Haiti and Israel: A Study in Contrasts

One cannot consider Haiti without asking a perennial question. Why do some nations flourish while others seemed forever trapped in poverty?

Observers have suggested many causes, including colonialism, lack of resources, or corruption. But each of these capture only an aspect of problem. As we have argued at this blog and in our books and papers, we believe the root of the problem is worldview. Poverty is the fruit of a people’s mindset, the product of the mental infrastructure of a nation, the result of the moral vision of a culture.

Haiti is the classic case study. Despite the relative bounty of the island of Hispaniola, the second largest island of the West Indies, despite the billions of dollars in international aid that has poured into Haiti, the nation remains miserably poor.

We have written on the tragedy of Haiti here and here. Today I want to share a thoughtful piece by my friend, Marc Mailloux.

My path and Marc’s crossed briefly at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland in the early 70’s. More recently we have become reacquainted. With a background in theology and missions, Marc has spent much of his life living and teaching in France and the French-speaking world of the Caribbean and south Florida.

Marc has served in Haiti and with Haitians for 14 years. His heart has been broken by the poverty of Haiti. His article, “Haiti vs Israel,” is a thoughtful piece on the necessity and power of a Biblical worldview for the transformation of a nation.

Good intentions do not solve the problems of poverty. It is truth that not only sets people free, but puts them on a path to development.

Marc’s article was originally published by GoodNews Florida which has graciously given us permission to repost it here.

Haiti vs. Israel

South Florida residents include a significant number of Haitians and Jews—two people groups of considerably different cultural backgrounds. Amongst the Haitians are a large number of professing believers in Jesus Christ, much larger than the percentage of Jews who would recognize Yeshua as the Messiah. The same is true for the country of Haiti itself where, according to Operation World (French edition of 1994) evangelicals comprise at least 21% of the population compared with Israel where less than 1% of the population confesses Christ.

Haiti has roughly 9.5 million people in an area of 10,715 square miles. It’s a mostly fertile land blessed with a warm tropical climate and abundant rain. Alas, it has suffered widespread ecological abuse and has gone from 60% forested in 1915 to less than 2% today. Israel has 7.8 million people (80% Jewish) on 8,019 square miles of mostly dry, desert land. But the Israelis have transformed that land into a world leader in irrigation techniques as well as medical and computer science, in spite of spending around 50% of its national budget on military defense.

Question: In light of the Lord’s promises of blessings for his people (Deuteronomy 7:12- 15; 15:4-5 etc.), how is it that Israel is so technologically advanced and prosperous while Haiti is so appallingly destitute? How does one explain the fact that the Jews, in only 64 years since 1948, have transformed a tiny stretch of middle eastern desert into an island of prosperity in a sea of Muslim underdevelopment, whereas Haiti— a French economic superpower in the 18th century—continues to stagnate in filth and underdevelopment with almost 75% of its people illiterate? Is there a biblical explanation for these horrendous discrepancies?

A key to answering these questions might require a better understanding of the residual effects of God’s grace and blessings. In Deuteronomy 5:9 the Lord affirms that he “visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him, but shows mercy to thousands who keep his commandments.” In other words, the actions of the parents tend to carry over to their descendants, both for good and for evil.

On the positive side, the Jews were the first people to possess God’s oracles with the all-important teachings of the so-called cultural mandate: God’s order to subdue the earth, keep it, and care for it (Genesis 1:28; 2:15). They have generally, albeit imperfectly, passed this wisdom on to their children including many who, alas, no longer walk in the faith. Subduing the earth has become almost second nature to the Jews whose tendency to dominate the intellectual and cultural world is legendary. A Jewish joke says that life begins neither at conception nor at birth but when your child arrives home from law school or medical school with diploma in hand. Not so for many other people, including the Haitians who have not understood the importance of literacy for man’s vocation to subdue the earth and care for it.

What’s more, the Jews have passed on this biblically proactive trait of caring for the environment to their posterity. This has resulted in generations of residual blessings which, if I understand Scripture correctly, are available to any who apply the Lord’s statutes and follow his biblical “directions for use” ordinances. In addition to its message of salvation, the Bible is also God’s instruction manual to man for getting along in this fallen world. Surely the Jews have understood this better than most, hence their remarkable domination in world affairs. Though they represent scarcely 0.2% of the world’s population, they have won almost 20% of all the Nobel Prizes that have ever been awarded! The world’s 1.3 billion Muslims have won only 3 Nobel Prizes.

But what can we say about the large number of professing Christians in Haiti? Why do they not exert a greater transforming influence on their nation? Essentially, they haven’t been taught to think biblically because they’re largely uninstructed in the Word. The fact is that most Haitians are descendants of a people whose ancestors have bequeathed them a persistent tradition of voodoo superstition and occultism. Indeed, Haiti traces the origin of its very independence from France to a gathering of voodoo priests— the infamous Cérémonie du Bois Caiman of August 1791 when the country was consecrated to the “enemy of the French God,” i.e. Satan! Lest the reader think that this is merely a quaint historical anecdote, know that this diabolical ceremony is repeated regularly by voodoo practitioners in Haiti who remain legion. One does not thumb his nose at the Almighty with impunity.

Just as the residual effects of the Lord’s blessings to the Jews subsist in spite of their wide scale rebellion, so has the curse of occultism continued to plague Haiti and thwart the development of that country. The Bible is abundantly clear about the dangers of syncretism against which the Lord warned His people on numerous occasions.

Meanwhile, all is not lost for Haiti. It often takes several generations before the implications of the gospel truth penetrate the hearts of a people and, eventually, transform a nation. What’s needed in Haiti, as anywhere else, is basic biblical instruction for her people to learn to read, understand, and apply the Word of God—the Creator’s recipe for both spiritual and material prosperity. The Haitians are a spiritually receptive people. If they turn from occultism and learn to live by the truths of God’s Word, forsaking the ubiquitous corruption that hinders all efforts at development, then there’s no reason that this Maryland-sized nation of almost 10 million people—with the Lord’s blessings through the transforming power of the gospel—cannot become an island of prosperity.

Marc Mailloux writes about HaitiMarc Mailloux is an evangelistic radio broadcaster (www.radiofloride.com), teaches in the Haitian Institut Biblique et Théologique de la Floride, preaches in Haitian churches, and is developing the IONA teaching ministry in the French speaking Caribbean where he currently directs three IONA programs. Marc blogs at marcmailloux.wordpress.com.

  
Posted in Development, Economic Development, Population, Poverty, Worldview | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Obama Can Deny the Existence of Evil but He Can’t Make Evil Disappear

“The problem with you Americans is that you don’t believe in evil.”

The charge is taken from a work of fiction, but it’s altogether true in fact.

Joel Rosenberg writes about evil in The Last Jihad

That sentence appears in Joel C. Rosenberg’s 2002 novel, The Last Jihad. Rosenberg is a Messianic-Jewish writer and political strategist. He puts the words in the mouth of the fictitious former director of the Israeli Mossad speaking to the head of an FBI Counter Terrorism unit based in Israel.

The two characters are talking about Saddam Hussein’s role in the conflicts in the Middle East. The American position regarded Hussein as either crazy or an habitual liar. The Israeli understanding, born from Hitler’s holocaust, recognized that evil was a more accurate explanation for Hussein’s behavior.

Rosenberg has correctly assessed the American disregard of evil. In the atheistic framework of modern American thought, morality is relative. The concept and language of sin has been purged from the nation. The notion of real evil is a non-starter; moral language has no place in American conversation. Saddam Hussein might be crazy, sick or a chronic liar, but to describe him as evil is to speak nonsense.

An Israeli, on the other hand, looking at the same man and events, sees evil.  Thus Rosenberg’s statement comes from the mouth of the fictitious Israeli Mossad director.

Words such as “evil,” and the concepts they carry, matter. Words have power. When we attempt to erase words from the public vocabulary, consequences follow. We see this in the blindness of the current US administration which seems to believe that terrorists will go away if we stop using the term.

President Obama and his Department of Homeland Security have worked to remove the word “terrorism” from the American lexicon.  Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano replaced “terrorism” with “man-caused disasters.” The former indicated (primarily) Islamists who attack innocent populations of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and secularists. A “man-caused disaster” might be so-called global warming, or the collapse of a shabbily constructed apartment building.

This language shift spawned two adverse results. It fused all non-Muslim violence with Islamist actions, thus diluting consciousness of uniquely Islamist terrorism. Another consequence was the elimination of the term “terrorism” from the American vocabulary. Thus was lost an essential category for national discussion and action.

To abandon the word terrorism was to refocus the national attention away from a particular threat: Jihadism. The US disengaged from the “fight against terrorism,” while the Jihadists continue their relentless march of mayhem and evil through the Middle East, Africa, and beyond. Their intent is to create a global caliphate – a one-world state under Sharia law headed by a political-religious leader known as a caliph.

The word “terrorist” has been banned by a government that denies the reality of evil.

The latest Jihadist installment is the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a Sunni Jihadist group marked by extreme violence: words fail to capture the continued escalation of brutality and inhumanity we are witnessing. ISIS, in sweeping out of Syria, has obliterated the border between Syria and Iraq as the first installment of destroying the notion of modern political states in favor of a borderless caliphate. But we cannot call ISIS terrorists because the word has been banned from the nation’s vocabulary by a government that denies the reality of evil.

Here’s another consequence of the elimination of the word evil: a rise in the frequency of Holocaust denials.

Temple University Adjunct Professor Alessio Lerro recently argued that Jews are exaggerating the extent of the Holocaust to obtain political advantages. Dr. Arthur R. Butz, associate professor of electrical engineering at Northwestern University, is a Holocaust denier. See his article here.

In a free society, people may speak their minds. They may hold positions that are not true. They may even attempt to rewrite history. But when a nation denies the reality of evil, what outcomes might occur?

“The problem with you Americans is that you don’t believe in evil.”

-          Darrow Miller

  
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What Iraq Teaches Us About Cultural Transformation

As ISIS marches through Iraq and Baghdad prepares for battle, the world is asking, “Whence the hard-won gains of intervention by the US and its allies?” 

Bob Osburn writes about IraqThe growing crisis presents opportunity for plenty of rumination and reflection; not all of it helpful. Our friend, Bob Osburn, Executive Director at Wilberforce Academy, has contributed some exceptional insights into the causes and remedies of the crisis underway in northern Iraq now threatening Baghdad.

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WHY CULTURE CANNOT BE COERCED

The battle for Baghdad (which may or may not be underway by the time this blog is posted) is not only a human tragedy, but a painful reminder of how culture can never be coerced.  Because this is so, the thousands of American lives and $1 trillion invested there since the 2003 Iraq War seems like a terrible price to pay for using the wrong weapons to achieve a worthy goal.

In the Winter and Spring of 2003, as the US government was preparing to launch the invasion of Iraq to overthrow the vicious dictator Saddam Hussein, I often spoke to my sons about the probable successes and risks.  Like many, I forecasted a military romp in the park, as was indeed the case.  But, I warned my sons over and over that the people of Iraq, owing first to the lack of democratic government under the long reign of Hussein and, secondly, to the similarly troubling relationship between democracy and most Islamic societies, would be a different matter altogether.  I naively believed that our military planners were fully aware of the giant risk of anarchy following Saddam’s fall and that they would somehow prepare for it. 

Notwithstanding American claims about weapons of mass destruction, the US government saw its mission as liberation.  And, yes, if you take the view that politics and power are the primary force in a society, then America surely succeeded.  Using the coercive power of American military, the political situation in Iraq changed almost overnight.

But societies are far more than the sum of their politics, or, for that matter, their economics. 

Go here for the rest of Bob’s post.

  
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Guinness: The Brand that Made God Look Good

Guinness beer logo Arthur Guinness operated a brewery for the glory of God. You could say he was part of the Monday Church of his generation.

On Sunday Christ followers gather for worship, fellowship, and equipping. On Monday they go all over the city to be the hands and feet of Jesus. This is what we call the Monday Church.

The Monday Church is the fruit of the Reformers and their spiritual offspring. Christians engaged the Cultural Commission to bring change and transformation to their societies. The legacy of the Reformation included the virtues of hard work, excellence, and thrift. When people work hard and save they end up creating wealth. That wealth was not for personal consumption, but to benefit mankind. Personal and corporate wealth was to be used for redemptive purposes.

Guinness was impacted by John Wesley

Following the Reformation came the First Great Awakening (1734-1740), led by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in the American Colonies and John Wesley (1703- 1791) in England. In the New World this movement laid the groundwork for the founding of the United States. In England, the Wesley Revivals transformed the nation and ended slavery. The many people impacted by Wesley included Irishman Arthur Guinness (1725-1803), founder of Guinness Brewery.

Guinness was intrigued by a simple slogan John Wesley wrote to capture virtues of the Protestant work ethic: “Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.” The gospel had social, economic, and political application. Evangelicals were awakened to socially responsibility. This conscience was to be applied by both individual Christians and the companies they created. This is seen in the story of the Guinness family.

downloadHistorian Stephen Mansfield documents the Guinness story in The Search for God and Guinness: A biography of the Beer that Changed the World.

For Arthur Guinness, our calling had two sides, the call of the cross to salvation and the call to work as part of a godly commitment to engage culture. Guinness understood that work was worship. Mansfield writes that the nonconformist faith produced by the Wesley Revival was the “kind of faith that inspires men to make their work in this world an offering to God, to understand craft and discipline, love of labor and skills transferred from father to son as sacred things.”

Today, work is seen as what we do to make money to buy things. The Reformation transformed work from a job to a calling. The Reformers converted “workbenches into altars.”

Arthur Guinness and his brewery became part of this tradition. They labored hard, worked with excellence. They worked to the glory of God. Mansfield notes how the Guinness company culture built on these principles of the Reformation:

Men took pride in their skills and felt their area of responsibility nearly a sacred trust. They spoke of the minutest detail of a process related to brewing as though it was of utmost importance, as though each was a critical part of a vitally significant whole. … they saw their work as an extension of their character, a statement of what kind of men they were. A man’s profession was where he demonstrated to the world who he was ….

This attitude of the sacredness of work propelled the Guinness brand to become what is widely regarded today as the world’s best and most famous beer.

In other words, this view and practice of work generates wealth. But wealth is to be used in socially responsible ways for the greater community to the glory of God. It is not the creation of wealth, but the compassionate use of the wealth, that establishes a godly heritage.

Today a culture of greed marks capitalist societies, whether labelled “capitalist” or “socialist.” In contrast, the gospel of Christ creates a culture of generosity lived out both personally and corporately. The Guinness Brewing Company, through their pursuit of excellence, gave the world the gift of one of the best beers in the world. The wealth that was generated was used to benefit both Guinness employees and the larger community.

This culture of generosity was manifested by the company in many dimensions.

  • Wages 10-20 percent higher than the Irish average
  • Medical and dental care for employees and their families, to retirees and widows of employees
  • Retirement plans funded entirely by the company without employee contributions
  • Savings banks to encourage the virtue of thrift among the employees
  • A savings fund from which employees could borrow to purchase housing
  • Educational opportunities, concerts, and lectures to encourage moral and intellectual development for employees and families
  • Scholarships for employees to attend technical school and, for those qualified, even university
  • Lending libraries and music societies that encouraged employees to think beyond the details of their work
  • An annual paid “Excursion Day” for employees to take families on countryside respite
  • Two pints of dark stout a day

The Guinness company funded employee pensions with zero employee contributions!

When World War I broke out, the Guinness Brewery promised to hold the job of any employee who enlisted. In addition, the company paid the employee half his normal salary while in the service, so he could complement his small service salary and have enough to care for his family!

Guinness treated their employees as fellow human beings, not simply instruments of production. For many generations, Guinness Brewery was known as the best employer in Ireland. As a “Monday Christian,” Arthur Guinness created a culture of generosity that shaped the social responsibility of the company for generations.

Guinness was also generous–socially responsible–to the community. The company

  • Sponsored guilds—associations for the care of animals and the establishment of gardens, and athletic unions to encourage the improvement of health and fitness.
  • Championed the rights of Roman Catholics (even though he himself was a non-conformist Protestant).
  • Ministered medical care to poor people by serving on the board of Meath Hospital
  • Fought for the abolition of dueling.
  • Patronized charities that promoted Gaelic art and culture
  • Founded the first Sunday schools in all of Ireland
  • Founded the Guinness Trust to provide housing for the “laboring poor”
  • Hired Dr. John Lumsden to do public health surveys in communities where Guinness factories were located and developed policies and programs to increase public health.

Arthur_GuinnessThese and many other commendable actions are part of the heritage of evangelical social responsibility in the life of Arthur Guinness, his family, and the world-famous Guinness Brewery. Here is an example of the Monday Church at work.

-          Darrow Miller

 

  
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Is Capitalism the Best Means of Social Responsibility?

capitalism a red flag

Photo by Manuel González Olaechea

Too often, the word “capitalism” is the red flag that enrages the bull of social justice. But I would argue that what we call capitalism today is a caricature of the real thing. It shares some of the characteristics of true capitalism but without its inherent sense of social responsibility.

For generations, capitalism referred to an economic system flowing from what Max Weber identified as the Protestant (Work) Ethic. This ethic was preached from the Reformation pulpits of Europe. It featured three key principles: the dignity of work, the virtue of thrift (delayed gratification), and charity (personal-responsible care for members of the community). Hard work, coupled with a commitment to the pursuit of  excellence and thrift, leads to the formation of capital. When the virtue of generosity (social responsibility) is added you have true capitalism.

Wealth does not come from the ground as materialists like to claim. Wealth is a product of human innovation and creativity. The creation of wealth comes from the mind. For this reason, economist Michael Novak argues that the word capital is derived from the Latin word caput – head. The human mind is the source or fount of wealth.

What the world knows today as capitalism could better be called Hedonistic Consumerism. Many Western economies are based on hedonism. They are characterized by unbridled consumption and instant consumer gratification. Another modern corruption of true capitalism is Crony Capitalism, profits derived from close relationships between powerful political interests and the business community. A third perversion is Predatory Capitalism, maximum profits as fast as possible without regard for ethical or moral constraints, without consideration of consequences in the community.

These distortions are not new. The ancients called it chrematistics – the art of getting rich. Chrematistics was an economic order marked by manipulation of property and wealth so as to maximize short-term exchange values. The focus is on individual consumption. Wealth is created and spent without thought of being socially responsible.

Chrematistics stands in contrast to what the ancients called oikonomia. This Greek word literally means “the stewardship of the house.” From this word we derive our English word “economics.” Oikonomia focused on the management of a household so as to increase its value to all its members over time. The focus is on benefiting the community. Wealth is created with an eye to social responsibility.

The table below captures some of the contrast between chrematistics and oikonomia.

Oikonomia Chrematistics
Definition Stewardship of the house The art of getting rich
Activity Management of a household Manipulation of property and wealth
Time frame Increase value over the long-term Maximize short-term profits
Outcome Benefitting the individual and the community Individual consumption
Moral concerns Socially responsible Socially irresponsible
Modern parlance Stock investment Stock trading
Old-world parlance Plant an olive grove Rent an olive grove

Capitalism and Social Responsibility

What we call the Protestant Ethic is a legacy of the Reformation. This application of biblical principles transformed the economic and social life of entire nations. These principles came from the founding generation of Reformers: Martin Luther (Germany, 1483 – 1586), John Calvin (Geneva, 1509 -1564), and John Knox (Scotland, 1514 – 1572). Their spiritual and metaphysical “children” were the English Puritans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This included those reforming the Church of England and the “New England” Puritans (1620-1680). The “grandchildren” of the reformers, men like Jonathan Edwards in the United States and John Wesley in England sparked the First Great Awakening (1734-1740). This movement once again transformed England and what would become the United States. The Reformers and their offspring taught and practiced the Protestant Ethic. One of their beliefs was that economic development must be socially responsible.

The Protestant Reformers studied the scriptures to see how they applied to every area of life, including the social, economic, and political spheres. These principles, applied, made Geneva a laboratory of reform; it became known as “the city on a hill.” This phrase came to Winthrop inspired socially responsible capitalismAmerica with one of the children of the Reformation, John Winthrop (1587 – 1649). Winthrop was a Puritan lawyer and founding governor of Massachusetts in 1630. While on board the ship Arbella, Winthrop preached a sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity.” For his fellow settlers, he cast a vision for the task ahead, a picture of mutual love and Christian community.

Winthrop called the Puritans to love one another, to be a community marked by social responsibility.

Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah [Mandate], to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.

He speaks eloquently of the settlers as a community, not only knit together, but also characterized by a responsibility to look out for others. They would suffer together and rejoice together. For the colony to be successful, its people would need to be socially responsible in their enterprise.

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.

Winthrop continues by saying that the Massachusetts Colony would be for the new world what Geneva had been for the old, a city on a hill. The whole world would be watching to see if this grand experiment would succeed or fail. If they worked together and cared for one another, then they would be honored and they would succeed. If they neglected social responsibility, each one looking out merely for his own self interest, they would fail and bring dishonor on themselves and their God. The sermon captured the imagination of the new community (which actually located on the three hills of Boston). The New England colonists grasped Winthrop’s vision, which ultimately shaped the conscience of the United States of America.

Ken and Will Hopper’s book, The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos, chronicles the impact of Puritan culture on shaping American management. From a few small colonies of humble settlers came the world’s leading economic power. The authors attribute this transformation to the Protestant ethic carried to the new world. Hard work, thrift, innovation, and a balance between individual initiative and corporate responsibility created a culture that led to America’s corporate and managerial success.

Furthermore, the Hoppers argue that as this ethic is abandoned by the nation, its economic prosperity will be endangered.

To reiterate, when we speak of “capitalism” we are not referring to those broken systems that have no sense of social responsibility, namely Hedonistic Consumerism, Crony Capitalism and Predatory Capitalism. We are referring to the socially responsible economic philosophy derived from the biblical principle of work, thrift and charity so well-articulated and applied by the Reformers and their children.

In the next installment of this theme, we will further examine the First Great Awakening. Specifically, we will consider the impact of John Wesley on Arthur Guinness, the founder of perhaps the greatest beer company of all time, Guinness Brewery.

-          Darrow Miller

 

  
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Pope Francis Calls for Social Responsibility, part 2 of 2

On May 19 Pope Francis met with UN General Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and executives from the United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes meeting in Rome.  He called upon the United Nations to contribute to a worldwide ethical mobilization.

Here are three more excerpts from the Pope Francis speech, followed by my comments. [Note: this post represents the second and final installment. Go here to read part 1.]

  1. “Today, in concrete terms, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters whose life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death must lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have earlier unjustly refused to others.”

Here Pope Francis roots social justice where it belongs. It does not derive from some arbitrary absolute of a tyrannical society, but from the moral principle of the dignity of all human life. This applies to all life, without exclusion for any reason, from conception to natural death. The sharing is not under compulsion, but from “complete human freedom.” The compulsion is internal: free human beings selflessly motivated  to love their fellow human beings. Note that the “goods” we possess are the gifts of God’s providence. They are God’s; we are mere stewards of these goods for the benefit of creation and our fellow human beings. Note that we are to share, not simply material capital (as would be the case in a naturalistic framework). A comprehensive understanding of capital also includes ideas – metaphysical capital and spiritual capital. In fact, the Pope Francis list could be expanded to include at least six other kinds of capital:

    1. Natural capital (those resources in the ground),
    2. Moral and spiritual capital,
    3. Economic capital,
    4. Social capital,
    5. Intellectual and aesthetic capital,
    6. Institutional capital, including government, civil laws and infrastructure (roads, power grids, internet, et al).

All these gifts of God are to be shared, not grudgingly as a selfish individual operating from a culture of greed would do, but lavishly, from a culture of generosity. God is a generous God. He expended the price for grace, the death of his son Jesus. God lavishes grace upon us. Our thankful response is to be lavish in our generosity.  As Jesus taught in Matt 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

  1. “A contribution to this equitable development will also be made both by international activity aimed at the integral human development of all the world’s peoples and by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.”

It is here that the world’s elites focus, especially the phrase the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State. Pope Francis qualifies this call with the an additional statement of the need for cooperation between the private sector and civil society. As we have argued on this blog, an important distinction exists between equity – equality of all citizens before the law, and equality – equal economic outcomes. The first promotes freedom; the second imposes state tyranny in an effort to force an artificial economic equality. The question, in my mind, is the role of the state in determining economic outcomes. People are created to be free and responsible human beings. Too often the state, in its good intentions to help people who are poor, designs bureaucratic solutions that create dependencies that rob people of their freedom and dignity. Help for people who are poor best comes from individuals, from the companies they found and the voluntary associations they form. (An upcoming post on Christian social responsibility will feature one example: Arthur Guinness, and his company, Guinness Brewing.)

This is something Pope Francis will need to clarify

This is something Pope Francis will need to clarify. Most of what he has argued in this piece is from the foundation of Biblical principles. However, if he is saying that the state has a responsibility to forcibly redistribute economic benefits so that all people have the same outcome, this is a violation of the eighth and tenth commandments. This would indicate that his fallback economic framework is that of a closed universe. See the graphic below. Pope Francis needs to clarify his economic philosophy

  1. “Consequently, while encouraging you in your continuing efforts to coordinate the activity of the international agencies, which represents a service to all humanity, I urge you to work together in promoting a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded.”

Pope Francis ends his message by calling for a worldwide ethical mobilization. He understands that at their root, economic issues are moral issues. To see people and nations flourish requires a moral/ethical framework and commitment. His call for fraternity and solidarity with the poorest of the poor is recognition of the natures of the one and many of the human community. He understands that the root of the word “compassion” is to suffer together with another person.

-          Darrow Miller

  
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Pope Francis Calls for Social Responsibility, Part 1 of 2

Pope FrancisOn May 19 Pope Francis met with UN General Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and executives from the United Nations Agencies, Funds and Programmes meeting in Rome.  He called upon the United Nations to contribute to a worldwide ethical mobilization.

Much of the media focused on his call for the “legitimate redistribution of wealth” by the state. Sadly, many reports took this comment out of context. Francis is concerned about injustice. He calls for “ethical mobilization” by which he means challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the “economy of exclusion,” the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death.”

For the most part, the Western media and academic institutions are informed by a naturalistic paradigm. All problems are reduced to material causes and solutions. There is little room for the ethical and moral standards of Judeo-Christian faith. Yet Pope Francis is calling out the common humanity of UN leaders to participate to a worldwide mobilization of morality.

Here are two excerpts from the Pope Francis speech followed by my commentary.

1. “Future Sustainable Development Goals must therefore be formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development. Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the “economy of exclusion”, the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death” which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.”

Evil is found in three forms. There is personal, moral evil such as murder, theft, and adultery; institutional evil, what Pope Francis calls “structural causes,” such as slavery, corruption and sex trafficking; and natural evil – earthquakes, droughts, and tsunamis. All three forms of evil contribute to poverty and hunger. Here the Pope is focusing on institutional evil, but all three forms need to be addressed.

He identifies the comprehensive and integrative nature of the problems faced by the human family. He recognizes the need for environmental stewardship of the world and its resources. He acknowledges the dignity of work. This entails fostering healthy work environments and nurturing a wide range of significant vocations (see the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics’ video Freedom to Flourish). It means protecting the family, under attack today on so many fronts.

Pope Francis continues by describing other forms of injustice found in the modern, materialistic culture.  These include an “economy of exclusion,” the “throwaway culture” and the “culture of death.”

The “economy of exclusion” fails to recognize that humanity is founded on the Trinitarian principle of community: the One and Many God. Communities are comprised of individuals. The human family is a community of communities.  Neither the distorted individualism of the modern West or the collectivism  of Marxist philosophy represents the ideal. Rather, we have a moral responsibility to care for people who are poor and not to exclude them from the life of the community.

The “throwaway culture” is a reflection of modern materialistic greed. Only material things have value. Man is basically a consuming animal. The hedonistic mantra – “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die” – is an apt description of life today. We work to consume. Many consumer goods are made of cheap plastic so they will quickly need to be replaced. Planned obsolescence is designed into our furniture, appliances, and automobiles. Quality goods built with excellence are rare; deferred gratification rarer still. Our system supports an insatiable desire for more and more now. Immediate gratification drives our economy.

Pope Francis speaks of the “culture of death”

Pope Francis speaks of the “culture of death,” an atheistic framework which yields no place for the right to life. After all, we are here by some form of cosmic accident. The culture of death promotes human destruction in many forms: abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, gendercide (200,000,000 fewer females in the world are alive than should be). The right to life is the most fundamental. Without an understanding of the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death, there is no framework to fight the injustices of hunger and poverty. Our doctrine, derived from Darwin, is red in tooth and claw – the survival of the fittest.

All three of these injustices  are derived from an atheistic (read amoral) culture. Thus the call by Pope Francis for worldwide ethical mobilization. Without moral, thinking citizens, these injustices will become commonplace. They will weave even more tightly into the fabric of our existence.

2. “With this in mind, I would like to remind you, as representatives of the chief agencies of global cooperation, of an incident which took place two thousand years ago and is recounted in the Gospel of Saint Luke (19:1-10). It is the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus, as a result of which Zacchaeus made a radical decision of sharing and justice, because his conscience had been awakened by the gaze of Jesus. This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity.”

Pope Francis retells the story of Jesus’s confrontation with Zacchaeus, a Jew who collected taxes for the occupying Roman government. Zacchaeus was guilty on two counts. First, he was serving an oppressive foreign power, helping subjugate his own people. Second, he was corrupt. He collected more taxes than were due and pocketed the balance for himself.

As Pope Francis reminds us, “the gaze of Jesus” confronted Zacchaeus with his sin and prompted his repentance.  We see this same confrontation and grace found in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables. Bishop Myriel of Digne extends grace to the thief Jean Valjean. This marked the turning point in Jean Valjean’s life just as the confrontation with Jesus changed Zacchaeus. He repented of his corruption and became a man of justice. It is this spirit of radical repentance that should frame our personal and corporate political and economic activity.

- Darrow Miller

… to be continued

  
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Needed: A Theology of Suffering

We rarely hear a theology of suffering today. What we are hearing more often is a theology of comfort.

  • “Come to Christ and you will be blessed!”
  • “Pray and God will give you a new car!”
  • “Give God $10 and He will give you $100 back!”

The prosperity gospel is not the true gospel. It’s simply a veneer of Christ talk over a core of modern materialist culture. It is crass materialism wrapped in religious language.

The true gospel calls us to follow Jesus. When Christ first alerted his disciples that he was going to die (Matthew 16:21) they had no mental categories for such a concept (Matt. 16:22-23). They had not signed up for this. But Jesus made it clear: he was going to die and he called  them to follow:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matt. 16:24-26

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who was martyred at the hands of Adolph Hitler. In his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship, he famously reminded us:  “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

“Come to Jesus and die!” How many in our generation would respond to such a call? But no worries. We have a much more comfortable message: “Come to Jesus and God will bless you!”

Today the church preaches a Theology of Comfort. As Francis Schaeffer used to say, modern culture is bound by personal peace and affluence. We want a life of ease and instant gratification. The church has syncretized with the modern world and preaches and programs correspondingly.

British pastor and Christian statesman John Stott wrote,

The place of suffering in service and of passion in mission is hardly ever taught today. But the greatest single secret of evangelistic or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die. It may be a death to popularity (by faithfully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel), or to pride (by the use of modes methods in reliance on the Holy Spirit), or to racial and national prejudice (by identification with another culture), or to material comfort (by adopting a simple lifestyle). But the servant must suffer if he is to bring light to the nations, and the seed must die if it is to multiplyThe Cross of Christ, page 322

We live in a fallen world. Evil is promoted at every turn. Injustice abounds. The tools of political and economic discourse are lies, spin, and promotion. Art and music celebrate the mediocre and the hideous.  God’s kingdom culture is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. But invariably, these are rejected. The church needs to foster kingdom culture, to stand for kingdom culture against the culture of darkness. This may well entail a return to a Theology of Suffering.

Many of our readers live in countries ruled by fascist and communist totalitarianism. Other readers endure political Islam. Jihadism is spreading (as I write, Sunni fundamentalists are threatening to retake Baghdad). We in the West are living in post-Christian countries where fundamentalist atheism is growing.

These dynamics are the new reality. To seek comfort is to be disengaged from life and culture. In contrast, to profoundly engage in life and culture will lead to discomfort, persecution, and suffering.

The early church lived in the context of violence and slavery. Cruelty was a virtue. Eighty percent of the population of the Roman empire were slaves. To push back against the culture was to suffer. Hebrews tells of the great cloud of witnesses who resisted the culture and the price they paid:

Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—  of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. Hebrew 11: 35- 38

In 60 years as a Christian, I have heard this passage expounded only once. When I was in the university my pastor, Grant Howard, taught from this text one Sunday. He suggested this may be the normal Christian life. So why are we not experiencing these realities? Perhaps, he mused, because we are not taking up our cross and following Christ. It was a very challenging sermon. I understand why the passage is rarely preached today. We want a theology of comfort, not one of suffering.

Christians are to be counter-cultural to the anti-God ruling paradigms of society. We are to say No to lies, to injustice, to the hideous. We are to live and promote the culture of the kingdom. But to do so will mean consequences.

suffering Filipino on cross not our modelLet me be clear: we are not to seek out suffering. Some Filipino Catholics have themselves nailed to a cross at Good Friday. Such self-flagellation is masochism. Yet at the same time, we are not to avoid suffering when confronting the culture requires it. There is a conflict going on for the soul of our nations. To seek comfort and safety at the price of engaging the battle is to forsake our calling. Christians are to be engaged.

But how do we engage?

We are to be captivating – to overpower with excellence and beauty; to charm; to engage the affections; to bind in love.  With winsome word and deed, we are to live out the culture of the kingdom: to speak truth to lies; to replace the mundane and hideous with beauty; to seek justice in the midst of corruption and evil. These will cause conflict with the reigning culture.

This is not a work of overpowering or even persuasion – winning the argument. This is a work of emancipating people who are enslaved by the tyranny of lies, injustice and the hideous. Winsome reasoning and attractive lives are what set people and societies free. (For more on this see my book: Emancipating the World.)

For an excellent treatment of this subject see John Stonestreet’s BreakPoint article What Does Cultural Engagement Look Like Now?

-          Darrow Miller

 

 

  
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A Female Mom and a Male Dad: What Every Child Needs

Every child needs a male father and a female mother. So wrote Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires before becoming Pope Francis.

In a day where there is personal and cultural confusion about what it means to be a woman and a man, what it means to be a family, and even when human imagination trumps the reality of human sexuality, it is refreshing to hear such a clear word from Pope Francis.

The word is clear because it is being driven by Biblical revelation and comports with history and reality. It takes a male and a female to conceive a child. This is simple biology. It makes sense that the One who designed us male and female and who outrageously conceived of the beauty of human sexuality and who instituted the process of procreation, would ordain the male to be a father and the female to be a mother to create a comprehensive and complementary environment for the nurturing of their children.

Female Moms and Male Dads needed, says Pope Francis

In the 2010 book On Heaven and Earth, co-authored with biophysicist and Jewish rabbi, Abraham Skorka, Pope Francis writes of the importance of the natural family. He points out that from ancient times there have been homosexual relationships. They have variously been celebrated or condemned, but never has there been an attempt to elevate homosexuality to the level of marriage until this modern day. He writes:

We know that in times of momentous change the homosexual phenomenon grew, but in this period it is the first time that the legal problem of assimilating it to marriage has arisen, and this I consider an anti-value and an anthropological regression. I say this because it transcends the religious issue, it is anthropological. If there is a union of a private nature, there is neither a third party nor is society affected. Now, if the union is given the category of marriage and they are given adoption rights, there could be children affected. Every person needs a male father and a female mother that can help them shape their identity.

Let us be clear, ideas have consequences. There’s a continuum at work in all this that proponents of same-sex marriage wish to deny.

  1. First we redefined life’s origins. We decided life begins when the mother wants the baby.
  2. Now we are redefining marriage. We have abandoned the lifelong covenantal relationship between a man and a woman. In its place, we are endorsing homosexual unions.
  3. On the heels of this is the redefinition of human sexuality so that children can declare themselves either male or female and  even begin the process of so called “gender transformation.”
  4. We will soon turn our attention to pedophilia, and fabricate another lexical distortion giving adults freedom to have sex with minors.

This downward spiral will continue because each of these is cut from the same ideological cloth: the creature knows better than the Creator.

Thank goodness for Pope Francis’ clear statement on the need for every person to have a father who is male and a mother who is female.

-          Darrow Miller with Gary Brumbelow

  
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Discipleship: What Jesus Wants the Church to Do

What part does discipleship play in the Great Commission? What should be the goal of the church? What is Jesus’ priority in terms of the church’s task?

Many evangelicals would answer using the word “evangelism.” That was clearly Jesus’ passion, after all. But DNA co-founder, Dr. Bob Moffitt, suggests this is actually a misreading of the Great Commission. He writes that “the evangelical/Pentecostal church … has often, in practice if not by intention, misplaced the emphasis of Jesus’ Great Commission. We have emphasized evangelism rather than discipleship.”

Evangelism is essential, to be sure. But when we make evangelism—rather than discipleship—the central task of the church, we misappropriate energies and assets. We count raised hands rather than nurturing changed lives. Rather than cultivating soldiers we make babies and leave them to fend for themselves.

Such practices skew the results as well as the task. By some measures, 47 million Romanians have received Christ in the last 2000 years. The problem? Only 22 million people live in Romania. Bob quotes church statesmen Oswald Chambers, “There is a passion for souls that does not spring from God but from the desire to make converts to our point of view.” Maybe we should be less concerned about how high we can push the numbers and more concerned about making disciples.

Discipleship the task of the church says Bob MoffittBob Moffitt is a committed churchman who has been laboring in local-church contexts in many countries of the world for 30 years. He recently captured years of reflections about this subject in a paper, “To Disciple – The Priority of the Great Commission.”

Here are some excerpts:

  • I am writing because I feel compelled to address two serious errors I see within our tradition that have had significant negative consequences for the role God has given the Church. These errors are clearly being used by our Enemy in his war against Christ’s Kingdom. I find that my brothers and sisters within the evangelical tradition are often prisoners of the paradigms of traditional evangelicalism. As a result they either don’t see the errors or else ignore them.
  • Some of the things I say in this article sound harsh. But I say them because I care so much for the Church and the Kingdom Jesus established to demonstrate His “manifold wisdom and power” (Eph. 3:10).
  • Church planting often follows evangelism. Church planting should be a good thing. But when it is disconnected from discipleship—equipping people to serve in their world like Jesus served in his—such churches often turn people away from the very God these churches supposedly worship. Outsiders look at this kind of church as irrelevant to the brokenness of their community. They see a local church that seems to be concerned only about spiritual things and in a future by-and-by. If we believe the Gospel is not only the power to save souls but to transform – to bring healing to individuals, families, communities and whole societies – something must be wrong. 

Go here to read Bob’s paper. And then give us your comments. Bob is looking for input before possibly publishing the paper in booklet form.

-         Gary Brumbelow

 

  
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