How John Stuart Mill changed the culture

Roger Kimball on the legacy of John Stuart Mill:

In 1859, two revolutionary books were published. One was Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The other was John Stuart Mill’s pamphlet On Liberty. Darwin’s book revolutionized biology and fundamentally altered the debate between science and religion. Mill’s book revolutionized the way we think about innovation in social and moral life.

What is your opinion of innovation? Do you think it is a good thing? Of course you do. You may or may not have read Mill on the subject, but you have absorbed his lessons. What about established opinion, customary ways of doing things? Do you suspect that they should be challenged and probably changed? Odds are that you do. Mill has taught you that, too, even if you have never read a line of On Liberty.

Mill’s essay was ostensibly about the relation between individual freedom and society. Mill famously argued that the only grounds on which society was justified in exercising control over its members, whether that control be in the form of “legal penalties” or simply “the moral coercion of public opinion,” was to “prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”

This part of Mill’s argument quickly attracted searching criticism. The British judge James Fitzjames Stephen, for example, went to the heart of the problem when he observed that Mill assumed that “some acts regard the agent only, and that some regard other people. In fact, by far the most important part of our conduct regards both ourselves and others.” As for withholding “the moral coercion of public opinion,” Stephen observed that “the custom of looking upon certain courses of conduct with aversion is the essence of morality.”

Stephen’s criticisms of Mill were published in his book Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, which appeared about a decade after On Liberty. Many of the criticisms are devastating. Intellectually, Stephen made mincemeat of Mill. But that has hardly mattered. Mill’s doctrines have taken the world by storm, while Stephen has receded to become a footnote in intellectual history.

Why? One reason is that Mill said things that people wanted to hear. Mill seemed to be giving people a permanent vacation from the moral dictates of society. How often have you heard the argument “It’s not hurting anyone else” put forward as a justification for self-indulgence?

But it was not simply what he said about the relation between individual freedom and social control that made On Liberty such an influential tract. Much more important was the attitude, the emotional weather, of the book.

On Liberty is only incidentally a defense of individual freedom. Its deeper purpose is to transform the way we regard established morality and conventional behavior as such. In brief, Mill taught us to be suspicious of established morality not because what it says is wrong (maybe it is, maybe it isn’t) but simply because it is established.

Think about that. The tradition that Mill opposed celebrated custom and established morality precisely because they had prevailed and given good service through the vicissitudes of time and change; their longevity was an important token of their worthiness.

Mill overturned this traditional view. Henceforth, the customary, the conventional was suspect not because it had failed but simply because if was customary and conventional. . . .

Granted that every change for the better has depended on someone embarking on a new departure. Well, so too has every change for the worse. And surely, [David] Stove observes, there have been at least as many proposed innovations which “were or would have been for the worse as ones which were or would have been for the better.” Which means that we have at least as much reason to discourage innovators as to encourage them, especially when their innovations bear on things as immensely complex as the organization of society.

The triumph of Mill’s teaching shows that such objections have fallen on deaf ears. But why? Why have “innovation,” “originality,” etc., become mesmerizing charms that neutralize criticism before it even gets started when so much that is produced in the name of innovation is obviously a change for the worse? An inventory of the fearsome social, political, and moral innovations made in this century alone should have made every thinking person wary of unchaperoned innovation.

One reason that innovation has survived with its reputation intact, Stove notes, is that Mill and his heirs have been careful to supply a “one-sided diet of examples.” It is a technique as simple as it is effective:

Mention no past innovators except those who were innovators-for-the-better. Harp away endlessly on the examples of Columbus and Copernicus, Galileo and Bruno, Socrates and (if you think the traffic will bear it) Jesus. Conceal the fact that there must have been at least one innovator-for-the-worse for every one of these (very overworked) good guys. Never mention Lenin or Pol Pot, Marx or Hegel, Robespierre or the Marquis de Sade.

via Roger’s Rules » Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Hayek expressed much the same sentiment in his The Constitution of Liberty where he decried the “change for change’s sake” mentality. He felt that it was “inorganic” and that innovations needed to be vetted and proven before they were widely adopted. Moreover, failures needed to be acknowledged quickly and thoroughly. The place of tradition was valid – it reined in impulses that would destroy the organic structure of the community, akin to Chesterton’s democracy of the dead. Yet, at the same time, individuals needed to have scope to experiment and innovate. It is a delicate balancing act.

  • SKPeterson

    Hayek expressed much the same sentiment in his The Constitution of Liberty where he decried the “change for change’s sake” mentality. He felt that it was “inorganic” and that innovations needed to be vetted and proven before they were widely adopted. Moreover, failures needed to be acknowledged quickly and thoroughly. The place of tradition was valid – it reined in impulses that would destroy the organic structure of the community, akin to Chesterton’s democracy of the dead. Yet, at the same time, individuals needed to have scope to experiment and innovate. It is a delicate balancing act.

  • Tom Hering

    So a culture of innovation often results in bad things, while a culture of tradition preserves things proven to be good. But what about the tradition of innovations that Luther took to task? Maybe the world isn’t so easily divided into opposing cultures.

  • Tom Hering

    So a culture of innovation often results in bad things, while a culture of tradition preserves things proven to be good. But what about the tradition of innovations that Luther took to task? Maybe the world isn’t so easily divided into opposing cultures.

  • #4 Kitty

    “At three, I went to Hebrew school, at ten I learned a trade. I heard they picked a bride for me, I hope she’s pretty.”

    Yeah, innovation sucks.
    I miss slavery. I’d even settle for segregation. And the Voting Rights Act~ don’t even get me started. Remember that time honored tradition of the church burning people it disagreed with at the stake. Yes, we need that back too.
    What else is social “innovation” responsible for?
    Medicare? pfft.
    Women’s suffrage?
    The Clean Air Act?
    The Clean Water Act?
    They didn’t have those things in Luther’s day and I certainly don’t recall anyone complaining about it.
    And the internet ~ that Great Satan of innovation! Do you realize how difficult it is to indoctrinate young people nowadays when they have scores of different ideas and perspectives at their fingertips?
    Yes, we want our children to grow up insular, bigoted, and mean but
    the Small Catechism can no longer guarantee this on a level playing field.
    So, yeah thanks innovation ~ for nuth’n!

  • #4 Kitty

    “At three, I went to Hebrew school, at ten I learned a trade. I heard they picked a bride for me, I hope she’s pretty.”

    Yeah, innovation sucks.
    I miss slavery. I’d even settle for segregation. And the Voting Rights Act~ don’t even get me started. Remember that time honored tradition of the church burning people it disagreed with at the stake. Yes, we need that back too.
    What else is social “innovation” responsible for?
    Medicare? pfft.
    Women’s suffrage?
    The Clean Air Act?
    The Clean Water Act?
    They didn’t have those things in Luther’s day and I certainly don’t recall anyone complaining about it.
    And the internet ~ that Great Satan of innovation! Do you realize how difficult it is to indoctrinate young people nowadays when they have scores of different ideas and perspectives at their fingertips?
    Yes, we want our children to grow up insular, bigoted, and mean but
    the Small Catechism can no longer guarantee this on a level playing field.
    So, yeah thanks innovation ~ for nuth’n!

  • Tom Hering

    “… we want our children to grow up insular, bigoted, and mean but
    the Small Catechism can no longer guarantee this …”

    Remember … to take … your medications … before posting.

  • Tom Hering

    “… we want our children to grow up insular, bigoted, and mean but
    the Small Catechism can no longer guarantee this …”

    Remember … to take … your medications … before posting.

  • Susan

    I thought the ending of Kimball’s article worth reprinting here:

    The fate of Mill’s teaching harbors a number of important lessons. One lesson concerns the relative weakness of reasoned arguments when they are pitted against a doctrine that exercises great emotional appeal. Critics like James Fitzjames Stephen and David Stove pointed out fatal weaknesses in Mill’s teaching about freedom. By any disinterested standard, Mill lost the argument. But he won the battle for our hearts and allegiance. If you think that is a merely academic phenomenon, consider the recent career of the phrase “hope and change.”

  • Susan

    I thought the ending of Kimball’s article worth reprinting here:

    The fate of Mill’s teaching harbors a number of important lessons. One lesson concerns the relative weakness of reasoned arguments when they are pitted against a doctrine that exercises great emotional appeal. Critics like James Fitzjames Stephen and David Stove pointed out fatal weaknesses in Mill’s teaching about freedom. By any disinterested standard, Mill lost the argument. But he won the battle for our hearts and allegiance. If you think that is a merely academic phenomenon, consider the recent career of the phrase “hope and change.”

  • #4 Kitty

    “Remember … to take … your medications … before posting.”
    LOL ~Yeah, granted that may have been a bit too satirical.

  • #4 Kitty

    “Remember … to take … your medications … before posting.”
    LOL ~Yeah, granted that may have been a bit too satirical.

  • George

    Dear #4 Kitty,

    It would be wise to realize that slavery was much an innovation before it became a tradition. The abolition of slavery should best be understood as a return to the Christian tradition against the tirade of “racial innovations” that took place throughout the West in the 17th-19th centuries. So let us be fair, for slavery was quite demolished during the “dark and unthinking” middle ages. As for burning people at the stake, it would, too, be wise to have a better grasp of the political situation during the middle ages, and be well liberal of you to assume that the conditions that prevailed during ancient times always imitated those that prevail now. Perhaps we should understand that different times demand different actions.

    And as for Medicare, the Clean Air Act etc. Some might argue all these things are misconceived to various degrees.

    Society is best understood as a union of our ancestors, ourselves, and our offspring. We must have a reverence for the aggregate of humanity and their experiences which they have handed down to us in the form of “tradition” and “culture.” Things change, perhaps things progress as we wisely and considerately add our experience to those of our progenitors; but only an ingrate spits on his fathers tomb.

  • George

    Dear #4 Kitty,

    It would be wise to realize that slavery was much an innovation before it became a tradition. The abolition of slavery should best be understood as a return to the Christian tradition against the tirade of “racial innovations” that took place throughout the West in the 17th-19th centuries. So let us be fair, for slavery was quite demolished during the “dark and unthinking” middle ages. As for burning people at the stake, it would, too, be wise to have a better grasp of the political situation during the middle ages, and be well liberal of you to assume that the conditions that prevailed during ancient times always imitated those that prevail now. Perhaps we should understand that different times demand different actions.

    And as for Medicare, the Clean Air Act etc. Some might argue all these things are misconceived to various degrees.

    Society is best understood as a union of our ancestors, ourselves, and our offspring. We must have a reverence for the aggregate of humanity and their experiences which they have handed down to us in the form of “tradition” and “culture.” Things change, perhaps things progress as we wisely and considerately add our experience to those of our progenitors; but only an ingrate spits on his fathers tomb.

  • steve

    Why do I keep hearing Tevye sing “Tradition!” Didn’t he conclude “On the other hand, our old ways were once new, weren’t they?”

  • steve

    Why do I keep hearing Tevye sing “Tradition!” Didn’t he conclude “On the other hand, our old ways were once new, weren’t they?”

  • George

    Tradition is just what is handed down. If one cries “tradition!” it is best a reminder that we should not squander our inheritance, but invest it, so to speak, adding to it, and pass it on to our children.

  • George

    Tradition is just what is handed down. If one cries “tradition!” it is best a reminder that we should not squander our inheritance, but invest it, so to speak, adding to it, and pass it on to our children.

  • Tim D.

    “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. ” ~ G. K. Chesterton

  • Tim D.

    “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. ” ~ G. K. Chesterton

  • George

    Though I might somewhat disagree, I can not bring myself to bring a harsh word against the venerable Chesterton.

  • George

    Though I might somewhat disagree, I can not bring myself to bring a harsh word against the venerable Chesterton.

  • Jonathan

    Jon Stewart Mill’s show revolutionized the way we think about comedy and political commentary.

  • Jonathan

    Jon Stewart Mill’s show revolutionized the way we think about comedy and political commentary.

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    The assumption that an idea should be judged by its date is like judging a car by its color. There are old ideas that are out of date and meaningless and old ideas that are the wisdom of the ages. There are new idea that are wonderful discoveries and new ideas that are horrid mistakes. We need to get past our prejudices and examine all ideas by the facts.

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    The assumption that an idea should be judged by its date is like judging a car by its color. There are old ideas that are out of date and meaningless and old ideas that are the wisdom of the ages. There are new idea that are wonderful discoveries and new ideas that are horrid mistakes. We need to get past our prejudices and examine all ideas by the facts.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, yes, but the burden of proof is upon the innovator.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, yes, but the burden of proof is upon the innovator.

  • FWS

    Susan,

    Most conservatives are about changing thing back to where they were before they were changed. But then where do we set the clock back to? And this is where most conservatives are not always so very honest isn’t it? And the ideas I see are usually pretty radical if “radical” is defined as “significant , major and important change.”

    So alot of this really does depend on point of view. I think the article ignores alot of facts I am saying. Tradition vs change is the frame of the article. I think…. um… not exactly.

    Would we really want to take the vote away from women, just for starters. And would we really want to roll the clock back to NT times and before as to the status of women? Consider please that when Christ describe himself as Groom to Church as Bride, this looked like 1) the Groom literally buying the Bride, who had the exact legal status of property. 2) She had NO choice in matters of marriage or sex. And i fully agree that marriage is a foundation of all other social structure. Our Lutheran Confessions actually say exactly this.

    And indeed this perfectly fits the fact that we become Christ’s with no choice at all in the matter, we are literally bought, not not with gold or silver but with the blood of God himself. And we are now the property (read slaves) of Jesus, just as St Paul literally called himself. But now I am not talking about “traditional ” marriage as in what your grandma did in the 50′s . Noooooo. I am talking “capital T” traditional marriage if you will. Think modern day afghanistan or saudi arabia if you will . Traditional, ie OT/NT biblical marriage looks almost exactly like that.

    But we mostly don’t think about this when we think to “defend traditional marriage.” We are probably imagining “traditional” looking more like a “leave it to beaver” episode.

    The article seems really manipulative, and appeals …can I say it? … to the emotional argument!

  • FWS

    Susan,

    Most conservatives are about changing thing back to where they were before they were changed. But then where do we set the clock back to? And this is where most conservatives are not always so very honest isn’t it? And the ideas I see are usually pretty radical if “radical” is defined as “significant , major and important change.”

    So alot of this really does depend on point of view. I think the article ignores alot of facts I am saying. Tradition vs change is the frame of the article. I think…. um… not exactly.

    Would we really want to take the vote away from women, just for starters. And would we really want to roll the clock back to NT times and before as to the status of women? Consider please that when Christ describe himself as Groom to Church as Bride, this looked like 1) the Groom literally buying the Bride, who had the exact legal status of property. 2) She had NO choice in matters of marriage or sex. And i fully agree that marriage is a foundation of all other social structure. Our Lutheran Confessions actually say exactly this.

    And indeed this perfectly fits the fact that we become Christ’s with no choice at all in the matter, we are literally bought, not not with gold or silver but with the blood of God himself. And we are now the property (read slaves) of Jesus, just as St Paul literally called himself. But now I am not talking about “traditional ” marriage as in what your grandma did in the 50′s . Noooooo. I am talking “capital T” traditional marriage if you will. Think modern day afghanistan or saudi arabia if you will . Traditional, ie OT/NT biblical marriage looks almost exactly like that.

    But we mostly don’t think about this when we think to “defend traditional marriage.” We are probably imagining “traditional” looking more like a “leave it to beaver” episode.

    The article seems really manipulative, and appeals …can I say it? … to the emotional argument!

  • FWS

    george @ 7

    “Perhaps we should understand that different times demand different actions.”

    This seems to be the catch phrase for every radical movement that has ever existed. And you are using it to support… um… tradition?

  • FWS

    george @ 7

    “Perhaps we should understand that different times demand different actions.”

    This seems to be the catch phrase for every radical movement that has ever existed. And you are using it to support… um… tradition?

  • Cincinnatus

    FWS, to what point should we set back the clocks? I’m thinking about 1850.

  • Cincinnatus

    FWS, to what point should we set back the clocks? I’m thinking about 1850.

  • FWS

    tim d @ 10 and Mike @ 13 Yup. Pretty much.
    Often we are presented in this sort of article that pits two things against each other. It frames the discussion in this exact way without identifying that it is doing so. And in that exact way it manipulates.

    Cincinnatus @ 14.

    So your rule is that WHENEVER anyone proposes ANY change, they must first prove exactly what to whom?

    I would be interested in your thoughts here dear man.

    I am sure you are catching my point?

  • FWS

    tim d @ 10 and Mike @ 13 Yup. Pretty much.
    Often we are presented in this sort of article that pits two things against each other. It frames the discussion in this exact way without identifying that it is doing so. And in that exact way it manipulates.

    Cincinnatus @ 14.

    So your rule is that WHENEVER anyone proposes ANY change, they must first prove exactly what to whom?

    I would be interested in your thoughts here dear man.

    I am sure you are catching my point?

  • Cincinnatus

    FWS: The burden of proof is upon the innovator to demonstrate that the disruption created by his proposed change is better than the operative status quo. (I am drawing here from Michael Oakeshott, whom I <3.) For instance, healthcare: Our current system is problematic, of course, but it is also operative. We're not dying on the streets, etc. Anyone who proposes a massive overhaul of the system needs to demonstrate–nay, prove–that the overhaul will, in fact, be a tangible improvement. Obama's system, by the way, didn't meet that burden. No on even tried.

    And, of course, if changes are necessary and suitable, it's better that they be small, unobtrusive, and incremental.

    And yes, to forestall a possible objection, immediate abolition of slavery was a bad idea.

  • Cincinnatus

    FWS: The burden of proof is upon the innovator to demonstrate that the disruption created by his proposed change is better than the operative status quo. (I am drawing here from Michael Oakeshott, whom I <3.) For instance, healthcare: Our current system is problematic, of course, but it is also operative. We're not dying on the streets, etc. Anyone who proposes a massive overhaul of the system needs to demonstrate–nay, prove–that the overhaul will, in fact, be a tangible improvement. Obama's system, by the way, didn't meet that burden. No on even tried.

    And, of course, if changes are necessary and suitable, it's better that they be small, unobtrusive, and incremental.

    And yes, to forestall a possible objection, immediate abolition of slavery was a bad idea.

  • Cincinnatus

    In other words, the status quo almost always works. If it doesn’t, such is usually the result of previous innovations. If it ain’t broke (or even if it is), don’t break it more. And be sure of it.

  • Cincinnatus

    In other words, the status quo almost always works. If it doesn’t, such is usually the result of previous innovations. If it ain’t broke (or even if it is), don’t break it more. And be sure of it.

  • FWS

    cincinnatus @ 17. Actually… slavery still exists then (even in the north!), but I think I see where you might be headed.

    I am thinking that rather than tradition or change, I would rather prefer slooooooow change. Examples: I think that the fall of communism happened way too rapidly. Does that mean I think communism was good. Absolutely not. But there was alot of human wreckage for people who simply knew no other system.

    Slavery, Was it worth the astounding toll of lives to fight the civil war, that was not really even about slavery I might argue (the emancipation proclamation was a military/political ploy… proof, the slaves in the north were not emancipated by that proclamation!).

    I really do believe that the evil (and it was diabolic and incomprehencible evil unarguably far worse than the holocaust…) probably would have very soon colapsed under its own weight, just as it did in Brasil about 30 years later.

    But no. This article makes things about “questioning tradition” as being change=yuck vs “tradition”-yum. And yes, “tradition” here really does need to be in quotes.

    Finally , Massachussets (sp?) has, I could argue, a constitution that is maybe the most excellent example of a republican constitution that has ever existed on the planet. It precisely forces changes wished by the present majority to happen slooooooowly. To override the supreme court you need to have two consecutive votes of the legislature spaced 2 or 4 year apart. I don’t remember the details, but the intent was to clearly frustrate a majority seeking change.

    Interestingly, this is probably also, precisely, why Mass. will probably be the last state in the union where the ‘defense of marriage ” folks will be able to overthrow legalized gay unions.

    Conservative republican principles often has surprising consequences in practice eh?

    Now, just because I am Confessional Lutheran, I will point out that the Confessions say that God himself is the one who Providences even social conventions, let alone societies laws.

    This is precisely why St Paul instructed his flock to conform to Jewish customs, until it was asserted that those customs were morally mandatory….

    Social customs and the shame those customs impose have saved alot of people alot of grief over the centuries, which I think is a point you made Cinn a few months back and I argued, strongly at the time , against. At the same time, it is not entirely unwise to question those customs. The aim of the Law is always to produce mercy and not sacrifice. Yet mercy cannot happen without those structures of customs, laws, rituals, and yes, traditions.

    This is precisely why Christ could criticize the Pharisees for making the point of the Law as being other-than-mercy, but at the same time tells us to obey them or their modern counterparts) “they sit in moses seat.”

  • FWS

    cincinnatus @ 17. Actually… slavery still exists then (even in the north!), but I think I see where you might be headed.

    I am thinking that rather than tradition or change, I would rather prefer slooooooow change. Examples: I think that the fall of communism happened way too rapidly. Does that mean I think communism was good. Absolutely not. But there was alot of human wreckage for people who simply knew no other system.

    Slavery, Was it worth the astounding toll of lives to fight the civil war, that was not really even about slavery I might argue (the emancipation proclamation was a military/political ploy… proof, the slaves in the north were not emancipated by that proclamation!).

    I really do believe that the evil (and it was diabolic and incomprehencible evil unarguably far worse than the holocaust…) probably would have very soon colapsed under its own weight, just as it did in Brasil about 30 years later.

    But no. This article makes things about “questioning tradition” as being change=yuck vs “tradition”-yum. And yes, “tradition” here really does need to be in quotes.

    Finally , Massachussets (sp?) has, I could argue, a constitution that is maybe the most excellent example of a republican constitution that has ever existed on the planet. It precisely forces changes wished by the present majority to happen slooooooowly. To override the supreme court you need to have two consecutive votes of the legislature spaced 2 or 4 year apart. I don’t remember the details, but the intent was to clearly frustrate a majority seeking change.

    Interestingly, this is probably also, precisely, why Mass. will probably be the last state in the union where the ‘defense of marriage ” folks will be able to overthrow legalized gay unions.

    Conservative republican principles often has surprising consequences in practice eh?

    Now, just because I am Confessional Lutheran, I will point out that the Confessions say that God himself is the one who Providences even social conventions, let alone societies laws.

    This is precisely why St Paul instructed his flock to conform to Jewish customs, until it was asserted that those customs were morally mandatory….

    Social customs and the shame those customs impose have saved alot of people alot of grief over the centuries, which I think is a point you made Cinn a few months back and I argued, strongly at the time , against. At the same time, it is not entirely unwise to question those customs. The aim of the Law is always to produce mercy and not sacrifice. Yet mercy cannot happen without those structures of customs, laws, rituals, and yes, traditions.

    This is precisely why Christ could criticize the Pharisees for making the point of the Law as being other-than-mercy, but at the same time tells us to obey them or their modern counterparts) “they sit in moses seat.”

  • FWS

    cincinatus @ 20

    ok then! the “status quo” for both republicans and democrats and the vast majority of the population is roosevelt/lbj/nixonian social activism by the government.

    Interesting Cinn. So Obama isn’t looking so bad to you then….it seems he is probably closer to being the one defending “the status quo” than any other politician today, including Ron Paul.

  • FWS

    cincinatus @ 20

    ok then! the “status quo” for both republicans and democrats and the vast majority of the population is roosevelt/lbj/nixonian social activism by the government.

    Interesting Cinn. So Obama isn’t looking so bad to you then….it seems he is probably closer to being the one defending “the status quo” than any other politician today, including Ron Paul.

  • FWS

    cinn @ 20

    This looks, again, like sloooooow change, but it also looks precisely like what Mills advocates, which is to contantly question social “convention” and “conventional thinking”. Again note the quotes….

  • FWS

    cinn @ 20

    This looks, again, like sloooooow change, but it also looks precisely like what Mills advocates, which is to contantly question social “convention” and “conventional thinking”. Again note the quotes….

  • FWS

    cinn @ 18

    as always your posts are always well reasoned and thought provoking. I was not thinking of the healthcare overhaul of Obama. Agreed. Bad idea. We could maybe expand the number of medical doctors and so adjust supply and demand without nearly as much social tinkering and with alot more profound results….

    And I agree with you about slavery, as with the fall of communism. you had a huge population of slaves , illiterate. who were instantly left to forage for food or worse. and then came the slavery-substitute called share cropping. we could go on and on eh?

    Oakeshott. Interesting that the most vocal proponent of this man’s work who is well known, is one Andrew Sullivan. He’s written a number of books focused exactly on Oakeshott’s ideas ….. And …..he argues for many views that you oppose. Being principled often makes for strange bed fellows….

  • FWS

    cinn @ 18

    as always your posts are always well reasoned and thought provoking. I was not thinking of the healthcare overhaul of Obama. Agreed. Bad idea. We could maybe expand the number of medical doctors and so adjust supply and demand without nearly as much social tinkering and with alot more profound results….

    And I agree with you about slavery, as with the fall of communism. you had a huge population of slaves , illiterate. who were instantly left to forage for food or worse. and then came the slavery-substitute called share cropping. we could go on and on eh?

    Oakeshott. Interesting that the most vocal proponent of this man’s work who is well known, is one Andrew Sullivan. He’s written a number of books focused exactly on Oakeshott’s ideas ….. And …..he argues for many views that you oppose. Being principled often makes for strange bed fellows….

  • FWS

    cinn,

    my observation was that the entrenched “status quo” is new deal/great society. both republicans and democrats seem the same on this.

    And I was arguing that Obama is really very much aligned with those “traditional” new deal/ great society democrats. And interestingly, the president he says he most admired and wishes to emulate as to foreign policy is one George Bush senior, who I would argue, also, in turn, very much in the tradition of the interventionism and positivism of america since wwII .

    And no I am not saying I agree with either obama or bush. just saying that “status quo” defines obama more than those who oppose him…. overall. hey republicans did that prescription med thangy. another horrible idea….

  • FWS

    cinn,

    my observation was that the entrenched “status quo” is new deal/great society. both republicans and democrats seem the same on this.

    And I was arguing that Obama is really very much aligned with those “traditional” new deal/ great society democrats. And interestingly, the president he says he most admired and wishes to emulate as to foreign policy is one George Bush senior, who I would argue, also, in turn, very much in the tradition of the interventionism and positivism of america since wwII .

    And no I am not saying I agree with either obama or bush. just saying that “status quo” defines obama more than those who oppose him…. overall. hey republicans did that prescription med thangy. another horrible idea….

  • FWS

    cinn.

    hey I just read an article in the wash post about “president Gingrich, idea factory”. Change… yikes!

  • FWS

    cinn.

    hey I just read an article in the wash post about “president Gingrich, idea factory”. Change… yikes!

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, I could argue that the LBJ/Rooseveltian/New Deal consensus, which is now crumbling, but which both Obama and George W. have fundamentally maintained, is itself a radical intervention in the traditional status quo–70 years, after all, is a day in world-historical terms. Thus, there is room in the sort of conservatism I outlined for Ron Paul’s more reactionary tendencies: return to robust federalism, return to a limited governmental apparatus, etc.

    In other words, would it really be “change” or “innovation” to, say, eliminate the EPA or slice the defense budget in half (at least)? Reasonable conservatives of the Oakeshottian variety might disagree.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, I could argue that the LBJ/Rooseveltian/New Deal consensus, which is now crumbling, but which both Obama and George W. have fundamentally maintained, is itself a radical intervention in the traditional status quo–70 years, after all, is a day in world-historical terms. Thus, there is room in the sort of conservatism I outlined for Ron Paul’s more reactionary tendencies: return to robust federalism, return to a limited governmental apparatus, etc.

    In other words, would it really be “change” or “innovation” to, say, eliminate the EPA or slice the defense budget in half (at least)? Reasonable conservatives of the Oakeshottian variety might disagree.

  • Cincinnatus

    But yeah, “ideas” in politics are generally a bad idea.

  • Cincinnatus

    But yeah, “ideas” in politics are generally a bad idea.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Where does one find their neighbor in this school of thought. The entire essence of Mill’s discourse is directed inward toward the self as opposed to Christ’s command to love our neighbor as our primary duty. I can find little agreement with such egotistic argument for by myself, I find no freedom in society regardless of whatever innovation we may concoct.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Where does one find their neighbor in this school of thought. The entire essence of Mill’s discourse is directed inward toward the self as opposed to Christ’s command to love our neighbor as our primary duty. I can find little agreement with such egotistic argument for by myself, I find no freedom in society regardless of whatever innovation we may concoct.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • fws

    dennis P

    +1

    and further the alternative presented as being tradition also misses the mark. both are only truly good to the extent they make the lives of other better. both can by a tyranny.

    and… as you stated… a christian is free, but we are also not free because we are to enslave ourselves to the task of doing mercy towards others.

  • fws

    dennis P

    +1

    and further the alternative presented as being tradition also misses the mark. both are only truly good to the extent they make the lives of other better. both can by a tyranny.

    and… as you stated… a christian is free, but we are also not free because we are to enslave ourselves to the task of doing mercy towards others.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Frank – good point. I would rather be enslaved to the law of the spirit than condemned to the spirit of the law.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Frank – good point. I would rather be enslaved to the law of the spirit than condemned to the spirit of the law.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • fws

    I have a question, that I think comes from classic enlightenment also. There is a common conservative doctrine that the ONLY true or moral role of government is peacekeeping.

    Does anyone here know where this doctrine comes from or what is the rational or scriptural basis for such a doctrine.

    I would be willing to suggest, that from the Lutheran Confessions, ALL government , of family , society and church, is only filling it’s moral obligation if each is positively active in doing acts of mercy for those in need of it. So this would include corporations, and the wealthy.

    The catechisms seem to be quite clear that the creation of wealth is only moral if it is being given away or used to benefit others somehow. So is welfare theft then? Well. Our confessions say that the poor and widows and orphans and such have a moral claim on our excess. Is the government allowed to enforce that moral claim? Is that theft? Or is it maybe a punishment on all of us for not being as generous as God’s Law demands… instead we buy winnebagos, and boats, and other expensive items….

  • fws

    I have a question, that I think comes from classic enlightenment also. There is a common conservative doctrine that the ONLY true or moral role of government is peacekeeping.

    Does anyone here know where this doctrine comes from or what is the rational or scriptural basis for such a doctrine.

    I would be willing to suggest, that from the Lutheran Confessions, ALL government , of family , society and church, is only filling it’s moral obligation if each is positively active in doing acts of mercy for those in need of it. So this would include corporations, and the wealthy.

    The catechisms seem to be quite clear that the creation of wealth is only moral if it is being given away or used to benefit others somehow. So is welfare theft then? Well. Our confessions say that the poor and widows and orphans and such have a moral claim on our excess. Is the government allowed to enforce that moral claim? Is that theft? Or is it maybe a punishment on all of us for not being as generous as God’s Law demands… instead we buy winnebagos, and boats, and other expensive items….

  • Cincinnatus

    fws: I would suggest that the original source of that idea is St. Augustine. No doubt he derived it from elsewhere (and he claims to be operating from the Scriptures), but Civitas Dei is the first systematic formulation of that idea: in a fallen world, the sole earthly aim of government and the chief earthly desire of all men, pagan and Christian alike, is pursuing and maintaining peace. Even war ought to be fought for the end of peace.

  • Cincinnatus

    fws: I would suggest that the original source of that idea is St. Augustine. No doubt he derived it from elsewhere (and he claims to be operating from the Scriptures), but Civitas Dei is the first systematic formulation of that idea: in a fallen world, the sole earthly aim of government and the chief earthly desire of all men, pagan and Christian alike, is pursuing and maintaining peace. Even war ought to be fought for the end of peace.

  • Lou

    GREAT post, Dr. Veith. Superb.

  • Lou

    GREAT post, Dr. Veith. Superb.

  • fws

    cincinnatus @ 33

    I suspected you would know the answer. but my question was a bit different I think. Libertarians maintain that the government should stay out of any function that is not SOLEY about maintaining the peace… so military and police. the more purist libertarians that is. I was wondering where the basis for that doctrine came from.

    Luther says that the sum total of the moral law is for us to tend to our own life and stay out of the business, life and property of others, so we may all enjoy the blessings God gave us in peace.
    This indeed looks like that “negative” law that libertarians favor.

    But then Luther also says there is a positive or proactive side to the Law (following of course Jesus and St Paul), where he says that, morally speaking, it is the obligation of everyone and organized society of church, family and government, to provide mercy to others.

    In that schema, mercy cannot exist without virtue and self sacrifice/mortification. BUT virtue then is NOT it’s own reward. Virtue does not qualify as biblical righeousness unless it bears tangible evidential fruit of Mercy and Goodness being provided to others. Without mercy and Goodness, Virtue is then the idolatry of sacrifice.

    A good metaphor is that individuals, and the structures of society of family , church and government and business etc, are like factories. Factories need to be well organized, disciplined and regimented etc. But the entire purpose of the Factory and it’s perfection, is ALONE to produce goods for others.

    virtue is pointless without that production Lutheran ethics maintain. and so from this I would say it is not wrong for government to be involved in more than merely the negative policing actions. or at least that is what I am told to believe as Lutheran christian.

  • fws

    cincinnatus @ 33

    I suspected you would know the answer. but my question was a bit different I think. Libertarians maintain that the government should stay out of any function that is not SOLEY about maintaining the peace… so military and police. the more purist libertarians that is. I was wondering where the basis for that doctrine came from.

    Luther says that the sum total of the moral law is for us to tend to our own life and stay out of the business, life and property of others, so we may all enjoy the blessings God gave us in peace.
    This indeed looks like that “negative” law that libertarians favor.

    But then Luther also says there is a positive or proactive side to the Law (following of course Jesus and St Paul), where he says that, morally speaking, it is the obligation of everyone and organized society of church, family and government, to provide mercy to others.

    In that schema, mercy cannot exist without virtue and self sacrifice/mortification. BUT virtue then is NOT it’s own reward. Virtue does not qualify as biblical righeousness unless it bears tangible evidential fruit of Mercy and Goodness being provided to others. Without mercy and Goodness, Virtue is then the idolatry of sacrifice.

    A good metaphor is that individuals, and the structures of society of family , church and government and business etc, are like factories. Factories need to be well organized, disciplined and regimented etc. But the entire purpose of the Factory and it’s perfection, is ALONE to produce goods for others.

    virtue is pointless without that production Lutheran ethics maintain. and so from this I would say it is not wrong for government to be involved in more than merely the negative policing actions. or at least that is what I am told to believe as Lutheran christian.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, well, purely negative libertarianism is rooted in the sort of rational individualism that emerged during the Enlightenment. The new conception of the human being as a free, independent, and rational agent naturally engenders a belief that any unnecessary restriction upon one’s free will and individuality is problematic.

    There’s no specific name I would cite here. Just the Enlightenment liberal tradition. Locke, of course, is important: the the role of government is to protect property and enforce contracts. Some interpreters will disagree regarding whether “that’s it” for Locke, but those, I think, are the only two undeniable purposes of civil government for Locke, among others. One might point to Hobbes as well: the sole justification for the existence of a Sovereign is to establish and maintain order (at any cost). Anything else is, at best, frosting on the cake and, at worst, idealistic nonsense. We don’t need a sovereign to provide affirmative goods (cf. negative vs. positive liberty in the essays of Isaiah Berlin); we need a sovereign to keep us from slaughtering one another in the streets.

    Luther, by the way, was deeply Augustinian. But Augustine also noted that the Christian’s amor dei should, in political life, manifest itself as caritas–charity, a concern for the common good, including the good of one’s pagan neighbors. For Augustine, however, the common good is embodied in earthly peace. A ruler concerned with furthering the common good pursues peace. Could various welfare programs, etc., be conductive to peace? Sure, maybe. Augustine doesn’t specify, but it is clear that a) the possibilities of politics are decidedly limited in a fallen world and b) the justification for welfare programs–or any government action–isn’t to make your neighbor more comfortable, etc. The aim is to keep the peace.

  • Cincinnatus

    Ah, well, purely negative libertarianism is rooted in the sort of rational individualism that emerged during the Enlightenment. The new conception of the human being as a free, independent, and rational agent naturally engenders a belief that any unnecessary restriction upon one’s free will and individuality is problematic.

    There’s no specific name I would cite here. Just the Enlightenment liberal tradition. Locke, of course, is important: the the role of government is to protect property and enforce contracts. Some interpreters will disagree regarding whether “that’s it” for Locke, but those, I think, are the only two undeniable purposes of civil government for Locke, among others. One might point to Hobbes as well: the sole justification for the existence of a Sovereign is to establish and maintain order (at any cost). Anything else is, at best, frosting on the cake and, at worst, idealistic nonsense. We don’t need a sovereign to provide affirmative goods (cf. negative vs. positive liberty in the essays of Isaiah Berlin); we need a sovereign to keep us from slaughtering one another in the streets.

    Luther, by the way, was deeply Augustinian. But Augustine also noted that the Christian’s amor dei should, in political life, manifest itself as caritas–charity, a concern for the common good, including the good of one’s pagan neighbors. For Augustine, however, the common good is embodied in earthly peace. A ruler concerned with furthering the common good pursues peace. Could various welfare programs, etc., be conductive to peace? Sure, maybe. Augustine doesn’t specify, but it is clear that a) the possibilities of politics are decidedly limited in a fallen world and b) the justification for welfare programs–or any government action–isn’t to make your neighbor more comfortable, etc. The aim is to keep the peace.

  • fws

    cincinnatus 36

    excellent response. very helpful.

    I would suggest to you that Luther ended up rather radically departing from Augustine. he himself said something to the effect of “I discovered Augustine, but then after discovering St Paul, I no longer had a use for Augustine.’ or something like that. Luther ended up rejecting both the platonism of Augustine and the Aristotelian St Thomas (whom I love by the way). He called Aristotle a whore introduced into the church. ahem.

    Interestingly though, at the same time, the Lutheran Confessions say this: “concerning matters of morality, nothing can be demanded beyond the ethics of Aristotle.” So they just wanted to separate “ethics/morality” from the Christian faith.

    For Lutherans, there is no such thing as a “christian” or “Lutheran ” ethic. There are just ethics. And pagans can know and do those as well or better than any christian. (rom 2:15) Reason is the Divine Law of God revealed in the minds (not the heart!) of all men, even those withhout bibles.

    I would suggest that John Calvin is the one who became really the Uber Augustinian. I would suggest that he is the purest continuation of Augustian thought.

    The Lutheran confessions say that loaves of bread should be placed upon the state official seal of government to remind them of their duty. So maybe sweden is a product of centuries of Lutheran theology, and maybe england is the product of Calvin’s Augustinianism?

  • fws

    cincinnatus 36

    excellent response. very helpful.

    I would suggest to you that Luther ended up rather radically departing from Augustine. he himself said something to the effect of “I discovered Augustine, but then after discovering St Paul, I no longer had a use for Augustine.’ or something like that. Luther ended up rejecting both the platonism of Augustine and the Aristotelian St Thomas (whom I love by the way). He called Aristotle a whore introduced into the church. ahem.

    Interestingly though, at the same time, the Lutheran Confessions say this: “concerning matters of morality, nothing can be demanded beyond the ethics of Aristotle.” So they just wanted to separate “ethics/morality” from the Christian faith.

    For Lutherans, there is no such thing as a “christian” or “Lutheran ” ethic. There are just ethics. And pagans can know and do those as well or better than any christian. (rom 2:15) Reason is the Divine Law of God revealed in the minds (not the heart!) of all men, even those withhout bibles.

    I would suggest that John Calvin is the one who became really the Uber Augustinian. I would suggest that he is the purest continuation of Augustian thought.

    The Lutheran confessions say that loaves of bread should be placed upon the state official seal of government to remind them of their duty. So maybe sweden is a product of centuries of Lutheran theology, and maybe england is the product of Calvin’s Augustinianism?

  • fws

    Cinn, thanks for all your comments. as usual they are very very informative and clear.

  • fws

    Cinn, thanks for all your comments. as usual they are very very informative and clear.

  • fws

    cinn @ 36

    “the justification for welfare programs–or any government action–isn’t to make your neighbor more comfortable, etc. The aim is to keep the peace.”

    Isnt this a theological begging of the question? The bible seems clear that the poor, widows, orphans and dregs of society do have a moral claim on the wealth of others.

    And yes, that moral claim is upon individuals. Government is always the worse and most inefficient and wasteful and indescriminate vehicle for the delivery of these goods. I do get that.

    But… I sort of think of socialism and government welfare as a sort of Divine punishment for individual failure to do their duty and divert their funds to the needy rather than opt to buy the summer home or winnebago. In the past there were many hospitals and schools that were funding by christians and by churches. And then there was not so much government redistribution.

    Now there is welfare and far less private charity. I see a correlation. God threatens to punish those who do not willingly keep his commandments which are intended to make goodness and mercy happen among men. not just peace. And he hears the cries of the poor we are told. the Law always gets its man . either willingly or by force.

  • fws

    cinn @ 36

    “the justification for welfare programs–or any government action–isn’t to make your neighbor more comfortable, etc. The aim is to keep the peace.”

    Isnt this a theological begging of the question? The bible seems clear that the poor, widows, orphans and dregs of society do have a moral claim on the wealth of others.

    And yes, that moral claim is upon individuals. Government is always the worse and most inefficient and wasteful and indescriminate vehicle for the delivery of these goods. I do get that.

    But… I sort of think of socialism and government welfare as a sort of Divine punishment for individual failure to do their duty and divert their funds to the needy rather than opt to buy the summer home or winnebago. In the past there were many hospitals and schools that were funding by christians and by churches. And then there was not so much government redistribution.

    Now there is welfare and far less private charity. I see a correlation. God threatens to punish those who do not willingly keep his commandments which are intended to make goodness and mercy happen among men. not just peace. And he hears the cries of the poor we are told. the Law always gets its man . either willingly or by force.

  • Lou

    Cincinnatus #14 — Loved this…
    “Ah, yes, but the burden of proof is upon the innovator.”

  • Lou

    Cincinnatus #14 — Loved this…
    “Ah, yes, but the burden of proof is upon the innovator.”

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    @14
    I would both agree and disagree.
    I do think that there is a greater burden of proof on the innovator because his idea is untested.
    But I also think there is a tendency to simply go along with whatever has been done and never question it until the situation becomes intolerable. I fully agree with you on Obamacare, but I do not think that means should not ask how to fix the present system until it reaches a crisis.
    Both sides need to be expected to prove their case and even the current system must be submitted to examination.
    The error comes when everything new is assumed to be good.

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    @14
    I would both agree and disagree.
    I do think that there is a greater burden of proof on the innovator because his idea is untested.
    But I also think there is a tendency to simply go along with whatever has been done and never question it until the situation becomes intolerable. I fully agree with you on Obamacare, but I do not think that means should not ask how to fix the present system until it reaches a crisis.
    Both sides need to be expected to prove their case and even the current system must be submitted to examination.
    The error comes when everything new is assumed to be good.

  • Cincinnatus

    “But I also think there is a tendency to simply go along with whatever has been done and never question it until the situation becomes intolerable.”

    I don’t think this has happened in the United Stats. Ever. This tendency does not exist. America has not had a truly conservative (in your sense of thoughtlessly preserving the status quo just ‘cuz) for many decades, if ever.

  • Cincinnatus

    “But I also think there is a tendency to simply go along with whatever has been done and never question it until the situation becomes intolerable.”

    I don’t think this has happened in the United Stats. Ever. This tendency does not exist. America has not had a truly conservative (in your sense of thoughtlessly preserving the status quo just ‘cuz) for many decades, if ever.

  • Cincinnatus

    truly conservative* Congress, President, or electorate*

  • Cincinnatus

    truly conservative* Congress, President, or electorate*

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    @42
    Take for example the idea of the government thoughtlessly spending more money then it has. It seems to me this accepted not because most people are economic Keynesians, but because it is the established practice. I am convinced the same principle is true in the area of abortion. Because we have accepted it, it must be right. People are always unwilling to admit the status quo (whether “conservative” or “liberal”) is wrong and must be changed.

  • http://mikeerich.blogspot.com Mike Erich The Mad Theologian

    @42
    Take for example the idea of the government thoughtlessly spending more money then it has. It seems to me this accepted not because most people are economic Keynesians, but because it is the established practice. I am convinced the same principle is true in the area of abortion. Because we have accepted it, it must be right. People are always unwilling to admit the status quo (whether “conservative” or “liberal”) is wrong and must be changed.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The bible seems clear that the poor, widows, orphans and dregs of society do have a moral claim on the wealth of others.”

    Really?

    It seems the reverse. They have no claim on us. We owe them nothing, and they can do nothing for us which is what makes our charity, charity. If they can do something for us, however menial, then there is the issue of fair compensation for the services they render.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The bible seems clear that the poor, widows, orphans and dregs of society do have a moral claim on the wealth of others.”

    Really?

    It seems the reverse. They have no claim on us. We owe them nothing, and they can do nothing for us which is what makes our charity, charity. If they can do something for us, however menial, then there is the issue of fair compensation for the services they render.

  • Dust

    The Courts and Judicial system doesn’t get the respect they richly deserve for keeping the peace in modern civil society. Imagine trying to enforce some kind of contract against a person much bigger and stronger and less ethical than you?

    Have read that once upon a time, only the nobility, aristocrats, royalty had access to courts to work out their legal grievances in a peaceful way. Perhaps one of the lawyers who comment on this blog can provide better examples, and better yet, explain the history of this other important gift from God and it’s role in keeping the peace, albeit behind closed doors and out of sight for most folks, and thus out of mind…until they need it :)

  • Dust

    The Courts and Judicial system doesn’t get the respect they richly deserve for keeping the peace in modern civil society. Imagine trying to enforce some kind of contract against a person much bigger and stronger and less ethical than you?

    Have read that once upon a time, only the nobility, aristocrats, royalty had access to courts to work out their legal grievances in a peaceful way. Perhaps one of the lawyers who comment on this blog can provide better examples, and better yet, explain the history of this other important gift from God and it’s role in keeping the peace, albeit behind closed doors and out of sight for most folks, and thus out of mind…until they need it :)

  • fwsf

    sg @ 43

    Yes. Really. Or rather, this is what the Lutheran Confessions say the Holy Scriptures say.

    You are right. Mercy is undeserved. and … you are also right that mercy is not something earned.

    Here is where you are wrong: Mercy is the “sum” or the point or the God-intended keeping of the Law.

    For Aristotle Virtue (aka self-discipline, self reliance, mortification, self sacrifice and etc) = Right-eousness. “Virtue is it’s own reward” sums that idea nicely. Or… Virtue =Obedience to God’s Laws= Right-eousness says the Pharisees.

    But God says this: “Go find out what it means when God says ‘I desire is for mercy not for sacrifice’ “. This was what Jesus said when he broke the sabbath (ie the letter of the law in the 10 commandments). And yes, Jesus broke the 10 commandments. That was his point in remembering that David ate the shobread from the temple when he was hungry. That was another clear breaking of the Law that actually was a capital crime !

    So yes SG, the entire sum, or ALL of the commandments are intended to direct us to do only one thing : Show mercy to others.

    So then in the Bible then, unlike aristotle, God desired righeousness= mercy done to others.

    Now it is true that without virtue mercy cannot happen in sinful men.

    Think of this analogy sg to catch my point here:

    persons are like a factory. For a factory to be productive, it must be disciplined, organized, etc. Virtue! but…

    The entire reason for the existence of the virtuous factory is to do what? The ENTIRE purpose of each person and virtue is to produce stuff that makes the lives of others better in a way that really pleases them.

    So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life. “go and sell all you have and give it to the poor” was not a new commandment that we are to all follow, but it WAS to point out that , when it comes to material goods, greed (the idolatry of wealth , is often masked as “virtue’, and maybe it even IS virtue! But…. it is not the righeousness that God’s Law demands of each of us. That righteousness would be to do Mercy!

  • fwsf

    sg @ 43

    Yes. Really. Or rather, this is what the Lutheran Confessions say the Holy Scriptures say.

    You are right. Mercy is undeserved. and … you are also right that mercy is not something earned.

    Here is where you are wrong: Mercy is the “sum” or the point or the God-intended keeping of the Law.

    For Aristotle Virtue (aka self-discipline, self reliance, mortification, self sacrifice and etc) = Right-eousness. “Virtue is it’s own reward” sums that idea nicely. Or… Virtue =Obedience to God’s Laws= Right-eousness says the Pharisees.

    But God says this: “Go find out what it means when God says ‘I desire is for mercy not for sacrifice’ “. This was what Jesus said when he broke the sabbath (ie the letter of the law in the 10 commandments). And yes, Jesus broke the 10 commandments. That was his point in remembering that David ate the shobread from the temple when he was hungry. That was another clear breaking of the Law that actually was a capital crime !

    So yes SG, the entire sum, or ALL of the commandments are intended to direct us to do only one thing : Show mercy to others.

    So then in the Bible then, unlike aristotle, God desired righeousness= mercy done to others.

    Now it is true that without virtue mercy cannot happen in sinful men.

    Think of this analogy sg to catch my point here:

    persons are like a factory. For a factory to be productive, it must be disciplined, organized, etc. Virtue! but…

    The entire reason for the existence of the virtuous factory is to do what? The ENTIRE purpose of each person and virtue is to produce stuff that makes the lives of others better in a way that really pleases them.

    So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life. “go and sell all you have and give it to the poor” was not a new commandment that we are to all follow, but it WAS to point out that , when it comes to material goods, greed (the idolatry of wealth , is often masked as “virtue’, and maybe it even IS virtue! But…. it is not the righeousness that God’s Law demands of each of us. That righteousness would be to do Mercy!

  • helen

    Isaiah 58:5-10
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    5(A) Is such the fast that I choose,
    (B) a day for a person to humble himself?
    Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
    Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the LORD?

    6″Is not this the fast that I choose:
    (C) to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps(D) of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed[a] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
    7Is it not(E) to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover him,
    (F) and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
    8(G) Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    (H) and your healing shall spring up speedily;
    (I) your righteousness shall go before you;
    (J) the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
    9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
    If you take away(K) the yoke from your midst,
    (L) the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
    10(M) if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
    (N) then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.

  • helen

    Isaiah 58:5-10
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    5(A) Is such the fast that I choose,
    (B) a day for a person to humble himself?
    Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
    Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the LORD?

    6″Is not this the fast that I choose:
    (C) to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps(D) of the yoke,
    to let the oppressed[a] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
    7Is it not(E) to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
    when you see the naked, to cover him,
    (F) and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
    8(G) Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    (H) and your healing shall spring up speedily;
    (I) your righteousness shall go before you;
    (J) the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
    9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
    If you take away(K) the yoke from your midst,
    (L) the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
    10(M) if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
    (N) then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.

  • fws

    helen @ 48

    Elegant Helen. Thanks!

    And who of us really does this that the Law demands? None of us.
    We should fear God and do his will so that he does not need to send us punishments and suffering to make us do this Mercy and Goodness for others.

    And it is not just the poor. ALL of our neighbors are “hungry” for a word of praise or encouragement. All of our neighbors have had their heart broken or have been disillusioned in some terrible way. ALL of our neighbors have borne alot of suffering.

    And they have a claim on us . We are to pour out our own lives and material goods and time and words to do everything we can and have every single thing we do, be aimed at diminishing this suffering and make the lives of others happier and better.

    And we especially do this for those who least deserve it. Those who have made a terrible mess of their lives and who can’t seem to see a way to stop doing that. The lost, the least, the last, the unloved, the unlovable, and the unlikable who are usually unlikable because they suffer inside. We are to love those who curse us.

    Mercy is , by definition, always undeserved. But Mercy, even though it sounds like Gospel is not. It is exactly what the Law of God demands of us to do.

    The Law ALWAYS accuses US, so that the Law can literally extort Goodness and Mercy out of us for OTHERS. The Law that is always the death of us and accuses us, is precisely what God uses to make Mercy and Goodness happen for others.

    Apaet from Christ, only the Law is able to make Fatherly Goodness and Mercy flow out of sinful men. Lord have mercy!

    Luke 18 and the story of the Lawless Judge nagged by a conscience that is dead to love shows exactly how God works, “in, with and under” sinful and even lawless men, to make his Fatherly Goodness and Mercy happen.

    We either do that Law, or… the Law will do us, and do us to death. Some choice….

  • fws

    helen @ 48

    Elegant Helen. Thanks!

    And who of us really does this that the Law demands? None of us.
    We should fear God and do his will so that he does not need to send us punishments and suffering to make us do this Mercy and Goodness for others.

    And it is not just the poor. ALL of our neighbors are “hungry” for a word of praise or encouragement. All of our neighbors have had their heart broken or have been disillusioned in some terrible way. ALL of our neighbors have borne alot of suffering.

    And they have a claim on us . We are to pour out our own lives and material goods and time and words to do everything we can and have every single thing we do, be aimed at diminishing this suffering and make the lives of others happier and better.

    And we especially do this for those who least deserve it. Those who have made a terrible mess of their lives and who can’t seem to see a way to stop doing that. The lost, the least, the last, the unloved, the unlovable, and the unlikable who are usually unlikable because they suffer inside. We are to love those who curse us.

    Mercy is , by definition, always undeserved. But Mercy, even though it sounds like Gospel is not. It is exactly what the Law of God demands of us to do.

    The Law ALWAYS accuses US, so that the Law can literally extort Goodness and Mercy out of us for OTHERS. The Law that is always the death of us and accuses us, is precisely what God uses to make Mercy and Goodness happen for others.

    Apaet from Christ, only the Law is able to make Fatherly Goodness and Mercy flow out of sinful men. Lord have mercy!

    Luke 18 and the story of the Lawless Judge nagged by a conscience that is dead to love shows exactly how God works, “in, with and under” sinful and even lawless men, to make his Fatherly Goodness and Mercy happen.

    We either do that Law, or… the Law will do us, and do us to death. Some choice….

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Since I was preoccupied with another conversation around here ;) , I did not follow this one so much. JSM – wrong. If the new is better, and the case can be mad ethat replacing the old is for the greater good, sure. But new for newness sake is idiotic. Period.

    As to the subsequent conversation, one has to dig deeper, and ask deeper questions. To put it super-simplistically, is the help one offers to the poor and oppressed a teach to fish, or give a fish kind of help? What has a real, lasting effect? That has been one of my stock complaints, especially this time of year when people want to work on your conscience to send money to some group of poor folks some place far…. Or when our loyal opposition here in Canada wants to create new handouts. No – get people working, and in the case of those far away – trade with them, help them develop their resources, build farms and mines, and schools, and that way you get them out of it. Too often the scattering of charity dollars, and sometimes tax dollars in lieu of charity dollars, is simply consience money, instead of a real effort to help real people to give them, to borrow a popular phrase – “change you can believe in”. Help them to help themselves. That is neither the super-libertarian every-one- for-himself-and-the-devil-takes-the-hindmost kind of approach, nor is it the avancular let’s all go bankrupt with other peoples money approach. Or your own money.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Since I was preoccupied with another conversation around here ;) , I did not follow this one so much. JSM – wrong. If the new is better, and the case can be mad ethat replacing the old is for the greater good, sure. But new for newness sake is idiotic. Period.

    As to the subsequent conversation, one has to dig deeper, and ask deeper questions. To put it super-simplistically, is the help one offers to the poor and oppressed a teach to fish, or give a fish kind of help? What has a real, lasting effect? That has been one of my stock complaints, especially this time of year when people want to work on your conscience to send money to some group of poor folks some place far…. Or when our loyal opposition here in Canada wants to create new handouts. No – get people working, and in the case of those far away – trade with them, help them develop their resources, build farms and mines, and schools, and that way you get them out of it. Too often the scattering of charity dollars, and sometimes tax dollars in lieu of charity dollars, is simply consience money, instead of a real effort to help real people to give them, to borrow a popular phrase – “change you can believe in”. Help them to help themselves. That is neither the super-libertarian every-one- for-himself-and-the-devil-takes-the-hindmost kind of approach, nor is it the avancular let’s all go bankrupt with other peoples money approach. Or your own money.

  • Grace

    This passage of Scripture addresses some of these questions. It also talks about our “brother” whom I would say was my blood brother, or a brother in Christ… meaning a Christian Believer

    6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

    7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

    8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

    9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

    10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

    11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

    12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

    13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

    14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

    15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3

  • Grace

    This passage of Scripture addresses some of these questions. It also talks about our “brother” whom I would say was my blood brother, or a brother in Christ… meaning a Christian Believer

    6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

    7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

    8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:

    9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.

    10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

    11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

    12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

    13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

    14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

    15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3

  • fws

    Klasie @ 50

    Ok. As Jesus says “Do this and you will live.” We all SHOULD have a guilty conscience. The accumulation of wealth is a gift of God that he demands we use in service to others, beyond a modest way of life for ourselves and our families. So Klasie: Decide which is the best and most effective way to do mercy for others…. and then empty your pockets and get to work doing what God is commanding you to do in his Law. or….. expect that God will send punishments and suffering to make you do these things.

    Who does these things as they should? No where in the land of the living. Lord have mercy!

    Grace @51

    You have earlier claimed that “brother” ONLY means other christians. You have not proven that. I would suggest to you that “brother” is your neighbor, or whoever needs your mercy and help. Was the good samaritan a christian? was the man he helped a christian? Was the man Jesus aimed this story at christian?

    and another sticking point: so that means that where God’s Law says we are to pour ourselves out doing mercy to our “brother” does not apply to non christians! non christians can ignore the needs of the poor, and those in need without sinning then! Because you say THIS is a Law that is ONLY for christians….. Something does not pass the smell test here Grace.

  • fws

    Klasie @ 50

    Ok. As Jesus says “Do this and you will live.” We all SHOULD have a guilty conscience. The accumulation of wealth is a gift of God that he demands we use in service to others, beyond a modest way of life for ourselves and our families. So Klasie: Decide which is the best and most effective way to do mercy for others…. and then empty your pockets and get to work doing what God is commanding you to do in his Law. or….. expect that God will send punishments and suffering to make you do these things.

    Who does these things as they should? No where in the land of the living. Lord have mercy!

    Grace @51

    You have earlier claimed that “brother” ONLY means other christians. You have not proven that. I would suggest to you that “brother” is your neighbor, or whoever needs your mercy and help. Was the good samaritan a christian? was the man he helped a christian? Was the man Jesus aimed this story at christian?

    and another sticking point: so that means that where God’s Law says we are to pour ourselves out doing mercy to our “brother” does not apply to non christians! non christians can ignore the needs of the poor, and those in need without sinning then! Because you say THIS is a Law that is ONLY for christians….. Something does not pass the smell test here Grace.

  • fws

    Klassie @ 50 and Grace @ 51

    Klasie: “As to the subsequent conversation, one has to dig deeper, and ask deeper questions. To put it super-simplistically, is the help one offers to the poor and oppressed a teach to fish, or give a fish kind of help? What has a real, lasting effect?”
    Grace: “… our “brother”…[those who have a claim on our wealth and mercy means] …..a brother in Christ… meaning a Christian Believer”

    May I suggest that you are both asking “who is my neighbor?”.

    And might I suggesty that this question that is to say “Who has a claim on my conscience when the Law tells me that others can demand that we do mercy and goodness to them in the same way we long to have others do it unto us?”

    Finally might I suggest that you have both placed yourself in the position of the young attorney to who Jesus addressed the Story of the Good Samaritan. May I suggest that that is precisely where we are to go to answer the question as to WHO it is that the Law demands that we “do love , mercy and goodness to. This is precisely the question you have both raised isn’t it? Both Grace and Klassie have suggested that the Law demands that we do” mercy and goodness” (the biblical definition of the what neighborly second table love is) to whom? To those who work and deserve it.

    Ok. Let’s look at whom Jesus identifies as who has a claim on our conscience and our goodness and mercy in the Gospel according to Saint Luke:

    29 But because he wished to justify himself , he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

    Note here Grace that he does not ask “who is my brother?”, or Klassie “How do we do mercy in a way that will make alife changing and enduring difference ?”.

    Note also that both the attorney , with Jesus’ approval shifts from some intangible “love” to what? Doing mercy. Love of Neighbor is in the act. It is something we are commanded to do. And that something is mercy.

    This should remind you of where Jesus points the pharisees to this passage: “I would have mercy rather than sacrifice”.

    Mercy, by definition, is always, always, always the opposite of what we deserve isn’t it? “He who does not work does not eat.” That IS what justice looks like. And that is what the Law tells us: “Do what I demand or die.” In this case God’s Law tells you that you will die of starvation.

    Justice, the letter of the Law, is what we all deserve. And Jesus tells us at the end of the story, really what that Justice WILL claim of us all at the end! Please read on:

    30Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.

    A total stranger. It could be a trap. There could be men hiding in the bushes using this man as bait. Note too that being stripped of all we have and being beaten down by life to our death is what? It is the justice that we all deserve isn’t it? This is precisely what the Law of God does to us. Christians call this Law-in-Action “Mortication”. Mortification is the Law-at-work. Mortification is a latinate word that means, literally the process of “deathing”. That is what the Law of God is doing, even right now, to each and every man and woman on the planet. When we suffer for something that we are a victim of we cry out “why me?!” But we should consider that actually we are getting not even what we truly deserve fof what we do in our lives. And what is it that we do that deserves for us to be stripped of all we own and be beaten down by life ? We fail to show the Mercy God demands. And so God uses other evil men who take what we have by force, and we feel like we want to die. We don’t see our sin, so we cry out “Why me?” Meaning…. “I have been a good person! God is not keeping his part of the bargain I think I made and is not blessing me!”

    31* A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 32Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

    Please note here that the priest and Levite are actually doing what the Law demands of them. If they were to help, they would then become ceremonially unclean according to God’s Law. So did they sin by not stopping? They could say they were simply doing what God demanded. Again read where Jesus broke the Sabbath Law. And yes he did break it. That was the point of recalling the story of David eating the shobread from the temple. David’s act was not only breaking the Law of God. It was , according to that Law of God, a capital crime! David trespassed upon sacred ground. The penalty for that was death. Yet note that Jesus, even breaking the Law , did not sin. How is that possible? The answer to the question is precisely this: God does NOT want sacrifice and mortification or “virtue as it’s own reward”. God desires, as the keeping of his Law, that we do Mercy.

    33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.

    Moved with compassion. A Samaritan. Someone who was a pariah to any Law-abiding Jew. And rightfully so! Think here that “samaritan” = the most heretical ELCA person you could think of. Or….replace that word “samaritan” for the worst person you can imagine. A practicing homosexual, a prostitute, a drug dealer, an undocumented immigrant. I suggest that was the point of Jesus using a samaritan in his example. This might make you think of that other passage in Luke where Jesus tells us that God WILL work and extract his mercy even out of those who are lawless. I am speaking of the story of the Lawless Lawgiver nagged to do Justice by a conscience dead even to love. Luke 18.

    When Goodness and Mercy happens in the world, it happens in spite of us! It does not happen because we are good. And God WILL make it happen either by carrot or stick. We really have no choice in the matter. The Law will always “get it’s man” at the end.

    34He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’

    So did the samaritan do a mental analysis of whether he was doing change that would last? a fishing pole rather than just a fish? Was he interested in the character or worthiness of the man “left for dead”? Did he feel responsible to go back and check up on the man to see if the man was using his help in a responsible way? No. If the robbed man was calling roomservice and ordering filet mignon, the samaritan simply said “put it on my tab!” It is a though he left a credit card with a high credit limit in the hands of a total stranger and said “use it as you see fit.” And the Law demands that we treat even a total stranger in need in exactly this way! Who does this? Lord have mercy!

    36Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”

    “Who is my brother? who is my neighbor in need? Who does the Law demand that I do mercy to?’ And remember: Mercy, by definition, is always always totally underserved. Justice is what we deserve. And Justice demands that you and I place ourselves in the spot of that man who was stripped of all he had even up to his very life!

    37He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

    Note here the most important point of the story: “Go and do likewise!”. “Do THIS” , and nothing less than this extravagant, unreasonable, over-the-top goodness for others, and ….”you will be left with your life. “. “You will live.”

    But note how this is a threat. Who does this? So what is it that we all deserve? Who is our neighbor? And where do we place our own selves into the story? I suggest , as to Justice, we deserve to be in the place of the man stripped of everything he had. And I suggest though that the undeserved Fatherly Goodness and Mercy of God is that even someone morally repugnant to us ends up being used by God to give us the precise opposite of what we deserve.

    Goodness and Mercy is what God desires. He does not achieve this among sinful men by making them good. He does this by killing them. That is what the Law does. It always kills. It always accuses. It is powerless to make bad men like that ELCA-heretical-samaritan good or reform them. But it ALWAYS will make them, at the end, do the Fatherly Goodness and Mercy that is God’s will one way or the other.

    And so where are we to put ourselves in this story? At the mercy of God and not in faith that our obedient sacrificial keeping of the Law is what God desires. Sure God demands we keep the Law, but the proof that we are keeping this Law as God desires is ALWAY that there is evidential, tangible evidence, acts, that look like the same Goodness and Mercy we long to have others do to us.

  • fws

    Klassie @ 50 and Grace @ 51

    Klasie: “As to the subsequent conversation, one has to dig deeper, and ask deeper questions. To put it super-simplistically, is the help one offers to the poor and oppressed a teach to fish, or give a fish kind of help? What has a real, lasting effect?”
    Grace: “… our “brother”…[those who have a claim on our wealth and mercy means] …..a brother in Christ… meaning a Christian Believer”

    May I suggest that you are both asking “who is my neighbor?”.

    And might I suggesty that this question that is to say “Who has a claim on my conscience when the Law tells me that others can demand that we do mercy and goodness to them in the same way we long to have others do it unto us?”

    Finally might I suggest that you have both placed yourself in the position of the young attorney to who Jesus addressed the Story of the Good Samaritan. May I suggest that that is precisely where we are to go to answer the question as to WHO it is that the Law demands that we “do love , mercy and goodness to. This is precisely the question you have both raised isn’t it? Both Grace and Klassie have suggested that the Law demands that we do” mercy and goodness” (the biblical definition of the what neighborly second table love is) to whom? To those who work and deserve it.

    Ok. Let’s look at whom Jesus identifies as who has a claim on our conscience and our goodness and mercy in the Gospel according to Saint Luke:

    29 But because he wished to justify himself , he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

    Note here Grace that he does not ask “who is my brother?”, or Klassie “How do we do mercy in a way that will make alife changing and enduring difference ?”.

    Note also that both the attorney , with Jesus’ approval shifts from some intangible “love” to what? Doing mercy. Love of Neighbor is in the act. It is something we are commanded to do. And that something is mercy.

    This should remind you of where Jesus points the pharisees to this passage: “I would have mercy rather than sacrifice”.

    Mercy, by definition, is always, always, always the opposite of what we deserve isn’t it? “He who does not work does not eat.” That IS what justice looks like. And that is what the Law tells us: “Do what I demand or die.” In this case God’s Law tells you that you will die of starvation.

    Justice, the letter of the Law, is what we all deserve. And Jesus tells us at the end of the story, really what that Justice WILL claim of us all at the end! Please read on:

    30Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.

    A total stranger. It could be a trap. There could be men hiding in the bushes using this man as bait. Note too that being stripped of all we have and being beaten down by life to our death is what? It is the justice that we all deserve isn’t it? This is precisely what the Law of God does to us. Christians call this Law-in-Action “Mortication”. Mortification is the Law-at-work. Mortification is a latinate word that means, literally the process of “deathing”. That is what the Law of God is doing, even right now, to each and every man and woman on the planet. When we suffer for something that we are a victim of we cry out “why me?!” But we should consider that actually we are getting not even what we truly deserve fof what we do in our lives. And what is it that we do that deserves for us to be stripped of all we own and be beaten down by life ? We fail to show the Mercy God demands. And so God uses other evil men who take what we have by force, and we feel like we want to die. We don’t see our sin, so we cry out “Why me?” Meaning…. “I have been a good person! God is not keeping his part of the bargain I think I made and is not blessing me!”

    31* A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 32Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

    Please note here that the priest and Levite are actually doing what the Law demands of them. If they were to help, they would then become ceremonially unclean according to God’s Law. So did they sin by not stopping? They could say they were simply doing what God demanded. Again read where Jesus broke the Sabbath Law. And yes he did break it. That was the point of recalling the story of David eating the shobread from the temple. David’s act was not only breaking the Law of God. It was , according to that Law of God, a capital crime! David trespassed upon sacred ground. The penalty for that was death. Yet note that Jesus, even breaking the Law , did not sin. How is that possible? The answer to the question is precisely this: God does NOT want sacrifice and mortification or “virtue as it’s own reward”. God desires, as the keeping of his Law, that we do Mercy.

    33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.

    Moved with compassion. A Samaritan. Someone who was a pariah to any Law-abiding Jew. And rightfully so! Think here that “samaritan” = the most heretical ELCA person you could think of. Or….replace that word “samaritan” for the worst person you can imagine. A practicing homosexual, a prostitute, a drug dealer, an undocumented immigrant. I suggest that was the point of Jesus using a samaritan in his example. This might make you think of that other passage in Luke where Jesus tells us that God WILL work and extract his mercy even out of those who are lawless. I am speaking of the story of the Lawless Lawgiver nagged to do Justice by a conscience dead even to love. Luke 18.

    When Goodness and Mercy happens in the world, it happens in spite of us! It does not happen because we are good. And God WILL make it happen either by carrot or stick. We really have no choice in the matter. The Law will always “get it’s man” at the end.

    34He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’

    So did the samaritan do a mental analysis of whether he was doing change that would last? a fishing pole rather than just a fish? Was he interested in the character or worthiness of the man “left for dead”? Did he feel responsible to go back and check up on the man to see if the man was using his help in a responsible way? No. If the robbed man was calling roomservice and ordering filet mignon, the samaritan simply said “put it on my tab!” It is a though he left a credit card with a high credit limit in the hands of a total stranger and said “use it as you see fit.” And the Law demands that we treat even a total stranger in need in exactly this way! Who does this? Lord have mercy!

    36Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”

    “Who is my brother? who is my neighbor in need? Who does the Law demand that I do mercy to?’ And remember: Mercy, by definition, is always always totally underserved. Justice is what we deserve. And Justice demands that you and I place ourselves in the spot of that man who was stripped of all he had even up to his very life!

    37He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

    Note here the most important point of the story: “Go and do likewise!”. “Do THIS” , and nothing less than this extravagant, unreasonable, over-the-top goodness for others, and ….”you will be left with your life. “. “You will live.”

    But note how this is a threat. Who does this? So what is it that we all deserve? Who is our neighbor? And where do we place our own selves into the story? I suggest , as to Justice, we deserve to be in the place of the man stripped of everything he had. And I suggest though that the undeserved Fatherly Goodness and Mercy of God is that even someone morally repugnant to us ends up being used by God to give us the precise opposite of what we deserve.

    Goodness and Mercy is what God desires. He does not achieve this among sinful men by making them good. He does this by killing them. That is what the Law does. It always kills. It always accuses. It is powerless to make bad men like that ELCA-heretical-samaritan good or reform them. But it ALWAYS will make them, at the end, do the Fatherly Goodness and Mercy that is God’s will one way or the other.

    And so where are we to put ourselves in this story? At the mercy of God and not in faith that our obedient sacrificial keeping of the Law is what God desires. Sure God demands we keep the Law, but the proof that we are keeping this Law as God desires is ALWAY that there is evidential, tangible evidence, acts, that look like the same Goodness and Mercy we long to have others do to us.

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, what bread was being eaten by those in the church who refused to work? Where did it come from? Seems to me there had to have been a supply of bread held in common by the members of the church. A supply to which the members contributed whatever bread they had (cf. Acts 2:44). So, it also seems to me there must first be the practice of communalism before the “no work, no eat” standard can be applied as Paul intended. (Note that Paul banishes the troublemakers by telling them to eat their own bread.) Is communalism what we practice in our society, or our churches? If not, Paul’s standard is misapplied.

  • Tom Hering

    Grace, what bread was being eaten by those in the church who refused to work? Where did it come from? Seems to me there had to have been a supply of bread held in common by the members of the church. A supply to which the members contributed whatever bread they had (cf. Acts 2:44). So, it also seems to me there must first be the practice of communalism before the “no work, no eat” standard can be applied as Paul intended. (Note that Paul banishes the troublemakers by telling them to eat their own bread.) Is communalism what we practice in our society, or our churches? If not, Paul’s standard is misapplied.

  • fws

    Klassie and Grace @ 50 & 51

    I would be wrong to end things as I did. How do we know that God only desires Goodness and Mercy for us and does not demand the obedience to the Law that is precisely our death and mortification?

    We can look at the Holy Cross and see , right there, that most terrifying Law that tells us that we do , indeed, deserved to be stripped of all we have and beaten down and afflicted and punished for our abject and utter failure to heed the claim our neighbor has upon us to make our lives ENTIRELY about doing Goodness and Mercy to them.

    And then , only in our baptismal name, and in the Holy Supper, and in the Words of Absolution can I know, FOR ME! that Christ bore that punishment that I deserve , and fully so, on the cross.

    So now I died with Jesus on the Cross. But more importantly, “take they my life, goods , fame , child, and wife, the yet have nothing won, the Kingdom mine remaineth!” My LIFE is safely tucked away in the wounds of Christ. Death can no longer touch me or make me afraid. I can now literally kill myself precisely by doing goodness and mercy for others that God’s Law demands. And I can do this cheerfully.

    And so I will take up the task of stripping myself of all I own, even being cheerful at others doing this to me trusting in God, and mortifying myself. Killing the desire to use my wealth for my own comfort alone.

    Lord have mercy! pray for me that God would grant me daily the fear of God, love and trust in him to do what His Holy Law demands of my sinful , unreformable flesh.

  • fws

    Klassie and Grace @ 50 & 51

    I would be wrong to end things as I did. How do we know that God only desires Goodness and Mercy for us and does not demand the obedience to the Law that is precisely our death and mortification?

    We can look at the Holy Cross and see , right there, that most terrifying Law that tells us that we do , indeed, deserved to be stripped of all we have and beaten down and afflicted and punished for our abject and utter failure to heed the claim our neighbor has upon us to make our lives ENTIRELY about doing Goodness and Mercy to them.

    And then , only in our baptismal name, and in the Holy Supper, and in the Words of Absolution can I know, FOR ME! that Christ bore that punishment that I deserve , and fully so, on the cross.

    So now I died with Jesus on the Cross. But more importantly, “take they my life, goods , fame , child, and wife, the yet have nothing won, the Kingdom mine remaineth!” My LIFE is safely tucked away in the wounds of Christ. Death can no longer touch me or make me afraid. I can now literally kill myself precisely by doing goodness and mercy for others that God’s Law demands. And I can do this cheerfully.

    And so I will take up the task of stripping myself of all I own, even being cheerful at others doing this to me trusting in God, and mortifying myself. Killing the desire to use my wealth for my own comfort alone.

    Lord have mercy! pray for me that God would grant me daily the fear of God, love and trust in him to do what His Holy Law demands of my sinful , unreformable flesh.

  • fws

    “33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. ”

    Moved with compassion.

    We can truly say here this:

    “the Good Samaritan let his emotions get the best of him!”

    He simply stopped calculating the cost, risk, best method, fish/fishing pole. This was a total stranger. On a dark dangerous road.

    And Jesus says that this is what the Law is aimed to work here on earth, and WILL work, in ALL men, even those without Bibles, even those who are ELCA-heretic-libertine-antinomian-samaritan types.

    Only Christians are in on the strange truth that the Law works this wonderful Goodness and Mercy, even in …

    1) the “unworthy” (those who are not good),
    2) “without our prayer (the faithless!) , and …
    3) “even for all the wicked” (those who make it their aim to subvert and oppose Goodness and mercy being done.
    (cf Luther’s Small Catechism, first article of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer).

    And He can do this, here on earth, among sin-dead men and women (aka you and me in our Old Adam), only by stripping us of what we have and leaving us for dead.

  • fws

    “33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. ”

    Moved with compassion.

    We can truly say here this:

    “the Good Samaritan let his emotions get the best of him!”

    He simply stopped calculating the cost, risk, best method, fish/fishing pole. This was a total stranger. On a dark dangerous road.

    And Jesus says that this is what the Law is aimed to work here on earth, and WILL work, in ALL men, even those without Bibles, even those who are ELCA-heretic-libertine-antinomian-samaritan types.

    Only Christians are in on the strange truth that the Law works this wonderful Goodness and Mercy, even in …

    1) the “unworthy” (those who are not good),
    2) “without our prayer (the faithless!) , and …
    3) “even for all the wicked” (those who make it their aim to subvert and oppose Goodness and mercy being done.
    (cf Luther’s Small Catechism, first article of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer).

    And He can do this, here on earth, among sin-dead men and women (aka you and me in our Old Adam), only by stripping us of what we have and leaving us for dead.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    FWS – I’m addressing the “helping the needy class in perpetuity” situation, and searching for long term solutions. I’m not suggesting that you pass a starving man on the street and tell him to get an education… that’s all I’m saying. No need to put your spirituality engine in overdrive. It is really simple. Don’t complicate it…..

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    FWS – I’m addressing the “helping the needy class in perpetuity” situation, and searching for long term solutions. I’m not suggesting that you pass a starving man on the street and tell him to get an education… that’s all I’m saying. No need to put your spirituality engine in overdrive. It is really simple. Don’t complicate it…..

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life.”

    Hmm, I am not convinced. Perhaps it is a matter of definitions and how much they have changed since the statements were originally made.

    For example, poor. Some who are so labeled are not, by any rational definition, poor.

    Widows. In our society, this is not much of a problem. Most widows I know are wealthier than the average man working to support his family. In fact, elderly widows collectively control a huge amount of wealth.

    But maybe it is just my own personal orientation that it is immoral for me to expect others to provide an able bodied person such as myself with anything that I don’t work for. I feel compelled to do something of value in return. My self esteem requires me to earn it. I think it rather evil for someone to expect wages without working if they can work.

    I don’t see God’s law as anti work or anti fair trade.

    If you define the poor as they historically have been, the severely and profoundly disabled, or the widows as elderly and too frail to work, then, I would agree.

    I would also assert that hiring the poor is the best way to provide both for their material and emotional well being. Handouts are psychologically damaging to the able bodied worker. The cause him to see himself as worthless.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life.”

    Hmm, I am not convinced. Perhaps it is a matter of definitions and how much they have changed since the statements were originally made.

    For example, poor. Some who are so labeled are not, by any rational definition, poor.

    Widows. In our society, this is not much of a problem. Most widows I know are wealthier than the average man working to support his family. In fact, elderly widows collectively control a huge amount of wealth.

    But maybe it is just my own personal orientation that it is immoral for me to expect others to provide an able bodied person such as myself with anything that I don’t work for. I feel compelled to do something of value in return. My self esteem requires me to earn it. I think it rather evil for someone to expect wages without working if they can work.

    I don’t see God’s law as anti work or anti fair trade.

    If you define the poor as they historically have been, the severely and profoundly disabled, or the widows as elderly and too frail to work, then, I would agree.

    I would also assert that hiring the poor is the best way to provide both for their material and emotional well being. Handouts are psychologically damaging to the able bodied worker. The cause him to see himself as worthless.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    sg, I largely agree with you. In other words, helping people help themselves.

    Of course, and this is what Frank misses in our coments, we are not saying “Shut down the soup kitchens, away with the Salvation Army!! etc.” We will always have people who for some or other reason land in dire straits. What we are talking about is a structure, general approach, one that minimises the need for the drastic, Salvation Army type answer. Or the disaster asistance-type answer. I think you’d agree?

    For instance, currently here in Canada, the news is full of a dire housing problem on a Northern Reserve in Ontario – the Attawapiskat First Nation. The response has been twofold – some well known charities have been flying in blankets, temporary housing etc – and some other Cree Nations have jumped in to donate from among themselves. Then the Dept of First Nation Affairs jumped in and took over the Financial Administration of the Attawapiskat FN, because they feel there are problems there. At the same time, there are more concerted talks about long-term solutions, including the role of mining companies working in the area. So – immediate relief provided, a search for long term, stable solutions, so that the Attawapiskat First Nation could once again stand on their own feet (as many others do). Helping them in the short term to get over the worst, then helping them to help themselves in the long term.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    sg, I largely agree with you. In other words, helping people help themselves.

    Of course, and this is what Frank misses in our coments, we are not saying “Shut down the soup kitchens, away with the Salvation Army!! etc.” We will always have people who for some or other reason land in dire straits. What we are talking about is a structure, general approach, one that minimises the need for the drastic, Salvation Army type answer. Or the disaster asistance-type answer. I think you’d agree?

    For instance, currently here in Canada, the news is full of a dire housing problem on a Northern Reserve in Ontario – the Attawapiskat First Nation. The response has been twofold – some well known charities have been flying in blankets, temporary housing etc – and some other Cree Nations have jumped in to donate from among themselves. Then the Dept of First Nation Affairs jumped in and took over the Financial Administration of the Attawapiskat FN, because they feel there are problems there. At the same time, there are more concerted talks about long-term solutions, including the role of mining companies working in the area. So – immediate relief provided, a search for long term, stable solutions, so that the Attawapiskat First Nation could once again stand on their own feet (as many others do). Helping them in the short term to get over the worst, then helping them to help themselves in the long term.

  • Grace

    There is a big difference between those of my family and those who are Believers…. and those who do not work, but expect to be fed as those on WELFARE or those who now claim as the “OCCUPY” variety SOCIALIST group to be given free everything.

    9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

    10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6

    But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 1 Timothy 5:8

  • Grace

    There is a big difference between those of my family and those who are Believers…. and those who do not work, but expect to be fed as those on WELFARE or those who now claim as the “OCCUPY” variety SOCIALIST group to be given free everything.

    9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

    10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6

    But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 1 Timothy 5:8

  • Michael B.

    “My self esteem requires me to earn it. I think it rather evil for someone to expect wages without working if they can work. Handouts are psychologically damaging to the able bodied worker. ”

    Why is it okay for you to get free health care on Medicare, but wrong for somebody else to get free food with foodstamps? Where is your “self esteem” when you send your kids to get a free public education on the public dollar?

  • Michael B.

    “My self esteem requires me to earn it. I think it rather evil for someone to expect wages without working if they can work. Handouts are psychologically damaging to the able bodied worker. ”

    Why is it okay for you to get free health care on Medicare, but wrong for somebody else to get free food with foodstamps? Where is your “self esteem” when you send your kids to get a free public education on the public dollar?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Why is it okay for you to get free health care on Medicare,”

    Well, it isn’t free if you pay for it, now is it?

    I don’t get Medicare and may never get it given the the government’s financial trajectory. I have, however, paid.

    “but wrong for somebody else to get free food with foodstamps?”

    Depends on the somebody.

    If they can’t work, it is not the same as if they can. Also, plenty of people work and pay into the system, so that if some bizarre circumstance befalls them, they can receive a benefit. That isn’t freeloading. It is like insurance. If a person cheats to get benefits, as many do, or simply won’t work when they could, there is a problem.

    “Where is your “self esteem” when you send your kids to get a free public education on the public dollar?”

    I have paid an average of $5k per year in property taxes for over 20 years. That is about $100k give or take a little, and my kids are getting a private Christian education at my additional expense. I have received nothing, but I have paid. So, my self esteem is fine on that particular point. About 12% of US students are in private or home schools.

    I already said, I have no problem with charity, but it is charity, not wages.

    There is no such thing as free. For someone to receive medical care or food or education, then someone has to provide it by getting up each day and going to work to provide it. Expecting others to just give you stuff or services is not moral. Rather we should willingly compensate those who work to provide us with such.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Why is it okay for you to get free health care on Medicare,”

    Well, it isn’t free if you pay for it, now is it?

    I don’t get Medicare and may never get it given the the government’s financial trajectory. I have, however, paid.

    “but wrong for somebody else to get free food with foodstamps?”

    Depends on the somebody.

    If they can’t work, it is not the same as if they can. Also, plenty of people work and pay into the system, so that if some bizarre circumstance befalls them, they can receive a benefit. That isn’t freeloading. It is like insurance. If a person cheats to get benefits, as many do, or simply won’t work when they could, there is a problem.

    “Where is your “self esteem” when you send your kids to get a free public education on the public dollar?”

    I have paid an average of $5k per year in property taxes for over 20 years. That is about $100k give or take a little, and my kids are getting a private Christian education at my additional expense. I have received nothing, but I have paid. So, my self esteem is fine on that particular point. About 12% of US students are in private or home schools.

    I already said, I have no problem with charity, but it is charity, not wages.

    There is no such thing as free. For someone to receive medical care or food or education, then someone has to provide it by getting up each day and going to work to provide it. Expecting others to just give you stuff or services is not moral. Rather we should willingly compensate those who work to provide us with such.

  • fws

    klassie @ 57
    “FWS – I’m addressing the “helping the needy class in perpetuity” situation, and searching for long term solutions. ”

    My response is the obvious one: “The poor you will have with you always.”
    In context, that saying of Jesus is pregnant with meaning and significance isn’t it Klassie? And the superficial reading is that there is NO long term solution , which I understand you to mean the elimination of such a class. So then what should societie’s goal be?

    sg @ 58

    FWS said : “So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life.”

    SG responds: Hmm, I am not convinced. Perhaps it is a matter of definitions and how much they have changed since the statements were originally made.

    FWS: permit me to summarize and respond to your points of response. I am restating what you said SG because I think I actually agree with every point you made! So let’s go:

    1) Are today’s “poor” really poor? No. So I have no moral obligation to show any mercy to the “poor” , generally speaking, as we define “poor” today. And then see also point 3 to reinforce this.
    2)”widows”. Are they really in much distress today? Most are quite wealthy! I therefore have no moral obligation to show they any mercy in today’s context.
    3) If someone is able bodied, then they can work, then they do not deserve mercy from me. What percentage of the poor are NOT able bodied and so not able to work. Almost none! Therefore I am not moraly obligated to show them any mercy either.
    4) It is immoral to receive mercy when one is able to work. Why? a) It is condescending to not expect that person to work. b) It treats them as though they are worthless. c) It is not really to give them goodness. It is not good for them to be treated that way. We are to do “goodness and mercy” to others. Not just indiscriminate mercy.
    5) If you define the poor as…the severely and profoundly disabled, or the widows as elderly and too frail to work, then, I would agree.

    Ok SG . I am going to tell you I agree here with everything you wrote. Now then: what is it in my original statement that is not true?

    “So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life.”

    St James says that true morality is to “help widows and orphans in their distress.” You seem to be saying this:

    1) It would be hard for me identify and find anyone that fits the real definition of who St James is talking about in my point 5). Therefore:
    2) I can keep ALL my wealth and ignore what the Law of God says is the ONLY true morality.

    My response to you is this:

    1) help is in the form of our time, treasure and talents.
    2) The Scriptures and our Confessions state that the ONLY reason to accumulate wealth, beyond what we need for a very modest existence (here feel most free to ALSO define ‘modest existence” according to what it has historically meant!) , is to turn around and spend that wealth on those who need it.
    3) I suggest that “wealth” here can be defined as time, material wealth, and our talents. So we are to teach our children, for example, that THE reason to get a good education is so that we can then be better equipped and help whoever needs us.
    4) I agree that even the severely disabled are maybe better to work for all my, and your, above stated reasons. The blind can sell pencils on the street. It would be goodness and mercy to encourage and facilitate that.

    So then , all that being said SG: What do you do with my point 2? Is it unscriptural? Or have we just moved past the point where conditions in society mean that we have no need to show any mercy or goodness to anyone but ourselves and family?

  • fws

    klassie @ 57
    “FWS – I’m addressing the “helping the needy class in perpetuity” situation, and searching for long term solutions. ”

    My response is the obvious one: “The poor you will have with you always.”
    In context, that saying of Jesus is pregnant with meaning and significance isn’t it Klassie? And the superficial reading is that there is NO long term solution , which I understand you to mean the elimination of such a class. So then what should societie’s goal be?

    sg @ 58

    FWS said : “So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life.”

    SG responds: Hmm, I am not convinced. Perhaps it is a matter of definitions and how much they have changed since the statements were originally made.

    FWS: permit me to summarize and respond to your points of response. I am restating what you said SG because I think I actually agree with every point you made! So let’s go:

    1) Are today’s “poor” really poor? No. So I have no moral obligation to show any mercy to the “poor” , generally speaking, as we define “poor” today. And then see also point 3 to reinforce this.
    2)”widows”. Are they really in much distress today? Most are quite wealthy! I therefore have no moral obligation to show they any mercy in today’s context.
    3) If someone is able bodied, then they can work, then they do not deserve mercy from me. What percentage of the poor are NOT able bodied and so not able to work. Almost none! Therefore I am not moraly obligated to show them any mercy either.
    4) It is immoral to receive mercy when one is able to work. Why? a) It is condescending to not expect that person to work. b) It treats them as though they are worthless. c) It is not really to give them goodness. It is not good for them to be treated that way. We are to do “goodness and mercy” to others. Not just indiscriminate mercy.
    5) If you define the poor as…the severely and profoundly disabled, or the widows as elderly and too frail to work, then, I would agree.

    Ok SG . I am going to tell you I agree here with everything you wrote. Now then: what is it in my original statement that is not true?

    “So yes, not just the poor, and widows have a moral claim on you and me and any and all wealth we have that we don’t need to maintain a modest life.”

    St James says that true morality is to “help widows and orphans in their distress.” You seem to be saying this:

    1) It would be hard for me identify and find anyone that fits the real definition of who St James is talking about in my point 5). Therefore:
    2) I can keep ALL my wealth and ignore what the Law of God says is the ONLY true morality.

    My response to you is this:

    1) help is in the form of our time, treasure and talents.
    2) The Scriptures and our Confessions state that the ONLY reason to accumulate wealth, beyond what we need for a very modest existence (here feel most free to ALSO define ‘modest existence” according to what it has historically meant!) , is to turn around and spend that wealth on those who need it.
    3) I suggest that “wealth” here can be defined as time, material wealth, and our talents. So we are to teach our children, for example, that THE reason to get a good education is so that we can then be better equipped and help whoever needs us.
    4) I agree that even the severely disabled are maybe better to work for all my, and your, above stated reasons. The blind can sell pencils on the street. It would be goodness and mercy to encourage and facilitate that.

    So then , all that being said SG: What do you do with my point 2? Is it unscriptural? Or have we just moved past the point where conditions in society mean that we have no need to show any mercy or goodness to anyone but ourselves and family?

  • fws

    sg and klasie:

    a couple more thoughts:

    3) That WE are to show goodness and undeserved mercy (mercy is ALWAYS undeserved) to the poor, does not excuse even the poorest and most disabled person from this moral obligation. Klassie , you said I missed this point. I would suggest that if you reread what I wrote, I did not.

    2) Send your money here to Brasil and I will find for you lots of widows and orphans and abandoned mothers and children and suffering galore. So don’t tell me that you can’t find anyone meeting the biblical definitions of poor, and distressed widows and orphans. You are both welcome , as guests in my home (another moral obligation by the way) to come and see for your own selves.

    3) what I suggest God’s Law claims out of us, suggests that retirement is immoral! We should work until we die.

    4) What I suggest God’s Law claims out of us, is that we should not have any “free time” on our hands. We should be constantly devoting ALL our time to enslave ourselves to the needs of someone else, or to equip ourselves to do so (example here: Jesus sought time, away from those He came to serve, to rest and recharge).

  • fws

    sg and klasie:

    a couple more thoughts:

    3) That WE are to show goodness and undeserved mercy (mercy is ALWAYS undeserved) to the poor, does not excuse even the poorest and most disabled person from this moral obligation. Klassie , you said I missed this point. I would suggest that if you reread what I wrote, I did not.

    2) Send your money here to Brasil and I will find for you lots of widows and orphans and abandoned mothers and children and suffering galore. So don’t tell me that you can’t find anyone meeting the biblical definitions of poor, and distressed widows and orphans. You are both welcome , as guests in my home (another moral obligation by the way) to come and see for your own selves.

    3) what I suggest God’s Law claims out of us, suggests that retirement is immoral! We should work until we die.

    4) What I suggest God’s Law claims out of us, is that we should not have any “free time” on our hands. We should be constantly devoting ALL our time to enslave ourselves to the needs of someone else, or to equip ourselves to do so (example here: Jesus sought time, away from those He came to serve, to rest and recharge).

  • fws

    One elderly women who was very very disabled, chose to fulfill this claim of the Law on her by praying for alot of people. So even the most disabled are STILL commanded to give all they have, beyond what they need for a modest life, to others in need.

    This goal of serving others, should be the constant endeavor of any moral person. And often the poor do this, actually, more than those who are not so poor. The poor often know how to share what they have at a profound level. “blessed are the poor”. What does that mean?

  • fws

    One elderly women who was very very disabled, chose to fulfill this claim of the Law on her by praying for alot of people. So even the most disabled are STILL commanded to give all they have, beyond what they need for a modest life, to others in need.

    This goal of serving others, should be the constant endeavor of any moral person. And often the poor do this, actually, more than those who are not so poor. The poor often know how to share what they have at a profound level. “blessed are the poor”. What does that mean?

  • fws

    sg and Klassie, let me summarize my position, and what I believe is also the position of the Scriptures and our Confessions this way:

    “It is the moral obligation of ANY person, to constantly, and always redistribute ALL their time, treasure and talents, beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own life and that of their family, to others in need.”

    Again, feel free to understand “modest standard of living” according to biblical standards as well here, since we are honing our defintions SG!

    Agree or disagree?

  • fws

    sg and Klassie, let me summarize my position, and what I believe is also the position of the Scriptures and our Confessions this way:

    “It is the moral obligation of ANY person, to constantly, and always redistribute ALL their time, treasure and talents, beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own life and that of their family, to others in need.”

    Again, feel free to understand “modest standard of living” according to biblical standards as well here, since we are honing our defintions SG!

    Agree or disagree?

  • fws

    sg and Klassie
    and this summation as well:

    “the ENTIRE reason God commands ALL to work, is so that they have excess time, treasure and talent that they then can redistribute to others who are in need and do goodness and mercy to them. Not just mercy. Goodness and mercy. Mercy that is good for them. But Mercy all the same. And we MUST do this or God WILL punish us into doing it.

  • fws

    sg and Klassie
    and this summation as well:

    “the ENTIRE reason God commands ALL to work, is so that they have excess time, treasure and talent that they then can redistribute to others who are in need and do goodness and mercy to them. Not just mercy. Goodness and mercy. Mercy that is good for them. But Mercy all the same. And we MUST do this or God WILL punish us into doing it.

  • fws

    Anecdote to illustrate my point:

    When I was volunteering to teach the illiterate poor in Los Angeles to read and write, I ended up tutoring a young woman in a poor neighborhood. She was about 23. Her name was joyce. Joyce had had two children out of wedlock and was still with the man she had the children from but he offered no support for her.

    So Joyce lived with her alcoholic mom, and the mom would constantly get the kids to show the mom where this 23 year old was hiding money to save up to move out and away from mom. Her man of 11 years did not know that Joyce was deeply ashamed that she could not read or write. This says volumes about her relationship with her man.

    To top things off, Joyces two wonderful sons were both developmentally disabled. The constant message she heard from her wellmeaning christian neighbors was that she was a bad mom, because she allowed her boys to listen to rap musice rather than restrict them to a diet of christian music. ok.

    She told me that her dream, why she wanted to learn to read and write, was so that she could read her Bible.

    One day Joyce asked me this: “Frank, why is it that you are not being paid for what you are doing for me. You have to know how valuable what you are doing is for me.” I responded this way: “Joyce, I will be eventually paid for what I am doing for you. YOU are going to repay me!” When I said that, her expression changes to the ever-on-guard expression of one raised in the jungle of a poor neighborhood. She asked, eyes narrowing, “And how am I going to do that?” I responded: “Joyce, when you finish this course, and you WILL finish it, I will expect and demand that you take the time to become a tutor and do exactly what I am doing for you. If you are not willing to commit to doing that, we should stop these lessons now. ” Joyce looked down. Then she looked at me and studied the expression on my face. Then she looked down again , her mind racing to process what I had said.

    When Joyce looked up again, her face was radiant. NOONE had ever considered her to be a point of reference that way, someone who had something to give to someone else that way.

    That moment with Joyce was worth every hour I had spent, ever, doing all the volunteer work I will ever do.

  • fws

    Anecdote to illustrate my point:

    When I was volunteering to teach the illiterate poor in Los Angeles to read and write, I ended up tutoring a young woman in a poor neighborhood. She was about 23. Her name was joyce. Joyce had had two children out of wedlock and was still with the man she had the children from but he offered no support for her.

    So Joyce lived with her alcoholic mom, and the mom would constantly get the kids to show the mom where this 23 year old was hiding money to save up to move out and away from mom. Her man of 11 years did not know that Joyce was deeply ashamed that she could not read or write. This says volumes about her relationship with her man.

    To top things off, Joyces two wonderful sons were both developmentally disabled. The constant message she heard from her wellmeaning christian neighbors was that she was a bad mom, because she allowed her boys to listen to rap musice rather than restrict them to a diet of christian music. ok.

    She told me that her dream, why she wanted to learn to read and write, was so that she could read her Bible.

    One day Joyce asked me this: “Frank, why is it that you are not being paid for what you are doing for me. You have to know how valuable what you are doing is for me.” I responded this way: “Joyce, I will be eventually paid for what I am doing for you. YOU are going to repay me!” When I said that, her expression changes to the ever-on-guard expression of one raised in the jungle of a poor neighborhood. She asked, eyes narrowing, “And how am I going to do that?” I responded: “Joyce, when you finish this course, and you WILL finish it, I will expect and demand that you take the time to become a tutor and do exactly what I am doing for you. If you are not willing to commit to doing that, we should stop these lessons now. ” Joyce looked down. Then she looked at me and studied the expression on my face. Then she looked down again , her mind racing to process what I had said.

    When Joyce looked up again, her face was radiant. NOONE had ever considered her to be a point of reference that way, someone who had something to give to someone else that way.

    That moment with Joyce was worth every hour I had spent, ever, doing all the volunteer work I will ever do.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It is the moral obligation of ANY person, to constantly, and always redistribute ALL their time, treasure and talents, beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own life and that of their family, to others in need.”

    Let me see where I can agree.

    “It is the moral obligation of ANY [poor] person, to constantly, and always redistribute ALL their time, treasure and talents, beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own life and that of their family, to others in need.”

    Now I can agree.

    The real point here is that many poor people have time, and talents beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own lives and families, but they refuse to do it. They are culpable, not those that share with them.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “It is the moral obligation of ANY person, to constantly, and always redistribute ALL their time, treasure and talents, beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own life and that of their family, to others in need.”

    Let me see where I can agree.

    “It is the moral obligation of ANY [poor] person, to constantly, and always redistribute ALL their time, treasure and talents, beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own life and that of their family, to others in need.”

    Now I can agree.

    The real point here is that many poor people have time, and talents beyond what they need to modestly maintain their own lives and families, but they refuse to do it. They are culpable, not those that share with them.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The constant message she heard from her wellmeaning christian neighbors was that she was a bad mom, because she allowed her boys to listen to rap musice rather than restrict them to a diet of christian music.”

    Her neighbors were right. Also, you needed to tell her to sue that dude for child support. When the men in the community will not hold the other men accountable, how can there be justice? The civil authorities aren’t omniscient. Evil doers need to be reported. It would serve the offender well, also. People derive a psycho/social benefit from being held accountable and required to meet their obligations. It gives the opportunity to learn from others what they haven’t been able to learn on their own. I always tell my son to correct his friends when they are wrong and never let something slide. I tell him he is thereby doing them a service and actually helping them. It is something that the (psychologically) stronger have to do to serve the (psychologically) weaker.

    So, maybe I agree with you more than I knew. I just don’t like to enable people to continue in patterns that are destructive to themselves and others.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The constant message she heard from her wellmeaning christian neighbors was that she was a bad mom, because she allowed her boys to listen to rap musice rather than restrict them to a diet of christian music.”

    Her neighbors were right. Also, you needed to tell her to sue that dude for child support. When the men in the community will not hold the other men accountable, how can there be justice? The civil authorities aren’t omniscient. Evil doers need to be reported. It would serve the offender well, also. People derive a psycho/social benefit from being held accountable and required to meet their obligations. It gives the opportunity to learn from others what they haven’t been able to learn on their own. I always tell my son to correct his friends when they are wrong and never let something slide. I tell him he is thereby doing them a service and actually helping them. It is something that the (psychologically) stronger have to do to serve the (psychologically) weaker.

    So, maybe I agree with you more than I knew. I just don’t like to enable people to continue in patterns that are destructive to themselves and others.


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