A Prosperous 2013!?

As 2013 starts, it is common to hear the greeting “Happy and Prosperous New Year!” However, after watching Overdose: The Next Financial Crisis, I am wondering about the suitability of the greeting.

Here in South Korea, 2013 is perceived as another gloomy year. The Korea Herald considered this year economically darker than 2012. Financial Services Commission and the Korea Institute of Finance mentioned about 570, 000 Koreans who were potentially loan defaulters (January 1, 2013). The Editorials today also mentioned about the stormy year that senior college students and urban settlers will face. It was forecasted that “the number of new job openings will decline from 440,000 last year to 320,000 this year.” The new graduates will find it tough to compete to find a job. Home rentals will also rise this year especially in Seoul’s metropolitan area.

With the kind of economic scenario here in South Korea and the one showed in the above video, can we consider it mentally sound to say and expect that a prosperous 2013 is really possible?

Introducing the Idea of the Covenant

I have been reading the answer of the Austrian economists on this subject. I agree with them that economic prosperity is an outcome of following natural economic laws. However, as a theological educator, I do not believe like the deists do that economic laws are self-operating. I still believe that regardless of the chaos we see, the Creator of nature is still here and is never silent. His will remains sovereign even in economic realm.

In the Bible, we read that Moses told Israel that their economic prosperity is closely connected to fidelity in fulfilling the terms of the covenant, the legal expression of God’s will (Deuteronomy 29:9). In the book of 2 Kings, we find that King Josiah started both religious and social reforms by gathering the entire nation to renew their pledge to the Book of the Covenant (23:1-3).

This idea of the covenant is strange for most people today. They reason out that the Bible and the covenant have nothing to do with economic prosperity. But that is not what we find in reading the Bible.

Interestingly, an Old Testament scholar by the name of Meredith G. Kline wrote a groundbreaking study proving the covenant structure of the book of Deuteronomy. Its structure is similar to the structures of the legal treaties in the ancient near east. Ray Sutton and Gary North utilized this discovery in writing their own books.

In simple terms, the structural similarity of Deuteronomy with ancient near east treaties includes the following:  the One who is really in control, authority based on representative government, moral standard, blessing and curse, and continuity.

Both Sutton and North argued that the terms of the covenant are not only limited to Israel. Since the God of the Bible is the Creator of all, no one can escape the terms of the covenant. Each one of us is either a covenant breaker or a covenant keeper. This declaration holds true even for the three most important human institutions: state, church, and family.

The Widespread Violation of the Covenant

There is a saying, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one.” The same truth applies to the demand of God’s covenant. Whether we accept the existence and the terms of God’s covenant, this does not change the truth that we remain accountable to God and His covenant. If we will assess today’s generation, ignorance of God’s covenant is pervasive and so is the violation of its terms.

Take the state for instance. Today, many libertarians and reformed theologians claimed that the government has been heading towards totalitarianism. It is claiming divinity to itself. There is no one higher than the state. And add to it the fact that people today look to the state as their savior.

This dictatorial tendency of the state is evident towards its attitude to private property and personal freedom. And there are indications today that even the Lordship of Christ over the church is now being usurped by the state. It is also noteworthy that Ray Sutton wrote another book, “Who Owns the Family?” identifying the coercive power of the state over the family.

Taking the third component in the covenant, you will see that the standard of morality today is blurred. Absolute ethical standard no longer exists. Polls and majority votes decide morality. Abortion is no longer considered murder. Theft in the form of currency debasement is now termed quantitative easing. Internet pornography is not perceived as adultery. Divorce is now becoming the norm. Same sex marriage is now allowed. LGBT (lesbians, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) is now increasingly gaining a voice and becoming more influential. We are living in a licentious world. Almost everything is allowed. Each one has his own standard of what is right and wrong.

And since people no longer believe in absolute moral standard, the idea of obedience and disobedience, curses and blessings is unacceptable. People do not believe in divine judgment both in time and eternity. It is primitive and foolish to believe in such things. Global economic crisis and escalating violence around the world are considered natural.

As to continuity, the basic unit of society is breaking down. Fathers are abandoning their children. Rate of crime is increasing. The recent Connecticut massacre is just one example. It appears that the social fabric around the world is about to collapse. We just wonder what the world would look like 10 to 20 years from now if these trends will continue to escalate.

Renewal of Pledge to the Covenant

Returning to our question, I personally believe that economic prosperity is promised to those who will renew their pledge to the covenant. As of now, I cannot elaborate in this article the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. It is sufficient to note that all men are under the covenant of works whether they accept it or not.

As far as King Josiah’s generation was concerned, economic prosperity started in the renewal of pledge to the covenant (2 Kings 23:1-3). Such renewal manifested in religious and social reforms. But it all started with a national gathering. I describe this gathering as a “holy gathering”, a gathering in the presence of the Lord, a gathering centered on the Book of the Covenant.

King Josiah gathered all the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people from the least to the greatest. We need the same kind of gathering today, but ignorance of God’s covenant is the primary obstacle. Even the Church is no longer aware about the existence of such covenant.

In our time, there are so many gatherings of powerful people including politicians, bankers, and economists, and all they can provide is false hope and phony prosperity.

I still believe that education holds the answer to present day economic crisis, but not the type of education that we have right now. The ultimate goal is biblical education. Education in free market ideas and libertarian principles is part of this. I understand this as education in natural revelation. The Bible affirms such type of education. And the best place to start this is among Christian homes. Fathers will play a vital role in this education.


Moses showed the connection between national greatness and following the terms of the covenant. He declared to his generation: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nations is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).

Reference: Sutton, Ray R. 1987. That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant. Tyler Texas: Institute for Christian Economics.


The Role of Christianity in the National Development of South Korea

Following three forum threads and reading two articles from Ludwig von Mises Institute, I came up with different answers explaining the phenomenal growth of South Korea’s economy. The answers I received are due to government leadership, collaboration between the government and the chaebols, intervention of the US, an ongoing experiment between socialism and free market, and the chaebols using the government.

South Korea and Taiwan

Post War South Korean Economy

North Korea: A land of milk and honey

In Korea, Bureaucrats lead the technology charge

Coming from theological education, I am not satisfied with the above answers. I am looking for a connection between the growth of Christianity in South Korea and her economic development. And I find Kirsteen Kim’s paper, “Christianity and modernization in twentieth-century Korea: perspectives on new religious movements and the revitalization of society” helpful. The paper primarily focused on Protestant Christianity’s impact on Korea’s national development. And national development is incomprehensible apart from a robust national economy.

Kim is critical of developmental theory that left out the significant role of religion. Basing on the works of Scott M. Thomas, Kim claims that religion actually played a vital role in social development. The assumptions therefore of developmental theories leaving out religion are inaccurate. Those theories stigmatize religion as primitive, confined in institutional concepts and beliefs, and a matter of personal preference. Those theories fail to see the public importance of religion as a force to create change in the lives of people, the economy, and the entire society.

Kim identifies ten ways Protestant Christianity has impacted the country:

  • Holistic view of life
  • Developmental approach
  • Transforming socio-cultural practices
  • Correlation between Christianity and independence movement
  • Church gatherings as avenues for resistance
  • Witnessing through various social services.
  • Influence of the corporate world in the way church leaders manage church ministries
  • The development of Minjung theology
  • Reunification of two Koreas as a concrete application of biblical Jubilee.
  • Global mission

Protestantism shares the holistic view of life with Catholicism. Both of them offered vision of a better life than the one given by both Confucianism and Buddhism.  This vision of a better life goes beyond “spiritual’ concerns such as the salvation of soul. Christianity during its early stage in South Korea was understood as a force for change affecting family and the society.  It has power to solve political and economic problems. It is actually understood as an important component in nationalism. It even serves as an economic motivation for it provides a way to protect the living standard of the people and Christian connection offers diverse economic advantages.

The concrete application of establishing the kingdom of God through developmental approach is the second way Christianity impacted South Korea. Early Protestant missionaries established schools, hospitals, and churches. Through the influence of Nevius method, church leadership was nationalized and democratized. Consequently, Korean Christians were quick to imitate the example of Protestant missionaries resulting to the multiplication of schools, hospitals, and churches throughout the country. In fact, as of 2002, among the top five universities in the country, the roots of three of them could be traced in Christian tradition.

Socio-cultural practices especially related to gender and age underwent change through the influence of Christianity. Superstitious beliefs collapsed, domestic abuses were exposed, and Korean Christians developed a “social consciousness” resulting from emphasis on education.

The role of Christian leaders and churches in the nationalist and independence movement was the fourth way Christianity influenced the development of South Korea. Historically, Christians suffered a lot for their active participation in this independence movement.

Due to Japanese suppression, early Korean Christians found prayer and revival meetings as ways to resist Japanese cultural imposition. However, when the colonial government made Shinto worship compulsory in schools, resistance became public, which resulted to persecution, imprisonment, and death. Church buildings were even closed down.

Church ministries in South Korea have been managed like the corporate world. They invest on impressive buildings and cutting edge technology. Church leaders never criticize capitalism. In fact, the growth of Korean churches is closely associated with the growth of businesses.

Minjung theology consists of three threads: Catholicism’s liberation theology, insights of folk history movement of the 1960s, and re-reading of the Bible from economic and political perspectives. Minjung theologians played a significant role in the overthrow of Korea’s military government. They displayed openness to collaborate with other groups advocating the protection of human rights.

I find that there is no need for further elaboration on the sixth and the last two influences of Christianity – witnessing through various social services, reunification of North and South Korea, and missionary work around the world.

Based on Kim’s paper, it is now clear that Christianity indeed played a significant role in the national development of South Korea. And part of that development, I suggest that the economic boom of the country could never be explained completely apart from the religious influence coming from Christianity.

Source: Kirsteen Kim 

QE3, the Bible, and Economics, Part 2 – Economics 101, But Not As Taught In School

The present article is a part of a series teaching the “ethical link between economic policy and God’s blessings and curses.” Particularly, the focus of the essay is to provide the basic biblical foundation for economic transaction. Common with other Christian economists, the writer upholds the Ultimate Ownership of God over all things, the creation of man in His image, and the task given to man to manage all things under God. The writer’s concept of scarcity is instructive. It is due to man’s sin and God’s curse that scarcity of resources exists. However, scarcity can be an opportunity for blessing through cooperative work, that is, the division of labor. Furthermore, honesty is required in economic transaction. Without it, the economy is distorted. After mentioning the importance of honesty, the writer distinguishes between simple and complex economies. The emergence of “common commodity” or money is occasioned by the need for efficient transaction in a complex economy. Among common commodities, history shows that since the beginning of time, gold occupies a prominent role as money for people of all ages are naturally attracted to it. The writer presents two major explanations to explain man’s innate attraction towards gold. Some explain such attraction in relation to gold’s inherent beauty due to its bright yellow color. Moreover, the writer claims that the real reason for man’s innate attraction to goal is due to the fact that man is made in God’s image. It is God Himself who ascribes value and considers gold good. Man as God’s image instinctively reflects such attribution of God towards gold. Throughout history, trust in gold characterized man’s economic activity due to its qualities of measurability, reliability, and scarcity.

Rebuild Your Biblical Worldview

Gold and money - sometimes they are the same

This essay is Part 2 in a series that deals with the ethical link between economic policy and God’s blessings and curses. The previous essay laid the foundation of the moral corruption that’s responsible for our present economic and social policies. This essay provides some Bible-based economic background to build you a framework for understanding economic cause-and-effect.

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Your Decisions Have Big Consequences–That’s Why God Gave You the Gift of Being an Economist

Britton Brown provides us with the basic foundation of biblical economics. The existence of the sovereign God and his revelation serve as basic premises. God’s revelation teaches that He is the Ultimate Owner of all things and He appointed man as His steward. Being God’s steward does not remove personal ownership and faithful responsibility. God expects man to be responsible in all his economic decisions. Such economic decisions is a way of taking dominion to advance the kingdom of God.

Dream of a New Economic Era

The existing crisis cause economic issues to be a critical part in public discourse. Politicians are aware of this and offer economic solutions to present crisis. However, in “Redeeming Economics,” John D. Mueller shows the failure of conventional answers offered by both Democrats and Republicans “for their deficit spending, promotion of unsound currency (theft through inflation), payoffs to select constituencies, and lack of fiscal discipline.” Mueller offers an alternative economic perspective among competing economic theories that is grounded on Christian theology. He attempts to apply the moral philosophy from Augustine to Aquinas to economic policy. The doctrines of providence and the image of God serve as the links that connect theology to economics. He criticized Adam Smith’s pantheistic idea of “invisible hand”. Mueller argues that such theological disconnection accounts for the reigning amorality and denial of natural norms among economists since Smith’s day. The ideas of Marx and Lenin simply followed such disconnection. Mueller is envisioning for “a new economic era grounded on neo-scholasticism.”

The Calvinist International

Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element
By John D. Mueller
ISI Books, 2010 (hardback, 480 pages)

Reviewed by Chuck Huckaby

As the 2012 Presidential elections draw near, the presidential candidates are offering a variety of economic proposals to stimulate our struggling economy. How are we to seriously evaluate which, if any, are likely to succeed based on sound economic theory? Does Christian theology (or even “natural theology”?) play a part in guiding our evaluation of both sound economic theory and these individual proposals?

John Mueller in Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element says “Yes”. As the speechwriter and economist for Congressman Jack Kemp from 1979–88, he was responsible for analyzing and developing policy options from his classically Christian perspective. Often disdained by those who rejected his application of moral philosophy from Augustine and Aquinas to economic policy, Mueller’s sport and revenge has been to build a business around predicting the…

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