Monday, October 15, 2018

Human Salvation

Humans need salvation. The problems emerged almost immediately after the fall.

  1. The first problem to emerge was human shame. Adam and Eve were ashamed as soon as God came near. They ran away and hid from him. This has been an ongoing problem. Humans need his wisdom, but they have been unable to draw near to Him, because they get overwhelmed by guilt and shame. We need God’s help, but we cannot bear to be close to him.

  2. The second problem to emerge was the loss of authority on earth. This became evident soon after they sinned. When they submitted to the deceiver, they surrendered their authority over the earth to him. This shift of authority gave the spiritual powers of evil work evil on the earth.

  3. The third problem did not become evident until much later. Satan grasped the power to accuse, but his basis for making charges against humans was not very strong (except for murder - Gen 9:6).

This problem only became serious when the law was given, because it gave him a stronger basis for making accusations. He was able to demand that the penalties specified in the law. Paul explained this further.
Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam (Rom 5:12-14).
Sin entered the world through one man. “Sin” is a powerful ruler spirit (Cosmos Dominators). It could be a separate or another name for Satan the deceiver. When Sin came into the world, another spirit called “Death” gained control of the earth. He was a destroyer who worked to destroy everything on God’s earth.

Sin’s power was limited until the giving of the law.

Sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law (Rom 5:13).
The spirit called Sin had limited power before Moses gave the law, because no penalties for sin had been given. No penalties have been specified that he could demand. Accusing was pointless, because there was no penalty that could be demanded. Until the law was given, the power of Death and Destruction was more effective.
Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses (Rom 5:14).
The giving of the law empowered Sin, the accuser.
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase (Rom 5:20).
In the law, God specified penalties for sin to provide spiritual protection for his people. Sexual sins open people up to evil spirits, especially if one party is hostile to God. Preventing inappropriate sexual liaison was essential for maintaining an evil-spirit-free land. However, Satan twisted the law and used it to accuse the people before God. He demanded the right to implement the penalties of the law against all who sinned.

The law recognised human fallibility. It actually had sacrifices for sins committed without realising, because everyone would sin (Lev 4:1-2). Jesus explained the anger that anger and lust are forbidden by the law (Matt 5:21-30). This covers nearly everyone, so everyone has sinned. The tabernacle sacrifices dealt with guilt and shame, but they do not make us righteous.

The law was not given to make people righteous. The law was given for three purposes.

  1. spiritual protection.
  2. removing guilt and shame, so people could be close to God.
  3. Allow people to live together in a close community.
God always intended that the last day would be a day of justice. People would be rewarded for what they experienced on earth. People who had suffered on earth would be compensated in eternity. People who had proved trustworthy on earth would be given extra responsibility in the next life. God is a good judge who will ensure that no one misses out and everyone gets what they deserve.

The accuser knew that he would have lost his influence by the time of the day of justice, so he forced God into being a judge in the present age. He went to God with accusations against his people and demanded the penalties specified in the law.

Friday, October 12, 2018

War and Peace

I have just finished reading War and Peace by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy. I first read this book when I was twenty, and thought that it was the best novel that I had read. I have read many more books since then, and still think that it is one of the best books I have read (Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is one that equals it).

Tolstoy tells the story of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. Napoleon burned Moscow, before the cold winter forced a destructive retreat. Tolstoy vividly describes the horror and futility of war.

Tolstoy’s portrayal of his numerous characters is deft. He often describes the character of person in a few subtle sentences. His is critical of high society, and exposes the artificiality of the people who were respected in the best social circles.

The book is interspersed with Tolstoy’s philosophy of history. His main point is that important people are not as influential as they think they are. Political leaders get carried away by the flow if history and do things that they did not intend to.

The generals make detailed plans in the advance of the battle, but they are usually wrong, because they do not understand the geography of the battle ground and the positioning of their forces. Once the battle starts, everything quickly changes and their plan becomes impractical. The generals are usually too far back from the battle to see what is really happening, but they continue to send messengers with new orders and instructions. Unfortunately, by the time the messenger gets to the relevant commanders, the situation has changed, and the instructions are irrelevant or impossible to implement. Often instructions were ignored, because the people on the frontline are scared, confused, or want to push their own agenda.

Tolstoy shows how the turning point in a battle is often the result of a few inconsequential people. Some cries out, “We are finished”, and everyone begins to flee. Or a soldier’s horse bolts and leads him on a charge towards the opposing infantry. In each case, many thousands of others follow and the battle is turned.

The relationships between the various members of the families at the centre of the narrative is fascinating too. They keep popping up in unexpected places, but this keeps the book interesting to the end.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Trade Deficits

Steve H. Hanke of the Johns Hopkins University explains trade deficits.

President Trump, and most in his administration, believe that the U.S. trade deficit is a “bad” thing caused by foreigners who engage in unfair trade practices. For them, the solution is U.S. imposed tariffs and other anti-trade measures. What a nostrum. Our trade deficit is made in the good, old U.S.A., not by foreigners engaging in “unfair” trade practices. Tariffs will not change the overall U.S. trade balance.

How could this be? In economics, identities play an important role. These identities are obtained by equating two different breakdowns of a single aggregate. Identities are interesting, and usually important, by definition. In national income accounting, the following identity can be derived. It is the key to understanding the trade deficit.

(Imports - Exports) ≡ (Investment - Savings) + (Government Spending - Taxes)
Given this identity, which must hold, the trade deficit is equal to the excess of private sector investment minus savings, plus government spending minus tax revenue. So, the counterpart of the trade deficit is the sum of the private sector deficit and the government deficit (federal + state and local). The U.S. trade deficit, therefore, is just the mirror image of what is happening in the U.S. domestic economy. If expenditures in the U.S. exceed the incomes produced, which they do, the excess expenditures will be met by an excess of imports over exports (read: a trade deficit).

So, if tariffs and other anti-trade measures don’t affect the overall U.S. trade balance, what do they do? They simply alter the playing field and the bilateral trade deficits that the U.S. runs with various countries. The total U.S. trade balance remains unaltered; however, the U.S. consumer is not unaltered. Shifting sources for U.S. imports means that U.S. purchasers will be forced to move away from their first choices to second best choices.

But, how can the U.S. continue to rack up big trade deficits year-after-year? The U.S. can do this by borrowing internationally to finance its trade deficit (read: the domestic savings deficiency). And, because the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, the U.S. can borrow at attractive rates. Indeed, the dollar’s reserve currency status gives the U.S. what the former French President ValĂ©ry Giscard d’Estaing described as an “exorbitant privilege.” This privilege is simple: the issuer of the world’s reserve currency and its citizens can borrow “cheap.” The privilege works like a charm as long as the reserve currency stays on top. But, kings can be toppled. Remember when the pound sterling was the world’s reserve currency? Well, when the pound was replaced by the greenback, the exorbitant privilege baton was passed from the United Kingdom to the United States.

So, while trade deficits have not proven to be a burden while the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, a burden might rear its ugly head if the greenback were to be knocked off its top spot.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Salvation by Law

Christians believe in salvation by grace, not by law, yet they constantly slip back into wanting salvation by law. They believe that the law cannot change human hearts, yet they seem to want to use law to change people’s behavior.

Currently many want to use law to eliminate abortion. Without a change in heart, that will not happen. During the 1960s, western culture chose to have greater sexual freedom and cast off many social restraints. The culture chose sexual freedom, and it has not changed its mind. Once that change of heart occurred, abortion was inevitable, and still is.

American Evangelicals have got their man on the supreme court, but I except that they will be disappointed. Even he the votes to overturn Roe v Wade, which is unlikely because he will be reluctant to diminish federal authority, abortion will continue to be demanded in America, because attitudes to sexual freedom have not changed. Some states have already legalized abortion and more will do the same, making it available to most women.

Brett Kavanaugh is a product of the Washington Establishment. In his career as a judge, he has been a consistent supporter of state power. I presume that he will continue to be an advocate for the accumulation of military and political power. If American continues down the path to become the Beast of Revelation, a supreme court lead by Brett Kavanaugh will not restrain it. He will remain silent in support of his political friends, just as his friends remained silent to support him.

If Christians want to prevent abortion, they should get on with living and proclaiming their gospel, because it has the power to change lives.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Supreme Court

American Christians are really stirred up about Donald Trump’s nomination for the supreme court. Some believe that Brett Kavanagh is the man that God has chosen. Other are shocked that a man accused of assaulting a woman can be a supreme court judge. Judging be social media comments, the division is getting ugly. It seems that many Christians believe that getting the wrong person appointed to the supreme court could prevent the Kingdom of God from emerging in the United States.

This ugly dispute misses the point. There is no supreme court in God’s plan for his Kingdom. There is not supreme court in the scriptures. A supreme court cannot be justified from the scriptures.

In the Bible, God is the lawgiver and God is the judge, not the US supreme court. A human court using the principles of a human constitution to make human decisions has nothing to do with the Kingdom.

In the Kingdom of God, the role of law is limited to local judges applying God’s law. (See the Government of God). Since a supreme court is not needed for the advance of the Kingdom of God, the appointment of a judge is irrelevant to God’s purposes.

The United States constitution is not God-breathed; it is just a human ordinance. The supreme court is just another human institution that gives the people what they want. When the people wanted slavery, the supreme court approved of slavery (Dred Scott) When the people wanted abortion, the supreme court approved it in a newly discovered it right to privacy.

The supreme court is not the voice of God; it is the voice of man. It is a political institution. If it were just a group of wise people making decisions purely on the basis of the constitution, it would not matter which president appointee the justices. the fact that Presidents want to stack the court confirms that it is a political institutions. Human political institutions have no place in the Kingdom of God.

If the Kingdom of God comes to fullness in the United States, the supreme court will disappear. That should be the hope of those who seek God.