all together be "reasonable" men.

The desire to appear reasonable, and therefore respectable to Unbelief has been our undoing in the West. Human Reason has been elevated to a position of honour and respect above God and His Holy Word. God and His Word have been made subject to our ratiocinations—we have sought to follow and worship God, but only to the extent that Reason approbates and approves—which is to say, only if Unbelief approves. For it has ever been, since Eden, that Satan has striven to entice God's people to subject God and His Word to “reasonable” examination and testing.

Of course, it is always true that if man tests and establishes God, then his god is no more than an idol. The two driving motives which led our fathers into this deadly path were, firstly, a desire to be respectable in one's own eyes, and, then, a desire to be respectable in the eyes of Unbelievers. Above all, I must appears reasonable to myself—for then I can stand and cloak myself in reasonableness in my urbane discussions with Unbelief.

So, since God's people have been embarrassed by God, and sought to make Him more reasonable, so God has forsaken us. As a consequence, the vice of Unbelief has grown in size and strength to where God's people are being squeezed and crushed on every hand.

But that is not the end. For our text tells us that God will not forget us. He cannot forget us. His love and faithfulness transcend our wretched "reasonable" idolatry. He has inscribed us on the palms of His hands. God has tattooed us on His hands, as it were that He might never forget us.

So, He will come again amongst us. But what will be the sign of His coming? How will we know that our warfare and punishment is over? This will be the sign of our restoration—when we come to hate and utterly reject reasonableness and long instead for the purity and blessing of simple faith and obedience. Trust and obey—for there is no other way.

This will be the sign that He has turned again to His people and regarded their desperate cry—when His people come to abhor the “neutral” ground of reasonableness and stand, once again, in humility before the Living God.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

ChnMind 2.12 Family Wealth

The Family Has a Duty to Amass Capital

We have argued that within the Kingdom of God, the Lord has stipulated three fundamental institutions: the Family, the Church, and the State. Each has its specific duties and responsibilities laid out by the Lord Jesus Christ. Each must answer to Him. Each must respect and honour the others as they respectively seek to carry out their Christ-commanded duties. Each must fear to intrude or interfere in the other institutions, or seek to break out of the God-set bounds. Within the Kingdom, the constitutional documents prohibit such destructive behaviour on the part of the Family, the Church, and the State.

As the Spirit of God builds up the City of Belief; as more and more communities come under its sway, these basic institutions and the protections and prohibitions surrounding each will come to be reflected in a particular society's laws, conventions, covenants, contracts, and creeds.

We have argued that the primary role of the family is to bear and transmit the faith of the Covenant down through the generations. It is the duty of parents to raise their children to walk after the Lord, even as they have done. The duty to teach, admonish, train, discipline, instruct, and raise children to maturity is absolutely fundamental to the Family's duties before God. Neither State nor Church can interfere, suborn, or intrude. State and Church have a duty to help and encourage and respect the Family as it goes about this task—but not second guess, or undermine, or replace.

If the State were to say, “We will educate your children. We will run a universal state education system to ensure that all your children can read and write, and learn about civics and other interesting things” it would be acting unconstitutionally, and would be violating its God-given place. In short, it would be acting in a treasonous manner.

We have also argued that a second fundamental role of the Family is to be the primary institution of welfare. The Family must care for its own; it must feed, clothe, and shelter. It turns out that there are four concentric rings of Family welfare responsibility.

In this regard its first sphere of welfare responsibility is to wife and children. But it also has to consider the wider family—particularly those family members who are destitute or afflicted—such as any widowed or orphaned or who have fallen upon hard times. This is the second ring of welfare responsibility.

The third sphere is fellow Christian brethren. We are commanded especially to do good to those who are of the household of faith. So, as we encounter fellow-believers who are in need, the Family has a duty to reach out and provide assistance.

The fourth sphere is any person we encounter who needs our help. This is the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Thus in Galatians 6:9,10 we are commanded to do good especially to those of the household of faith, but not exclusively. Paul commands that we also do good to all men. The person we encounter in need is the fourth sphere of Family welfare responsibility.

The Church also has a role and responsibility in welfare. We have seen that it is to play a back-up role, helping out when all other Family resources have been expended. The Church's role is to ensure that no-one falls through the cracks. The State, however, as we shall see later, is explicitly forbidden by God from engaging in the duties and responsibilities of welfare. Its only responsibility towards the poor and indigent is to make sure its judgments and its laws do not discriminate towards the poor—either positively or negatively. Justice must be blind and show no favoritism.

Now there are some wise and beneficial consequences—intended consequences—that flow from Jerusalem's insistence upon the Family as the primary welfare institution. Firstly, the Scriptures are completely realistic about the sinful tendency of human being towards laziness and bludging and theft. The Proverbs are full or scathing criticism and warnings about the sluggard. Family based welfare is always personal welfare: it knows the individuals, the persons, their lifestyles, their attitudes. It knows whether family members are deserving of help, or whether they are just lazy and bludging. Families know whether any family members are unwilling to work and help themselves. The Family is by far and above the best institution to insist upon accountability on the part of those who are needy.

Secondly, a Family based welfare institution strengthens the family as an institution. As the covenant community expects and requires families to take care of their own, the Family as an institution is respected, honoured, and built up. If one is needy, to be related to a particular family is vital; family ties become far more important. Family connections become valued.

Thirdly, Family based welfare is far more likely to occur within the bounds of natural love and affection—which is to say, it will be up-building and encouraging and not impersonal and degrading. Moreover, it will obligate welfare recipients far more effectively and powerfully to be thankful, and show thankfulness by getting off welfare as quickly as possible, so that, in turn, the former welfare recipients can extend care to others.

Finally, levels of welfare support are automatically self-regulating. There is no artificial bureaucratic “standard” of poverty. There is no artificial poverty line which determines that one should receive welfare or not. The standard is relative to the living standards of each individual family.

But this begs a significant question: How will families get the resources they need in order to extend loving welfare to wider family members? An obvious answer is that within Jerusalem the State is not the rapacious monster that it is within Athens. In that City the government has become a remorseless tyrant, demanding more and more of the wealth and income of the Family, extracting it by the force of unjust laws. In Jerusalem, whilst government itself is deep and pervasive, the role of the State is much reduced. Families are left with much more income and capital to deploy in family welfare.

But this is only a partial answer to the question. The fact is that every family must see itself (and be told, if it fails to see) as deeply obligated to work hard, and amass capital so that it might help the weak. Paul's final address to the Ephesian Church sets it out:
I have coveted no-one's silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
Acts 20:33—35
The reason each person is to work hard is that they have so many other people to take care of. And if anyone thinks that this is not true in their particular case, they are simply ignorant of Scripture. But more than that, the Scriptures make it very clear that we have a duty to lay up an inheritance, not only for our children, but also for our grandchildren.

In Proverbs 13:22 we read: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children.” The context makes it clear that it is capital that is being spoken of, not the inheritance of a godly tradition, or an example, or a testimony of faith—vital though such things are. The parallelism to the statement above says, “And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Clearly the text is speaking of an actual monetary inheritance, or an inheritance of riches, wealth, and capital.

In modern Athens, the State has become the uber-parent. The State has acted in rebellion against God, and has sought to take over Family duties and responsibilities, such as education and welfare. The State has become both Teacher and Provider. In order to fund this it must rip families to pieces—and the key tool to do this is steep, progressive, insatiable taxation.

The Family in Athens has been disenthroned and now lies disembowelled. Stripped of its wealth, its members look to the State as their real family. They give little or no thought to their responsibilities to wider family members: if they fall on hard times, they are pointed to the nearest Department of Social Welfare office. They give little or no thought to laying up an inheritance for their children. Still less they could not even imagine their responsibilities to their grandchildren. In Athens the Family has turned upon itself to aide and abet its own destruction. The basic ethic of Family in Athens has become: “Get all you can! Can all you get! Poison the rest.” The children are on their own. And the children grow up to disown their parents.

In Athens, the Family has become little more than a transient boarding house.

In Jerusalem the Family once again is honoured and feared. It is expected and required to be the primary institution of welfare for all men. To that end, and so that the Family will have the resources to do its job, the heads of households are to work exceedingly hard, save diligently, and provide for dependants. But, more, each household must strive to lay up an inheritance for the next generations—both children and grandchildren.

In receiving that inheritance, generations in their turn are to regard such gifts as a sacred trust. Money passed down is money to be passed on. It can be used for a time to generate income to support those in need. But each generation must strive to add to the capital received, and pass still more on to the servants and stewards who will come after.