Categories
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.

Categories
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
Lord's Day Liturgy

More Than Not Smoking with the ER Doctors

There are some sins the Bible says to fight, there are some that the Bible says to flee. The will of God is to “avoid” sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3); I might abstain from smoking with the doctors outside the ER doors at a hospital, but I avoid pits of snakes. “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18); delete the app as fast as Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife.

Another sin that God’s Word urges us to flee is greed.

“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Jesus taught about the seed of the gospel sown among thorns, when the “cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word” (Matthew 13:22).

Taking the illustration a different direction, don’t plant a greed seed, pluck up even a micro-sprout of material grabbiness. This instruction is especially applicable to shepherds: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Timothy 6:11).

This does not mean that money is bad, or that the rich are unrighteous. Riches and honor come from God (1 Chronicles 29:12). The LORD gives power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). He makes poor and makes rich (1 Samuel 2:7). “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).

So should you want wealth or not? Well, you should covet God’s blessings and run from the bitter burdens of covetousness. You should be rich in good works, and not set your hopes on the uncertainty of riches (1 Timothy 6:17-18).

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
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

Categories
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

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

The Bottom Line

Money has become a god for many men. You can tell by how they praise it, love it, sacrifice for it. Money chokes out the seed of the gospel (Matthew 13:22). You can see the fruitlessness from those who claimed faith but no longer. Money is the root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:10). You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).

But God also says that those who have money are not supposed to burn it, or even bury it. They are supposed to bless with it.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

There is a way to trap your thinking to the mold of this present age, but God through Paul says that there is another way of taking hold of the good life to come by how you use money in the present age.

God gives money/makes rich, so don’t be proud. God provides, so don’t be ungrateful. God provides, and with rich generosity, so then you enjoy and employ your money for good as well.

We are all rich, not with the same bottom line at the bank, but knowing the bottom line of God’s blessing. Eat, drink, work, invest, buy, give because tomorrow you may die and go to heaven, and you want your good foundation to be well supplied.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

What of a Man’s Profit

I’m re-reading Joy for the World with the guys who come to our church’s men’s meeting, and we recently finished chapter 7 about work and money and the economy.

Does God care about these things? There was a day when I might have answered “Meh.” I didn’t have a category to say that God is interested in them, and certainly not to such a degree that we are wrong if we’re not.

Now I realize that His Word makes plain that He loves the things in the world, while not loving the ways of the worldly. He created the week in such a way that we’re to work for six of the seven days, and that means the majority of our time should be aimed to bless our neighbors through work. When a bunch of people work together or depend on one another’s work there is an inevitable economy. These are, therefore, things God made us to care about, because He requires that we love our neighbors.

A question that I keep mulling: is it possible for Christians to effect God-honoring changes in their economy without making profit?

Categories
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
Every Thumb's Width

The Mutual Funds of Missions Funding

Doug Wilson writes about a local church’s advantages “to support a hundred missionaries at $25 a month,” namely, to diversify and minimize risk. The entire article is worthwhile, but this is his summary.

I think it was Andrew Carnagie who said to put all your eggs in one basket, and then to watch that basket. But watching the basket involves work. We would rather put 25 eggs in 25 different baskets, and then not watch anything.

The mantras of “personal knowledge” and “investment in lives” sound really good, almost hip even. But there is no way to do it without the willingness of the elder board to say to someone that they want him to “stop that.” And it cannot be done without an acknowledgement on the part of those who are sent that they are submitted to personal and real authority.

And the final kick in the pants:

But because we love our independence, because we are soft in our doctrine of how the Trinity knits us together, we would rather diversify the risk. We love our mutual funds.