Friday, August 27, 2010

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

This is another one of those posts that has been gestating for a very long time. When the first financial meltdown happened at the end of George W. Bush's presidency, I realized that I didn't know anything about economics. And so I started learning from the Austrian economists about what was happening. I started reading Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, and I began to realize just how bad things really are, and how much worse they're going to get. I believe that their logic is airtight. I believe that the Austrian account of what has happened to the economy is the best account of things as we know them.

But all of this study had a dreadful side effect, because I am a pretty passionate guy. If I get really into something, I tend to forsake the other things in my life and chase down my prey until it is mine and I feel I've sufficiently mastered it. And the thing that I noticed with my immersion in economics (and by extension my resulting political outrage) was that my idol-making heart was busy at work when I got mad about government spending and mad about the federal reserve and mad about big government. And sometimes I would be afraid of what's around the corner. In fact, in a Godless world where it's just us little human bits of protoplasm, I would have no ground for optimism, frankly.

But such fear is sinful. If we have faith in God, we won't be afraid. I take this from Matt. 6:25, which tells us, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life." In verses 31 and 24 he repeats the command, "do not be anxious." (I am here equating anxiousness and fear.)

Now, John Piper points out that the Bible presupposes that we will be afraid (Ps. 56:3), but the question is, when that fear comes, where do we go with it? Do we get internal and start stockpiling guns, thinking that living by the sword as a frontiersman will be our way to reflect God's glory to the watching world? No. We have an attitude of faith. "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" (the very first Bible verse my daughter ever memorized). An abject attitude of need is to be the Christian's response; we can't solve this problem on our own. God is the one who will hear our prayers: "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you" (1 Peter 5:7).

A word about stockpiling and gun collecting. I hear a lot of people saying that the answer to our problems is to build up a massive collection of rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, etc. as though that is where we will find our salvation. Now, I'm not taking the pacifist approach here and saying that we are never ever justified in defending our families for example, but I do want to challenge this paranoid militia mentality. If a man comes to the door of my fallout shelter and is in need, but life is more Mad Max than Annie Hall, what does the Christian faith look like? I can guarantee you that Christlike living does not look like that scene in The Happening where the farmer shoots the kid through the door because he's banging on the door begging for food and water.

In such a situation, maybe a man will lift his gun and point it at that person who is in need, but it will not be a Christian doing that. It will simply be a conservative, fearful, American whose idols have been threatened. You can fight to defend your way of life because it's that precious to you, but a life lived like that is not Christian any more than it's Jewish to eat a pack of bacon. Jesus does not look like the man pointing a gun at the needy, and society can't be a society if it's lived in that way.

Lets go worst case scenario here (short of nuclear holocaust). Lets say the economy goes through a double-dip recession (which it almost certainly will if the Austrian economists are right). Lets say that the value of the dollar drops like a rock and the dollar loses its buying power and we all start getting hungry and find ourselves suddenly unable to pay for our houses, and we have to live like nomads. Lets say that somebody detonates an EMP over the U.S. and all our iPods and (God forbid) Kindles stop working. Lets say that we have to live like we're in the stone age. Lets say that zombies start walking (nevermind; lets leave that one out). Lets say that life gets hard; really hard. Lets say food is hard to come by and our lives in the lap of luxury become a distant memory and we can't drive cars anymore and we are forced back into medieval serfdom. Lets say the Chinese invade, and soon we're all speaking Mandarin.

In such a scenario, would not Christ still be the glorious Lord over heaven and earth? Would not the heavens still be full of His glory? Would not the excellencies of Christ be such that even the stones would cry out? Would not the Holy Spirit continue to regenerate the lost and rescue men from the depths of sin and misery? Would not the church thrive and grow and glorify God as her one true and sure foundation? Would not Jesus Christ be 'very God of very God,' the Savior of the World?

If there is one thing that the post I shared yesterday from Edwards communicated to me, it was that our security cannot be bound up in the survival of nation-states (they always come and go). If we believe that it is, then our perspective has become that of the world, whose only hope is in worldly rulers or revolutions which can never endure. Even mighty Rome fell in due time. And considering that America is repeating Rome's errors all over again, it's only a matter of time before we go her way as well, whether it takes 5 or 500 years.
"Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When this breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever."

Psalm 146:3-6

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