Intolerably Pharisaical Progressive Christians

Randal Rauser, Associate Professor of Historical Theology, Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, says that evangelicals who drive SUVs are hypocrites.

Poser or Prophet, Dan Oudshorn concludes that I am neither generous nor counter-cultural in my giving on the basis of zero evidence. (My tax returns are protected by Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act).  My wife says that if this is the kind of slim basis upon which he makes judgments, he is a very poor scholar indeed.

Brandon, a missionary in South Africa, judged me because I mentioned making a six fold increase in my RRSP through investing of which he is also critical.  Yet he doesn’t seem to ask his donor base whether their funding was appropriately gained, i.e., not through ill-gotten investments or usuary. As a donor to missions, I would certainly be less inclined to give to a missionary who is critical of the way I make money. I am not at all sure how such progressive views are going to help collectivist Africa either.

The one thing all three of these people have in common is that they depend on those who work hard and those who make risky investments in the real world.  They can sit in an ivory tower pontificating about how evil investors are; meanwhile, their bacon, their very livelihood, depends on the real-world risk taking of investors, who provide jobs, who pay taxes and who make it possible for missionaries, educators, and street workers to get paid to do their jobs.

10 thoughts on “Intolerably Pharisaical Progressive Christians

  1. I don’t think it is really appropriate for me to write about such private matters in the blogosphere for the entire world to see, and in your case in particular, as in the area of charitable giving you are neither our peer nor our judge. So it would not in any way be helpful. That you assume then that I am not generous is a baseless assumption on your part.

    In a private setting, I might be more willing to share with certain people, but not with you, because your heart is hard and you would undoubtedly twist and turn whatever information that you could get about us to your advantage and to our disadvantage.

  2. I’d call it less judging and more pointing out inconsistencies in where our focus is (why is how much our return is so important? especially when that might not be what a given passage is about?) and a willingness to take a broader look at scripture and context, and hear what the original hearers would have likely heard rather than how we might live life today.

    It’d take offense at this,

    They can sit in an ivory tower pontificating about how evil investors are; meanwhile, their bacon, their very livelihood, depends on the real-world risk taking of investors, who provide jobs, who pay taxes and who make it possible for missionaries, educators, and street workers to get paid to do their jobs.

    But honestly it’s laughable (actually comes across as if you are on this high horse lording this moneymakin’ ability over the rest of us poor souls). My wife and I’s livelihood is dependent on God’s provision and not that of “real-world risk taking investors”. I do freelance work whenever I can (my wife says too much) which is tricky in a country that doesn’t allow us to work for *their* people (all clients must be foreign and pay with foreign currencies) and it doesn’t interfere with what God has called us to do and rely on Him for the rest. And perhaps it’d interest you to know I have investments as well (and am actively working out microfinance schemes where we are at for those we minister to). But you don’t know me from a bump in the wall and would prefer now (and then) to make broad assumptions and focus on what doesn’t matter. So I’ll LOL again, and, as with the last thread, bow out where it’s obvious I’m not wanted.


    • I see it is very hard to have a discussion with progressives. In your case, you cited a liberation theologian’s twisted interpretation of the Parable of the Talents (see here), and then suggest that I should give all my money to the poor because I was full pride–so you judged me, whom you do not know from a “bump in the wall”. When Andrew asked why you thought I should have given all my money to the poor, you repsonded:

      Why? He’s obviously got a lot of pride in his ability to make quadruple his investment in the market system and it reminded me of the rich young ruler. Why the need to brag about investments and such to a lowly soul such as myself who frankly doesn’t give a hoot? But as I said in the last comment — I don’t know. Jesus is the judge of the heart, not I.

      The reason for “bragging” as you say was to point out that through legitimate investing it is possible to double wealth in a short period time that the parable of the talent might indicate (though I suggested more naturally that it was a long period of time). So your particular point that the parable condemns the investor is belied by the ability to make real world, ethical investments that are legitimate and don’t require exploitation. Please, get back to the interpretation of the passage. But instead, you immediately turned all ad hominem and said that I was terrible evil person for bragging while you are suffering from having very little and you don’t even care.

      But you have become testy indeed, since I notice that you depend on donors some of whom perhaps make money through investments–or do you ask them first whether they used evil methods? I was trying to point out the flaw in your argument and the contradiction between your own practice and what you were espousing in the discussion.

      Also you say you have micro-finance schemes. Doesn’t that require the lending of small amounts of money which is payable with interest? How does that square with your interpretation of the Parable of the Talents where the hero is the guy who buries the money, and the Lord is the evil one. So now, when you lend to people who take the money and bury it in the ground, do you praise them for their caution?

  3. Obviously you aren’t interested in reading what I’m writing. I wrote that original stuff (like a year ago?? why continually rehash??) to highlight what I saw as inconsistencies. I don’t have any bones in the argument if you don’t see eschatological significance in the parable of the talents, so be it. We are all responsible to read and obey the scriptures as the Holy Spirit leads. I just thought an alternative approach was worth bringing up.

    And I mention again above that its not the investing I’m against – I do it myself – but making it the seemingly end all of things which was coming through in the prior posts. It’s like a sacred cow that no one can touch.

    You say it’s hard to have conversations with progressives, and I say it’s hard to have a conversation with anyone not willing to listen to what people actually say, choosing to believe what they want. Good heavens. You remind me of my inlaws, who regardless of what I might say or believe, forever think I’m liberal scum cuz I don’t always, under all circumstances vote republican. I’m probably not as far away from you as you’d think (although there is distance), briefly perusing your ol’ blog. I’d suggest considering deeply, what you wrote to Dan:

    In a private setting, I might be more willing to share with certain people, but not with you, because your heart is hard and you would undoubtedly twist and turn whatever information that you could get about us to your advantage and to our disadvantage.

    Anyways, I’ll say “Cheers!” again (which by the way is not a “testy” way of saying goodbye; no reason to get mad at someone I neither know nor is interested in knowing me).

    • And I mention again above that its not the investing I’m against – I do it myself – but making it the seemingly end all of things which was coming through in the prior posts. It’s like a sacred cow that no one can touch.

      Brandon: I’d be curious how you would respond to the following posts:

      I am an investor. So excuse me if I talk about investments. But the fact is my wife and I could have retired some time ago if it weren’t for our charitable giving. I wrote in one of the posts with the tag “generosity” the following lines:

      Once one has made enough wealth to survive, then charismatic giving becomes the motivating factor for further work or investment. The goal of many people in our culture is what Jonathan Chevreau has called “Findependence”, financial independence from the obligation to work. Others are more ambitious and wish to have more power or be able to consume more. The charismatic gift would lead the Christian to work beyond what is needed to comfortably survive in order to be even more charitable or to be able to maintain a constant revenue stream towards their charitable gifts. Paul says work with your hands so that you have something to give (Eph 4.28).

      This is a major motivating factor for what we do. My desire is to create regular revenue stream from my investments that can then be turned into regular help to those who do missions for the Kingdom of God. Thus, I think that you have unfairly judged me and I reiterate my point that I would be strongly disinclined to give to someone like yourself who stands in judgment over the very kinds of activities that make missions like yours possible. If you feel that I’ve been unfair, then please speak up. But I don’t see you backing off from your judgment of me.

      If you could somehow convince me that my investing activity contravenes the word of God, that would be another matter. But to point blank say that it is exploitation, based on evil usury and so forth is superficial– But I think you would find it difficult to muster a biblical argument for your case.

      Finally, Brandon, I did listen to what you said, and I offered several arguments why Ched Myer’s interpretation of the Parable was incorrect (see here). These were exegetical arguments which showed that his interpretation was incorrect: starting with the fact that it is indeed a Parable of the Kingdom; secondly, by saying that his view that the length of time to doubling the money was short time was refuted by the biblical text saying it was a long time. So spare me the your “not willing to listen to what people actually say” line. It is not me but you who will not go back to the text.

      Finally, this blog will rehash anything that remains a problem. The problem of progressives and their anti-free market and anti-investing views is that if we allow them to flourish, then soon enough, all of us will be living in straw huts eating grass and living out a meagre existence like those you went to Africa to try to help.

  4. Hi Peter,

    There is a phrase a Cape Town pastor recently coined to describe his daunting discussions with postmodern/progressive/liberals. His phrase is “irrational fury”. Ravi Zachariah calls it the ‘end of reason’ . Ravi even wrote a book explaining how it’s increasingly difficult to have discussions or reasonable debates which used to be about getting to the truth.

    Today debates and discussions are more about quantity over quality so as to induce a surrender or ‘death by a thousand words’ to those who can’t follow the intentionally deceptive or distracting argumentation.

    I don’t know how you do it. Well done contending for the truth. Oh, and for your generosity – which we can testify is beyond anything we’ve seen in 10 years of ministry in Africa. Honestly.



  5. As I said, we probably agree a lot more than you’d think. The charismatic giving posts were actually some of the ones I had in mind (believe it or not I did go through several pages of your blog).

    Again, the reason I brought up the Myer’s article was to throw an alternative view out there and the reason I responded as I did was because it seemed to be a lot about the money and not a whole lot else. I’ve known a lot of “rich” folk that only think of it (the cash) and give never a mind to anything else. I’m not opposed to investing and making a living in finances — I know it’s not where God has called me but I’m happy for the people who do it well (and it sounds like you do…I won’t make you prove it though 😉 ).

    Perhaps our base disagreements comes down to a ? of labels: you assume one thing about me through one blog comment where I was trying to (but never really got) some decent interaction and I assume another because of how folks respond. That’s why I dropped the matter way back when, and why I had a chuckle now to see it re-introduced, particularly with such inflammatory language. I’ll continue to roll my eyes at paragraphs like your last one as its not a all what we do. I’ll tell you one of the odd joys I’ve experienced here in Cape Town was having a guy I disciple run up to me one day, grab my hand and lead me to his tin shack and say, “Look! This new fridge! I was able to get it without going into debt and without missing rent or utility payments because of what you taught me! Budgeting and saving is working!” Here’s a blog post about one of my weeks last march when the original comments were made: and it might give a better insight into how we roll so to speak. Anyways. I’m getting tired of the “evil progressive” talk so…

    good luck with the investing! I’m glad God is blessing you to bless others! If more people approached capital in the same manner this world would be a better place. It’s bed time here, and we’ve got a big training program that starts tomorrow so I’m not likely to be able to check back.

    • As far as I can see we remain far apart. I commend you on your success in helping someone learn to save and buy a refrigerator without debt. Bravo! You are doing some great work there!

      Yet I still fault your citation of Myers’ tendentious and exegetically unsound article with no qualifications, so yes indeed, I assume that you agreed with him. Indeed, on the point of usury, you agreed explicitly with Myers. Now you know, as an investor, I both charge usury and pay usury–usury just means “interest” and the sense “exhorbitant” is question of relative judgment and context. The implication of Myers’ article is the only to make fast returns on your money is by using exploitation and usury. On these points you seem to remain in Myers’ camp. But free market economics does not require exploitation–but freedom, so that every individual in the market place has the ability to work in their own self-interests.

      So I conclude that your view in support of Myers’ article is actually harmful to the body of Christ. It stirs up envy on the part of the poor towards Christian investors and business people who use their wealth to create more wealth, to provide jobs and to support the work of the Lord. Unless you can show something illegitimate or unethical about the businesses that people are in (such as, e.g., selling crack cocaine, the intentional faulty or dangerous products, or child porn), then who has given you the right to judge their ability to make wealth? Moreover, as a missionary, your criticism has the effect belittling the creation building efforts of investors and business men and women; too often we see missions as the highest call, and working and creating wealth as involvement in filthy lucre, instead of showing business people and investors that they too are servants and ministers of the Kingdom of God. My wife, for one, who dreamed of becoming a missionary herself but must work in job she hates, doesn’t appreciate it when someone presumptuously tells her she should give all she has to the poor (as you implied, and PoserorProphet once suggested also); those who work in business and support missionaries like yourself need the encouragement and the prayers of those whom they are supporting–sometimes they need to know that their suffering is appreciated and reaps rewards. It is not less legitimate work for the kingdom. Your agreement with Myers thus tends towards the destruction of the harmonious relationships that God intends for body of Christ and the partnerships that should exist between the poor and the rich, on the one hand, and missions along with their full-time Christian workers and Christian business community.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s