To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost on how the Reformed confessions define what Christians from the Reformed tradition believe This appeared in Heidelblog.
If we are really honest, our confessions, just like the confessions of other denominations and branches of Christianity, are to us what the traditions were to the Pharisees in Jesus's day. They are interpretations. That does not imply that any church's set of confessions are as good or as bad as the traditions of the Pharisees were. It simply means that just as the Pharisees used their traditions to interpret the scriptures, so we use our confessions to do the same. And whether we adequately distinguish our confessions from God's Word or not depends on the pedestal on which we put those confessions. For the higher that pedestal the more we will look at the Scriptures through the eyes of our confessions rather than seeing the confessions through the lenses of the Scriptures.
In addition, saying that our confessions are our version of the traditions of the Pharisees does not imply that we too are pharisees. Whether we become like the Pharisees of Jesus's day depends on both how much we depend on the confessions rather than the Scriptures and how we regard and treat those who disagree with us.
What is missing in the above description of our confessions are the other ingredients that went into their making. In particular, since our confessions are attempts to summarize the Scriptures but are not God-breathed, then we must admit some artificial ingredients snuck into the writings of our confessions. For if cultural influences were part of the writing of God's Word--only because God's Word was God-breathed, that it did not interfere with the purity of God's Word--what are to say about the cultural influences on those who wrote our confessions whose work was not God-breathed?
The temptation in churches that have a set of revered confessions is to become more familiar with those confessions than with the Scriptures. Again, that would indicate that the pedestal on which those confessions are placed is way too high. And the higher that pedestal, the more tempted we are to act like the Pharisees did in how they used their traditions.
To Reverend Ben Johnson and his blogpost on how economic inequality can be misleading. This appeared in the Acton blog.
If Johnson were to say that by itself, economic inequality is misleading, then I could agree. There is no economic indicator that, by itself, gives an adequate picture of even part of the economy. But then we must also say that just because there are differences in people's talents, work ethics, and so forth, doesn't mean that any economic inequality should be readily accepted. All we have to do to note that is to look at the numbers involved with corporations using government assistance programs to subsidize their payrolls. Why should public funds be used to help a corporation pay its workers living wages? This is especially true for those corporations that influence the writing of tax laws in their favor make other attempts to pay as few taxes as possible.
By itself, economic inequality can be misleading. But when used in conjunction with other information, economic inequality cannot be ignored. And when that inequality either stagnates or keeps growing, then red flags should be raised. This is especially true where money has such a heavy influence on politics. Where that is true, then growing economic inequality leads to growing political inequality. And we end up with a government that represents the rich only while the rest of us are left to depend on their benevolence. In fact, that is what we have now.
To Rev Ben Johnson and his blogpost on the kind of tolerance the West needs to exercise to survive. This appeared in the Acton blog.
One of the things missing in the article above is criticism of the West. With the way the West has been described as being so tolerant, even if it exercises the wrong kind of tolerance (a.k.a., 'thin tolerance'), one could never guess the actual history of the West. We should note that many of the colonial settlers exercised a great deal of intolerance toward people who were only slightly different: that difference was found in one's Christian denomination. But that intolerance quickly spread to people of different races, as Native Americans and Blacks soon found out. In addition, American intolerance was on display overseas as, after the Spanish-American War, we did not see Filipinos as being fit to live by self-rule and thus we didn't tolerate it.
Blacks experienced much intolerance for decades even after the end of slavery. And if one asks a decent sampling of Blacks today, one will find that many still believe that there is still a significant degree of intolerance shown toward them. And while not owning up to foreign policies that cause our immigration numbers to spike, many who supported Trump for President did so because of his promise to exercise a degree of intolerance toward immigrants.
And what has been mentioned so far does not include the atrocities committed by other Western nations in the name of empire and for the glory of one's nation. We should note that much of WW I and WW II had much of its start in the West. It's only in the aftermath of WW II that we see a move in the West toward tolerance.
Now we might see the denial of absolute truth in what the person whom Johnson cited called 'thin tolerance.' But what we should note was that this denial of absolute truth had nothing to do with exercising thin tolerance, it had everything to do with the result of seeing the behavior of those who claimed to have absolute truth. And that applies to today as well. People have seen how many of us religiously conservative Christians have strived to keep the LGBT community in the margins and thus conclude that what we call 'absolute truth' can't possibly be truth at all because it leads us to mistreat people.
And now Rev. Johnson is telling us that we exercise the wrong kind of tolerance--a kind tolerance in which there is no absolute truth. But once we define an absolute truth for society, doesn't our past tell us that are we are at risk for exercising intolerance again?
One other point here. How the person whom Rev. Johnson cited initially defined 'thin tolerance' and 'thick tolerance' did not seem to match how he used the word in the rest of his article.
To Rev. Ben Johnson and his blogpost on alleviating poverty by cutting regulations and taxes on business owners. This appeared in the Acton blog
We should compare what is cited by Rev. Johnson with what was actually written in the original reports.
Johnson cited the report about poverty as saying the following about poverty:
“The rate of persistent poverty for children in households that have had someone in work in each of the last four years is just 5%,” the report states. “On the other hand, children in households that have had no one in work for at least three of the last four years account for slightly over 40%.”
It seems anti-climactic to say that the way to reduce the percentage of children living in a long-term, low-income home is for someone to start earning an income. Similarly, the best way to reduce income inequality is to reduce the number of households earning zero income. Perhaps that is why the point seems stubbornly absent from media coverage of the report.
Please note that the statements in quotes is what he is citing and the rest consists of his interpretation. But Rev. Johnson left something out in that quote. So below will include what he quoted and what he left out:
Despite the fact that the rate of persistent poverty for children in households that have had someone in work in each of the last four years is just 5%, they account for around 40% of all children in persistent poverty (because most children live in these consistently working households). On the other hand, children in households that have had no one in work for at least three of the last four years account for slightly over 40%. In other words, persistently low earnings and persistent worklessness explain approximately equal amounts of the persistent child poverty we see in the UK.
Note that from the report cited by Johnson, the percentage of children living in persistent poverty in homes where there is a consistent income from someone working is around the same as the percentage of children living in persistent poverty where no one has been working. So if Johnson deliberately leaves out an important statistic, how sound can his reasoning be?
So let's take a look at Johnson's treatment of another citation and this one is from Lucy Minford:
“A 10 per cent fall in the tax and regulation index relative to the trend in the index generates growth over a 30- year period, leaving output 24 per cent higher at the end of the period than it would have been be with policy unchanged,” she writes. “This is equivalent to a higher average annual growth rate over that period of 0.8 percentage points.”
Work does not merely lift ourselves – and our dependents – out of poverty. Theologians say that, in some sense, it helps us fulfill our mystical purpose on earth.
Now regarding the second quote, we should note one thing. We should first note that Johnson's quote from that part of the article is complete. But we should also note that the benefits of economic growth are not necessarily enjoyed by all classes. Again, the same percentage of children who live in persistent poverty and live in homes where at least one person has been consistently employed as percentage of children who live in persistent poverty and live in homes where no one has been consistently employed.
But we might also want to look at some other quotes from the same source:
There are some theories, however, that predict a positive relationship between taxation and growth. This is especially so if tax revenues are spent by governments in ways that enhance productivity. Subsidies to research and development (R&D), the provision of education, or transport networks and broadband might be examples here…
Here, tax is treated as one part of the broader phenomenon of “barriers to entrepreneurship”. Labour market regulation is another. Such regulation is intended to protect worker rights, a social objective which is not about promoting economic growth. However, if such regulations introduce frictions in labour markets which have an impact on growth, we would like to know…
Regulations tend to hit small firms hardest because they are a fixed cost and so a higher proportion of revenues. As such, they act as a barrier to entry, reducing competition….
What we see from the quotes not taken is that economic growth is not the only important factor. Government services can contribute to growth depending on what services are actually provided, protection of workers' is an issue, and that small firms are hit the hardest. And thus further studies should be performed to see whether regulations for small firms should be different for large firms.
What Rev. Johnson seems to say in his take on the two articles he cited is that furthering economic growth reduces the percentage of children living in persistent poverty. But what he left out of his citation from the article on poverty does not support what he says. In addition, protection of workers' rights is another important concern. So we should be aware of the tradeoffs involved when changing tax rates and regulations for the sole purpose of furthering economic growth. And there is no guarantee that the benefits of any kind of economic growth will spread to all economic classes. And again, we need further study to better distinguish the effects taxes and regulations have on small businesses than large ones so that perhaps regulations could be better tailored to the sizes of businesses.
We should note one other factor that has been pointed out by some on the Left. That economics occurs within a finite sphere that economist Manfred Max-Neef calls the biosphere. Because economics occurs in a limited context, unlimited growth cannot happen. And thus, when people are in need and growth is not possible, better distribution of goods is required to help those in need.
Overall, Rev. Johnson favors helping people by first helping business owners. And while there is some merit in that, we should note that helping business owners doesn't necessarily translate into helping people in general. What Rev. Johnson is expressing has been part of a movement for a while now. That movement promotes the idea that government should represent business owners and assume that in representing business owners, they are creating a set of circumstances where the rest of the population will have their needs met by working for business owners. The problem with this logic is that it does not account for all the varying profit motivation factor that is each owner. For if profit is a first priority, how can the welfare of others be adequately sustained? For one of the quotes said that workers' rights and economic growth sometimes conflict.