Sunday, January 16, 2011

Was Jesus a good samaritan?

Randal Rouser has been challenging Christians to read Peter Singer’s “solution” to world poverty and take it to heart. Rouser is very judgmental about the lifestyle of the average evangelical:

And yet rather than read that paper and Singer's other work on the plight of the world's poor, self-righteous suburban evangelicals continue to drive their big fat SUVs, tithe 4% of their income (on average) and stand in judgment of his views on abortion. What damnable hypocrisy.

So let’s take him up on the challenge, shall we? I’m going to quote from two of Singer’s representative articles on global poverty. I’ll excerpt what I take to be his core arguments:

I. The Singer Solution to World Poverty

Now that you have distinguished yourself morally from people who put their vintage cars ahead of a child's life, how about treating yourself and your partner to dinner at your favorite restaurant? But wait. The money you will spend at the restaurant could also help save the lives of children overseas! True, you weren't planning to blow $200 tonight, but if you were to give up dining out just for one month, you would easily save that amount. And what is one month's dining out, compared to a child's life? There's the rub. Since there are a lot of desperately needy children in the world, there will always be another child whose life you could save for another $200. Are you therefore obliged to keep giving until you have nothing left? At what point can you stop?
So how does my philosophy break down in dollars and cents? An American household with an income of $50,000 spends around $30,000 annually on necessities, according to the Conference Board, a nonprofit economic research organization. Therefore, for a household bringing in $50,000 a year, donations to help the world's poor should be as close as possible to $20,000. The $30,000 required for necessities holds for higher incomes as well. So a household making $100,000 could cut a yearly check for $70,000. Again, the formula is simple: whatever money you're spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.

We are very far from acting in accordance with that belief. In the same world in which more than a billion people live at a level of affluence never previously known, roughly a billion other people struggle to survive on the purchasing power equivalent of less than one U.S. dollar per day. Most of the world’s poorest people are undernourished, lack access to safe drinking water or even the most basic health services and cannot send their children to school. According to Unicef, more than 10 million children die every year — about 30,000 per day — from avoidable, poverty-related causes.
In any case, even if we were to grant that people deserve every dollar they earn, that doesn’t answer the question of what they should do with it. We might say that they have a right to spend it on lavish parties, private jets and luxury yachts, or, for that matter, to flush it down the toilet. But we could still think that for them to do these things while others die from easily preventable diseases is wrong. In an article I wrote more than three decades ago, at the time of a humanitarian emergency in what is now Bangladesh, I used the example of walking by a shallow pond and seeing a small child who has fallen in and appears to be in danger of drowning. Even though we did nothing to cause the child to fall into the pond, almost everyone agrees that if we can save the child at minimal inconvenience or trouble to ourselves, we ought to do so. Anything else would be callous, indecent and, in a word, wrong. The fact that in rescuing the child we may, for example, ruin a new pair of shoes is not a good reason for allowing the child to drown. Similarly if for the cost of a pair of shoes we can contribute to a health program in a developing country that stands a good chance of saving the life of a child, we ought to do so.
In this light, our obligation to the poor is not just one of providing assistance to strangers but one of compensation for harms that we have caused and are still causing them. It might be argued that we do not owe the poor compensation, because our affluence actually benefits them. Living luxuriously, it is said, provides employment, and so wealth trickles down, helping the poor more effectively than aid does. But the rich in industrialized nations buy virtually nothing that is made by the very poor. During the past 20 years of economic globalization, although expanding trade has helped lift many of the world’s poor out of poverty, it has failed to benefit the poorest 10 percent of the world’s population. Some of the extremely poor, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, have nothing to sell that rich people want, while others lack the infrastructure to get their goods to market.
The rich, then, should give. But how much should they give? Gates may have given away nearly $30 billion, but that still leaves him sitting at the top of the Forbes list of the richest Americans, with $53 billion. His 66,000-square-foot high-tech lakeside estate near Seattle is reportedly worth more than $100 million.
But Forbes lists Allen as the fifth-richest American, with a net worth of $16 billion. He owns the Seattle Seahawks, the Portland Trailblazers, a 413-foot oceangoing yacht that carries two helicopters and a 60-foot submarine.
Yet we should recognize that, if judged by the proportion of his wealth that he has given away
What marks Kravinsky from the rest of us is that he takes the equal value of all human life as a guide to life, not just as a nice piece of rhetoric. He acknowledges that some people think he is crazy, and even his wife says she believes that he goes too far. One of her arguments against the kidney donation was that one of their children may one day need a kidney, and Zell could be the only compatible donor. Kravinsky’s love for his children is, as far as I can tell, as strong as that of any normal parent. Such attachments are part of our nature, no doubt the product of our evolution as mammals who give birth to children, who for an unusually long time require our assistance in order to survive. But that does not, in Kravinsky’s view, justify our placing a value on the lives of our children that is thousands of times greater than the value we place on the lives of the children of strangers. Asked if he would allow his child to die if it would enable a thousand children to live, Kravinsky said yes. Indeed, he has said he would permit his child to die even if this enabled only two other children to live.

Let’s now evaluate his arguments:

1. Singer doesn’t attempt to distinguish between our responsibility to solve problems we caused, and our responsibility to solve problems we didn’t cause. And he uses the hypothetical of the drowning boy to illustrate the irrelevance of that distinction.

Doubtless situations where that distinction is irrelevant to our duty. On the other hand, surely there are situations in which that distinction is germane. Surely he can’t lay down as a general maxim that you and I are automatically responsible to solve problems we didn’t cause.

2. Let’s extend his hypothetical of the drowning boy. Every year a certain number of kids drown at beaches, swimming holes and swimming pools where no lifeguard is on duty.

Suppose I’m a strong swimmer. Is it my obligation to spend my leisure time hanging out at beaches, swimming holes, and swimming pools in the off-chance I can save a drowning kid?

Do I have something better to do with my time? Maybe not. Do I have a duty to remain a lifelong bachelor so that I can be available at the beach, swimming pool, or swimming hole to rescue a drowning kid?

Suppose I don’t know how to swim. Do I have a duty to take swimming lessons to become a proficient swimmer so that I can then spend all my leisure time at beaches in the off-chance I will save a drowning kid?

3. All things being equal, I have a duty to rescue a drowning kid. But what if he fell into raging rapids? What if there’s a high probability that we will both drown if I jump in to save him? Do I have an obligation to jeopardize my own life with little prospect of saving his?

Suppose I have an autistic brother who’s dependent on me. Whose needs take priority? Should I play it safe for the sake of my dependent brother? Or should I risk my life for a perfect stranger?

4. Suppose my teenage son has stage-1 leukemia. His oncologist assures my that my son has a good chance of survival with cancer therapy. Yet think how many starving children I could save if I, instead of spending all that money on cancer therapy to save one child who happens to be my own, I give it to UNICEF. Do I have an obligation to let my son die of cancer?

Of course, Singer is a utilitarian. Since, for him, the common good trumps the individual good, the fact that a cancer patient is my own son is irrelevant to his calculations. However, many of us would draw the opposite conclusion: if that’s what utilitarianism entails, then that’s a good reason to reject utilitarianism.

5. Within Singer’s framework, is there a meaningful distinction between letting someone die and killing him? One healthy teenager or twenty-something can supply life-saving organs for several desperate patients. In the interests of the common good, shouldn’t we kill one person to make his organs available for several desperate patients? Take the life of one to save the lives of the many? Or does that cross a moral line?

6. Doesn’t Singer’s argument generate a dilemma? The more mouths you feed, the more mouths you have to feed. The more hungry children survive, the more hungry children they beget. So, given Singer’s logic, should we feed the starving children of the world, or should we let them die so that we can keep the problem at manageable levels?

Notice, I’m not using this as an argument to let children starve to death. I’m simply probing the internal logic of his own argument.

7. He distinguishes “luxuries” from “necessities” Off the top of my head, here’s a list of commonplace items I’d associate with the modern western lifestyle:

Light bulb
Dance music
Love songs
Indoor plumbing
Bathtub/shower stall
Bathroom tissue
Electric/gas stove
Hot water
Ice cream
House paint
Flower garden
Birthday party
Wedding anniversary
Intramural sports
Pizza delivery

Are these luxuries or necessities? If luxuries, do we have a duty to forego some or all? For instance, do we have a duty to live in a one-room log cabin with a fireplace, wood stove, outhouse, and manual water pump?

To take another example, Singer teaches at Princeton. Is a Princeton education a luxury or a necessity?

8. Apropos (7), if we eliminated these “luxury” items, it would trigger a worldwide economic collapse. For many of these “luxury” items employ men and women. Both directly as well as support services. I don’t see how plunging the world into a global depression is a promising solution to global poverty.

9. Here’s another dilemma. His scenario is predicated on haves and have-nots. The haves are college-educated professionals with lots of disposable income.

But if the “affluent” knew that their disposable income will be diverted to UNICEF, wouldn’t that create a disincentive to get a college education in the first place? Why sink all that extra time and money in a college education, to land a lucrative job, if you have to fork over you disposable income to UNICEF? Why incur onerous student loans you have to repay if your profit margin is diverted to Mogadishu?

On a related note, don’t radicals like Singer think there’s something inherently unjust about huge income disparities? Don’t they favor corporate tax and estate tax laws that punish the accumulation of wealth?

You can only soak the rich if you have the rich to soak. But at that point, don’t the rich become a dry well?

10. Can anyone watch Black Hawk Down (based on a true story) and seriously imagine that we will solve the problem of poverty in Somalia by giving more money to UNICEF? And that example could be extended to many failed nations around the world.

11. Here’s another dilemma. Is a hospital a luxury or a necessity? Well, you might say a hospital is a necessity. It saves lives.

Yet it saves lives by having all sorts of cutting-edge technology. What kind of socioeconomic system must there be to make a modern hospital possible?

12. What about paradigm-cases of conspicuous consumption, like superyachts, private jets, and Xanadu 2.0? Certainly we could debate the ethical priorities.

But from an economic standpoint, you must employ lots of folks to build or maintain a superyacht, private jet, or Xanadu 2.0. If that money was diverted to UNICEF, it would throw lots of wage-earners out of work.

Singer doesn’t bother to consider the rather obvious, unintended consequences of his humanitarian ideas. Short-sighted philanthropy.

Keep in mind that Singer is using this as the worst-case scenario of profligate spending. But most real-world examples are less extreme.

13. What about drinking water? Aren’t there situations where the solution would be to relocate populations to more hospitable regions?

14. It’s not as if, when the Pilgrims set foot in America, or American pioneers took settled in the west, they discovered prefab cities, suburbs, shopping malls, supermarkets, and hospitals just waiting for them. All this had to be developed from the ground up. And UNICEF wasn’t there with food drops. Why can’t “poor” countries do the same thing?

15. Should a prosperous family man live in the Projects so that he can donate more money to UNICEF? What if he chooses to live in a middle-class subdivision because that’s a safer place for his wife and kids?

16. Is public education a “necessity”? Didn’t the human race survive for millennia without public education? What about a tribe of hunter-gatherers? Do they need a college degree, or high school diploma? Isn’t that very ethnocentric?

II. Biblical Ethics

Let’s compare the priorities of Peter Singer with some representative examples or principles in Scripture.

1. Was Jesus a good samaritan?

Not only is Jesus in a position to provide for the needs of the victim, Jesus is in a position to prevent the mugging in the first place. Yet he doesn’t.

He miraculously fed the five thousand. Yet how many other men, women, and children went hungry that day? Or the other 364 days of the year?

Jesus could furnish every dinner table with a feast. Yet he doesn’t.

He could cure everyone. Yet he doesn’t.

This should at least give us pause. Do the priorities of Randal Rauser really align with the priorities of Jesus

2. Did Jesus practice the golden rule?

This (Mt 7:12) is a different way of asking the same question under #1.

3. Caring for one’s own

Gal 6:10:

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

This enunciates a principle of concentric social obligations. We don’t have the same obligations to each and everyone. Rather, we have higher obligations to some individuals. In this case, fellow believers.

4. Charity begins at home

1 Tim 5:8:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Like Gal 6:10, this also enunciates a principle of concentric social obligations. We have higher prima facie obligations to family members.

There are circumstances which can override it. If they force a Christian convert to choose between familial allegiance and loyalty to Jesus, then we must choose Jesus (Mt 10:37).

There are degrees of social obligation. Gal 6:10 and 1 Tim 5:8 broadly prioritize our social obligations.

5. Private property

1 Tim 5:18:

For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages."

This enunciates the basic principle that wages are owed to the wage-earner, and not to a second-party who did nothing to earn it.

6. The marriage of Cana

Jn 2:

 1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
 6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Was the wedding a Cana a luxury or a necessity? Was it necessary for Jesus to attend the wedding? Didn’t he have better things to do with his time–like healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and exorcising the possessed?

And what about that ostentatious miracle involving the wine? Pretty extravagant!

7. Jesus or Judas?

Mk 14:3-9:

 3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4There were some who said to themselves indignantly, "Why was the ointment wasted like that? 5For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor." And they scolded her. 6But Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

Given Rauser’s principles, wouldn’t it be more logical for him to be a follower of Judas rather than Jesus?

8. Cutting the safety net

2 Thes 3:10:

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

This enunciates a principle regarding the limits of charity.

9. Innocent pleasures

1 Tim 4:1-5:

 1Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

This places a standing presumption on the right to enjoy natural goods. The presumption is not that we must stop and question everything, to make it pass some test. Rather, we are ordinarily entitled to enjoy the natural blessings of life. Exceptions to the rule must overcome that presumption.

10. Music

1 Chron 23; 25:

 1 When David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel.
 2David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. 3The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. 4"Twenty-four thousand of these," David said, "shall have charge of the work in the house of the LORD, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 54,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments that I have made for praise." 6 And David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.
 1David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: 2Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. 3Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD. 4Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. 5All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. 6They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. 7The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the LORD, all who were skillful, was 288. 8And they cast lots for their duties, small and great, teacher and pupil alike.
Is this musical outlay necessary? Seems to go well beyond the bare essentials.

11. Architecture

1 Chron 28; 2 Chron 3-4:

6He said to me, 'It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father...10Be careful now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it."
 11Then David gave Solomon his son the plan of the vestibule of the temple, and of its houses, its treasuries, its upper rooms, and its inner chambers, and of the room for the mercy seat; 12and the plan of all that he had in mind for the courts of the house of the LORD, all the surrounding chambers, the treasuries of the house of God, and the treasuries for dedicated gifts; 13for the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, and all the work of the service in the house of the LORD; for all the vessels for the service in the house of the LORD, 14the weight of gold for all golden vessels for each service, the weight of silver vessels for each service, 15the weight of the golden lampstands and their lamps, the weight of gold for each lampstand and its lamps, the weight of silver for a lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand in the service, 16the weight of gold for each table for the showbread, the silver for the silver tables, 17and pure gold for the forks, the basins and the cups; for the golden bowls and the weight of each; for the silver bowls and the weight of each; 18for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD. 19"All this he made clear to me in writing from the hand of the LORD, all the work to be done according to the plan."
 1 Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 2He began to build in the second month of the fourth year of his reign. 3These are Solomon’s measurements for building the house of God: the length, in cubits of the old standard, was sixty cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits. 4The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the house, and its height was 120 cubits. He overlaid it on the inside with pure gold. 5 The nave he lined with cypress and covered it with fine gold and made palms and chains on it. 6He adorned the house with settings of precious stones. The gold was gold of Parvaim. 7So he lined the house with gold—its beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors— and he carved cherubim on the walls.
 8 And he made the Most Holy Place. Its length, corresponding to the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits, and its breadth was twenty cubits. He overlaid it with 600 talents of fine gold. 9The weight of gold for the nails was fifty shekels. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold.
 10 In the Most Holy Place he made two cherubim of wood and overlaid them with gold. 11The wings of the cherubim together extended twenty cubits: one wing of the one, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and its other wing, of five cubits, touched the wing of the other cherub; 12and of this cherub, one wing, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and the other wing, also of five cubits, was joined to the wing of the first cherub. 13The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits. The cherubim stood on their feet, facing the nave. 14 And he made the veil of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and he worked cherubim on it.
 15 In front of the house he made two pillars thirty-five cubits high, with a capital of five cubits on the top of each. 16He made chains like a necklace and put them on the tops of the pillars, and he made a hundred pomegranates and put them on the chains. 17 He set up the pillars in front of the temple, one on the south, the other on the north; that on the south he called Jachin, and that on the north Boaz.
 1He made an altar of bronze, twenty cubits long and twenty cubits wide and ten cubits high. 2 Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. 3Under it were figures of gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast. 4It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The sea was set on them, and all their rear parts were inward. 5Its thickness was a handbreadth. And its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held 3,000 baths. 6 He also made ten basins in which to wash, and set five on the south side, and five on the north side. In these they were to rinse off what was used for the burnt offering, and the sea was for the priests to wash in.
 7And he made ten golden lampstands as prescribed, and set them in the temple, five on the south side and five on the north. 8 He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple, five on the south side and five on the north. And he made a hundred basins of gold. 9He made the court of the priests and the great court and doors for the court and overlaid their doors with bronze. 10 And he set the sea at the southeast corner of the house.
 11 Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram finished the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of God: 12the two pillars, the bowls, and the two capitals on the top of the pillars; and the two latticeworks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars; 13 and the 400 pomegranates for the two latticeworks, two rows of pomegranates for each latticework, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the pillars. 14 He made the stands also, and the basins on the stands, 15and the one sea, and the twelve oxen underneath it. 16The pots, the shovels, the forks, and all the equipment for these Huram-abi made of burnished bronze for King Solomon for the house of the LORD. 17In the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah. 18 Solomon made all these things in great quantities, for the weight of the bronze was not sought.
 19So Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of God: the golden altar, the tables for the bread of the Presence, 20the lampstands and their lamps of pure gold to burn before the inner sanctuary, as prescribed; 21the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs, of purest gold; 22the snuffers, basins, dishes for incense, and fire pans, of pure gold, and the sockets of the temple, for the inner doors to the Most Holy Place and for the doors of the nave of the temple were of gold.

Isn’t this the epitome of conspicuous consumption? 


  1. Interesting post and yes ... elaborate altars to your god (or any god(s)) are the epitome of conspicuous consumption.

  2. Atheist Missionary, maybe the enormous amount of time you spend making posts that contribute nothing to the conversation could be better spent at the local homeless shelter?

  3. "Rouser is very judgmental about the lifestyle of the average evangelical:"

    Yes. That is true. Rauser is Pharasaically judgmental of the average evangelical.

    And we know how Jesus treated judgmental Pharisees.

  4. (I tried to put this comment on a previous post, but it wasn't going through for some reason)

    These posts are starting to make me sick. If you'd read any of his published works ("Theology in Search of Foundations", "Faith Lacking Understanding" and the apologetics articles he's posted at his website) you would see that he is a true Christian who follows Jesus and is working hard to articulate and defend the faith. Just look at his review series of "The Christian Delusion" and see how hard he fights for the faith once delivered to the saints and how much abuse he puts up with from angry atheists.

    His books have received glowing endorsements from Reformed scholars like Paul Helm, Steve Holmes and Oliver Crisp. The latter wrote of "Faith Lacking Understanding" that "this exciting volume should be read and pondered by all who care about the nature and content of constructive theology." (from the back cover)

    Your charge that he doesn't think Christianity is a rational worldview is patently false.

    Or see here for a thoroughly biblical, Christocentric treatment of the problem of hell.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that with your misrepresentations, caricatures and obstinate dogmatism towards fellow believers that you bring out the worst in people? And not in the sense that you bring to light what's really in their hearts, but rather that you drive otherwise affable, humble people up the walls.

  5. It’s not as if, when the Pilgrims set foot in America, or American pioneers took settled in the west, they discovered prefab cities, suburbs, shopping malls, supermarkets, and hospitals just waiting for them. All this had to be developed from the ground up. And UNICEF wasn’t there with food drops. Why can’t “poor” countries do the same thing?

    This is a particular bugbear of mine. In New Zealand, Maori tribes are notorious for demanding more and more "compensation" for all the ills perpetrated against them by the white man. They demand to be "given back" high value resources like the Waikato River (and politically-correct, spineless white politicians oblige; the Waikato River is now the property of the Tainui tribe).

    Yet what turned this natural resource into something worth a lot of money? It was the evil white man, with his economics and technology and Christianized civilization that allowed an affluent society to be established, quality of life to be raised, and money to be made. Before that, the Maori were busy massacring each other with spears, living in reed huts, and worshiping anything that moved (and most things that didn't).

    Yet you never see Maori acknowledge how much better life is now that New Zealand is a civilized nation. They have a biopic focus on redressing past ills, without any consideration for commensurate gains. Tainui now owns the Waikato River; but if technology has polluted the river and we need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars fixing the problem, that's the white man's concern. Tainui won't pay. "We" did it to "their" river, so we have to fix the mess. Never mind that they're making millions reaping the rewards of the same efforts that caused the river to be polluted in the first place.

    And this seems to reflect a more general mindset. If you put the Maori in charge of New Zealand, you'd have a first class tyranny within a year. When you have people who demand all the benefits of others' work, without any commensurate responsibilities on their own part, you have an ideal recipe for a dictatorship that'll suck the country dry and leave most of its populace destitute.

    Needless to say, similar issues arise in most African countries. Anywhere Western (Christian) values of equality, responsibility and so on haven't spread, you get impoverished societies, abominable "governments", civil wars, atrocities, and the whole nine yards.

    Notably, Randal's solution isn't to spread the gospel to these places. It's to guilt-trip people into sending more money for leaders to steal and populaces to squander. Given the choice between providing for people's temporary, earthly needs, or their eternal, spiritual ones, his focus seems set firmly on the former.


    “These posts are starting to make me sick.”

    Make an appointment to see your doctor. On second thought, if you have socialized medicine, you’re in for a long wait.

    “If you'd read any of his published works (‘Theology in Search of Foundations’, ‘Faith Lacking Understanding’ and the apologetics articles he's posted at his website) you would see that he is a true Christian who follows Jesus and is working hard to articulate and defend the faith.”

    I haven’t commented on whether or not he’s a true Christian. On the other hand, he doesn’t hesitate to call fellow Christians “damnable hypocrites” or compare them to skinheads.

    If you weren’t such a partisan suck-up, you wouldn’t so oblivious to his own conduct, or your double-dealing objections.

    “Just look at his review series of ‘The Christian Delusion’ and see how hard he fights for the faith once delivered to the saints and how much abuse he puts up with from angry atheists.”

    Yes, I saw his rather compromising review.
    Tbloggers also wrote their own review of TCD, but I don’t see you cut us the same slack. Try not to be such a partisan suck-up.

    “Your charge that he doesn't think Christianity is a rational worldview is patently false.”

    Are you really that dense? I never made that charge. The question at issue is not whether Christianity is a rational worldview, but whether atheism is a rational worldview. Stop emoting and pay attention.

    “Have you ever considered the possibility that with your misrepresentations, caricatures and obstinate dogmatism towards fellow believers that you bring out the worst in people? And not in the sense that you bring to light what's really in their hearts, but rather that you drive otherwise affable, humble people up the walls.”

    That would be more convincing if you didn’t exempt yourself from your own sanctimonious advice.

  7. Steve:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. I, as a rich person--with more than two pairs of shoes, find your arguments compelling.

    In the end it is the responsibility of Christian not to follow the torah of New Pharisees like Rouser (this is a term that I've used to call such evangelicals), but to be led by the Spirit. The Didache 1.6 says to let your alms sweat in your hands until you have learned to whom to give it. I.e., not all poor people are worthy of alms but some will exploit the giver. That is why the Didache provides a censure to those who would receive but are actually exploiters and traffickers.

    We have known such people in our time. If you are a generous person, eventually you will meet them and be exploited by them. There was the "prophet/apostle" who disowned us within a week of receiving a car from us. Then there are the Africans who come to study theology in the US and forget their obligation to return to Africa to teach in seminaries. One such poor person criticized our consumption of San Benedetto as a "waste of money". The only waste of money was bringing him to Canada in the first place.

    My friend who works for SIL in Cameroon said that the funding from the G. W. Bush money for AIDS relief and education that went to his village was spent by the elders on alcohol and prostitutes. When they all die of AIDS it will be instructive to the young people of how to contract HIV. So I suppose it wasn't a complete waste of US taxpayer's money.

    Then I learned of a Kenyan pastor who just shows up one day, asking the Christians here in Toronto how they might help his church's programs. Why did he think that the way to fund the initiatives of his church, however worthy they might be, was to spend thousands of dollars to come to Canada? Are there no resources in Kenya to fund their programs? Are evangelicals in the US and Canada so easily exploited?