Our Off the Grid Radio guest today is Martin Selbrede, the vice-president of the Chalcedon Foundation and their senior researcher. He, along with Bill Heid and Abe Chacko, discuss the corruption of America, how divorcing morality from the culture has created a vacuum where we no longer have personal responsibility for our actions and our financial system teeters on the brink of destruction.
Off The Grid Radio
Released: January 27, 2012
Bill: And welcome, everybody. It’s Bill Heid with another episode of Off the Grid Radio. Thanks again for spending time with us. We really do appreciate it. Today we’ve got a guest, Martin Selbrede. Martin’s the vice president of Chalcedon Foundation and is a senior researcher for the organization’s ongoing work of Christian scholarship. He’s written numerous articles, essays, and position papers for such publications as Faith for All Life, the Chalcedon Report and the Journal of Christian Reconstruction. Martin is a thinker, a theologian, a businessperson. Martin thanks a lot for being with us. And I also have Abe Chacko. Abe, say hi as well.
Abe: Hi, how are you?
Bill: Thanks Martin and welcome to the show.
Martin: I am pleased to be here. Thanks for inviting me, Bill.
Bill: Well, the point of discussion that I brought up with you is one of the discussions that Abe and I were talking about before we even got on. Most people don’t want to do foundational work. They want to talk about things that are very surface oriented. And so often, in the language and in the discussion, there are so many presuppositional issues baked into the language. I’ve asked you to take a look at this article that our friend Porter Stansbury has written. And full transparency here, I am a subscriber to Porter’s newsletter and Porter is one of the few guys that we let advertise on Off the Grid.
I wanted to have some discussion with you about this article called, The Corruption of America. There are a lot of things baked in. I think Porter’s analysis is brilliant. It’s descriptive. But so many times throughout the article… What I want to do is kind of take it maybe a step that Porter couldn’t take it, with you and Abe as part of the discussion. Let’s talk about the article a little bit. What’s your overall analysis of the article?
Martin: Well, he analyzes things, like you say, up to a certain point but he doesn’t go further upstream than that one point. I think the farthest he gets is to say things like, “I believe the decline of our country is primarily a decline of our culture.” But that’s where he leaves it. He doesn’t explain where culture comes from and what is the nature of that seismic crack in our culture.
And I think we have to go back to more of a theological assessment, such as made by Henry Van Til when he said, “Culture is religion externalized.” It is the expression of an underlying religious commitment, whether good or bad or indifferent. Until we push it back to the next level, we’ll never solve the problem because you can’t just say, “Let’s fix culture.” Culture is an abstraction or a construct built on something else entirely.
Bill: Exactly, and I think what Porter gets to… Abe, you have a couple of those little pieces where he’s starting to kind of say something about… but these are quick statements that he makes. He does a wonderful job of going through and telling what’s wrong in a very analytical, descriptive, primarily economic way but throughout the article, our friend Porter is saying he’s kind of yearning for something, isn’t he? He’s kind of yearning for us to get back to a different way, a different time, a different ethos.
Abe: Yeah, that’s like Martin said. He doesn’t go far enough. He takes the example of Monica Conyers, wife of the second longest tenure congressman who was in prison and she gets reelected. And then Porter asks the question, “These kinds of people and their political philosophy have destroyed what was once America’s fourth largest city.” And the question is, “Where does that political philosophy come from?”
Bill: Martin, what do you think?
Martin: Well, again, he’s talking about a kind of moral decay but he’s looking for bad guys and I think he comes closer to the mark when he says, “It’s all happened all across the landscape of our country in almost every institution.” And he said, “It’s a kind of greed, a kind of desperate grasp for power.” But I think he’s looking for the wrong bogeyman because the enemy is the guy in the mirror. It’s ourselves. We’re actually the ones who are the beneficiaries of our economic policies that give rise to all the problems that Porter is bringing to light there.
I just go back to one point. He never points out that the energy of inflation, the engine of inflation, is one that all people temporarily benefit from because you can turn a liability into an asset if you borrow $100.00 and you pay it back in cheaper dollars that maybe represents $90.00, then you make ten bucks. You’ve turned a $100.00 debt into a $10.00 asset. Because we do this at the expense to the other guy, we don’t care. Everyone wants to pay off their mortgages in cheaper dollars. This is a larceny in the heart. It’s a moral corruption in every mortgage holder’s heart that they want to pay off their debt in cheaper dollars, not deflated dollars. Because also they would scream bloody murder that the banker is making money off of them. They want to make money off of the bank and they want the bank to lose at their expense so that they gain.
So until that moral corruption in the hearts of all people who hold debt illegally… And I call it illegally, from a Biblical point of view because you’re not allowed to have debts longer than seven years in the Bible. The second we go from seven year mortgages to 10, 15, 20, 30 and now 50 year mortgages, we’ve already wiped the slate clean of any Biblical reality. And we’re going to pay the extreme price of that in our culture. So you have to actually push back past the point where Porter is doing this analysis, just to say everyone is on the take. We’re just simply seeing the extreme forms of it but the bulk of it is done in the populous. So until we change the hearts of the people, it’s a false call for reform to send score to the politicians. They are only a symptom of the problem. The core of the problem is the people.
Bill: And they’re listening to the people because they want to get elected. They banter to the people. You just said something that kind of reminded me of this… It’s an issue with the people. I was thinking of this idea of cultural relativism. There are a lot of enemies of absolutes and what we would call an absolute—something that would be unqualified or unconditional. But if you talk about cultural relativism, something which John Dewey had advocated, saying that the moral standards are nothing but custom. So the people within the borders of the United States can say, “Look, it’s right and good for us to export problems, inflation or whatever to the rest of the world.” Isn’t that kind of a form of cultural relativism to which it’s kind of a blending? It’s a weird hybrid of cultural relativism and imperialism, right?
Martin: Yeah, I would agree with that. First off, if all governments are on the take, you have the advantage that your particular inflated currency is not subject to exposure against an absolute standard. If another country is using a pure gold standard, their money would continue to get more and more valuable against yours and you would move heaven and earth to prevent their currency from becoming the reserve currency because it would destroy you because your larcenous currency, what the Bible calls diverse weights and measures, which are an abomination to God, would be exposed for what they are, which is a perpetuated fraud on the people, that the people complain about because of the rising prices but they benefit from it because of their tax and their debt commitments, in contradiction to Scripture.
Bill: And I think Isaiah talked about that a little bit as well with respect to this idea of watering down things, whether it’s silver or wine or whatever. You live in this culture where you’re trying to water down and the other guy is trying to water down. It’s probably a form of Babel of some level, where we’re living in a curse. People say, “Well, you don’t want to do this because then God will curse you.” Well, we’re living inside this curse right now in some sense. Again, Porter does a wonderful job telling us, describing the curse.
Martin: Yeah, he hits them all. I was a little saddened. He almost assumes that the public school is a given, that we should accept it as an institution, when in fact it’s the source of a lot of the problems he is describing. I think he could have been more incisive in putting forth an alternative to it, rather than assuming it’s here to stay and we need to…And it’s therefore the decay and it is some horrible new thing. Actually, it was intrinsic to the system since it was set up in Massachusetts in the early 1800s.
Bill: Well, and don’t you also think, Martin, that if you’re going to be sort of prescriptive, if you’re going to say… It’s one thing to be a reporter and say, “Here are all these issues.” And you can yearn and you can just look for solutions. You can be descriptive but if you want to really be prescriptive, you need a set of standards to be prescriptive with. He’s looking for those in the article and I don’t blame him. It’s like a lost treasure. He says what happened. Where did this treasure go? Why aren’t we like we were when this country was founded? What happened to our ethos? If you send your kid to public school or to the public colleges today and you take a class on ethics, well baked into an entire curriculum, is that there is no God, right? Because Christ has been removed from the classroom.
And then you get varying degrees of this attack. You get cultural relativism, as I mentioned. You get Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics, saying well, you do whatever is right. If you’re Bernie Madoff, you do what’s right at the time. If that’s what feels good at that time, then you do that. You’ve got this emotivism, where people just talk about using language, let’s describe these problems but they’re really just problems and I don’t like certain things. That could be a form of an ethos. And you’ve also got maybe BF Skinner’s idea of behavioralism. So you’d send a kid to school and you give them this unholy mixture of all of these non-Christian… these folks with non-Christian premises, that have no basis or foundation for coming up with an ethos and then wonder why they have no standards?
Martin: Yeah, part of it, of course, is you don’t want to use a word like ethos. It has the same abstract sense, a milieu, an ambiance and you lack all concreteness because distinctive to a non-Biblical worldview is the absence of concreteness. It’s kind of the offense, if you will, of any Biblical model. If it has concrete solutions that speak directly to what we’re doing, it doesn’t just give us a good, warm, fuzzy feeling about our cultural heritage and legacies, which again are beautiful abstractions and we can wrap ourselves in flags and Bibles. But the Scripture is very clear. “If you love me, obey my commandments,” as God says. And we are falling flat on our face in so many regards and ignorantly so, in some cases. But because it’s self-serving, we don’t get there.
So yes, Porter sees problems. He says, for example, that, “Dependence on the state is the norm.” So he hits that issue but he doesn’t explain why that is. Why are people dependent on the state? Because the state is now taking the place of God and the standard now becomes a humanistic one, that the ultimate standard is the state and the ultimate authority in people’s lives, and not God. God is not seen as over the state and so you don’t have any different spheres under God that are governed by God’s law. You see simply the state, usurping that authority and therefore people looking to the state for salvation. So long as that isn’t directly challenged and we don’t cut the nerve cord out from under that, the standard will be basically a humanistic one because it will be default.
Because unless you actually pinpoint the problem—and you’re not going to be popular if you do—you’re not going to get to the solution, ultimately. So yeah, there’s missing blueprints, basically. There are some missing blueprints and we kind of try to find them under the word of ethos and culture but you have to take it a step back or you’re never going to get there because there actually is a detailed prescription of what we should do and we simply have no interest in it. And that’s why we’re suffering.
Bill: And we need standards. You’re talking about, even if you’re going to say something is right, something is wrong, you have to have a standard by which you measure that, right? Talk a little bit about Rushdoony’s By What Standard? Certainly, he was taking Van Til’s work. And you had mentioned Henry Van Til. Talk a little bit about maybe Rushdoony and Cornelius Van Til, with respect to this idea of antithesis. Why do all of these thinkers, the Skinners, the Fletchers, Emile Durkheim… Why do all those folks like to muddy…? We live by the Mississippi River here, so we understand muddy water quite well. Why do they always want to muddy the antithesis?
Martin: Well, because they want to assert… And actually, everyone is autonomous. They want to argue for autonomy. In their humanism, autonomy always aggregates and concentrates around statism. That’s the form of which humanism ultimately takes, aggregate power of men in the collective. That’s why they reject theonomy. If theonomy, as the law of God applies, then that is a transcendent standard by which all other standards are to be measured and men do not have the liberty to set up their own laws in contradiction to God’s law because there is a fundamental law that trumps them, ultimately.
For example, if God’s economic laws are true and faithful, then we will see continued erosion and decay and then the prophecies in Scripture and promises that you will look for much and find nothing or little to nothing, that God puts a hole in your pocket and in your purse and drains away your resources because of your rejection of His laws of economics, then that’s inexorable. You can’t get away from it because God, being ultimate and having ultimate authority, trumps all human attempts to usurp His throne.
But men, always wanting to be like God—that’s the appeal of Genesis 3:5, “You shalt be like gods, determining for yourselves what’s right and wrong,” creating your own ethos, if you will. And that satanic appeal rings across the ages and essentially every new humanist wants to come up with a clever way to justify themselves, in terms of autonomy. Because there are only two standards, either a human standard, which is a fluctuating foundation of sand that they build on or there’s the rock of Scripture, which is revealed from God Almighty.
Between those two standards is an inexorably long chasm and you can’t reach from one to the other. You’re either going to be on this side, where God is or on the side of man. God’s pretty clear on this. In Matthew 15:13, Jesus says, “Whatsoever the Lord has not planted shall be rooted up.” So all of these inventions of the autonomous philosophers, economists, and politicians… are destined for the dust heap of history. They have no future. And consequently, the more we hitch our wagon to autonomous standards, where man concocts something out of whole cloth, the more we’re going to condemn ourselves to the doom of a slow economic death.
Bill: And if we’ve got a standard, at least we have something to do about that. We have God’s Word. The other side of that is the blessings attendant to the things that you’re describing. But I wanted to read to you a little bit. I think when this discussion comes up, people never think… What’s baked into a lot of these conversations… It never get’s discussed. People don’t discuss Emile Durkheim. Durkheim was a French philosopher. He lived around 1858-1917. He’s kind of the guy behind scientific sociology. I had a little quote from him that I think is kind of funny. He says, “It can no longer be maintained nowadays, that there is one single morality which is valid for all men and times and at all places.” Well, how are you going to say that Bernie Madoff shouldn’t steal money or that we shouldn’t coin clip or print money? If that’s your standard… Do you see what I’m getting at?
How can you bring an absolute moral prescription and say, “Thou shalt not,” if you’re just a guy on the street or a Republican candidate at a debate—They bamble back and forth all the time and really don’t say anything. They’re always playing around the periphery here. How can they bring these two issues together? This idea of moral relativism and yet saying… Well, I guess his statement is almost… He’s positing an absolute, in a way himself, isn’t he? By making that comment. So why do you think in our culture, Martin, there’s no deeper conversation? I just mentioned the Republican primaries and I don’t see very deep conversation there. Ron Paul wants some standards. I don’t see any of the other guys positing any standards.
Martin: The elephant in the room, basically, that no one wants to talk about because to propound an absolute standard is to make an offensive claim that God is and that He is Him with whom we have to do. And I see this dancing around the edges and beating around the bush, even in Porter’s article. He makes a profound statement where he says, “The tax code has been shaped by the corruption of our government, which in turn was shaped by the corruption of our society.” Well, when you talk about corruption of something, that presupposes a pristine prior state but he doesn’t tell you what that is. It’s asserted to be something historically true, “back then.”
But how far back? When did the corruption start? Some would say it started before the Civil War, for example, the destruction of money with paper currencies and the greenbacks that Lincoln printed. How far back to you want to go to say that we were on the right track with things? Until you have an absolute standard like the law of God, then you don’t really have a way to tell because the whole premise of modern economics is that man does [inaudible 0:18:16.9] creation of money, out of nothing. So you don’t need God if you can make money out of nothing by monetizing debt, as they do. So a standard exists, even if it’s denied.
So when he talks about a corruption, it presupposes something that became corrupt. But he doesn’t disclose it. I think there’s a kind of a gingerly dancing around the edges, don’t want to offend the other person by specifically saying, the reason you have poverty is that you don’t follow Deuteronomy 14’s law that says about 3.33% of net income should go directly to the poor without any government intermediaries to lift them out of poverty. And then Deuteronomy 15:4 applies, which says if you do this, you will no longer have any poverty in your country. We could abolish it with far less money than the War on Poverty entailed that was set in motion by Johnson. In fact, it’s been well said, in the War on Poverty, the poor lost. They would win in a Biblical law, with a lot less money. So instead, we fund this enormous bureaucracy. Not because, again, we trust the state to be God. And if God is to be effective, He has to be bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger, until He absorbs all the productive capacity of the country. And so that’s where we’re headed.
I’ve always marveled when Rushdoony pointed out—and he’s writing in the ‘60s and ‘70s at the time—that the taxes in Sweden were up 90% but in Italy, they were about 110-115% of gross income and it was only the incompetence of the bureaucracy that prevented them from trying to extract an impossible number from the people. So that’s where you head to when you’re trying to fund a new God made out of people. People make bad gods. No matter how smart or intelligent or elite-minded they are, we do a terrible job. When we try to create Heaven on Earth through legislation, we tend to make a Hell on Earth instead. And then we point fingers because now we have scapegoats. And then we switch out for a new set of gods with another party coming into power and at no point is God King. Scriptures are clear. God is the King, the Governor among the nations. So long as we don’t retreat the government as being on His shoulders, then we’re going to get a belly full of the consequences of rejecting God because the universe is governed by His rules and not ours. We cannot trump them by threat because God laughs in the heavens when He sees us try to defy him.
Bill: Abe, why don’t you bring up…? You’ve got a few more, just that you want to toss out there, a few more claims that kind of have some presuppositional stuff baked into it, in the article, in Porters?
Abe: Yeah. Actually, Martin was talking about corruption of America. Porter says, “Americans know in their bones that something terrible is happening.” And I was talking to Bill earlier about, what does that mean? What is in their bones? Jesus Christ always talks about the soul. I think Porter kind of equates bones as if everybody understands what that means. For normal conversation, it is. And Jesus Christ Himself said, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” And that’s what’s happened. As long as we’ve deviated from God, everything else has become mammon.
Bill: Sure. If we know in our bones… It’s sort of two-edged, right? Because the Bible talks about knowing something. So you can be a reprobate antinomy and whatever nomenclature you want to use, and still kind of know something is wrong and suppress it in unrighteousness, I think the Bible says. So Porter has kind of hit that but I think Abe’s point is what’s assumed there by a statement like that? And again, there is a lot that’s going into that. You have to have a Biblical anthropology. You have to know what is man. And then how do we know what’s right and wrong? We have to know who God is.
Those things, it’s easy just to go by in a sense or two and cover some of that stuff but there is so much missing, especially in our culture where it’s never talked about. You can watch news every night. You can watch the debates. You can listen to talk radio. And you’re never going to get to the epicenter of the problem and that’s why I wanted to have you on, just to talk about it, Martin. I think your piece that you’ve written, “Economic Crises in the Bible,” really kind of covers: Okay, what do we need to do? You want to kind of take us through that a little bit too?
Martin: I’d be willing to do that. I do want to touch one more point on Porter’s essay.
Martin: I liked the part that Abe mentioned about the bones because it’s essentially a backhanded way of saying what Paul says, that the Gentiles have a law unto themselves. He said you have the work of the law written on the heart and it excuses or accuses them. So they have a sense of consciousness of something not making right. Now in this instance, Porter is saying that they see externally, looking out at the political world, something is wrong. But we’re not going to get a full repair of the situation until they look at themselves and say, “And I’m part of the problem. In fact, I’m a key part of the problem because they wouldn’t exist…” The political structures are a projection of what’s going on in the hearts of the people. “Like people, like priest,” as they say.
And I also wanted to point out an interesting point where he talks about “restoring personal accountability.” He goes after the limited liability laws after a fashion, saying we need to get rid of these things because people need to be held accountable for it over there. What he’s really saying is that the Bible, which requires by the way, full liability—not infinite liability but full liability—we can get rid of a lot of regulations if corporate leaders are held accountable for the actions they make as a head of a corporation. And the Bible says you are not to separate responsibility from your actions, as a leader or an employer or an employee for that matter. You’re fully liable because you’re always standing in the presence of God. So you’re fully accountable at every point.
What happened when the limited liability laws came out is we put a gigantic split between men and responsibility and therefore we subsidized irresponsibility in the corporate world and we fixed it by bringing in massive government regulation because we got rid of the Biblical solution, which was full liability, holding people personally accountable for their actions. That’s why we were so shocked when the Bhopal India plant that the Union Carbide had killed people and India said, “Well, we need to put on trial, the head of Union Carbide, for murder.” And then saying, “What are you talking about? He’s protected. He has no guilt whatsoever.” And they said, “What kind of system is this in America?” To a point, they’re right. We have this disconnect.
But Porter is not telling us how to fix it exactly or in detail and I think that the Bible does give us those detailed answers. We restore full liability and the legal code is the mess. And I’ll tell you what we’re seeing. We’re seeing exactly what Psalm 94:20 says, where “the wicked frame mischief using law.” In other words, the legal system is used to frame or institutionalize mischief and it’s the wicked people who hate the Scriptures, that use the legal system to put in place laws that contradict God’s laws and this institutes mischief and catastrophe on the society that adopts this mode. So all economic problems ultimately come to be moral problems—and money is a moral issue, not a numeric one or a quantitative one. It’s always a moral one first.
So you have to have moral capital before you can have physical capital or production. Moral capital creates production. And then God’s laws concerning money, in particular…the monetary standards—the Bible is very clear on monetary policy and most Christians are ignorant of it. They have no idea what the federal reserve is doing in the country and they’re used to accepting pieces of paper for currency and the Bible says you shouldn’t even have a diverse weight or a fluctuating weight or measure in your possession because it presupposes you’re going to use it to defraud people with it. American money is nothing but a circulating fraud that’s an abomination. So we have to work to correct that. And until such time as we wake up there, we’re not going to solve the rest of the problems.
Bill: Let’s go backward a little bit because you talked about liabilities and I just want to touch on something that’s really interesting. It’s the cost of all of us, trying to play these… When we throw God away and we don’t connect with each person to each person and each family to each family, as you were describing previously with the incident in India, the cost of being the way we are is tremendous. I was watching something on TV last night. It was about this cruse liner that went down and I didn’t know that there were no longer any cruise ships that sail under a US flag. And then they started talking about it. There are the doctors on these ships. None of them are US doctors. Everything is, when you sign your ticket, you sign off and there’s this complicated code that goes through where you sign off and you can’t sue anybody. You can’t get remedy or relief from anybody, no matter what they do. But the cost built in to all that bureaucracy, where we have to store this money offshore and I see Mitt Romney has got all this money offshore. Now he’ll be under attack for that. But all of this stuff is just another symptom of a very pagan approach to society, right? It would be so much cheaper. We’d have more money in our pockets if we just dealt Biblically with each other. We would be much, much wealthier. That’s the point you’re making.
Martin: Well, yes. Let’s look at it. Why is it that some of these ships are Liberian registry and why is it so many corporations in America are registered in Delaware, for example? Because there’s a flight to where there is the least amount of paperwork and cash involved in it, where you have what you perceive is the best advantage. And so instead of having a flat playing field that the Scripture would give us, you see all these concentrations of things, where you can try to minimize your responsibility, if you will, an accountability and maximize potential gain or exploitation.
So the system… Whenever you set up a playing field that is not even, then people adjust to that. That’s why the Russians were shocked to find out and said this is how we’re going to build things under a centralized structured economy, that the black market ended up handling almost all the major distribution of things that weren’t being handled by government demand and instruction. So that’s what happens.
Whenever you don’t obey God’s law, which is universal and total across the planet, then you get all these sorts of bizarre situations and people playing the system. Because these systems are so complex, like the American tax code, compared to the Scripture’s tax code, which fits on two or three paragraphs? And that’s why no one was interested in it. Because people want to support that massive bureaucracy that’s necessary to support the system.
Bill: Well, take us through a little bit again, like we said. Take us through, in the time that we’ve got. Take us through… You start out in your essay by talking about a nation’s money, God’s test for justice. Take us through that a little bit—the verses and the structure. From your perspective, you have a moral foundation from which to say, “X is wrong.” This is the platform from which we’re approaching saying something that the government ought not to do that or Bernie Madoff ought not to do that.
Martin: Correct. The Bible gives the standard by which man is to live. It lays it out in the form of a very short set of commandments. If you live by them, you will live and be blessed. If you decide to reject them, then Deuteronomy 28 says, “These are the curses that will overtake the nation that breaks these laws.” When you break the monetary laws, then you’re essentially drilling holes in your own purse and bank account. It will be drained and you make each other a prey and you have a very envy-oriented society. By the way, when envy is the foundation of a culture… Envy is, actually as Helmut Schoeck wrote in the book Envy from 1966, he says, “That is the negation of the basis of society.”
And that’s really what Porter is going back to. He never really used the word envy but ultimately, that’s what he is talking about because once you alert people to the fact that God can supply all your needs at minimal cost, then envy can kick in and then that entitlement mentality. But that entitlement mentality that Porter is referring to takes several steps back.
But going back to the matter of money, the Scripture says, “Thou shalt have a just weight, a just ephod, a just measure and shall not own diverse weights or measures.” In other words, the measure of money will be a fixed measure of value. Weights of gold and silver, for example. We see this represented in the US Constitution where it says, “Gold and silver shall be legal tender for all debts, public and private.” It’s for this reason that folks like Noah Webster made it clear that the legal tender laws, which would force you to accept a piece of paper in lieu of a real dollar, the weight of gold, were the “devil in the flesh,” his quote. Because they forced you into using what Scripture would call a satanic currency. So we need to move away from that.
I like to actually do an exposition, at length, when I talk amongst groups, of Micah 6:8-14. Everyone loves Micah 6:8. It’s one of the most famous verses of Scripture and one of the two or three in the Old Testament that Christians all know, where it says, “He hath showed the old man what is good, what the Lord requireth of thee, to do justly, to love mercy and to humble thyself and walk with thy God.” Using the Geneva Bible translation. And everyone says, “Oh, this is wonderful. We love mercy. We are humble. We will humbly walk before our God.” But they don’t know what it means to do justice. If you look at Deuteronomy 16:20, the Scripture says, “Justice, justice shalt thou do.” It repeats the word justice twice in the Hebrew. The King James people said, “Well, how do we translate that? Do we double up? Or we make it say, ‘That which is altogether just, shalt thou do?’”
So that’s the requirement. We must do what is justice. And justice in money is determined by exact weights and measures that do not fluctuate, do not change their value in weight. So consequently, people know that verse 6:8 in Micah but they don’t read the next several verses, which actually explain what’s going on. In verse 10, it’s talking about, “the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked and the scant measure that is abominable.” Scant measure is abominable. It’s that diverse weight and measure, which we would call a Federal Reserve note today. “Shall I justify the wicked’s balances and the bag of deceitful weights?” verse 11 demands. Here we have God, essentially saying, “I’m not going to endorse your form of money, which is a false form and a false measure.” And then by verse 14, He says, “Thou shalt eat and not be satisfied and your casting down– That is, your destruction– shall be in the midst of thee.”
In other words, the collapse of your nation will not be from external invasion but from right in the core of your nation. You’re going to collapse from the inside out. That’s a monetary problem. “And you’ll try to take hold but you won’t deliver,” etc., etc. “You will sow but not reap. You will tread olives but not anoint thee with… “See, all these things where you have economic collapse. You don’t get the return on the investment. Why? Because you’re not using just weights and measures. So God’s saying if you’re not going to measure out to each other, the proper returns to laborers because now they’re being defrauded through the use of these paper money instruments, you’re not going to get those harvests. And then in verse 16, I think is one of the most fascinating ones. He says, “Because the statutes of Omri are kept and all the matter of the house of Ahab, and you walk in their counsels…”
What he is now saying… Micah is writing this a couple centuries after Ahab and Omri and he’s saying these old, standing laws that have been there for centuries, you still observe them. So the fact that they’re old and long and established, like the Federal Reserve has been established for nearly 99 years now, is irrelevant to God. God says, “Just because you’re keeping these stupid statutes of autonomous kings who violated my law and they’re still enforced, doesn’t mean you’re safe. Because I reject them, no matter how long you’ve been still following them. You can be following the monetary policy for a century, that’s false, and God’s still going to condemn it and destroy it. So there’s no time limit. There’s no statute of limitations on God’s law. He says, “I’m still going to waste the nation. I’ll make thee waste and the inhabitants will be hissing and you should bear the reproach of my people.”
So there’s no appeal to saying, “Yeah, but we’ve always done it this way with paper money.” Because this is exactly what is answered here in Micah 6:16. That’s no excuse, that you’ve been observing these laws. In fact, it’s a condemnation that you’re following the laws of these former kings of Israel. In fact and whomever tells you, you must always follow what the king says, this verse—Micah 6:16—puts the light of that. Here, they’re being condemned for keeping the laws of the kings of Israel, Omri and Ahab, because the laws contradicted God’s laws and the people were expected to follow God’s law and not these statutes of Omri and of Ahab, for which they’re held accountable.
Bill: Very interesting.
Martin: So the standard here is not the human standard, going back to an earlier discussion, it’s always that absolute center of God that didn’t change. And that the men just threw away and said, “We don’t need God’s law. We’ll do it our way.” Man always has a better way than God, just like Satan says to Adam and Eve, “I have a better way. You can be equal to God. Forget this subordination stuff. God is holding out on you.”
That’s just like we always hear these promises from modern economists. I saw Stephen Colbert challenging two folks. I think it was Ron Paul on one side and Cain sitting on the other side, about their standards for monetary policy. What was interesting is that Cain scene kept saying, “Well our money is good because other nations accept it. It’s still good over there.” Well, the point is that the other nations have equally corrupt currencies and of course, why not play the game at that point? So he’s measuring… What’s the standard that that guy used? Other corrupt currencies. Our currencies are as good as theirs. Well, theirs is corrupt too. Why not use the standard of gold? You were just evading what Representative Paul was trying to say.
So all this to say, people use a humanistic standard because they believe economics is man-created and God keeps saying, “No, it’s not. And I’m going to blast you with depressions and recessions and I’m going to destroy your earning power and your DVPs are going to be directed toward all sorts of inane, useless stuff and I will blow upon the work of your hands and you receive very little from it.” So those curses will overtake the nation.
Sadly, there are more curses than there are blessings, listed in Deuteronomy 28 because basically, men are dense and don’t want to listen. They really are like sheep that have gone astray and everybody wants to do their own thing and usually at the expense of their neighbor. So we’re not loving our neighbor as ourselves when we defraud them with our choice of monetary instrument. We need to work to revert that. So yes, justice starts with your monetary system and ours is totally corrupt.
Bill: It’s interesting. We were talking earlier about Fletcher in the ‘70s, wrote a book on situation ethics and the idea there was love, Martin. And so the idea is how do you maximize utility value of love? And he sort of had cut love loose from the values and the standards that you’re talking about. So there would be the antithesis there, right? Fletcher would say love just depends on whatever situation you’re in. You can’t love your neighbor one way in the same way. Every time, it’s different. But it’s got to be attached to something.
Martin: He hijacks that term because he knows he can make capital of it, and undue capital at that. And we see this all the time, where terms are being hijacked and people are being manipulated in the most gravest, basest ways. And therefore, they become constituencies, rallied around different concepts. And God deals with each of us as an individual first and then as families.
By the way, this is another problem that Porter could have pointed out is this trend toward centralizing into the federal government level, versus decentralizing down to the state, county and city levels and into the local communities. Scripture has a very decentralized notion because when God is big, government can be small. By the way and God is small, government grows to replace that vacuum because nature abhors a vacuum. In this instance, it’s always filled in the worst possible way when God’s the one who is booted off the throne. And we only imagine He is booted off the throne because His counsel will stand, no matter what we do.
Bill: And I think at some point too, Martin, don’t you think that at some point, people start to… There’s a false antithesis created because people start to resent God’s law in some ways. They start to resent taking care of the poor because they see the misappropriation of welfare money. Yet in the Bible, we’re taught that we have to take care of the poor. So the fact that…Like in a Republican debate, you’d get lots of cheers if you stood up and said, “We’ve got to eliminate welfare and we’ve got to do all of that.” But people don’t realize that welfare… In every culture, the poor need to be taken care of.
Martin: Let’s be clear about one thing. Dr. Rushdoony was anti-statist, pretty much as they come because he had an extremely limited view, Biblical view, where the state’s legitimate function and the state is maybe 1,000 times larger than that at this point. But he came to the defense of the state when people said, “Well, we should throw out all these social programs.” And Rush says, “Wait a minute. The Church abandoned all of those things so the state had no choice but to do what the Church had abdicated.”
So the fault here is not the government setting up these horrible welfare programs that keep people dependent. It’s that the Church had not taught the people to obey God’s law in regard to these things. We are paying, probably six times more, having the government handle it but thinking you’re saving money by throwing God’s law out as it regards the poor tithe, the 10% of net, every three years, which works out amortized about 3.3% of your net income for relief of the poor. And eventually, you’d have no more poor in a culture if you followed that law because it literally works to help them all the way out. It’s not like the system that we have today, which dribbles out subsistence level living to those who are impoverished, regardless of the cause. So we need to work, in terms of a Scriptural model and we have to realize that the reason that welfare systems exist is because of Church abdication, of Christian dereliction.
That’s why I said earlier in the conversation that the enemy is the guy in the mirror when we look in the mirror. We just refuse to accept that. It’s always the other guy who is at fault. It’s always the politicians who did this. But we’re the cause of it. They are filling a hole left by Christian dereliction and when the state fills the hole left by God’s law, the results are horrid. You can either do it God’s way… Like they say, “You can pay me now or you can pay me later.” If we pay Him now, culture is blessed. If you pay me later, then the state has to do it and far less sufficiently and you lose everything in your society as a consequence.
Bill: Well, haven’t we sort of lost that… You know that old Righteous Brothers song, “We’ve lost that loving feeling”? Haven’t we kind of lost that loving feeling for God’s Kingdom, in a sense? We had national healthcare. Look at all the hospitals around. They’re all St. Luke’s, St. Joe’s… The hospitals in this country were started by Christians and we had national healthcare. There’s nothing wrong with national healthcare if it’s in the proper venue, right?
Martin: Right. There’s no question that there is always a market for the healing arts. Luke himself was a doctor. And yes, the universities, the hospitals were all funded by Christians and then we lost sight of culture building for Christ and the Kingdom, redefined this space between our ears and then we essentially abandoned culture to Satan and turned it over to him. That’s why I’m saying Satan is very weak in the sense that really he gets so many victory notices across his desk is that they’re all marked “Won by forfeit.” Christians didn’t even show up to fight.
Bill: Well said. That’s sounds sort of Sun Tzu, right? The art of war is getting the other person not to participate. You just don’t even want them to fight a war. I think they were on the same track there. Martin, as we kind of close down, do you think… You talk about America is safe. Is this city safe? From your perspective, speaking prophetically, small p, where are we right now? Give us a place, a point in time. I know you’re not trying to say, “Look, this is what is going to happen this moment.” But give us hard facts from your analysis. I know you look at this. Where is America right now in all of this?
Martin: There are some very, very positive trends and they’re not the ones that the statists are thinking though. They’re things like the homeschooling movement, for example and people are taking back from the government, the prerogative over the future. This is something that Hitler understood. He didn’t mind that adults would attack him and his theories because he said, “That’s okay. Your kids are in my schools so the future is mine.”
So the second kids are being homeschooled and put in Christian schools, that secures a brighter future for us right there because we are saying to the state system, “No, we’re not going to turn our children over to Molech.” And the future of the United States is going to become that much more secure because of things on this order and as that expands, I think God’s going to protect that seed of reformation and renewal in our country. That starts with our premise of parents taking responsibility for their children, which they then see as a church to the Lord.
And the premise of Psalm 127 becomes true, that the watchman of the city watches in vain unless God’s watching it and the builder builds in vain unless God’s building it. And then the point about children being churches of the Lord is premised in that Scripture.
So I think we have to see all these things as part of a common package, that that Psalm unites these concepts together. There is only one defense against anything and that’s God. God is our refuge and our reward. So until we see things in a scriptural light, we’re going to be self-deceived. If we think we’re powerful and protected because we have all these nuclear bombs, that’s insanity because “it’s not by might nor by power but by my Spirit, saith the Lord,” that the world is going to be made safe. It’s not made safe by multiplying horses. In fact, it’s condemned in Deuteronomy 17. That’s not where safety is going to be found.
Safety is going to be found by returning to God and it’s going to be found by returning to God, comprehensively and concretely, by returning to His law. In fact, the Scriptures are very clear in Isaiah 2, that the nations will essentially form a flow to the mountain in the Lord’s house and they’ll say, let’s have Him teach us from His law. There is an appeal of God’s law. As Isaiah 42:5 puts it, he says, and then islands, the far parts of the world wait for His law. That law is something that straightens everything out and fixes it and purges it of evil and corruption. And so until you go back to that source, the law of God, which defines all reality, we’re going to be in a bad way.
But there is a renaissance of interest in God’s law. Christians who used to disdain it and poo-poo it and say, “No, no, no—that’s legalism,” they suddenly get the theology and say, “No, it’s not legalism.” The law of God is good if used lawfully, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:8. The law of God is good if used lawfully. And there’s a lawful use of it. We need to get back to that lawful use. Not the total, wholesale rejection of it. So we get to where Paul talks about in Romans 3:31. “Do we make void the law of God through faith? Nay, rather we establish the law.”
As Christians establish the law of God, all the culture straightens out. It’s like an orthodontist running the coil through the things in the teeth and straightening them and all of a sudden the teeth, which were all crooked before, suddenly bang!—a beautiful smile occurs because everything has been straightened out and that’s what the law of God does. It sets things into proper order. God to man and man to man. And therefore everything else flows from that. And government shrinks as a consequence because God becomes big in the lives of the people. He becomes King in their hearts and we are no longer our own little demi-gods. We have the true God to serve and faithfully.
Bill: Well, that’s well said. And that’s where it’s got to start, I think. As you said, in the hearts and minds of individuals and move out. As we close up, anything new at Chalcedon?
Martin: Well, we’re looking for a bright 2012 and we hope to finish up the publication of Dr. Rushdoony’s works posthumously. This might be the year we get to finish them all. It’s been a longstanding project because he was such an ardent, faithful workman for the Lord. And I think that the insight that he brings to so many topics, people would benefit from it. He was all about application of the Scripture. He was all about that concrete appeal. “Here is the way. Walk ye in it.”
When you walk ye in it, all of a sudden, you’re in a safe place and you’re no longer going to be blown about like the chaff of the summer threshing floors but as Psalm 1 says, “You’re like the trees planted by rivers of water, who has it’s fruit in season and their leaf does not whither.” That’s where we want to be. Delighting in the law of God and meditating upon it day and night and Dr. Rushdoony’s works give us that exposition and we hope to finish the complete publication of all of them within this year, possibly.
Bill: That would be fabulous. Most of this stuff is at www.chalcedon.edu. If you were going to read one book or suggest one book to somebody who kind of wanted to get their feet wet a little bit in the type of thinking that you’ve been describing, which I think you describe it, Martin, as well as anyone, Rush’s thought. What book would you pick out? Would you pick out Sovereignty or what would you have somebody read?
Martin: I am partial to that but the book that seems to be the most popular primer is Law and Liberty. All of the books are free online. You don’t have to pay for a thing. You can just log in to www.chalcedon.edu and read them. Most people end up buying them so they can have it on the shelf or share with friends but that would be a great starter, Law and Liberty by Rushdoony. It’s a bunch of small, short essays, about four to five pages long, that walk you through all the various implications of the law of God as applies to culture. And I think it provides a lot of the backbone that wasn’t explicitly laid out by Porter Stansbury but is lurking in the wings of his essay.
Bill: And as we said, you know I love Porter. I love the newsletter. I’m a subscriber. But there is more and there is foundation and foundational structure there that needs to be talked about if we want a better country. Martin, thank you so much for being with us today. I really appreciated your time. It’s been exceptional just hearing you talk about foundational issues and the law of God so thank you once again.
Abe: Thanks Martin.
Martin: Thanks Abe. Talk to you soon. Thanks Bill.
Bill: Do you want me to say one more time and you can have time, mix that in there? Let me know when. Martin, are you still there?
Bill: Hey, thank you so much for doing this. We’ll put a link obviously to Chalcedon and to your position paper and then one to Law and Liberty as well. What would be fun is to do this again and talk about a Christian view of war. I have to tell you, one of the things that scared me like I have never been scared before is I watched the South Carolina primary and Newt Gingrich said, “You know, Andrew Jackson got it straight with respect to America’s enemies. You kill them.” It’s okay for him to say but what scared me is all these people stood up and started cheering because they have no antithesis. Again, they have no Christian view of war. They have the Fox News Pentagon view of war. But I think to sit down and talk about what does the Bible say about war? To get you back and do that sometime, I think would be helpful
Martin: Yeah. Well look, the point there is Andrew Jackson was quoting from Scripture. It says, if someone is breaking into your house at night, you kill them. If they break into the borders of your nation to invade and kill your people, you have the right to respond for self-defense and kill them. Andrew Jackson would never have dreamed that [inaudible 0:51:35.6] 12,000 miles around that side of the world and start killing people you perceive to be enemies of the United States. It’s a complete misuse of Andrew Jackson’s quote.
Bill: And I think it was war drum pounding about Iran and all of the other candidates, except Ron of course, were all pounding and pounding. No one would quite say it but yeah, you kill them. But these people, they stood up and they cheered. They could have been at one of the Nuremberg rallies or something.
Martin: Maybe [inaudible 0:52:05.5] add a lot of material for a new film.
Bill: Well Martin, I think… Did you do Deuteronomy? Did you underwrite the Deuteronomy?
Martin: I paid for the Numbers commentary.
Bill: Numbers? Yeah, okay.
Martin: Elsewhere to Deuteronomy, [inaudible 0:52:22.2] pirated. I like Deuteronomy.
Bill: Well I was mad at both of you guys. I wanted to underwrite those. I was envious in a Christian kind of way. I wanted to underwrite… I tell you what. The Deuteronomy one… Well the Numbers one too but the Deuteronomy one, I think, helped me as a young man more than… I listened to the tapes when I was young when they first came out. And I was mowing my yard all these days and listening to these tapes. Sometimes my lawnmower would end up running into things that it shouldn’t have run into because I was not daydreaming, but just thinking about…
It’s too bad this wasn’t part of the show but it was doing to my life what you describe with respect to orthodontics. It was making me straighter as I was thinking about what Deuteronomy meant to me and my family. And so it was just such a blessing. The whole Chalcedon thing, for me, has been a blessing over time and I know it has you. And you’ve been a blessing through your work and your writing as well. I just want to encourage you to keep on, hang in there, keep doing it. I’d be happy, if we have money, to help… If you’ve got some books you need help with. Mark is so lame. Mark will never ask me for any money. I’ll email Mark and say, “Do you need money?” I won’t ever even hear from him again.
Martin: I know. He’s very… He’s not assertive, let’s put it that way. That’s an understatement.
Bill: We have him on the show and we love Mark and Mark’s my friend but I’m just saying don’t be afraid to email me and say, “Hey, I want to publish this. Do you have any funds?” I don’t know if I do or don’t. We’ll see what the Lord gives but I’d love to be more helpful.
Martin: You can certainly… I wouldn’t relinquish the 1 and 2 Corinthians commentaries. I had like $9,000.00 in a fund at Chalcedon for them but Chalcedon had a difficult winter so I allowed those funds to go to the general fund to pay the staff and so now there isn’t any money for the 1 and 2 Corinthians commentaries. So if you’re interested in it, I can certainly arrange for that project to be underwritten by you, if you’d like to do it.
Bill: What’s the cost involved?
Martin: It was be done in a just in time, short run, print run. I believe it’s almost all typeset so we just need to get the printing cost assembled at this point. I think I had like $8,000.00 or $9,000.00 sitting there.
Bill: We’ll try to create something here. I don’t know what I’ve got but I’ll email you from my home email and you and I can start a discussion on there. Our business isn’t as good as it was but I think that’s something that should be printed so let’s try to figure out a way to get that printed.
Martin: Yeah, anything we’re [inaudible 0:55:03.4] by the Church and all its foibles. That’s why I think his book on confession was so powerful because it had so many concrete examples of idiocy and [inaudible 0:55:12.0]. Said people stray and he said, “Now, here’s somebody who actually thinks straight.” Common sense, Biblical application.
Bill: Yeah, the book on confession is great. It’s great.
Martin: Did you know that J. Adams was originally supposed to do the forward for that and he read the book and said, “No, I’m not going to do your forward. Forget it. This is overrated and I don’t agree with this book.” So I had to step in at the last minute and write the forward for it.
Bill: What did he find objectionable in it?
Martin: He didn’t tell us but he just said, “I don’t want my name associated with it,” which shocked me because Rush was so supportive of Adams.
Bill: Yeah, well. Rush always tried to grab people that he could support and he was always optimistic about supporting people, whether it was Dr. McIntyre, who is still a friend of mine but a little crazy. You know, we’re all a little crazy.
Martin: Yeah, we all have our idiosyncrasies.
Bill: We have them.
Martin: Yeah, but that’s what kind of makes it fun, I think. I love working with people like [inaudible 0:56:08.1] as a consequence. He’s a breath of fresh air.
Bill: Yeah, yeah. Well Martin, thanks again. I know you’re busy and I’ve got to run off to another meeting but I’ll email you and we’ll start the Corinthians conversation as well.
Martin: Great, if you can get me a link to this… I’m assuming you’re going to post this online as an archive as well? The audio?
Bill: Jeremy will do that and I think it probably would be helpful at the Chalcedon site as well.
Martin: Yeah, because I’d love to have it and my wife always says, “I wish I could hear you guys when you do these things.” She is so supportive of my work here and she loved the fact that we were being interviewed today here.
Martin: She says that whatever helps the cause of God. I said, “Well, that’s why I’m in it.”
Bill: And like I said, I’d love to have you back so expect an email from Sarah on that too.
Martin: Will do. Thanks Bill.
Bill: Thanks so much, Martin.
Martin: God bless.
Bill: You too. Bye-bye.
If you’ve got a comment about our conversation today, if you’ve got a standard for ethics that’s a non-Biblical standard… Hey, go below and I’d love to see it articulated. I’ve never really seen a good comment with respect to maintaining a standard for behavior that wasn’t Biblical. So please, feel free. Go below if you’re listening to this online and let us know what you think.