Lectures on Calvinism 4

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper says Roman Catholicism, too, was defective because its religion was “partial,” knowing “religion only as it existed in her own Church, and consider[ing] the influence of religion to be confined to that portion of life which she had consecrated.”

Kuyper then says the Roman Catholicism had its own version of sacred and secular distinction: “Rome drew a boundary line between the consecrated and the profane sides of life.”  And, consequently, it had its own version of the Christian hierarchy of occupations: “She also subdivided her own sacred precincts according to different degrees of religious intensity — the clergy and the cloister constituting the Holy of Holies, the pious laity forming the Holy Place, thus leaving the Outer Court to those who, although baptized, continued to prefer to church-devotion the often sinful pleasures of the world, a system of limitation and division, which for those in the Outer Court, ended in setting nine tenths of practical life outside of all religion.”

The result is a “partial” religion, “carrying it from ordinary days to days of festival, from days of property to times of danger and sickness, and from the fulness of life to the time of approaching death,” a “dualistic system.”

By contrast, Calvinism argues, “if everything that is exists for the sake of God, then it follows that the whole creation must give glory to God.”  “Although sin has deadened a large part of creation to the glory of God, the demand, the ideal, remains unchangeable, that every creature must be immersed in the stream of religion, and end by lying as a religious offering on the altar of Almighty.”  Therefore, “the Calvinist demands that all life be consecrated to His service, in strict obedience.”  “A religion confined to the closet, the cell, or the church, therefore, Calvin abhors.”  Kuyper continues:

Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.

Lectures on Calvinism 3

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper argues, if “the religious organ” is found “not in the whole of our being, but in part of it, being confined to our feelings and our will, consequently also the sphere of religious life must assume in consequence the same partial character.”

How?

“Religion is excluded from science, and its authority from the domain of public life.”  “The inner chamber, the cell for prayer, and the secrecy of the heart” becomes “its exclusive dwelling place.”  Religion, in the end, becomes “almost private retreat.”

Lectures on Calvinism 2

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper says a religion that exists for the sake of man rather than God aims at “his safety, his liberty, his elevation and partly also at his triumph over death.”

The consequence?  “Such religion thrives in time of famine and pestilence, it flourishes among the poor and oppressed, and it expands among the humble and the feeble.”  But, such religion, then “pines away in the days of prosperity, it fails to attract the well-to-do, it is abandoned by those who are more highly cultured.”  “This is the fatal end of egoistic religion; it becomes superfluous and disappears as soon as the egoistic interests are satisfied.”  (By contrast, Calvinism exists for the sake of God — i.e., “it is not God who exists for the sake of His creation; the creation exists for the sake of God.”)

Lectures on Calvinism 1

jpegIn his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper says, “under the hierarchy of Rome the Church and the World were placed over against each other, the one as being sanctified and the other as being still under the curse.”  

Calvinism brought about a challenge to this “dualistic social state” by honoring not only “man for the sake of his likeness to the Divine image, but also the world as a Divine creation.”  Calvinism emphasized that, while there is “particular grace which works Salvation,” there is also “a common grace by which God, maintaining the life of the world, relaxes the curse which rests upon it, arrests its process of corruption, and thus allows the untrammelled development of our life in which to glorify Himself as Creator.”  

The result?  “The Church receded in order to be neither more nor less than the congregation of believers, and in every department the life of the world was not emancipated from God, but from the dominion of the Church.”  “Domestic life regained its independence, trade and commerce realized their strength in liberty, art and science were set free from every ecclesiastical bond and restored to their own inspirations, and man began to understand the subjection of all nature with its hidden forces and treasures to himself as a holy duty, imposed upon him by the original ordinances of Paradise: ‘Have dominion over them.’”

Ultimately, this meant “the curse should no longer rest upon the world itself, but upon that which is sinful in it, and instead of monastic flight from the world the duty is now emphasized of serving God in the world, in every position in life.”  Since “in the whole world the curse is restrained by grace, the life of the world is to be honored in its independence, and we must, in every domain, discover the treasuries and develop the potencies hidden by God in nature and in human life.”

(This was especially an “antithesis to Anabaptism” which adopted “the opposite method” of “evad[ing] the world,” “confirming the monastic starting-point” and “generalizing and making it a rule for all believers.”)

A Theology of Work 6

images“If creation order is completed and thus closed with pre-fall creation, then human life and cooperation with God becomes at best backward looking and negatively restorative rather than creatively an anticipation and participation in God’s new creation,” according to Darrell Cosden in A Theology of Work.

If, on the other hand, the creation is not so completed and closed, it is possible that “God has created the world in such a dynamic way that both God and his creation are genuinely open to new and human contributions.”  And this, Cosden believes, is what the resurrection suggests: “through human choice and organization (work), we create these new situations and along with this we necessarily give further shape to the ontologically given order itself.”  From this, one can begin to glimpse the non-instrumental — i.e., ontological — value of work: giving shape to the creation order as God himself intended for work to do.

Income Inequality 3

1_123125_2265681_2266033_100903_diverge_disparitytn.jpg.CROP.original-originalDr. Anne Bradley, in Why Does Income Inequality Exist? An Economic and Biblical Explanation, says we should care about income mobility, not income inequality.  I think we should care about, and work to reduce, income inequality (along with income mobility) to the extent such inequality is attributable to unjust causes.

What might those unjust causes be?

The answer is probably very broad.  For now, let’s stick just to examples Dr. Bradley cites: “not letting business fail when they deserve to fail (bailouts); protecting some businesses from competition (subsidies and tariffs); or letting some businesses succeed over others through protective legislations (licensing and other regulatory requirements).”

What do these — i.e., bailouts, subsidies and tariffs, and licensing and other regulatory requirements — have in common?  They are results of government actions authorized by legislation that came out of the political process.  What is this political process?  Elections and lobbying, to grossly oversimplify.  Is this political process always unjust?  Hard to say in such a blanket fashion.  Is this political process sometimes unjust when viewed from the Biblical standard of justice?  I believe so (but admit answering this thoroughly would take a book or two or three…).

So I draw this conclusion, using Dr. Bradley’s terminology: to the extent income inequality results, not from the mere, providential, distribution of diverse gifts, but from “rent-seeking behavior” enabled by legislation birthed through the political process that operates at times unjustly, we should recognize such inequality as “a sign of injustice” and work to reduce it.

Income Inequality 2

1_123125_2265681_2266033_100903_diverge_disparitytn.jpg.CROP.original-originalDr. Anne Bradley, in Why Does Income Inequality Exist? An Economic and Biblical Explanation, says “if we care about a society that reduces poverty and assists the poor, we should be concerned not about income inequality but the relative prosperity of those at the bottom and their income mobility” (emphasis mine).

I agree we should care about income mobility.  I also think we should care about income inequality.

If the only reason for income inequality in our society is due to the diversity of gifts and the diversity of the monetary value our society attaches to such gifts, then it might be easier to argue we ought to focus solely on income mobility.  Dr. Bradley states it this way: “In a free society, absent cronyism, disparity of wages is not a sign of injustice” (and, it is implied, thus such disparity need not be addressed as if it is an unjust outcome).  Let me restate that this way: “disparity of wages is not a sign of injustice” so long as we live “in a free society” where “cronyism” is “absent.”

Do we in fact live in a “free society” free from “cronyism”?  First, what do those words mean?  Here is Dr. Bradley:

It is important to make the distinction between free-market exchange and rent-seeking (cronyism). The farmer, who grows soybeans, innovates and keeps costs down will be rewarded through profit by the market. The farmer who grows soybeans and lobbies the federal government for subsidies which protect him from other more productive soybean farmers is not serving his customers. Rather, he is lobbying the government for money which he did not earn, and the “profit” he secures in this fashion is appropriated from taxpayers.

In other words, a free society is a society in which “free-market exchange” takes place, and is free from “rent-seeking” behavior such as lobbying for federal government subsidies.

So, again, do we live in a free society, free from cronyism?  Again, Dr. Bradley:

This research suggests that there is some amount of income inequality which results from the uniqueness with which we are created; however, it is economically unwise to exacerbate any natural level of income inequality by: not letting business fail when they deserve to fail (bailouts); protecting some businesses from competition (subsidies and tariffs); or letting some businesses succeed over others through protective legislations (licensing and other regulatory requirements) (emphasis mine).

Do we live in a society that has bailouts?  Yes.  Do we live in a society that has subsidies and tariffs?  Yes.  Do we live in a society that has licensing and other regulatory requirements?  Yes.  Do we live in a “free society” free from “cronyism” (as those terms are defined by Dr. Bradley) then?  No.

This means, while “there is some amount of income equality which results from the uniqueness with which we are created” and thus does not pose any issue of injustice, there also is some amount of income inequality which results from factors other than our diverse gifts.  And, if so, to the extent such other factors are results of unjust processes or systems (whether social, economic, political or other), we should care about income inequality as a sign of injustice.

That was the easy part, though.  And I doubt that’s a controversial conclusion to anyone. But there is more….