Winsome Words 11/23/14

Someday, in years to come, you’ll be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow, of your life. But the real struggle is here, now, in these quiet weeks. Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long-continued process. Phillips Brooks.

Is Capitalism Working?

We are in the midst of experiencing the killing off of the middle class. When the bank bailouts of 2009 were done in such a way that the middle class had to pay for risky bank ventures, both Democrats and Republicans agreed that “street guy” had to take the hit. Overnight the wealth of the middle class virtually evaporated. Black families lost 53% of their wealth.

The question is, if you assume capitalism is working, who is it working for? Wages, in terms of purchasing power, hit their high in 1973, and long gone are the days when a single income earner of the middle class could support a family with a six room house and two cars. Something has gone terribly wrong, and it is incumbent upon us to find out what that is (though a good number of people think they already know what that is) and fix it.

Radio Open Source is a left leaning program I listen to regularly, not because I agree but because it is thoughtful and no one screams. Here is one of the programs in a series that Christopher Lydon is hosting on capitalism. It is worth a listen.

I have mentioned it before, but if I had to do my ministry all over again, I would invest a significant portion of my energies to economically protecting the working man from banks and the financial industry and the politicians who are in bed with them. The devastation they are working on the middle class is extreme. They are being enslaved. People’s only way out is to find a way to become rich and rise above the storm. This, by definition, is beyond what “street guy” has in his arsenal.

Make no mistake about it. This is a Republican and Democrat alliance we are talking about. President Obama is no savior of the working man. His policies “foamed the runway” for banks, to use the words of his Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner.  From the Huffington Post -

At the meeting, Elizabeth Warren, then chair of a congressional oversight panel established in 2008 to oversee the bailouts, questioned Geithner about HAMP’s (Home Affordable Mortgage Program) ability to help homeowners — not the last time she would grill him. “In defense of the program, Geithner finally blurted out, ‘We estimate that they can handle ten million foreclosures, over time,’ referring to the banks. ‘This program will help foam the runway for them.’”

See “Bailout: An Inside Account Of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street.”

We Were Going There Anyway!! President Obama Took the Shorter Path

I am a conservative and in no way pleased with our nation’s lawlessness and the increasing irrelevance of the Constitution. The President has added to the chaos. This is one of my consistent concerns about his Presidential “unleadership.” He does not lead. He upsets and confuses in a petulant manner. For him there is no honorable opposition. He demeans and diminishes those with sincerely held convictions that are different than his own.

However, he is doing now what we were going to do anyway. We were not going to do major deportation of those we allowed to be in this country illegally. Nor were we going to continue to tolerate the dissonance created by allowing these immigrants into our country but making sure they never became part of America but only cheaper labor made available to other American’s aspirations. For years there was no political will to shut this down until it became too public to ignore.

My hope is that this is the road to full border security and a lesson learned the hard way. Like slavery, when we learned the devastation that comes from an unquenchable desires to have cheap sources of labor, we again sought the same and again reap the dark consequences.

My hope is also that we will reflect more deeply on what it means to be a Constitutional democratic republic. Even as conservatives fire themselves up for pushback and “street guy” is stirred by the phenomenon of rewarding bad behavior, maybe we will flee back to being a nation of laws and quit playing with utopian schemes that demand totalitarian methods. Utopian dreams always lead to totalitarian methods. Democracy is never nourished by ignoring laws passed by the elected representatives of the people. The people will get the message that the game is fixed and their anger will grow.

Let’s lick our wounds and get back to work.

Roger Olson Has Done The Unimaginable – Questioning Jonathan Edwards’ Fanboys

Yep, it’s true. Someone in Evangelicalism has taken on Edwards. Well, sort of. Olson has a high regard for him but still has the courage to point out some things in Edwards that require a bit more carefulness.

He posted this a couple of years ago. Here is his main focus.

Need I go on making my case that Edwards’ theology contains massive flaws? The single greatest flaw is the character of God. This inevitably makes God the author of sin and evil (something Edwards reluctantly admitted) and makes sin and evil not really awful at all but necessary for the greater good. It’s not just that God brings good out of them. For Edwards they are necessary for God’s full glorification.

Of course, this is not just an argument against Edwards, or even primarily Edwards. It is his critique of High Calvinism in general. But Edwards is explicit in a way that other High Calvinists are often not.

He does not outright accuse Edwards of panentheism but he comes close. This is the view that God needed to create the world, that it is necessary for his own glory. This is NOT pantheism, which identifies the world with God. Panentheism can lead to some very dangerous concepts of God, one of which is whether or not God has a free will to create or not to create. To say the creation is necessary brings into question God’s aseity, or self-sufficiency.

For me one of Edwards’ great contributions was his assertion of immediate conversion through new birth. In Puritan thought conversion was seen through the eyes of a more gradualistic model, sort of like classes in school. They emphasized perseverance and the reality that no could know definitively that one was truly a child of God. Edwards’ defense of immediate conversion gave a platform for the First Great Awakening and the acceptance of the preaching of George Whitefield. Of course, the great scandal of Edwards was his belief that church members stood in need of conversion.

He quotes Charles Finney who said of Edwards “The man I adore; his errors I deplore.” Finney has his own set of issues, for sure. But his rejection of High Calvinism was not in mind one of them.

BTW, Roger Olson and Ben Witherington give some of the most credible reasons for moving away from High Calvinism. Both of them have paid a price for this conviction. I am particularly concerned that Ben Witherington, as admired as he is, is not given a larger platform among Evangelical laymen across denominational lines. In the world of scholarship he is first chair at all kinds of scholarly gatherings, but he does not seem, to me, to appear at cross denominational gatherings the way our more Calvinistic brethren do. This only goes to prove what has been asserted all along, that Calvinism remains the default position in Evangelical leadership. Arminianism is barely whispered, and if believed the name is still hardly used.