Monday, November 30, 2009

Agricola Urbanus - Benefits of a Cash Society

Since the "Urban Agrarian" is quite thoroughly taken, and since saying things in Latin always seems intelligent, we'll just be "Agricola Urbanus."  There we go.

People in the self-sufficiency movement often seem to want to bail out of a cash based society altogether.  I want to start my series of posts by arguing against that.  There are some features of a cash society which are wonderful.

A cash society can give you relatively long-term security.  Crops which are preserved only last so long.  You can grow heirloom plants and harvest the seeds to replant, but the crops stop when you are no longer able to work.  What do you do when you are no longer able to cut your own firewood, when the children have moved across the continent, when you just don't think you can spend the hours it takes on a daily basis to care for your little cottage farm?  This is a time when having money is very useful.  

Income you can save and invest will prove useful at some point in the future.  Almost all of us will grow old and find ourselves less capable of carrying on our daily work.  As one elderly person put it to me a few years ago, "I can still do a good day's work but it takes two days to do it."  Money which is invested wisely doesn't grow old and tired.  It just keeps on doing its job, whether it is in the stock market, a mutual fund, an IRA, or some sort of hard investment like precious metals or land. 

Investments and cash are also obviously portable.  What if you grow tired of those cold winters in Minnesota and decide to move to Alabama in your old age?  Of course you can start over there, but if you have adequate investments you simply sell your things, move, and transfer your bank account or access it via the Internet or phone.  You can use the money you earn in this country anywhere in the world.  It's a wonderfully portable resource.

This portability makes for ease of charitable giving as well.  I heard recently of a project in which Sunday school classes provided pastors in a third world country with cows, one per pastor.  You don't have to be a farmer in Wisconsin to provide milk, meat, and an animal to help plow up a garden to someone in Nigeria.  In fact, you would find it very very expensive to export a cow to the Nigerian pastor you wish to support.  But you can provide him with the money to go to the livestock market and purchase an animal that will help him provide for the needs of his family.  Money is a wonderful way of engaging in charitable causes both locally and around the world.

Does the cash economy have some drawbacks?  Sure.  We'll hit on some of those in future posts.  But money is a good and powerful tool.  It has its place.  We don't want to depend on it exclusively but we have biblical freedom to put it to work for us.  So, agricolae urbani, don't be afraid to have money around.  You'll find it useful on many levels.  At the same time, realize that when we depend on just one type of resource we are asking for trouble.  When that resource fails us, whether it be our one cash crop, our one job, our investment portfolio that isn't adequately diversified, our national currency, our health, or our ingenuity, we will suffer.  And every earthly resource we have will fail us at some time.  Good stewardship includes having a wide array of resources, all of which can work together to help us love God by serving our neighbor.

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Future of Tolerance: In Honor of David Scaer

Hinlicky, Paul R. "The Future of Tolerance: In Honor of David Scaer." All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  375-389.

What is tolerance?  Does it consist of limits or of freedom?  Who defines what is and is not tolerance, as well as what is and is not tolerated?  Modern liberalism has the State furnishing what free people want but not imposting restrictions on the people within the state.  It expects  that people, who are considered good, will act in a noble manner and will all agree on what is desirable in a free society.  

On the contrary, a biblical faith doesn't really distinguish between necessity and freedom.  We do what is necessary, including sin.  We sin because we are sinners, acting out of that necessity.  We do not become sinners because of our sin.  Because we are in conflict and sin, providing us with means to sin may simply intensify the conflict.  Hence it may well not be a good idea for the state to furnish people with what they want.

Hinlicky suggests that modern liberalism breaks down because the State needs to use coercive power when it finds people do not agree on what is good and desirable.  The State then becomes an oppressive force.  Where is our society headed?  Hinlicky would suggest that continuing to allow the secular authorities to define tolerance will bring threats upon the Church.   It is wise that the Church should respond by seeking active dialog about all sorts of social issues within the conflicts we currently have. 

What do you think?  Is it the job of the Church to provide an alternative voice to an increasingly coercive secular authority?  What does salt and light actually do?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Collecting Autographs: Missouri's Assumption of Princeton's Doctrine of the _Autographa_.

Rast, Lawrence R. Jr. & Knepper, Grant A. "Collecting Autographs: Missouri's Assumption of Princeton's Doctrine of the Autographa."   All Theology Is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer. Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press.  2000.  349-373.

Rast and Knepper suggest in this article that early 20th century fundamentalism may be related to the LCMS view of inerrancy.  They suggest that fundamentalism in the early 20th century was essentially dispensational premillennialism with an addition of the Princeton view of the inerrancy of Scripture.  

What is the Princeton view of the inerrancy of Scripture?  Where did it come from?  As with many theological points of view found in Calvinist seminaries, according to the people who hold to the Princeton view of the inerrancy of Scripture, it is an unbiased interpretation of Calvin's views on the matter.  Yet there are some changes that can be tracked from the time of the Reformation to the start of the 20th century.

Princeton was formed in 1812 for graduate theological education.  The institution has a tremendous history of professors who are writing scholars, as well as graduates who go on to teach and write extensively.  During the 19th century, A.A. Hodge and B.B. Warfield first insisted on an inerrancy of the manuscripts of the Bible rather than an inerrancy of the current revelation found in extant copies of the Scripture.  This was held as a reaction to textual criticism which was rising to prominence at the time.  It would seem the statements to this effect articulated most clearly in 1879 by Hodge (though not in a similar work in 1860) had to do with protecting the collection of facts found in the Bible, as opposed to an older historic view of protecting the divine power of God's Word and revelation.  

Rast and Knepper suggest that this view of inerrancy is a departure from historic belief in a God who has revealed himself primarily through his living Word, Jesus Christ, and who has protected the essential facts in the Bible.  The historic view of Scripture is more concerned with an understanding of the power of God being present in the proclaimed and enacted Word of God.  Scripture is inerrant in a plenary way, not necessarily verbally inspired.  Scripture is God's powerful and effective revelation.  Yet in the early 20th century the LCMS began adopting and articulating a view which was consistent with the Princeton view, effectively lowering their historical view of the power of God as revealed in Scripture.

As a philologist I found this an interesting premise.  Do we really think of Jesus as the Word of God?  When the New Testament refers to the Word, does it refer to the power of Jesus?  When something is done in Jesus' name, is the proclamation of Jesus' name something with performative effect?  Those ideas turn my Enlightenment era thinking on its head.  But it may be exactly what is right to do.  What do we tink?  Is the concern with the facts and figures, with the power of God, or both?

Dave Spotts
blogging at and

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Urban Agrarian - Coming Posts

Disclaimer: I have a bad record of posting and maintaining a blog.  Sporadic, hastily written, and only partially considered posts will remain par for the course.

If I'm going to make some posts that seem to fit a series I should define the series.  What's an urban agrarian?  Let's consider that by dealing with the two words in turn.  When I speak of "urban" I really don't mean "living in a concrete jungle."  Most people in towns and cities don't live that way.  But likewise, most people in our society don't live in places with miles and miles of wide open spaces around them.  I've been thinking about the way someone who lives in a town or city but with at least some yard space can be an agrarian.  Obviously, the more ground you have and the less regulations you face about your use of that ground, the more you can do with it.  How about the term "agrarian?"  Unlike some people who want to be sure they grow everything that they eat, drink, bathe with, or wear, I would define an agrarian as anyone who wants to grow something that is useful.  This can apply to the person who decides to make a 4x4x2 foot patio garden on the balcony of the apartment building so as to grow herbs and a few tomato plants.  It can apply to the person who decides to turn the back yard into a vegetable garden sufficient to feed the whole family.  It can apply to the person who is bold enough to find out it's legal to keep a few exotic chickens and goats as pets that actually provide milk, eggs and meat.  You name it.  Want to grow something useful?  You're an agrarian.

Is the name "urban agrarian" taken?  Probably so.  But I also thought it up in my little, little head, so I'm going to use it.  If anyone notices and complains then more people will read my blog and that other person's blog.  Hopefully, though, the above points will illustrate sufficiently that I am not expert.  I just happen to be someone who thinks it would be a good bit of stewardship to put some plants to use for my family.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seminary Plan Update

The seminary plans continue.  It looks now as if I'll have a projected start in the 2011-12 school year.  We're now looking most seriously at Concordia - Fort Wayne.  

Before registering for courses at Concordia Seminary I want to work through some prerequisite courses.  So instead of posting on the blog lately I've found myself watching a video course I picked up at iTunesU from the St. Louis campus.  I'll post some summary notes as I move through the courses.  For the moment I haven't been posting as I was distracted and off schedule.  But I'll try to write things up to let readers learn from what I'm studying.

What are the prerequisites?  Before registration I have to pass muster in five areas: Old Testament, New Testament, basic doctrine, Greek and Hebrew.  I'll be viewing some video courses and doing some reading for each of those, though probably hardly any reading for Greek.  I do plan to watch the videos, mostly out of professional interest.

In the meantime we need to locate and purchase a house in Fort Wayne where we can live simply and inexpensively.  Some of those simple and inexpensive living musings will show up in a series of posts I plan to write using a header of the Urban Agrarian.  I hope those posts will be helpful and sometimes humorous.