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Tuesday, February 10, 2015


We can debate the origins of the universe till the cows come home (and where did they come from before they came home?). I have a suspicion that we have a bigger problem. Sure, we can't agree on the origins of the universe, but I am convinced that an inordinate number of people today can't figure out where lots of ordinary things come from, and that can be seriously detrimental.

I'm dismayed at the failure of too many people today to grasp the origins of simple things like food. When an Internet personage showed a photo of herself standing next to a buck she shot, the Internet was outraged. "Why don't you go buy your meat in a store where no animals are killed?" was actually among the comments. The dispute over "processed foods" (as if there are foods that aren't actually processed in some sense) versus "GMOs" (genetically modified organisms, as if something we are eating has never had any modifications at all) versus "organic foods" (without any really clear definition) and "health foods" (with even less definition) indicates that we don't know where that stuff is coming from and all we really want is for you to label it so we will feel better about it.

I'm quite sure that the vast majority of people today do not grasp basic economics. That paper that you use to pay for your Starbucks has almost no value. Even less the bits of data you use to transfer funds from your bank to the website to buy the book you want. Even less the air you use to purchase on credit the things you can't afford. That's worth only potential. No, paper is only valued insofar as it represents shared value of something else. Work you did, goods you sold, valuable metals (like gold), something of genuine value. The paper in your wallet is only valuable as far as it represents something real. Oh, and that "real" keeps changing. A dollar in 1950 would buy what $9.95 would in 2015 money. Inflation, you know. Yet, the government keeps printing money (or just transfers "it"--is if "it" was something real--electronically) and the national debt keeps rising and demands for increased minimum wages never cease. A popular bookstore in San Francisco is closing its doors in March because San Franciscans voted to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour as if the money is just sitting in a pile somewhere and any business that needs it can go draw from it to pay their employees ... and any that doesn't is a dirty, rotten, miserly company. Over and over on the topic of economics people seem to fail to grasp that economics is the management of limited resources. It is a balance of income and outflow and takes all sorts of variations and vagaries into account. Separated from those limited resources by paper money, electronic transfers, and credit cards, they think it just exists and anyone who wants it should be able to have it.

The question of origins isn't limited to a confused society. I also find it in Christian circles. Where does doctrine come from? (I hear people calling themselves Christians arguing that "We need to change our beliefs" as if truth is something on which we can vote.) Where do traditions come from? (Protestants like to dismiss tradition as if it's a Catholic evil, but Paul encouraged it (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 2 Thess 3:6).) We all know that Christianity is a religion of morals, right? I mean, aren't all religions about morality? I actually find Christians holding to this idea. In nearly violent response, I'll also find other Christians who say, "No! There is nothing about morality in Christianity! We are free from the law!" Both sides are missing it. Christianity begins with the Gospel. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9). That means we need saving, first, and, second, that we can't do it ourselves (the bad news). But Christ died on our behalf and rose again and faith in Him can save because of His grace. Let's see ... so far ... nope, nothing about "be good". But, Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) Cause and effect. "You love Me" produces "you will keep My commandments." Necessarily. John wrote that he who is born of God cannot sin continually "because the seed of God abides in him" (1 John 3:9). "Cannot". So the ethic of salvation is grace through faith and the ethic of Christian living is a grateful heart necessarily producing obedience. But too many Christians don't get that. So they're either working to be a good Christian or refusing to work at all in order to be a good Christian. Both fail to see origins.

It's everywhere. We don't know where it came from and, thus, what it means or how it works. Ignorance or apathy, it isn't good. The problems this failure causes are manifold. And going down these trails without origins only leads to more ignorance and apathy. It can't be a good thing.


David said...

I've stopped saying, "bless you" to those that sneeze because the origin is that of a fault superstition. I don't actually believe someone needs to be blessed for sneezing, so I withhold my blessing (I've only got so much to give as is and my blessing aren't worth much anyway). Origins are fascinating and informative.

Stan said...

I've been unable to find with any certainty the origins of the phrase when someone sneezes. There are multiple listings and no one is sure. But, by all means, store up blessings. :)