Anarchic Pragmatism

People Tell Me That I’m Not Pragmatic.

I have a tendency to be a bit stubborn sometimes and not do what people want because I believe that it would be wrong for me to do that particular thing. They usually think that it would be right for me to do that particular thing and tell me that I need to be pragmatic and do it anyway.

So I’d come to think that I wasn’t pragmatic and that perhaps I was dogmatic.

Then I heard someone comment that pragmatism was just another name for hypocrisy! Which I took to mean that a pragmatist often did stuff that he didn’t believe he should.


Pragmatic – solving problems in a realistic way which suits the present conditions rather than obeying fixed theories, ideas or rules

Whereas dogmatic is about having a dogma or a set of rules.

I tend to think that what we do reflects what we really believe, so if I stick to a particular path then that is a result of what I believe. That belief isn’t necessarily a rules based belief – it isn’t necessarily being dogmatic or following a dogma. Belief can be anarchic and not rules based, it can come from a faith that is alive within you. It also doesn’t mean that I’m not pragmatic.

A pragmatist is really someone who recognises that rules aren’t good enough to determine what you should do (I would say that God is a pragmatist because he has given us the option to know in our hearts what to do, moment by moment, rather than relying on an Old Testament style set of rules).

So a pragmatist can still be someone who does what he believes, they don’t have to be a hypocrite.

So I reckon that, despite feeling strongly about specific things in my life and whether they are right or wrong, I’m actually a pragmatist because my belief doesn’t come from a fixed set of rules, but is a more anarchic belief that comes from faith which is something bigger than can be expressed in a set of rules.

So now I know how to answer people who accuse me of not being a pragmatist!Black Irish video

Gideon Salvage Duty

MSC Napoli beached ship

On Sunday afternoon my family and I went down to Beer Head (cliffs) to have a look at the beacked container ship MSC Napoli off Branscombe.

From this BBC News item I see that foreign language Bibles are being washed up. As a Gideon (! who’d have thought it eh?) part of me wonders if I should try and procure these items, however there does seem to be a bit of argument about the legality of picking up salvage. I just hope that they won’t be wasted. I’ll keep my ear to the ground (or should that be seabed?) on this one.

Debt Money v. Banked Money – a Confidence Problem

After some thought and reading I’d like to post a follow up to this last post on money and debt.

Debt money, which is basically based on an assurance from one person to another that the debt will be paid (you may wish to re-read the above mentioned post) can suffer from a confidence problem.

When you accept a promise from someone you are trusting that it will be kept in the expected manner. However, over history many governments (the largest promiser of IOUs) just attempt to print their way out of trouble, creating more and more ‘IOUs’ (credit notes/cash that doesn’t have intrinsic value) thus making the existing money more and more worthless.

So the promise of efficient money by using promises to repay (debt money) is tempered by the risk that the promise will be undermined.

On the other hand using valuable assets as money is far less risky – what is the risk that an asset that is considered to have worthwhile value will plummet to a tiny fraction of it’s current worth? However, it can happen, asset values do vary. So what kind of asset would you want to bank with – something which is useful perhaps, something which is rare?

Ultimately, it is a speculative choice either way – debt money (promises) or asset money (valuable commodities).

With regards to yesterdays post “Having All in Common” I’m tempted to imagine that money isn’t something that would exist in the full on coming (and here) Kingdom of God. After all isn’t money something that gives us ownership of something, something we use to trade something we own for something someone else owns?

So, does God prefer asset money to debt money? I don’t know! He says don’t owe others stuff, but then he says that we should continue to return the debt of love…

Ah well, maybe the above discussion is irrelevant? Maybe I’ll have to give it some more thought…

Having All In Common

Acts 2:44
All the believers were together and had everything in common.

I was thinking for a few moments about this today and I found myself framing this issue with a question:
What is it that worries us about sharing possessions?

I think it is the fear that our contribution will be abused – that our generosity will be taken advantage of, that we will not be able to count on others to be fair and considerate.

In itself, sharing your possessions or having shared possessions is quite a joyous practice. You get a heightened sense of usefulness, a sense of giving, as sense of helping. The sharing is a positive, it is the abuse that is negative.

Why is it that we cannot trust our brothers and sisters, that we cannot rely on them to be considerate? Is this a shortcoming of our relationship with them. Is our fear of having common property simply an indicator about the state of our relationships?

If so, what can be done? I’m challenged to be closer and more involved with the people I call my Christian friends.

These thoughts have sprung my considerations about what is private property and what is ‘common’ property. Are even our labours (perhaps our most personal and private resource) common property in the new Kingdom?

Debt Money v. Banked Money – a Gold Problem

This is a post that continues a casual series about debt (here is the previous post).

Most money in circulation today only exists because someone took out a debt from the banking system, which promptly created the money from nothing. The simple way to express this is it is just like giving someone an IOU: If you want to trade with someone and you have nothing you can promise them something in return – so your promise is a debt to the person who gave you something of value in return for your promise. This is the concept of debt money.

Alternatively we can have money that is based on the value of something that is stored away. For example at one stage money used to be issued when you stored gold in a ‘bank’ (a bank being a store where things of value could be kept). Let’s call this ‘banked asset money’ – when you give the money to someone, they effectively become the new owner of the item kept in store.

I’ve commented on the problems of debt – that you become endebted to someone, you owe them and you are therefore controlled to some respect by the need to pay them off. However, most of our money in circulation is based on debt, by holding some money you are either in debt to someone (because the money is a loan) or someone else is (because the money is a loan).

It is my preference to not owe the loan myself, but to hold money that exists because someone else took out a loan and spent it and the money came to me (eventually). Is this a tacit acceptance of debt? Hmmm. I’m not sure that it is, but how about using ‘banked asset money’ where there is no debt at all?

The problem with ‘banked asset money’ is that there are loads of assets sitting in a bank doing nothing! Rather unproductive and inefficient. In this scenario it costs a lot more to have money because of the overheads of storage and the fact that stored stuff doesn’t get very well used.

I just had an email in about gold and the ethical problems of gold production. Much gold is basically stolen from the people of the country that it was mined in and also a lot of pollution is produced to create gold. If you have gold based money you are necessarily causing gold to be mined – as if you mine some gold you can exchange it for money. Using precious things as money tends to stop that material being used for useful purposes as it has an exchange value far in excess of its useful value (value to do something useful).

Most gold spends its time being valuable either as ingots or as jewellery (which has status because of its value) – only a small proportion of gold spends its time being useful – perhaps in electronic goods or dental fillings. (I’m basing this judgment of how gold is used based on this info: which states there is probably 3/4 of an ounce of gold per person and I reckon that an average person does not typically use that much gold for utilitarian purposes – I know that I have some electronics, but it won’t have that much gold in – therefore most gold must be used as a store of value instead.)

If gold is used to back money then we are poorer because it reduces the amount of gold being used for more useful purposes that would make us wealthier (in a practical way).

Storing grain instead of gold isn’t an ideal answer for ‘banked asset money’ either as storing grain has costs, unless you happen to be storing it anyway.

So using asset based currencies aren’t necessarily the right answer to the debt question.

To be continued…

Giving Whilst In Debt

I’ve had a couple of people say to me that of course you can give (money) whilst you are in debt, but I’ve kind of had my doubts about whether this is what God would want. The thing is about debt is that we enter an obligation to pay it back even though we don’t know whether we will be able to do so or not (simply because we do not know the future). It occurred to me that it would be good to pay back debt if you are able to do so, because you would be meeting your obligation and it might mean that you don’t default on your debt and fail to meet your obligation.

Also, it’s not even your money to give, really it belongs to the person who lent you money.

So there seemed to me good reason to not give money away whilst you were in debt. But then I was faced with the argument that then we would have a giving crisis in the church and everyone would stop giving. However, today I gave this point some further thought…

… I realised that if you pay off your debt sooner rather than later then you have to repay less money (less interest that is) because of the reduced period over which you were having to pay interest. Thus, over your lifetime, if you did not give whilst you were in debt but rather repaid your debt more quickly, you would be able to give more. You would be giving the lenders less of your money which would mean that you could give more of your money away. So it would appear to be in the interest of all for us to pay off our debts quickly, even if it meant stopping giving whilst we were in debt.

Of course the risk is that if you quickly pay off your debts, therefore ending up with more money you might just spend it on yourself or choose to take out another debt thereby stopping your giving again!

I can’t say that I find voluntarily owing somebody something an overly attractive situation to be in, I can only imagine that it restricts your options in life.Wah-Wah buy

Bristol Baptist College – Politics Sessions

If you were at the Thursday (30th Nov) session on politics I recommend having a look through the ‘Government‘ category on this site.

Some summary points:

    Blood and Chocolate trailer

  • Politics is basically the relationships that give us power over others.
  • Power over others is a facet of fallen society.
  • Power over people is being superseded by the new enabling power of the New Kingdom.
  • The New Kingdom ushers in an upside down paradigm – the last shall be first, the least, the servant, submission, love.
  • The Messiah was expected to be a political power – to relieve Israel from the conquering nations that had troubled it and the Romans who occupied it. However, Jesus Christ did not so much as lift a finger against the Romans, who’s empire later caused immense damage to the church.
  • We see the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-25) who Christ recommended to give away all of his wealth. This would result in the giving up of power.
  • The church has historically decided to utilise the power of the state and has not kept itself as a separate entity.
  • Evil is separation from God and as such cannot be stopped by legislation.
  • We are judged on our heart, our motives, not our actions (although our actions display the nature of our hearts!).
  • Sin is simply separation from God – the acts we do are not either more or less sinful, they are either sinful (coming from our separation from God) or not (coming from our relationship with God). When we focus on sinful acts we tend to forget that the thing that matters is the sin inside – the Beattitudes (Mat 5:21 etc.) illustrates this sea change from the Old Testament where the focus was on sinful acts.
  • Law cannot bring justice, it is merely privilege and counter-privilege piled high.
  • Justice and freedom only come through a relationship with God. The New Kingdom of submission and love for one another is the only way that we will see true freedom and justice.
  • Accept persecution rather than legislate to prevent people doing it to us – Romans 12.
  • Even though we become Christians we remain in a world that continues to oppress us. Christ was oppressed, but simultaneously had freedom from oppression. Similarly Christ has relieved us of oppression and set us free.
  • In the same vein we can still be fulfilling God’s mission for us even when we are in submission to the authorities and powers that God has allowed to rule (Romans 13, Matt 22:15). However, everything we do should be in obedience to God – just that a lot of that will also be obedience to government or simply submission to others.
  • We do see a difference between how Jesus acted towards the leaders of God’s people and towards others. He did bring critical prophetic word to leaders of God’s chosen nation of Israel.
  • We see ‘easy Christianity’ where people just have to chant a formula to apparently meet God, but we mustn’t forget that we often practice ‘easy evangelism’ where we duck out of the ‘hard’ submissive, powerless lifestyles that Christ’s example urges us to take. Often we try to paint an attractive picture of Christianity after we fail at living a sacrificial life.
  • Using legislation to force our society to do ‘good’ to others actually includes forcing people to pay more taxes or lose their ‘freedoms’.
  • George Muller of Bristol never asked for money for his five homes for orphans. He focussed on God’s task and God proved to be the provider, meaning that George never needed to push people to provide.
  • Non coercive power is basically the power to persuade people whilst giving them freedom of choice. Christ’s power is persuasive, but he does not negate people’s free will.
  • We do see that Christ will bring judgment, vengeance, get rid of oppression, rule with an iron rod, but this is to come and is not now.

Some points that I missed:

  • Talk is our major form of interaction with others and as such can be our major source of coercion as we attempt to bend people to our wills. We need to ensure that our talk liberates others.
  • Other forms of coercive control include temptation. This could include deceptive marketing (as per lifestyle consumer goods) . Are certain forms of evangelism merely types of deceptive marketing that don’t spell out the truth of the total cost and the total gain of following Christ?
  • Look at the accounts of Jesus reaching out to various people throughout his lifetime – do you see a tendency to control?
  • Moderation of those inside the church appears to be by exclusion rather than control. We are called to judge inasmuch as to understand whether it is healthy or productive to our mission to spend time with particular people. However, our response is still to love, but bearing in mind that we are called to love others too.
  • Some in the church are trying to usher in a utopia, trying to create a poor copy of the New Kingdom, by using fallen methods such as coercive control.
  • Education can be a form of non-coercive power. It is therefore very political, but in a very different manner to attempts to control the behaviour of others. However, education done without humility is often coercive. Education is best imagined as a fellowship of explorers rather than a structure that brings one person’s ‘truth’ to many.
  • We need to ask ourselves whether we should be utilising the power of the state – such as using the police (as we have a civil right to) or using our vote.
  • We see that the most extreme form of persecution, martyrdom, is a greatly effective and persuasive act. However, it takes the ultimate sacrifice (this is not to be confused with being killed whilst killing others).
  • If we feel that we need to abandon behaviour that seeks to control others we should not only question whether we should work in the military sphere, but also whether we should participate in various areas of law enforcement.
  • We also need to assess whether our trading habits involve unfair control of others. Are our trading partners on a level playing field with us? Do we reinforce the controlling behaviour of some businesses by trading with them? Do we strengthen the hand of exploitative and manupulative employers?

I recommend visiting the Ekklesia web site. It is an interesting approach to politics for Christians. Whether they get the balance right is up for debate, but this is a very interesting outline The King Maker buy from which I have learnt much.

The Essence of What I Love and the Essence of What I Hate… About Church

Recent posts by James and Richard have really got me thinking – for a couple of minutes! 🙂

What I love about church (and I’m talking about what I think of as church, which isn’t necessarily what I turn up to on a Sunday) are the intimate relationships and the dream of intimate relationships. The idea of having honesty, love, concern, responsibility in a set of relationships. Thinking about these things makes me believe that life as a disciple is possible.

What I hate about church (and I do mean hate!) are the formal shortcuts that lead to relationships that lack the above qualities. I believe that the presence of organisation tempts us to formalise our relationships and encourages us to think that we can treat each other with less grace, it tempts us to think that we don’t have failings, tempts us to look for specks in eyes when we have logs in our own. Formalisation makes us forget our humanity and the centrality of close relationships. We look at the world and see how it operates and we think that we can run the business of church like that, instead of recognising that church isn’t a business, it is people, people who need love, people who need to give love. It’s not what we do, it’s the way that we do it – sometimes we think that the ends justifies the means, that the business is more important than the love.


At ‘ye olde churche’ this morning the topic was temptation – which got me thinking…

…there are perhaps three ways to stop yourself from falling for temptation:

  1. Avoiding the temptation.
  2. Self discipline.
  3. Not feeling tempted by it anymore.

The first two strike me as very good practical tactics, but the third has got be be by far the best, if you can get it!

Perhaps, somehow, it goes hand in hand with being free to do whatever you want. Whilst it sounds incredibly dangerous to be ‘free to do what you want’ it must be unbelievably great to want to do just good stuff.

Imagine your favourite thing to do, and what a buzz you get from doing it. Then imagine something that is good to do, but you really hate doing it. Imagine really wanting to do that good thing that you hate doing. Imagine getting that buzz from it. You know how other people get a buzz from doing stuff that you really hate? Well, that implies that it is possible to get a buzz from stuff that you don’t currently get a buzz from.

I would love to love doing good stuff all the time. Some good stuff I do like doing, but some good stuff just freaks me out and scares me! It would be awesome to get a buzz from doing that stuff.

What about temptation? Well, if you can get a buzz for doing something good that you currently don’t like then it must be possible to stop getting a buzz from the temptation and see it replaced with getting a buzz for something else.

I love the idea of being changed from the inside. I know that that’s what I would like!