April 21, 2009

The Law and the Kingdom of God

Most Christians who've studied the Bible come to understand the cross as the pivotal moment of human history, the focal point marking a fundamental transformation in God's relationship to man. Indeed, Calvary represents a paradigm shift, to use contemporary words.
Before the cross, there were several notable events wherein God intervened in history, and made covenants with certain patriarchs (e.g. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses). The Sinai Covenant with its Ten Commandments has been analyzed at length by numerous commentators, including authoritatively, the author of the book of Hebrews. Besides that source, there are numerous other scriptures that corroborate the notion of a fundamental renovation of God's plan for humanity. This paper surveys the Biblical theme of Jesus' new covenant.

Jesus and the Law
Surrounding the ultimate 'crucial' event, the cross of Christ, several details concerning the Law stand prominent. In the major dissertation Jesus gave on the subject of behavior— in the Sermon on the Mount—he made it a point to pronounce the 'Golden Rule' as the summation of the Law (Matt 7:12). In his parables, especially of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the King's feast, and others, Jesus never mentioned anything about the commandments, but he emphasized love and grace. Paul, too, doesn't mention the Sinai commandments without explicitly indicating that those laws are subsumed in a greater Law of love (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14).

One of Jesus' apocalyptic sermons occurs in Matthew 25 (vs 31 to end) where he talks about the actions that identify the 'sheep and the goats' at the final judgment. Here is the ultimate proof of the new regime: in his repetitious description of the criteria for separating the righteous from the evil-doers, Jesus makes absolutely no reference to Laws of any kind! He simply zeroes in on the basic gestures of charity towards our fellow humans—those who love are saved, those who don't love are lost. Surely, if commandment-keeping were paramount, they would have been cited in a sermon on judgment! The fact that the spotlight is on love cannot be missed... or dismissed.

Then at the last supper, Jesus inaugurates two 'new' things, which, one can perceive, he has been building towards during his full 3 ½ year ministry. As stated in Luke 22:20, he offers "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood," thereby instituting the new relationship with humanity. This covenant is ratified by his blood, shed at Calvary, as the ultimate, perfect Lamb. Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels state that the blood of this covenant is poured out for (the) ‘many,’ thereby echoing Daniel’s prophecy of 9:27, indicating that this covenant is not exclusive to the people of Israel, but covers everyone.

John's gospel devotes a great portion entirely to Jesus' last day on earth, and records his words in ch 13, vs 34: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another…" (reiterated in ch 15:17). Here, Jesus makes plain what he had been teaching by example and by word—that the heart of the new covenant is a new commandment; (and thereby, fulfilling Jer 31:34 and Ezek 36:26). The old covenant of Moses was based on obedience to rules; the new contract is characterized by love. You have to ask yourself a critical question: "If the Decalog was sufficient to define Christian conduct, why would Jesus have found it expedient to introduce a 'new commandment'?" The word ‘new’ does not mean ‘extra,’ as so many Christians have ingenuously assumed. Jesus did not issue an additional, eleventh commandment—this was a ‘new,’ replacement Law, to complement the ‘new’ covenant. Hebrews 8:13 states that in speaking of a ‘new covenant’ God rendered the previous one obsolete. By the same token, in speaking of a ‘new commandment’, Jesus similarly made the old ones obsolete.

While adherents of the Decalog assert that the continuance of the old law is 'implied' or 'taken for granted,' it is worthy of note that the only explicit law in the NT is the Law of Love enunciated by Jesus himself! All other references to the Ten C's include only partial mention, intended as illustrations of normative behavior. If the reader is able to read these texts with 'new eyes,' unprejudiced by a priori assumptions, it becomes apparent that the words are actually revealing a new order which fulfills the prophecies of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36. After all, anyone can simply memorize the rules ‘by heart.’ That isn’t what the prophets were talking about. They meant having the principles inculcated in one’s thinking, so that a set of ‘rote rules’ was irrelevant.

A Biblical Exegesis
The author of the book of Hebrews puts the pieces together for us, juxtaposing and contrasting the two covenants (which he calls 'old' and 'new'). The writer makes it very plain that Jesus ushered in a totally new deal for mankind. He builds an airtight, forensic, scriptural case that, with his death, Christ achieved…
  • a new covenant, [7:22; 8:6-7, 13]
  • sealed with a better sacrifice, [9:14, 25, 28; 10:12, 14]
  • ministered by a superior High Priest, [7:11-12, 8:6]
  • delivered in a heavenly, not earthly, temple, [8:2; 9:11, 24]
  • and containing radically different terms [10:10, 14, 17, 19-22].
In doing so, this book echoes the predictions in the book of Daniel, ch 9:24.
"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city…
  • to finish the transgression, -> [Jn 19:30]
  • to make an end of sin, -> [Rom 3; Heb 10:14; 2Cor 5:21]
  • to make atonement for iniquity, -> [Jn 1:29; Rom 5; Gal 3:13]
  • to bring in everlasting righteousness, -> [Heb 10]
  • to seal up vision and prophecy, and -> [Lk 24:44]
  • to anoint the most holy [place]." -> [Heb 9]
Both Daniel and Hebrews are talking about a revolution, a new world order, the completion of one paradigm and the inauguration of another.
Heb 7:18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness [19] (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. [NASB].
If believers can bring themselves to read the New Testament with fresh, objective eyes—spiritual eyes, free from presumption—they will be amazed at what they will see. Especially examining 2 Corinthians 3, and Galations 3, which complement Matthew 5, 6 and 25, and other pertinent accounts of Jesus' teachings. If we read what the text says, rather than what we think it says, the message is nothing short of astonishing!
Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. [14] But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
[NASB, emphasis supplied.]
This discernment of good and evil is precisely what the converted heart is called to exercise ("practice"), rather than falling back on looking to an externally-imposed criterion of righteousness. Hebrews, chapters 7, 8, and 9 elaborate on the replacement of the 'Old Deal' completely by the new covenant, in every detail. Then in chapter 10, the scholar continues his analysis using OT scripture (Ps 40).
[8] After saying above, "Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have not desired, nor have you taken pleasure in them'' (which are offered according to the Law), [9] then He said, " Behold, I have come to do your will.'' He takes away the first in order to establish the second. [Emphasis supplied].
Once one has seen the quintessential paradigm shift represented by the cross, it becomes baffling why anyone would insist on dragging the tables of stone through the 'gospel stargate' into the new dimension. By so doing, the Decalog lingers as a stark anomaly, an anachronism, even an affront to the work of Christ!

Hebrews 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
[36] For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. [NASB, emphasis added].
Do we not disdain the awesome sacrifice of Christ and his blood-bought covenant of grace by insisting on clinging to the old covenant and its ten-point terms? And what does it mean to do the will of God (Heb 10:36)? Jesus himself answered that very question, in straightforward terms to his legalistic enquirers, in John's gospel, ch 6:
v. 28 Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?'' [29] Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.''
The same chapter goes on to quote Jesus extensively on the subject of discipleship and salvation. Nowhere does he hint that the Law is involved; far from it, he emphasizes that it is he himself who is responsible for our salvation. E.g.:
40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.''
54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Paul on Gospel Freedom
In Galatians, Paul writes extensively on the 'freedom' that the believer enjoys; freedom that he cautions is not to be abused. Surely, one cannot argue that OT Israelites enjoyed freedom under the tyranny of the whole 'Law of Moses' (commandments and ordinances). True, they misused the Mosaic covenant, becoming slaves to salvation by works. But Paul is talking about more than just freedom from this misapprehension; he actually says that Christians are called to exercise freedom in love, adding again, that love is the fulfillment of the Law (Gal 5:13, 14).
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself.''
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Why would Paul have had to spell out for the new believers, as he does in ch 5, what behavior to avoid if they were still under the 'Old Ten'—when he could simply refer to that code? The point Paul makes is the same one that gave rise to the book "Servants or Friends?" which explores the concept of being born again as children and heirs of God, versus the old mindset of behaving like a servant (slave) who is kept ignorant of the master's ways. The Israelites in the desert begged Moses to mediate between them and God; they didn't want to deal directly with God as a friend (as Moses did). Moreover, they recited the mantra: "All that the Lord has said we will do," like little vassals, hardly seeming to understand the impossible task they were taking on!

Their naïve words are in stark contrast to the relationship Jesus desired in John 15:15, where he tells the disciples:
14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.
15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. […17] This I command you, that you love one another.
The slave mentality just wants to know the rules, not the knowledge behind the rules. Friends, on the other hand, have access to the knowledge, the law-Maker, and deal with the principles, the spirit, not the 'articles.' This is the crux of the matter: do we dare take Jesus at his word—that his sacrifice has opened the way for us to be legitimate heirs of God, and thus able to function in his freedom—or do we reject that radical offer and cling timidly to the core of the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments, as our moral security blanket?

Righteousness by Faith - Another Look
Much has been said on the subject of righteousness by faith—right standing with God on the basis of our faith in the complete efficacy of Jesus. Yet there is another aspect seldom broached. Paul examines the topic in Galatians 3…(See 5:3, also).
11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "the righteous man shall live by faith.''
He proceeds to make a startling observation:
12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "he who practices them shall live by them.'' [13] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree''.
What Paul is saying here is that the Law is at odds with faith; if you're going to put yourself under one, you can't also be under the other! Either live in total obedience to the Law, or else live by faith in Christ… Christ who took on the whole terrible curse of law-keeping (and law-breaking) so that we might be freed from that burden.

Anticipating the obvious objection, Paul then states:
19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made [Jesus].
He explains that the Law was 'added' or introduced as a supplement, an adjunct to God's original plan, and that it was a temporary measure intended to be in effect until Jesus came with a new arrangement. He characterizes the Law as a kind of 'school-master' that was in charge only until the way of faith was revealed.
23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. [24] Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
He immediately adds the remark that we are no longer under that system.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
By becoming adopted into the family of God, we are no longer treated as servants or pupils who must simply obey the rules, but as heirs who are learning the family business—the capacity to live in love. Paul expands on this idea in ch. 5, where he cautions fellow 'family members' not to abuse their new freedom, but to live a life of loving service and to abide by the golden rule.
5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.''
It seems apparent to me that Paul is not just writing to the Galatians about freedom from the notion of salvation by works, i.e. keeping the Law as a means to be saved. He is talking about being under a new system—one where salvation is found in believing in Jesus Christ, period, without reference to the Law either as a means of salvation OR as a means of measuring behavior. Is there other scriptural evidence behind this idea?

In fact, right in Romans, Paul corroborates this view, but it's so radical a notion that most readers can't take Paul at his word, preferring instead to adduce their own meanings. For example… (notice, especially, 10:4 and 5)
7:6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
10:3 For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
[4] For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
[5] For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
[9] …that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
People will say that 7:6 means we have only been released from the Law as means of salvation, ignoring the added contrast between old and new systems of service. Then, in 10:4, the neo-legalists say that the word 'end' should be replaced with its alternate meaning of 'goal,' despite the problem posed by the context. What Paul is doing is contrasting the life of someone living under the Law, versus one who lives by faith in Christ. Again, it's a new way of living, of thinking, of acting. Since Christ has done all the 'doing' as our representative, we no longer have to live with reference to an impossible check-list. If our righteousness is truly and purely based on faith, with all that that implies (and which Paul describes, starting in ch 8) then what's the use of referring to some other, outer measure of righteousness?

In ch 12, Paul echoes Jeremiah's prophecy (Jer 31:31) with reference to allowing the Spirit to transform our minds so that we will know God's will—what is acceptable (and by extension, what is not). He enumerates a few of the 'old commandments' merely as illustrations of what he is talking about. That's why in ch 13, he twice states that to love is to accomplish the Law's dictates, and that "if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying." (Surely Paul knew if there were other commandments!)
Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Rom 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law… [10] Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The Hebraic Analysis
The book of Hebrews treats extensively the subject of covenants and the role of Christ. The writer considers the Sinai covenant and indicates that that system required a continual cycle of sacrifices designed to remind the Israelites of their sins and to attempt to make atonement for them (through ritual sacrifices).
Heb 10:1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
He goes on to contrast the work of the earthly priests to that of the supreme Priest, Jesus Christ. Their work is doomed to repetition, while Christ's is definitive. Jesus' one, perfect sacrifice accomplished in one stroke what all the offerings of antiquity failed to do.
11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; [12] but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, […]
14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. […18] Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.
It's easy to miss the full significance of verse 14. It states baldly that we (believers) have already been sanctified—for all time, yet!—by his one, ultimate offering! Why then do we fret about whether we've broken this or that commandment? IT'S A MOOT POINT for the born-again child of God! This is a detail that David, a confessed law-breaker, understood a thousand years before Christ came, as he celebrates in the Psalms (see Ps 32). David lived under the 'new covenant!'

If we who believe in Christ continue to also believe that we are under obligation to the Law—even as a standard of behavior—are we not scorning the perfect achievement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus?
28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. [29] How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Verse 22 (Heb 10) exhorts us to exercise our faith since our hearts have been cleansed of an evil conscience—which is an effect the Law had imposed on us.
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, [22] let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The author encourages the believers to redirect their focus from the old way of thinking what to avoid, to the new positive way of thinking.
24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, […]
36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
So, there it is: the New Testament turns the old system on its head. Christ accomplished a 'once and for all' revolution in the spiritual dimension. The believer is no longer under the Law of behaviorism—neither for salvation, nor as a standard of behavior, nor as evidence of salvation—but solely under faith in the one who alone was able to keep perfectly (i.e. to fulfill) the Law in their stead!

Jesus Lived the New Covenant!
Defenders of the Old Covenant quote, in support of their views, the words of Jesus that "… I did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it," claiming that this proves their point. On the contrary, they are overlooking the significance of that key word, "fulfill." Just look at these texts in juxtaposition to see what Jesus really meant.
Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Galatians 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.''
[And again in 6:2] Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. [NASB]
At the last supper, Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant, which he ratified or consummated with his death on the cross. Most Christians are agreed on that. During his brief ministry on earth, Jesus was introducing the concepts that characterize this new covenant. These concepts were so radical for the unanointed minds of his day-- (and also of today)—that he was in constant conflict with the religious authorities. Since he knew that these new ideas would inflame the system against him (before he could complete his mission) he elucidated many of them in the guise of parables and illustrations. Using the enlightened hindsight of the Spirit, the apostles were later able to perceive the true impact of these figures of speech and work them into their teaching.

In Jesus' words preserved as a pattern for us in 'the Lord's Prayer,' he doesn't ask God for strength to keep the Commandments; he instead asks God for forgiveness—in proportion to our willingness to forgive those who wrong us. Again, it's a whole new way of spiritual thinking, and of defining holiness. Most of us recite the words with little grasp of the significance.

In Mark's gospel, Jesus employs two common analogies to hint at the value system of the Kingdom of God.
Mark 2: 21 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.
22 No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.''
These are rather enigmatic metaphors, but one thing the reader can conclude is that it is unwise to mix old and new components of a specific system—they are simply not compatible. The new fabric of Jesus' teachings cannot merely be patched on to the old garment of the traditional Jewish beliefs. Similarly, the new wine of the covenant he presented in the cup of his blood, was to be placed in a new container, a new spiritual framework, not in the old one. It's very fascinating that the text continues in a way that confirms this view.
23 And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. [24] The Pharisees were saying to Him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?'' [25] And He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; [26] "how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?''
27 Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. [28] So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.''
Right there, in the real-life incident, Jesus was illustrating what he meant by the earlier analogies. Here he deliberately 'broke' the Sabbath commandment (in the eyes of the Pharisees) to demonstrate that the concepts of man are not the criteria of God. There is a higher principle involved than the limiting reference to the commandments.

In the encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus again illustrates that he represents a new paradigm, one that supersedes tradition.
John 4:5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; [6] and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well… [7] There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, Give Me a drink.'' [9] Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?'' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.'' [11] She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?
12 "You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?''
13 Jesus answered and said to her, Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'' […]
19 The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. [20] Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.''
21 Jesus said to her, Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. [22] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.''
The key verses here are v.12-14 and v.23-24. Jacob represents the Old Covenant, providing a limited 'well' of spiritual blessing, requiring work on the part of the recipient to retrieve water. Jesus is the source of living water, that a believer carries within, to bless others in love. Jesus makes it clear that he is superior to the old way, and moreover, that 'true worshippers' will worship God "in spirit and truth." This manner of worship (not of salvation, note) has nothing whatever to do with burnt offerings and observance of commands and ordinances (as David also celebrated in the Psalms, a millennium before Christ!).

Again, in the 6th chapter, John's gospel recounts another memorable metaphor Jesus used to get the point across that his regime is radically different from the traditional one. Here, Jesus likens himself to life-giving bread that he compares to the manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness. Clearly, references to Moses and manna harken the listener back to the Old Covenant, while Jesus reveals himself as the true source of spiritual nourishment. The Law, whether as a method of righteousness or a standard of performance, brings death. Christ alone gives life!
John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. [33] For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.'' [35] Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. […]
47 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. [48] I am the bread of life. [49] Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
[50] This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. [51] I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.''
58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.''
Those who cannot recognize that Christ operated under a new paradigm in his earthly ministry are in peril of failing to acknowledge the completeness of the work he accomplished with his life, death and resurrection. Yes, he freed humanity from the burden of 'salvation by works;' but more than that, he freed us from the subtle, pernicious worry of measuring our performance by a codified, external set of laws. And of the associated temptation to rate ourselves and others as to spirituality. When one finally sees how much God loves us, how easy he made salvation through his Son, then one is enabled to extend that love to all others, without judging them by external standards of appearance or behavior.

Closing Thoughts
It must be recognized that the Israelites were a 'new nation' (estimated at over one million souls) which arose during 430 years of captivity in Egypt. Suddenly, they found themselves out in the wilderness with no indigenous tradition of law and order. In response to this need, God gave the entire Mosaic code to them as a formula for national success. Instead, the people decided that observing this code would be 'righteousness' for them in a spiritual sense, as well (Deut 6:25). That interpretation of theirs was the start of their problems as a distinct group—problems that persist to this day among Jews.

In the new covenant, God took an entirely different approach. The emphasis now is on Christ and his accomplishments, not on humans and their efforts at all. The new deal removes the Decalog from the picture, pointing instead to Jesus and the positive call to love one another. Since everyone admits the old law couldn't save anyone, and couldn't be fully observed in any case, then one has to wonder: "Why keep it?" Especially when God has provided something far superior!

So enthralling is the spirit of legalism, that even for those who acknowledge salvation by grace, it is difficult to stay focused on Christ as long as the Ten Commandments lurk menacingly in the background. Only by removing them as a foreboding taskmaster does the believer experience the full freedom promised by Christ and his gospel; the freedom to act in love. Only the one who has received grace and forgiveness can extend the same to others. The tables of stone had their place and time, but are long obsolete, superseded by a new regime that is superior in all respects. Believers in Christ can rest assured that the tables of stone were ground into dust by the Rock of Ages!


Appendix: The New Covenant in the Old Testament - The Heart of the matter

Jeremiah stated clearly in 31:31 that the new covenant of the future would not be like the one he [God] made with them at Sinai. This was already foreshadowed back in Jeremiah 3:16-- "It shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land,'' declares the LORD, "they will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they miss it, nor will it be made again." Finally, one can also add Ezekiel 36:26 to the argument, when he says "… I will remove the heart of stone… and give you a heart of flesh." The 'stone' surely echoes the tables of stone, and is deliberately contrasted with the soft, gracious heart of born-again flesh. (The heart is traditionally regarded as the seat of love.) When you juxtapose all these verses, the message is clear that an internalized, heart-stored law will supersede the old, external law.

Defenders of the Ten Commandments (being literally binding) will acknowledge Jeremiah's prophecy (Jer 31;31-34) that the Law would be written in our hearts. But, incredibly, they argue that it's the Decalog that's written in the human heart. First, the whole point of transposing the external, literal Law internally upon 'the heart' is a Hebrew poetic way of indicating what Paul was trying to say when he referred to the letter of the Law versus the spirit of the Law, in Romans 7:6. That is, an externalized law is lifeless, and moreover cannot inspire the human spirit towards what is right. Only an internalized law—i.e. one whose underlying principles are understood—can effect any change, not in behavior, but in motivation. Second, the reference to the 'heart' is significant. After all, anyone can memorize ten rules—store them in his mind. But to harbor the law in one's heart signifies a grasp of, or a willingness to grasp, the 'heart' of the Law, which is its elementary intent.

Therefore, to argue that a literal Law is transposed on the heart of the believer is to take a naïve, immature view that misses the essence of the mystery of the rebirth experience! Jeremiah says as much when he states that "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the LORD," (Jer 31:34). What this implies is that it's not a question of memorizing ten rules (or however many one wants to add) but of understanding the intent of the Law and its creator so as to be able to apply the principles in daily intercourse.

April 13, 2009

Christianity Takes a Knock-out Blow?

A recent article in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, carried the headline “US religious Right concedes defeat[*],’ and a synopsis stating: ‘America's religious Right has conceded that the election of US President Barack Obama has sealed its defeat in the cultural war with permissiveness and secularism.’
For a large constituency of American Christians, this story would be disheartening news, if believed, and hotly disputed by diehards. Did the election of Obama really signal a serious blow to the power of the ‘religious right’ in the US, serious enough to be taken as ‘defeat?’


What ‘Christians’ apparently overlook in this story is how Obama went to some pains to disavow the rumors that he was a closet Muslim, and to affirm his identity as a mainstream, moderate Christian. The issue hit the spotlight when his ‘former pastor’ (as he came to be characterized) attracted a storm of controversy with his stinging rebuke of ‘America’ and its hypocrisy and racism. After a tentative start, Obama had to make a full denunciation of his ‘former pastor,’ but the incident highlighted that he was a church-going Christian of some sort. The fact that the Christian Right seems quite unimpressed with Obama’s declaration of faith seems (to this outsider) to indicate the depth of the ‘liberalism = paganism’ thinking of these well-churched, staunch Republicans for whom only one of ‘their kind’ can be a genuine Christian.

Nonetheless, given the concessionary words of James Dobson and others, it is credible that the religious right did suffer a set-back from Obama’s presidential victory. In that light, I’d like to propose reasons why the Christian right is losing relevance, not just in politics, but in American society at large.

1) With their vehement backing of the Bush Whitehouse, evangelicals and their ilk demonstrated a complete failure in Christian discernment, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. One can understand how good church-goers might be swept up in patriotic fervor and initially support Bush’s neo-crusade against the Islamic hordes of terrorists. But, the story quickly got suspicious when, after declaring that 15 of 19 hi-jackers on 9-11-01 were from Saudi Arabia, the government decided to attack Iraq. If that didn’t temper their enthusiasm for war, the later revelation that Bush and co. lied to convince the world about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction should have. But, sober, objective thinking is not a hallmark of Republicans, especially when jingoistic patriotism and churchianity provide convenient substitutes. Just because a person calls himself ‘born again’ does not make him/her a Christian! Jesus told his disciples that on Judgement Day, some people will claim that they cast out demons in his name... yet he will respond that he never knew them (Matthew 7:21-23). Every American politician has enough grey matter to realize the political value of ending every speech with ‘God bless America;’ but what does that prove?

2) With their dogged focus on relatively ethereal issues that became primary battle grounds-- principally abortion and homosexuality-- the Christian right completely missed the more important priorities of basic justice and human rights; and in so doing they lost much moral authority. What sense does it make to protest abortions in sanitary US clinics... while the American government is killing children in overseas conflicts? Are they implying that American lives are more valuable than foreign lives? That abortion is worse than murder? How much energy does the Christian right expend in railing against the horrors of homosexual relations,... while ignoring the practice of torture in US military prisons? What are these ‘Christians’ telling society about their beliefs-- that the end justifies the means? Jesus told his followers to ‘turn the other cheek’ to the oppressor, but these followers want to strike back with all the weaponry available. You may believe that abortion and homosexual behavior are sins, but many erstwhile moral individuals do not. In the real world, real Christians know where they have to devote their efforts and choose their battles. The religious right is obsessed with righteous indignation and determined to impose its legalistic morality on everyone-- tithing scrupulously on their ‘mint and dill,’ while overlooking the most vile atrocities approved by their favored candidates. In this regard, they share remarkable similarity with the ultra-legalistic, Islamic extremists whom they hate with such vigor!

3) The leadership of the Christian churches in America have betrayed the values of their figurehead, and enervated the Church. We all remember the scandals involving high profile TV evangelists who scammed their flocks for millions of dollars in donations that they used to sustain a decadent lifestyle. However, forgetting those dark scenes, there are other behaviors of church leaders that do nothing positive for Christ’s cause. One of the flagship mega-churches in the world is the Willow Creek church of Bill Hybels and co. who proudly run their organization using the techniques of modern ‘management science.’ So what, you may enquire; isn’t WC one of the most successful churches around? Perhaps, if success is measured purely in management science terms, such as members, committees, ‘ministries,’ programs, etc. But in all that frenetic activity, there is scant evidence of any genuine presence and unction of the Holy Spirit. WC has a great structure... but little soul. Considering that the Christian right has had the ear of the president for eight years, how is it that American society continues to decline in terms of morality, crime, substance abuse, mental health, economics, and so on? What have church spokesmen been doing, and what have they been saying? Leaders like John Hagee have been delivering a message about the exemption of the Jews from Christ’s gospel, and creating something called ‘Judeo-Christianity,’ and with apparently little opposition from other leaders who ought to know better. While high-profile pastors build their empires and book franchises, they can’t seem to spare any time to proclaim a genuine gospel and to denounce fake, non-scriptural propaganda.

4) That brings us to the most essential reason for the defeat of the Christian right, which is their failure to proclaim the authentic gospel of Christ. As the Telegraph story indicates, by putting their energies into worldly politics, the CR have had little energy or inclination to promote the gospel. Yes, various pastors give good sermons on living the Christian life; yet that’s not the overall tone of what is reaching the wider audience of society. If the church can use management science to boost membership, why can’t it use media savvy to broadcast the Christian message of salvation thru Jesus Christ? One of the major problems, as I see it, is that for the most part they don’t even have the true gospel of Jesus! What the mainstream churches have been calling the gospel is a spurious hybrid of Old Testament legalism and New Testament grace-- the two just don’t go together! (Briefly, they tell people that we are saved by believing in Jesus’ sacrificial death for sin... and by obeying the Ten Commandments. In truth, it can’t be both!) This is exactly what Jesus warned about in his rebuke to the Laodicean Church (see Rev. 3); this is the lukewarm condition that baffles so many scholars! Paul clearly condemned this gospel that is no gospel in his letters (esp. Rom, 1 Cor 9, 2 Cor 3, Gal, Col 2, Heb) but our traditions create a veil over our eyes so that even pastors do not see it; and if they do, they are afraid to proclaim it because they understand the reluctance of their leaders to acknowledge the true gospel of grace. So the Telegraph article is correct in suggesting that the Church in America must return to an emphasis on the basics of the gospel if they want to regain some relevance. However, unless they re-discover the authentic gospel of Jesus, they are doomed to slither into continued, probably accelerated, decline.

Conclusion

Without a clear understanding of the gospel of Christ, the churches that claim allegiance to his name will never be able to exercise moral authority or attract critically-thinking adherents. They will continue to be defeated in the courts of public opinion as they are identified with support for ‘fundamentalist notions’ of a bygone era. As Paul wrote (1 Cor 1:18-25) the message of Jesus is foolishness to the ‘modern thinkers,’ the secular humanists of today, and is anathema to the ‘Jews,’ those who are stuck in Old Testament legalism, trusting fastidious obedience to rules over faith in the grace of God. It is a message devoid of real power, and the evidence is everywhere. It is vital that everyone who truly wants to be a follower of Christ must study scripture for themselves, and not blindly follow the interpretations of their denomination or their pastors. By interposing themselves between believers and (knowledge of) God, today’s churches are falling into the same satanic trap that caused Jesus to roundly condemn the Pharisees of his day (e.g. Matt 23). As prophet Hosea lamented, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...’ His lament is just as appropriate today as it was back in ancient times.

[*] www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/barackobama/5136050/US-religious-Right-concedes-defeat.html

April 7, 2009

Hollywood-- Covert Agent of Change

In Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, NASA discovers a mysterious black monolith, obviously intelligently designed, buried a few feet beneath the lunar surface. The monolith is a device left there millions of years ago waiting to be discovered by us when we are finally advanced enough to find our way to the moon. According to Hoagland, Stanley Kubrick's fable is the real history of NASA.

Oddly enough, it also appears that Stanley Kubrick is trying to tell us about the end of our Age in his masterpiece film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Starchild at the end of the film has passed through the Star Gate of the black monolith and is returning to Earth to create a new world or a new Age...
(see Alchemical Kubrick: 2001: The Great Work on Film at jayweidner.com)

A very curious thing has been unfolding over the past 30 years or so, maybe longer. Despite the advent, then ubiquity, of television, followed by the appearance and popularity of computers and the Internet, one of the original technologies of the ‘modern age’ (say from 1900 onwards) has managed to retain its premier status as an entertainment medium. Yes, I’m talking about the ‘motion picture industry.’ We used to call the product ‘films’ because of the method (celluloid film reels) used to record and show them. In the digital age, film is rapidly being displaced by discs and solid-state devices, but the name ‘movies’ is still appropriate. Altho movies can be made anywhere, the original center of the industry, the Mecca of moviedom, has remained Hollywood, California.

Fans, critics, and others like to classify motion pictures into various groupings. To an objective observer who has watched movies of all kinds over the years, Hollywood’s products can be categorized in a simple but disturbing way. This is how I sort them.

The largest category, comprising the majority of films, falls in the ‘Trojan Horse group.’ They look attractive, get our attention, and we either go to see them in a theatre, or we take them into our homes to watch them on tapes or discs. However entertaining these movies are, though, they carry an insidious and corrosive germ. What they are doing in a subtle way (and often blatantly) is undermining the foundations of our society. Yes-- it is that serious! A great many of these ‘flicks’ depict humanity at its worst-- after all, it is argued, that’s what makes for ‘compelling drama.’ And so we see this endless parade of insane car chases, horrific crashes, explosions galore, interwoven with human treachery of every kind, with ever-bolder depictions of violence, blood, and death. All of it presented as if we are watching actual events compressed into a couple of hours. Remember, you are usually watching a large screen, with loud, surround sound, and Technicolor close-ups; the combined effect on the human neurological system is jarring, and the cumulative effect over the years on the views and mores of the viewing public is profound.

Cinema has portrayed real-world moral ambiguity and relativism for many decades; but there was almost always the tacit impression that, in the end, both protagonists and antagonists were subject to the golden rule, reaping what they sowed. Somewhere during the past 25 or so years, that changed, and in some movies you could hardly distinguish the ‘good guys’ from the baddies. Today’s audiences can come away from a film with no appreciation of moral consequences, and sometimes even admiration for characters culpable of all kinds of crimes. In the worst case, the perpetrators of crime or immoral behavior come across as heroes and inverted role models for certain puerile viewers.

Included in this category, and among the worst offenders, are the comedies. Why? Because almost any perversion of values can be lampooned and exaggerated under the guise of comedy. Anyone who objects is denounced as having no sense of humor (as if that is an indictable offence). Furthermore, most comedies-- even ‘sophisticated’ ones-- can secure a general audience rating, thus ensuring that their trashy themes will be viewed by the impressionable minds of adolescent and younger viewers. In this way, the producers of these Trojan Horse movies can disseminate their nasty mind-viruses with maximum impact on the innocent populace. (Without analyzing several examples here, I refer readers to an insightful essay by Henry Makow that he wrote following the release of the movie ‘Knocked Up,’ in 2007.) And note that the same argument of ‘artistic license’ is invoked to justify all movies in this genre (that I call Trojan Horse) regardless of the depth of depravity that they may ‘explore.’ The producers and directors of these subversive movies will argue that their creations are merely being ‘realistic,’ and reflect the current state of society such as it is. My response is that their films are really opinion leaders, and continually push the envelope on what is acceptable in terms of propriety and morality. Moreover, I find the argument about realism quite specious; after all, do we really need to see the intimate details of sexual intercourse to understand what could easily be (and formerly was) implied? Do we need to see bullets in slow motion tearing their way thru human flesh and bone, with blood splattering like bug juice? There may be rare times when such details do achieve some higher purpose (such as demonstrating the brutality of war or murder) but inevitably, what starts as art ends up as the crassest cliché.

In this brief space, I don’t want to critique any specific movies. My point is that once you open your mesmerized eyes to the true messages behind the Hollywood propaganda machine, you will find a flood of mind-conditioning designed to demoralize and destroy the people who watch this stuff (which is most of us). While a given individual, for a limited time, may be capable of resisting the hypnotic suggestions of cinema, the collective effect over many years, over entire societies, has proven disastrously effective. Even while Hollywood denies its products corrupt society, police often express dread that some mentally unstable person somewhere will try to imitate the latest example of movie madness that involves violence portrayed in Technicolor goriness. By the same token, whole segments of society come to accept certain foundational beliefs thru this cunning process, with little critical analysis. Where perceptive and credible voices once expressed reservations with cinematic perversions, the perpetrators simply resorted to proven subterfuges. The industry magnanimously agreed to a self-regulated ratings system, and by stacking the boards, over time, with ‘open-minded’ minions, they were able to continue their corrosive game with minimum interruption.

Even the timing of the release of movies is calculated for premeditated impact. For example, during the bleak Bush years, when US misfortunes in Iraq were becoming obvious, voila-- Hollywood releases Pearl Harbor, an epic tale of the righteousness and invincibility of the American military and its heroes. In a subtler vein, the movie ‘300’ could be interpreted as a reflection of the US army standing up against the hordes of Arab/Islamic terrorists/nations.

The second big category of Hollywood films is comprised of the ‘prophetic’ movies. To clarify, a prophet of old was not someone who just made predictions of the future; he was primarily a messenger of God, a divine spokesman who informed the masses about God’s intentions. In a similar but counterfeit manner, these movies reveal certain messages that their producers and hidden sponsors want the viewers to see. These messages are of two general types: those that present ersatz predictions of events to come, and those that reveal actual workings of the hidden conspiracy-- thus blatantly flaunting their schemes and modus operandi in our faces (e.g. The International).

The ones in the former sub-class serve a purpose which is to ‘telegraph’ the intentions of the hidden masters, but in a way that affords negligible risk of being taken seriously. In this way, they are presenting ostensible ‘predictions’ (prophecies) that are not truly prophetic. They appear to predict only because the conspirators make them happen as scripted; thus, they counterfeit God’s true prophecies. For example; prior to ‘9-11-2001,’ an episode of ‘X-Files’ presented an almost identical plot, of a high-jacked airliner, under remote control, carrying innocent occupants towards a sky-scraper in New York. Just coincidence, you say? It’s said that ‘art imitates life’... but not that art predicts life. The Stanley Kubrick flick, ‘2001, A Space Odyssey,’ is another notable, encrypted hint at future events and revelations.

More recently, these movies have been frequently of the summer ‘blockbuster’ type, usually ‘disaster flicks’ of various kinds, depicting Earth being assaulted by a natural calamity (e.g. Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, etc.) or by an invasion of extra-terrestrials (ET, Independence Day, Close Encounters, War of the Worlds, etc.). Even the made-for-TV movies have shown a distinct predilection for catastrophes of all kinds, from mega-earthquakes, to volcanoes, to tsunamis, and so on. My thesis (which is shared by numerous other pundits) is that these movies are deliberately programming viewers’ minds in preparation for two things: (1) a great, world-wide calamity of some kind, and (2) some kind of ‘disclosure’ of the presence of alien life on Earth.

Again by way of counterfeiting the second aspect of true prophecy, one movie (or series, as it turned out) is emblematic. In the Matrix collection, we gradually discover that the world being depicted is, in actuality, entirely virtual-- i.e. it exists as a kind of collective dream or program of the population who are really installed as nodes in a gargantuan cyber network. The hero is invited to ‘unplug’ from the Matrix, the cyber world. In doing so, he must face the virtual overseers who want to keep everyone under the electronic spell. The whole scenario is cleverly illustrative of the modern world of the 21st century. We, the people, toil and frolic in what we believe to be a free society where we have ‘rights,’ and opinions, and so on. In fact, we have been conditioned from birth to believe what the elite want us to believe, and the truth is that if we really attempt to disengage from this system, the authorities quickly put an end to that rebellion. Our freedoms are fragile, and under constant erosion by authoritarian forces using fear of crime and terrorism as their pretexts to impose ever-more restrictions on us. Certain individuals who refuse to toe the line after clear threats most often end up having fatal ‘accidents,’ or mysteriously committing ‘suicide,’ or meeting other violent ends. In effect, the Earth has become a giant, hypnotic Matrix in which the vast majority lives under common, mythical illusions; but behind the illusion lies the reality of a small cadre of controllers who pull the strings of history and are propelling us towards their desired totalitarian, neo-feudal world order.

The use of motion pictures to act as their oracle or prophetic voice is a powerful strategy by the secret cabal. After about a century as a focus of culture and entertainment throughout the world, cinema has a very wide and devoted audience, and exerts a dominant influence over public thinking and perception. By presenting their messages as entertainment-- i.e. fiction-- the puppeteers gain an easy entrance into our psyche, since we watch to be entertained, hardly expecting to be indoctrinated... even if we ‘know’ that movies were a prime means of propaganda by the Nazi regime. What most of us miss is the subtle underlying themes that connect even unrelated movies into a conspiratorial matrix. In case you are still uncertain, those themes include the following dominant messages: that there is no God-- each of us is (a part of) God; most people, especially thinking people, are atheists; since there’s no God, there’s no Devil, either; science has all the answers to questions that concern us... or it soon will; there are no moral absolutes, it’s every person’s interpretation; in sex and relationships, all the old values are gone; the most important thing in life is to garner all the wealth, power, and prestige you can, using any means possible; and in general, anything goes, as long as you can find a plausible pretext. Regardless of education, most people are not capable of discerning those destructive ideas as they are being transmitted into our cerebral cortex. In fact, the movies are an integral part of our ‘education’ in the ways of the new world order. Many readers will reject my thesis out of hand as being reactionary and opposed to ‘progress.’ If we are making progress, I would ask, then why is the world getting worse by practically every measure? And if you don’t even accept that assertion, I have to wonder if you bother watching more than the sports and entertainment news. The world is not going to hell for no reason-- it is a calculated, coordinated strategy... and we are all participants, willing or otherwise.

Now, to deal with the doubters and objectors... Am I saying that all movies emanating from Hollywood are orchestrated by a secret gang for their purposes? Basically, yes! Are all movie producers and directors, therefore, members of some subversive organization that coordinates this collusion? Not exactly. What you have to appreciate, however, is that it’s not necessary for the hidden masters to own or run all of the productions in order to exert their influence. By using the power of their money, the manipulators are guaranteed a strong say in any movie they bankroll. Just as the concerns over slumping morals were easy to maneuver around, so too, it is really quite easy for the conspiracy to selectively promote or stifle any production that suits, or doesn’t suit, their objectives. And in case ‘indirect influence’ is too unreliable for their likes, it bears noting that for years now, all the major studios in Hollywood are owned and controlled by Jews. What are the odds of that happening purely by chance, when Jews represent 2.4% of the overall US population? The values that have been under constant attack for the past decades are precisely the ‘Christian values’ of previous generations of Americans. Is it all a coincidence? Note: this is not saying that all Jews are anti-Christian, or Zionists-- not at all. But the fact is that Zionists come primarily from the ranks of Jews, who, by their own admission, essentially run Hollywood. (See recent articles by Michael Medved, for example.)

With the use of the Internet, a growing number of people is starting to wake up and realize the nature of modern existence and the influence of the Zionist Matrix. But the ‘wake-up’ sites cannot present the enquiring mind with a simple package of all truth in one easily digested capsule. It is still up to every awakening soul to seek diligently for him/her-self, and to piece the puzzle together in a way that resonates with their own soul. My aim is just to wake people from their unnoticed slumber, to show them the Matrix, and to invite them to start unplugging their minds... while there is yet time.

April 1, 2009

Why the Economic Plan Will Not Work

At the time of writing, the economic situation is in a kind of purgatory, not quite Hell, and certainly not the Heaven the politicians claim they want to attain. Yet, their glib reassurances are punctuated by the crashing sounds of still more institutions collapsing or on the verge. However, don’t worry, they assure us; they have a plan. Yes, they have ‘A’ plan-- a very shaky plan-- and if it fails, there is, apparently, no plan ‘B’ to fall back on. If throwing billions of borrowed, and then printed, dollars at the problem does not induce the desired ‘kick-start’ of the stalled economy, then.... what? They are like the survivors in the movie, Flight of the Phoenix, who have cobbled together a flyable-looking aircraft from the wreckage of their downed cargo plane. They have only seven explosive ‘starter cartridges’ to use to get the single motor spinning again... and the first six have produced nothing more than coughs and belches of black smoke. It seems like an entirely fitting depiction of the present situation as acted by Obama, Geithner, and the other boffins of banking in the Western world.

In the movie, of course, the last cartridge somehow succeeds in igniting the motor into roaring life, and the pathetic heroes even manage to fly to safety. Things are not so co-operative in real life. Pumping billions of ‘dollars’ (however on Earth they do that) into the so-suddenly broken machinery of the Western economy, will just not bring it back into the satisfying purr that we’ve grown so accustomed to. Why do I say that?

First, ask the question ‘Why/how did the economy come to such a juddering halt in such a short time, anyway?’ After all, things seemed to be all gung-ho as usual back in late summer of 2008 (Beijing Olympics, and all that hype). The cracks start appearing in early Autumn, but the peerless leaders were telling us it’s nothing serious. Then, as the next few weeks unfolded, the news quickly tumbled from bad to worse, and we were seeing huge investment banks declare virtual insolvency, the incredible Madoff scam, and other failures up to and including the potential bankruptcy of General Motors! In the face of these unprecedented crises, the only solution advanced by the people in charge-- mostly the same people who were in charge when the machinery broke down-- was to pour money into the gears in the hope that enough lubrication would get things spinning again. Why were the brains behind the ‘rescue plan’ the same crew of incompetents who caused it in the first place? Because the new US administration (and the Brown gov’t in Britain) simply appointed them to the role, never mind such details as conflict of interest and annoyances like that.

Second, comes the question ‘Where is the bail-out money going?’ Well, by now, we all know that it’s going to pay the bonuses (they call them ‘performance bonuses, don’t they?) of the executives who created the mess. But that accounts for relatively little of the princely sums being disbursed. The big cheques seem to be going to banks in the hope that they will lend liberally once more, and restore the old spending habits. But the banks, having been burned, are holding on to their wind-falls, and possibly covering their fractional exposures. Other big amounts given to various corporations seem to be used to cover salaries to prevent closing their doors and re-locating off-shore. Clearly, virtually nothing is going to the people who need it most-- the people who pay taxes and put their meager earnings in banks for ‘safe-keeping.’

Third, what is the underlying pretext for spending billions of public funds-- funds that have to be either borrowed or printed-- to prop up banks and corporations that have failed the basic test of the capitalist ‘free market?’ Most pundits have expressed wonder at how the bastion of rampant capitalism can so expediently revert to state support or ownership when the big guys start to reap the consequences of their market mistakes. Well, the logic they promote is that by going into ‘temporary’ deep debt, governments can put money into circulation once more, getting citizens to use their credit cards to purchase ‘goods’ from companies that will resume production of those goods, and the whole reciprocating engine will cough back into a roar, and life will go on as always in the capitalist paradise (except that there will be some long-term bills to pay). Yes, the old formula that worked before is expected-- or hoped-- to work its magic once again.

Fourth; the critical question, then, is this: will the old Keynesian magic really work again? My response is no way! Why not? Look to the Bernie Madoff scheme as illustrative-- it’s been called a classic Ponzi scheme. That is a scam wherein new ‘investors’ are constantly recruited because their money is used to pay ‘installments’ to the earlier investors. It’s a pyramid that’s a house of cards; eventually, there’s not enough new suckers to sustain the illusion, and the whole thing crashes. That’s essentially what the capitalist model really is-- a global Ponzi scheme. Its proponents have been telling us for decades that growth is eternal, and no-growth is intolerable. Growth, in their lexicon, means buying and consuming products at a never-ending, forever increasing rate. This is clearly absurd, and only appeared plausible as long as only the ‘Western’ nations were growing, while the rest stagnated and supplied cheap materials for the production lines. Once the world population reached a certain level, and the citizens of the poorer countries began to want the ‘good life’ of the Western world, the Ponzi scheme started to unravel.

The vast herd of ‘consumers’ in the Developed nations have had a severe reality check with the latest financial turbulence. As a result, they-- especially the squeezed middle class-- are very skittish about the supposed solution. They don’t want to exacerbate their already precarious financial status, and they are fully mindful that their fortunes have not improved in the last 15 years; if anything, they’ve gotten worse. And they now know for certain what they’ve darkly suspected-- that they can’t trust either the banks or the governments to tell the truth or to operate in their (middle class’s) best interests. And in sociological terms, a large portion of the Western middle class is comprised by the Baby-boom generation, who are just moving into their retirement stage of life (the earliest ‘boomers’ having just turned 63). People entering retirement are not into risk-taking, at least not with their accumulated wealth on the line; so don’t expect them to go into a buying frenzy at the earnest urging of their political leaders. Remember that the whole ‘tone’ of Western society over the last 50 years has been essentially set by the advance of the post-WW2 boom generation, and that phenomenon will not peter out until the final ranks of this group has melted back into the soil.

As for the younger members of the middle class, who are fully raised in the crassest consumer milieu, they are the ones competing for jobs in the shrinking employment pool. And that pool is shifting more and more from manufacturing to lower-paying service sector jobs-- which are often on a part-time, transient basis. Combining the various social factors, then, it becomes apparent that the tired formula of throwing money at the top-- to banks and corporations-- simply puts more dough in the hands of those who already have more than enough, while, what’s worse, it will fail miserably to achieve the desired result of re-igniting a sputtering economy.

But, another question now: is reviving the economy really ‘the desired result?’ Of course, that’s what all the politicians, economists, bankers, and assorted experts are publicly stating... but is that the truth? If it is, then we have to face another ineluctable question: why can’t all those highly intelligent, highly rewarded leaders perceive that their plan can’t succeed? To which I would pose yet another query: suppose that the plan was never intended to succeed? The real answer, basically, is that they are presiding over the last grand transfer of wealth from the once-great middle classes to the coffers of the elite. Once this ersatz bail-out has drained the piggy-banks, Americans (in particular) will be in enormous debt, both individually and as their slice of the public debt, and whatever money they may possess will be greatly devalued by the ravages of inevitable inflation caused by the flood of paper bills that the ‘Fed’ is having to print in order to sustain the illusion of liquidity. It will result in a middle class barely distinguishable from the poor; and, oh yes, an even smaller, wealthy elite who will own everything, and thus control the world.

The end of a Ponzi scheme is always ugly, with much wringing of hands, pointing of fingers, and gnashing of teeth. The fall of American-style, de-regulated capitalism is likely to be horrendous, given that its influence has infected the entire world. You would do well, dear reader, to prepare yourself now, mentally, for the prospect.