Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Looking Forward

Gary North is an Austrian postmillennialist. I’m an Austrian premillenialist. That’s where our similarities end. Gary North has written over 50 books, is a sought-after conference speaker, and has made a nice sum of money over his life. I’m nothing but a lowly blogger, real estate appraiser and part-time cupbearer and reader at church.

As fellow Austrians, we agree that the current course of the U.S. economy is unsustainable. The phony, credit-driven, inflationary economy that hit high gear in the late 1960’s is winding down. There was a period of illusory prosperity during the ‘90s, but the wheels came off in 2007 with the collapse of the real estate bubble. QE2 has managed only to inflate the prices of gas, food, clothing, gold and silver (have you paid attention to my silver ticker in the lower right-hand column?). House prices are down and out. Case Schiller predicts another 20% drop-off before real estate hits bottom. The national debt has reached staggering proportions, with the central bank so despised by John Randolph, John Taylor and their tertium quid cohorts playing a leading role. Gradual default on entitlements and/or higher inflation is very likely.

Gary North is a consummate optimist. As a postmillennialist he expects an eventual collapse of the federal leviathan, brought on by the inalterable laws of economics which will set off a chain reaction of similar sovereign crises across the globe. The modern nation-state model will be discarded as freedom-hungry people look for alternatives that support civil society. The Church will emerge from obscurity and usher in another Golden Age, better than Byzantium. It will last for a thousand years, and then Christ will return.

I, too, am a consummate optimist. As a premillenialist I expect the eventual collapse of the federal leviathan, brought on by the inalterable laws of economics. In its place (or, perhaps evolving out of it) I expect a new order to emerge that is completely inimical to anything remotely related to Christ and His kingdom. It will deal with the debt and monetary crises by instituting an entirely new economy with an accounting system not based on any known, historic currency. You can peek at it between Revelation chapters 13 and 19. I am not a preterist. Christ will come again, bring down this approaching godless system, and establish His personal reign on the earth for a thousand years.

My opinion on this subject isn’t popular with probably 95% of my Anglican contemporaries; but some of the old-timers including Greek textual scholar Dean Henry Alford and Bishop J.C. Ryle agreed with the premillenial view. That “His Kingdom will have no end” isn’t at issue. That it involves a literal millennial stage before attaining its final state we can debate.

The premillennial view is helpful in allowing us to properly understand God’s purpose for creation (Romans 8:18-22). As part of the recent W.H. Griffith Thomas (who was Anglican, by the way) lecture series at Dallas Theological Seminary, Craig Blaising talked about the coming transformation of the earth in the eschaton. Of particular interest are his remarks on 2 Peter 3:10 and 12. Working from the best Greek manuscripts, he points out that the earth will not be destroyed but rather radically purged and refined by the approaching glory of Christ. “You will be either ruined by [the glory],” he said, “or received by it.”

Michael Vlach is tackling the issue by looking at the history of Christian thought on the eschaton. His latest blog post concerns the intrusion of Platonist philosophy on the church and its role in diminishing the original millennial expectation held by early fathers such as Justin Martyr and Ireneaus.

We have infinite glory to look forward to. In my view the current distresses afflicting the greatest economic and military empire in history are merely setting the stage.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Other J.R.R.

It turns out that John Taylor of Caroline doesn't hold a candle to John Randolph of Roanoke. I recently finished Russell Kirk's biography of the latter and he has become the new embodiment of every political virtue I admire.

Randolph was afflicted with some malady that left him in a perpetual state of physical adolescence. His tall, stork-like frame and high, squeaky voice would have left him a joke and the subject of coarse jesting apart from the sheer power of his oration (Kirk's book includes full texts of several of Randolph's mesmerizing speeches). From the time he entered the U.S. Congress in 1803 (temporarily booted out when he vociferously opposed the ill-conceived War of 1812; when Virginia's economy was ruined by that conflict we has swept back into office) till the end of his career as the American envoy to Russia, Randolph was the undisputed champion of strictly-limited federal government and leader of the "old republican" faction that split from Jefferson after the Yazoo scandal.

His girlish voice and slight frame notwithstanding, Randolph was fearless and once fought a duel with Kentucky politician Henry Clay, the arch-proponent of Alexander Hamilton's "American system" of corporate welfare and central banking -- the very things Randolph most despised. Randolph's thin profile saved his life as Clay's first shot narrowly missed, leaving a bullet hole in Randolph's coat. Randolph graciously fired his shot into the air, then coolly approached Clay and said, "Sir, you owe me a coat."

He once declared that it would be a good omen if the Congress met and adjourned without passing once piece of legislation. He drew a sharp distinction between change and reform, willing to entertain the latter where crisis demanded it, but absolutely opposed to the former as useless tinkering that would invariably lead to worse conditions. We know how to start governments, he lamented; but he defied anyone to know how to control them once they got started. Randolph appealed to God's ways, which in holy writ and throughout history seemed to move at a glacial pace, slowly but permanently altering courses, in contrast to the work of the Devil, always restless and hurried. Randolph dreaded westward expansion, for he foresaw that with it would come federal expansion. "No government, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, can be fit to govern me or the people I represent." He grew to despise the French and their radical democratic revolution, and loved English institutions (he enthusiastically identified himself as a member of the Church of England). "I am an aristocrat; I love liberty and hate equality." Randolph's conservative Christian realism stood in contrast to Jefferson's liberal Deist optimism.

The aristocratic, non-egalitarian Randolph also hated the institution of chattel slavery. It was no small irony that he, as the scion of the wealthy Virginia family, inherited a large number of slaves and farmland on the banks of the Roanoke River in Charlotte County in Virginia's southern Piedmont. Randolph was as practical as he was conservative; knowing that it was against state law (at the time) to manumit his slaves, he opted to keep them and care for them in ways that surpassed all the apostle Paul could have hoped for from Christian masters. Randolph bowed to them, gave them the best of what he could provide, refused to separate family members, and only threatened to sell an unruly hand as a means to correcting insubordinate behavior (it appears he never sold any of them). Once asked who the greatest orator was in America, Randolph confounded an inquirer by asserting that it was a slave woman he had heard as a boy pleading from the auction block. Her eloquence, he declared, was unsurpassed.

At the end of his days Randolph made provision for the freedom of his slaves and bought land for them in Ohio. Ever distrustful of the West, he was buried facing in that direction so that he "could keep an eye on [Henry] Clay and the west." He must have grieved to see his former servants mistreated and forced off their land by the neighboring whites.