Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

A Review of Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late. By James Robison and Jay Richards.

Mar 22, 2012

FaithWords, 2012.

I love a paragraph found early on in this book: “We’re like tourists on a sunny beach. We’ve heard news of an earthquake on the seafloor, hundreds of miles away, but everything looks normal. People are sipping iced tea or mai tais with little umbrellas, enjoying the warm sand and the sun overhead. Many think, ‘We’ve never had it so good.’ And yet, when we look closely, we notice that the beach is growing wider as the tide recedes toward the horizon.”

This is a really incisive quote – it perfectly captures the situation we find ourselves in here in the West, and even in most Western churches. We are basically asleep at the wheel, oblivious to the imminent destruction and carnage which is either all around us, or about to overtake us.

Everywhere we have signs of the gathering gloom and impending doom, but far too many people are either unaware or unconcerned about what is going down. We need a major wakeup call, and that is just what this book seeks to do. And it also seeks to show that freedom is indivisible.

That is, religious freedom, political freedom and economic freedom stand or fall together. Thus concerns about moral and cultural issues must be part of any defence of freedom. And Christians need to be thinking about all these areas. The authors argue that biblical principles can be applied to many areas of public policy, and seek to deal with many of the hot potato issues of the day.

The economy is certainly one major area which seems to be unravelling at the seams, with urgent action required. Richards has done work in this area before, including his very helpful 2010 volume, Money, Greed, and God (HarperOne).

The authors consider a number of economic issues, such as the size of government, the nature of the free market, the welfare state, globalisation, and so on. They remind us of the founding fathers’ vision to restrain government while empowering people.

The fathers would be aghast at the growing dependence on the state, the decline of individual responsibility, and the mushrooming of the entitlement culture: “We’re in a mess because we’ve looked to government to give us what it can’t or shouldn’t provide and what we should have gotten elsewhere or not at all. Unless we change this entitlement mentality, we’ll be in deep trouble, even if we do fix the current entitlement programs.”

While specific biblical outworking of contemporary economic policies may be a matter of some debate, we nonetheless have many general principles to guide our thinking here: “No Proverb says, ‘A wise man keeps its federal budget below twelve percent of GDP, while a foolish country keeps voting for more and more entitlements.’ Nevertheless, the Bible, history, and our God-given reason strongly suggest that large and unconstrained government tends to undermine the common good and lead, in the end, to bondage.”

They spend a lot of time dealing with the myth that economic justice is somehow exclusively the domain of the state. “In well over a hundred biblical passages about the poor, not one mentions the government. Yet practically everybody has gotten the idea that it is the government’s job to eliminate poverty.” But “nothing in the US Constitution suggests this. Nothing in Scripture or Christian theology justifies this assumption.”

Another clear area of demise has to do with the institutions of marriage and family. They are under attack big time. Warn the authors, “And we could soon reach the day when defending conjugal marriage between a man and a woman will be denounced as bigotry and hatred, and compared with the truly unjust treatment of minorities.”

But sadly I must point out something here. While this book only came out last month, it is already outdated – at least in this section. These things are already happening right now. Those standing up for marriage and family are being accused of these very things, and worse.

But the authors rightly show that something like same-sex marriage is going to impact negatively on everyone. Some might argue that what happens in one place will not harm others in another place. How can same-sex marriage hurt anyone else, the advocates ask.

“This is like asking if the value of a real dollar in Texas would be affected by flooding the market with counterfeits in New York. Yes it would, because counterfeits degrade the value of all real dollars and the economy. As economists say, bad money chases out good money.”

Governments need to affirm the institution of marriage, which has historically preceded the state. “Just as government can’t redefine our rights as individuals made in the image of God, it has no authority to redefine marriage. Communism was totalitarian because it tried to redefine the individual, to create a new ‘Communist Man.’ We’re now struggling with another totalitarian impulse to redefine reality.”

Thus the libertarians need to get the bigger picture here: “Libertarians are all for limited government, free markets, and individual rights, but some treat the family as a private matter with no bearing on public policy. Without strong families, however, we won’t have freedom and limited government for long.”

Indeed, the “destruction of families leads to a larger, more intrusive nanny state.” This is because the family “is a huge check on government power. . . . The better a family functions, the less you need from local, state, and federal governments.”

That is why socialists have always sought to destroy the family. “The socialist would much prefer a mass of isolated individuals all dependent on the state from the beginning, rather than having to work through a complicated thicket of family ties. Socialist states don’t like other sources of authority that limit their power.”

The life issues are also crucial here. There can be no genuine freedom without the first freedom: the right to life. “We don’t oppose abortion because it violates something peculiar to Christianity, however, but because it’s a form of murder. If you can’t make laws against murder, you can’t make laws against anything.”

“Without rule of law, there can be neither free markets nor free men. And the first rule of law is to protect innocent human beings at every stage of their lives from harm and death at the hands of others. Protecting innocent, preborn, human life, then, is not only consistent with economic freedom. It is one of its prerequisites.”

In this the authors differ from the radical libertarians like Ron Paul who argue that the federal government should have nothing to do with the abortion issue. It is a paramount issue, and it is a fundamental justice issue – indeed, it is a life and death issue.

All in all this is a very helpful volume to help Christians especially think about freedom in general, and how best to deal with various public policy issues. It is a much needed corrective to so much leftist “social justice” thinking which has crept into so many churches.

The authors have produced a very informative and worthwhile volume here which deserves a wide reading.

[1180 words]

9 Responses to A Review of Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late. By James Robison and Jay Richards.

  • Thanks Bill.
    There is much to ponder here, but James Robison is well entitled to speak about poverty issues, as he is the founder and director of Life Ministries, which inter alia installs wells in villages in third world countries

    The entitlement mentality, afflicting both our country and the U.S., is however, so deeply entrenched that any attempt to dismantle the welfare state would be political suicide. In the U.S. the welfare state and big government began with the New Deal of FDR, although the roots of it go back to the Wilson era and William Jennings Bryan. The latter was well-motivated, but I believe misguided.

    However, it has gone on to mammoth proportions with Johnson’s Great Society; and now Obama’s multi-trillion dollar spending has bankrupted the country. I would like to know whether the authors discuss Keynes. I see him as at the root of our problems. This Bloomsbury “intellectual” introduced the notion that a nation can literally spend itself rich, spend its way out of debt, by the stratagem of deficit finance and stimulus spending to reflate an economy. It is this sort of madness which has led us to a financial mess, but the Labor party in particular is wedded to it, as we have seen with Kevin Rudd’s “Stimulus Package”. the only economy he stimulated in the end was China’s!

    We have got to get Keynes out of our system and our psyche.

    As for the other freedoms, I can only endorse the sentiments. Socialism is literally selling out our precious birthright, our freedoms, for a mess of social welfare pottage!

    Murray R Adamthwaite

  • Thanks Murray

    Yes quite so. Robison discusses his charitable works in this book. Sounds a lot more helpful than many government projects.

    And I speak further to this topic of expanding government in my newest article:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,
    Thanks for the review. I’ve just ordered the book. By the way the petition started by the Coalition4Marriage here in the UK to keep the traditional definition of marriage has now passed the 275,000 signatures mark. It started about 3 weeks ago.
    Alan Williams, UK

  • Bill

    I thought Paul supported legal protection for the unborn (though not at the federal level perhaps)?

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Damian

    Yes he claims to be pro-life, but he in effect hides behind the states on this, claiming the federal government should have nothing to do with the issue. But as I noted, the federal government should be very interested and involved in the murder of innocents. Life is the first and greatest fundamental right and freedom.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks, Bill, for another thoughtful book review on social policy. The National Alcohol Action Alliance has just released its position statement, revealing that the taxpayer funded cost of alcohol abuse in Australia is running at $15billion. per year.

    As Alice Springs goes to the polls for its local elections, the debate between those opposed to free market regulation and those who support take-away alcohol sales free days is proof of the necessity for people to get involved in this costly epidemic and in the issues which you raise.

    Take-away alcohol accounts for 70% of sales in the NT and two pubs in the once-iconic town of Alice sell it seven days a week, topping up the alcohol-induced psychosis of impoverished alcoholics, as ‘the bad money eats up the good.

    Free marketeers and their cunning advertising agencies feign indignation at the ensuing demented rampage which afflicts the town. The devil is having a big day out every day around excessive alcohol supply outlets and Australians, in general, look on as if the tide will never go out. Most seem confused about what they can do, but it’s possible to run a campaign against this legalised drug of addiction and victimisation of families.

    The NAAA website and the new Alcohol Advertising Review Board are are only two of the most recent initiatives and information dissemination outposts. The facts are appalling.

    Russell Guy

  • Of course the economy is unraveling and no amount of money they throw at it to fix it will fix it because prosperity is a direct result of obedience to God and His laws and not with it as the end of our obedience but the pleasure of God. The dew of Mt. Herman waters Mt. Zion, Ps 133 but they start in the harsh and cold environment of the heights of Mt. Herman. A good economy is not our birthright and will always be elusive while governments think it is the result of their “manipulations”.
    I am reading “The Tragedy of American Compassion” by Marvin Olasky, thanks to your recommendation Bill and am thinking of giving it to some relevant politicians.
    Looking back from where we are now to how things used to happen you wonder how we got from A to B. There must be some landmark events that we can discover where we can say “that is where we have gone wrong.”
    Many blessings,
    Ursula Bennett

  • Bill

    Fair point. He has always been outspoken as a pro-lifer but maybe he is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Damien

    See these articles for more on his position:

    As Josh Craddock says, “By elevating the 10th Amendment, Ron Paul ignores the federal government’s Fifth and 14th Amendment duty to protect the lives of all Americans from state tyranny. We must remember that the relationship between national and state governments is irrelevant to fundamental moral issues. No level of government – whether local, state, or federal – has the authority to permit the murder of innocents.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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