Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clark H Pinnock, "From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology"

Here is an excerpt and then some shorter quotations from Clark H Pinnock, "From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology", The Grace of God, the Will of Man, Clark H Pinnock ed.,  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, (1989), 15-30. You can read the full chapter online here. (HT: TC Moore ):

I held onto this view until about 1970, when one of the links in the chain of the tight Calvinian logic broke. It had to do with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, likely the weakest link in Calvinian logic, scripturally speaking. I was teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at the time and attending to the doctrine particularly in the book of Hebrews. If in fact believers enjoy the kind of absolute security Calvinism had taught me they do, I found I could not make very good sense of the vigorous exhortations to persevere (e.g., 3:12) or the awesome warnings not to fall away from Christ (e.g., 10:26), which the book addresses to Christians. It began to dawn on me that my security in God was linked to my faith-union with Christ and that God is teaching us here the extreme importance of maintaining and not forsaking this relationship. The exhortations and the warnings could only signify that continuing in the grace of God was something that depended at least in part on the human partner. And once I saw that, the logic of Calvinism was broken in principle, and it was only a matter of time before the larger implications of its breaking would dawn on me. The thread was pulled, and the garment must begin to unravel, as indeed it did.   
What had dawned on me was what I had known experientially all along in my walk with the Lord, that there is a profound mutuality in our dealings with God. What happens between us is not simply the product of a set of divine decrees that, written on an everlasting and unchangeable scroll, determine all that takes place in the world. I began to doubt the existence of an all-determining fatalistic blueprint for history and to think of God's having made us significantly free creatures able to accept or reject his purposes for us (Luke 7:30). Even the good news of the grace of God will not benefit us, as Hebrews says, unless "mixed with faith in the hearers." (Heb. 4:2) For the first time I realized theologically that the dimension of reciprocity and conditionality had to be brought into the picture of God's relations with us in creation and redemption and that, once it is brought in, the theological landscape would have to change significantly. The determinist model cannot survive once a person starts down this road, as scripturally I came to see I must.    
Driven by Scripture itself as I reflected on it, and not out of rationalist motives as some might unkindly suggest, I found myself having to push ahead and do more rethinking in several other areas of doctrine adjacent to this one in the years that followed during the 1970s. Just as one cannot change the pitch of a single string on the violin without adjusting the others, so one cannot introduce a major new insight into a coherent system like Calvinian theology without having to reconsider many other issues. Let me explain five of the doctrinal moves that logic required and I believed Scripture permitted me to make during this period.   
1. The first and the best discovery I made was that there was no "horrible decree" at all. Calvin had used this expression in connection with his belief that God in his sovereign good pleasure had predestined some people to be eternally lost for no fault of theirs (Institutes, 3.23). Calvin was compelled to say that because, if one thinks that God determines all that happens in the world (his Augustinian premise) and not all are to be saved in the end (as he believed the Bible taught), there was no way around it. Calvin's logic was impeccable as usual: God wills whatever happens, so if there are to be lost people, God must have willed it. It was as logically necessary as it was morally intolerable.   
Of course I had always known how morally loathsome the doctrine of double predestination is and how contradictory it is to the universal biblical texts, but I had not known previously how to avoid it. But now with the insight of reciprocity in hand, which had just surfaced for me in rethinking the doctrine of perseverance, it became possible for me to accept the scriptural teaching of the universal salvific will of God and not feel duty-bound to deny it as before. I was now in a position to rejoice in the truth that God's will is for all to be saved (I Tim. 2:4), and that God's grace has appeared for the salvation of all people (Titus 2:11).   

On election (bold mine):
One possibility that presented itself was to think of election as being based on the foreknowledge of God (Rom. 8:29; I Peter 1:2). This was the standard Arminian position--one favored by early Greek fathers--and it would deviate least from the Calvinian idea of the selection of a certain number of specific individuals from before the creation of the world to be saved. [...] I found myself attracted to a second possibility--that election is a corporate category and not oriented to the choice of individuals for salvation. I knew that everyone admitted this to be the case in the Old Testament where the election of Israel is one of a people to be God's servant in a special way. Was it possible that the New Testament texts too could be interpreted along these same lines? Upon reflection I decided that they could indeed be read corporately, election then speaking of a class of people rather than specific individuals. God has chosen a people for his Son, and we are joined and belong to the elect body by faith in Christ (Eph. 1:3-24).   
Viewed in this way, election, far from arbitrarily excluding anybody, encompasses them all potentially. As a corporate symbol, election is no longer a dark mystery, but a joyous cause of praise and thanksgiving. Not only so but this model has the distinct advantage of construing election as a divine decision and not the pale notion of God's ratifying our choices as in the standard Arminian interpretation. If election is understood as a corporate category, then it would be God's unconditional decision and be potentially universal as regards all individuals. All are invited to become part of the elect people by personal faith.

On predestination:
Previously I had to swallow hard and accept the Calvinian antinomy that required me to believe both that God determines all things and that creaturely freedom is real. I made a valiant effort to believe this seeming contradiction on the strength of biblical infallibility, being assured that the Bible actually taught it. So I was relieved to discover that the Bible does not actually teach such an incoherence, and this particular paradox was a result of Calvinian logic, not scriptural dictates. Having created human beings with relative autonomy alongside himself, God voluntarily limits his power to enable them to exist and to share in the divine creativity. God invites humans to share in deciding what the future will be. God does not take it all onto his own shoulders. Does this compromise God's power? No, surely not, for to create such a world in fact requires a divine power of a kind higher than merely coercive. 
Obviously what is happening here is a paradigm shift in my biblical hermeneutics. I am in the process of learning to read the Bible from a new point of view, one that I believe is more truly evangelical and less rationalistic. Looking at it from the vantage point of God's universal salvific will and of significant human freedom, I find that many new verses leap up from the page, while many old familiar ones take on new meaning. In the past I would slip into my reading of the Bible dark assumptions about the nature of God's decrees and intentions. What a relief to be done with them!

On human inability:
In any case, what became decisive for me was the simple fact that Scripture appeals to people as those who are able and responsible to answer to God (however we explain it) and not as those incapable of doing so, as Calvinian logic would suggest. The gospel addresses them as free and responsible agents, and I must suppose it does so because that is what they are.

On the atonement:
[...] Christ's death on behalf of the race evidently did not automatically secure for anyone an actual reconciled relationship with God, but made it possible for people to enter into such a relationship by faith. Gospel invitations in the New Testament alone make this clear. It caused me to look again first at the theory of Anselm and later of Hugo Grotius, both of whom encourage us to view the atonement as an act of judicial demonstration rather than a strict or quantitative substitution as such. Paul's word in Romans 3:25-26 then became more important for me where the apostle himself declares that the cross was a demonstration of the righteousness of God, proving God's holiness even in the merciful justification of sinners.

Further Reading:


Related Posts:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Where John Piper gets it Right: On Christian Stewardship

The exorbitant compensation which Franklin Graham receives from his non-profit organizations was recently the subject of a report by Religion News (HT: William Birch). Christians should be angry and disgusted by these numbers.

John Piper on Finances

Though I disagree with much of his theology, one person who has always impressed me with his handling of finances is Dr John Piper.  Below is an excerpt from a 2013 interview; we would do well to follow this example:
When did you first realize you would need some plan to handle the money earned from your speaking and writing? Were you ever tempted to keep the money for yourself?  
With the successful sales of Desiring God starting in 1987, I saw that there could be substantial income from writing and speaking. I resolved that I should not keep this money for myself but channel it to ministry. I never doubted that the Lord would provide us with a salary that would be sufficient for our family. So I saw no reason to keep the money that came in from the books and speaking. These royalties and honorariums were being earned while I was pastor of Bethlehem, and so it seemed the church should benefit from them, not me privately.   
At first, I thought I could do this simply by channeling the royalties to the church, but realized soon that this had tax implications. Since these royalties were technically in my control as the copyright holder, giving all of them to the church made me liable for income taxes. So we created a foundation. The Desiring God Foundation now owns all the copyrights of my books and intellectual property, and receives and distributes all the income. I have no access to the money at all. I do sit on the board of the foundation with my wife and five others. This board safeguards the aims of the foundation, and makes the decisions to which ministries the income should be given. It is a thrilling ministry.   
In addition, we made the decision that all honoraria would go to the ministries we represent, not ourselves. That was usually the church while I was pastor, and now is Desiring God. While I was a pastor at Bethlehem, I never received an income from Desiring God. So for the last 25 years or so, we have lived on one stream of income. That is still the case, as I am now paid by Desiring God. I have never been in any serious need. None of this has felt like a sacrifice. I know myself incredibly rich by the standards of the world. Beyond all doubt, it is more blessed to give than to receive and keep.

Form 990s

While we should be disgusted by Franklin Graham's compensation, no one should be surprised by it: salaries are reported every year on Form 990 in the USA (which many organizations include on their website--check their "About" page and their "Donate" page--if it is not there, you can always request a copy) and in Canada, salary range is reported by the CRA (link).  As stewards of the resources God has provided us, we should always review the finances of every organization before we donate to them.  With the information we have available to us, we are without excuse for continuing to support those who take over and above their need from money designated to the poor.

Further Reading:

  • David and Tim Bayly, "You cannot serve God and wealth..." -- including Form 990s from a number of ministries, including Desiring God, Grace To You (John MacArthur), and Ligonier (RC Sproul).

…the Church must do more to speak out against the utterly evil nature of the prosperity gospel.  

Along with the legal loopholes and the desperation of those in need, I think part of the reason scamgelists™ are still able to practice their nefarious trade is the fact the Church doesn’t do more to confront, condemn, and counteract their wicked ways.

To his credit, Dr Piper has also been vocal in opposing prosperity teachers. See for example, this Sermon Jam:

Related Posts:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Calvinism's Determinist Worldview: a "theology of resignation"

In a previous post (link), I suggested that 5-point Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism each affect our worldview (and have affected mine, first as a Calvinist and now as a 4-point Arminian); Calvinism towards a "determinist worldview" and Arminianism towards an "evangelism worldview".

This past week I began reading Greg Boyd, God At War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict.  Chapter one includes an interesting discussion contrasting the determinist worldview (Dr Boyd calls it the "providential blueprint worldview") as held by Augustine and the later church, with the "warfare worldview" of the New Testament and early post apostolic church.

Dr Boyd shows that the determinist "providential blueprint worldview" developed largely from Augustine's reinterpretation of "the truths that God alone is eternal, that God is self-sufficient within his own triune identity apart from the world, that God is altogether omnipotent and omniscient, and thus that God is sovereign over world history".  Augustine reinterpreted these in a way that was "more in line with Neo-Platonism and the broader Hellenistic philosophical tradition than it was with the Bible.  Hence out of fidelity to Scripture, Augustine's framework for understanding these truths needs to be seriously reexamined" (p 68).

Dr Boyd writes (bold mine):
One of the main reasons why the warfare worldview was gradually compromised in the thinking of the early apologists, especially Augustine's theology, and one of the central reasons why believers have to some extent resisted it since, is that this worldview runs counter to a particular model of divine perfection--a model that did not derive principally from Scripture, nor was it required by logic. It was, rather, derived mostly from Hellenistic philosophy.
For example, from Plato, Aristotle and the subsequent Hellenistic tradition, the church arrived at the notion that God is altogether unmoved, impassible, immutable, nontemporal and purely actual. Yet it was precisely these features of the church's doctrine of God that logically undermined the integrity of the warfare worldview. On the basis of this model of God, a meticulous, sovereign, divine blueprint was postulated to encompass all temporal events, including the cosmic war.
This had the effect, however, of rendering the war a sham. For a war that meticulously follows a blueprint that has been drawn up by one of the parties involved in the war (God) is hardly a real war. It was principally for this reason that the problem of evil stopped being the New Testament problem of confronting and overthrowing the enemy and started being the intellectual problem of figuring out how this enemy (and all evil) fits into God's providential script. (p 67, bold mine).

Earlier Dr Boyd asks, "What is more, would not such a conception [that all events come from the hand of God] significantly undermine the godly urgency one should have to confront such evil as something God is unequivocally against?" (p 39, bold mine), and adds in a footnote:
Schelling (God and Human Anguish, p 59-72) speaks against a "theology of resignation," which results from the sort of implicit theological determinism reflected in many of the traditional hymns of the church. We resign ourselves to accept as from the hand of God what we ought to revolt against as from the hand of Satan. We thereby trade in biblical spiritual activism for a nonbiblical form of passivity and pseudo security. (note 12, p 302, bold mine)
(See my post, Irv Brendlinger, "John Wesley's theological challenge to slavery" for more on Calvinism's resignation and reluctance to confront evil.  Dr Boyd, who holds to an openness view, also challenges the traditional Arminian understanding --the view closest to my own--which he believes "has not removed itself far enough from classical-philosophical assumptions about God", p 48-49, though he notes that Arminian theologians "have been somewhat more logically consistent in working out the implications of the concept of freedom and have therefore significantly qualified the classical-philosophical understanding of God's omnipotence as entailing omnicontrol" and "have explicitly rejected the Augustinian assumption that the will of God can never be thwarted", p 48).

John Piper's call to "Make War!"

Thinking of this contrast, I was reminded of Tedashii's song, "Make War" (Reach Records), which begins with a quote from John Piper (a popular Calvinist preacher) exposing and confronting the same problem.  John Piper says (video below):
“I hear so many Christians murmuring about their imperfections and their failures and their addictions and their short-comings, and I see so little war! ‘Murmur, murmur, murmur, why am I this way?’ Make war!”
It is sad and unfortunate that Dr Piper's own theology leads to the very problem he identifies and, thankfully, wants to fight against. (Dr Piper, of course, has taken determinism to another level with his "7th point, the best-of-all-possible worlds", link.  For a critique of best-of-all-possible worlds, see Roger Olson "Is this the best of all possible worlds? What I would think if I were a Calvinist").

Make War

Here is Tedashii's video. Dr Piper's quote is from a 2002 sermon on Romans 8 (and full disclosure: I love Reach Records. I've listened to them since Lecrae's first album was re-released by Cross Movement Records in 2005, and Tedashii is one of my favourite artists):

Further Reading:

Blog posts

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Dr Justin Thacker, “The Poverty of Nations by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus: A Critical Review”

Below is an excerpt from Dr Justin Thacker’s two-part review of The Poverty of Nations by Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem (a popular Calvinist author/theologian).  Dr Thacker is a lecturer in theology at Cliff College, and a Fellow of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre.

Excerpt from Part 2:

Theological question #1: Should economic growth trump economic equality as a goal for Christians?

Thoughout the whole of chapters one and two of their book, Grudem and Asmus repeatedly make the claim that the goal to which we should be working is that of economic growth. Indeed, the whole of their argument – that unlimited free trade is the way forward – is dependant on agreeing that continual economic growth is the desired outcome. They write, “If we want to solve poverty, the correct goal is that a nation continually produces more goods and services per person each year.” They specifically advance this goal in contrast to those who would seek equality of economic opportunity or outcome as a purposeful ambition. “Making equality a more important goal that overall economic growth is a mistake for a government, because merely distributing the same amount of wealth in different ways does not change the total amount of wealth a nation produces each year.” Indeed, they go on to describe these two approaches as “opposing goals” citing a series of communist countries as evidence that seeking equality is necessarily wrong.

In light of recent literature on this issue, it would be possible to argue on purely economic grounds that they are mistaken but my interest in this section is the way they use the Bible to justify this claim. The first point to make is that they ignore or downplay many of the biblical texts that suggest the precise opposite, that equality (at least of opportunity, if not outcome) should be our goal. They dismiss the Old Testament Jubilee principle (Leviticus 25) by indicating that it was only meant as a temporary measure, they ignore the early Christian community practice of holding all things in common by pointing out they still retained some possessions (Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32) and they simply ignore Paul’s very clear instruction regarding aid in a time of famine that “the goal is equality” (2 Corinthians 8:14). Given that this verse, and the whole passage in which it sits, is concerned with a redistribution of wealth and stands in direct contradiction to their stated goal, we might have expected them to treat it with some diligence. But that is not the case. Perhaps even more troubling is that when they do cite other relevant passages, they do so only to dismiss them. They write, “When a man who has two shirts gives a shirt worth $13 to a man who has none, this is a good deed that genuinely helps the poor man (see Luke 3:11). But it does nothing to increase the GDP.” I think it would be perfectly possible to make an economic case that they are mistaken in this analysis, for one would could argue that giving gifts builds trust and co-operation, both of which are essential for economic productivity. However, even if we concede that there is no increase in GDP, the fact remains that we are still commanded to do it, that is, give to the poor (Deut 15:11; Prov 19:17; Matthew 5:42; Matthew 25:35-40 etc) We do not just ignore scripture because it fails to support a predetermined goal that we have gleaned from some 19th and 20th Century economists. What this passage in fact demonstrates is that the goal of continually increasing GDP may not be the goal to which Christians should aspire.


Further Reading:


  • Justin Thacker & Marijke Hoek, Micah's challenge : the church's responsibility to the global poor (2008), Find in a Library;

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

VIDEO: Dr William Lane Craig, "If We Are Dead In Sins, How Can We Respond to God?"

Here is the transcript.

In the teaching that led up to the above Q&A, Dr Craig discusses both prevenient grace and Romans 9. Here is an excerpt:

I want to suggest that man is indeed free to respond to God’s grace. He is not simply a passive participant in the process of salvation but does participate actively and has the freedom to respond to God’s grace. So God does take the initiative. I think the Catholic view and the Reformed view is correct here. The natural man left to himself does not seek God. So apart from the prevenient grace of God, no one would ever be saved. God must take the initiative in convicting of sin and drawing persons to himself. But then at some point along the line human beings have the freedom either to accede to that drawing of God’s grace and to go with it or to resist it and push back and refuse to receive God’s grace of salvation. 
Someone might say, but doesn’t Romans 9 (which we read together) teach that human beings are completely passive in this process? That it is entirely of God’s will who is elect and who is reprobate or passed over and left unsaved. Doesn’t Romans 9 teach a strong doctrine of predestination and election that excludes any sort of human role in terms of a free response such as I have suggested? Well, I would like to suggest for your consideration a very different reading of Romans 9 today than the one that you usually hear. Usually, people think of Romans 9 as God’s narrowing down the scope of election to just those few people that he wants to save. And he passes over the broad mass of humanity to selectively save those few that he has picked out. I want to suggest that Paul’s burden in Romans 9 is exactly the opposite. What Paul wants to do here is to broaden the scope of salvation, not to narrow it down to a select few. He wants to broaden it as wide as possible.  
If I am understanding Romans 9 correctly, this is not meant to be teaching a kind of predestinarianism that takes no cognizance of the human free response to God’s grace. Quite the contrary, it seems to me it is broadening out the scope of God’s election to say that it is going to include everybody who meets the condition of having faith in Christ. That is the human response to God’s grace. God’s grace comes preveniently, that is to say it seeks out sinful, alienated, spiritually estranged people, and draws them to himself to that point where one can respond or not by faith. 
You might say, but didn’t we read in Ephesians 2:8-9 that faith is a gift of God, not something that we can produce. Look at Ephesians 2:8-9 again. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Doesn’t this show that faith is simply God’s gift to you and not something that you do on your own? I think that is incorrect and I think demonstrably so. Let me ask those of you who are our vigilant Logos software users to tell us what is the gender of the word for “faith” that is used in verse 8? I should mention here that in Greek, as in modern day German, every noun has a gender. There are three genders – masculine, feminine, and neuter. It is the same in Greek. Now, what is the gender of the word pistis or faith? Feminine. So it is feminine gender for pistis or faith. What is the gender of the pronoun in verse 8 “this.” Neuter! Touto is the word. It is neuter. So the antecedent of “this” is not the word “faith.” You would have to have a feminine pronoun in order to refer to “faith.” Rather, what the word “this” refers to is the whole preceding clause, namely, salvation by grace through faith. That is not your own doing. This is the gift of God. This is the way God has elected to set it up; he is going to save by his grace everyone who has faith in Christ. That is not your own doing. But it does not teach that saving faith is the gift of God. That is grammatically prohibited. 
In fact, I want to say here something about the way our Reformed brethren treat the idea of faith. For many of them they think that if I exercise faith in Christ, if I respond to God’s grace by receiving it through faith, that this is somehow my meriting or winning salvation. It is something I do; I have faith and so I have somehow done some meritorious work which is excluded of course by Paul because salvation is by grace not by meritorious works. But in so saying I think they have completely misunderstood Paul. When you read Paul, he always opposes faith to works. For Paul, faith is the antithesis of works. He does not think that placing your faith in Christ is a work much less a meritorious work. Paul always contrasts faith and works. So, in receiving Christ by faith in acceding to God’s grace, you are not doing anything meritorious to save yourself. You are simply yielding, as it were, to the grace of God and allowing it to do its saving work and justifying work in your life. That is not in any sense a meritorious work.
You can read the full transcript here.

Further Reading:

Related Posts:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dr William Lane Craig, "Calvinism and Universal Divine Causal Determinism"

Let’s begin with a critique of the Calvinist view which you will remember I described as universal divine causal determinism – God determines everything that happens in the world. It seems to me that there are five very powerful reasons for rejecting this view.
First of all, universal divine causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture. You will remember we saw that the Scriptural data affirm both a very strong view of divine sovereignty as well as human freedom and contingency and responsibility. Causal determinism simply can’t make sense of both streams of biblical tradition. The classical Reformed theologians recognize this. They will typically acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with those texts affirming divine sovereignty is simply inscrutable. This is a mystery which we cannot understand. You can reconcile these texts by simply interpreting freedom in compatibilist terms. You will remember we said last time that everyone agrees that human beings are free. The real question is: is freedom consistent with causal determinism or not? Compatibilists maintain that you can be causally determined to do what you do and still be said to be free. If you interpret freedom along compatibilist lines, then there is no problem in reconciling freedom with universal divine causal determinism. Indeed, compatibilism entails determinism. According to compatibilism, if you are free you are causally determined. However, the problem with this solution is that adopting compatibilism achieves a reconciliation of these Scriptural streams of tradition only at the expense of denying what that one stream of tradition seems to affirm; namely, genuine indeterminacy and contingency. Because on compatibilism, there really isn’t any contingency or indeterminacy – everything is causally determined. So I don’t think that universal divine causal determinism gives a coherent interpretation of Scripture. It affirms divine sovereignty but it is forced to ride roughshod over all of those texts that affirm contingency and indeterminism in the world.

You can read the full transcript, including a Q&A, here.

Further Reading:

Related Posts

Thursday, August 6, 2015

NT Wright, "...this is the number one moral issue of our day"

With national election campaigns beginning in both Canada and the USA, and the first debate in each country overlapping tonight, here is an excerpt from NT Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, (Google Preview or Find in a Library) to remind us--if we, as followers of Jesus, are going to influence priorities--of where our focus should be.

Pages 216-219 (while this was published back in 2008, and the first symptom he mentions--third world debt--is less on the radar today, the massive economic imbalance has only grown). Bold mine:
As far as I can see, the major task that faces us in our generation, corresponding to the issue of slavery two centuries ago, is that of the massive economic imbalance of the world, whose major symptom is the ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt. I have spoken about this many times over the last few years, and I have a sense that some of us, like old Wilberforce on the subject of slavery, are actually called to bore the pants off people by going on and on about it until eventually the point is taken and the world is changed. There are many good books on the subject from different points of view, and I don’t want to go into the arguments now. I simply want to record my conviction that this is the number one moral issue of our day. Sex matters enormously, but global justice matters far, far more. The present system of global debt is the real immoral scandal, the dirty little secret—or rather the dirty enormous secret—of glitzy, glossy Western capitalism. Whatever it takes, we must change this situation or stand condemned by subsequent history alongside those who supported slavery two centuries ago and those who supported the Nazis seventy years ago. It is that serious. I can’t develop the arguments here; I just want to make four brief comments, in light of the subject matter we have explored in this book, about the nature of the debates that you run into when you raise the subject. (I know this only too well: every time I write on these issues some commentators, usually in the United States, write to tell me that I should stick to Jesus and Paul and not meddle in economics and politics. Fortunately, there are plenty of others, in that country and elsewhere, who encourage me to keep going.)   
First, notice how the rhetoric regularly employed against the remission of global debts echoes the arguments used against the abolition of slavery. Read the writings of the eighteenth-century Quaker John Woolman (1720–1772). Read again the story of Wilberforce (1759–1833).2 The patronizing, temporizing, and sometimes bullying they had to put up with; the tone of voice that says, “We know how the world works; don’t bother us with moral arguments”; the powerful interests that lobbied the great and the good against them: all this is routine today as the Western global empire fights back against the cry for justice. But every time we put it off one more day, several hundred children die. And that’s just the start. We must learn, therefore, to recognize the complex arguments against debt remission as what they are. People tell you it’s a tricky and many-sided subject. Yes, it is; so was slavery. So are all major moral problems. The fact remains that what is now going on amounts to theft by the strong from the weak, by the rich from the poor. I am choosing my words carefully; read the literature and see. If a police officer catches a thief red-handed, the officer doesn’t need complicated arguments about the thief ’s motives, the complexities of the thief ’s and the victim’s intertwined economic situations, or any other prevarication; the important thing is to stop the thieving and stop it right away. In the light of this, we should learn to recognize the complex stories told by those with vested interests as corresponding closely to the complex stories told by the Sadducees to show how impossible it was to believe in the resurrection. Jesus’s answer was blunt and to the point: you’re wrong because you don’t know the Bible and you don’t know God’s power (Mark 12:24). Our response must be that because we believe in the resurrection of Jesus as an event within history, we believe that the living God has already begun the process of new creation, and what may seem impossible in human terms is possible to God.  
Thus when people object, as they do, to me and others pointing out that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer—by commenting that wealth is not finite, that statist and globalist solutions and handouts will merely strip the poor of their human dignity and vocation to work, and that all this will encourage the poor toward a sinful envy of the rich, a slothful escapism, and a counterproductive reliance on Caesar rather than God—I want to take such commentators to refugee camps, to villages where children die every day, to towns where most adults have already died of AIDS, and show them people who haven’t got the energy to be envious, who aren’t slothful because they are using all the energy they’ve got to wait in line for water and to care for each other, who know perfectly well that they don’t need handouts so much as justice. I know, and such people often know in their bones, that wealth isn’t a zero-sum game, but reading the collected works of F. A. Hayek in a comfortable chair in North America simply doesn’t address the moral questions of the twenty-first century.  

Unfortunately, last week I saw a poll suggesting that in the USA 58% of “white evangelicals” want Donald Trump to remain in the race (link; and, as another blogger pointed out, it comes as no surprise that less than 20% read their Bible on a daily basis: link).  It seems we are content with the same old politics:
The trick never ages, the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital-gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization efforts. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.   
(Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas? As quoted by Paul Krugman in The Conscience of a Liberal, p 176-177)

I think Brian Zahnd put it best (link):
Until you see the kingdom of God politics trumps everything.    
Which explains Christians supporting Trump over the Sermon on the Mount.

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