Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Review: Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little

This review was originally posted on Goodreads.

Image Credit: Amazon. I actually read this 1968 version.

I read this book because it was on a "most influential books on evangelicals" list. I can see why it rightly was on that list. First, I'll briefly go over some positives; and then, some negatives.

"Are Miracles Possible?" was filled with tons of information that was new to me -- and the book is over 40 years old. This attests to either the author's creativity or to this reader's ignorance: I'd like to think it is the former.

The political scientists and analysts at the libertarian think-tank The Cato Institute often talk about the states (all 50 of them in the U.S.) as being "laboratories of democracy." Maryland has high taxes; Florida doesn't. New York has ridiculous rent control laws; other states don't. Through these legislative experiments we can see the effect on people. Some people move away from the states with high taxes, and so on.

In a passage Little briefly recalls atheist philosopher John Stuart Mill's view of divine justice via a quote from Hugh Evan Hopkins. If God were just, or if there was a thing as divine justice, then that justice would look like everyone getting their just reward according to their good deeds and bad deeds.

Little then says the most interesting thing to me in the book: "To see the logical consequences of Mill's "exact reward" concept of God in his dealings with man, we need only turn to Hinduism."

And by turning to Hinduism, and the lands effected by Hinduism, we are looking at "laboratories of theology." What are the results of this "exact reward" atheological experiment when the people believe that the god of the universe creates a system based on the thought of John Stuart Mill?

He continues: "The law of Karma says that all of the actions of life today are the result of the actions of a previous life. Blindness, poverty, hunger, physical deformity, outcastness, and other social agonies are all the outworking of punishment for evil deeds in a previous existence. It would follow that any attempt to alleviate such pain and misery would be an interference with the just ways of God. This concept is one reason why the Hindus did so little for so long for their unfortunates."

Then he presses in even more: "Some enlightened Hindus today are talking about and working toward social progress and change, but they have not yet reconciled this new concept with the clear, ancient doctrine of Karma, which is basic to Hindu thought and life."

In short, modern Hindus speak of reform.

But like with reforming Islam, to reform Hinduism its adherents would have to ignore their scripture.

At one point, in the lands given up this to religion, where one doesn't interfere with another person's karma, we saw people in poverty. Moreover, we also saw these countries taking a lot of time to catch up in wealth to Western countries. In contrast, in Christian U.S.A. we see all of the above social agonies being alleviated rapidly, because the Christian worldview allows for charity and entrepreneurship.

"Do Science and Scripture Conflict?" was golden, but it was not flawless. Little mentions certain presuppositions are necessary to science. This is good. However, the doesn't clamp down on the fact that only under the Christian worldview does science work.

Second, the chapter on archaeology and the Bible was a snooze. But I don't think I should be so crass as to say it was a worthless effort. There are people who attempt to discredit the Bible with archaeology, so it is only right that archaeology be covered.

To have written a book on apologetics 40+ years ago and still have insights that are fresh to a seasoned apologetics consumer (meaning I've watched a lot of debates and read a lot of articles on the subject) is an accomplishment.

Stylistically, this book was immensely quotable: I wanted to tweet every other paragraph. The book also simply ends. There is no final review of the cumulative case for Christianity or a concluding chapter.

I'd keep this book on the influential books list.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

In the past 30 years, the U.S. Federal Government Seized $51 Trillion from its citizens

The U.S. Federal government has taken in $51 Trillion (or $51,000,000,000,000) from its citizens over the past 30 years, official White House numbers show.

According to "Table 1.1—Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-): 1789–2020" on the White House's Office of Budget and Management website, from the years 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president, to 2014, under our current President Obama, the Federal government took in $51,784,162,000,000 -- to be exact.

In other words, five presidents -- President Reagan (Republican), one-term President George H.W. Bush (Republican), two-term President Bill Clinton (Democrat), two-term President George W. Bush (Republican), and two-term President Barack Obama (Democrat) -- presided over the biggest private-to-public wealth transfer in American history.

Nearly every year federal spending went up.

In total, from 1985 to 2014, the U.S. Federal Government outspent more than they took in, spending $62,039,599,000,000 over the 30 year span.

This blog post comes at a time where a constantly resurfacing blog post (true or not) about black Christian churches voluntarily receiving hundreds of billions of dollars over a similar 30 year time span keeps grabbing people's attention on social media.

This blog post attempts to put that in context, if not set it straight altogether.

Despite multiple websites such as AllChristianNews and Urban Intellectuals posting the article, the original source of both posts is a 2009 blog post by HarlemWorldMagazine. The current link is broken. But the original post was archived thanks to the Wayback Machine.

Such blog posts talk about a so-called "return on investment" that black communities are receiving from their churches...

...but one has to wonder what is the real return on "investment" -- because we all know taxes are for investments -- that the black communities are receiving from the U.S. Federal Government.

So black churches have received $420 billion over 30 years (on average $14.3 billion per year) according to the 2009 blog post.  The government took $420 billion over seven times in 2014, or 7.194016 to be more precise.

Over seven times.

Does anyone care?

In fact, the last time the Federal Government took less than $420 billion in a year from its citizens (and remember, this is still by force; non-compliant citizens will go to jail) was 1978.

The HarlemWorldMagazine blog post notes:

“The church has gotten caught up in materialism and greed, a lifestyle. Many ministers today want to live like celebrities and they want to be treated like celebrities. In other words, instead of the church standing with the community, the church has become self-serving. It has strayed away from its mission” according to Dr.Love Henry Whelchel, professor of church history at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
Ahh yes, materialism....greed...things the Federal government is not guilty of.

It goes on:
LiveSteez’s investigative series will take a forensic editorial approach to quantifying the return to Black America for the $350 billion in tax-favored donations it has given to the Black Church, examining the arguments on both sides of the pulpit. In this series we will seek answers and advisory to the following questions:

- How often and how much do church leaders take advantage of the faith of poor black people?

-We will investigate and indentify (sic) the churches they are showing a strong return on investment that goes beyond inspiration.

- What does the black community have to show for the $350 billion in tax free dollars?

- Expert analysis on what could potentially be done with such a huge amount of money and how it could improve the state of our communities.
- Why do some church leaders refuse to participate in the Grassley congressional Investigation, which requested the financial records of several mega-churches.
And as a counter investigation, the Goins Report will investigate the return of "investment" to all of the United States for prying $51 trillion out of the hands of its citizenry.

We will ask the following questions:
A) How often and how much do politicians take advantage of the faith of poor black people?

B)We will investigate and identify the communities that are showing a strong return on investment that goes beyond inspiration.

C) What does the black community have to show for the $51 trillion in private wealth stolen from them and their fellow non-black citizens?

D) Expert analysis on what could potentially be done with such a huge amount of money and how it could improve the state of our communities.
E) Why do some political institutions, such as the Department of Defense and the U.S. Federal Reserve, refuse to participate in an audit?
Answer Key:

A) All the time.
B) Washington DC and the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs, according to a 2013 report. According to a 2011 report,  Washington DC was the Richest city in the country. Could that be because there is a buzzing bureaucratic state surrounded by tons of lobbyists and workers in the defense and security industries? 
C) Twice as much unemployment as whites.
D) The African-American community would be so rich that they could spend their money on their own education, food, healthcare, etc. 
E) The Fed would claim that an audit interferes with their allegedly politically independent nature. But Rand Paul provides a better answer. And I don't know where to start with the Pentagon, but there is trans-partisan support for an "Audit the Pentagon" bill. Rand Paul supports that too.
 In the end, all of the hysteria over churches is about comparatively nothing. Comparatively.

The author still has serious exegetical problems (scriptural interpretations) of the prosperity preaching. But however "fruitful" misguided prosperity preaching is in convincing people to voluntarily give their income to religious institutions, it pales in comparison to the against the sophistry and use of force by the Federal Government to take money from its citizens.

Not a single person went to jail for not paying their tithes.

But try not paying your taxes and watch what happens.

Secondly, look at how much of a stretch the biased anti-Christian blog posts have to take. They have to go back 30 years to make the Black Church try to resemble anything that looks bad.

On a year-by-year basis, the Black Church on average voluntarily received $14.3 billion, or 14,333,333,333.33 per year.

But one only has to look back to last quarter to make the government look monstrous. In fact, the more you look back at how much the government spends, the more you question. The more you put the church numbers in perspective, the less you feel bad about it.

Religion, in this case, is a red herring -- a distraction -- from the larger issue of state power. In fact, if you want to keep religion involved, then I would say it is the false religion of the state that is at issue here; not true religion; not Christianity.

LiveSteez, by the way, is defunct.

WCF Chapter One "Of Holy Scripture" Sunday School (Sept.-Oct. 2021)

Our text for Sunday School (also "The Confession of Faith and Catechisms") Biblical Theology Bites What is "Biblical Theology...