Thursday, October 31, 2013

Economic Systems

I think that too many American Christians think that free market capitalism is the Christian approach to economics. They reason that since America is (supposedly) a Christian Nation or was founded on Christian principles, the economic system that we have here in America must be Christian.

I am sure that free market capitalism appeals to Americans because they are individualistic, egalitarian, and they believe in self-determination and an achievement ethic. They believe that they have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and have provided for themselves by their own hard work. They believe that anybody can do the same. It is the triumph of the entrepeneurial spirit - taking risks, working hard, getting there first, etc.

It strikes me that the communist system is actually based on Christian principles. I grew up during the cold war and the godless communists always called each other "comrade." The Christians recognized that they were all brothers and sisters. The earliest church (Jerusalem) practiced a kind of voluntary communism in which people sold their excess possessions to provide care for the Christian brothers and sisters in their need.

(Acts 4:32–35)  Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 
33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 
34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 

35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 

The failure of the Soviet Union and other European communist states was that they combined the communist system that relied on caring for each other with an atheism and evolutionary theory that removed the ethic necessary to make it work. If there is no God (and thus no universal moral foundation) and if the developmental principle at work in the universe is survival of the fittest - then why should I help my neighbor? I should eat my neighbor before he eats me!

The Chinese communism has been somewhat more successful because the people of that region already had a deeply engrained Confucian ethic with a sense of collectivism. Even so, as the government educated everyone there in atheism and evolutionary thought, the communist collectives systematically failed. The government is technically the communist party, but the engine of the economy is capitalism. 

Here in the USA, free market capitalism aligns more with secular ideas of evolutionary theory - again the survival of the fittest. Here it is a dog eat dog world and only the strong survive. This is not exactly a Christian perspective!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Amazing Squirrels

I remember being fascinated by monkey's as a child. I really wished that we had monkey's in the trees in upstate New York. When we visited Florida I was disappointed that they didn't even have monkeys there. It seemed to me that if they had palm trees, they should also have monkeys.

By the time I got to visit South America I was sixteen, but I still hoped to see wild monkeys in the edges of the jungle in Suriname and the Amazon region of Brazil. But I was disappointed again. Lots of bright birds, for sure, bats, snakes, and unusually large rodents - but no monkeys that I can remember.

All we had at home were squirrels. Gray squirrels, flying squirrels and red squirrels in New York. To me they were boring, except as potential food. (And I thought it was gross that people in places that did have monkeys tended to eat them.)

Here in Canton we have more squirrels than I have ever seen. Here we have big fox squirrels (not to be confused with the small red squirrels of my youth.) We have gray squirrels, black squirrels and sable squirrels. We even have a few blonde squirrels (and that is not a joke about blondes.) We have so many squirrels that I am amazed the population can support itself.

This morning I was watching a squirrel travel along the squirrel highway consisting of telephone lines that run through the middle of the blocks in my neighborhood. As I watched, the squirrel suddenly decided to change lanes to another cable about his body length away from him to his side and above him. He just flipped up there without breaking stride.

It made me think about the acrobatics I have seen from squirrels... up, down and around they go. Onto the slimmest branches to retrieve seeds - wild leaps from a branch onto the roof of a house - a ten foot jump at least! They are amazing!

Now, for me, this prompts praise to God as the Designer of Squirrels. He has perfectly equipped them with a bushy tail for balance, strong muscles for climbing and jumping, back feet that can rotate to keep them on the side of a tree going up or coming down, and incredible judgment of distances for jumping from one branch to another. They are clearly designed for their incredible (pesky) lives.

But I know that my atheist friends see this as a testament to the functionality of evolution. They don't believe in a creator god and it is too incredible (even for them) to believe that multiple complex and differentiated life forms all "appeared" on the planet at once. So - they HAVE TO believe in evolution - a slow change over millions of years that equipped squirrels to live in the trees.

This strikes me as sad. With no god, no purpose, no meaning - the amazing squirrel (and everything else) is reduced to impersonal matter. Though they do experience awe and an appreciation of the beauty of the world they have no real basis for it... Everything - including them - is just an impersonal product of an impersonal natural process that is going nowhere in particular and has no meaning or measure. That humans are "sentient" is a cruel joke.

This they accept by faith - not having observed something coming to exist from nothing - not having observed life coming from non-life - not having witnessed any form of macroevolution nor having found any fossilized record of it. They have rejected faith in God and embraced pure rationalism based on faith in "No God" and stories they invented about how things "must have" happened.

But rationally speaking they have no basis for wonder, gratitude, praise, delight or hope. And that is sad.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Job and Me

I am fascinated by the scene in heaven that opens the book of Job. God points out Job to Satan as an example of a godly man.

(Job 1:8) Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 
Satan argues that Job fears God for strictly pragmatic reasons. God is protecting Job, so Job is faithful to God. Satan says that if God will remove Job's protection, Job will, "curse you to your face."

So much of religion in the world (even much of Christianity) is exactly what Satan suggests about Job. People are religious because they think it will bring God's blessings and protection. The preachers of prosperity theology are essentially running a mob like protection racket. Give God a payoff or he will let bad things happen to you. Get on God's good side and he will give you good things.

Job's friends had this basic perspective too. Good things in this life are God's blessings and bad things in this life are God's punishments. If you get good things you must have been good. If you get bad things you must have been bad. (Job must have been really, really bad.)

But what God knows and what the story shows is that Job loves God and will continue to trust God no matter what. Job says, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15). Job loves God because of God's absolute worth - not because of some scheme to gain earthly health and wealth.

So why put Job (not to mention his wife and children) through all of these difficulties? It is spiritual warfare! Satan has impugned Job and God by his accusations. He has thrown down the gauntlet - the challenge. By allowing the loss, the sorrow, and the pain God takes up Satan's challenge and defends his own honor.

This should inform our prayers. We should not pray just for physical deliverance. We should pray for spiritual strength in the face of Satanic attack. Whether we are healed or we die, the most important thing is that we honor God by our response to the circumstances.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pondering the Coming Train

I have wanted to get back to writing in my blog, but the recent developments in my life have hindered me. In the almost two months since my diagnosis with myelofibrosis, I have not had a day when I don't think, "I have myelofibrosis and it is killing me."

I want to write in my blog, but I don't want it to be a downer for everybody (or at least my six followers). On the other hand, my diagnosis and prognosis with myelofibrosis is one of the more significant things that is going on in my life right now. So, I've decided to write about it. Hopefully it won't be too morbid for you.

The fact is, that right now I have a median life expectancy of seven years. That is not really too bad. I might be an outlier on the positive side of seven and live ten more years. That would put me in my mid-sixties and lots of people die in their mid-sixties. (Although I would have liked to have gotten SOMETHING out of my social security that I have paid 15% into every year.)

What is different is that I can see the train coming that is going to hit me. Right now I feel great and it seems bizarre that I have this very serious disease. How can I be dying of this when I feel so good? It just doesn't make any sense.

But I have it - sure enough. The JAK2 mutation. The enlarged spleen. The dry taps when they tried the bone marrow biopsy. The slightly elevated temperature. And the high white blood count and lower red blood and platelet counts. This is what I've got, so the myelofibrosis train is coming to run over me with increasing pain, fatigue, anemia, bruising and bleeding and compromised immune system.

So you would think that with this kind of time frame I might be able to get out of the way of the train?

Well, maybe! The one problem is that right now there is no curative treatment except a bone marrow transplant and that is very risky itself. Nothing I can take right now is going to stop the train that is coming and if I go for the transplant I might be dodging the first train and getting hit by another. It is too early to do that. On the other hand, they might develop some new treatments that are effective in controlling myelofibrosis and extending life - but they had better hurry if they are going to help me. I can try to get into clinical trials, but these are not proven to help and might actually hurt - for all I know.

So, instead, I have to kind of sit here on the railroad tracks and ponder the situation.

Pondering leads me to the following points.

  1. God has truly blessed me throughout my life - and this is no exception. It is a blessing!
  2. All things work together for good to those who love God - and this will too. It will grow me.
  3. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ - not even this. God is with me & is helping me.
  4. Jesus Christ is victorious over sin and death - I have nothing to fear in life or death. I am his.
  5. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life - the believer doesn't really die. I will be with Christ.
  6. God's strength is made perfect in weakness. As the disease (or treatment) progresses I will be weaker, so God will be increasingly glorified in me. And that is what I want more than anything.
  7. God does not allow us to be tested beyond our ability to endure - he will shepherd me through this "valley of the shadow of death" and make it a picnic.
  8. The "faith hall of fame" in Hebrews eleven is people who faced difficult trials by faith in God. The opportunity to face a more difficult trial is actually a privilege entrusted to me by God. I just want to be faithful through it all.

May Jesus Christ be praised! He alone is worthy.