Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh, and another thing

While we're on the subject, what about the economic sense of increasing taxes on businesses? This is just a hidden tax on consumers. Taxes are simply one of the costs of doing business and, like all increases in such costs, are paid for by the consumer in the form of high prices.

What's the Big Deal?

It occurred to me after making my last post that some people might wonder why we should worry about Obama's plan to increase taxes on "the rich."

"It doesn't affect me," you say, "I'm not rich."

Perhaps not, but you might be surprised to learn just how much we all benefit from other people's wealth--not by their providing us with charitable contributions, but in providing goods and services and opportunities for employment.

The motive for all economic transactions is profit. And while the desire for profit can certainly be abused, it is equally certain that without it, no economic transactions would ever take place.

Those who have excess money (i.e., the rich) are motivated by a desire for greater profit to invest their money in the production of goods and the providing of services that consumers are willing to pay for. The greater the potential for profit, the more people are involved in the venture, and the number of goods and services multiplies. Supply then increases relative to demand and prices drop, benefitting consumers (mostly average Joes like you and me). But when taxes on "the rich" are increased, they have less money to invest in ventures that benefit the rest of us.

Soaking the rich with higher taxes may score political points in an age of envy, but it doesn't make good economic sense.

Obama knows better

Obama knows better what to do with your money than you do.

This year I had my students read The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Marx and Engels advocated a ten point plan to achieve a communist utopia. Some of Obama's goals are eerily similar. Consider, for example, points 2, 3, and 5 of the Manifesto.

2. A heavily progressive income tax.

3. Abolition of inheritance.

5. Centralisation [sic] of credit in the hands of the State, by
means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

(from The Communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings, Dover Publications, p. 141)

Now read this article at Sound familiar?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Marketing the Church

More on the problems of "marketing" the church by David Wells.

Here was the gospel product as sleekly fashioned and as artfully sold as anything in the mall or on television. Here also were churches smelling of coffee and reverberating with edgy music. There were bright and exciting videos. And the professional singers rivaled any one might hear in Vegas. It was all put together in a package to please, entice, entertain, relax, grab, and enfold potential customers, and worm its way into their hearts...

What results, all too often, beneath all the smiling crowds, the packed auditoria, is a faith so cramped, limited, and minuscule as to be entirely unable to command our life, our energies, or, as a matter of fact, even much of our attention. One church advertises itself as a place where you will find "loud music" and "short services." It has a "casual atmosphere" but, it wants us to know, it also offers "serious faith."

This is always the rub in this experiment: the form greatly modifies the content. The loud music and short services are part of the form, but the form, put together to be pleasing, actually undercuts the seriousness of the faith. The form is in fact the product, and in this market the sale has to be done quickly and as painlessly as possible because customers all have itchy feet. That greatly militates against the seriousness any church wants to have. And that is why a deep chasm has opened between the church marketers and historic Protestant orthodoxy. It is less that the truths of this orthodoxy are assailed than that they are seen to be irrelevant to the building of the church. They are, it is believed, an impediment to its success (emphasis added by yours truly, DE).


In addition to the older, classical evangelicals whom David Wells identifies in his book, The Courage to be Protestant, he mentions an evangelical constituency which he calls the "marketers."

The church marketers are those who have followed the innovations in "doing" church pioneered by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church in 1975...

This approach, it is said, is seeking to preserve the old evangelical message while delivering it in new ways. Its strategies have been borrowed from the corporate world. The key idea is that there is a market for the Christian message. They utilize marketing techniques and proven entertainment formats to penetrate that market.

This innovation seemed to be the train that was leaving town three decades ago, and pastors by the thousands scrambled to get aboard. Here was the magic formula for success. Though a genuine passion for evangelism no doubt lay somewhere in the experiment, it was also wrapped in the most stunning cultural naivete. It was entirely predictable that this experiment would, in due course, crest and then lose its attraction, though there are always stragglers who keep chasing trends long after they have ceased to be fashionable. That is what is still happening.

How Do Religous People Tend to Vote?

Compare this map with the others and notice how it confirms what we already knew to be true. The more religious (i.e., Christian) regions are more charitable and tend to vote for more conservative candidates. Puts the lie to the liberal accusation that conservatives don't care about the poor. Conservatives are generous when it comes to spending their own money, but stingy with other people's money (taxes). Liberals are generous with other people's money, but stingy with their own.

And another

This one charts charitable giving. And what you know...religious people on average are more charitable. Who'd a thunk it?

Another Map

Here's another map reflecting religious faith by region. This one charts church attendance. Notice how it compares to the ones below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More on the Decline of Classical Evangelicalism

David Wells continues his explanation of the demise of classical evangelicalism.

The capacity to think doctrinally was being lost as new leaders emerged, as the leadership of the evangelical world shifted from the older pastor-theologians to the new entrepreneurial organization builders, and as churches began to reflect this change in their attitudes and worship.

The erosion in biblical ways of thinking at first passed almost unnoticed... Campus organizations were undoubtedly reducing Christian faith to its most minimal form. And as serious biblical preaching in the churches diminished, ignorance of biblical truth became commonplace. But the largest factor in this internal change, I think, was that evangelicalism began to be infested by the culture in which it was living. And then Christianity became increasingly reduced simply to private, internal, therapeutic experience. Its doctrinal form atrophied and then crumbled.

Proud Papa

Indulge me just a little and let me post a video link to KAKE TV sports showing James hoopin' it up last night in Wichita. Fast forward to the 2:30 mark.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Even More on Religion in America

Here's another map illustrating the "Leading Church Bodies" county by county across America. Turns out the Bible belt is mostly Baptist.

More on Religion in America

This map illustrates the percentages in my previous post. Turns out there really is a Bible belt, and it happens to be green.

Religion in America

I've come across some interesting tidbits of information about religion in America. A recent Gallup poll asked the question, "Is religion an important part of your daily life?" Here are the percentages, state by state, of those who answered, "Yes."

85% Mississippi
82% Alabama
80% South Carolina
79% Tennessee
78% Louisiana
78% Arkansas
76% Georgia
76% North Carolina
75% Oklahoma
74% Kentucky
74% Texas
71% West Virginia
70% Kansas
69% Utah
68% Missouri
68% Virginia
68% South Dakota
68% North Dakota
68% Indiana
67% Nebraska
66% New Mexico
65% Pennsylvania
65% Florida
65% Maryland
65% Ohio
64% Iowa
64% Minnesota
64% Illinois
64% Michigan
61% Delaware
61% Wisconsin
61% D.C.
61% Idaho
61% Arizona
60% NJ
58% Wyoming
57% Colorado
57% Hawaii
57% California
56% Montana
56% New York
55% Connecticut
54% Nevada
53% Rhode Island
53% Oregon
52% Washington
51% Alaska
48% Massachusetts
48% Maine
46% New Hampshire
42% Vermont

Monday, February 16, 2009

Austrian Economics

Vox Day has a good explanation of how three different economic schools of thought wish to handle the current (or any) crisis.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Decline of Classical Evangelicalism

The more time one spends reading the Scriptures and searching out the implications of its teaching, the more forcefully this truth impresses itself upon one's consciousness: the Christian faith is not about me and Jesus and my personal salvation. It is, instead, a comprehensive view of life and the world.

This reduction of the faith is one of the things David Wells decries in his book, The Courage to Be Protestant. He does so while explaining both the nature and the demise of classical evangelicalism.
The first classical evangelicalism. This is what took shape and form immediately following the Second World War, both in Europe and in the United States. What stood out about it, and what still does, is its doctrinal seriousness (p. 2)
Wells explains that there were two core theological beliefs that held an otherwise theologically diverse group together: (1) the full authority of the inspired Scripture and (2) the necessity and centrality of Christ's penal substitution.
What this meant for them was that faith that was biblical would, of necessity, be doctrinal in its form. This, in fact, was so much more than simply asserting the inspiration of Scripture and its inerrancy. In the early days of the movement, a whole way of thinking grew out of this primary commitment. It meant that being biblical in tone and content was central. From this grew churches that valued biblical truth and Christian life that sought its nourishment in the Word of God (p. 5, italics added)
A biblically informed view of life. So far, so good. So what happened? How did the evangelical world get into the mess it's in today? I think Wells' analysis is spot on. A worthy goal of uniting around the essential doctrines of the faith degenerated into reducing the faith to the essentials.

Through the 1950s, 1960s, and even 1970s, much else besides the two core principles was part and parcel of evangelical belief and practice. There was, however, a tacit agreement that liberty would be allowed in all these other matters provided that the core principles were honored... What happened, though was that this doctrinal vision began to contract. The goal that diversity in secondary matters would be welcomed quite soon passed over into an attitude that evangelicalism could in fact be reduced simply to its core principles of Scripture and Christ. In hindsight, it is now rather clear that the toleration of diversity slowly became an indifference toward much of the fabric of belief that makes up Christian faith...

The capacity to think doctrinally was bieng lost as new leaders emerged, as the leadership of the evangelical world shifted from the older pastor-theologians to the new entrepeneurial organization builders, and as churches began to reflect this change in their attitudes and worship.

The erosion in biblical ways of thinking at first passed almost unnoticed. Nevertheless, after a while it was hard to miss the fact that this was happening. No doubht there were many specific causes, Campus organizations were undoubtedly reducing Christian faith to its most minimal form. And as seious biblical preaching in the churches diminished, ignorance of biblical truth became commonplace. But the largest factor in this internal change, I think, was that evangelicalism began to be infested by the culture in which it was living. And then Christianity became increasingly reduced simply to private, internal, therapeutic experience.

The Courage to Be Protestant

I've just started to read David Wells' latest book, The Courage to Be Protestant (2008), and it promises to be a good one. Wells is the professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Writing as an evangelical himself, Wells has published some searing critiques of evangelicalism, beginning with his No Place for Truth; or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? in 1993. This was followed by God in the Wasteland (1994), Losing Our Virtue (1998), and Above All Earthly Pow'rs (2005).

The Courage to Be Protestant, Wells informs his readers, started out as a simple summary of these previous works, but ended up as a recasting of them in an attempt to get at the essence of what he sees as the chief problems with modern American evangelicalism.

He begins by setting forth "The Lay of the Evangelical Land" (title of chapter one). And he divides the evangelical world into "three rather distinct constituencies": (1) Classical Evangelicals, (2) Marketers, and (3) Emergents.

The evangelical world is now dividing into three rather distinct constituencies. Actually, it is dividing into many, many subconstituencies as well because this rather amazing empire of belief is fragmenting across the board. So my map with only three major constituencies portrays the land as it looks from afar, not up close. The important point here, though, is that two of these constituencies are new, and, like large icebergs, they are separating from the others. They are, as I see it, transitional movement. They are the stepping-stones away from the classical orthodoxy of the earlier evangelicals and, however unwittingly, toward a more liberalized Christianity. In due course the children of these evangelicals will become full-blown liberals, I suspect, just like those against whom the evangelical grandparents originally protested.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Wrong Complaint

It seems a provision in the stimulus bill passed by the House of Representatives last week bans money designated for school renovation to be used on facilities that allow "religious worship." The House provided a whopping $20 billion for infrastructure improvements, of which $6 billion was designated for improvements in facilities at colleges and universities.

But according to the bill, funds are prohibited from being used for the "modernization, renovation, or repair" of facilities that allow "sectarian instruction, religious worship or a school or department of divinity."

Predictably, Christian conservatives are hopping mad that they are left out of the largesse from the public treasury.

A couple of observations. First, it shows the hypocrisy of the left. The left deems it inappropriate to fund sectarian instruction, unless that sectarian instruction is of their own variety...anti-Christianity.

Second, it shows the hypocrisy of the right. Conservatism used to mean limited government, as in, you know, constitutional government. Where in the Constitution is the federal government authorized to dole out tax money to schools, secular or religious? Instead of complaining that they aren't getting any money, conservatives should be complaining that anyone is getting money.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Wisdom from the Founders

Thanks to George Grant for this timely reminder of the wisdom of our Founders.
"In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress."

-- John Adams

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Scary Numbers

I first saw this on Doug Wilson's blog. It puts the current financial crisis is some scary perspective. The numbers are staggering, even considering the lost purchasing power of the dollar from 1920 to 2009.