Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Now that my two eldest are studying in parts distant for the present - one in music conservatory in California, and one in St Petersburg, Russia - I am especially delighted that my at-home student wants to study wherever I am. Our favorite spots therefore, have to have room for at least two.
So, the kitchen table...Especially for the last couple of weeks, when I have been teaching, discussing and dispensing aid while stirring up fresh bruschetta, freezing green chili sauce, drying tomatoes and herbs, and baking zucchini herb bread. The harvest not only of garden gems, but of camaraderie has been bountiful.
Though our girls are gone, we are still a productive family.
And since autumn has come in with darkling rain and frosty mornings, we curl up with our books and cups of hot mocha before the fireplace. We revel in the delicious warmth of fellowship with great minds - some of them in our books, some of them right there by the fire in the flesh.
Our tech den is really more of a wired library. Desks tucked between bookshelves lit with Tiffany lamps and softened with a futon where we can both settle with laptops to get down to business. Witness to our labors are the beautiful paintings and photographs the children have created over the years. We remember there that the works of our hands will endure, so we should labor to craft them well.
And finally, we love to study with our speech and debate club, Counterpoint Cultural Alliance. We explore the interface between philosophy and theology and find ways to speak to those around us who are still lost in a closed universe where God doesn't burst through the brazen heavens. We make history come to life in documentary films and inspirational one-acts. We make opportunities to bring our book-learning into real world impact today. So our study spot might be the classroom, but it might just as easily be pounding the pavement promoting the Denver Rebelution Tour or questioning defendants in Teen Court, or jolting a jaded church youth group out of their rut with hilarious and searching dramatic presentations.
Most of all, we love to study wherever our Lord places us. We are everywhere He wants to be (apologies to VISA).
Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards: Don't miss your chance to nominate your favourite blog ~ The Nominees
You'll find lots of information and inspiration. And, naturally, if you like THIS blog, you can nominate it until Oct 17!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
The passage of the banking bailout is profoundly troubling. When men play God, their plans soon go awry and other men suffer. And when men manipulate a fiat currency, they declare that they can change the standards of measure without reference to any higher authority or any stable measure of value. They imply that they themselves are the standard of value. That is playing God.
The God who rules from on high will not be mocked. I think this will turn out badly. However, that is not the end of the story.
Ancient Israel was destroyed by God in response to Israel’s perversion of His law, particularly for oppressing the poor economically and judicially (see Amos). Judah, the southern kingdom was sent into exile for oppressing widows and orphans. It looked like the end for them. But the prophets never said so. Wherever they predicted death, they also predicted resurrection for those who would devote themselves to God anew. The judgments were designed to remove oppressors and to promote those who served God to wider influence.
Consider Daniel and his three friends. They were torn from their families, displaced from their homes, shoved into a rehabilitation program designed to produce good little Babylonian yes-men. But, drawing on the pastoral training of Ezekiel, they refused to despair. They dared to look to God as a deliverer, even as they knew Him to be the avenger of wrongs. They purposed to follow Him, come what might, and to throw themselves on His mercy rather than on Nebuchadnezzar’s. Essentially, they determined to be on the right side of God’s vengeance the next time.
God did become their protector, and more. He became their promoter. Though they had been princes in little, backwater Judah, God promoted them in exile to the highest influence and direct authority in the greatest power of their time. Death and resurrection. A purge and then promotion.
I don’t pretend to know how this will work out precisely for us in this situation. But I do know that the response of the faithful will look something like Daniel. We should not hope in the banking bailout; neither should we despair as it produces more oppression. We should imitate Daniel and his friends.
What did they do?
1. They confessed the sins of their nation, acknowledging God’s justice in judging those transgressions.
2. They asked for God’s mercy, not because of any righteousness in Judah, but because Judah represented God to the nations and Judah’s demise would bring God’s reputation into question among the heathen.
3. They purposed to follow God regardless of men’s demands, determining that they would rather fall into the hand of God than into the hand of man.
4. They hoped in God’s deliverance, and depended on His goodness. But they did not expect an easy time.
5. They looked for opportunities to serve God and to spread His rule to those among whom they found themselves.
All this we can do in our situation. Despite the assumption by the Federal Reserve and other economic bigwigs that they are in control, we must depend on the One who owns every asset in the universe.
My favorite commentary on Daniel: Handwriting on the Wall by James B. Jordan. It's inspiring, encouraging, practical, and soul-searching. Available at Biblical Horizons or American Vision.
Friday, October 03, 2008
The beauty of the Sabbath and Jubiliee is that it is a reliable 50-year cycle, which limits government manipulation of the economy, limits the expansion of the rich at the expense of the poor, and acknowledges the Providential power of God in the affairs of men.
God’s Providence would be evident to the people in the lush crop God promised in the sixth year, which could sustain them until the harvest after Sabbath. His care for the poor was evident in his provision for the return of the lands of their ancestral inheritance every 50 years, and the required liberation of all Israelite slaves (A man could sell his labor until the Jubilee in order to pay his debts – hence Biblical slavery). So a poor family had a real chance to return to mainstream socio-economic life. All this without Government intervention.
In this case, less is infinitely more. No Government intervention means no Government manipulation. It also means that the local community took responsibility to care and to provide for its own poor. The welfare of the poor could not become a political issue as long as local people looked after their impoverished brothers. Under our current Government-centered impersonal welfare system, we no longer even think of the poor among us as brothers. Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, in a speech honoring former Fed Chairman, Milton Friedman, explained that one of the aggravating factors in the Great Depression was the impersonalization that the creation of the Federal Reserve brought to the banking crisis of the early 1930s. With the creation of the Fed, Bernanke observes, the larger banks which in former times would have aided smaller banks, no longer felt obligated to do so. The resulting rash of small bank failures deepened that financial crisis.
The Jubilee cycle carries with it a 2-3 year recovery period. No one plants in the Sabbath year, so there is no crop until the harvest in the year following the Sabbath year – not quite two years. When the Jubilee rolls around, the new harvest comes in the third year. It is a very limited time. It is predictable and therefore even your average guy could plan and prepare. Nobody panics.
Contrast this with the recovery from the Great Depression. Milton Friedman’s new book, A Monetary History of the United States, estimates the recovery at a minimum of ten years, and lays blame for the depth of the correction and its nearly interminable length at the door of the Federal Reserve. While it seems intuitively obvious that Government intervention exacerbated the problem, Friedman maintains (incredibly) that more intervention in the form of an increased money supply, would have solved it.
“Increasing the money supply” is a euphemism for Government theft. The government simply prints more money. The traditional way of viewing this is as a debasement of currency, the equivalent of shaving a few grains of silver off of a coin or of mixing increasing amounts of lead into the silver when minting the coins. There are indeed more coins, but they are worth less and less.
A more modern way to view it is to see money as a measure of productivity. All that means is that printing more money is printing more promises of future work. Literally, we are selling the labor of our children when we increase the money supply. A $700 billion bank bailout means agreeing not only to become slaves to this debt ourselves, but to agree to enslave our children and grandchildren pretty much in perpetuity.
What to do? Come back tomorrow for some hopeful recommendations.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Most Christians understand the Bible to teach that God built cycles of death and rebirth into the natural world: winter then spring, decay enriching new growth. What most of us don’t realize is that He built the same cycle into the social and economic systems of man.
God’s Old Testament model of society, ancient Israel, included an economic reset button that must have felt very much like a self-imposed mini-recession. It was the Sabbath year and the Jubilee year. Every seven years, Israel was to allow the fields to lay fallow and to subsist on their stockpiled goods. The poor, who had no stockpiles, could glean from the fields that which grew up “volunteer”. On that seventh year, they were to cancel debts within the nation; the debts they owed to each other. They were also to free those Israelites whose debts had brought them into slavery. And after seven cycles of seven years, they were to observe a second year of Sabbath rest called the Jubilee, so that the complete economic cycle encompassed 50 years. (See Lev. 25)
The gracious purpose of God was to give the land rest and rejuvenation, as well as to limit both debt and tyranny. Though a man could be enslaved for repayment of huge debts, no one could obligate himself for longer than seven years. Only God owned the land, and He had granted it to certain families. A family might lease the use of the land to another family for a few years, but on the Sabbath year, the rights to the land returned to the original family. Under those circumstances, no rich man could enslave or oppress a fellow without restraint. No government redistribution plan could encumber a generation’s children or manipulate the redistribution for political gain.
The only exception to this radical freedom and personal responsibility was the man who refused the risks of freedom and preferred the security of being kept. Such men were allowed to choose permanent slavery. He was marked by having an ear pierced to signify that permanent subjection (Ex.21: 5-7). But his children were free.
This model has several implications pertinent to our current banking crisis in America, which I’d like to discuss over the next few days.