Summary of Chapter 1: The Christian War Against Economics” from Poverty and Wealth: The Christian Debate over Capitalism” by Ron Nash

51i-aB7ZPIL._SL500_SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The topic of economics is both fascinating and often confusing for the average person.  All of us have a position on what economics is and how wealth is to be used even if we are not immediately aware of it.

In this book, Ron Nash offers some insight into what economics is, how it can be either used or misused, and how a Christian worldview ought to shape minimally professing Christians.

In chapter one, The Christian War Against Economics, Nash shows that to truly help the poor—which he has not yet defined—believers must use good intentions with guided insight concerning economics and what makes for a good or bad economic strategy.  To be in the dark concerning these twin pillars only perpetuates the unwitting darkness being embraced by well-intentioned people.  Moreover, believers must understand that Scripture is often used to propagate a Godless position (i.e., liberation theologians use the Bible to show that God is a Marxist).  Nash purports that “Evangelical publishers like Eerdmans and InterVarsity produce a steady stream of books recommending socialism as the only economic system that is consistent with the Bible.” [pg.11] It seems that at the time of said writing the facts argued contrary to the aforesaid view.

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Summary of Chapter 2: CHRISTENDOM STRIKES BACK (Pgs.36-54)

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In this chapter Stark notes that the defeat in 672 of Muslim attacers on Constantinople occurred for two reasons.  First, Byzantium had made tools sophisticated enough to best Muslim forces.  The Western technology of impenetrable fortifications, along with natural sea barriers contributed to Muslim defeat.  Second, “Greek fire” a catapult with pumps acting as flame throwers could not be matched by Muslim armies.

The Battle of Tours/Poitiers was a fierce engagement where Muslim troops drove deep into Gaul not far from Paris and advanced to victory over the city of Bordeaux and plundered it.  Again, a small Christian army could not stay their own slaughter by the Muslim army at the Battle of the River Garonne.  It wasn’t until the Muslim army met Charles Martel, the ruler of Gaul, that the tables began to turn against the Muslim’s conquest of Europe.

Here, Martel the powerful battle hardened leader led his troops in battle and conquered the Muslims for several reasons according to Stark, the following of which are notable; the Gaul’s were heavily geared as opposed to Arabs lightly geared, the Frankish soldiers were disciplined, Arabs fled because they sensed they were outmatched.

Many historians see this battle as monumental between having an Arab vs. a Western civilization.  Others make little of this battle and Arabs see it as no big deal (Pg.43).  What is certain is that Spanish Muslims understood that their defeat by Charles Martel was had through an empire building people, not mercenaries or a barbarian horde.  The countries of Spain, Italy and Sicily had to also be reconquered.

All these victories preceded the First Crusade.  This means that when the armies and knights of Western Europe marched or navigated to the Holy Land, they were very familiar with their Muslim opponents and knew they could take them.

Now Available in Summary Form: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE CHURCH” by Francis Schaeffer

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In  Volume 4_A Christian View of the Church, Schaeffer considers many difficult issues Christendom needs to address if it is going to be salt and light in this world.  Among the issues is orthodox Christian doctrine, which too often is dispersed for peripheral doctrines that don’t hold up the structure of historical Christianity.   We major on the minor issues and ignore the major ones like “the perpetuity of spiritual gifts vs. the Trinity”.  This occurs when we do our theology from a man centered base, not from the God who is there and grounds all absolute truth.

Another issue is that the watching world longs for a love that is real and true.  Believers have an opportunity to demonstrate this love only when God’s truth is their passion and the Lord Jesus is their model.  Too often that’s not the case and God’s name ends up being profaned.   Then there’s the departure from our Reformation roots as evangelicals which has resulted in a loss of confidence in the Scriptures inerrancy and authority, and subsequent promises of blessing and cursing.  This has made the gospel a sham and many of our churches have become tombs for the living dead.  Lastly, if the aforesaid is not reversed, we will be remembered as that generation who talked the talk but did not walk the walk.  To such people Jesus says, “Depart from me I never knew you, you workers of iniquity .”

Summary of Chapter 1: MUSLIM INVADERS by Rodney Stark

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In this chapter Muslim Invaders, Stark points out that Muslim invaders got their orders from Muhammed who until his death fought, raided and plundered previous Christian lands in accordance with the Quran (Sura 9:5), such that 80 years after Muhammed’s death the Middle East, North Africa, Cyprus and most of Spain became part of the Muslim empire after conquering Christians.

Many historians hold that the Conquest of lands for Muslims was purely economic and also due to a population explosion that never occurred (Pg.14).  Moreover, rather than the hordes of Muslims believed to have invaded, the conquests were won through small, well organized and led Arab armies committed to the spread of Islam (Pg.15).  An example is the conquest of Syria that occurred, among other reasons, because the Arabs were considered liberators to those under Byzantium’s oppressive empire they were welcomed, and when the Byzantine (Greek) armies were overrun, the Arabs soldiers mutinied and fled.

Persia, the Holy Land and Egypt (among others) were also conquered for the following reasons: First, “civilized” empires had no disciplined armies and thus mostly employed foreign soldiers for hire.  The guards who stood inside the fortified cities were merely window dressing not real soldiers.

Second, there was a chronic shortage of troops.  Because Byzantium was so vast, they could not possibly control their borders.  Third, Byzantium’s cavalry were mostly Arabs who sympathized with the Muslim cause and thus would join forces with the Arabs.  Fourth, Muslim soldiers trained since childhood from the same tribes, villages and families.  This created social pressure to never retreat in battle but rather to show their mettle.

Fifth, camels were a superior form of transportation compared to the cavalry of Byzantium.  The desert is the perfect place for the former to last and the latter to perish and thus geography proved to favor the Arabs over against Byzantium if they needed to retreat.

Sixth, smaller Muslim ranks favored rapidly moving in stealth as opposed to the time it took to muster large troops.  Couple this with the Imperial forces lacking tactics when vulnerable and their end was disastrous.

Seventh, Arabs were led by elite warriors who advanced in rank through their own merits, not via birth rite.  Thus, these leaders were battle hardened and more able to succeed in battle compared to the nobles.

Conquered Subjects

            The conquered peoples of the lands were not treated well contrary to popular demand.  Instead the intolerance Islam showed the conquered manifested in the: excessive taxation compared to Muslims; outlawing Jewish or Christians to build sanctuaries of worship, not permitting them to read or pray aloud either publicly or privately; their nobles were burned; their Jewish males beheaded; there was major bloodshed.  The point here is that Jewish and Christians were not the only intolerant peoples, the Muslims were also contrary to popular notions.

Conversions

            A small number of elites governed the non-Muslim (mostly Christian) newly conquered lands.  This means that there were no mass conversions contra to popular notions.  Conversions were either “treaty conversions” or “personal beliefs and practices conversions.”  This means that sometimes tribes (E.g., the Berger Tribe) would convert for weapons, but not really believe the teachings of Muhammed.  Others would convert for fear of their personal safety.  Conversions of conquered people were slow, never quick.

Now Available in Summary Form: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF SPIRITUALITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In volume three A Christian View of Spirituality, Schaeffer dovetails the thought of the “God who is There”, and considers what spirituality consists of.   He starts off by accentuating the fact that no people are “little” or insignificant because they are image bearers and it’s often the little matters that have monumental consequences in life.  Moreover, true spirituality is always grounded in the thought life where ideas ultimately govern people’s destiny.  Because the life of the mind is downplayed in many Evangelical circles, too many of its’ youth who grow up in church leave the faith never to return.  a major contributing factor is the egregious way God’s word is ignored and handles by leadership.  Sermons are constructed in shallow and glib manners.  This has terrible effects on the witness and vitality of the church.   The remedy is getting back to sound doctrine and living out its implications so that Christ is honored among the nations as the church community is true to the Lord. Follow the link Volume 3_A Christian View of Spirituality  and enjoy friend.

Reflections From 1st Corinthians CHAPTER 2: GOD THE SPIRIT REVEALS HIS THOUGHTS THROUGH HUMAN LANGUAGE (Vvs.10-16)

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Paul stays on the same theme of wisdom from verse 6-9 and accentuates the Spirit’s activity:

10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”

This wisdom of God is evidenced in Christ’s life which is revealed to believers by the Spirit who searches and knows the depths of God.  Don’t miss this, only God knows the depths of God and by human analogy (v.11) we see here that the Spirit of God is God.  That’s why He can reveal God’s thoughts.  He is the third person of the Triune God.

How can this be?  Consider our human interactions, each of us choose to reveal or to hide our thoughts when conversing.  This attribute of thought and communication is one that reveals what it means to be human.  Similarly, the divine being reveals His thoughts through language and this to whomever He wills.  It’s God the Holy Spirit who reveals God the Father’s plans and purposes.

Paul affirms that the Spirit believers have received is the same Spirit who is God who reveals God’s purposes to us.  These are the things which have been freely given to us and contextually is the gospel message of Christ crucified.

Moreover, Paul accentuates that the Spirit is the one who gives God’s divinely sanctioned spokesmen the words to speak and to teach to the church.  This comes not from human invention or wisdom, but through the Spirit’s wisdom and thoughts through human language.  But a major problem obtains for not all people believe and thus accept these thoughts in words:

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Paul points out that a “natural man” or one un-regenerated has an epistemological problem and therefore lacks discernment.  That is, the thoughts of God which are given through human language are rejected by the unbeliever because they are operating under this world’s wisdom. They think the message is foolishness (implying they understand it) but reject it because they don’t trust/believe that it’s true.  There’s a veil blinding the unbeliever here from seeing and treasuring Christ.

Yet, Paul says that he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet is himself appraised by no one (v.15).  He is making a comparison between the regenerate and unregenerate soul, between the believer and the non-believer, between the wise and the foolish.  The implication here is not about “smarts” but about “grace”.  That is, unless there’s the Spirit’s aid to see, one won’t see, value, or embrace the wonder of the cross.  Paul grounds this from a quote out of Isaiah whose larger context declares the Creator’s incomparable majesty, might, knowledge, wisdom, and benevolence.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?  
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him?  14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?” (Isa. 40:12-14)

Paul is disrobing the wisdom of this world when compared to the Creator’s wisdom and puts an exclamation on this thought when he says, “But we have the mind of Christ”.  What is the significance here?

I think Paul is telling believers that God’s thoughts revealed to us through God’ Spirit, are the exact thoughts that Christ the Son of God possess (this is a clear pointer to Jesus deity and the Spirit’s deity).  Thus, the knowledge and wisdom of the Creator freely bestowed on the believer is the prized possession.  This “foolishness” and “stumbling block” of the cross is truly astounding.

Paul is declaring to the Corinthian church and to the world that this message originated with God the Creator and has now been revealed to humanity in plain language by the Spirit’s activity, not the creatures.  Another way of putting it is that the message of the Gospel is not a fabrication of fiction, but a revelation of true reality, this reality is the un-created Creator, who sustains His good creation.

(SDG)

Summaries of GOD’S BATTALIONS: The Case for the Crusades by Rodney Stark

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Introduction: GREEDY BARBARIANS IN ARMOR? (Pgs.1-9)  In this introduction, Stark points out that there are two very different accounts of the Crusades, the reason for them, etc.  One is the Traditional view and the other is the Enlightenment view.  On the one hand, the Traditional View states that converts to Islam—the Turks, had invaded and conquered Jerusalem unprovoked.  Moreover, they invaded the Middle East and grossly treated it’s captors through rape, torture, and inhumane atrocities.  Alexius Comnenus the emperor of Byzantium called for Rome’s help before they too would be slaughtered.

On the other hand there’s the Enlightenment View which says that the crusades were realized through an expansionist imperialistic Christendom that brutalized, looted and colonized a tolerant peaceful Islam.

However, post 9/11 this issue is bigger than ever before to revisit. If we consider the twisted and cowardly way the media covers Islam, the inanity of political correctness which refuses to look at Islam’s darker side, and the fearless way in which Christendom’s worldview is smeared that makes our fleeting way of life so precious, re-thinking the crusades and what is “common knowledge” must be revisited.  Beware Christian pacifists!

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 2: HOW IS GOD’S WISDOM MANIFEST IN GOSPEL COMMUNICATION? (Vvs.6-9)

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Paul continues this theme of wisdom and turns it (if you will) upside down.  On the one hand, the apostle refused to succumb to the pressure of using rhetoric as a means to connect with his audience, so that when he preached Christ, the testimony of God would not lose its power, but also so that these “word smiths” would not rely on human wisdom, tact, etc., but instead on the Spirit’s power.

On the other hand, it’s that very tactic of Paul that is Gods wisdom (which seems foolish to the unregenerate soul).  Paul explains:

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Note how Paul says that the wisdom he speaks of is God’s wisdom spoken among the mature (i.e., those who understand that their calling and standing before God was all God’s doing, not theirs).  The mature here are those the world considers to be foolish because they trust in the eyewitness account of the God/Man’s life death and resurrection.

So this wisdom of God is spoken among the “called”, “saints” etc., a wisdom sourced in the Creator not the creature, it’s a wisdom in this present evil age that is from the age to come, it’s a wisdom the rulers of this age do not possess nor can grasp, it’s a wisdom granted by God.

So this wisdom (which I take to mean Christ crucified contextually) was previously hidden predestined by God before time to be mysterious for His glory.  Now I’m not sure how to interpret the phrase “to our glory”.  Could it be that Paul is referring to future glorification in the consummation of the new heavens and the new earth?  Perhaps it speaks of the praise due to those who embrace the message of the cross (even though their calling, redemption, and saintliness are God’s work) and thus despise this world’s wisdom of rejecting the message.

Again, it could be pointing to the honor and value we place on those who possess certain kinds of knowledge that when applied to the knowledge of God, that one has reached the heights of knowledge.  Perhaps it’s all three, or something else not mentioned but Paul continues and provides a phrase that clarifies God’s wisdom compared to the creature:

but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”    

I take rulers to refer to demonic spirits or Satan himself, not human beings.  The reason is because since the beginning in the Garden of Eden unto the present, satanic deception has been a constant affront to God’s word and plans.  Demonic spirits and Satan himself have outlasted all rulers.  Through the wisdom of God’s word and message, demonic ideas that exalt themselves above the knowledge of Christ are demolished by argumentation.  These ideas are called “strongholds” in 2 Cor. 10:1-6:

“Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”  

These ideas come from the god of this world (Satan) who blinds those who don’t believe the message of the cross.  We have a real enemy, and God with his foolishness (i.e., Christ’s Cross) defeated Satan and his creaturely wisdom (i.e., the crucifixion) through the hidden means now revealed to the called—redemption through the last Adam’s atoning death and resurrection from the grave.  Death died with the death of Christ and no creature had a clue what was truly occurring—including Satan.

This previously hidden wisdom, knowledge and power have been displayed to those who love God, not to those who hate Him.  So why is the cross God’s wisdom?  It’s because through it God accomplished his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of being a blessing to the nations, plural, through the Messiah.  To Greeks this is foolishness (which indicates they understood the message but rejected the implications of it) and to the Jews this message is a stumbling block (Messiah is to reign, not die, thus a dying deliverer is intolerable, an oxymoron).  Nevertheless, to the “called” both Greek and Jew alike, the message is the power and wisdom of God.

May we His people not cower with the message of Christ, but instead may we clearly and winsomely proclaim it, explain it, and live out its implications among those who are perishing whether it is foolishness to them or a stumbling block.

(SDG)

Now Available in Summary: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE BIBLE AS TRUTH” by Francis Schaeffer

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In this second Volume 2_A Christian View of The Bible As Truth

Schaeffer continues to argue for absolute truth that’s based on the God Who is There.  He acknowledges that God has revealed himself not only in nature (i.e., general revelation), but also through scripture (special revelation).  He then argues for the historicity of the origins account in Genesis where God created out of nothing all that exists apart from himself.   He then hones in on the primacy of scripture as God’s final word to his creatures.

This word is both trans-cultural and trans-time.  He further touches on the flow of history in space and time through the book of Joshua and points out the idolatry of Israel and God’s dealings with them.  Lastly Schaeffer considers how one can view the Bible and art.

So click here Volume 2_A Christian View of The Bible As Truth    and read my friends.

 

 

Reflections From 1st Corinthians 2: HOW DO WE MINISTER TO GIFTED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, & PROUD PEOPLE?

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Human pride is that malady that makes much of the creature and little of the Creator. It disproportionately attaches value to self and turns what is good and beautiful into a hideous reality.  Paul continues his thought from chapter one and offers personal biography that’s focused on intent:

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”   (Vvs.1-5)

When a crowd is gifted, knowledgeable, and proud, if we were able, many of us would be tempted to show our intellectual prowess in order to spar with the opposition.

To possess intellectual gifts and have a facility with theological and philosophical ideas and their requisite analysis has an appropriate place in gospel persuasion.  Certainly Paul could do this but when it came to the proclamation of the gospel, his strategy for persuasion is one of simplicity and substance.  This surely mocks human pride and showcases its emptiness.

Paul neither comes with rhetoric nor this world’s wisdom when he proclaims the testimony of God, but instead focuses on the person and work of Jesus Christ and Calvary’s cross.  His purpose for doing this was so that believers would not trust in the creature’s mere words, but in the demonstrable power of the God/Man.

The incarnation of Christ (i.e., God became a fully functioning human being without any sin) is not one of the many critical aspects of the gospel, but the absolute heart of it.  In Jesus of Nazareth, God took on human flesh (while not at all compromising the perfections of His being of: aseity, simplicity, omniscience, omnipresence, omnisapience, omnibenevolence, etc.) which to the Jew was impossible (and a stumbling block) and to the Greeks (foolishness) but to the called it’s both the wisdom and power of God.

Now this demonstration of the Spirit’s power had to include signs, wonders, healings, etc.  Something other worldly followed Paul’s proclamation, but the greatest evidence was the church which had regenerated souls who once were dead in trespasses and sins.  This can’t be overstated but too often is misconstrued.  New birth truly is a miracle, where human will adds nothing to that reality according to Paul (something many believers have difficulty reconciling between the order of salvation: does faith precede new birth or does new birth precede faith).

Today, many false conversions obtain in America specifically because of a doctrine of salvation that says “by faith alone” I’m saved.  True, but that faith is “never alone”, it produces the evidence of new life in how a professing believer lives.

This state of affairs generally results from a functional illiteracy of the gospel of Christ, and a relativistic understanding of “faith” that is neither able to be verified or falsified, is not understood to be in the realm of knowledge, and is thus relegated to the private, subjective and personal sphere.  That’s not good news, but rather an indictment on church leadership that has forsaken the eternal, inerrant, infallible word of God and exchanged it for the temporal, errant, fallible word of men.

If one of us can’t “believe” in this book called Holy Scripture, the Bible, because men wrote it, then there’s a problem with consistency.  Daily men are trying to persuade us to their views of: politics, science, philosophy, history, theology, ethics, etc. through their writings.  Why do we choose to believe their views?  Are we to seriously discard everything they say because they wrote it?  There’s more going on here than meets the eye friends.

For Paul and those wanting to be faithful to gospel of Christ, the way to minister to knowledgeable, gifted and proud people is to keep it simple without being simplistic.  Because the gospel of Christ while being simple is exceedingly profound, and it is therefore the duty of every teacher to do their due diligence in order to not be derelicts with the treasure of God’s word.

(SDG)