Thursday, February 22, 2018

Global market forces

Globalised markets force industrialisation and urbanisation, which destroy traditional communities and interrupt family relationships, as the customs that nourished local communities are disrupted.

People become “independent choosers” responding to a market that provides limitless choice of consumer good. They can meet their needs without worrying about anyone else. This fosters selfishness, a basic human condition.

The global market brings a drive for efficiency that separates people into winners and losers. Some succeed, but many are forced into precarious employment with very low pay and harsh working conditions. They are overwhelmed and isolated, without reliable personal networks to provide assistance in time of trouble.

People who struggle are forced to look to the state for assistance, but they are faced by an impersonal, uncaring, rules-driven bureaucracy, that leaves them feeling powerless, frustrated and resentful.

The modern urban environment gives people immense social and personal freedom. The successful people flaunt their freedom by living promiscuous lives without any moral accountability. Those who have missed out express their frustration and resentment in aggression, abuse and undisciplined behaviour that makes their situation worse.

Once outside of traditional communities, customs and social mores that constrained behaviour seem hypocritical and repressive. They are replaced by standardised, impersonal laws developed and enforced by human governments. Despite the promise of freedom, the state has to become more and more involved in intimate personal affairs. Legal and political solutions are needed for issues that were once resolved at a local level.

Leaders claim that all people are free and equal, but the drive for efficiency creates a new meritocracy that directs the economy and society. They have no obligation to care for others, except from a distance, through donations to “caring organisations”. The winners congregate in wealthy neighbourhoods of prosperous cities. The people with the capacity to organise social and communal support tend to follow them out. The losers remain where they were and are swamped by the global economy without any support networks.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Problems with Compound Interest

A person loans $10,000 to a bank
for 10 years at 10% interest.
They would earn $1000 in interest each year.

If they spent the interest,
they would have only $10,000 at the end of ten years.
If they save the interest,
they would double their money in about seven years.

This makes it easy to save.

However, they can only add the interest to the money deposit in the bank
if the bank can lend the additional money to someone.
So people can only double their money every seven years by compounding interest
If the level of debt in society doubles at the same speed.
Compound interest produces an indebted society.

Compounding interest speeds the shift of wealth
from those who are indebted to those who have plenty.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Debt and Interest

Business Loan
A business borrows $10,000 for 10 years at 10% interest
to buy a machine.
They would need to earn $3000 each year
to pay back interest
to pay off the loan
and for depreciation to be made.

At the end of ten years,
they would be out of debt
and have a new machine.
They might not bother repaying the principle
so they would only need to earn $2000 each year.
They would continue to roll the loan over,
as long as they continue to use the machine.

The loan is good business decision.

Consumer Loan for a Car
A person borrows $1,000 for 10 years at 10% interest.
They could pay $100 in interest each year.

After 10 years, they would have paid $1,000.
They would still owe the principle that they had borrowed.
The car would have depreciated to zero.
This person owes a debt, but has no asset.
They could pay $200 each year.
This would eliminate the debt,
but at the end of 10 years, they would still have no car.
They would have to roll over the loan and buy a new car.

The loan is a poor decision for a consumer.

Speculation Loan for some residential land
A person borrows $100,000 for 10 years at 10% interest.
They could pay $10000 in interest each year.

After 10 years, they would have paid $100,000.
They would still owe the principle that they had borrowed.
The price of the land would have inflated to $200,000.
This person owes a debt, but they have an asset that had doubled in price.

The loan has been good for the property speculator,
but at the end of 10 years,
the land has produced nothing
and there is no more land in the economy,
so the savings lent to the property speculator have been unproductive.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Boat on an Island

Three men are stranded on a desert island. Their names are A, B and C.

They survive by fishing and catching enough fish to survive each day. They lead a substance lifestyle.
A thought that he could have a better life if he owned a boat and net. He knew he could buy them from traders who sailed by occasionally, but they would cost $10,000.

B had $10,000 cash in his pocket that was there when he was marooned. There was nothing he wanted to spend it on. He offered to loan it to A for 10% interest per year. A took the loan and bought the boat and net. He was able to catch enough fish to pay the interest, as well as buy some household goods from the passing traders that made his life much better.

At the end of the year, A had a boat and net, but a debt of $10,000. B now owned a loan of $10,000. C was just subsiding.

B offered a loan of $11000 to C to buy a boat and net. C offered to buy the boat and net from A for $11,000. A accepted the offer and repaid his loan to B. C now had a boat and net. A had $1000 cash which he could use to buy stuff from passing traders.

C could catch enough fish to pay the interest of $1100 to B and to buy some household stuff from passing traders.

A year later, A was feeling the pinch, so he sounded out the possibility of getting a loan from B to re-purchase the boat and net. B offered to lend him $12,000. He kept the additional $100 to buy stuff that he needed.

A bought the boat from C for $12,000. C kept $1000 to buy stuff that he needed from passing traders.

Now A could catch enough fish to eat plus to pay the interest of $1200 to B and to buy some extra household stuff from passing traders.

This goes on for several years in the same way. After buying and selling the boat a number of times, A owns the boat again, but he had to spend $20,000 to buy it. He had to borrow that sum from B, so he has to pay $2000 interest per year. He has a good stock of household goods to make himself comfortable. The problem is that even with a boat, it takes all his efforts to catch enough fish to eat and to sell to pay the interest. He does not get enough to buy any more household goods.

B has been able to buy some household goods. He can still catch enough fish to live on without a boat. He owns a loan of $20,000. Through compound interest, he has doubled his wealth in a few years. The boat is still the same boat, but its price has been inflated by debt financing.

C has some household goods that make his life very pleasant.

In the following couple of years, fishing is really bad. A cannot catch enough to eat and pay his interest.

A now owns the same boat as he bought at the beginning. It is worth twice as much, but it is still the same boat. The big difference is that A has a debt that is twice as large, and his interest payments are double what they were. The person who is better off is B, because he has doubled the value of his wealth (B is for banker).

This demonstrates what has happened in the modern housing market. By buying and selling houses, they have bid up the prices of existing houses using debt until they are more than double what they were. People end up with the same houses, but their debt is much greater and the interest payments are bigger too. The banks who lend the money are the ones who benefit the most.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Triumphant Failure of Liberalism

This is from an article by Patrick Deneen. He has some really good insights. We get pushed into a choice between the market and the state, but both options leave people isolated and vulnerable.

Further, the intensifying division between the two sides of liberalism also obscures the basic continuities between these two iterations of liberalism, and in particular makes it nearly impossible to reflect on the question of whether the liberal order itself remains viable. The bifurcation within liberalism masks a deeper agreement that has led to the working out of liberalism's deeper logic, which, ironically, brings us today to a crisis within liberalism itself that now appears sudden and inexplicable.

What is especially masked by our purported choice between primary allegiance to classical liberalism's emphasis on a free market and limited government, on the one hand, and progressive liberalism's emphasis on an expansive state that tempers the market, on the other, is that both "choices" arise from a basic commitment of liberalism to depersonalization and abstraction. Our main political choices come down to which depersonalized mechanism seems most likely to secure human goods - the space of the market, which collects our seemingly limitless number of choices to provide for our wants and needs without demanding any specific thought or intention from us about the wants and needs of others - or the liberal state, which, by means of the mechanism of taxation and depersonalized distribution of goods and services, establishes standard procedures and mechanisms to satisfy the wants and needs of others that would otherwise go unmet or be insufficiently addressed by the market.

The insistent demand that we choose between protection of individual liberty and expansion of the state's efforts to redress injustices masks the reality that the two grow constantly and necessarily together: statism enables individualism; individualism demands statism. The creation of the autonomous individual, that imaginary creature of Hobbes and Locke, in fact requires the expansive apparatus of the state and its creation, the universal market, to bring it into existence. And, as Tocqueville predicted, once liberated, the individual no longer has reliable personal networks to which to turn for assistance, and instead looks for the assistance of the state, which grows further to meet these insistent demands.

While the battle is waged between liberalism's two sides, one of which stresses the individual and the other the need for the redress of the state, liberalism's constant and unceasing trajectory has been to become both more individualistic and more statist. This is not because one party advances individualism without cutting back on statism while the other achieves (and fails) in the opposite direction; rather, both move simultaneously together, as a matter of systemic logic that follows our deepest philosophical premises.

The result is a political system that trumpets liberty, but which inescapably creates conditions of powerlessness, fragmentation, mistrust, and resentment. The liberated individual comes to despise the creature of its making and the source of its powerlessness - whether perceived to be the state or the market (protests to the former represented by the Tea Party and to the latter by Occupy Wall Street). The tools of liberalism cease to be governable and become instead independent forces to which disempowered individuals must submit - whether the depersonalized public bureaucracy or depersonalized globalizing market forces, aided and abetted by technology, from surveillance to automation, that no longer seems under the control of its masters.

Much of our common response to liberalism's triumph today is a celebration of our completed liberty, but it takes the form of discussions and debates over the ways in which we can lessen the unease accompanying our powerlessness and dislocation as we submit terms of surrender to ungovernable forces in politics and economics.
This is why my books push for a restoration of community.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Public Square

In an interview with Stephanie Summers, James K. A. Smith, who wrote the book called Awaiting the King, said,

In the American context in the 1970s and 1980s, we acquired a theology of culture that, rather suddenly, made us care about engaging in public, political life. In fact, we might have even had quite confident visions of how we were going to march into the public square and transform culture, because we were equipped with what we knew to be this capacious, wise Christian worldview in which the Gospel had something to say to every sphere of life.

However, I think we overestimated how effective our ideas would be, and we underestimated the deformative power of cultural currents that were already in the water in the public square. So we marched out to transform culture, and it turns out that culture ended up transforming us. Instead of transformation, what we got is our own assimilation.
This is really true. He also said,
And yet in the process of the sheer pragmatism of trying to get that done, we missed the deformative dynamics of things like consumerism, or libertarianism. We didn't realize how loaded the economic game was, and so then we ended up conceding to economic models and principles that I don't think sit very well with the biblical narrative. Yet now we are more committed to those kinds of partisan economic principles than we are to that biblical vision of economic flourishing.
Correct again, but he went on to say,
For some Christians, all of a sudden, we read the Scriptures in a way that we've never ever seen them before, and we realize that God cares about widows and orphans and strangers and aliens. We become newly animated by this passion for justice and feel a need to answer this call and be out in the public square working for justice.
This last one is misleading. When we get concerned about widows orphans and strangers, the correct response is sharing and caring. If the task is to big, we should persuade others to help us in caring for them. If we are surrounded by caring people, they will join us in caring and sharing.

Rushing to the public square is an inappropriate response. Christians rush to the public square, because they want to force other people to share and care for suffering widows, orphans and strangers, using compulsory taxation and government programs. Jesus refused to force people to share and care for those in need, if they did not want to do it. If we follow his example seriously, we would not rush to the public square.

If we see a problem, we should do something ourselves. Forcing someone else to share and care using state power is not the gospel.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Freedom in First Circle

You can tell old you know who—up there—that you only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. but when you have robbed a man of everything he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn - The First Circle

Monday, February 12, 2018

Jesus Presence

When individuals/couples are sent out into the world from a Sunday gathering, they will struggle not to be absorbed by the dominant culture of the world, as they are going into the enemy’s territory.

To carry the presence of Jesus, his followers should go as twos and threes and live in close proximity in the neighbourhood where the Holy Spirit is moving. Two or three couples/families choosing to live in close proximity (within shouting distance) in a neighbourhood is what Jesus promised to bless (Matt 18:20). Living close together in the same neighbourhood establishes territory for the king, and ensures that their primary formation is in the presence of Jesus.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Revolution in New Zealand

Jennifer Leclair is an editor at Charisma Magazine. When she came to New Zealand in January, she received one the word, “Revolution”.

On the way to New Zealand in the wee hours of the morning, I heard the Holy Spirit say one word: "revolution." I pondered this. I meditated on it for some time.
I was intrigued that when she spoke in Auckland she limited the word to spiritual revolution.
God wants to see a spiritual revolution in New Zealand.

He wants to see the body of Christ down under turned upside down.

He wants something birthed, a spark that will impact the nations.

God wants to shake thing up in New Zealand. He wants to pour out his spirit again.

Prophets are arising in New Zealand with the pure word of the Lord, prophesying what the Spirit of God says. They will prophesy the reality of the new wine, but it is going to take a new wineskin. God is doing a new thing.

The traditional church is dead. Many people are not in Church anymore, because there is no new wine there. There are memories of yesterday’s wine: no miracles, no signs, no wonders. But Jesus said that these signs will follow those who believe. When a body gathers in his name, he is there in the midst of them, and when he is there in the midst, there should be some sign that he is there.

Jesus is alive, he is arisen.
I agree that the church in New Zealand needs a spiritual revolution. The church down under does need to be turned upside down, from dependence on professional leaders, to releasing the people who are following Jesus to walk in the Spirit. I described how this can happen in my book called Being Church Where We Live.

However, we need a revolution that is much bigger. The structure of our society needs a revolution from being state-centre to being people centred. Our society is currently dominated by the state. Whenever, a problem occurs the government is expected to do something about it. Every new initiative must be approved and funded by the state. A true revolution would produce a society where problems are solved locally, by giving, sharing, healing, caring, supporting by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus.

New Zealand also needs a revolution at the political level. Not a change from one party to another, but a revolution that replaces human government and its failures with the government of God. Our good news is the Kingdom of God. In my book, Government of God I describe how this revolution.

Share Market Decline

Uncertainty has returned to the US share market. How it will end is not clear.

In the old days, the sharemarket was thought of as a market for capital assets (factories, machinery, etc). A rise in the price of shares reflected improved business profits or increased business confidence. This understanding is no longer true.

Share prices are now influenced much more by the decisions in the political and financial sectors. The American economy looks strong, with unemployment at low levels, but the financial sector and the real economy are increasingly disconnected.

  • The current boom in share prices have not been driven by corporate profits, but by the low interest rates imposed by the Fed since the GFC. Debt funded share buy-back schemes have also pushed up share prices for the benefit of managers paid in stocks or stock options. Price to earnings ratios are at very high.

  • After nearly a decade of close to zero interest rates, the Fed is raising interest rates. The cheap money that has sustained share prices might disappear.

  • To support their quantitative easing policies, central banks bought a third of all securities, including debt and shares (socialisation of the means of production by stealth). They have now stopped buying. As the securities are maturing, they are disappearing from their balance sheets. Some central banks are actively selling.

  • The bond and share markets no longer stand alone. A huge mix of financial derivatives and financial products sit on top of these markets. The value of this financial superstructure is exponentially greater than the capital assets controlled by public companies. These products are an uncertain mix of leverage, risk and debt.

  • The US Congress has just agreed to a budget that involves a huge spending increase, following from tax cuts passed last month. The massive budget deficit that inevitably follows will have to be financed with borrowing. This is likely to push up interests and attract money out of shares.

  • The Chinese have stopped putting most of their spare money into US Treasuries and are placing more of their surplus into One Belt One Road investments in Asia and Africa.

This is different from what has gone before. How these different pressures will work out is anyone's guess.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Kingdom of God

At Kingdom Roots, Scot McKnight has a podcast of a lecture he gave at Pepperdine University. He provides a good introduction to his book Kingdom Conspiracy. I like the way that he links redemption and kingdom.

God begins his Kingdom by redeeming a people. God rules a redeemed people. Israel was redeemed from slavery in Egypt. We are redeemed by Jesus death on the cross.

You cannot bring the kingdom of God into the public sector without the redemption of God as the foundation. If we take the New Testament ethic of Jesus and turn it into a public variant, if is secularised, minimised, and the Lordship of Christ and the Church get eliminated and replaced by the American government.

The redemption theme is replaced by a public sector theme.

There are two dimensions to his rule. God governs by saving a people and ruling over those he has saved.
This is really good.

Scot says that in the end the church and the kingdom will the same. That is good too, but he does not explain how the church must change to become the same as the kingdom.

Scot defines a kingdom as “a people governed by a king”. A kingdom has five elements.

  • King
  • Rule
  • People
  • Law
  • Land
This is really good, but his understanding of land/territory in relation to the Kingdom of God is a bit weak.

In my book, Government of God I describe the importance of territory for the Kingdom of God. God needs territory where he has authority to rule and where the spiritual powers of evil don’t. I don’t know of any other book that describes how followers of Jesus can establish territory that belongs to Jesus by living in close proximity to each other, and then expand out into the world by love.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Atonement in a Table

Here is yesterdays post set out as a table.



Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Atonement

On a podcast, I heard a speaker say that the atonement is so complicated that it needs many images to describe it. This is true, but the weakness is with the images, not the understanding of the atonement.

The problem with complicating the atonement is that it becomes hard to explain what Jesus death on the cross actually does.

The cross was God’s solution to a human problem. It was also a problem for God, because he was held back from accomplishing his purposes for the world.

Understanding the nature of this problem is the key to understanding the atonement.

The problem is simple. Although humans were created by God and given authority over the earth, they wanted to be independent and rejected his authority.

This problem produced many bad consequences. Some were primary effects and others were consequent to them. This is why atonement often seems so complicated. I demonstrate this in the attached diagram. The boxes further from the centre are the consequence of prior consequences.


Sin had many consequences. The problem with any image of the atonement is that it may illustrate a couple of the consequences, but will not work for all of them. No image can fully explain the problem and all its consequence.

God's solution to the human problem is demonstrated in the next diagram. The cross dealt with the basic human problem. It resolved some of the consequences immediately. They are the ones in the red boxes in the diagram. Not all consequences were resolved immediately. However, the cross established a process that ensures that all the consequence of the human problem will be resolved.

A key consequence was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The remaining consequences (blue and brown) will be resolved by the Holy Spirit working through the church.

The ones in brown have hardly started.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Justified

Theologians get into great disagreement of the words derived from the Greek root “dikio, dikaio”. Sometimes they are translated as righteous, righteousness and other times as justified, justification. This sometimes creates confusion about what the cross has achieved.

Some theologians claim that the blood of Jesus has made us righteous. They say that Jesus righteous has been imputed to us. I believe that is misleading. It is Jesus blood that has been imputed to us. We are guilty not righteous. Jesus blood has paid the penalty that the prosecutor demanded for our guilt.

We do not have a good word for our situation once we have trusted in the cross. “Justified” is a better word than “righteous”, but it is not quite right. We claim that we are justified in doing something, if the result was good. That is not what the cross does.

The blood of Jesus does not make us innocent, because our sin is real, but our guilt no longer counts. It has been fully dealt with and does not count against us. We have a clean slate before the judge. That is what Paul meant when he said we are justified by faith/allegiance to Jesus.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Blood of Jesus

The blood of a human is worth more than the blood of an animal. That is why the temple sacrifices were not a complete solution to sin. Full satisfaction needed human blood.

The blood of a man who is God is infinitely more valuable than the blood of any other person. That is why his blood is sufficient to deal with the sin of all have disobeyed God. This is another reason why God became man.

Friday, February 02, 2018

State of the Nation - Spiritual

Commenters are trying to find a pattern in Donald Trump’s policy decisions, but all they see is confusion.

Some foreign policy commenters are suggesting that Trump is disentangling the US from all foreign engagements. Others say that he is seeking to destroy international institutions that are not working for America. Others say that he is reasserting American military power.

Economic and political commentators are confused, because they cannot find a pattern to his economic and domestic policies.

The answer to their dilemma is that there is a pattern shaped by the spiritual powers of evil. The United States government is dominated by a cohort of political and government-spirits. Politicians come and go, but these spirits shape the exercise of political power, despite the promises and intentions of the politicians.

Once this is understood, the pattern to Trump’s policies becomes clear. He is able to throw some sops to his supporters, but most of his policies advance the objectives of the spiritual powers of evil. His supporters are disappointed because he has not drained the swamp, but he can't, because the spiritual powers of evil are at home in the swamp.

The following are some of the key spiritual forces at work in the US and the policies that reflect their influence.

  • Spirits of Violence, military force, explain:

     military expansion in Afghanistan.
     military expansion in Africa
     military men gain key roles in the Whitehouse.
     military threats against North Korea
     supporting war in Ukraine
     war in Syria.

  • Religious spirits, explain:

     alliance with leaders of religion-based state in Israel.
     alliance with leaders of religion-based state in Arabia.
     migration changes- the religious spirit hates different cultures because it fears their influence. The Holy Spirit embraces other cultures so that he can share the gospel with them (1 Cor 9:19-22).
     hatred of religion-based state in Iran.

  • Spirits of control, intimidation, deception, political control, explain:

     bullying North Korea
     additional powers of surveillance for intelligence agencies
     bullying political opponents
     bullying Cuba
     demanding to be in control of every situation
     hostility to Iran

  • Mammon, spirits of greed, ambition, prosperity, explain:

     tax cuts for wealthy and ambitious
     withdrawal from TPP, NATA
     withdrawal from Paris agreement
     removal of regulations on the debt sector

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Africa: Next Factory of the World

I have just read a book by Irene Yuan Sun called The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment is Reshaping Africa. She has studied the emergence of Chinese owned and managed factories in African countries as diverse as Lesotho, Nigeria and Kenya. Her fieldwork with McKinsey identified 1500 Chinese factories engaged in manufacturing. She identifies a large number of factories producing garments for big American labels like GAP, Levi, Old Navy and Rebook.

Irene suggests that Chinese factories in Africa:

This is the future that will create broad-based prosperity for Africans and usher in the next phase of global growth for a large swathe of the Chinese economy. This is what will make Africa rich and achieve a dramatic and lasting change in living standards.
Factories are the bridge that connects China, the current Factory of the World to Africa the next Factory of the World. Over the past fifteen years, Chinese factories have been driven out of China by rising costs, and may have landed in Africa.
The movement of factories matter, because when factories arrive en masse, prosperity soon follows. Form Great Britain at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, to America in the nineteenth century, to Japan and Asian countries in the twentieth, factories have restructured entire economies towards a new, lasting level of wealth. That because manufacturing, unlike agriculture and services, engages mass labour in highly productive ways to participate in the global economy. It’s also because on an individual level, industrialisation allows substance farmer enmeshed in highly local systems of exchange to transform themselves into consumers and producers in the global economy. Industrialisation is how China reshaped itself from a poor, backward country into one of the largest economies in the world in less than three decades. By becoming the next Factory of the World, Africa can do the same (pp 6-8).
Irene writes about the difficulties that workers face in shifting from a rural life which is governed by the clock to working in a factory which is controlled by the clock. She explains that this was a problem in the Industrial Revolution and also in China. Workers in Africa take several years to make that transition. Those who run businesses in developing countries have to deal with this issue.

What surprised me is that many of the factories were owned and operated by Chinese entrepreneurs. I had assumed that because China is ruled by a Communist party, that most of the investment in Africa would be done by large state-owned enterprises. That might be the case for the large infrastructure projects, like roads, bridges, railways and airports, but it is not the case with manufacturing. Most the Chinese factories in Africa are owned and managed by Chinese who have factories in China (a few in Taiwan or Hong Kong). Some have sold factories their families owned in China to invest in Africa. They usually develop their businesses without government support, and often with opposition.

This raises an interesting question. Why are Chinese willing to invest in Africa when doing business there is hard she gives plenty of examples that illustrate how really hard it is). Why are they willing to love and work in such primitive conditions?

  • Many of the managers and owners she interviewed had grown up in Chinese villages that were even more backward than they lifestyle they found in Africa. They had seen their home region transformed by manufacturing, so they believed the same could happen Africa.

  • Having grown up in backward underdeveloped towns and villages, they are happy to live in work in tough conditions in Africa. I presume that managers from the US and Europe would not be willing to live under these conditions.

  • Chinese managers and business owners are used to dealing with a fickle government and corrupt bureaucracy. They are used to a fairly unpredictable government and legal system. They assume that they can cope with the same thing Africa., whereas Americans and Europeans would be scared off.

Irene is optimistic for Africa, while not downplaying the risks and dangers. Time will tell if her optimism is justified.