How to Respond When a Christian Sins

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The Victory of Eucharistic Truth Over Heresy by Peter Paul Rubens (Wikimedia Commons)

When non-Christians sin against us, we may see it as a golden opportunity to forgive them for Jesus’ sake. For me at least, a bigger challenge comes with knowing how to respond when a Christian sins.

I won’t mention anyone by name, but there are a lot of angry Christians out there. They appear to be mostly angry at other Christians, especially other leaders. These Christians are upset because of what they believe to be unbiblical teachings.

If only it were as easy to respond to a sin or offense on the part of another Christian as the eucharist cup-bearing angel in the above scene makes it appear. However, we don’t have the option of wielding communion wine and wafer, holy water, a cross, or the Bible as a weapon.

In my experience, few Christians know how to respond in a loving and respectful manner to sin in the life or ministry of a fellow believer. When we respond in our own way rather than in Jesus’ way, we offend our Lord; don’t help the offender; and gain little or nothing for ourselves. That’s why we all need to know how to respond when a fellow Christian sins against us.

As I will explain, God gave us principles for how to deal with sin in the church. I’ll start with an example of my own, followed by what I believe to be some poor examples. Afterwards, I’ll review what Jesus said about it, and explain how we can apply His (and the apostle Paul’s) teachings in any circumstance.

 

How I Responded to False Teachers

I can relate to the anger and frustration that so many Christians seem to be feeling. I was deceived by many false doctrines that are commonly taught in churches to this day. Like many others, I received a distorted image of a mostly judgmental God.

Logic would dictate that false teachings hurt me, but who’s to say for certain? Maybe that idea of God and that fear of Him kept me from some committing some sins that could ultimately have caused more spiritual harm than the unbalanced teachings. Perhaps the extra adversity in my life helped me learn to sympathize with others or helped me grow stronger.

I must linger on this topic because you may have similar regrets about your past. Whatever happened in your past, I suggest that you try to accept it as having provided some kind of benefit or silver lining. I understand that there may have been a lot of trauma or abuse, and my intention is not to minimize that. You can’t change whatever happened, but over time, you can change how you feel about it.

I shed the blinders over many years as I read God’s Word, along with a wide range of books on Christian theology. When I came to understand the many ways in which I’d been deceived, I lost much of the respect that I’d once had for the false teachers. In fact, so many Christian teachers were getting important doctrines wrong that I felt obligated to pass on to others what I had learned.

At long last, I felt free to study God’s Word without concern about pleasing any human authority. I trusted that God would reveal precious truths to me from His Word, and He exceeded all my expectations.

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

John Nelson Darby

Even though I wasn’t concerned about pleasing men, I did have to explain why certain teachings were unbiblical. In Return to Genesis (June 2012), I attacked false teachings, not Christians who propagate them. It’s true that I showed little respect for John N. Darby, but he was without a doubt one of the worst deceivers in the history of Christianity.

My goal was to cut off the future of false teachings by exposing them, refuting them, and replacing them with biblical truth. This took much more effort than, say, to ridicule false teachers by pointing out foolish things they’ve said. The biblical course of action isn’t always easy, but it’s always the best way.

I don’t anticipate a need to extensively criticize any Christian through this blog, especially not by digging into his or her past to even find things for which they’ve apologized! I mainly want to challenge teachers of false doctrines to respond to my critiques of their teachings.

One reason why I explained my take on it is because I know that I sometimes appear to be argumentative. People often choose to take things personally, even when a disagreement isn’t about them.

Truth is God’s ultimate standard of judgment, not cultural standards such as decorum, etiquette, political correctness, or feigned respect for a status quo. The Lord Jesus Christ was known for His unfaltering opposition to false teachings (Mt. 7:15, 23:1-36, Rev. 1:15, cf. Gal. 2:11, 2 Pet. 2:1-3).

As much as possible, I want every Christian to know what’s true and biblical. At the end of the day, however, I’m willing to shake hands with the opposition. If someone is truly a believer, I’ll gladly acknowledge our unity and fellowship in Christ.

Sports teams approach their matches in much the same way. They play according to rules, but push the boundaries in their battle for victory. Needless to say, the battle for truth is of much greater importance than any sporting event.

I see love as being the “glue” of Christian unity, and truth as the foundation and the substance. The Bible describes love as a fruit of the Spirit, not as the root. If we overemphasize love, we won’t have true unity, and the love will never be entirely sincere. We must also discover and defend biblical truth. There’s never any need to engage in unfair, personal attacks on those who disagree with us. Unfortunately, truth-centered love is often lacking among Christians today…

 

Christians Attacking Christians

Burning of a Heretic by Stefano di Giovanni (Wikimedia Commons)

imageAs alluded to earlier, some Christians are wrongfully judging other believers’ hearts and motives, and taking it public by engaging in personal attacks through their blogs.

Two events came up recently. First, there were judgmental responses to John Piper. After the destructive tornado that recently hit Oklahoma, John sent the following tweets:

Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead. Job 1:19
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. Job 1:20

When some people began to take this the wrong way, John deleted the tweets. That didn’t stop Rachel Held Evans and other prominent Christian bloggers from writing scathing rebukes, based on what they thought he must have been thinking.

Piper’s explanation can be found here. He only wanted to lift up the tornado victims’ hearts with the idea that despite the horrible tragedy, God is still sovereign, and still worthy of our worship. Since John had served as a pastor for 33 years, I assume that comforting people must be nothing new for him. His critics seem to have sided with unbelievers who question how a loving God could have permitted such a tragic disaster to occur.

The other recent incident that inspired this article was a blog post written by Jonathan Merritt about pastor Mark Driscoll. Jonathan’s writing is usually good, but I was disappointed by this one.

Jonathan reminded readers of some offensive or unpopular things that Mark has said in the past, probably in case we hadn’t learned of them from non-Christian or anti-Christian sources. I suppose gossip seems easier for Christians to accept when it comes from a fellow believer.

Jonathan cited a Driscoll quote about stay-at-home dads being “worse than unbelievers.” Anyone could derive this, or something very much like it, from 1 Timothy 5:8. Where’s the scholarly interaction about the meaning of this verse?

One of the quotes was a statement for which Mark had later apologized. If we want God to forgive and forget our sins, shouldn’t we do the same for fellow Christians who have publicly repented of a sin (Mt. 6:15)?

Some of the quotes were things that few people would take seriously anyway, such as Mark’s advice about sex and his opinion of the movie Avatar.

Jonathan stated that Mark has a “cult-like following” of Christians who do take this stuff seriously. He predicted, without a hint of regret (barely suppressed delight?), that Mark will continue to spout off on in this way until he fades away like Pat Robertson. This didn’t strike me as coming across in the spirit of someone who only wanted God’s best for Mark.

The launching point for Jonathan’s critique was this recent statement by pastor Mark:

I know who made the environment. He’s coming back and he’s going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.

Like Jonathan, I find this offensive because it’s our duty as the Creator’s children to care for the earth (Gen. 2:15).

Even so, it was obvious that Jonathan had gone too far with the criticism. Therefore, I posted this comment on the blog post:

The most sensitive and relevant context for a critique of Mark Driscoll’s statement about the environment would be one in which you discuss why Christians should care about the environment. This would effectively be a conversation with Mark and his followers.

The most sensitive and relevant way to have addressed your (and others’) concern that Mark is kind of a loose cannon would be to have prayed for him (as you may have done) and contacted him privately.

I think that at the time when a Christian leader says something that’s unbiblical, other Christians can respond in a timely and loving way if they feel it is necessary to distance themselves from it. People will usually remember these faux pas without further prompting and take them to the social media grapevine without any nudging.

I think Mark Driscoll has done and is doing a lot of good work for the Lord, which shouldn’t be overlooked.

The problem is, Jonathan had ignored the Bible’s instructions on how to respond to sin in the life of a fellow believer. As I had mentioned at the start of this post, by no means is he alone in this.

We all need to know how to respond biblically when a fellow Christian sins. More importantly, we all need to be obedient. Let’s look at what Jesus said about this topic…

 

Responding to Sin in the Church

I learned about the proper, biblical response early in my Christian walksimply by having read the Bible. Jesus instructed us as follows:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17

Jesus Teaches His Apostles

The Exhortation to the Apostles – James Tissot (Wikimedia Commons)

This teaching of Jesus could lead to the church treating one of its own like an unbeliever. Therefore, the sin in question can’t be merely a peccadillo or breach of etiquette. It must be something that is clearly sinful. We may also talk to a fellow believer who commits a minor offense that is, say, bigger than a peccadillo but still smaller than an armadillo.  Hey, nobody said this was an exact science! Winking smile

In the above passage, Jesus instituted a 4-step response to sin in the life of a Christian brother or sister. Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  1. One person, usually the offended party, must go and talk with the offender privately. Don’t wait for the person to come and apologize. In fact, don’t even assume that he or she has any idea that they have sinned.
    After hearing the specific accusation, that individual can respond in only one of four ways:
    (a) deny it;
    (b) try to excuse it;
    (c) offer a good explanation, disproving the accusation; or
    (d) confess it and repent.
    In the case of (c) or (d), the matter is settled. Otherwise, the process continues with step 2.
  2. Return to that individual together with one or two other Christians as witnesses. The person making the accusation won’t necessarily be in control here because Jesus, citing the Law, said the two or three witnesses must agree. This is to be a judicial process, not a kangaroo court. This can even take the place of the civil court system. In fact, Paul said Christians shouldn’t sue one another in the secular courts (1 Cor. 6:1-7).
    We should be forgiving, and willing to suffer loss, but must also be concerned about the spiritual state of a professing Christian who would offend one or more other people, then fail to repent (1 Cor. 6:7-10). Their sin can become like a cancer, spreading within the congregation if tolerated (1 Cor. 5:6-7). The witnesses should seek to lead the offender in the process of repentance and reconciliation. If they find that the accused is both guilty and unrepentant, they may proceed to step 3.
  3. Tell the congregation about what happened. Ideally, large churches will have house churches or “small groups” to which such a matter can be revealed. The offender would still be welcome in the church for a limited time, in the hope that the brethren can restore him or her to a proper relationship with God and man. Based on the context of Jesus’ teaching, the emphasis should be on mercy (Mt. 18:10-14, 19-22). Every Christian involved should have a forgiving heart and be anxious to restore the offender. Again, if the sinner repents, that becomes the end of it. If not, the congregation must go on to the final step.
  4. The last step is to treat the unrepentant sinner as a non-Christian. The model provided here is that of how the Jews used to treat Gentiles and tax collectors. God wanted His people to be hospitable to Gentiles; to not practice double standards; and to love the stranger as themselves (Lev. 19:34, Num. 9:14, Dt. 10:19). They just didn’t recognize Gentiles as members of the family and tribe, nor as fellow partakers in God’s covenant with the nation of Israel.
    Tax collectors were Jewish outcasts because they worked for the Romans. However, Jesus was known for having been a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Mt. 11:19).
    The lesson seems to be that Christians can continue to talk to the sinner and show God’s love in appropriate ways. However, anyone who’s been disfellowshipped can no longer be regarded as a member of God’s family. As sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness, they would no longer be eligible for church membership, or to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

For many offenses, church leaders won’t go so far as to disfellowship or “excommunicate” an offender. Among the offenses that could lead to excommunication, we might include sins such as heresy, divisiveness, sexual immorality, and violence.

 

Practical Application

Christians should seek to apply biblical principles in social media, blogging (for those who blog), and in all our communications. Even though we come from many different kinds of churches and denominations, we’re all members of the same body, which is the body of Christ.

Based on what we’ve learned from the Bible, I’ve put together what I believe to be the most important principles…

  • Since truth is always important, we should feel free to debate theological questions and issues in a mutually respectful manner. It’s inevitable that much of this will happen in public, such as on Christian blogs and discussion forums.
  • Jesus’ instructions show that we shouldn’t publicly accuse another Christian of something if we have no evidence or witness. The need for witnesses and for direct confrontation will inevitably stifle most gossip. The 4-step procedure directs meaningful issues to the appropriate channels in a private manner, unless and until it becomes necessary to inform the congregation.
  • Even though a Christian may say things in public, that shouldn’t prevent other Christians from confronting him or her about those things in private. Christian leaders are in the best position to confront other leaders, but anyone can send a polite message through a medium such as email. We ought to be praying for all our leaders, especially when there seems to be a weakness or sin.
  • The goal behind confrontation should be reconciliation, not to hold a fellow Christian up to public shame and ridicule. If unbelievers or even other Christians publicly condemn a believer for something, that doesn’t give the rest of us a free pass.
  • In any theological dispute, we should focus on the theology instead of on the person. If, for whatever reason, we can’t present a good argument or can’t even provide a link to one, silence is always an option.
  • I’ve noticed that liberal or “progressive” Christians, in particular, often seem to write with a secular audience in mind as they ridicule conservative Christians and their beliefs. I’m not a fundamentalist Christian, but this is wrong. God didn’t give unbelievers the role of judging our disputes. Sometimes, public opinion means nothing. I’ve personally seen unbelievers yank Christians’ chains by writing something that got one Christian or group of Christians to attack another in a knee-jerk response on the same day!
  • Finally, let’s not support Christians who cause divisions. Titus 3:10 instructs us to give a divisive person one or two warnings, then reject him or her. In practical terms, suppose you like a blog, but that blogger posts something that’s divisive. You might try posting a gentle rebuke similar to the comment that I had posted (as quoted above). Check to see whether any other Christians posted a similar rebuke. If you ever revisit that blog and find anything else that is divisive, unsubscribe or unbookmark it, and don’t bother going there again. If you support such blogs, you become part of the problem.

Some people who know me may be surprised that I’m such a strong advocate for Christian unity. I’m not especially known for being a “people person.” However, one reason for this is that I see the way most people treat other people, and I don’t like it. It’s especially sad to see Christians mistreating one another. As explained above, the New Testament gives us explicit instructions on how to respond when another Christian sins.

If you would like to learn more about Christian unity, God graciously revealed to me the biblical model of Christian unity, which you can read about in Chapter 27 of Return to Genesis. It’s not rocket science, but other Christians hadn’t found it. If you would like to learn more about peace making and non-violent conflict resolution, please see the articles that I collected here.


Note: Someone wrote to tell me I had offered “terrible advice” here. Apparently, she had done as Jesus commanded in Matthew 18, but it didn’t work out. She had to go public on her own. Another thing worth mentioning is that she had been in a cult.

If you get one or two church leaders as witnesses but they knowingly refuse to do the right thing, you should appeal their decision if possible. Failing that, you don’t need to stay in an abusive church. That wasn’t the intent behind Jesus’ instructions.

What It Means to be Born Again

Christians often talk about the need to be born again, but you may be wondering what the term “born again” actually means. If so, read on!

Commonly, we are taught that anyone who isn’t born again is going to Hell. As I’ll explain, that isn’t quite what Jesus said. Even so, He was talking about salvation. For that reason…

 

You Must Be Born Again

 

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Jesus in Conversation with Nicodemus by William Brassey Hole (1846-1917)

This term “born again” appears only in John 3. This, of course, is also where we find the most famous verse in the Bible—John 3:16. The term “born again” may also be translated as “born from above.”

Jesus introduced this topic as He talked with Nicodemus, a religious leader. Nicodemus had come to talk with Jesus at night. He might have been embarrassed to be seen talking with Jesus in a public place in the daylight.

Nicodemus told Jesus, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could could do the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus wasted no time telling Nicodemus what He needed to know:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

Nicodemus was confused upon hearing these words. We can’t blame the poor fellow. After all, most of us haven’t fully understood it even after having read Jesus’ response. I will demonstrate this by reviewing how most Catholics and Protestants have understood this term.

Catholic leaders took it in stride. As they saw it, the “kingdom” that Jesus spoke of was Roman Catholicism. As a result, Catholics seldom show any concern about being born again. Presumably, they all entered the kingdom through water baptism as infants.

Protestants, including myself, feel that the Catholics have misinterpreted this passage. We’ve associated the born again experience with individual salvation more than with church affiliation.

Most Evangelicals interpret the “kingdom of God” as referring to Heaven, with the only alternative being Hell. Evangelicals incorporated the idea of being born again into their other-worldly understanding of salvation, which is largely about how to get to Heaven by praying a prayer of repentance and confession. Their reasoning went something like this:

  • Anyone who, enabled by God’s grace, sincerely prays the sinner’s prayer will go to heaven.
  • Nobody can go to heaven without having been born again.
  • Ergo, everyone who prays the sinner’s prayer must be born again.

This was obviously not intended to be a detailed study, but only the sum and substance of Catholic and Evangelical teaching on this topic.

Do you suppose that either the Catholics or the Evangelicals based their understanding of the new birth on a thorough study of John 3:1-21? As we shall see, this does not appear to be the case. Little attention has been paid to what Jesus actually said about the born again experience, which I’ll tell you about in this post.

One problem with the Evangelical interpretation is that the Bible does not present salvation in a formulaic manner, such as through a single prayer that is used consistently in the New Testament. People in the Bible who came to believe in God were always expected to show it by a changed life (Jas. 2:14-26). As I will explain, it’s no different in the case of born-again Christians. Jesus expected believers to show their spiritual nature through how they lived, as a result of their ongoing relationship with God.

Another problem is that, when referring to the kingdom of God in this conversation, Jesus couldn’t have been talking about a distant, other-worldly heaven.

How do I know this? In the context of that time and culture, the Jews were looking for a Messiah Who would establish an earthly kingdom. Even John the Baptist expected that since he had preached that the kingdom of heaven was “at hand.” This term wouldn’t be used to describe a kingdom for which multiple generations would have to wait more than 2,000 years.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was expecting God to appoint His chosen race of people to reign in this earthly kingdom. The Pharisees thought the Jews were God’s people. Nicodemus must have assumed that physical birth was sufficient for all Jews. Therefore, he wouldn’t have expected Jesus to talk about a spiritual birth.

Someone may point out that Jesus was in the business of instituting a spiritual kingdom. While that is true, “spiritual” isn’t synonymous with “other-worldly.” For example,  when Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you,” He was affirming the kingdom’s presence and relevance in and among believers living in this world, not a kingdom in a remote heaven or on a “new earth” that presumably, God plans to create after having destroyed this one.

When Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was “not of this world” (Jn. 18:36), He wasn’t saying that His kingdom would never exist on this planet. Instead, as the context reveals, He was saying that His kingdom didn’t derive its power and authority from worldly sources such as soldiers and weapons. Jesus said that if this had been the case, His servants would have fought to prevent His arrest.

Nicodemus’ response showed that he was indeed focused on this world. He asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

 

Born of Water and the Spirit

Jesus answered the question as follows:

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)

The first birth is birth by water. Most theologians interpret this to mean childbirth for at least two reasons. First, water, known as “amniotic fluid,” comes out whenever a child is born.  Second, you can see in the above quote that Jesus equated birth by water with being born of the “flesh,” which is the body.

Some Protestants see water baptism in the reference to birth by water, but Catholics find it in the birth by the Spirit. Personally, I don’t see either one, but you can decide for yourself.

Water baptism is a kind of birth by water, but it’s not a birth by the flesh. In fact, being born of the flesh is contrary to the meaning and purpose of water baptism. Baptism doesn’t represent a physical rebirth, but a spiritual rebirth from our earthly existence to a new life with God.

You may ask, “Since you just admitted that water baptism is symbolic of spiritual rebirth, couldn’t the Catholics be correct in their interpretation?” I will respond from personal experience, which I’m sure many of you can relate to.

I was born of water three times. After the first time, I was awarded a birth certificate. The second time was infant baptism by the Catholic church. The third time was adult baptism by a Protestant church. I received water baptism certificates after each of those experiences. The question is, was I spiritually reborn through either of the water baptisms?

I doubt that the infant baptism made a huge difference in my life. I didn’t come to know Jesus through that. It didn’t even keep me in Roman Catholicism, which I assume was one of the purposes.

Even in the case of adult baptisms, God is under no obligation to grant spiritual rebirth to every person who is baptized. The Holy Spirit visibly descended on Jesus in the form of a dove after He was baptized. However, most people who get baptized don’t experience anything other than a feeling of wetness, and maybe coldness.

Protestants who don’t associate the “born again” experience with water baptism will most likely associate it with the “sinners prayer.” However, God also is under no obligation to regenerate every person who responds to an altar call and prays the “sinner’s prayer.” A lot of people who have been “saved” (or water baptized for that matter) have never shown the slightest evidence of having been “born again.” For instance, about 90 percent of the people who respond to altar calls don’t join a church.

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On many occasions, I’ve strongly sensed the Presence of the Holy Spirit. I never received a certificate of spiritual rebirth like the one in the picture above. Still, I’m happy with that because no other human being could have witnessed my spiritual rebirth. This ties in with how Jesus described the Holy Spirit as being like the wind. Nobody from a meteorologist to an airplane pilot to a sailor is able to observe the invisible tracks of the wind, or to predict its movements with a high degree of certainty.

Even I don’t know for certain when I became spiritually reborn. Perhaps it happened when I first confessed Christ as my Lord and Savior and invited Him into my heart. In any case, I see no reason to enshrine as a doctrine either my or anyone else’s guess about when a seeker becomes spiritually reborn.

The Bible does give us confidence to know, and to anyone seeking the Lord that God will give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks in faith (Lk. 11:9-13). I think, however, that a person can have enough faith to respond to an altar call and pray, but still be full of doubts. We see an example of a man in this situation in Mark 9:17-27. He had faith to go to Jesus and to confess Him as Lord, but didn’t faith to receive the miracle he needed. He cried out to Jesus, “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” The Lord performed the miracle, but normally we need faith before God will do what we ask of Him.

Another problem, also confirmed in my own experience, is that Christians don’t always either act or feel like Christians. I’ve even tried to walk away from God. Ironically, that can actually show who’s a Christian because it never works out well for God’s children. This comes under the category, “Don’t try this at home.”

I don’t think Jesus intended for us to judge one another, as if we can determine who’s truly born again and who’s not. That said, we should be genuinely concerned about fellow believers and their spiritual well-being. There’s a big difference between having a critical spirit and being willing to confront a brother or sister who is caught up in sin (see Jn. 8:3-11 for an example of this).

Jesus didn’t elaborate on the spiritual birth itself. He didn’t give Nicodemus a four-step plan to spiritual regeneration. God is free to grant spiritual rebirth whenever He chooses, to whomever He chooses. As Jesus went on to explain to Nicodemus, the Holy Spirit is as free as the wind. This means believers are free because…

 

The Wind Blows Where It Wishes

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The Wanderer Above the Mists by Caspar Friedrich

Jesus continued by describing Spirit-born people:

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:7-8)

Here, Jesus compared the Holy Spirit to the wind. As Jesus and Nicodemus both knew, the Hebrew word for Spirit also meant “wind” or “breath.” The Spirit of God was often associated with wind, breath, and storms in the Hebrew Scriptures (Gen. 2:7, 1 Kgs. 19:11-12, Job 38:1, Ps. 18:11, Isa. 32:15, Eze. 1:4, Nah. 1:3).

I love the fact that Jesus said the wind blows where it wishes. This speaks of the freedom that God’s children enjoy. It reminds me of the random moments when God’s Spirit moves in the hearts of His children and speaks to us.

Jesus pointed out that the wind is mysterious and invisible, yet also real and operative. That, He said, is what people born of the Spirit are like. God works through them in mysterious, yet substantive and observable ways.

When Jesus talked about not knowing where the wind comes from and where it goes, Nicodemus might have reflected back on his journey to meet with Jesus. He probably didn’t want anyone to know who he was as a Sanhedrin member (a high-ranking religious leader), nor to know where he was going. Most of the people also didn’t know Who Jesus was or where He was going, especially after He suffered and died on a cross between common criminals. This, however, was followed by strange events such as the eclipse, the curtain ripped in the temple, the resurrection, post-resurrection appearances, and so on.

Through His life and ministry, Jesus gave us the perfect example of how the Holy Spirit works in the life of a believer. We read, for example, about how Jesus loved people (the Spirit as a refreshing, life-giving breeze); preached the Word (breath, sound, and speech metaphors); and performed miracles (like a powerful, forceful, transforming wind). Like the wind, Jesus was unpredictable. He spoke God’s wisdom to people’s spirits while often leaving their (and our) rational minds befuddled.

As Jesus inferred, the Spirit of God is well able to impact this world in ways more powerful than the natural force of wind. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit can work through our voices as we bear witness to what God has done in us and revealed to us. As God said to Moses, “And who do you think made the human mouth?” (Ex. 4:11, The Message). The Bible first reveals the power of the tongue in Genesis 1, in which God spoke the Universe into existence. Our words hold the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21).

Whether we think about God’s Spirit as manifesting in the likeness of wind, breath, or simply as spirit, the phenomenon must appear alien and inexplicable to those who are spiritually dead, whether they be unbelievers or religious people. The work of the Holy Spirit is always transformative, even affecting unbelievers and convicting them of sin (Jn. 16:8). This can become either a perceived or real threat to the powers that be. As we all know, the Bible—and Christians—tend to get personal when it comes to topics like repentance.

If Jesus’ message had been entirely other-worldly, nobody would have considered it necessary to crucify Him. Surely, we can all understand why the Pharisees felt threatened. Jesus had thoroughly rebuked them in public, and He was gathering many followers. In addition, Jesus had prophesied that the temple would be destroyed. The risen Christ arranged for the sacking of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the temple in 70 A.D. This proved that our Lord is interested in worldly power, not only in having a heavenly people.

Suppose that Jesus had never been interested in earthly power, and so turned this world’s leadership entirely over to Satan. How do you think His spiritual people could have survived over the centuries? How could it be possible for the meek to inherit the earth (Mt. 5:5)?

After Jesus rose from the dead, He told His disciples that He had received all authority in heaven and on earth. He then commanded them to go and make disciples (Mt. 28:18-19). God sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and Jesus continued His ministry through believers. Christians displayed the fruits of the Spirit as they preached and witnessed; performed miracles; and made disciples throughout the known world. In the process, they changed the course of history.

Despite the continuing spread of Christianity, many Christians claim that they can’t find any trace of God’s kingdom on the earth. I have many questions for the Christians who teach that Jesus delayed the founding of His kingdom until after this earth has passed away. One would be, after having preached and taught so much about a kingdom of God in this world, when did Jesus scrap that idea? Does this mean that much of what He said was in vain? If you have similar questions, please consider the possibility that many Christian teachers have unknowingly lied to us. Let’s elevate God’s Word above the teachings of men (Mt. 15:9).

 

The Roman Catholic and Evangelical Positions

Unlike Roman Catholics, I don’t see the spiritual rebirth as being accomplished through water baptism. Jesus wasn’t telling Nicodemus to go get baptized in the Jordan River. In fact, as Jesus continued talking to Nicodemus, He prophesied about the salvation that would be revealed after He (the Son of Man) had been crucified (lifted up).

Unlike most Evangelicals, I don’t think people necessarily become spiritually reborn as a result of praying a prayer and confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior. God may be the only one who knows for certain whether someone responding to an altar call is sincere and truthful. James wrote that even the demons believe there is one God, yet shudder at the thought of it (Jas. 2:19).

Jesus said nothing about when or how a person can expect to become born again. He only described people born of the Spirit as being like a wind that blows where it wishes. You can hear the sound, but can’t tell where it comes from and where it goes. Based on this analogy, spiritually reborn believers may show the following qualities:

  1. Spiritually free.
  2. Spirit-led.
  3. Spiritually empowered.
  4. Having a constructive impact in the world.
Some Catholics and Evangelicals may not agree with how I’ve sought to explain the spiritual rebirth. Still, I’ve sought to limit myself to what Jesus said.
Church leaders have no doubt benefited in a temporal sense from their alleged ability to mediate the salvation of the common man. It’s not surprising that lay people welcomed this since it assuaged their concerns about where they would spend eternity. Instead of having felt a need to seek God about it, they’ve comforted themselves with the thought that an ordained minister or a lay leader told them they were “being saved,” “saved,” or “born again.” (Note: Catholicism teaches that believers are “being saved” in an ongoing process of salvation).
Another problem with both the Catholic and Evangelical interpretations of the spiritual rebirth is that they make it seem as if God’s Word is not true, or that God is unable to keep His children. Most converts in the last generation, after having been led to believe they would go to heaven, have fallen away from institutional churches, and in many cases from Christ as well. How is it that God can cause someone to be spiritually reborn, only to later lose that person? I don’t think the Bible supports this idea (cf. Ps. 37:23-28, Jn. 6:37-40, 10:26-30, 1 Jn. 5:18).
A further problem in the Evangelical tradition is what I believe to be an undue emphasis on justification by faith (cf. Jas. 2:14, 17). Anyone who is truly born again will show it by how they live. Jesus never said that a born again person will have prayed a certain prayer. Instead, He essentially told Nicodemus that their lives will show it. After all, if someone is like the wind, there must be some kind of God connection. Even though the transformation is invisible, people can see that there’s something different. The regenerated Christian is no longer living from selfish motives, but is glorifying God and bearing fruit for Him.
Perhaps we could introduce other metaphors, such as the Holy Spirit being like a fire. Maybe Jesus was making a broader point—that spiritual regeneration will result in believers visibly becoming more like God, yet of course without acting like gods. There’s nothing controversial about the idea that the Holy Spirit makes us more godly. Wanting to be like God is a healthy desire if we pursue through obedience, not through sin as Adam and Eve did (Gen. 3:5).
It’s unfortunate that most preachers and teachers tend to “breeze” past Jesus’ analogy about wind. Jesus was very intentional in providing this word picture to explain what He meant by “born again.”
I acknowledge that if an evangelist uses this analogy instead of a formulaic gospel presentation, it might not appeal to some inquirers. However, if God isn’t calling an individual, their “conversion” won’t be genuine anyway. If, on the other hand, God is calling someone, that person won’t be offended by Jesus’ word picture. He or she will learn from the analogy about the need to be guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Has this information significantly changed your understanding of what it means to be “born again”? I would love to know what you think. Please feel free to leave a comment or share this on social media!

A Plan to Restore Sound Money and Prosperity, Part 2

The Basis of Sound Money

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Brazil’s currency happens to be called the real. (Wikimedia Commons)

What is sound money, really?

In today’s world, we have no choice but to accept paper money and electronic digits as forms of money. The first thing we need to know is, on what basis can we say that a currency has value?

Most gold and silver “bugs” erroneously think that a currency has value only if it’s firmly linked with an underlying commodity. As I’ve explained, however, commodity prices not only fluctuate on their own, they’re subject to manipulation. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wise to fully link any given currency with hard assets.

The gold bugs often claim that fiat currency has no value, but in this they are mistaken. By the way, fiat money is money that a government declares to have value, but which comes with no guarantees.

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1899 silver certificate dollar bill

I once found a “silver certificate” dollar bill, similar to the one depicted above. This bill contained a written promise that it could be exchanged for one silver dollar. Obviously, this was not a “fiat” dollar.

It’s true that fiat paper money has no intrinsic or material value. The paper and the ink are worthless. The government won’t give you gold in exchange for it. Nonetheless, fiat money can still have a great deal of value for defensible reasons.

If there is value to a fiat paper bill, that value is derived from what it represents, and from the limited supply. Currencies have been, and always will be supported by intangibles. Every U.S. dollar, for example, represents a small portion of the labor and property of the American people. The value comes from factors that I explained earlier, such as the strength of the economy and the stability of our government.

This value is real, not imaginary. The U.S. government accepts or requires dollars for payment of taxes and fees, and American companies and individuals accept them in exchange for goods and services. Our dollar is also accepted in many places outside the United States. Even gold bugs who claim that paper money is worthless are happy to provide goods and services in exchange for your fiat dollars.

Every convenient form of currency requires trust. Even if we had a gold-backed currency, we’d have to trust that the government would honor its promise to exchange a set amount of gold for the currency. Either that, or we’d have to trust that we wouldn’t be one of the last people holding dollar bills when the government revoked this promise.

There’s nothing wrong with a government using one or more hard assets such as gold to partially back a nation’s currency. However, for the reasons explained above, any currency that is too closely connected to precious metals is vulnerable to large fluctuations in value, typically due to fraud and manipulation. This danger must be avoided. Therefore, good money must be mostly backed by trust, not by tangible assets.

Proverbs 22:1 says a good name is more desirable than great wealth. If the government, central bank, and people of a nation have good names, the currency will also have a good name. That currency will be honored everywhere, and it will have a high value.

One goal of a stable monetary system should be to eliminate government debt, or at least make it difficult for governments to take on debt. During World War II, the U.S. government took on what may have been the healthiest form of debt by selling war bonds to American citizens. The kind of debt that governments take on from big banks today is not so healthy.

While I’m on the topic, the only “good” form of debt is the kind that’s necessary, and that can be repaid in a timely manner. The Bible discourages believers from taking on debt and from co-signing on loans.

In order to have honest, non-fraudulent money, we must abolish fractional reserve banking. This means banks must lend out actual money that hard-working people either deposited in the bank or paid to the bank as interest.

In theory, this could make it more difficult for people to get a loan. However, the honest monetary and financial systems that I’m proposing here would make money more readily available to all Americans by contributing to greater wealth equality and overall prosperity.

As things stand now, $16 trillion of the world’s money is tied up in U.S. government debt. Other governments have also taken on enormous debts through central banks similar to our Federal Reserve. Just imagine how much more money would be available to the world’s people under monetary systems that didn’t encourage this kind of excessive borrowing.

Making matters worse, periodic economic crashes and financial “rescue” packages for the failed banks take even more trillions of dollars out of the world economy.

The big banks are also too big to efficiently handle micro-financing. The world needs an explosion in micro-business lending. Most of this is going to come from small lenders loaning out “real” money. These micro-lenders could never hope to obtain legal authorization to engage in fractional reserve lending. Then again, why should anyone be given permission to do something as unethical as that?

 

The Role of the Central Bank

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The Moneylender and His Wife (detail) by Quinten Metsys (1466-1530)

My proposal calls for the establishment of a central bank. This bank would lend money. One purpose of the lending would be to provide reliable financing for citizens at a reasonable rate of interest. Another would be to help stabilize the exchange rate, to keep it within a targeted range.

There would have to be a targeted range in order to maintain currency stability. As has been explained, a stable currency should be the primary objective. Whereas wildly fluctuating exchange rates benefit speculators and financial insiders, stable rates would help the honest workers and businesses that are the lifeblood of every economy.

In theory, the United States Congress would only need to set the targeted exchange rate one time. Let’s assume a worst-case scenario in which the U.S. dollar becomes hyperinflated, and needs to be replaced with a new currency. The Constitution gives Congress the power to coin money and to “regulate the value thereof.” When issuing the new currency, the Congress would decide on its value. This value would become the target value of the currency, probably for the duration of its existence. A stable currency could last for however long a nation may endure.

All goods and services are valued according to a nation’s currency, but how can the currency itself be valued? One way would be to assign the currency a value based on a currency index consisting of floating currencies. This wouldn’t be a stable value for any currency because the other currencies wouldn’t be stable. Currencies today are like helium balloons, always floating upward in the sky due to inflation.

The only way to assign a fixed value to a currency would be to value it in relation to fixed amounts of various commodities. This would include basic necessities such as gasoline, electricity, lumber, cotton, grains, meats, fruits and vegetables, base metals, and precious metals. The commodities could be adjusted over time to reflect actual consumption in the real economy. For example, if vegetarianism caught on with a lot of people, the index could be adjusted to give less weight to meat, and more to other foods.

You might wonder who would be responsible for maintaining and monitoring the currency index. It should probably be a government agency that responds directly to the Congress since the latter has responsibility for overseeing the currency’s value. Better yet, it could be an independent agency established by Congress, that would be made up of trustworthy citizens.

Economic forecasting would be needed to anticipate the future value of the currency. This job will probably never be easy, but no system is perfect.

The central bank must work to keep the currency within the assigned target range by controlling the interest rate and lending money at that rate. The bank would have to remain independent, neither owned nor managed by any other banks or financial institutions, nor by their representatives.

The big banks might insist that no plan of this magnitude can work without their financing and financial expertise. I can already tell you why this would be a lie…

As for the expertise, we would neither need, nor want Wall Street wizards or their “magic.” We’d want to keep the financing honest and simple, without getting into things like complex derivatives.

We wouldn’t even need the big banks’ money. Here are four reasons why:

  1. First, America could finance a government-owned central bank by taxing super-rich people to ease the present state of extreme wealth inequality. I’m not talking about imposing stringent taxes on high-salaried working people such as doctors and airplane pilots. People need incentives to train and qualify for those jobs! Rather, I’m talking about imposing a meaningful tax on people who have more money than they could possibly need. This money wouldn’t go directly to the poor, but to a central bank that can put the money to good use. We could also simplify the tax code to eliminate loopholes that wealthy people and corporations use to game the system.
  2. Another way of financing the central bank would be to open it up to deposits by American citizens, if nobody else. The depositors would receive their share of the interest earnings. In order to maintain American sovereignty over the bank, there would have to be restrictions on the size of deposit accounts, and on the amount (if any) that foreigners can deposit.
  3. A third way would be for the Congress to provide significant funding for the central bank. This shouldn’t be a hard sell since it would be an income-earning investment, not an ordinary expenditure.
  4. The fourth and final reason why we wouldn’t need big bank financing is because the central bank could start out modestly by lending money to creditworthy people in the lower income ranges. The bank could expand its lending operations as it obtained additional capital.
    The central bank wouldn’t need money to open a lot of branches. As I envision it, people would be able to walk into their local bank and apply for a central bank loan.

For all these reasons, America would have no problem financing a central bank with clean, no-strings-attached money. The central bank would make credit available to Americans without shenanigans such as big interest rate hikes, fractional reserve lending, and risky investments that might lead to a bank collapse.

As I had explained, the Old Testament prohibited the charging of interest, except in some cases to foreigners. The New Testament gives us an even higher standard. The early Christians gave freely to one another based on the needs. This may lead you to question why I think the central bank should charge interest on its loans. This would be necessary for the following reasons:

  • Interest income would be needed to make up for bad loans, and to pay for the bank’s operations.
  • The profits wouldn’t all be going to a few big, impersonal corporations and their executives. Instead, it would be broadly distributed to American depositors, and/or to Congress’ spending budget.
  • Although the Bible warns against charging interest, that doesn’t change the fact that money today (e.g., for a house purchase) has more value than the same amount of money in the future. Interest-free lending or, for that matter, free money, may perhaps be offered to needy people. However, it would lead to pandemonium and excessive borrowing if nearly everyone were given access to it.
    A further point is that even though the Bible generally discourages the charging of interest, God ordained governments to do some things that ordinary citizens, businesses, or the Church aren’t allowed to do. For example, governments can forcibly collect taxes; catch and imprison criminals; and can even kill people in some instances. In other words, we rightly entrust governments with certain privileges and duties that we don’t grant to anyone else. For this reason, governments are, or should be subject to constitutional law, democratic control, and judicial oversight.

Even private banks and lending institutions should be subject to regulatory oversight. If left unchecked, the charging of compound interest can become a sure means of transferring immense wealth from the many to the few.

As you can imagine, the central bank that I’ve described would be quite different from the current system, which is like a Ponzi scheme designed for the benefit of big banks. Currently, American taxpayers are compelled to pay over $250 billion per year on the national debt. By contrast, the central bank described in this proposal would fund its own operations and return any earnings to the Congress and the American people.

Both systems are similar in one respect. That is, in both cases a central bank lends money, receives it back with interest, and lends it out again. By their nature, banks take back with one hand what they’d given with the other. They don’t take back only what they lent out, but also take interest charges.

The only way banks can put additional money or liquidity into an economy is by increasing their lending. However, once again, excluding write offs for bad loans, all the money must be returned to the banks with interest. If the people do the right thing and pay off a lot of debt, they find themselves in need of more money which, in aggregate, they can only obtain through more borrowing. Thus, under a debt-based monetary system, debt levels must continually increase to keep the economy going.

If you understand how this works, you can see that lending is terrible way of increasing the amount of money in circulation. The primary purpose of the central bank would not be to increase the money supply, but to:

  • Provide for a more stable and trustworthy financial system by replacing big, corporate banks at the national level;
  • Provide fair and reliable financing for most Americans, and;
  • Help stabilize the currency’s value through interest rate adjustments.

Since central bank lending isn’t the best way to increase the nation’s money supply, we must have a method that is not dependent on debt. As I will explain, that would have to be through government spending.

 

The Role of Government Spending

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Money tunnel by RambergMediaImages

I’ve just explained that since new money appears in the form of debt in a central bank system, that same money vanishes when debt is repaid. This makes the Federal Reserve system not only a money-lending machine, but also a money-sucking machine. Our government is being forced to spend more and more money every year on interest payments alone. The Fed and other institutions loans our government the principal, but never prints the trillions of dollars that we need to repay the interest!

The system I’m proposing is vastly different because it would provide the Congress with extra spending money. It would even allow the government to spend money that it didn’t collect in taxes, without borrowing!

You might be thinking that the Congress shouldn’t spend money that it never received through borrowing or taxation. You may wonder how a monetary system that allows Congress to create money out of thin air can be ethical.

The truth is, someone has to coin, print, or digitize new money into the economy. Again, the U.S. Constitution gives the right to issue currency only to our Congress. No outside institution has the right to create dollars and lend them to the government.

It’s unthinkable that the Congress wouldn’t be able to authorize the issuance and circulation of additional money in response to increased demand for the currency. If this were not the case, we’d have no more money in circulation than that which existed in 1776!

The U.S. Congress has the sovereign right to spend newly created currency on behalf of the American people because it represents us. This additional funds would obviously help our tax dollars go further.

You may ask, “How much money would Congress have the right to issue?”

Of course, there are economic, ethical, and rational limits to the amount of money that should be created. This brings us back to our primary goal, which is to have sound money in the form of a stable currency. The Congress should only issue as much money as is needed to meet estimated demand for the currency at the target value. Excessive money issuance would result in inflation, but our goal must be to make inflation a relic of the past.

The best way to introduce new money into the economy would be for the government to determine how much new money is needed, and for the Congress to add that amount to its budget. The budget would consist of not only taxes collected, but also new money needed to support the economy and maintain the currency’s value.

Let’s consider how this might work in practice. Suppose that it is determined, using objective criteria, that Congress should be allowed to spend a specified dollar amount above taxes collected in order to satisfy expected U.S. and world demand for dollars at the target value. For this illustration, “A” will be the amount of taxes collected in the preceding tax year, and “B” will represent the additional money needed in the economy. The Congressional budget would be equal to A + B.

Obviously, the trick would be to determine the value of “B.” If the government were to get this amount wrong, it would need to adjust for it in the budget for the next fiscal year.

This plan could result in a substantial reduction in federal taxes for most citizens.  Although I’m not an economist, I’ll offer a hypothetical example. Real economists would have to account not only for domestic demand, but also for international demand for U.S. dollars, stock market gains or losses, and other factors.

For the sake of illustration, suppose the U.S. economy grows at a rate of two percent per year. The money supply might need to increase at a rate of approximately two percent annually to meet the additional demand. The U.S. GDP is currently $15 trillion. Two percent of that amounts to $300 billion. You can see how this would result in an increase of $300 billion to the Congressional budget with no additional taxes. Americans may want to throw parties because we’ll have done it by making our economy grow!

If the currency becomes inflated beyond the target range, the Congress will need to reduce its spending, especially if economic growth slows at the same time. For this reason, there should be flexibility to adjust the congressional budget from year to year as the situation demands. Incidentally, one of the biggest fixed expenses in the Congressional budget is the $250 billion interest payment on the federal debt, which would eventually be eliminated under this plan.

The one thing that can and must keep the system honest is the requirement to stabilize the currency within the target range. A stable currency contributes greatly toward stabilizing the economy itself. Economic instability is nearly always associated with large shifts in the value of the currency, either through inflation or deflation.

Politicians will always want to spend more money, but this should be prohibited by law. As households, businesses, and local governments must adjust their spending based on income and economic conditions, so too should the federal government.

If the country gets into a war and needs money for that reason, it can raise the central bank interest rate and once again sell bonds to American citizens.

Under any currency regime, bond buyers will want governments to borrow money by issuing debt instruments in both peace time and war. We shouldn’t be surprised that wealthy investors greatly covet this lucrative source of safe income, which they extract from the pockets of taxpayers. However, history shows that debt issuance is a back door route to out-of-control government spending. With it would come the return of inflation, the boom and bust cycle, government expansion, the loss of vital freedoms, military adventurism, and other evils.

 

Summary

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A government of the people, by the people, for the people (1896) by Elihu Vedder (Wikimedia)

The existing monetary system in the United States is inflationary; caters to the big banks; and lacks any effective means of avoiding broad currency fluctuations and devastating financial bubbles. Therefore, I’ve set forth my ideas for a new monetary and financial system. My plan offers two different ways to maintain a stable currency value, i.e., through the central bank interest rate adjustments, and through the congressional budget.

A stable currency will allow people and businesses to plan far into the future. This proposal would allow for a phasing out of the enormous government bond market, which transfers money from honest taxpayers of all income levels into the hands of a relatively small number of wealthy bond holders. My plan would allow the American people to directly benefit from our economic growth by reducing the tax burden. Most Americans will find it easier to obtain loans at a reasonable, and relatively stable rate of interest. Finally, wealthy investors will have less opportunity to finance ever-expanding governments and their wars, but will instead be able to invest more in people, whether it be through charitable giving or through investments in real businesses that create jobs, drive innovation, and contribute to economic prosperity.

I hope I’ve presented this in such a simple way that it all makes sense to you. If not, please ask questions in the comments section below. If you’re in basic agreement with what I’ve written here, please share it with others so that word of this will spread.

Perhaps you have a background in finance or economics, or have further insight from the Bible. Since the ideas I’ve presented here are still “under construction,” feedback is welcome!

A Plan to Restore Sound Money and Prosperity, Part 1

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A Picture of Prosperity: America by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858)

It seems to me there is seldom any shortage of people willing to complain about the current system. The real shortage appears when we look for either plans or actions taken to replace the current system with something that would demonstrably be an improvement. Accordingly, I hope you will read this proposed plan to restore sound money, and recognize it as something that is not only rare, but is of exceedingly great importance.

This article is intended for people who know that our monetary system is unsustainable and who want to know, in plain language, how this problem can be fixed. This describes not only followers of Ron Paul, but anyone who knows that the Federal Reserve system is behind many of our economic problems, and who wants sound money. In this article, I explain the problems and offer a solution that will work.

This is a topic that should be of interest to Christians, and to anyone who wants to reduce or eliminate poverty. Even if you only desire to see greater prosperity in the developed world, the monetary system proposed in this article, if implemented, will lead to general prosperity. The reason I know this is because this plan would eliminate debt-based money and provide for a stable currency. Beyond that, this plan can potentially help Americans save hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes every year!

In case you’re wondering where I came up with this plan, the underlying principles come from the Bible. You may be surprised to know that money is such an important topic in the Bible.

By the way, this won’t be another article recommending a return to the gold standard. In fact, I’ll explain why that would not be an effective solution. The Bible does not teach that prosperity comes from gold.

People in ancient times knew about the economic “evil” called debt, which continues to be one of the biggest problems today. I put the word evil in quotes because sometimes we need to borrow, and we should usually pay interest when we do. The evil side of debt lies in the fact that debt with interest can easily reduce people to ruin.

In addition to the Bible, I’ve applied that knowledge that I learned from having read extensively about economics and investing. Such material can be hard to understand because of the way it’s typically presented. I’m going to keep it as simple as possible here, and my proposed solutions are also simple.

 

The Current System

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Federal Reserve Board building (Wikimedia Commons)

The United States Treasury doesn’t create our money, but only prints it. Whenever our Congress spends more money than the government has collected in taxes, it has to borrow money.

The Federal Reserve is the primary institution that is responsible for loans to the federal government. The Fed doesn’t have to either work or borrow to get this money. It creates the money out of thin air, lends it to the government, and collects interest on it.

You might think this is okay because you think the Fed is a government agency. That’s why it’s called the “Federal” Reserve, right? Actually, that would be incorrect. The Federal Reserve isn’t part of the U.S. government. It’s actually a private banking cartel. The Federal Reserve issues and sell shares to the big banks. By this means, the banks own the Fed.

You may think that, even though the Fed isn’t a government agency, at least it’s accountable to Congress. That would be far from the truth. The Fed doesn’t need approval from Congress for anything it does. The Fed chairman only has to go before Congress periodically to discuss economic and monetary issues, and to answer questions—not to take orders.

The Fed has a monopoly on setting interest rates. The Fed tightens the money supply by raising its interest rate, and increases the supply by lowering the interest rate. Our money supply directly affects the value of the dollars we hold. Our dollars are being inflated from year to year, which means they’re losing value.

The Federal Reserve also controls the money supply by regulating the amount of funds that commercial banks must hold in reserve against deposits. This is related to “fractional reserve” banking,” which I’ll discuss later.

Most of the Fed governors and directors come from the large private banks that own it. Those banks can be expected to look out for one another’s interests. We’ve seen this over and over again. The Fed has given trillions of dollars in financial bailouts directly to big banks, but not one nickel to poor people who need the money.

 

Biblical Principles of Sound Money and Prosperity

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The Casting Out of the Moneylenders from the Temple by Lucas the Younger Cranach (1515-1586)

I’m not ashamed to turn to the Bible because its ethical principles are valid to this day, even as they apply to economic issues. Excessive usury (i.e., charging of interest) and financial fraud must be nearly as old as prostitution. God’s prophets weren’t ignorant of these sins, nor of God’s response to them. As unlikely as it seems that they could have been wiser about money than today’s financial “experts,” I think they were. The key word would be “wisdom,” as opposed to mere academic knowledge.

The monetary and financial system that I’m going to propose here is based on two important biblical principles, which are:

1. Interest charges were forbidden. The Law prohibited the charging of interest to fellow Israelites (Lev. 25:35-37, Dt. 15:1-7, 23:19-20). Israelites were permitted, but not required to charge interest to foreigners (cf. Ex. 12:49, Lev. 19:18).

We need to distinguish between things that God permitted under the Law and commandments that expressed His will. For example, the Law allowed for divorces, but that didn’t make it right (Mt. 19:8). The charging of interest was against God’s will because other Scriptures condemn it without qualification (Ps. 15:1, 5, Prov. 28:8, Eze. 18:8, 13, 22:12-13).

Both John the Baptist and Jesus lived under the Law, and they commanded people to give freely, without expecting anything in return (Mt. 10:8, Lk. 3:11, 6:35). The early Christians took this to an extreme by sharing everything in common (Acts 2:44, cf. 2 Cor. 9:7). However, there were some exceptions (Acts 5:1-11).

The Law is important because it expressed the will of God. However, many problems would arise with any attempt to impose biblical law on societies today. For example, if we tried to outlaw the charging of interest…

  • The attempt would fail since unbelievers are sinners by nature.
  • Even Christians can’t be expected to keep the Law, though we have been born anew by the Spirit of God. The New Covenant is based on grace, not on obeying the Law. God is writing His laws on our hearts, not outside of us on things such as stone tablets, paper, or digital documents.
  • If Christians want to fully embrace biblical financial principles, we’ll have to share everything in common. The vast majority of us, myself included, are not ready for this.

Of course, I won’t be addressing every circumstance in which one party may lend money to another. My topic is money issuance and central banking. Again, I’m opposed to debt-based money, or money that is created as debt. That is not justifiable by any moral standard. I’m also for…

2. Stable, real currency value. A stable currency would make it easier for people and institutions to engage in interest-free lending, which is a biblical priority as we learned in #1.

The Bible gives every nation a mandate for stabilizing its currency because it prohibits the changing of weights and measures is (Lev. 19:35-36, Prov. 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, Eze. 45:10-11). The value of a nation’s currency is as important to fair trade as the definition of a kilogram or inch. We’re to be followers of God, Who is reliable and unchanging (Eph. 5:1, Mal. 3:6).

The currency should also be real, sound money. This does not mean that the currency has to be 100 percent backed by an asset such as gold. In fact, as I’ll explain, that would be a very bad idea. The currency should primarily be backed by things that are truly important, such as:

  • A corruption-free government
  • A prosperous economy
  • A stable exchange rate
  • Political stability
  • Little debt
  • Peace and security
  • Good prospects for the future, and finally…
  • Some mixed asset backing behind the currency

The Bible says we are not to love money (Heb. 13:5), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want to have faith in the value of our currency. We ought to be able to trust that our money is good, in much the same way that we should be able to trust a chair to hold us, and the floor as well.

I’ll address the topics of interest and currency stability separately, beginning with…

 

The Problems With Lending on Interest

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The Sailor and the Banker (1799) by T. Rowlandson and G. M. Woodward

Much of the money that the United States borrows comes from China and other foreign lenders. This is a problem because, according to Proverbs 22:7, the borrower is the slave of the lender. This means that the American people have, to some extent, lost control of our own government.

As I’ve already explained, our debt-based monetary system is fraudulent because the Federal Reserve creates the money out of nothing. When the commercial banks receive and lend out this newly created money, further fraud occurs. Those banks are permitted to lend far in excess of their available reserves. This is known as “fractional reserve banking.” Thus, our debt-based money is also fraud-based money.

As you probably know, state and local governments are generally limited to spending only the money that they collect in taxes. When they need extra cash flow or money to pay for a large capital project, they need to obtain short-term financing or issue bonds. Afterwards, they have to repay the money with interest.

The situation is different with the federal government because it has easy access to massive credit. The federal government borrows money, but is unable to pay down its debt. Instead, it keeps becoming more and more indebted every year. Our Congress spends money as if it comes out of a bottomless pit which, in a sense, it does.

It makes no sense for a government such as ours to borrow money from other nations, and from wealthy individuals to fund its operations. The United States government has already taken on an unsustainable level of debt. This has resulted in an erosion of financial independence and national sovereignty, and in the bankrupting of future generations.

A hopelessly indebted government such as ours must do whatever it takes to satisfy bond holders so that they’ll keep buying more debt. When Bill Clinton was president, he is reported to have said, “You mean to tell me that the success of the economic program and my re-election hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of ####### bond traders?”

Bond purchasers are dependent on governments as well. After all, in this world where the richest one percent of people own 40 percent of the world’s wealth, all that extra money can’t simply go into stocks and real estate. Government bonds are usually considered a safe investment. However, many governments are caught in a debt spiral from which they can’t escape.

Some elitists seem to like it when governments take on unnecessary and excessive debt. One way to get a government to do this is to get it into a war. Further financial gain is possible if the bond investor also owns stock in defense companies. If no excuse can be found for a foreign war, the government can declare a war on poverty, cancer, drugs, terrorism, or whatever the public may be obsessed about at the time. The media is good at scaring the public, and at being cheerleaders for the government’s latest spending plans.

Government bureaucracies naturally want to expand, apart from any external influences. If new employees come in, the existing employee base can get promoted and move up in the ranks. Most government employees detest a stagnant bureaucracy. They don’t want to admit it if their jobs have no meaningful purpose, as long as they’re getting paid.

Not only is our government dependent on debt, so are most consumers. We’re constantly enticed by advertisers to borrow, spend, and invest beyond our means. This also helps contribute to the boom and bust cycle. After all, what good would a financial boom be to the elitists if a lot of “Joe Sixpacks” didn’t buy into it?

The Federal Reserve is responsible for inflating financial bubbles through their interest rate mechanism. When the Fed allows banks to borrow money at low rates, those banks become free to use the cheap money and leveraged financing to create the next bubble. Easy credit encourages people to spend money, but not all spending helps the economy. For instance, it doesn’t help when people take on debt to buy electronic items they don’t need or houses they can’t afford.

The Federal Reserve Board and the big banks have a virtual stranglehold on the U.S. economy. They control the money supply and the financial system for their own gain. Former congressman Ron Paul charged the Fed with having been “the chief culprit” behind the economic crisis.

When a financial bubble bursts, it bankrupts both businesses and the employees who lose their jobs. Middle class people and small businesses pay higher costs for necessities such as housing during the boom, but have nobody to bail them out when the economy crashes. On the other hand, the big banks always get their bailouts, no matter how much money they need.

All debt-backed currencies impoverish their home nation. The money is created in such a way that the original principal is funneled back to the banks, along with interest. There’s never enough money in circulation to repay all the debt because all the new money comes into existence as debt. As people and companies repay debts, that money goes out of circulation. Therefore, the Federal Reserve must create an ever-increasing supply of money to keep up with the demand. This gives the illusion that there’s always enough to go around. However, too much money is now being printed. That leads to inflation, which is a fixture of our economy.

In the long run, the too-big-to-fail banks always hurt the economy and reduce job opportunities for Americans. As you may recall, the housing bubble resulted mostly from historically low interest rates and lax lending practices. While some people will always need access to credit, debt can never serve as the foundation of a sound economy. Unfortunately, debt is practically the only thing that most central banks have to offer a nation.

The private banks that own and manage the Federal Reserve have no right to issue the currency, create and deflate financial bubbles, and otherwise engage in profiteering to the detriment of the national interest. For these reasons, I agree with congressman Ron Paul and others who want to abolish the Fed.

The U.S. Congress didn’t have constitutional authorization to pass the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. Section 8 of the Constitution only gives Congress itself the right to issue money. Conceivably, the Congress might have been within its rights to delegate some limited authority to an independent commission. What it did instead was to give full powers to a banking cartel. The Federal Reserve is as “federal” as Federal Express.

 

The Problems With Currency Instability

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Should advanced  economies have to ride this kind of roller coaster? (Wikimedia Commons)

When I say that a currency should be stable, I’m not suggesting that it’s possible to live in a world with no fluctuations whatsoever in currency values. That would be inconceivable. I’m only saying that monetary systems should be designed with currency stability as the primary objective.

When the value of a currency fluctuates greatly from month to month and year to year, it can wreak havoc on the economy through recessions, inflation, and possibly even hyperinflation. Currency instability is associated with economic instability, and may lead to social unrest.

Many fiscal conservatives insist that we should base our paper and digital money on the gold standard. They say this would keep central banks and governments from creating inflation with their printing presses.

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The “gold bugs,” as they’re called, make some good points, but are mistaken in key areas. First, the price of gold can easily be manipulated by extremely-wealthy people. Even if we were to add a silver standard, silver is in short supply and constant demand. Therefore, its price is even easier to manipulate than the price of gold. We can rest assured that wealthy elitists already own large quantities of gold, silver, and other precious metals.

The Adoration of the Golden Calf, before 1634 by Nicolas Poussin

You might wonder why anyone would want to manipulate the price of gold or other precious metals when it can do so much damage to an economy. They could be enemies backed by a foreign government, or they could simply want to accumulate more wealth.

If you’re wondering how they take advantage of the gold standard, I’ll explain it for you. First, a government makes the foolish mistake of fixing the value of gold to the nation’s currency. The government makes these promises to everyone, rich and poor alike:

  • If and when you request it, we’ll give you a fixed amount of gold for each dollar you exchange, regardless of current market conditions.
  • Whenever our supply of gold becomes depleted in relation to the amount of paper and digital money outstanding, we’re obligated to purchase large quantities of gold at the prevailing market price.
    This plan has the word “sucker” written all over it, or rather “suckers” since taxpayers must foot the bill. By adopting the gold standard, this not-so-hypothetical government has committed itself to buying and selling gold at the behest of outside parties, on their timing. Any person or group of people with enough wealth to manipulate gold prices can easily take advantage of this situation by manipulating the markets and profiting from the undervaluation or overvaluation of gold in relation to the currency. In the process, they wreak havoc on that nation’s economy.

The gold standard has been tried, but has failed many times in the past. Former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan stated in a famous speech in 1896, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

The gold bugs might argue that it’s better to take this risk that to continue with the existing monetary system, which is dependent on fraudulent lending. However, as bad as our debt-based monetary system is, many financial experts fear that a gold-backed currency would be even worse. Wealthy elitists have proven time and again that they can easily manipulate gold prices, even to such an extent that they bring economies to their proverbial knees. A gold-backed currency could even make the Federal Reserve Bank and fractional reserve banking system seem like a good idea by comparison.

People who want to change our monetary system need to propose a better system than the one we have now, not something that’s even worse. We need a plan that will permanently free us from elitist control, fraudulent money issuance, and fractional reserve lending. To this end, I offer a plan to restore sound money and prosperity in Part 2 of this series.

A Christian Perspective on Mass Shooting

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Sandy Hook Memorial

Although I wrote this blog post after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, similar truths apply with regard to any mass murder. Unfortunately, this won’t be the last such incident. All humans are born in a state of sin, and the world itself is sinful.

This won’t a typical, Christian response to tragedy, but it will be a fully biblical response. I didn’t create this blog to repeat the same content that you always hear from other Christians. For example, these were some typical responses to the Sandy Hook shootings:

  • Taking a position either for or against gun control
  • Comparing this event to the even more horrific slaughter of babies through abortion
  • Reminding us that Herod slaughtered babies in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus
  • Defending God by explaining that He is good and just.
  • Explaining that all people are sinners.All these things are true, but not all hit the mark. These responses politicized the tragedy; marked it as an event that somehow fit into the Advent season; make it appear that we need to defend God after every tragic event; or conclude that the world is evil and offer no hope. Often, it looks as if Christians use tragic events merely as an opportunity to change the topic and launch into a lengthy Bible study. I’ll stay on topic, but the answers are found in the Bible.

    The First Murder

    If you’re familiar with my writings, you’ll know that Genesis is my favorite book of the Bible. One reason for this is because it breaks ground by introducing ideas, events, and other things for the first time. Thus, it’s important that we all understand what Genesis tells us about murder.

    The first recorded murder, which we find in Genesis 4:1-16, presents an unambiguous picture. In fact, nowhere in the Bible do we read anything good about the murderer, or anything bad about the victim. Cain hated Abel out of envy (1 Jn. 3:12). He thought the Lord had shown favor to the wrong person. The Holy Spirit sought to reason with Cain, but Cain rejected the voice of God.

    Cain Leads Abel to Death James Tissot ( Wikimedia)

    image_thumbAbel was the first martyr. His tragic fate foreshadowed that of Jesus, whose very life was a perfect offering to His heavenly Father. Wicked men saw that Jesus was specially blessed. They envied Him for it, and killed Him. Though they deliberately committed this evil act, God used it for the good of all who would trust in Christ for salvation.

     

    From a moral standpoint, the Bible doesn’t leave many open questions about murders such as those that occurred at Sandy Hook. The victims, especially the children, were entirely innocent. The murderer can only have had evil motives. He killed the children, not despite the fact that they were innocent, but for that very reason. God, in his infinite love and justice, will deal appropriately with each of the deceased.

    Jesus attributed this and all other murders to Satan, whom He called,“a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). In most cases, the murder victims aren’t as innocent as elementary school children. Still, Satan and his demons incite murder because they hate whatever is pure, honest, and innocent in human beings. God created all humans in His image, and they hate that image. In particular, Satan wants to kill Christians, and anyone who could eventually decide to become a Christian.

    How to Respond to Evil

    The only place where this begins to get complicated is with us, the living. We naturally wonder whether and how we fit into this horrendous picture. Can there be a sensible response to killings that made no sense from a human perspective?

    First, I agree with everyone who senses that we can’t fully extricate ourselves from the picture. Just as Adam and Eve wouldn’t have been justified in supposing that they bore no connection with the murder of Abel, neither can we disassociate ourselves entirely from a tragedy such as the mass murder at Sandy Hook. Each of us should take notice and respond when something like this hits our community or nation.

    You may wonder what Adam and Eve had to do with the murder of their beloved son, Abel. By partaking of the forbidden fruit, they opened a veritable Pandora’s Box. The consequences were entirely out of proportion to what they might have thought was a “little” sin.

    We make similar choices. When we don’t intentionally choose to love people, we choose instead to let sin increase in the world. Two types of consequences can cause a lesser sin to result in greater evils:

    • The “domino” effect occurs when one sin leads to many more sins. This describes Adam and Eve’s sin, or the sins that parents may pass on to children by example.
    • The “last straw” effect occurs when a minor offense leads another person to commit a much worse sin. The provocation could be as slight as rudeness or a minor outburst of anger. Someone may overreact because they have mental problems; have already gone through a lifetime of abuse; or are just having a rotten day, week, or month.

    image I’m not implying that there’s ever a justifiable excuse for the murder of innocent people. Then again, no sin is excusable in the eyes of our holy God. The point is that if we want other people to do good rather than evil, we must start by learning to manage our own behavior. We certainly can’t control other people.

    Most people prefer to respond in some way other than through unconditional love. Nearly always, our first choice is to shift the responsibility onto others. For example, we would love it if law enforcement officers could identify and stop mass murderers before they go on killing sprees. This method will never be very effective, even if massive, invasive surveillance were conducted for this purpose. Another solution that’s been offered is to employ a veritable army of psychologists to counsel people with mental problems. Even if counseling were 100 percent effective, which it isn’t, we don’t have the money for it.

    Many Americans want to take responsibility for stopping murderers by arming themselves. No particular person is likely to be in the right place, at the right time, responding in the right way.

    Some people argue that the more law-abiding citizens carry weapons, the more murders can be prevented. While this may be true, love is a much more powerful force than concealed weapons. Even though carrying a weapon appears to be an aggressive response, it’s not. There’s hardly anything more passive than watching and waiting to respond. Love is an aggressive response because we can choose to be kind and patient with people every day. That will have an effect because God designed each of us in such a way that we respond to love.

    Maybe someone won’t seem to appreciate our kindness because they’re so empty inside that they’re not yet in a position to give. That’s to be expected. A few people may repay good with evil. We should forgive them since Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Sometimes we do good simply by overlooking an offense instead of escalating a situation. Whatever the case, the Bible assures us that we can overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).

    Reverse the Curse

    Again, Genesis 4 shows that the murder of innocents was a consequence of the Fall. Adam and Eve opened a “Pandora’s box,” but we can reverse that curse through the power of Christ. I emphasized “we” as the subject because Christ reverses the curse through us. What a privilege this is for believers!

    Herod killed the baby boys in Bethlehem well before Jesus gave His life and rose from the dead. Now, anyone in the world can repent of their sins and receive the Holy Spirit. Repentance, for anyone who doesn’t know, means experiencing a change of heart and behavior by our choice and God’s enabling power.

    Billions of people throughout the world claim to be Christians, including nearly 250 million people in the United States alone. I’m not suggesting that every one of them is a Christian. Nonetheless, what unbelievers want and deserve to know is, “Does faith in Christ make a difference?” Collectively, we’re not making a difference that can be considered worthy of the name of Christ.

    We shouldn’t expect politicians to prevent mass murders by spending our tax dollars in an ingenious way—as if “politicians” and “ingenious” go together. Neither should we stop at feeling sorry for the families of the victims. We cannot lessen their grief, but we can spread God’s love and endure with patience and forbearance the trials and sorrows that come our way. Only by dying to ourselves in this manner can we hope to see the life of Christ break forth in this world through us.

    Satan has no right to rule and wreak havoc in this world. Christ reigns invisibly, in and through Christians. By spreading Christ’s love in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can make this a world in which mass murders are less common, and where God’s will is more frequently done here on earth, as it is in heaven.

    If you’re interested in learning more about how to respond to evil and violence, I curated some articles on my Scoop-it! Nonviolence page.

    What do you think? Please post any comments or questions below.