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The End of Many Books

Crisis of Responsibility

by David Bahnsen

Some of the men I enjoy and respect the most recommended this book for all the men at our church to read and discuss. I’m glad they did.

Bahnsen lets no one off the hook. It’s an extended look in the mirror, and expects us to look from the financial angle, both the K-12 and higher education angle, the political angle, all the way down to the moral angle. Considered individually, your fault level may vary. Considered as a nation, the image is UGLY.

A great temptation for many men is not to look in the mirror but through the window. At certain moments they see themselves, and acknowledge some of the work they should be doing. But most of the time is spent looking at all the problems…other people have. That guy, that banker, businessman, politician, teacher, professor, immigrant, even robot (or owner replacing humans with automation), someone else is responsible for all the junk making our lives miserable.

Again, Bahnsen pokes at this irresponsible tendency. That’s good.

A few things make me less confident of Bahnsen’s claim that we can “cure” our cultural addition to blame.

First, the book came out in 2018. Sheesh, has a lot happened that has exposed even more of the rot. Even though Big Tech and Big Brother and Big Pharma and Behemoth U. aren’t the only bugs in the system, they sure are BIG bugs, and they’ve all sucked a lot more blood these last five or six years.

Second, speaking of changes since publication, the Foreword was written by David French, and French has gone all footsies with many in Big Media (as full-time writer for the New York Times), those who fancy themselves the taste-makers in elitist, Christian-hating culture. I don’t remember reading French in 2018, but this inclusion (and his name on the cover of the book) means Bahnsen’s book will be judged by the cover.

Third, there’s much less neutrality now, not that neutrality was ever really true, but it seemed like it, or it was easier to coast. Responsibility is not a commodity, it can’t be bought, and it most definitely cannot be sold. There isn’t anyone who wants to buy it! The virtue of personal responsibility has survived in name, but it is only consistently valued by those who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine a return to a culture of responsibility without a revival brought about by a great work of the Spirit to draw men to true life by the gospel. I don’t follow Bahnsen’s current work, maybe he is more explicit about that now. But while this book is interesting, it’s not compelling apart from a Christian conviction with Kuyperian flavor.

Should you read this? Sure, you should. There’s much to learn. And also, you’ve got to know that it only matters because Jesus is Lord.

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The End of Many Books

Life after Google

by George Gilder

George Gilder is a character. He is much more curious and smart than me, and this is a benefit to me in reading him. I’ve already benefited from a book of his about economics and one about marriage.

This book is about technology, especially related to data and the internet, and the trajectory against centralized servers, as modeled mainly by Google.

I’m glad I read this, but even now I’m still not sure if Gilder has canceled his Google account and has gone all in on the blockchain, let alone if he’s transferred his funds to bitcoin (or another of the cryptocurrencies). Though there may be other books (and videos) that explain the math that (supposedly) protects the chain, Gilder explains some of the philosophy and value created by it.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
The End of Many Books

Knowledge and Power

by George Gilder

I read this while prepping a message on economics, and Gilder didn’t disappoint. I won’t say that I understood everything he was talking about, but I definitely get that at this point in the life of our government’s overweening overreach we are threatening what little we have left of economic health.

It made me thankful for the generous and entrepreneurial men I know, and by God’s grace maybe we’ll return to more problem solving than regulation writing.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

The Dead End of (God-honoring) Gradual Development

Last Sunday I taught about economics. That interrupted a series I’ve been teaching through Revelation. As a futurist, that is, one who thinks the majority of the apocalyptic judgment is yet to occur, why would I bother admonishing the saints about building wealth of all kinds in the present age?

This is the problem that Kuyperian Dispensationalism raises, and also resolves.

If you’re already convinced about this, you’re one of maybe about twenty people on the planet (ha!). If you’re not convinced, let the following long quote and bullet points bounce around in your mental hopper.

The quote is from Kuyper himself in his book, Pro Rege: Living under Christ’s Kingship, Volume 1: The Exalted Nature of Christ’s Kingship. Kuyper was not a Dispensationalist, but I’ve been thinking about granting him that honorary status anyway. Here he explains how many things on earth will continue to get better and better and how that still won’t bring in Christ’s kingdom.

We must be certain and express clearly that the period of gradual development in which we now live will one day come to an end and pass over into the last period, which is that of a supernatural manifestation of power encompassing not only the whole world but the entire universe as well. The final victory cannot be brought about gradually, because [the path of gradual development] will end in failure. When it is clear and evident in the course of history that natural, gradual development does not and cannot lead to the final goal, then—and only then—will our King intervene in a completely supernatural manner so as to neutralize all resistance and to cause the full glory of his kingship to break through.

Before this happens, however, it must be determined and demonstrated that [this process of] gradual development was unable to lead to its triumph. One should not be able to say afterward: “If only it had pleased God to leave humanity to its own natural development, everything still would have worked out on its own.” No, the facts of history must show that humanity was incapable of this on its own. Humanity must therefore be given time. Time to absorb the blessing that Christianity brings. Time to test every method and manner of saving itself with the gospel’s help. Once it is clear after this generous passage of time that humanity failed—because its very life root has been poisoned and because the demonic power finds novel ways and means in every new development to enter humanity’s veins and spoil it from within—then and only then will Christ suddenly arrest this period of gradual development, fermentation, and influence, and intervene with his full kingly power. And [he will do] this no longer to save but to judge, and to bring about the consummation of his kingdom with supernatural power.

Pro Rege, 405-406

Many things will get better because:

  • God’s Spirit regenerates men to life, illuminates the Word for obedience, and energizes for fruitfulness, not just in eternity but on earth. This fruitfulness includes faithful dominion-taking as image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:28) and includes loving one’s neighbor and seeking their interests (Matthew 22:39 and Philippians 2:4). We love them by not only sharing the good news but also new goods.
  • God intends that our lives “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10), which is an aroma of life to those who are being saved (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Not everyone is attracted to the gospel by God’s blessing on those who believe it, but some (including a future generation of Israelites) will be made jealous into salvation (Romans 11:11, 13-14, 25-26).

But better things themselves won’t bring about Christ’s reign on earth because:

  • God is exposing that the sinfulness of men is so sinful that many men will still resist giving glory to God for all the good He gave them (Psalm 112:10; Romans 1:18-23), and so He ordains for them to store up more wrath for themselves (Romans 2:4-5).
  • And as the Kuyper quote above, time is not the savior, only the Savior is, and soli Deo gloria.
Categories
The End of Many Books

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I had heard about this book from multiple people for a number of years. Too bad I didn’t read/listen to it earlier. I appreciated how Kiyosaki challenges the typical “get a good education so you can get a good job so you can get nice things” mindset, and instead promotes getting financial intelligence and working up the nerve to try something else. I’ve still got a lot of work to do to become a better steward of money things as a Kuyperian, and to be a “good man” (Proverbs 13:22). I’m not sure what it’s going to look like for our household, but I’d recommend adding this book, especially for young people (and parents of young people), to one’s mental hopper.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Economics in One Lesson

by Henry Hazlitt

Other than The Wealth of Nations this is the first economics book I’ve read, certainly the first one I’ve read for fun. And it was GREAT. At first I wondered how Hazlitt could possibly spend 26 chapters on ONE lesson, but all that proved was how naive I was in imagining ways that men could ruin themselves by only asking narrow questions about short-term consequences. The only ways this book could have been better are if Hazlitt used the Oxford comma, and if he had said somewhere, “This lesson works because this is how Jesus made the world to work.” This is a must read for anyone who earns, spends, or invests money. And in light of our wannabe socialist overlords (on both sides of the Congressional aisle) and their campaign to give everything away, it would be very valuable to get this lesson learned sooner rather than later.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Antifragile

by Nassim Taleb

I heard about this book from Doug Wilson’s recommendation, and I recommend that recommendation. As for the book itself, I loved it. I might say I needed it even. 

The categories of Fragile, Robust, and Antifragile are a worldview trifecta. Life on earth is volatile. Volatility is unavoidable and often unpredictable, especially when it comes to worst cases. Either a man will fear, prepare to survive, or look forward to the volatility (up to a point, of course) in order to get better. 

“You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.” 

There are some technical formulas I didn’t follow, and maybe Taleb likes charts a bit much for my taste. He also believes in, and resents the brutality of, evolution. Evolution doesn’t bother me, at least on the macro level, because I don’t think it’s true. Taleb also gets snarky at times. That doesnt’ bother me either because, well, I like snark. 

But the “nonsissy concept of antifragility” is wisdom gold. It applies to emotions, health/medicine/exercise/food, money/economics, education/schools, politics/government, technology, suffering, discipleship/pastoral ministry and counseling. I’ve already started a second read of the book with the elders at our church.

5 of 5 stars

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

The Great Auction of Stolen Goods

[O]ur elected representatives are not confiscating all this wealth for themselves personally–although they are doing quite well, thank you. They are more clever than that. They are taking this plunder, and distributing it to others in such a way as to create constituencies with a sense of entitlement. And if you create enough of these constituencies, and tangle them up enough, then this creates the need for pollsters, political consultants, and political experts, and the science of modern politics is born. The modern state is the broker at the great auction of stolen goods.

—Doug Wilson, Political Reform Closer to Home