Friday, May 27, 2022

Business Socialism

The predominant species of socialism these days is business socialism, and conservatives are strangely silent about it. In the last few decades, businesses have captured the political process and milked it fairly effectively. The biggest dole out to bludgers of taxpayer largess have gone to finance companies and participants in the banking system. They were the first to get into this game. These businesses have made huge mistakes over the last few decades, but they are protected from the consequences by a myriad of laws, regulations and hand-outs.

Now with the Covid crisis, many other businesses have become used to handouts from the government, especially those in the tourism industry.

If a person on the unemployment benefit does not turn up for a job interview, they get their benefit docked for several weeks. If a business fails, limited liability kicks in and assets in the family trust are protected.

The garden-variety socialism uses political power to shift resources towers the poor and weak. Business socialism using political influence to shift resources and legal privilege towards business.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Enemy of Freedom

In an article at First Things, Ross Douthart explains something that Christians need to understand in this season.

The question of the nature of freedom is, I believe, crucial to a proper understanding of Christianity’s decline, because secularism has always opposed Christianity in the name of freedom. In taking on the mantle of freedom, secularism has turned Christianity’s own claim of being a gospel of liberation against Christianity.
In late antiquity, Christianity was the cause of truth, justice, and freedom. The Christian gospel was defeating superstition, oppression, and vice.
Christian reform movements throughout the ages would recall the same -dynamic: seeing themselves as championing truth, justice, and freedom against superstition, oppression, and enthrallment.
The Protestant Reformation saw itself precisely as the cause of truth and freedom against ignorance, superstition, and oppression.
The Enlightenment began as a movement among believing Christians, but with time its more radical proponents came to see themselves as championing reason against Christian pretensions of revelation.
Now the script has flipped.
The spirit of Christian reform is turned against Christianity itself. Now Christianity is ignorance, superstition, and oppression, while secular reason is the cause of truth and liberation.
This change is the result of excessive use of salvation by law.

See Season Change.

Friday, May 20, 2022


Inflation has taken off and people are feeling the pain of rising prices. The two places where they experience this pain the most are when they fill up their car with petrol and when they go to the supermarket to buy their groceries.

Here in New Zealand, two big supermarket chains dominate the market. One is a cooperative with most of its supermarkets being owner-operated (Foodstuffs) and the other is a subsidiary of an Australian chain. Critics have learned the word duopoly and are blaming the supermarket chains for rising prices. Some are claiming that the supermarkets are making excessive profits at the expense of their customers.

I am quite happy with the service that the supermarkets provide. I am amazed that all the things that I need for daily life are ready to purchase when I need them.

  • If I want to go to see a doctor, I have to make an appointment, often days in advance. The same is true if I want to have my car serviced. In contrast, I can go to a supermarket any time day or night and purchase what I want.

  • The supermarkets offer their customers an amazing array of choices. If I go into the breakfast cereal, there are a dozen different brands to choose from. And within each brand, there are numerous types and flavours of cereal available. The situation is the same for most of the products that I might want to buy. I am not limited to a few choices that someone decides would be good for me, but can choose which brand and type of product I want. Having all the choices available on display for customers to choose from is a real benefit, except for those who hate making decisions.

  • Looking at the food products that are available, I see products that have come from all over the world. I don’t have to organise the delivery of products from the other side of the world, because the supermarket has done the ordering and organised the delivery before I have even realised that I want the product.

  • Supermarkets make sure that the food and grocery products that people want are always available when they want them. Even when supply chain disruption occurs, most of the products that I want are available when I want them. We just take this for granted, but a huge amount of organisation goes on behind the scenes to make it happen.

    I remember a few days after the Christchurch earthquake when we had no water and electricity at our house. We went to a nearby supermarket and at the back found three big pallets of bottled water. We were delighted to get some drinking water, but I was amazed to see the amount of stock available at a time and wondered how it had got there when many of the transport links into the city were still disrupted. I presume that the supermarket chains had stocks of drinking water in their warehouses that they were able to bring out.

    New Zealand is a small island nation, a long way from everywhere, so most of the groceries that we buy have to be brought in by ship. Not only does this make them more expensive, but it makes the logistics more difficult to organize.

  • If I make an order online, the supermarket will gather up my groceries and have them available when I want to pick them up. Alternatively, I can get them delivered to my home if that is more convenient.

  • People can buy many of the food and grocery products from other more specialist providers, but it would take a huge amount of time and effort going around them all. Most people don’t have spare time for this, so being able to purchase everything needed at one site is a huge benefit.

  • Some commentators are suggesting that we need a state-owned grocery wholesale operation that all supermarkets could go to for their stock. I doubt that government bureaucrats with “no skin in the game” would ensure that the products we need are always available in the way that the same way as the supermarket chains do.

I don’t know if the supermarket owners are making excessive profits, but the following factors need to be taken into account before making a judgment.
  • Managing a supermarket/supermarket chain is an incredibly difficult task. Managers have to order goods from all over the nation and many other parts of the world and ensure that they are delivered when they are needed. They manage delivery chains across the nation. They have to ensure that their store is open seven days a week and most hours of the day, with staff there to serve customers when they choose to come. They have to ensure that the shelves are stocked at times when their customers won’t be inconvenienced.

  • I would not want to be the owner or manager of a supermarket. These people have to manage a large number of staff and organise logistics to keep food and groceries available when people want them. They have to respond quickly to changing consumer preferences and changes in the most efficient supplier.

  • Many of the products that supermarkets stock are perishable or have a short shelf life. If the supermarkets over-order, they can easily be left with unsaleable product that they have already paid for. Excessive losses can quickly cut into their profits.

  • The managers of supermarkets and their various departments tend to be recruited from inside the organisation. You don’t hear of them being recruited from the finance sector, because supermarket operation is a very specialised set of skills.

  • Not many supermarket owners get to be on the “rich list” so I presume that there are easier paths for people who really want to get wealthy.

  • I know that some supermarkets are not profitable. In our city, one shut down a few years ago, after being rebuilt just a few years earlier, because it ran at a loss. I presume that the owners lost a significant amount of money. Like all businesses, the profit of supermarkets will vary according to the site and level of competition faced.

  • Loyalty to supermarket brands tend to be quite weak. Most consumers have a choice between several supermarkets near where they live, so owners that are not on the top of their game can lose customers quickly.

  • I hope that supermarkets that I purchase from are making good profits because I want them to continue investing so that they are resilient for the future. I want them to be well organised if the disruptions to supply chains that the world is currently experiencing become worse.

  • Over the last decade, property developers and property speculators have made enormous profits without providing any service at all. These are the excessive profits that concern me far more, because they are unrighteous wealth. The owners of supermarkets might have made excessive profits, but they have had to work hard to get them. They will have to continue working even harder in an unsettled and inflationary climate to remain profitable.

The price inflation that people are currently experiencing is real and painful. The supermarkets are an easy target, but I am not sure that they are the main culprit.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022


God’s people should be careful about adopting fashionable adjectives.

A number of years ago, “prophetic” was the trendy adjective, as in prophetic leadership conference, prophetic evangelism, etc.

Subsequently, “apostolic” became the trendy adjective, as in apostolic anything, eg apostolic reformation, apostolic church.

More recently, “kingdom” is the adjective that is being used everywhere, as in kingdom economics, kingdom government, kingdom etc.

We need to be careful that we do not devalue these words by just attaching them to any idea that we think is trendy.

"Kingdom" is not an adjective that can be applied to any church programme.

“Kingdom” is a noun. We need a vision of a different kingdom.

  • The Kingdom of God is a different government.
  • The Kingdom of God is a transformed society.
  • The Kingdom of God is a different way of living.
Using “kingdom” as an adjective attached to what the church does turns the Kingdom of God into a contentless concept.

In my book Government of God, I explain how the Kingdom of God can become something real.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Looking Back

Apostles exercise authority looking back.

Paul and his colleagues founded many churches by preaching the gospel in a new town, and then moving on to repeat the process once elders had emerged who could care for the new church.

The elders in each of these churches had a strong link with Paul. They were either his spiritual children or spiritual grandchildren. Therefore, they respect him and acknowledged his wisdom. They had been submitted to him when he was an elder and they were new Christians, so they would still respect him, although he had moved on and they have become elders.

The authority of an apostle comes out of relationships. Paul demonstrated this type of authority in his letters. He was able to give direction to the churches because he had a relationship with the people in them. He was the apostle who had established their church. He knew them well and they trusted him.

This authority is completely different from the worldly pyramid model. It does not depend on legal power or position. In contrast, the authority of a bishop comes with an appointment to a position in a legal organisation.

We should note that the Twelve Apostles of Jesus were not a select group, with a special role; they were just the first of many apostles who were sent out to start new churches.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Paul’s Demise

Paul was an amazingly successful apostle. He planted churches all over Asia Minor and Greece. He provided oversight of the churches he had established, looking backward to those who had developed relationships with him. He wrote numerous letters to these churches, which became the core of the New Testament, overshadowed only by the gospels.

Paul seemed to understand the full implications of the gospel better than anyone in the first generation of Christians and was able to communicate it effectively to both Jews and Gentiles. John is the only other who reached the same level of understanding.

Given his role in the early church and his skills in sharing the gospel and advancing the Kingdom of God, it seems odd that God allowed him to be taken out of play so early in his ministry. It appears that he was killed in Rome when he still had other missionary journeys to undertake. Why did God allow his most effective operator to be taken out?

I suspect that there was a real risk that people in the fledging church wanted to make Paul into an archbishop or mini-pope. Given his skills and knowledge of the gospel, many people would want him to become the leader and manager of their church. This is a role that Paul always resisted. He moved on quickly once a church was established and was always looking to move to fresh pastures where the gospel had not been heard. This ensured that there was plenty of space for new elders to rise up in his place in the churches he left behind. Paul's approach ensured the quick development of new leadership.

Paul was not interested in becoming a senior pastor of a megachurch. (Peter seemed to have been interested in being the senior pastor of the Jerusalem church, but he discovered that he had neither the personality nor the appetite for the role).

My guess is that the reason the Holy Spirit allowed Paul to be imprisoned was that his ministry had been so effective that he was in danger of becoming an archbishop or mini-pope. He had planted numerous churches. The believers in those churches look up to him as their leader. He was skilled at resolving theological disputes. If he had continued in his ministry as it was, he was in danger of being raised up to a place that God did not want him to be, and where he did not want to be.

An apostle must keep moving on, or they will be quickly be turned into a bishop, CEO, or Big Man, depending on the culture. Paul understood this well. He was an amazingly talented person, but the kept pressing on to new places, so the churches he established could not make him into the "leader" of a group of churches.

Once Paul was imprisoned, and eventually killed, the young church had to stand on their own feet and rely on the Holy Spirit. The numerous people who had travelled and worked with Paul had to step up and preach the gospel and share the truth. Others would have to take the gospel to Spain. That is how the Holy Spirit prefers to work. He prefers working through a multitude of ordinary people to relying on a few superstars.

This is something we should remember in this season when big-name leaders of megachurches are falling from grace.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Peter and Paul

A common idea amongst Christians is that Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. This idea is given some credibility by Pauls’s account in Galatians of his encounter with the men in Jerusalem who were esteemed as something by the people, although Paul was not particularly impressed. Paul notes that they recognised that Paul had been "entrusted to take the uncircumcised to the Gentiles, just as Peter has taken it to the circumcised".

He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles (Gal 2:8).
We should be careful about reading too much into this passage. Paul only says that the Holy Spirit was working within him and Peter when they were sent out as apostles, he to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews. Anything more than this is a human construction. Paul does not call himself the Apostle to the Gentiles. He does not acknowledge that Peter was the Apostle to the Jews.

There are several problems with the idea that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and Peter was the apostle to the Jews.

  • This idea assumes that God works through a couple of big men, whereas the NT plan is for the Holy Spirit to work through thousands of people. The word apostle is used far more in the New Testament as a verb than a noun, although most English translations do not reflect this. For example, Luke 10:1 describes Jesus appointing “seventy-two others, and apostled them in pairs ahead of Him".

    The role of an apostle was not limited to an elite group. Jesus’ strategy was based on groups of people being sent out (apostled) to the world. He needs millions of apostles taking the gospel into the world to bring in the Kingdom of God.

  • Jesus had told his apostles clearly that they should start in Jerusalem and then go out into all the world (Acts 1:8; Mat 28:10). His apostles should go to the Jews first and then go to the Gentiles.

    Paul was never exclusively an apostle to the Gentiles. He followed Jesus’ instructions and in each new city went to the Jews first. Only when they rejected his approach did he go to the Gentiles.

    Peter’s approach was similar, although he was sometimes reluctant to go to the Gentiles. When the Holy Spirit tried to get Peter to go to the Gentiles in Caesarea (Acts 10) he dug in his toes, but he eventually went He never limited his ministry to just to the Jews.

Peter and Paul both operated as apostles, along with numerous others. They both operated amongst Jews and Gentiles. The idea that they had separate spheres of authority, one as the apostle to the Jews and the other as the apostle to the Gentiles is not true.

What is true is that in the beginning, many newer Christians hang around in Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit has been poured out and the Peter and John were based. They should have been taking the gospel back to the places that they had come from. God eventually sent persecution to get them moving in the way he needed.

See Governmental Apostles.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Inflation (4) Different Situations

Rapid price increases can have two main causes.

  1. Monetary Policy
    Inflation of the money supply by a banking system supported by a central bank can create excessive demand for goods and services or assets. The most recent example is the massive growth in the money supply created by the US Federal Reserve and assisted by central banks around the world, which has caused a massive increase in the price of financial assets, especially share markets.

    In New Zealand, the monetary expansion has fed into a boom in house prices and rapid escalation of costs in the construction sector. Rapid growth in the number of houses being built has caused shortages of building materials and personnel shortages that have fed into a massive increase in prices.

    Tightening monetary policy is now taking the heat out of the property market (just as it is popping the share price bubble in the US) so we can expect inflation in the construction sector to ease, although residential dwellings will continue to be expensive.

  2. Economic Conditions
    Another cause of price increases is a change in economic conditions that brings a change in relative prices. Some prices rise fast, while others fall. In a free market, the prices of things that people want more of, or which have become scarce, tend to rise. The prices of things that people want less of tend to fall.

    The market rewards businesses that are producing things that people need more of by raising prices to increase their profitability. Businesses that are producing goods and services for which there is declining demand are punished by falling prices that eat into their profits. Some of the least viable of these businesses will actually fail. This process is how the market shifts productive capital to where it is needed most.

    We are currently facing a massive economic shift caused by war and the economic sanctions imposed by the United States. The result will be a shortage of basic food and energy that pushes up prices for these goods. Businesses and countries that produce energy products and grow grain are being rewarded with increasing prices which will increase their profitability. Countries that rely on imported energy and grain products are facing seriously price increases for essential goods that are needed throughout their economy.

    This big economic shift is making countries like New Zealand less well off. The mechanism by which this loss of prosperity is transmitted through the economy is a massive increase in prices. Oil-based products are used throughout the economy so increases in energy prices will push up the cost of everything that is produced, transported and consumed. Increased grain prices will push up the cost of many food products.

    The consequence of these changes is that our incomes will not go as far as they did in the past. Most people will all be worse off. Groups with economic power will try to get compensation for their lost prosperity by demanding an increase in income, but most will not have that privilege. Rises in the prices of food will affect everyone, but those who spend a large share of their income on food will experience the worst pain. People who are poor will be affected the most by increases in the price of food.

New Zealand is an agricultural country, but most of the food we produce is meat and milk for consumers who are well off. The prices of these products will hold up, but they will not compensate for the big increases in the price of imported grain-based foods and the increased cost of energy products.

The key role of central banks is to control price inflation., but their only policy tool is the interest rate, which they adjust to control the supply of money. This tool works for the first type of inflation listed above, although it does produce pain.

However, the tools of the central banks are totally ineffective against price increases that are caused by a serious economic shift like the war and sanctions that the world is currently experiencing. Adjusting targe interest rates cannot produce more oil or more grain.