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News

Saturday Selections – April 18, 2020

Are you tolerant? (4 minutes) This is as funny as it is informative! Environmentalism has killed its millions Earth Day, April 22, is upon us once again, and while it may have a different feel this year we can be sure all things environmental are still going to be celebrated by the secular media. However, there as an important aspect of environmentalism that is not praiseworthy: placing the interests of plants and animals either alongside or above those of people. This is a difference that distinguishes environmentalism from biblical stewardship, where we are entrusted with the responsibility of caring for creation (Gen. 1:28) but are also the pinnacle of it (Gen. 1:26-27, Ps. 8:3-9).  This article highlights the enormous damage done when that is forgotten. How long does it take to read each book in the Old Testament? (infographic) Would we dive into our Bibles more eagerly if we understood just how little time it takes to dig deep? Click for the full chart. Babylon Bee encourages us to hold our medical opinions with humility... The Christian satire site, in their own unique way, made their point with the headline: "Facebook to award everyone printable medical degree." FREE MAGAZINE: Ezra Institute's Jubilee Looking for a good deep read? The articles in Jubilee, a conservative Reformed publication, often require some investment but diligent readers will be rewarded. And while the print subscription is $25 a year, past digital issues can be enjoyed for free. As always, readers should practice discernment. Is opposing same-sex marriage like opposing interracial marriage? (4 minutes) You're in a conversation about marriage, and someone says, "The Church opposing same-sex marriage is like how the Church used to oppose interracial marriage" How would you respond? ...

Economics

5 things Christians should know about income inequality

Income inequality is still at the forefront of conversation for many people. Thankfully, there are biblical principles that help Christians understand whether income inequality is a problem, and if so, how we are to respond. At the Christian research organization I work for – the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics – we talk a lot about various aspects of income inequality and how to think about it. Today, I’d like to summarize this tough topic through these five points dealing with the best approach to bringing about flourishing, especially for the poor. 1. HOW INCOME INEQUALITY IS MEASURED Income inequality measures income differences across groups of people using a statistical tool called the Gini coefficient. It ranges between zero and one. A score of one indicates perfect inequality: one person makes all the income and everyone else makes zero. A score of zero indicates perfect equality: everyone earns exactly the same amount. The U.S. Gini coefficient is 0.45 according to the CIA World Fact Book. For the sake of context, the impoverished country of Bangladesh has less income inequality than the U.S. (Gini of 0.32). Meanwhile Hong Kong has slightly more income inequality than the U.S. (Gini of 0.54).  Alone, income inequality data doesn’t tell us that much about whether one country is “better” than another. 2. CRONYISM MAKES INCOME INEQUALITY WORSE, AND IT'S UNFAIR Cronyism occurs when corporations pursue the government for benefits, protections, or subsidies benefiting their business at the expense of competing firms and consumers. It is a growing trend evidenced by the hundreds of lobbying firms popping up on K Street. Politicians have responded quite favorably to these lobbying efforts and have created a culture in which the most well-connected win. This is inherently unfair. An unjust system is prevailing where ordinary businesses and entrepreneurs are failing because they lack the resources to buy off politicians. The unfortunate result is that they can’t succeed, and the well-connected rich get richer and stifle more opportunities for the poor. 3. DIVERSITY IS A BIBLICAL PREMISE OF CREATION. WE ARE BORN WITH DIFFERENT GIFTS, RESULTING IN DIFFERENT INCOMES. We are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and, while we bear many physical similarities, we are all distinct. That means that, by definition, we are unequal. God knew that our uniqueness makes our work and talents inherently dignifying and brings us into community with one another. Our interdependence makes us able to achieve things we never could on our own. We use our gifts and skills to provide goods and services that others need. We then trade for goods and services that we need but aren’t able to provide ourselves. The market return for our services is our income, and that income is based on the market supply of what we provide and the value people place on it. This means that our incomes will be different. However, because we do not operate in a vacuum, those who do earn high incomes tend to create lots of value for everyone, including lots of job opportunities. High incomes are not a sign that the rich have stolen from the poor. Quite the contrary, wealthy individuals have often innovated products and services that make us all richer and ease our way of life. 4. INCOME MOBILITY IS A BETTER MEASURE OF PROSPERITY Income mobility is quite different from income inequality. Income mobility tracks the lifetime income of a person. It’s a way of understanding if people are able to earn more income over their lives as a result of increases in their education, skills, and productivity. The trouble with the data on income inequality is that it doesn’t track individuals over time. If we look at the poorest income bracket in 1990 and again in 2014, we have no idea if the people who were poor in 1990 are still poor today simply by looking at the data. In fact, mobility data suggests that almost sixty percent of individuals who were in the lower income brackets moved into higher brackets in under a decade. 5. WE SHOULD FOCUS ON WHAT GOD HAS CALLED US TO DO, NOT ON WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING In a flourishing society, there are going to be lots of people who make high levels of income. Think how different the Congo or Vietnam would look if local entrepreneurs had the opportunity to create and innovate. The world would have a lot more people like Bill Gates and a lot more wealth and opportunity for all – not just the rich. It’s easy to want for ourselves what others have, but we can’t all be Bill Gates. God has gifted each of us to do something specific and special. We need to focus on our unique callings and do them with excellence rather than focusing on what others have. Unfortunately, some of the talk around income inequality is about coveting what others have rather than wanting more for the poor. I can tell you from living in a county with the highest per-capita income in the country that it is easy to want what others have: the newest car, the bigger house, the better wardrobe. It is a deceptive trap to believe that if we have these things, we will feel better or live better. WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT INCOME INEQUALITY? Be aware of the cronyism all around us that often shows up in seemingly benign programs like laws mandating certain light bulbs, sugar subsidies, and occupational licensing. Government is increasingly giving in to the entitlement culture of lobbying. We need businesses to stop asking for favors and political leaders who will stop the handouts. Furthermore, prayerfully discern the path to which God calls you and pursue it with integrity, hard work, and faith. No matter what income it brings, it gives you a chance to serve others in the here and now and achieve everlasting significance for God’s kingdom. This article is reprinted, with minor edits, with permission from the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org). The original article appears here. IFWE is a Christian research organization committed to advancing biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society. Go here to subscribe to the free IFWE Daily Blog. Dr. Anne Bradley "is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute, where she develops and commissions research toward a systematic biblical theology of economic freedom." RedPanel.com comic used with permission....

News

Saturday Selections - April 6, 2019

5 ways dads can encourage our daughters This isn't all that long but it's worth reading through slowly and considering how to put these into practice with your daughters. RC Sproul on "Are there contradictions in the Bible?" This is a short, succinct, and entertaining answer from a very special teacher. Teaching our kids not to be bystanders to bullying "Bystanders don’t need to do what their name implies: stand by. They can stand up and do something.... One kid can make a huge difference. Really. Just one." Free commentary on Ephesians We haven't read this commentary, but others in this commentary series have been well worth recommending. The ebook of Richard Coekin's Ephesians For You is free all April but you do have to give them your email address. May same-sex attracted Christians have exclusive relationships? Sam Alberry is writing to Christians struggling with homosexual temptation but his reminder is a good one for all: friendship can be intimate, but it isn't exclusive. Are we starting to see through environmental tokenism? The difference between biblical stewardship and secular environmentalism comes down to the type of worship offered. God despises virtue-signaling and blasts pharisaical worship (Luke 18:9-14) so He expects us to use our talents to do real good. But environmentalism's false gods – whether that's trees, the ocean, the planet, or the public – can't tell the difference between doing good and merely looking good. That's why the world's environmentalism often amounts to tokenism. Two examples: the recycling programs that have been rampant in cities across North America for decades, and the recent straw bans that have been put in place by Seattle and other cities. ...

News

Saturday Selections - June 9

I believe in "theistic evolutionist" Dr. Bredenhof on the disingenuous way some in the creation/evolution debate describe their positions. Airport security: where do we draw the line? When airport security selected his 13-year-old daughter for a pat down, John Stonestreet wasn't going to have it. Should churches incorporate? "Incorporating the church also undermines Reformed church governance because it puts power in the hands of the membership to overturn “board” (i.e. elders’) decisions. Incorporation puts final decision making power in the membership rather than consistory." The myth of deforestation: the difference between environmentalism and biblical stewardship On the surface biblical stewardship and secular environmentalism seem to have a lot in common - both are concerned with pollution and loss of animal species. But where they often differ is in the Christian belief that people are more important than plants and animals. Now, saying people are more important than the plants and animals isn't to say that plants and animals are unimportant – it is only about getting our priorities straight. And when it comes to deforestation, secular groups have gotten their priorities mixed up. While the planet is, overall, still experiencing a slightly decline in the extent of its forests, that is happening in the poorest countries. Meanwhile in the rich West, our forests are increasing - in the UK they are three times what they once were! Trees are a luxury – the person who doesn't know what they are going to eat today doesn't have the time or energy to care about trees...and we shouldn't expect them to. But the wealthier a country becomes, the more likely they will see an increase in the size of their forests, as trees become a luxury we can now afford. So when environmentalists complain about deforestation, what is it they are asking for? That the poorest countries start making trees a bigger priority, even as people are still starving? They aren't saying that out loud, but that is what they are asking. And those are mixed up priorities. Starlings are stupendous! Grab the spouse, grab the kiddies, and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the jaw dropping spectacle of starling "clouds." God is fun! (4 minutes). On reading and how to do it We all know how to read, sure. But we don't always know how to assess what we're reading. Bekah Merkle gives us some of the tools (40 minutes). ...

News

Destruction only destroys - the "broken window fallacy"

We are halfway into the 2017 hurricane season and tropical mega-storms in the Atlantic basin have already broken several records. Hurricane Irma has sustained its destructive power longer than any super-storm ever recorded (and our data goes as far back as the 1970s). At the time of writing, the expected damage caused is upwards of $250 billion US. In the midst of this destruction, some are speaking of an economic “silver lining” – that the incoming hurricanes might in fact be good for the economy. For example, William Dudley, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, argues that, “the long-run effect of natural disasters is that it actually lifts economic activity.” The reasoning is that after the initial harmful effect on human and economic resources, the inevitable rebuilding efforts will stimulate local economic activity. It will also increase demand for labor, driving up wages and ultimately making people wealthier. And if we consider the way economic activity is most often measured – via Gross Domestic Product (or GDP) – reconstruction efforts might seem to cause an increase in the economy. Unfortunately, this is not true. Simply put: destruction does not benefit the economy. In the case of Hurricane Irma, the GDP figure will show the value of reconstruction efforts, but not the value of what was destroyed. It is true that the reconstruction of infrastructure and housing spurs on economic activity. However, this argument ignores the opportunity cost – it ignores what could have been done with that money if it didn’t have to be spent on reconstruction. This observation was first made by the French economist Frederic Bastiat. He illustrated the concept that destruction does not benefit the economy through the example of a broken window. Replacing the window may improve the economic position of the repairman, but it means that the owner of the window has lower disposal income to spend on anything else. If the window hadn’t broken he could have had a window and a pair of news shoes. Now he can only afford to replace the window. Similarly, the destruction caused by the hurricane requires the government to spend money on reconstruction and aid, at the expense of what it might otherwise have done with that money. The government has to use resources to rebuild something, as opposed to using the resources to build something new. As Christians, we need to be sensitive to this fallacy in the measurement of economic activity. The task of stewardship of God’s creation is not only about the utilization of the resources within it. It is also about considering the destructive impact we have on creation through our activities. Far too often do we only consider the value that was generated through our activities, but we forget to properly count the cost of our activities, whether it be environmental or socioeconomic. May the Lord be a refuge and strength to those affected by the destructive power of the ongoing natural disasters across the world....