From Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1 – Prolegomena:

Reformed Dogmatics Vol 1 - Prolegomena by Herman Bavinck

Reformed Dogmatics Vol 1 - Prolegomena by Herman Bavinck

In the earliest period of the Christian church, it lived by the word of the gospel proclaimed to it by the apostles, which was clarified and expanded in the Epistles and the Gospels. There was no difference between the word received in preaching and the word passed down in writing. The whole of it was based on the Old Testament, which was, at once and without resistance, accepted and recognized by the Christian churches as the word of God. From the beginning the Old Testament was, for Christians, the book of revelation augmented and completed in these last days by the word of the gospel through the oral and written preaching of apostles. Accordingly, from the very beginning both the Old Testament and the apostolic writings held authority in the churches of Christ and were viewed as sources of knowledge. From them people drew their knowledge of God and the world, of angels and human beings, of Christ and Satan, of church and sacrament. From the most ancient times on, it was customary to demonstrate the truth of the faith, the confession of the church, by means of Holy Scripture, the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles. Dogma was that which Christ and the apostles had taught, not that which had been conceived by philosophy. Scripture was the rule of faith (regula fidei); confession and church were subordinate to it. The most ancient and, from ancient times, the most important proof for the dogma was the proof from Scripture.

Dangers to Liberty

On October 26, 2009, in Culture, History, by marc

From Roland Hill’s Lord Acton:

Virtually alone among the liberals of his age, Acton saw where its obsessions with class, race, and nationality would lead in the twentieth century and what would happen to humanity when it lost sight “of the concept of man as created in the image of God and sharing in the salvation offered it by Christ.” As an historian he found the racial idea a convenient tool, while rejecting the racialist philosophy that was developed then by contemporaries like Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927) and Comte Arthur Gobineau (1816-1882). Their racialist theories, which ultimately inspired Hitler, were, to Acton, “one of the many schemes to deny free will, responsibility, and guilt, and to supplant moral by physical forces.

Lord Acton by Roland Hill

Lord Acton by Roland Hill

But the theory of nationality is a retrograde step in history. Making the state and the nation commensurate with each other in theory practically reduces to a subject condition all other nationalities within the frontiers. “It is in general a necessary condition of free institutions, that the boundaries of governments should coincide in the main with those of nationalities,” Acton quoted John Stuart Mill. This very idea was realized fifty-seven years later in Woodrow Wilson’s peace settlement of 1919, with the disastrous results remembered by the generation that witnessed Hitler’s occupation of Austria and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. German reunification, the collapse of the Soviet empire, and war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s and 1990s only underlined the significance and accuracy of Acton’s insight. “What he said was always interesting, but sometimes strange,” wrote G. M. Trevelyan. “I remember, for instance, his saying to me that States based on the unity of a single race, like modern Italy and Germany, would prove a danger to liberty; I did not see what he meant at the time, but I do now!”

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Books I’d Like Volume II

On October 24, 2009, in Culture, Humor, by marc

OK, these deserve their own post; they just don’t fit with any of the other books on the list right now.

I’m led to believe that Wuthering Bites will be next in the series.

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Forgot about this one last night, but It should be on the list:

An excerpt from a sermon delivered before the General Court of the State of New Hampshire in Concord – June 1, 1791:

Rev. Israel Evans, 1747-1807

Rev. Israel Evans, 1747-1807

…there are some men, with the means of public prosperity in their possession, who do not realize the value of freedom; they partake of the common blessings of a free people, and yet are not conscious of national felicity. This, however, does not lessen the real worth of liberty; for in every situation of life, it is the richest inheritance. In true liberty is included, freedom, both moral and civil; it has nothing in contemplation but the happiness of mankind, and therefore it is the principal glory of man; and in this world, there can be nothing more dignified, or more exalted. Without civil and religious liberty, man is indeed a poor, enslaved, wretched, miserable creature; neither his life, nor his property, nor the use of his conscience, is secured to him; but he is subjected to some inhuman tyrant, whose will is his law, and who presumes to govern men without their consent.

Excerpt found in Political Sermons of the American Founding Era Vol. 2 compiled by Ellis Sandoz. Emphasis in original.

Books I’d Like, Vol. 1

On October 23, 2009, in Economics, Reformed Theology, Theology, by marc

This seems like as good a place as any to start keeping a list of books I’d like to add to my library, so let’s rock and roll.

What are “good works”?

On October 22, 2009, in Reformed Theology, Theology, by marc

From I Believe… Living the Apostle’s Creed by Lester DeKoster:

I Believe... by Lester DeKoster

I Believe... by Lester DeKoster

Every act, mental or physical, is in biblical terms a “work.”

And “works” come in only two varieties, good or bad. What’s the difference? The good are done in harmony with God’s revealed will; the bad are done in rebellion against it. The Lord’s true disciple, what you are called to be, seeks to learn God’s will and tries to obey it. That’s what the Bible and its teaching in the Church are for.

Christianity is the religion of incarnation, the incarnation of the Son, the Word of God, in Jesus Christ; and in a parallel way, the incarnation of God’s biblical Word through our acts in “works.” That is what Jesus came to make possible. That is what the Creed is about.

In a nutshell: to live is potency; to act is giving your potential incarnation in works; good works are those acts which are obedient to the will of God as revealed through His Word. We need not speak of the others. Don’t!!

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Human Action by Ludwig von Mises

On October 16, 2009, in Economics, by marc

A rather ambitious start, wouldn’t you say?

Human Action is Ludwig von Mises’ Magnum Opus, and sometimes described as the free-market’s counterpoint to Marx’s Das Kapital.  From the Ludwig von Mises Institute:

Human Action - Ludwig von Mises

Human Action - Ludwig von Mises

Mises’s most monumental achievement was his Human Action (1949), the first comprehensive treatise on economic theory written since the first World War. Here Mises took up the challenge of his own methodology and research program and elaborated an integrated and massive structure of economic theory on his own deductive, “praxeological” principles. Published in an era when economists and governments generally were totally dedicated to statism and Keynesian inflation, Human Action was unread by the economics profession.

Heady stuff, eh?  I picked up a copy of the paperback in June or thereabouts, and I could tell immediately that this one was not going to be something that I could read from cover to cover; it was going to require a LOT of time and a lot of concentration.  And even with concentration, I’d probably miss half of it anyway, because it’s much more scholarly than my normal fare.

I was correct: as of the present day, I’ve made it to page 35.  An excerpt:

…all were fully convinced that there was in the course of social events no such regularity and invariance of phenomena as had already been found in the operation of human reasoning and in the sequence of natural phenomena.  They did not search or the laws of social cooperation because they thought that man could organize society as he pleased.

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973)

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973)

If social conditions did not fulfill the wishes of the reformers, if their utopias proved unrealizable, the fault was seen in the moral failures of man.  Social problems were considered ethical problems.  What was needed in order to construct the ideal society, they thought, were good princes and virtuous citizens.  With righteous men any utopia might be realized.

The discovery of the inescapable interdependence of market phenomena overthrew this opinion. Bewildered, people had to face a new view of society.  They learned with stupefaction that there is another aspect from which human action might be viewed than that of good and bad, of fair and unfair, of just and unjust.  In the course of social events there prevails a regularity of phenomena to which man must adjust his actions if he wishes to succeed. It is futile to approach social facts with the attitude of a censor who approves or disapproves from the point of view of quite arbitrary standards and subjective judgments of value.  One must study the laws of human action and social cooperation as the physicist studies the laws of nature.  Human action and social cooperation seen as the object of a science of given relations, no longer as a normative discipline of things that ought to be — this was a revolution of tremendous consequences for knowledge and philosophy as well as for social action.

Some good stuff in there.  While I don’t have a firm handle on his religious beliefs (he was born into a “recently ennobled Jewish family” according to Wikipedia), there are some ideas expressed that mesh very nicely with my Christian and Calvinist worldview, although perhaps in a roundabout way.  Mises is also tapping into the same rich vein of thought on the ability of humans to plan for a more perfect society that F.A. Hayek used to produce his classic work, The Road to Serfdom. And of course, this is a direct attack on John Maynard Keynes and the sort of interventionist economic policies called for by Keynes’ theories and promoted by the governments of that day – and sadly, our day as well.

“What was needed in order to construct the ideal society, they thought, were good princes and virtuous citizens.  With righteous men any utopia might be realized.” This is, of course, why utopia will never be realized – at least from a Christian standpoint – because there is no such thing as a “good person.” In a theological sense I refer, of course, to the first of the five points of Calvinism: total depravity.  (See Romans 3:9-19, Westminster Confession Ch. 6, etc.  I’m about 99% sure that Mises didn’t intend to bring Romans and a Reformed confession to mind when he wrote those words, but c’est la vie.)  Mankind is not perfect, and as such we cannot plan perfectly.  A thought occurs to me:  even if we were perfect, would we be able to do so?  It seems obvious that an individual corrupted by sin could not lay out and execute a perfect plan for himself, much less an entire society, for the simple fact that the plan produced by the imperfect person would itself be imperfect, and an imperfect person could not be expected to execute a plan perfectly.  But even if we were not corrupted by nature, would it be possible to create a system that could anticipate the needs of an entire society or civilization?  Does perfection imply omniscience?  I doubt it.  Did Adam and Eve have perfect and full knowledge of God and His creation before the fall?  I don’t think so – and without that, I doubt it would be possible to effectively plan an entire society’s economic life, or anything else for that matter.

Mises notes that the problem the planners ran into was that their plans often went off track or failed altogether, and that problem was compounded by the fact that the planners themselves never considered that the problem was that they were trying to plan an ideal society in the first place.  But in order to plan, you have to be reasonably sure that the people involved in your plan are going to understand the plan and then do what you want them to do.  In an imperfect world, you can’t be sure of that – some people aren’t going to understand the plan, some people aren’t going to do what you want them to do, and some people are going to try to game the system you’ve set up for their benefit.  The planners can’t see all and know all, and the people who they’re planning for might not share the planner’s interests.  As a result, pretty much any Utopian scheme is destined to fail because Utopian schemes ignore the inescapable fact of human corruption.

“In the course of social events there prevails a regularity of phenomena to which man must adjust his actions
if he wishes to succeed.”
This is why markets work – markets organize themselves and provide natural checks and balances on people’s behavior.  Markets automatically adjust themselves to accommodate the quirks of millions upon millions of individual humans, each with their good and bad points, each with their own agendas, and somehow – without planning – manage to provide the most for the most people… as long as they are free.

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You can see that I’m just starting to work my way through actually integrating these ideas.  This feels like sort of a mishmash.  But hey, I’m nothing if not ambitious.

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Hi all, and welcome to yet another blog.  Not that I really need another new blog, or that I even have anything particularly interesting to say.  As with all of my blogging and tweeting endeavours, this is more for my benefit than anyone elses.

For lack of a better explanation, Ex Libris is going to be my attempt to glean something from my reading.  Over the last year or so, I’ve been digging into a lot of books, often many at once.  And while I’ve enjoyed the process of doing so, I’ve developed a tendency to bite off a bit more than I can chew – in that I have multiple books going at once.  I’m almost positive that I have at least 20 books started, many of which cycle in and out of my range of interest over a period of many months.  The result of this, of course, is that my concentration is divided and I tend to forget where I was when I pick up the book again next time.

I generally catch on pretty quickly once I get back into the flow of a book that I’ve put aside for a while, but I have to admit that reading multiple books at once doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a careful and deep treatment of each text.  So part of what I hope to accomplish here is to note, for myself, passages that catch my interest and perhaps peel back the layers a bit and explore why they grab my imagination.

We’ll see how this goes.  There’s a lot of books covering a pretty wide range of subjects.  For instance, tonight I read a chapter from Roland Hill’s biography of Lord Acton, and then picked up Human Acton by Ludwig von Mises and plowed through a portion.  I’ve also been moving through Lester DeKoster’s Liberation Theology: The Church’s Future Shock and (of course) U2 by U2, among others.  Like I said, a pretty wide range of subjects.  It remains to be seen exactly how well I’ll do at reflecting and writing about all of the books I’m reading, or if I’ll do it at all.  But I suppose it might just be worth the effort.  Again, we’ll see.

So – here goes.  Wish me luck.

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