Visions from the Vincents

October 20, 2008

Spreading the Wealth Around?

Joe the Plumber recently escalated to the forefront of the political scene as the result of a simple question addressed to Democratic Presidential Candidate, Barak Obama, which resulted in a response that “spreading the wealth around” is good.  Well, I haven’t posted a political blog yet, and do not intend to do so here.  Rather than endorsing any particular candidate, I simply want to entertain why this idea of “spreading the wealth around” actually connects to a grander ideology that opposes the basic tenets of Christianity.

What is Socialism?

You really can’t talk about Socialism without a few quick thoughts from history, in particular, Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels critical work, The Communist Manifesto (CM).  The worldview ascribed to by these authors demonstrates a certain genius that unfortunately, at the end of the day, conveys a shallow understanding of humanity and a complete absence of a view of God. CM seeks to bring peace.  In this work, they claim that the main cause of unrest in a given society centers on class warfare.  In particular, CM claims that the rich (Bourgeois) and the poor (Proletarians) are constantly at war with one another.  So, how can peace and freedom be achieved?  Ultimately, the disintegration of private property.  Socialism is the temporary mechanism suggested to bring about the transition from capitalism to communism.  A great way to describe it is “spreading the wealth around.”

How is this worldview genius?

This is really ingenious in the sense that much of the expectations set forth in CM can be seen today in the United States as well as other countries.  In some senses, CM is almost prophetic.  Class warfare is a real and present danger.

How this worldview is shallow?

Genius and shallow seem to contradict one another.  Can the two coexist simultaneously?  I would argue yes.  This worldview seems and feels right in many ways.  But, if we look at the way that this worldview plays out it fails the test of experience and doctrine.  Notice, that this philosophical system has never played out well.  Have we forgotten the history of China, Russia, or Germany?  This philosophical system has never served to help the lives of people, nor has it served to encourage the free exchange of religious ideas.  Not only does it fail the test of experience, it fails the test of doctrine.  All of us watch with glee as Robin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor.  The rich are characterized as evil and the poor as virtuous.  So, of course, we like to see good conquer evil.  This picture has an anthropology that perhaps improves on CM, but it still doesn’t tender an accurate portrayal of humanity.

A Huge Assumption

Notice the huge assumption of CM: if you give everyone the same stuff, nobody will be unhappy.  In other words, Utopia is expensive but possible if you just take from the rich and give to the poor.  Again, the Utopian experiment has been attempted and failed.  Why?  Our problems run much deeper than the toys and gadgets and property that surround us.  Here is a quick public service announcement for you: greed isn’t the only thing in us that isn’t virtuous.  Giving everyone the same paycheck doesn’t end lust, greed, pride, or racism.  In fact, socialism can encourage greed and other sins, which again, just look to history to find the great tragedies associated with this worldview.

Bigger issues at play

Christians know that the problems that we face run much deeper than what is “out there.”  A basic doctine of humanity states that man is born into sin–all of us.  Humans have deep-rooted sin issues that need to be addressed.  Socialism assumes the basic goodness of man claiming that the real problem is that the rich take advantage of the poor.  In reality, we need to ask ourselves, “Why do the rich take advantage of the poor, and why do the poor seek to take advantage of the rich?”  Furthermore, will the fracturing of class warfare not only give way to further types of warfare?  In truth, the real issue that we have is “warfare” in general.  We are a people that waged war against God by sinning against him, and we war with one another.

Conclusion

What we really need isn’t “spreading the wealth around” we need an identity change.  We need to make Jesus our King, repent of our sins, and believe in him for salvation.  The best way to redeem culture is to evangelize it.  Redeeming culture happens when culture is redeemed!  So, who are you voting for?  Worldviews matter, and we need to consider the relationships that differing philosophies have to one another.  It might just be that something that sounds good is actually not!

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June 24, 2008

Gloucester 17 on children and sex

Filed under: Society — Joshua @ 8:10 pm
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This past week the Associated Press reported that “17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—more than four time sthe number of preganancies the 1,200-student school had last year…All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. “we found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless,” the principal says, shaking his head.”

I find this sobering article provocative on a number of different levels as an evangelical Christian and a somewhat thoughtful individual (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive descriptions).

What a difference eleven years makes!

Do you remember Melissa Drexler?  I do.  As a senior in highschool, I remember the CNN story line of a highschool girl giving birth to a baby in the bathroom during prom and then sufficating the baby and leaving his lifeless new born body in the trashcan.  The contrast between the Gloucester 17 and Melissa shows a shift in cultural understandings of our children towards children and sex.  Sex and its fruit–even outside of marriage–are far from frowned upon by much of our culture.

The shift isn’t all bad, and neither is this story…

To be honest, it is a delightful thing, on one level, to know that the story line does not read, “17 girls under 16 had abortions this past week.”  I praise God that these girls are not seeking to take the lives of these children.  So, even this story, which clearly is filled with sorrow, contains the undeniable marks of God’s grace.

but much of it is.

A number of facts surrounding the events are troubling: all of the girls are under 16, the girls agreed together to get pregnant, one of the girls carries the child of a 24-year-old homeless man, etc.  One stands out.  The girls are far from feeling the necessity of stitching a scarlet letter A to their garments as Hester Prynne did in the Scarlet Letter.  In fact, the public, corporate display was the point.  These girls developed a sub-community in which they developed truth for themselves.  Together, they made a covenant to develop a community with values, which they themselves would define, even though, their values stand in contrast to those held by the larger community in which they find themselves.  These girls created their own culture with its own values.  The media’s shock displays that this is appauling.  Time magazine describes the responses as “soul-searching” and “finger pointing.”  So, at least the media is upset.  But, again, I ask, “What are they upset about?”  I would suggest two things.

They are upset because of their image

First, they are upset, because all have been created in God’s image.  Though all of us are fallen, God’s grace causes hints and echoes of his image to continue in all of humanity.  So, I hope, their is something deeply rooted in people, that says it is wrong for a woman to seek to have children outside of marriage.  God intends children to be the fruit of marriage.

They are upset because of their freedom

A second reason they are upset is probably a little less idealistic on my part.  It has to do with humanity’s sinful lust for autonomy.  They look at these young women as having given up all of their potential value for the sake of children.  Many are thinking to themselves, what a waste!  But, is this the reason that we should be upset?  Far from it! Children are a blessing.  They aren’t meant to line the bottom of trashcans.  They aren’t meant to be treated as impediments to joy.  In fact, God blessed humans with the ability to give birth to children created in his image.  Every child that is born is born in the image of God.  So, just as it is wrong to treat children as trash, it is also sinful to see children as an incumbrance to happiness.  As Christians, we need to be prepared to fight thoughts that marriage and children are hinderances to joy with a call to seek our joy in the ways that God has created us to.

One final thought

As Christians, we need to make sure that we view life rightly, in light of revelation.  In The Reason for God by Tim Keller, he noted the silliness of the philosophy that says that laws can be rightly conceived in a theological vacuum.  Notice, these girls created a community with their own laws.  How can anyone say that these girls have less significance in making their own laws than anyone else.  Why can they not have freedom to choose their own way of life?  By what standard can we judge their actions?  John Frame was correct in asserting that ethics and morality are simply subsets of theology.  The more we seek to create laws apart from the one true and living God, the more difficult it will be to speak to situations like that of Gloucester.  Only special revelation carries the force necessary to determine right from wrong and truth from error.  Only the gospel provides the light necessary to help girls like Melissa and the Gloucester 17 see.

March 31, 2008

Mohler on Sin Survey

Filed under: Society — Joshua @ 1:44 pm
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Mohler recently posted his thoughts on a recent survey published by Ellison Research. His thoughts are cutting and the statistics are staggering.

March 14, 2008

What is Spitzer really on Trial for?

Filed under: Society — Joshua @ 1:01 am
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New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer, stepped down from the state’s top office Wednesday amidst allegations of involvement in an international prostitution ring. Spitzer said, “I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me…I will try once again outside of politics to serve the common good.” My heart really goes out to Spitzer’s wife and girls. This is a tragic situation. I am curious as to why though. What is the “expectation” that Spitzer failed to “live up to?” Is sexual sin really such a big thing in the twenty-first century? Because the Bible says it is, Christians and the church should, but what about society at large? Television shows, movies, and the Internet are loaded with sexual content both implicit and explicit both written and visual. Much of the information we have today not only condones but encourages sexual freedom. Men and women are encouraged to enter into sexual relationships prior to marriage to make sure they click with their mate, and then to divorce mates that fail to fulfill their sexual desire. Our schools are teaching students not about abstinence but about being careful. We have a former president of eight years who committed adultery while in office and lied under oath yet was allowed to remain in his position. Add to this, a recent study that has shown 1 in 4 teenage girls have some type of STD. So, what is the “expectation” that Spitzer failed to meet? I am not convinced it is sexual sin. I am not so convinced that people are as concerned with the fact that Spitzer committed adultery, or that he had sex with a prostitute–in fact the federal law that could potentially lead to his arrest is not for paying for sex but transporting a prostitute across state lines for the purposes of paying for sex. The crime that has gripped the attention of the media and so many Americans is that a man who once prosecuted so many individuals–as a former state attorney general whose reputation as a scourge of white-collar crime (including those involved in prostitution rings) propelled him to the governor’s office in 2006–has been caught committing the very crimes he was obliged to prevent. Instead, it seems more likely to me that Spitzer is on trial in the court of public opinion for hypocrisy. Much could be said about this. I have two quick thoughts.

A Feeble Confession

For beginners, what about the weak confession. Spitzer’s major concern is not that he sinned against God or his wife. He feels little concern for the moral deprivation of his actions or the ethical banality. Instead, he is sorry that he didn’t meet everyone’s expectations. What if everyone expected him to have sex with a prostitute? Would his actions be acceptable? Unfortunately, I–from my very limited perspective–sense little remorse from Spitzer over his sin. Such a feeble confession reflects not only poor leadership but poor humanity. Another question to consider is how one can lead without a firm standard of “good?” How do you judge what is good and what is not? This is why it is so significant for Christians to have a Biblical worldview. To be fair to Spitzer, he lives amongst a people who daily make decisions without any solid rubric through which to evaluate right and wrong. They are dealing with a sliding scale. Christians will fair no better than Spitzer if they do not equip themselves with a strong understanding of God’s desires. In a fallen world, men and women are constantly tempted, and they need God’s word to combat a world that can spin the truth round and round so much that it leaves you dizzy. The Word of God is the anchor our worldview needs.

The World Hates Hypocrisy

The world hates hypocrisy. Men and women possess a natural knee jerk reaction to someone who claims to believe one thing, but does another. I think the church has suffered a great deal from this. Poor shepherding and loose membership have led to mammoth hypocrisy in the church. This side of heaven we will all fall short of the goal to some degree though. The difference between the church and the world is that the church covenants together to help one another flee sin, because they realize their calling is to image their great God through their union with Christ. From one perspective, hypocrisy is the very point of Christianity. Christians realize that God has communicated his will for us through his Word, but our desires work against us. This is why the Christian glories in Jesus Christ. He was no hypocrite. His death on our behalf gave us credit for his perfect, hypocrisy free life. He poured out his spirit upon his people to help them be transformed more and more into the image which they have been created to display.

Spitzer has Hope

The expectations for Spitzer’s life are far greater than he can imagine. But, the opportunity for redemption is far greater than he could ever know. God provides the opportunity for all to have their sins cast from them as far as the east is from the west. He must simply put on Christ by repenting of his SINS and believing in Christ. This requires a sincere confession of depravation. Unfortunately, many go on sinning and living a life of hidden sin in the recesses of their minds. Spitzer simply got caught. Don’t be deceived into thinking that Spitzer is some unique monster. All of humanity suffers the same destructive internal force–it is sin. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy whether you act on it or you fantasize about it. All have the same need before God–forgiveness. Spitzer should serve as a bullhorn for all of us calling us to heed our lives, and recognize the immorality of our hearts, and look to God for help. Only with God do we have hope, but the hope offered in Him is limitless.

March 1, 2008

1/100 of U.S. is in jail

Filed under: Society — Joshua @ 4:40 am
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A recent article in the New York Times claims that 1 out of 100 U.S. citizens are behind bars.

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