Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Must Everything Change? 14

posted by xscot mcknight

Brian McLaren, in Everything Must Change, thinks Jesus counters the current framing story of the equity system. Here’s how:
Who has spent some time pondering Jesus’ message about wealth? What does Jesus have to say about equity?
Here are some passages where McLaren thinks Jesus somehow subverts the equity system of his day:
1. Matt 5:25-26: seek reconciliation outside the system.
2. Matt 18:23-35: “penal fairness that requires punishment by the book but lacks mercy isn’t the kind of justice desired by God” (246).
3. Matt 20:1-16: an economy of care for the common good … “social sustainability, healing, and transformation” (247).
4. Luke 16 — the so-called “unjust” steward presumes on a meaning of “just” Jesus doesn’t use. Jesus evidently sees the whole system as unjust and praises a man who defects from the system.
5. Luke 16:13-15 — serving God or mammon and Pharisees who loved money.
6. Followers of Jesus are to have a “justice” that outstrips that of the Pharisees and scribes.
7. He invites the excluded to banquets (Luke 14): read the chp in Luke — potent rhetoric.
8. His treatment of women is similar at undoing systemic injustice; his treatment of children and he washes feet — all subversions of the system.
What does holiness mean? He appeals to John Wesley, for whom holiness was social holiness. Then he appeals to Walter Rauschenbusch to show that holiness transcends the personal; then to Jacques Ellul on rank individualism. “We have in many ways responded to the big global crises of our day with an incredible, shrinking gospel” (252).
The invisible hands of free markets will not undo the systemic injustices of the equity system.
What to do?
1. Generosity toward the poor.
2. Call the rich to generosity.
3. Work to improve the system



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Jason Barr

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:28 am


I think McLaren is right. A number of scholars (yourself included, as I just read in A Community Called Atonement, which I am liking for the most part so far) have connected the Jubilee theme with Jesus’ ministry, particularly in what Mark van Steenwyk calls the Jesus Manifesto. Given the socio-economic relations that existed in 1st century Roman-ruled Judea and Galilee, it is very difficult for me to believe Jesus’ teachings did not fundamentally challenge the social and economic order that existed then in a way that ought to inspire us today. And as others have shown, notably Yoder (and I also really like what Walsh and Keesmaat have tried to do with Colossians Remixed, though I would have done some things slightly differently), this challenge to the order was embraced by the church in the New Testament era and beyond, continuing in various forms even after the church was arguably largely co-opted by the very system of empire Jesus challenged.
I’m glad to see someone with McLaren’s stature within the EC make this kind of statement not just about consumerism and materialism, but about economic practices as a whole. It’s pretty much been a fad now for several years to write about consumerism, but it seems McLaren is upping the ante. I will be interested to see how it is received, as there already seem to be a lot of people who just consider him to be another “liberal” (which leads me to wonder if they’ve even bothered reading him).
It’s also nice to see a popular author reference Ellul. I’m giving a presentation this weekend at Reba Place Church’s Cynicism and Hope conference that will make use of Ellul’s thought, particularly in Anarchy and Christianity.



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Jason Barr

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:32 am


I should add that by inspire I meant more than motivation in the Colorado-Rockies-going-to-the-World-Series-isn’t-that-nice inspirational sense (no offense to Rockies fans, and I promise I’m not just saying that because I’m bitter about the Cardinals). I meant inspire in the sense of driving us to imagine (in the Brueggemann sense where imagination creates a new world) a world where Jesus’ view of society becomes more real because of people being redeemed – or as you might say, cracked Eikons being made whole and brought together into true community by way of the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and the empowerment of the Spirit at Pentecost.
I really liked your discussion of Pentecost in your book, btw. I wish you had said just a bit more about the ascension.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted October 31, 2007 at 4:38 am


The first two are clear on the “What to do?” list. The last one I think reminds me of the Old Testament prophets and the prophetic aspect of Jesus’ message. But the kingdom of God in Jesus invading from another realm would put everthing on a different plane, so that any system would end up being simply an expression of God’s love to all. So that there would certainly be generosity and uplift for all.
The question for me is how this is worked in our world now. I think the emphasis has to be for us as God’s people, where God in his revelation puts the emphasis. And in that we can help, do well and make a difference in a variety of different economic systems and contexts.
Just trying to think out loud on this.



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Jason Barr

posted October 31, 2007 at 6:03 am


I have to say also though (as if I hadn’t already said enough above) that I wonder if point 3, improve the system, doesn’t make the Christendom assumption that it is the job of the church to reform (or worse, take over) society. Having not read McLaren’s book I don’t know what he thinks, but it seems to me there’s a profound difference between prophetically engaging the system and calling people to live up to their nature as Eikons (which I believe includes an inherent call to repentance and faith) and trying to change and/or run it. What I see in (for example) Acts 2 and 4 is the church living as an alternative community that indicts the empire majority by its presence and alternative praxis. The church demonstrates that another world is possible, and in fact exists in the community of the redeemed.
At the same time, though, the church and individuals within it are bound to be affected by the injustice of the majority system, there is always the question of how those in the majority system who become Christians (or perhaps in our context who aquire a more holistic understanding of what it means to follow Jesus) should respond to Jesus’ call to witness with our economic life. A simple withdrawal is obviously not the answer (though as you can probably see I’m quite influenced by some strains of Anabaptist thinking on the matter).



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Diane

posted October 31, 2007 at 6:38 am


I have seen a longing in almost everyone’s heart for a world in which nobody suffers hunger, untreated illness or severe economic deprivation. Christians are given the keys for how to begin building a better world now. This better world will come through God and won’t come to fruitition in this age and etc, etc, but the desire of our hearts and the commands of the Bible are that we act now. As Jason says, this is through building alternative communities around our churches ala Acts. But to do so, we have to critique the system we happen to be living in, which happens to be capitalism and plutocracy and see what the problems are vis-a-vis a Christian worldview. That is not to say it is a bad system, but again, as RSJ brought up on another thread, the real issue is what concrete steps can we take within a Christian worldview to make it more congruent with Christian values. (Likewise, if we were in a socialist state, we would need to critique socialism. If we were in a hunter-gathering tribe, we would have to critique that.) I have seen too many people, including pastors, buy into the economic system uncritically, so while I don’t think Christians are called to get overtly party-politics political, I think Brian does a good thing in shining a light on some of the problems of the system that we happen to live with. The evidence of history is clear: free markets are great at creating wealth and terrible at distributing it. We as Christians are called on the improve the distribution, not accept the status quo.



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Skip

posted October 31, 2007 at 7:40 am


Free markets may be terrible at distributing wealth in the sense that they create wealth inequalities. But I don’t see any system which actually has been tried and demonstrated the ability to do a better job of distributing wealth. I would much rather depend on a free market supply and demand system to distribute the necessities of life (have any of us suffered food shortages at the grocery store lately?) than any other system I am aware of. I think a distinction needs to be drawn between distributing goods and services and leveling wealth inequalities. They undoubtedly are interrelated. But they’re not the same thing.



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Brian M.

posted October 31, 2007 at 8:34 am


The “what to do” list is right on and resembles the many calls in Proverbs, including 31:8-9: “Open your mouth on behalf of those unable to speak, for the legal rights of the dying. Open your mouth, judge in righteousness and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” This has always been God’s call to His people, a call Jesus imaged perfectly.
I also have not read the book, but there does seem to be a tinge of political-messianism here (alluded to in post #4). It is very reminiscent of the disciples wanting to overthrow the Roman system. But let’s remember that Jesus would not allow it. Rather than a political-messianism (words of David Turner, GRTS), Jesus called his disciples to a cross-centered, serving-, humble-messianism (Matt. 16, 20:20-28, 23:1-12). It seems out of vogue to talk about the individual, but Christ seems to be saying that individual disciples are responsible for living this cross-centered-messianism (which includes #1 and #2 on Brian’s list of “what to do”) rather than focusing on a large-scale political reform. Because Diane is correct, we’d have to critique and overthrow any system…they are all destined to fail because they are all, at the core, not Kingdom centered.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 8:57 am


Years ago I learned this ranking of assistance to the poor. I think it is a paraphrase of the 12th Century rabbi Maimonides:
Least effective: Give to the poor and have them know where it came from.
More effective: Give to the poor without them knowing the source.
More effective: Find some work to do and pay the poor to do it.
Most effective: Create ongoing jobs that employ poor.
?The invisible hands of free markets will not undo the systemic injustices of the equity system.?
Adam Smith from Theory Moral Sentiments
?And hence it is, that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature; and can alone produce among mankind that harmony of sentiments and passions in which consists their whole grace and propriety.?
I think the alleged father of capitalism would agree. :)



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T

posted October 31, 2007 at 9:11 am


Other than McLaren’s take on the 4th passage, he’s got some solid points to be heard (I’ll have to think about that 4th one some more). And there are so many more relevant stories.
One of Jesus’ ideas that does energize much of the Church to a degree is the fact that the branch we’re all sitting on is mercy. The story of Lazarus and the rich man (or rather, rich family) is like a punch in the stomach to those that “have” while there are “have nots”. It joins with Jesus’ many statements and stories to the effect that only those who show mercy will receive it (and everybody needs it most intensely, particularly from God). To put it in a way that evangelicals may prefer, only those who show mercy to others really “believe” that they’ve received it from God. Our mercy to others gives our idea of the mercy we’ve received.
We may have humanly enforced “rights” to our things and our life in our “mostly free” economy. Praise God. Human governments should foster and protect these on the whole. But if we’d rather trust whatever we can obtain here as more valuable or secure than God’s mercy and power, that will prove to be a stupid and costly bet. It results from a gross misunderstanding of the universe. God has shown great mercy (and continues to) and commands us all to do the same. To not show mercy to others is to say to God “I don’t believe you’ll be merciful to me.” (i.e., “You’re a hard man, therefore I’ll keep what little I have to and for myself.”) God’s mercy is the fabric of the universe. Or I should say, the fabric of the universe is just one manifestation of God’s ongoing mercy, and of its power.
I think we fail to appreciate how much God’s mercy through Christ (by sovereign choice) undermines all our “rights”, within any economic system, to be unmerciful to anyone, or to store up mere worldly possessions for ourselves.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 9:30 am


Diane #5
?The evidence of history is clear: free markets are great at creating wealth and terrible at distributing it. We as Christians are called on the improve the distribution, not accept the status quo.?
There have been two distribution patterns of wealth in the world. The old order has been to have a tiny sliver of the population with great wealth while the overwhelming majority (90%+) live at nearly the same level: barely above subsistence. That is the world of the Old and New Testament.
The other newer pattern (in developed nations) has been to have a far wider distance between the top and the bottom of the wealth ladder but with most folks concentrated in the middle range between the top and the bottom. The people at the bottom live lives astronomically better than the 90%+ of the old order, and indeed better in most ways to the lives of the wealthy of the old order.
If economic distribution is a house where the ceiling is the wealthy and the floor is the poor, and we are concerned about the plight of the poor, then our primary concern is neither with how high the ceiling is nor the distance between the ceiling and the floor. Our interest is in how high the floor is. The floor is magnitudes higher with free markets and therefore the free market system is astonishingly effective at distributing wealth to the poor.
We are dealing with a justice issue here. On one hand there should be not poor among us. There should be no hunger, lack of shelter, etc. (Equity as equally shared resources.) On the other hand each person should be able to reap the economic reward for the economic value they contribute. (Equity as equality of opportunity to earn the rewards of our labors.) Justice is the right balance of these two legitimate competing claims.



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ChrisB

posted October 31, 2007 at 9:42 am


Everytime I read one of these I become more convinced that McLaren is simply prooftexting anything that supports his preconceived notions.
Matt 20:1-16: an economy of care for the common good
What? Taken in context, this is clearly eschatalogical.
Of the passages he appeals to above, 2 & 5 are the only ones where I think he’s not misusing or reading into the passage. He’s right on 6-8, but I wonder if he knows why.
Then there’s his “solution:” Work to improve the system .
Can he be any more vague? This isn’t a solution; it’s a platitude.
Of course, as someone’s already addressed, he assumes that the church should tell the government how to do things versus just taking care of the people we can take care of and hoping the world catches on. It’s a long-standing and legitimate debate that he seems to assume is over. Does he address this in the book at all?
Scot, thanks for doing this and thereby keeping me from buying the book. If I bought it I’d be doing all this at home to my wife, and she’d be very unhappy with me :)



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RJS

posted October 31, 2007 at 9:47 am


Michael,
I agree that generosity should be directed toward efforts to empower people. Direct handouts are appropriate on occasion (especially in times of intense crisis) but not as an ongoing expectation. Wouldn’t you agree that efforts worthy of support would include those that:
-Provide an infrastructure for sufficient food production
-Provide an infrastructure for transportation, communication, energy and water
-Provide universal access to education
-Provide basic healthcare – including nutritional education
-Provide an infrastructure to control pollution arising from development.
Social values of trust, honesty, fairness, benevolence, and respect for others should be an outcome of spreading the gospel. (And I admit that they are not necessarily an outcome of the simple individualistic Gospel that has been criticized in this discussion.)
In fact now we come to where, having thought about this for several weeks, I agree with McLaren that “Everything Must Change.” The passages that highlighted above address the equity system in important ways. However, the change we need in the church is not one that provides handouts and equalizes distribution of wealth – but a change that calls us to eternalize the values inherent in the gospel – that in Christ we all are of equal value – regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, social status, education, and such. We need to actually look at all others and see that we all are – or all potentially are – part of the same body. Then we should act on that conviction. The major problem I have with the “conventional gospel” as discussed in an earlier post, is that it allows Christians to continue to maintain an “us-them” mentality, not acknowledging that all are created in the image of God, and should be respected as such.
McLaren’s action items address the symptoms – not the problem. If the problem is addressed these actions will follow – although the method may not be as McLaren envisages.



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Attie

posted October 31, 2007 at 10:18 am


“The people at the bottom live lives astronomically better than the 90%+ of the old order, and indeed better in most ways to the lives of the wealthy of the old order.” Come to Africa (Even South Africa as one of the developing countries of the world) and you wil reconsider your statement.
(Equity as equality of opportunity to earn the rewards of our labors.) People in third world countries do nothave the opportunity to earn the rewards of their labour. The 50% unemployed in our country would grab any opportunity to work. Most of them stand at street corners waiting for someone to give them work for the day (They work not more than three days a week. Stand at corners for seven days a week). They receive R80.00 ($10.00) for a days labour.
Please, work to improve the system.



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jazzact13

posted October 31, 2007 at 10:27 am


From the opening…
–Matt 18:23-35: ?penal fairness that requires punishment by the book but lacks mercy isn?t the kind of justice desired by God? —
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Mclaren view on this isn’t completely out-of-the-blue, I guess, but the parable seems to be more about forgiveness, not legal punishments. The man whose huge debt was forgiven did not show the like in regards to a small debt, even though each begged the one they owe for mercy.
There is also the idea that quite honestly some crimes are more serious then others. Forgery may be fairly serious, but we rightly think that a serial murder is a bigger threat.
There is also the idea that mercy may involve justice–that the most merciful thing that can be done is to put certain kinds of criminals into prisons.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 10:58 am


Attie #12
Come to Africa (Even South Africa as one of the developing countries of the world) and you wil reconsider your statement.
Please go back and reread the first seven words of the paragraph you quoted from:
?The other newer pattern (in developed nations)??
My post clearly contrasts the new market economies of developed nations with that of less developed nations. Less developed nations bear a strong resemblance to the historical order I described. If the rest of the world, including Africa, could make the transition into market economies and trade in the global market, the plight of their poor would improve dramatically just as it has in developed nations. Your observation that 50% of the people are looking for work makes precisely my point. This is what happens in a non-market economy.



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Scott M

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:20 am


Michael, I’m sorry. I’ve read many of your posts with interest, but you’ve veered off into fantasy here. All Africa needs to do is transition to a market economy and it would follow the path of the developed nations. So far, no developed nation has reached its current status without using and abusing less developed nations. That’s not conjecture. That’s historical fact. And it continues today. So far market systems have demonstrated no ability to generate the sort of “improved inequity” you describe than any other system, so how it will magically transform Africa (or any other location) if they have no less developed peoples to build on remains a mystery to me. Besides, your analysis misses another key point. Citizens of the dominant empire have always thrived compared to everyone else. It strikes me that our wealth is as much the result of a tremendous wealth of resources with a comparatively low population working in conjunction with the growth of a different sort of empire than the traditional one. We are swimming in so many resources per capita, it’s hard to imagine an economic system that would have “failed” in our country. At most, you can suggest (but not prove) that free market economies succeeded more than another system would have succeeded.
All of which is largely irrelevant. The foundation of the free market system is greed. It works to the extent it plays upon greed and desire for stuff. While it may be less evil than other systems, nevertheless I think Christians must hesitate before committing to a system which promotes greed as a way of life and which certainly lends itself to the worship of Mammon.
This is like your point about the sweatshops. I do believe that to many people in those countries, Western-fed sweatshops seem like the best available option. And people are good at analyzing these things, so I have no doubt the landscape they see is so bleak that nothing is better. Nevertheless, is “Sweatshops suck less!” an acceptable Christian ethic? Should not the Christian community be concerned about their collusion with evil to produce such situations. And having studied American history, I will also note that many of the things I’ve heard were also arguments against labor laws and the abolition of exactly those sorts of things in this country. They are not new arguments. They are simply rehashed and applied to a different locale.
But evil is evil. And if the Christian will not name it, who will?



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Jonas Borntreger

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:28 am


Attie #12
I know that that?s the way it is. That doesn?t answer the underlying question about why it is that way.
One of the most eye-opening experiences of my life happened on a mountain on the west edge of El Paso, Texas. I stood on that mountain and looked over the Rio Grande Valley. At El Paso the Rio Grande is actually not all that ?grande,? but oh, the difference that ditch makes as it flows through that valley. I stood on that mountain; the sun went down behind me, a full moon rose before me, and the lights came on in the valley below: I started asking questions.
Why is there this very obvious discrepancy between the two sides of the ditch? Does one side get more rain or sunshine? Is the soil better on one side than the other? Does the wind that blows for good blow for evil on the opposite shore? Why does the murky haze I see to the south end abruptly at the Rio?
The answers became obvious: The only differences are ideological. The only real differences are in the way people see themselves, their neighbors, and the world around them; the way they act, and interact with each other; it lies in the how, and the why of the choices they make. If there was a chance that money flowing south would have made a significant difference in the Rio Grande Valley, then that little ditch, flowing between two cities would not have able to stop it from happening.



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jazzact13

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:30 am


–It strikes me that our wealth is as much the result of a tremendous wealth of resources with a comparatively low population working in conjunction with the growth of a different sort of empire than the traditional one.–
I would point out Japan as an example that contrasts with this–not a lot of resources, large population. Yet they have developed and become a cutting-edge and wealthy nation. Perhaps Tiawan would also fit that, and China is trying hard to get into the act, while also trying to keep some remnant of the failure called communism.
–The foundation of the free market system is greed. —
No, the foundation of the free market system is freedom. Freedom to take risks and succeed or fail. Freedom to choose one’s work and earn what one’s work is worth.



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Norm

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:32 am


Michael, I’m not sure I agree with you either, and I’m in a North American context. What about Aboriginal people, relegated by governments to reserves, in both the US and Canada. In Canada this is a system maintained by a government structure that often discourages or impedes local development and by virtue of geographical distance makes it nearly impossible for First Nations people to benefit from the fruits of their labour in this economy. When the price for basic necessities of life such as food and shelter maintain an economic imbalance, how can this be considered just? Are you suggesting that individuals and faith communities do not have an advocacy role that challenges that system?
Peace,
Norm Voth



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:38 am


Chris #11
I’ve read the book and my assessment is that is mostly proof texts and not theological inquiry. For instance, you raised Matt 20:1-16. Why does McLaren not go five chapters ahead to chapter 25:
?20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, ? 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents?.
The Luke 16 parable is admittedly a tough nut crack but I think Kenneth Bailey has a far more considered analysis of this story. These and other passages he mentions are interesting but he sort of puts these things out there with out drawing clear lines to the implications for action.
A sound theology of economics will take into account the whole of scripture and reconcile the many competing issues of justice according to the larger narrative. One of the things I?ve found most surprising in this book is the lack of a coherent well articulated theology of the Kingdom of God and how that relates to economic questions. His primary lens of critique and formulation of issues (and his footnoted sources bear this out) appears to me to be political progressivism not theological critique. That may not be how it got to his conclusions but that is how this book reads.



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RJS

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:48 am


Scot,
Did my earlier post (about 9:50 am CDT) vanish into a cloud of electrons – or will it show eventually?



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Scott M

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:51 am


Thanks Norm. That’s the point I was trying to make. As ones who hold allegiance to a different king and a very different standard for all life and creation, must we not name and stand against evil and injustice in all its forms? That something is less evil than the alternatives we can see and imagine does not make it good. It may mean we need better imaginations. But at the least, we must unequivocally name evil and refuse to participate in it. And we must do that as the community who gives our allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth, not merely as isolated individuals.
Let’s start with this. Sweatshops are evil. Period. We can and must insist that those we support with our wealth do not use that wealth for evil. How is anything else Christian?
Norm makes a great point. I’m 1/16th Cherokee and I grew up hearing stories of the Trail of Tears. The way we treat the native people of this land in all of North America remains awful to this day. And the Church is silent.
We fund with our wealth practices we banned in our country decades ago. And the Church remains largely silent.
We treat our King’s creation abysmally, whether in the treatment of food animals or the pollution of our world. And the Church largely remains silent.
We waste more in a day than the inhabitants of many countries see in a year. And the Church largely remains silent.
At what point is silence collusion with the Empire? It’s not like we are powerless. We have much more wealth and power collectively than the early Church and they changed the course of the Empire of their day. But we are utterly unwilling to risk that wealth and power. If the Church in the United States stood and stood firm against the evil performed globally by our government and our corporations, do you honestly believe nothing would change? We might lose some of our wealth. And on one level that is frightening to me. But who is our Lord?



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Brian M.

posted October 31, 2007 at 12:17 pm


Just a hypothetical: Let’s say that we achieve economic justice and equality. We end the evils of sweatshops, high CEO pay, etc, etc. Does that, to use McLaren’s title, change everything? In one sense the answer is obvious: absolutely! That would be a much more “kingdom-like” world. However, would that necessarily mean that the kingdom of God has advanced? It seems to me that the Kingdom of God is primarily a redemptive Kingdom. Yes all peoples would experience some of the blessings of the kingdom now, but that is temporary. Don’t accuse me of being an old-fashioned “this-world-is-not-my-home- and-social-ethics-doesn’t-matter fundamentalist,” because I’m not. These things matter. But, at its core, the Kingdom is redemptive and the Kingdom has a fuller, more complete fulfillment in the future. Unfortunately, none of these people we have achieved economic equality for will experience it if we leave out the redemptive part. McLaren’s correction is necessary and helpful and needs to be considered, but let’s not swing the pendulum so far that we ignore redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. This is more important than anything we are debating today.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 12:20 pm


#18 Norm
Norm, I did not say ?justice has arrived.? I was comparing one system to another and based on what we observe one is a significant improvement over the other.
?In Canada this is a system maintained by a government structure that often discourages or impedes local development??
Yes! Precisely my point. The government has impeded market developments. Furthermore, in the US and Canada, native peoples have not received ?justice at the gate? in terms of treaties and legal agreements that have been made. There are small pockets of people excluded from the economy. I?m aware of all that.
The economic system is only one institution within society and a shalom society depends on a range of healthy insitutions. I’m saying that free markets are an important contributor to shalom. I’ve said this countless times but I’ll say it again: “Free markets” does not mean unbridled lawless exploitation. I mean free in the same sense we talk of “free speech” and “freedom of religion.” These are not limitless but the are postive things we nuture and protect.
“Are you suggesting that individuals and faith communities do not have an advocacy role that challenges that system?”
I’ve suggested nothing of the sort and I have now idea how anyone would conclude that from anything I wrote.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 12:56 pm


“What to do?”
Testimony time. I?ve been chided for being to theoretical or philosophical about these posts. So here are a few practical ways I?ve tried to live out kingdom values.
1. We moved to an urban core neighborhood eighteen years ago so that we would be personally present in the issues that affect the city and our purchases and taxes would go toward the economic vitality of our neighborhood and city.
2. Other than a small home improvement loan we are debt free (that is to say we live within our means). We give away more than 10% of our gross earnings.
3. We are involved with a friend who has started in multi-ethnic church/ministry in the Rosedale neighborhood of Kansas City, KS. It works mostly with teenagers and young adults, most of who live in government funded housing complexes. Because we are a part of this ministry community we are able to serendipitously able make our financial resources and social networks available to the work that is being done.
4. I?m a big fan of micro-enterprise. For twelve years I?ve been volunteering with Kaufmann Foundation program called the First Step Fund. Through it, I?ve counseled low to moderated income people as they work through a feasibility plan for starting their own businesses. I also guest teach a component of the program. I?m also making small loans to micro-enterprises across the world through http://www.kiva.org. I?ve also been making contributions for operational support.
5. I have friends I went to school with who are working in developing nations doing economic development and we support them.
6. We also have an interest in water delivery systems in developing nations and support Living Water International in their mission to get clean water to the poor.
7. I frequently use my blog to educate people about what is happening in terms of economic change and justice in the world, as well as delve deeply into how theology and economics intersect.
8. I?m working with a group of business folks to help them see who their economic work as a call from God and what that means in terms of the broader mission of God.
That is enough. I feel like I?m tooting my horn but I?ve been asked for specifics. These are just a few ways I see myself responding. There are so many other ways we can respond but I think part of it is to have vision of what God is doing in the world, evaluating what things we are passionate about, and then connecting the two.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 12:57 pm


Rats. I meant to include links to First Step Fund and Living Water International



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:00 pm


Well … here are the raw links. We’ll see if this works.
First Step Fund: http://www.buildasitefactory.com/index.php?id=1340
Living Water International: http://water.cc/



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Greg

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:36 pm


There was a interesting article in my local news the other day in which the city bought out some slum lords (the paper didn’t call them that) and then turned over the running of the properties to non-profits (some christian) because they run them better. I think that is a practical example of the free market not working, the government stepping up to help and the church (and others) stepping up to improve the system



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RJS

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:45 pm


Finally – but the conversation has moved on.



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Tyler

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:46 pm


Do you find that in “Everything Must Change” McLaren focuses so much on corporate/social sins that he ends up ignoring personal/private sins?
But don’t get me wrong – I don’t know of any writer that does balance the importance of private and corporate holiness – except maybe Rob Bell.



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ChrisB

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:47 pm


Greg, #28: I don’t know about that particular situation, but in many areas the slum lords are created by the government: rent control. As costs go up and rent doesn’t (or not enough), the buildings suffer. That’s not to say some of them aren’t just jerks, but in some cases they’re just broke(-ish).



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Norm

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:48 pm


Michael,
My phrasing was unfortunate in suggesting something you did not say. Please accept my apologies.
But, I constantly run into people who make that leap of logic. I don’t think it’s that big a stretch by the number of people in the church that make it. Even if you don’t believe it, many do.
Your statement, “On the other hand each person should be able to reap the economic reward for the economic value they contribute. (Equity as equality of opportunity to earn the rewards of our labors.)” suggests that this is a strength of the free market system. I’m arguing that such opportunities are selective and do not in fact extend to everyone. And I understand that this is contextual. I live in a part of Canada with a large, and growing, Aboriginal population that is constantly marginalized by the system in ways I find astonishing.
Furthermore, the fault is not with government alone. The free market economy knows how to exploit government policies and economic opportunities to make profits without much local benefit to Aboriginal communities. I’m tired of the assumption that we live in a system that is fair and equitable for everyone with enough will to participate. There have been, and continue to be, systemic and institutional barricades to participation. The church not only has to speak, but needs to model an alternative “economy” that calls to account those systems and institutions. In so far as we can do that we will be a critique of the empire, but I believe that also includes a call to confront and change the system when we can.
I haven’t read the book so maybe I need to step out of this discussion, but I do feel strongly that the church, and I individually, have benefited greatly from our economic structures that not everyone else shares. The trajectory of scripture is toward justice and wholeness for all (which I know you agree with), but I’m not convinced that our present system is any closer to shalom than some others might be. Except I prefer the shortcomings of our current system because I benefit personally.



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Matthew

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:50 pm


Today, I have been writing on spirituality which is a hot topic that Brian deals with.
http://www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org



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Scot McKnight

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:54 pm


RJS,
I’m sorry … a few of you who comment often seem sometimes to get snagged in the spamfilter for no reason I can discern or get answers to. I can often find them soon enough to keep a semblance of order… but today I was out with my friend Kermit playing golf and when I got back both you and Michael and JACK were in the filter.



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Scot McKnight

posted October 31, 2007 at 1:59 pm


Tyler #30,
I think his emphasis is clearly on social transformation by followers of Jesus who embrace the kingdom vision of Jesus (as he articulates it). So, yes, he does emphasize that; it would be unfair to Brian to infer from this that he does not value personal/individual — it’s not his emphasis in this book.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 2:01 pm


Scott #16
?All Africa needs to do is transition to a market economy??
I didn?t say ?all? Africa has to do that. It is essential but not sufficient.
??no developed nation has reached its current status without using and abusing less developed nations.?
Singapore? Taiwan? South Korea? Estonia? Rising economies in places like El Salvador and Chile (to name just two)? Did Western nations truly benefit from their oppression or would they have become wealthier quicker had they truly engaged in free trade? It took them centuries to figure this stuff out and we are still learning. That the West used its wealth to oppress others does not negate the benefits of free trade.
??result of a tremendous wealth of resources with a comparatively low population??
It is documented over and over again. There is zero correlation between population density, or natural resources, and prosperity.
Here are five of the most densely populated nations (people per square mile) and their per capita GDP.
Singapore: 16,514 per sq mile; $27,800
Taiwan: 1,648 per sq mile; 25,300
South Korea 1,279 per sq mile; $19,200
Netherlands 1,023 per sq mile; $29,500
Belgium: 879 per sq mile; 30,600
Here are five of the least densely populated countries (and most are rich in natural resources):
Congo: 4 per sq mile; $700
Bolivia: 21 per sq mile; $2,600
Sudan: 42 per sq mile; $1,900
Mozambique: 63 per sq mile; $1,200
Laos: 68 per sq mile; $1,900
Wealth correlates most directly with high marks in measures of rule of law, property rights, and market economy.
?The foundation of the free market system is greed. It works to the extent it plays upon greed and desire for stuff.?
Market economies are based on specialization of labor leading to win-win exchanges. Instead of each of us doing everything for ourselves we each specialize in what we do best. We provide a good or service more efficiently and cost effectively than most others would because of our specialization. They buy from us and in turn focus on what they do best. We buy from them and that keeps us free for our specialization. If I?m selling milk at the market, I?ll take your $3 for a gallon because I value your $3 more than I value holding onto the gallon. I win. You surrender your $3 because the milk is worth more to you than the $3 (and is a whole lot more cost effective than you having to produce your own milk.) You win. Win-win, not greed, is the basis of market exchange.
Greed exists in markets because it exists in human being and they will bring it to whatever institution you create. There is no system you can devise that will not be impacted by greed. Therefore, trashing free markets because of the presence of greed is pointless. Markets at least have the merit that for the greedy person to succeed he or she must offer a product or service that people want. Markets tend to channel greed toward productive ends.
Our choices are people owning their own property and using it according to their values (free markets) or the state owning property and an elite expertocary deciding how to use it (controlled markets). You are in opposition to free markets. Fine. Give me your just scenario of state controlled economy?



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Korey

posted October 31, 2007 at 2:03 pm


So I finished reading EMC and I loved it. I think it allows for a lot of discussion and disagreement, so in that sense I don’t find many of the objections (e.g. it’s too naive/simple, it’s too stereotypical, it’s too progressive) to be as critical of the book as they seem. I have enjoyed the conversation immensely. I find myself vastly interested in Michael’s perspective and frustrated (but in a very positive sense). At times I find myself in complete agreement with him and other times I struggle with his perspective. Ultimately, I think something positive is emerging in the dialogue between Michael and others modeled here and spurred on by EMC. Generally, I’ve resonated most with Sage, but so many have offered wonderful thoughts.
Anyway, I work for a pharmaceutical company. I support free markets. As a follower of Christ I try to strive for personal and communal transformation. This can happen in everything I do. I have enjoyed Michael’s emphasis on what I’d call constructive theologies of work. Following Jesus doesn’t mean I have to quit my job or hate my job, but it does mean I evaluate the ethics of what my company does, how it acts, what it says. I consider how I behave, how I treat coworkers, being responsible, doing a good job. I’d add that there are some basic human desires to directly help those in need that my job can simply never satisfy (other occupations can, mine cannot, so I seek this outside of work).
In his book Deep Economy (which Mclaren cites on his website as a resource supplement to EMC), Bill McKibben tells the story of a young Chinese girl who lives and works at a factory making some mass produced widgets for use in the West. She is among the endless number of Chinese workers who make zillions of all manner of stuff particularly for Western consumption. She does this because it is the best job available to her, provides relatively fair and safe work environment, and helps to pay for her brother to go to college. In doing so, she rarely sees her family (as she lives for away from home), is housed in a dormitory with many girls bunked together in large rooms, and cannot afford a stuffed animal which she longs for. She misses her family and finds the work monotonous and seems to just accept the lack of opportunity because she has food, stability, and can help her family. This scenario is one of the byproducts of globalization and it makes me uncomfortable. And I believe it is one of the better scenarios.
I was interested in how you might respond to these sort of situations Michael? I’m really interested. I have sincerely enjoyed your contribution and have been challenged. Do these scenarios trouble you? How do you see them? How might you address them personally and how might you address that which enables them? I suppose your post in #25 addresses this to some extent. Perhaps you could expand on any other lifestyle choices, buying decisions? I would love it if you could clarify what you do and don’t do to impact the world and compare/contrast it with the actions of the progressives you critique? How do you feel about the One campaign? Bread for the World? Do you advocate for freer markets or less restrictions and regulations? Do you think that the systems are largely fine and since the long term trajectories show improvement for all, that we need to work to make them more unencumbered, to fight only egregious injustice (not sure what constitutes this), and to keep people from meddling trying to “fix” them?



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RJS

posted October 31, 2007 at 2:03 pm


Golf – good excuse, especially if the weather is anything like here.
Just a relief to know I haven’t been placed on the no-blog list.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 2:26 pm


#32 Norm
No problem. I’ll admit I get a bit testy here so sorry if it feels like I jumped on ya.
“The free market economy knows how to exploit government policies and economic opportunities to make profits without much local benefit to Aboriginal communities. I?m tired of the assumption that we live in a system that is fair and equitable for everyone with enough will to participate.”
People in a society with a free market economy may be using their freedom to exploit others but “The free market economy” can’t “know” anything. :)
The economic system is only one societal system. There is also government. At the most basic level there is the family. Then there are intermediate institutions like church and voluntary associations. Freedom to own and use property is only one set of justice issues that exists inconjuction with others. Free markets can be damaging if not incorporated with other justice claims just like free speech can be damaging if not limited by other justice claims. Still, they are both things to be valued and protected.
It is a bit like standing at the end of Genesis Chapter 3. God says he wills the world to continue in its fallen state. He wants people to freely choose him but then rigs the system so that everyone has no choice but to chose him. You can’t have both ways.
Think about what we’re asking of an economic system. We’re saying that fallen people should have economic choices but the system is corrupt if it doesn’t always end up with perfect justice. It can’t be done. You can’t have freedom and pefectly just outcomes with fallen people. In a fallen world we seek the transformation of people’s hearts and minds, and we seek to nuture institutions that maximize the most good and least evil.



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RJS

posted October 31, 2007 at 2:36 pm


Michael –
“Greed exists in markets because it exists in human being and they will bring it to whatever institution you create.”
This is (part) of the problem I was trying to highlight above. We can talk about economic systems and action items until we have no more breath – but if the root isn’t addressed as we go along – we will not succeed. And this is where atonement comes into the picture.



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Geoff

posted October 31, 2007 at 3:33 pm


#23 Brian M
“It seems to me that the Kingdom of God is primarily a redemptive Kingdom.”
Thanks for writing this. I have appreciated the discussion around the book and the economics lessons I am getting, yet I couldn’t shake the fact that still, all this provides is a place more like North America, which is dangerously driving further from God not closer.
I fail to see how the economics of it all will be held in check. What I mean by this is, we (in N.A.) haven’t done such a great job of being stewards of what we (or others) have. If we manage to enable all 6.5 billion of us on earth to consume in the same manner that we do, our global natural resources will be gone faster than an Al Gore docu-drama.
I think we have the best system so far, but it seems to me Jesus would reject all man’s systems as the solution, and serve mankind radically.
peace and love



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 4:47 pm


RJS #40
Bingo! (BTW, welcome back from blog purgatory.) No economic system will create justice. Yet, that doesn’t mean the type economic system we have is inconsequential.
I?ve just finished reading Darrell Cosden?s A Theology of Work: Work and the New Creation. He discusses substantive, functional, and relational views of being in the image of God. The substantive view tends to ground the image of God in a couple of ways: ontological and comparative. Ontologically we are spirit in a body. Comparatively, we are like God and unlike nature in some ways but unlike God and like nature in other ways. Where we are the former we exhibit the image of God. That tends come down primarily to the issues reason and volition. These are the predominant views of imago Dei in Western Christianity. They have led to damaging dualisms of spirit vs. body and mind vs. body. Personhood becomes ones spirit/rationality/volition. The body and material issues, including work and economic action, are merely instrumental to the other half of the dualism.
The functional view looks at the fact that we were created as material beings for a material world and we were placed in it to be co-regents over it and stewards of it. We are here to ?work the garden? and bring creation to completion. There is eschatological importance to this. We will be raised at the end with new bodies to work a new creation with Christ. Christ as the firstborn of all creation and is bringing all creation to its fullness. As his body in the world we are participants in that work. As restored eikons we will be co-regents and stewards of creation once again. Work and economic activity is not incidental or instrumental. It is central to our ontology and teleology.
But the danger with the functional view is that it does not sufficiently locate us within the cosmos and can lead to a low view of nature. We exist only in relationship to others. The others include God, fellow human beings, and Cosden would argue nature and the material world. We have a dual relationship to the material world. The material world is both the object of our work and the habitat in which we live. It was created good but it is not complete. It is owned by God yet we are stewards of it. Thus, while we have a functional mission, we have the mission within context of having right relationship.
What I want emphasize is that our work and economic activity are not merely instrumental. We come into the world with something about us relatively fixed but we are also in the process of becoming what we will be. A primary means by which we are formed is living out our innate call to stewardship. As we make decisions about what to produce, what to consume, and what to do with the wealth we amass, we are being formed by those decisions. Through praxis and relation with God in community we come to better grasp the layers of relationally involved. But to be formed by those decisions they must be freely chosen. Thus, economic freedom is central to our formation.
The obsession with equal distribution of material wealth is not a biblical ethic. It is an ethic from the communitarian wing of the Enlightenment/Modernist era. It views equally distributed wealth and the economic issues related to it in purely instrumental and utilitarian terms. It is an expression of Modernist dualism. The biblical narrative is not about equally distributed income. It is about restored eikons and stewards.



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Scott M

posted October 31, 2007 at 6:27 pm


Yes, Michael, I would agree. But the obsession with the accumulation of wealth and its concentration goes much further back than that. In fact, if we are discussing a biblical ethic of economic systems, I know of only one instance where God had a hand in the economic system and that was in ancient Israel and its system of free choices with jubilee. And Jesus seems, from his first sermon, to be extending jubilee beyond the boundaries of Israel. So do the ideas you’ve discussed line up with the little we know about an economic system working God’s way?



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Scott M

posted October 31, 2007 at 7:28 pm


Hmmm. The Church is also global now. While we do need to speak the truth to power about evil in the world and strive to avoid complicity in it as much as possible, it wouldn’t hurt for the Church itself to actually live according to 1 John 3. Or James. Or Paul. Or Acts. Or really any of the stories we have where Jesus’ Kingdom ethic was being lived in community. And I don’t see that our responsibility ends with the brothers and sisters we can physically touch.
Several months ago, I heard something that has been bouncing around my head ever since. “For the Christian, the option that we might have to give until we have nothing left is always on the table.” Jesus didn’t tell everyone he met to give up everything they had in order to follow him. But he certainly told that to some. And he utterly subverted the way some made their living so that, though they may not have realized it immediately, they would be unable to continue in their professions. (Think Zaccheus.)
The Gospel to the rich young ruler (whom Jesus loved, remember) is always an option for each of us. I had never thought in those terms, largely because the church I’ve experienced never preaches it.



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MarkE

posted October 31, 2007 at 7:34 pm


Michael:
I appreciate your thoughtful comments and the discussion it generates (as I do Brian’s).
I am not sure the concern people have about equity should be framed as “an obsession with equal distribution of material wealth.” Is it unfair to assume by this you would also include attempts to regulate or improve the capitalist system?. Despite your defense of capitalism as the best system and the progress it has brought, what remains concerning is the number of people who are suffering around us.
Having worked with homeless and formerly homeless families in the prosperous USA, I am not sure everyone can be nicely fit into the “no work no eat” approach. I see some individuals under the bridge that may never be able to “get a job” for a variety of reasons. The number of people reaching out to these people and the resources to help them are few, even through they are within a few blocks of the wealthy business district.
It would be nice if the churches stepped up, but they haven’t to the degree that is impressive or takes care of the need. I also do not see our economic system addressing the suffering. Therefore, like the three action points Brian proposes, I not only try to stimulate myself and others to good works, but also look for ways that might improve the system – even a system as good as capitalism.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 8:17 pm


Scott #43
Here are the provision of the Jubilee for land agreements:
Lev 25:13-17
13 In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property. 14 When you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not cheat one another. 15 When you buy from your neighbor, you shall pay only for the number of years since the jubilee; the seller shall charge you only for the remaining crop years. 16 If the years are more, you shall increase the price, and if the years are fewer, you shall diminish the price; for it is a certain number of harvests that are being sold to you. 17 You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God.
The one who holds title to the land holds it permanently. If jubilee is followed, then what we have is a lease agreement based on ?a certain number of harvests that are being sold to you? between the time of the transaction and the jubilee. Come jubilee, lease expires. And keep in mind that this was only agricultural land. The jubilee did not apply to property in the cities. There is not redistribution. There prevention of exploitation.
Lev 25:39-40
39 If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. 40 They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee.
If jubilee is followed there are no slaves set free because ?you shall not make them serve as slaves.?
Lev 25:47-52
47 If resident aliens among you prosper, and if any of your kin fall into difficulty with one of them and sell themselves to an alien, or to a branch of the alien’s family, 48 after they have sold themselves they shall have the right of redemption; one of their brothers may redeem them, 49 or their uncle or their uncle’s son may redeem them, or anyone of their family who is of their own flesh may redeem them; or if they prosper they may redeem themselves. 50 They shall compute with the purchaser the total from the year when they sold themselves to the alien until the jubilee year; the price of the sale shall be applied to the number of years: the time they were with the owner shall be rated as the time of a hired laborer. 51 If many years remain, they shall pay for their redemption in proportion to the purchase price; 52 and if few years remain until the jubilee year, they shall compute thus: according to the years involved they shall make payment for their redemption.
Again there is no slavery and people are bound until redeemed or based on the number of harvests between their sale and the next jubilee. It is leased labor, so to speak.
The jubilee prevents people from being permanently alienated from their land or labor, (the means of economic production in ancient societies). It ensures that everyone has an ownership stewardship stake in God?s unfolding plans. It does not curtail or redistribute the amassing of herds, urban real estate, gold or other measures of wealth. There is no redistribution here.



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stephen

posted October 31, 2007 at 8:28 pm


MarkE #46
You make a profound point; “It would be nice if the churches stepped up, but they haven?t to the degree that is impressive or takes care of the need.”
My question is why? And what specifically does our economic system have to do with the reason why?
Blessing



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BeckyR

posted October 31, 2007 at 8:58 pm


Even though this has pretty much run it’s course except the the few who will continue discussion.
I consider myself not buying into the system that new stuff and/or better stuff or bigger stuff. I’m fine with 2 sets of clothes, one to wear while the other’s in the wash. I just want a car that runs well. Extravagance may be the stereo system (with dvd player, but we still have the turntable!) But as I see it, hubby is into certain new techno stuff as a rooster struts his stuff. I think hubby puts it as a thing of pride. He denies it, but to watch him. So as this discussion has gone on, hubby came home with an $800.oo new widescreen tv. I’ve been thinking $800 !!! Thinking of all other better things that could’ve gone to. We joke about those with big noisy cars or fancy schmanzy sports cars as wanting people to think they have a big penis. Well, an $800.oo widescreen tv you know who has a big one!



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 9:08 pm


Scott #43
I?ll also add this. There are three elements to economic justice
1. Distributive Justice ? Addresses how capital and goods are distributed throughout the society.
2. Commutative Justice ? Addresses the truthfulness of parties to an economic exchange.
3. Remedial Justice ? Addresses just compensation and punitive action when there has been malicious or careless damage done to life, liberty or property.
If you will go to the prophets and read what they are crying out against is overwhelming commutative justice and remedial justice and disregard for the poor. Yes, there are the condemnations of joining house to house and field to field until the poor are driven off the land but this applies to violating the jubilee code. The poor are denied remedial justice in the appropriation their land and the callousness to the poor. It is not addressing wealth distribution per se.
Look at the specific indictments that lead up to Amos? famous ?let justice role down? prophecy in Amos 5:18-24
Amos 5:10-11
10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. ?
15 Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; ?
The ?city gate? was the place where disputes where heard and settled. The poor were being denied remedial justice. In verse 12 we see bribes mentioned which is commutative justice. In other passages we read about dishonest scale and measures (Mic 6:11) I?m not aware of any passage that calls upon Israel to redistribute the wealth so all be of approximately the same status. The prophets are damning the callousness to the plight of the poor and the perversion of commutative and remedial justice.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted October 31, 2007 at 10:20 pm


Mark #45
Mark, thanks for engaging. But I have to say I?ve dealt with your objections repeatedly.
?Is it unfair to assume by this you would also include attempts to regulate or improve the capitalist system??
I claimed or implied no such thing. I?ve stated that limiting markets and ?improving? a free market system (which some here seem to suggest is dismantling) will never bring complete justice. There is no perfect justice this side of Christ?s return. Instead, I?ve argued that justice will mean finding the right balance between economic freedom and the just claims of the poor. But economic freedom is not evil.
I have repeatedly explained that ?free market? is akin to ?free speech.? We advocate and promote free speech. But we don?t allow people to falsely yell fire in a crowed theater, incite people to violence, slander others, or commit perjury. We understand that the freedom is not unbridled speech. In the same way advocate and promote free markets but it is not unlimited. Economic freedom is a positive thing to be promoted not a necessary evil to be parceled out.
Where did I write ?no work no eat?? I think you have me confused with Paul, 2 Thes 3:10-12. In EMC #13 I wrote:
Much of the Old Testament law is about protection of private property and regulation of methods of exchange. The Jubilee ensures that no one can be permanently alienated from their land. Private ownership of property is a given, but it is not absolute ownership. There are provisions about the poor gleaning from the edges of the field. There is the ?tax? that is given to support the Levites. There are mandatory big blowout parties with God where people are expected to ?waste? significant amounts of wealth in celebration.
Of course we make provision for those who are mentally, physically or otherwise incapacitated! But let us be clear that ?we,? meaning society, is not a synonym for government. Redistribution through government may be our best approach for some things but government is only one institution of society. ?We? means all individuals and institutions. Family, church and voluntary associations are often far more effective at holistic ministry than government redistribution.
My point was that we not dehumanize people or reward destructive behavior that prevents people from becoming the restored stewards God intends. I don’t understand why my attempts to point out that markets are not evil incarnate and have actually made great contributions to a better world keeps getting twisted into the assertion that I’m preaching unbridled free markets and that utopia has arrived. Of course we do everthing we can to make things as just as possible and that has to be married to a heavy committment to generosity, compassion, and benevolence.



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Anonymous

posted October 31, 2007 at 10:52 pm


Jesus Creed on McLaren’s “Everything Must Change” « Compassion in Politics

[…] 1st, 2007 · No Comments Jesus Creed just posted this review of Everything Must Change: What does Jesus have to say aboutequity? […]



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Brad Cooper

posted October 31, 2007 at 11:24 pm


Awesome discussion, once again! I love this stuff!!!! This is such an important topic. Thanks to all for sharing! :)
Michael Kruse,
I think you should write a book…..Come to think of it, you probably have in the last few weeks on this site! ;)
Seriously, though, I really think that you should consider whether God is calling you to write a book. You are benefiting many through this blog site and your own; but I wonder if your insight into ways to help the poor might benefit the Church on a larger scale. Something to pray about.
Also, thanks for giving us some insight into some practical examples from your own life. I don’t see it as tooting your own horn. I find it encouraging and inspiring. It spurs us all on.
One final thought, I wonder if you have considered adding a section to your own blog site that might have a growing list of practical ways to get involved in helping the poor (complete with links to various organizations, books on Amazon, etc.)….Just a thought. I understand that you may not have time for that, but it may be an idea to put on the back burner (or perhaps you’ve already done it).
May our Lord Jesus continue to bless you with wisdom, insight, and knowledge for the glory of his kingdom.



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Jeff

posted November 1, 2007 at 5:28 am


Michael,
Thank you for your posts. I second the suggesting that you write a book. In the mean time, what books on these issues would you suggest?



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Bob Smietana

posted November 1, 2007 at 10:03 am


One suggestion on what individuals Christians and churches can do to fight global poverty: Find Christians in the developing world who have found effective solutions and support their works. We’ve got to get past the idea that poor people are primarily victims and we in the West have to save them. Many people in the developing world are finding ways to save themselves–our job is to do whatever we can to support their work.
Until Micheal writes a book, here’s a few suggestions of books on poverty and economics:
The End of Poverty by Jeff Sachs
White Man’s Burden, William Easterly
You Can Hear Me Now, Nicholas P. Sullivan (a fascinating book about how cell phones are transforming the lives of poor women in Bangladesh).
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C. K. Prahalad
The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier
Good Intentions, Charles North and Bob Smietana



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Brad Cooper

posted November 1, 2007 at 10:10 am


Bob,
Thanks for the list. I’ll check them out. But when Michael writes his book, I’ll be one of the first to buy it. :)
Michael,
I also would appreciate your list. Thanks.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted November 1, 2007 at 10:20 am


Brad #52 and Jeff #53
Thanks for you affirmation. I actually have written a draf of a book but I was unhappy with the last third, so I’ve doing more research and rewriting. It is a project I did for more own learning. I’ll see if anybody publishes or not.
Instead of listing a reading list here I’ve put a post at my blog with some suggestions. (That way good do the html links and test them :) )
Christianity and Economics Reading List
Bob #54
Is “Good Intentions” for sale now?



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Bob Smietana

posted November 1, 2007 at 10:32 am


Not yet – it will be in January — and Amazon and Barnes and Noble are taking pre-orders. We have a blog about economics and faith (www.goodintentionsbook.com) which will go live in two weeks.
I forget one book on my list: The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli–a indepth look at globalization told around the story of how a t-shirt gets made, from growing the cotton to final sale.



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MarkE

posted November 1, 2007 at 10:37 am


Michael:
This is aconversation. Conversations have redundancy and restatements. That’s what makes them useful. It helps me consolidate my thinking. I did not think this post and conversation was just about capitalism and free markets.
My comments were in response to your statement about the “obsession with redistribution of material wealth.” Sounds like you really didn’t mean to paint the other side of the debate in this way.
It sounds like we are in agreement. We agree that improving the system is a good thing. To me, this means thinking about what laws and regulations might bring more justice. The risk here is that they may have unintended consequences, but they may also bring more justice (e.g., minimum wage; raising taxes). These are tricking issues with smart, well intentioned, spiritual people on both sides.
The no work no eat comment was mine, not yours. An ethic of work is good, but does not cover the exceptions well. The bottom 2% (or more?) of our society (USA) cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps. To show them mercy may mean some redistributing wealth. Not wholesale redistribution, nor an obsession with it. Just an improvement of a system that will not in itself address the issue. Sounds like we are in agreement here as well.
We also agree that governments should not be the only institutions that have the responsibility to help. Problem is the need outstrips the efforts of the churches and NGO’s. The suffering continues. As a result, we also pressure the governments.
I know you know all this. It just helps me to say it. Makes me feel like I am part of such an important conversation rather than a bystander.
Peace.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 1, 2007 at 10:46 am


Bob,
Took a look at your site. The book looks great. I’ll look forward to buying it in February(?). Might make a great book for a Sunday School class. Thanks.
Mark,
Just a clarification. The Biblical injunction is not “No work no eat.” The Bible’s teaching is that if a person WILL NOT work he should not eat–NOT if a person is UNABLE TO WORK.
Michael,
Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 1, 2007 at 10:52 am


Michael,
Checked out your link. Works great. Looks like some great books. Appreciate the synopses. Bookmarked it for future reference. Thanks.



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MarkE

posted November 1, 2007 at 5:06 pm


Brad:
Thankfully, it is interpreted as you say. Otherwise…
My parting comment would be that stereotypes can keep some people from seeking out and showing compassion to some needy people.
When I invite others to come under the bridge with me, the “no work no eat” attitude gets in the way for some. They are so worried about enabling a dysfunctional lifestyle that they miss the opportunity to show compassion to the disabled needy that are there also.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 1, 2007 at 6:07 pm


Mark #61,
I do know what you mean. I have seen it even among those who are supposed to be leaders in the Church.



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RonMck

posted November 2, 2007 at 3:22 pm


John Stott?s comment is not that much different from that of another John.
?If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him??
McLaren?s suggestions mostly make sense. I do not see how an international minimum wage could work. It would probably harm those it is attempting to help. I am not sure if we know what biological limits are?
I believe that justice is important. I am blogging a series on Justice and Economics at Blessed Economist. However, there are limits to what justice can achieve for the poor. Mercy can go much further.
If justice is our only motive for assisting the poor, we are forced into thinking that all poverty is caused by injustice, which gives a a distorted view of reality and prevents us from finding that work for the poor. We end up seeing poor people as victims, who need a rich clever person to sort them out. This fits well with the American narrative of ?the good guys ride out to shoot up the bad guys and rescue the helpless maiden?, but it does nothing for the self respect of the person who is poor.
The context of the quote from John above is not justice but love.
?This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers? (The real John 3:16).
Love empathises with the person who is poor. Love does not tell them what they need or what to do. Love finds out what they want and need.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted November 3, 2007 at 2:20 pm


#63 I’ve seen you raise these issues before concerning justice and mercy. What a powerful insight. Thanks.



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