Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Prosperous 2013!?

As 2013 starts, it is common to hear the greeting “Happy and Prosperous New Year!” However, after watching Overdose: The Next Financial Crisis, I am wondering about the suitability of the greeting.
Here in South Korea, 2013 is perceived as another gloomy year. The Korea Herald considered this year economically darker than 2012. Financial Services Commission and the Korea Institute of Finance mentioned about 570, 000 Koreans who were potentially loan defaulters (January 1, 2013). The Editorials today also mentioned about the stormy year that senior college students and urban settlers will face. It was forecasted that “the number of new job openings will decline from 440,000 last year to 320,000 this year.” The new graduates will find it tough to compete to find a job. Home rentals will also rise this year especially in Seoul’s metropolitan area.
With the kind of economic scenario here in South Korea and the one showed in the above video, can we consider it mentally sound to say and expect that a prosperous 2013 is really possible?
Introducing the Idea of the Covenant
I have been reading the answer of the Austrian economists on this subject. I agree with them that economic prosperity is an outcome of following natural economic laws. However, as a theological educator, I do not believe like the deists do that economic laws are self-operating. I still believe that regardless of the chaos we see, the Creator of nature is still here and is never silent. His will remains sovereign even in economic realm.
In the Bible, we read that Moses told Israel that their economic prosperity is closely connected to fidelity in fulfilling the terms of the covenant, the legal expression of God’s will (Deuteronomy 29:9). In the book of 2 Kings, we find that King Josiah started both religious and social reforms by gathering the entire nation to renew their pledge to the Book of the Covenant (23:1-3).
This idea of the covenant is strange for most people today. They reason out that the Bible and the covenant have nothing to do with economic prosperity. But that is not what we find in reading the Bible.
Interestingly, an Old Testament scholar by the name of Meredith G. Kline wrote a groundbreaking study proving the covenant structure of the book of Deuteronomy. Its structure is similar to the structures of the legal treaties in the ancient near east. Ray Sutton and Gary North utilized this discovery in writing their own books.
In simple terms, the structural similarity of Deuteronomy with ancient near east treaties includes the following:  the One who is really in control, authority based on representative government, moral standard, blessing and curse, and continuity.
Both Sutton and North argued that the terms of the covenant are not only limited to Israel. Since the God of the Bible is the Creator of all, no one can escape the terms of the covenant. Each one of us is either a covenant breaker or a covenant keeper. This declaration holds true even for the three most important human institutions: state, church, and family.
The Widespread Violation of the Covenant
There is a saying, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one.” The same truth applies to the demand of God’s covenant. Whether we accept the existence and the terms of God’s covenant, this does not change the truth that we remain accountable to God and His covenant. If we will assess today’s generation, ignorance of God’s covenant is pervasive and so is the violation of its terms.
Take the state for instance. Today, many libertarians and reformed theologians claimed that the government has been heading towards totalitarianism. It is claiming divinity to itself. There is no one higher than the state. And add to it the fact that people today look to the state as their savior.
This dictatorial tendency of the state is evident towards its attitude to private property and personal freedom. And there are indications today that even the Lordship of Christ over the church is now being usurped by the state. It is also noteworthy that Ray Sutton wrote another book, “Who Owns the Family?” identifying the coercive power of the state over the family.
Taking the third component in the covenant, you will see that the standard of morality today is blurred. Absolute ethical standard no longer exists. Polls and majority votes decide morality. Abortion is no longer considered murder. Theft in the form of currency debasement is now termed quantitative easing. Internet pornography is not perceived as adultery. Divorce is now becoming the norm. Same sex marriage is now allowed. LGBT (lesbians, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) is now increasingly gaining a voice and becoming more influential. We are living in a licentious world. Almost everything is allowed. Each one has his own standard of what is right and wrong.
And since people no longer believe in absolute moral standard, the idea of obedience and disobedience, curses and blessings is unacceptable. People do not believe in divine judgment both in time and eternity. It is primitive and foolish to believe in such things. Global economic crisis and escalating violence around the world are considered natural.
As to continuity, the basic unit of society is breaking down. Fathers are abandoning their children. Rate of crime is increasing. The recent Connecticut massacre is just one example. It appears that the social fabric around the world is about to collapse. We just wonder what the world would look like 10 to 20 years from now if these trends will continue to escalate.
Renewal of Pledge to the Covenant
Returning to our question, I personally believe that economic prosperity is promised to those who will renew their pledge to the covenant. As of now, I cannot elaborate in this article the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. It is sufficient to note that all men are under the covenant of works whether they accept it or not.
As far as King Josiah’s generation was concerned, economic prosperity started in the renewal of pledge to the covenant (2 Kings 23:1-3). Such renewal manifested in religious and social reforms. But it all started with a national gathering. I describe this gathering as a “holy gathering”, a gathering in the presence of the Lord, a gathering centered on the Book of the Covenant.
King Josiah gathered all the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people from the least to the greatest. We need the same kind of gathering today, but ignorance of God’s covenant is the primary obstacle. Even the Church is no longer aware about the existence of such covenant.
In our time, there are so many gatherings of powerful people including politicians, bankers, and economists, and all they can provide is false hope and phony prosperity.
I still believe that education holds the answer to present day economic crisis, but not the type of education that we have right now. The ultimate goal is biblical education. Education in free market ideas and libertarian principles is part of this. I understand this as education in natural revelation. The Bible affirms such type of education. And the best place to start this is among Christian homes. Fathers will play a vital role in this education.
Conclusion:
Moses showed the connection between national greatness and following the terms of the covenant. He declared to his generation: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decreesand say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nations is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”(Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
Reference: Sutton, Ray R. 1987. That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant.Tyler Texas: Institute for Christian Economics.