Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Visions of Disaster (1)

A friend asked me about visions of earthquakes/tsunamis coming to different parts of country that have been shared Christians in different parts of New Zealand. Several people confirmed in their own personal words or visions as well. May answer is as follows.

Talk of Tsunamis and earthquakes have circulated for years. Thirty years ago, the talk was of Wellington. And an Australian saw a vision of a volcano blowing out of Lake Taupo. A few years ago, several Christians saw a vision of a tsunami destroying Christchurch. (One American couple moved to Dunedin to avoid it). I have not heard the latest accounts, but I find it hard to take them seriously, because they do not stir my heart.

I believe that spiritually-sensitive Christians sometimes hear the devil saying what he would like to do. Before the Christchurch earthquake, a friend heard an audible voice while he was walking through Christchurch at lunchtime say, “I am going to destroy this city”. After the earthquake, he assumed that God had been warning him. I do not doubt what he heard, but I do not accept his interpretation. God does not want to destroy Christchurch, because he has good plans for it. It is the devil who wants to destroy Christchurch.

The devil is the one who loves to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). He wants to destroy the Christchurch, because he knows that God has plans for it, even though he does not know what they are. I believe my friend heard the devil speaking out what he wanted to do (but was not actually capable of doing). Or perhaps, God let my friend hear what the devil was saying, so he could stand against it in prayer.

I assume that most of the talk about tsunamis comes from spiritually–sensitive people who have picked up what the devil wants to do. Fear is his one of his best weapons. Or more likely, God is letting them hear what the devil wants to do, so they will intercede against it.

It is dangerous, if Christians agree with these words, because they give the powers of evil authority to do what they want to do. It is possible that the Christian who delighted in the vision of tsunamis destroying Christchurch, were actually giving the powers of evil permission to trigger the earthquake that did such immense damage in the city.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

No! Whats Next?

The Greeks have said “No” to the European austerity package. The outcome of this decision will take a while to emerge.

The European governments hold €300 billion of Greek government debt. However, they hold no security over this debt. The main way they can pressure Greece is for the European Central Bank to withhold emergency liquidity funding from the Greek banking system. The ECB cut these funds off this last week, which shut the banks. The ECB could destroy the Greek banking by refusing to restore liquidity support. This would look odd, because it would be refusing to do what central banks are mandated to do: be a lender of last resort.

If the ECB fails to support the Greek Banks they will quickly collapse. This would create serious problems for the economy, as businesses would find it very difficult to operate with no facility for buying inputs or paying wages and salaries. The Greeks would have to find some another way of getting payments working.

The Greek government is suggesting it could establish a parallel currency by issuing electronic IOUs. Some businesses are already creating notes that their staff can give supermarkets to get food, then supplying good to the supermarkets to compensate. I have explained how local communities can create an alternative banking system in Community Banks.

The other way the Europeans can pressure Greece is to withhold further loans. The Greek government cannot operate through a serious recession without further borrowing. If it does not get more loan funding, the government will be out of money. It would not be able to afford to pay pensions and salaries of the public service. This would leave many people without income and unable to pay rent or buy food. It might make it very difficult for hospitals and police services to keep operating. The Greeks would have to find ways to new ways to support each other through this crisis with giving and sharing. If things got really bad, international aid agencies might need to provide food aid. Russia, China and US Hedge Funds are possible sources of loans, if there were a complete default.

These problems are unlikely to happen. I suspect that European and Greek politicians will arrive at a negotiated solution and the situation in Greece will grind on for a long time.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Referendum and Default

No one is asking me, but I would vote “No” in the referendum, if I were Greek. The conditions being imposed by the European government are unreasonable. The latest IMF report confirms this. The European government requirements are driven more by their fears of their own voters than concern for the Greek people.

The Greeks would be better to default completely, than to surrender to the Europeans once more. There might be some short term pain, but the long term future would be much better without the albatross of debt hanging round their necks.

A full default would bring the collapse of the Greek banks. Fortunately, most depositors have already got their money out of their banks. As much as €50 billion in Euro notes and coins could be hidden under Greek mattresses and much more may be off-shore banks. Many businesses have borrowed Euros from Greek banks and moved the money to European banks, or into US dollars or sterling. They intend to make a profit when a new devalued drachma is introduced.

If the banks fail, and are liquidated by the state, the remaining domestic depositors would become senior creditors of the banks with first claim over their remaining assets. They European creditors would be left with nothing.

If Greece defaulted on all its debts, lenders would soon return. Greece would be seen as a good credit risk, because debt levels would be very low. Loan money would soon be flowing again, but it would be possible to keep it under control.

Greece should probably withdraw from the EU and get free of its shackles. Greek companies would still be able to export to the west, but it would be much easier to trade with the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where the demand for their products is likely to be much greater.

Greece and Debt

According to the Bible,

The borrower is slave to the lender (Prov 22:7).
Two corollaries of this verse are being lived out in Greece.
  • The government that borrows excessively turns its people into slaves.
    The Greek people are experiencing this at the current time.

  • When the borrower owes the lender €300 billion, the lender is also the slave of the borrower. The governments of Europe are discovering this in Greece.

Greek Government Foolishness

1. Betrayed by Politicians
The Greek people have been betrayed by successive governments that have taken on excessive debt in order to buy votes.

2. Greek Oligarchy
Bad government protects the rich and powerful. The Greek banks are vehicles through which the Oligarchs controlled the economy. They serve the economic elite, while smaller businesses are starved of funding.

3. Banks Broke
The Greek banks are broke. The three largest banks—–Alpha Bank, National Bank of Greece and Eurobank Ergasias—–have upwards of €60 billion of non-performing loans, which represent nearly one-third of their total book of €180 billion. In addition, they also have €50 billion of bonds and other investments—much of which was issued or guaranteed by the Greek state. Against the massive imbedded losses, the three banks have only €9 billion of tangible book equity. In short, neither the stock or the long-term debt of these banks have any recoverable value at all (David Stockman)

European Control

1. NATO Outpost
During the cold war, Greece was an outpost of NATO on the edge of the Eastern Bloc. The US encouraged Greek military spending and supported the military junta that ruled Greece, because they feared a socialist government would link the nation with the Soviet Union. Being orthodox Christians, the Greeks have a natural affinity with the Russian orthodox people.

2. Entry to the Euro
When Greece entered the Euro, Goldman Sachs helped the government fudge the books to make it look better than it was. Greece used to be on the boundary between of the Eastern Bloc during the cold war, so European leaders were keen to get it into the Euro. They turned a blind eye the accounting fudges to get Greece locked into Western Europe.

3. Bank Stupidity
After Greece joined the Euro, European banks made huge loans to the Greece government at low interest rates. Their governments encouraged them. Minimal due diligence would have shown that these loan could never be repaid. Without government rescues these banks would have collapsed in 2011 and 2012. The European government took responsibility for these debts. Not a wise move.

4. Bank of Last Resort
The Greek banks are insolvent, but all banks everywhere are technically insolvent. In the modern system, the central bank acts as the bank of last resort, to prevent bank runs. The bank of last resort for Greece is the European Central Bank (ECB). By cutting off emergency funding to Greek banks, it has precipitated a run on the banks. This is a bizarre action for a central bank to take: the opposite of what it is mandated to do. The ECB action has really disrupted economic activity in Greece, a pointless punishment of the Greek people.

5. Euro Debt
The EU got involved in Greece in 2011, because European banks had mass bad debts in Greece. French, German, Dutch and Italian banks and other private lenders had outstanding loans to the Greek government of €100 billion in 2009. Because they considered their banks were too big to fail, the European central banks took over most of the debt. The debts held by the private banks have been reduced to about €15 billion. Now €250 billion or nearly 80% of Greece’s €320 billion of fiscal debt is directly owed to the EU central banks and the IMF; and upwards of half of the balance is indirectly owed to European taxpayers because €45 billion of Greece’s T-bills and bonds are either owned or funded by the ECB.

6. European Share of Debt
The Germans are liable for €92 billion of Greek debt. The French share is €70 billion, although its own debt is approaching 100 percent of GDP. The Italians who already have a 130% debt-to-GDP ratio have a €60 billion exposure to Greece. Struggling Spain is responsible for 42 billion of Greek debt. The political leaders would face a hostile reaction from voters if they had to write off these debts. This is why they are so strident against the Greek government.

7. ECB Capital
A Greek default could wipe out the capital of the European Central Bank. The Greeks owe the ECB about €90 billion and it guarantees another €100 billion owed to other European central banks. ECB equity and reserves are about €95 billion. Writing of Greek debt would wipe out this capital. It would have to be recapitalised by member banks at a time when debt is already a major problem for members of the EU.

8. EU Bullying
The leaders of the EU claim to believe in democracy, but that want to control the nation of Greece. Martin Shulz, the President of the European Parliament says that the Greek government should resign and let a technocratic government take work out a deal acceptable to the Europeans. Like all the European leaders, he does not respect the right of the Greek people to vote on their destiny.

9. Austerity
European leaders have imposed austerity on the Greek economy. Doing this during an economic crisis is stupid, as it just makes the situation worse. The time for reducing debt is during good times. Cutting expenditure during bad times weakens the economy. It increases unemployment and social welfare benefits and reduces taxation, so the deficit gets worse, which increases debt levels. The austerity measures imposed on Greece have weakened the economy, and increased its debts. The time for encouraging austerity was before the GFC, but no one worried about debt back then.

10. Privatisation
European leaders have imposed a privatisation program on Greece. Even if privatisation is good in principle, it is a foolish thing to do during an economic crisis, because valuable assets get sold at fire-sale prices to wealthy oligarchs. The economic elite obtains cheap assets, and the government loses income. The privatisation of Greek assets has produced very little revenue so far. The banks that are scheduled for sale are now worthless, so there is little to be gained from further privatisation.

11. Gunboats and Debt
European domination of Greece has a long history. In 1850, the British sent gunboats to Greece size ships and their cargoes to cover unpaid debts. This time the governments of Europe hold no security covering their Greek debts. If the Greek government defaults there are no assets to claim, so their money will be lost.

Greek Economy

I were the King of Greece,
I'd push things off the mantelpiece (AA Milne).
Tomorrow the people of Greece vote in a referendum on the tough terms of European rescue package. After doing a bit of study, I found that things are not quite as they are portrayed in the media. Here is some background information about the Greek economy.

1. GDP
The Greek economy is not just tourism and olive oil. 15 percent of the world merchant shipping is owned by Greek shipping magnates. Greece exports cement, ships, petroleum, electronic goods, pharmaceuticals and agricultural products.

2. Decline
The Greek economy has been hit hard by the GFC. Between 2010 and 2013, the GDP declined by an average of 6 percent. This has exacerbated the debt problem.

3. Exports
Exports have continued to increase from 2010 to the present.

4. Unemployment
The unemployment rate in Greece is 26 percent. More than fifty percent of youth under 25 are unemployed.

5. Pensions
Greece has been criticised for its generous pensions, but they have been significantly reduced in the last few years. The main problem is the inefficient system for managing pension funds and payments.

6. Aging Population
The cost of pensions is high because the aging problem has hit Greece earlier than other countries reflects and the aging population. 20 percent of the population is over 65.

7. Taxation
Greece has a problem with collecting taxations, but that is not the full story. The GST rate is 26 percent. The rate on food is 6 percent. The highest income tax rate is 42 percent. The problem is that the oligarch families that control most of the economy are able to evade taxation. For example, income from shipping is tax free. The bosses of energy and construction companies and football clubs avoid tax.

8. Budget Deficit
The Greek government have always spent more than they earned in taxes. Between 1995 and 2015, the average budget shortfall was 7.1 percent of GDP.

9. Military spending
Greece has always had high levels of military spending. Although it is now down to 3 percent of GDP, it got as high as 7 percent of GDP. I presume this is partly the legacy of Greece the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. I presume the military elite dominate of part of the economy.

10. Normal People
The people of Greece are no different from people all over the world. Some are wise, some are foolish. Most work hard, and only a few are lazy. Many would just like a decent job. The Greeks are not an evil people that need to be punished.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

A War We Can Win

Christians lost the cultural battle years ago. This is confirmed by the latest decision of the US Supreme Court. We need a new strategy, one that targets a battle that we are better placed to win.

In his editorial, the cultural war. David Brooks suggests a different battle for Christians to fight.

Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness.

We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely...

I don’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, and of course fights about the definition of marriage are meant as efforts to reweave society. But the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.

This is exactly right. Loving one another in the power of the Spirit is the place were Christians have a competitive advantage.

In Old Testament times, God used a prophetic approach. It was not that successful, because God knew it was not his best shot. He sent Jesus to live and die and rise again to open up a new and better way. With the ministry of Jesus, he shifted from prophetic confrontation to loving involvement. He shifted from pushing evil away, to drawing evil in and overcoming it with crushing love. That is why Jesus said that people would recognise his followers by their love (John 13:34-35). Loving one another is the power of the gospel.

God is saying, you will not win the war by persisting with a battle that was lost long ago. Confronting a strong enemy in a conventional warfare is pointless. A weaker force can amplify its strength by engaging guerrilla warfare (4GW), by attacking the strong force in it soft underbelly.

Instead of railing against the culture, we should start building Christian community within the culture, and draw in the lost and broken people who have been wreaked and discarded by modern culture. The people on television look happy and connected with the rest of the cast. But modern culture is not so rosy on the ground. In real life, people are isolated lonely, frightened and often hurt. They would be open to the gospel, and Christian community, if they were targeted by love. This is where modern culture is hugely vulnerable.

Brooks is wrong about one thing. He said that the defining face of social conservatism could be this.

Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.
He is wrong about this. Social conservatives are not capable of doing what he suggests, because the prefer to stand on the side-lines in the conform of their mansions and yell at the encroaching evil. They claim the name of Jesus, but they are not willing to get their hands dirty and engage with the world and love and love and love as Jesus did. It will take a more radical type of Christian to do fulfil Jesus calling to love one another as he loved us.

More at http://kingwatch.co.nz/Church_Ministry/future_church_strategy.htm

Friday, July 03, 2015

Lost Cultural Battle

I do not expect to find wisdom in the New York Times, but David Brooks’ editorial on the Supreme Court decision summed up the situation really well.

Here is my take on the situation. A wise general knows:

  • Persisting with a battle that is lost does not help win the war.
  • Letting the enemy choose the battleground unnecessarily gives him a huge advantage.
  • Fight battles at places where you are strong and the enemy is weak is the best way to win the war.
The battle for the culture was lost a long time ago. Continuing to fight that battle, as if we could still win it is pointless. We need to step back, and find a new way to challenge the culture, on a ground where we are strong.

David Brooks was right when he wrote,

Christianity is in decline in the United States. The share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians and attend church is dropping. Evangelical voters make up a smaller share of the electorate. Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.

Christianity’s gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues. More and more Christians feel estranged from mainstream culture...

These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution... a culture war that, at least over the near term, they are destined to lose.
For four or five centuries, culture was shaped by newspapers and pamphlets, but mostly the pulpit. The sermon was the main culture-forming event of the week, so Christian values had a huge influence.

In the modern world, culture is determined by television, movies and social media, not by ideas from a book that most people have never read.

At first it seemed like television was on our side, because it portrayed a pseudo-Christian reality. When I first started watching television in the 1960s, programs like the Donna Reed Show portrayed real two-parent familes. That was the norm. There were single-parent shows like the Andy Griffith show and My Three Sons, but they were interesting because they were clearly abnormal. In hindsight, I presume they were the thin end of the wedge, because they made a single-parent family look practical.

Of course, the two-parent family living in the suburbs and driving everywhere that was portrayed in these programs was a miserable imitation of the Christian family. That is why it was unable to withstand the pressure of cultural change. The cultural battle was already lost, because Christians believed this pathetic distortion was “the Christian family”.

The 1970s brought the Happy Days of the Cunningham family, but even in this program the counter-cultural Fonz gradually moved from lurking in the shadows and into the heart of the family.

Now the counter-culture has becomes the culture. On modern US Television, alternative relationships are the norm, and they have been for a long time. In contrast, Christian families are rare, or odd. Christians might be forty percent of the population, but they are missing from television, except in the irrelevant ghetto of Christian television.

The battle for the culture has been lost for nearly twenty years. Those who understand this were not surprised by the Supreme Court decision. The judges are old, so they are just catching up to where the rest of the culture arrived a decade ago.

Continuing to confront a hostile culture about the sexual revolution just makes us look ugly. Especially the news is full of stories of church leaders joining the sexual revolution.

Last night on our TV news, I saw two men with Bibles standing on a street in the US and yelling at a 9 year old girl waving a rainbow flag. It was probably a set up, but it made Christians look ugly, especially because these men are not shouting at pastors who commit adultery. For many viewers, the incident would have confirmed their view that Christians are angry, hateful and hypocritical. If Jesus is like that, they are not interested in him.

In my next post, I would look at better battle strategy, one that will enable us to win the war, by losing, like Jesus did.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Beach Massacre in Tunisia

The world has been shocked by the massacre on the beaches of Tunisia. The British have been stunned by television images of UK citizens lying dead on the beach. A UK reporter interviewed the gunman’s grandfather demanding an explanation for the people of the UK, and pressuring him to make an apology. However, a big part of the story has been missed.

In her book “Thieves of State”, Sarah Chayes describes the kleptocracy that controls the Tunisian economy. The friends and family of President Ali had used political power to gain control of large chunks of the Tunisian economy. Their favourite technique was to take out massive loans from a Tunisian bank. They would then default, and because of their political connections, the bank would have no choice but to write it off as a bad debt. Using this process, loan money from the IMF and the European Union flowed into the pockets of the economic elite in Tunisia.

The president’s families and cronies used their political privilege to gain control of much of the tourism industry in Tunisia. They bought the land beside the best beaches cheap and used borrowed money to build massive hotel complexes, often with generous help from government agencies. Most of the best public beaches were taken up in this way. Chayes described one complex on what had been one of the last good public beaches.

As is typical in the Tunisian tourist trade, this hotel functioned as a closed system. A partnership with Italian investors, it employed no Tunisians except for a few guards, and shipped in all its foodstuffs from Italy. Not even Tunisia’s luscious olive oil reached its tables. And like other seaside resorts, its beach access was off-limits to locals.
It was government policy to cordon of the tourist trade this way, to shield foreigners from Tunisian realities, and to reserve the sector from well-connected insiders. The isolation allowed for another dimension: the suctioned use of some resorts for sex tourism (p.95).
The whole set up is designed for the benefits of the economic elite and their European financers. It provides luxury and freedom for relatively wealthy tourists, while shutting out the local people.

The so-called Arab Spring got under way when a Tunisian fruit vendor who had been constantly been harassed by the local police set himself on fire in protest against the government disruption of his fruit business. President Ali was overthrown, but the economic elite that controls much of the economy and the tourism trade remained in place. The local people are still shut out of the industry, and shut of their own beaches.
The actions of the gunman in Tunisia were immoral, but it is not hard to understand his frustration. You do not have to be a member of ISIS to realise that something is rotten in the Tunisian economy.

Sarah Chayes records a warning to the politicians made by photojournalist Talel Macer,

If you keep ignoring the serious economic issues that matter. I mean social justice and punishment of the people who stole. If things go on in this way, the youth will flock to the Salafis (p.100).
Marwan Jedda a Salafi leader gave an even stronger warning.
People wanted to bring down corruption and repression in 2011, but neither has fallen yet. Corruption has increased in Tunisia. People demanded, work freedom and dignity. As an Islamist, I have a solution. The second revolution will be on Islamic revolution (p.99).
The pontifications of Western politicians ring hollow in this context. Theresa May, the British Home Secretary, said it was a “despicable act cruelty in a place of beauty, relaxation and happiness”. She is right about the cruelty. And the beach is a place of beauty and happiness for foreign tourists. But it is not a place of beauty, relaxation and happiness for the local people, because they are shut out of the beach, unless they can get employment at the hotel complex, but it will be very poorly paid and not a place of relaxation.

Prime Minister David Cameron rambles on about freedom. However, he mostly seems to be worried about the freedom of British and Italian businesses and banks to carry on colluding with the Tunisian economic elite in extracting profits from their unrighteous wealth. He also seem to be worried about the freedom of UK tourists to strut on Tunisian beaches in their brief bikinis and drink alcohol day and night, without having to think about whether their actions are offensive to the local people. David Cameron does not seem to be that worried about the freedom of the local people to swim on their own beaches.

John Kerry extols the benefits of secular government, but to local people, “secular” means “no morals”, so secular government is incapable of dealing with the corruption of the political and economic elite. And the evidence seems to confirm that. Many people are coming to the belief that only a return to an Islamic government will bring an end to theft and corruption.

Unfortunately, ideas and inaction have consequences.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Wellington

Wellington will be confused
People will buzz in and out of the beehive,
uncertain of what to do,
Filled with fear, perplexity and confusion (Is 22:5).

All treading on each other
to get to the top (out of habit),
but not knowing where the top is,
or what they will do if they get there.
Not knowing their right hand
from their left (Jonah 4:11).

Now ideals, except for
pride,
power,
position,
privilege.

Trouble to the left
Trouble to the right
All is confusion
All is confusion
Disaster behind us
Terror ahead of us
Confusion,
all is confusion.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Foolishness and Folly

New Zealand is ruled by two men, who are assisted by a third. I call them Foolishness and Folly. They are assisted by a financial fiddler.

Foolishness
The first man began life as a financial trader. No morality is needed for trading. You decide what you think is going to happen, and take a positon. If you are right you win; if you are wrong you lose.

He operates the same way into the political world. He tried to pick the next big political issue, and takes a position first, and then tries to shut others out.

Folly
The second man began as a shrewd business. He believes that success comes from buying early, and making a killing.

As a politician, he wants to pick winners and invest in them.

Financial Fiddler
Their assistant does have morals. He cares about people who are hurting. However he things that he can solve problems by spending money on them.

His approach to politics is to shifting money around and trying to get public servants to perform better.

Outcome
We will see foolishness, folly and financial fiddling fail.

The wisdom of Wellington will be put to shame
by trouble upon trouble upon trouble.
Our three leaders will make mistake after mistake after mistake.

They have not moral anchor,
so no wisdom
just pragmatic politics
and financial fiddling.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Government Debt

The principle I described in my last post applies to government debt. Enforcing a claim against a sovereign has always been difficult, as lenders discovered back in the middle ages. Whereas there are courts to settle claims between individuals, companies and banks, there is no established procedure for settling sovereign debts. Kings would default on their debt, and the creditor would be powerless. If they complained, the king would just throw them in prison, or confiscate more of their wealth.

Since 1945, a country that is struggling to refinance its debts can ask for money from the IMF, but this comes with stringent conditions attached. Such conditions override the wishes of voters.

Countries can simply default on their debts; this may cut them off from international finance for a while but eventually lenders forgive and forget. After all, a country that has written off most of its debts is a better credit risk as its debt service costs have plunged.

However, defaulting on national debt has short and medium-term costs. The country will have live within its means until the lenders recover their courage. This might be difficult, if outflows of wealth have weakened the economy. Trade might be difficult to fund. When the country does return to the markets, its initial borrowing costs will be high. Interest rates will only fall once creditors have recent experience of being repaid in full.

The irony is that modern economies are based government debt. Not a solid foundation.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Debt Claims

In a modern society, the government enforces debts on behalf of the creditors, unless the government is the debtor. Governments usually take the side of creditors. They generally do this, even if the debt is unfair and the interest rate is exorbitant. The only escape for a debtor is to declare themselves bankrupt.

In a kingdom society, there is no state authority with the power to enforce the repayment of debt. Judges can confirm that a debt is owing, but they would not have authority to enforce payment of the debt. This means that repayment of debt will be voluntary. Pressure to repay debt may come from within the community, however the community will only put pressure on debtors, if they believe that it is justified.

All other creditors will be reliant on the good will of the debtor. They will usually repay, because they will realise that they might want a loan in the future and do not want to spoil their credit record. They will also understand that they might be a creditor in the future, so they will want to set a good example for other debtors by repaying as promised.

In the Kingdom of God, repayment of debt will always be voluntary. The debtor can walk away from the debt, if they are willing to incur the wrath of the creditor. This takes us back to the teachings of Jesus. He said,

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back (Luke 6:35).
All lending should be done with an expectation that the debt might not be repaid. The effect of this will be a significant reduction in debt levels. Most people will be unwilling to make big loans to others, because it will be too risky.

The only people who lend to those who are poor will be Christians demonstrating the love of Jesus. Most other people will be unwilling to run the risk. Equity financing will become much more import than debt financing.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Friendship

Friendship rarely comes naturally. Parents need to teach their children how to be friends. Here are twelve tips that children need to learn.

  1. Get friends by being friendly.

  2. Friendship is not a right. Seek out people who are lonely and friendless.

  3. Being better or clever and putting people down makes us feel good, but it destroys friendship.

  4. Be cheerful. People like to be around people who are positive.

  5. Listen to others, as much as you speak.

  6. Most girls want a bosom friend for life, but this is rare outside of novels. It is better to have a group of friends. Then there will always be someone there for you.

  7. Do not suffocate friendship. Allow friends time out, if they need it.

  8. Do not keep friends on a short tight. Give them freedom to do things without you and engage with other people. Let them go, and you will keep them.

  9. You will need time out from friends. When you need time out, tell them graciously. Don’t burn them off, because you still need their friendship.

  10. When friends share their hearts, and their sorrows, treasure it carefully. Don’t turn their secrets into gossip.

  11. Always speak well of your friends. Do not pull friends down behind their backs with other friends. If they have made a mistake, tell them, gently. Don’t tell others.

  12. Learn to forgive: and forget. Forgiveness, lubricates friendship. Don’t bring up issues that have been dealt with.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Separation and Cities

During the 18th century, smog, soot and waste from factories made cities very unpleasant places. The solution was to separate out the different parts of the city.

The school of separation believed that the good life can only be achieved by separating the various functions of the city, so that certain people can avoid the worst of its toxicity.
Separation was the natural response to the Industrial Revolution, which created cities, choking on soot and sewage (Charles Montgomery, Happy City, p.64).

The design of our modern cities is still based on a principle of separation of activities, even though the problems it was designed to deal with have been solved. Industry is one part of the city. Retail in another. Old people in rest homes. Residential areas are together in another place. People are forced to move from place to place in the city during their day. The automobile made this possible, but it leaves out lives disconnected and fragmented.

To bring in the kingdom, we will have to restore and re-integrate our modern cities. Most production is no longer ugly, so it does not need to be in a separate place. We will have to bring work back to where people live. Some people have already chosen to work from home. With de-industrialisation, we will see more work back in the places where we live.

Consumerism needs big temples. The collapse of consumerism will make these redundant. Retail and production will both be brought back to where we live. And of course, churches will be where we live too.

Monday, June 22, 2015

POG (5) Samuel Moment

This is the last of my notes on the talk by Os Guinenss called The Power of the Gospel

Transparency

The young generation talks about transparency, authenticity and accountability, as if they are new.

In a fallen world, morality is accountability through visibility.

People in the modern are more anonymous than any generation in history. Two Christians brother agree to hold each other accountable. They meet on a Tuesday night. They only know what they say about as happened since the last met

This is a little distorted

There is no real transparency.

Preferences

The modern world shifts us from authority to preferences.

Traditionally, God’s authority bound behaviour.

Now anything goes among evangelicals

This is the effect of consumerism, which expects us to pick and choose from among multiple offerings, depending on preferences.

Everything is a choice. This powerful cultural influence erodes authority.


Samuel Moment

The Western world is at a Samuel moment.

When Israel wanted a king, God said to give them what they want. but warned them of the consequences.

The Christian message to the modern world must be
“This is your choice; but there will be consequences,
and we will live differently, whatever you choose to do”.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

POG (4)

Last week I listened to Os Guiness giving a talk called The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times at the Acton Institute. Here are some more notes I took while listening to his message.

Modern World

Our modern world is not created by ideas, but by culture.

Peter Berger warned about a world without windows

In the pre-modern world, the unseen world is real.

Modern people say that the unseen world is not real.

we live in this so-called real world.

Many Christians are operational atheists, unawares.

Jesus said we can live by bread alone.

Modernism has brought us to a place where we can almost live by bread alone. science alone, technology alone, management alone.

A church can grow with the right technology and plan.

No need for God→secular societies.

Fragmented Faith

Modernism has moved us from an integrated faith to a fragmented faith.

In a village it easy to integrate faith with everything, because you can walk around it.

modern lives are strung out

Work, church, home are in different worlds.

Faith is privately engaging, but publicly irrelevant.

Cities have fragmented our lives without awareness.

Science is modern, but culture is post-modern.

Call to Community

The New Testament call to community is the very toughest part of the Christian ethic to live out in our modern, over-stressed, over-loaded, fragmented society.

It easy to retreat altogether.

We need a few doing that for prayer, worship, and to provide place for rest.

But most of us have to be in the world.

but we must be different.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

POG (3)

Last week I listened to Os Guiness giving a talk called The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times at the Acton Institute. Here are some more notes I took while listening to his message.

What are the Keys to Kingdom Advance

Today there is a lot of analysis of how ideas change culture.

Secularism says that ideas spread through leaders
at the centre of culture, not the edges.

The Kingdom spreads differently.

  1. Leadership of the Holy Spirit
  2. Surprising reversals
  3. Culture change is a by-product of seeking the kingdom.
Key lessons from Engagement with Culture
  1. Times of success often breed worse failure, eg Christendom

    It was never perfect – we cant relax

    We always need critiques of our culture, even when successful

  2. The greatest darkness is often just before the dawn.

    We she should not be discouraged at times of bleakness

    Look to God and see what he is doing.

  3. The church moves forward best by going back first.

    The modern world is crazy about relevance and being up-to-date

    The reformation and renaissance were recovery moments.

    We must go back to the heart of the gospel, and live it.

    The future of humanity depends on us doing this.

Tools for discerning culture
  1. History of ideas

    we need to understand the genealogy of ideas.

    This makes it easier to critique them.

  2. Cultural Analysis

    Sociology of knowledge shows how life-context shapes thinking.

    eg clocks →fast past society

    Westerners have watches, Africans have time.

    cars, cellphones change society

  3. Biblical World view

    shapes our wisdom.

    provides a framework of how thing fit

    supports critique of culture

Friday, June 19, 2015

POG (2)

Last week I listened to Os Guinness giving a talk called The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times at the Acton Institute. This video gives a great summary of many of the ideas that he covered in the book by the same name. It is a worth a listen. Here are some more notes I took while listening to his message.

What is the Explanation of the Power of the Gospel in Culture

CS Lewis says that the gospel is world affirming and denying at the same time.

Augustine, says we are living in the city of God in the midst of the city of man,
but not dependent on the city of man.

We are in the world, but not of it.

Not conformed, but transformed.

There have been two extremes in history

Worldly or isolated (retreat)
Three things are essential

  • Engagement is essential

  • Discernment

    American church is good at discerning ideas (can smell a heresy from a mile off)

    but not at discerning culture.

    However culture is more seductive than ideas.

    Evangelicals understand secularism and relativism, but not consumerism and fragmentation, which are far more dangerous.

    Evangelicals are attuned to bad ideas, but blind to cultural distortions.

    The American church is worldly. It is shaped far more by American culture than the gospel at many points, not in terms of ideas, but in terms of culture.

  • Courage

    Christians consensus is gone.

    We need people to call the truth about evil, and say no.
We need to create a tension with culture that is culture changing.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Os Guiness - Power of the Gospel

When I first became a Christian back in the early 1970s, everyone in my circle was reading a book called The Dust of Death by Os Guiness. I remember him coming to speak in Christchurch. He was born in China to missionary parents. Having spent time at L’Abri in Switzerlands with Francis and Edith Schaffer, but was emerging as a serious cultural critic. Being English, I suspect he was more influential in Europe, than in the United States.

A few months ago, I read Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guiness. His hair is getting white now, but I have always found his writing insightful, even though I do not always agree with. I have been meaning to right a review of renaissance, but other things have squeezed it out.

Last week I listened to him giving a talk with the same name at the Acton Institute. This video gives a great summary of many of the ideas that he covered in the book. It is a worth a listen if you do to want to grapple with is book. The following posts are the notes I took while listening to his message.

Challenges for the Western Church
The modern western church has faces three challenges.

  1. Supporting the church in the Global South
    The Global South is pre modern, but is coming into modernism. This is a big challenge for the church
    Their evangelism has outstripped their disciple
    Christians in china survived brutal persecution, but more fall away when they move to modern urban areas.

  2. Win back the Western World
    This has been done twice before. Rome and then out the dark ages.
    We need to do it a third time.

  3. Contribute to human future
    In the face of multiple global challenges

Gospel→Culture→Civilisation
Culture is a way of life lived in a common way. eg the way of Jesus is a culture

Civilisation is a culture that is with significant extension, duration and elevation.

The gospel was influential the development of western civilisation. eg “Gentling” of the barbarians

Western civilisation is a cut flower civilisation, it will not last.

Without the heart of the gospel, the west may remain as a great power, but not a civilisation.

Listen to Power of the Gospel however Dark the Times

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Conundrum

In his book called Happy City: Transforming our Lives through Urban Design, Charles Montgomery explains that urban design has an effect on the way that people live. Here is a good quote.

We have this Conundrum. The detached house in distant dispersal (of a modern suburb) is a blunt instrument: it is a powerful tool for retreating with your nuclear family, and perhaps your direct neighbours, but a terrible base to nurture other intensities and relationships. Your social life must be scheduled and formal. Serendipity disappears in the time eaten up by the commute, in the space between windshield and the garage doors. On the other hand, life in places that feel too crowded to control can leave us so over-stimulated and exhausted that we retreat into solitude. Either way, we miss out on the wide range of relationships that can make life richer and easier.
What we need are places that help us to moderate our interactions with strangers without having to retreat entirely.
This suggests that it is extremely difficult to establish a "real church" in which people can really love one another in a modern suburb. Modern urban design is hostile to the body of Christ.