Me on Wilson on Wright

I’m not allowed to comment on Doug Wilson’s blog. No one has said this explicitly – it’s just that I’ve tried a few times and there is some sort of technical glitch that keeps me from posting there. Mr. Wilson recently sent out a call for people to email him who haven’t been able to comment. I did. And I still cant. It’s probably for the better in the end. There really has only been one time, looking back, that I think it would have actually been something clever enough to post (it was the time when Wilson was talking about the high price of some C.S. Lewis first-editions, to which I was going to say, “That’s a lot of Jack”). But now he’s said something that I wish I could question in the comments section of his blog. Since I’m unable, I’ll just put it out here…in the really cheap seats.

Here’s the thing. Wilson, whose books and blog I read and recommend, has recently read N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, and is commenting on it (here and here). Well, he’s commenting on one part of one section of it, namely pages 213-222 – Wright’s take on justice and “the massive economic imbalance of the world, whose major symptom is the ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt.” While Wilson is unequivocally positive toward the book generally, he thinks these pages are stinkers. It may be that Wright’s views are a bit Pollyanna, but I’m not sure they deserve the bludgeoning they get at Wilson’s fingertips.

Considering this “the number one moral issue of our day,” Wright asserts that “The present system of global debt is the real immoral scandal, the dirty little secret–or rather the dirty enormous secret–of glitzy, glossy Western capitalism.” He continues, “Whatever it takes, we must change the situation or stand condemned by subsequent history alongside those who supported slavery two centuries ago and those who supported the Nazis seventy years ago. It is that serious.”

Strong language, indeed, but how wrong is it? Shouldn’t we Christians endeavor to work for justice on a global scale? Shouldn’t we V-8 drivin’, V8 drinkin’, air conditioned watchers of commercials and eaters of ho-hos work for the good of the people who eat what they can find in the town dump? I’m not saying that wealth is evil, but poverty ain’t too snappy.

Now, I realize that you can’t just say, “Time-out! Nobody owes anyone anything staaartiiing…now!” It isn’t going to happen all at once. It will take work…a lot of work. And time. Lots of that, too. But it doesn’t happen at all unless someone (the Church!) calls for it to be so. If we sit on our postmillennial duffs (which my duff is) and say, “Well, maybe it will take another thousand years or so…,” I think we’re being negligent.  I can see the dangers Wilson points out. But that can’t be our reason for not doing something. We don’t do nothing because something is fraught with peril.

Any ideas, Mr. Wilson?

Oh, and I agree: the rest of the book is very, very good.

[That’s all for now. I have to get back to sorting through this objectivity of the covenant business.]

[UPDATE: Doug Wilson answers well here. Thank you, Mr. Wilson.]

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15 responses to “Me on Wilson on Wright

  1. As soon as I get my taxes done (May God bring ruin on the IRS) I would love to get a discussion going on Wright’s view of Hell. I read it and was disturbed.

    al sends

  2. Plus, dude, you’ve got the question of who actually benefits from donations given to the 3rd world. Typically the US sends a few billion into Zimbabwe and Mugabe ends up with a new palace and lots of other unsavory individuals have rocket launchers.

    Govt. to Govt. funding is a scary sort of wire-transfer.

  3. I guess I’m still a little concerned about the woman digging through banana peels and chicken bones to find something to eat. I don’t know how to make it all better, but it disturbs me. Surely it is a kind of hell.

  4. Rob, I found you via Blog and Mablog. I tried to leave a comment, but wasn’t able to. Thought I’d try it here.

    I really appreciate Wilson’s summary of principles in his response to you. Amen to each of them, but I’m wondering if behind Wright’s remarks about reading Hayek in a comfortable chair and your description of “air-conditioned Ho-Ho eating” is a conviction that when push comes to shove, the scale should be weighted in favor of the poor. For example, Rev. Wilson pointed out that trying to guarantee that people have enough to eat by requiring banks to take the hit is, in reality, requiring the pensioned widow to take the hit. But if someone is going to live out the consequences of a fallen world, which is the lesser evil- plundering the disposable income of the West or allowing individuals born into dehumanizing poverty to die? I’m not asking about the workability of such schemes nor questioning the likelihood of negative unforeseen effects. I’m confused about whether allowing people (when it could be otherwise with legislation) to starve while others luxuriate in their lawfully earned money is a truly just starting point. In other words, do we have a choice between an evil and a just option, or do we start with injustice and then ask which of the two evils is the lesser?

    In a related way, are we opposed to governmental food programs, for example, out of principles of sphere sovereignty and private property (in relation to taxation) or because we think they simply don’t work? If some sort of economic reality could be developed that provided a global safety net, ought we to oppose it regardless of its “doability “or only because we know it’s not doable? I guess I’m wondering- is this an issue of principle or theory?

    I haven’t a leftist axe to grind, I’m truly confused. There is no doubt that free markets allow the greatest accumulation of wealth for the individual, but is it wrong to interfere with that economic efficiency in order to guarantee that people have something to eat? Why is market productivity a more important value than the lives of widows and orphans- including those outside of the church?

  5. Phil,
    I’ve been considering your questions all day. They are insightful and quite helpful in clarifying things. Let me just say, with all candor, I don’t have the first stinkin’ clue. I do know that I read Matthew 25, Jeremiah 29, Deuteronomy 15 and I tremble at how much we (I) don’t do to ease suffering in the world.

    I think Wilson is spot on in his analysis of how we shouldn’t proceed. But I can’t shake the sense that we must, nevertheless, proceed. How? Let’s talk about that! Let’s ALL talk about that. Something may just emerge that will be helpful. If we’re not talking about it…I’m pretty sure I know how it will go.

  6. Rushdoony speaks comparing and contrasting REGULATION (motivation arising from within the individual or society, typically from moral conviction) with CONTROL, motivation from outside, (as in government, economic, social consequences). Having spent some time, and knowing several others who have given the larger parts of their lives, in third world places trying to “make a difference”, one of the principal factors restricting success in any endeavours to bring real economic/social change is that of CONTROL being levied, mainly by government, but also in large measure by special interests (i.e. corrupt business organisations, etc, which operate under leniency, and most often, permission, of government). Some have attempted to foster micro-enterprises within the family structure, and are mitigated against at every turn. The “system” in place simply affords no room for such a structure. Everyone must have their “place” in the social/economic strata and structure ( a means of control by those in power). I’ve studied the detailed history of economic, political, and business development in Nicaragua from about 1885 to the present. Astounding. the present truly is the fruit of the past. It was the political system that put Ortega back in power last election. The people hate him, trust him no more now than in the 1980’s. Forgiving national debts will do NOTHING to change how things are for the man on the street. What will is for government to get out of the way, other than to enact legislation that truly protects the individual’s right to own, and use, property as the individual sees fit. Until this “ceiling” is lifted, the common man will have very little motivation or hope at ever getting past thinking in terms of the next meal, or, at best, next week. the ox who has no place to store up corn, or means of multiplying what he has in front of his nose will ONLY continue to tread it out for another. Latinamericans continue to struggle under the burdens of 400 years of effective slavery. Regime change does nothing. How can WE help? What REAL change must take place? NAFTA is no help. It perpetuates class distinctions, and the oxen will continue to tread out someone else’s corn in return for a mouthful when hunger so motivates. And OUR politicians promote this, and “sell” it to their constituents as the “fair” thing to do. Fair for WHOM? Our government needs to pressure these nations to change their laws in regards ownership, enterprise, and so on. But this will amount to colonialism in some form. In most cases, we as Yanks cannot move to those nations and begin enterprises on our own (we’d be “working” there..a distinct no-no. ). Going there to motivate and enable individual heads of households to do so can, and does, make a HUGE difference. But it is one family at a time, costly, and slow. I’ve seen this work, transforming whole groups of people. But it took ten years for much change…and most of that is now threatened by corruption, drug cartels, an economic system in collapse under the weight of dishonesty from the government on down. The ONLY real answer is to preach the gospel of God’s kingdom boldly, and unreservedly. But even this meets strong opposition. Simon Magus is alive and well, and powerful. His tenure is whort-lived, however. His corruption cannot stand before a holy God, the One who rules the universe.

  7. Yesterday afternoon I was driving my two oldest daughters home from school. We came to an intersection where a man was holding a sign that read, “Homeless. Hungry.” My seven year old couldn’t take her eyes off the man. As we drove past, her head turned. She was eventually looking out the back windo of the truck. All of the recent conversation echoeing in my head I asked her, “What are you thinking, Emily?” To which she responded, “Where’s his family?” We thanked God that we have family.

    What should I have taught her in that situation? That the guy is clearly a lousy drunk who can’t hold a job? He probably is just a sorry layabout who doesn’t want to work? That he is beyond the grasp of our mercy?

    I could be reacting to guilt. The shame of having a bed and Captain D’s for dinner. It could be that I have no responsibility for that man at all. After all, it probably is all his own fault. Why is that not satisfying?

  8. Rob, I am having this discussion over at another blog as well… One guy asked if we were living up to Matthew 25 in giving water to the thirsty or food to the hungry. My question is this: Is giving money to a man on the corner fulfilling this command or are we more akin to the lawless in Matthew 7?

    Might we say, “Did I not give 5 dollars to the bum in Your Name?”

    And might he reply, “depart from me you who never fed that man’s hungry child. I never knew you.”

    al sends

  9. meanwhile, back at the ranch: “Most of the poorest of the poor suffer silently, too weak for activism or too busy raising the next generation of hungry. In the sprawling slum of Haiti’s Cité Soleil, Placide Simone, 29, offered one of her five offspring to a stranger. “Take one,” she said, cradling a listless baby and motioning toward four rail-thin toddlers, none of whom had eaten that day. “You pick. Just feed them.”

    For the complete article:
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/17/news/Haiti.php

  10. Pingback: First, Do No Harm | Blog & Mablog

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