Conspiracy

If only they could find the President guilty of collusion with the Russians to manipulate the 2016 election. Why, that would be a conspiracy to subvert the government; an impeachable offense; a veritable constitutional crisis.

But, so far, it’s not; not even close. If anything, some contend our President sounds much like the Founders.

Turns out, social media feeds this sort of thing by gaming what you see. It must increase its’ profits; why else would they do it? So much for knitting, quilting, and cat videos; go figure.

Maybe we have Russian bots too much on our minds? We certainly like to spread novel falsehoods. But maybe, just maybe, the real collusion story has yet to surface?

The definition of conspiracy is:

con·spir·a·cy

/kənˈspirəsē/

noun: conspiracy; plural noun: conspiracies

1. A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

“a conspiracy to destroy the government”

synonyms: plot, scheme, plan, machination, ploy, trick, ruse, subterfuge; informal racket

“a conspiracy to manipulate the results”

2. The action of plotting or conspiring.

“they were cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”

synonyms: plotting, collusion, intrigue, connivance, machination, collaboration; treason

“conspiracy to commit murder”

The Bible addresses the concept in various circumstances. One of the most striking is in the Book of Isaiah:

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear and let him be your dread.

“And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

“And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah 8:11-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin remarks on these verses, starting from Isaiah’s perspective:

For thus Jehovah spoke to me. Here the Prophet contends…against the unbelief of the people; and…there were two remarkable temptations, the one external, and the other internal.

The external temptation came from professed enemies, such as from the Assyrian; and when the people saw his plundering and cruelty, they thought that all was over with them, because he had brought them almost to utter ruin.

The other temptation was internal; for that sacred people, which boasted of having been chosen by God, relied on the assistance of man rather than of God. Now, this was a most dangerous temptation; for it appeared as if that nation, by its unbelief, refused [acknowledgement of] the promises of God, which were daily offered, and which were continually sounded in their ears…

And he continues:

As if by taking hold of my hand. This is a beautiful metaphor, [by which Isaiah] alludes to fathers or teachers, who, when their words have not sufficient effect, seize the hand of their children or scholars, and hold them to compel them to obey.

The servants of the Lord are sometimes disposed to throw everything away, because they think that they are laboring to no purpose; but the Lord lays as it were, his hand on them, and holds them fast, that they may go forward in the discharge of their duty.

…Undoubtedly, we would every moment be driven up and down, were it not that we are held by the powerful government of God and fix the anchor of constancy in firm ground.

Every one of us ought to meditate earnestly on this thought; for though we may be convinced, yet when it comes to the trial we fail, and look [to] men rather than [to] God. We should, therefore, attend more carefully to this doctrine, and pray to God to hold us, not only by his word but by laying his hand on us…

Next, Calvin examines God’s admonition to Isaiah:

Say not, a conspiracy. …We must consider what was the condition of that people, for they saw that they were not provided with numerous forces and were not able to contend in battle against such powerful enemies. They longed for outward assistance, and eagerly desired to obtain it, for they thought that they were utterly ruined if they did not obtain the assistance of others…

The Lord…admonishes Isaiah not to regard the counsels of wicked men, though the whole of the people should vie with each other [over their guidance.]

Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. There may also be a twofold meaning; for some read it separately, as if in this second clause the Prophet condemned in general terms the wicked customs of the people. But these two clauses ought rather to be joined together. “Let it not distress you, if your countrymen in the present-day plot about unlawful confederacies, and do not consent to them.”

And he explains the people’s fear:

Their fear. …The same cause of fear was alleged against [both] the godly and…the ungodly; but all did not fear in the same manner…

The Lord certainly does not forbid the godly to fear, for they cannot avoid that; but he bids them overcome that excessive terror by which the ungodly are swallowed up. [Therefore,] let us not, by their example, gaze around in every direction, and rush headlong to seek unlawful aid; and especially we must [be on guard] lest fear take away our judgment.

There is but one remedy for this evil, to restrain ourselves by the word of God, from which proceeds real tranquility of mind. Comparing the condition of that people with our own, let us learn to [seek refuge in] the name of God, which will be to us an impregnable fortress. (Proverbs 18:10.)

Here, Calvin gets to the heart of God’s message to those who follow Him:

Sanctify Jehovah of hosts himself. …Dangers lead to immoderate alarm [because] wretched men do not raise their eyes and minds to heaven. The Prophet…therefore proposes a suitable remedy for allaying terrors, that they who dread the evils which threaten them may learn to give to God the honor due to him.

To sanctify the God of armies means to exalt his power highly [in such manner] to remember that he holds the government of the world, and that the beginning and the end of good and evil actions are at his disposal. Hence it follows that, in some respects, God is robbed of his holiness, when we do not immediately [go] to him in cases of perplexity.

This expression [i.e., Sanctify the God of armies,] …is highly emphatic; it shows us that no higher affront can be offered to God than to give way to fear, as if he were not exalted above all creatures, [and not in] control [of] all events.

On the other hand, when we rely on his aid, and, through victorious steadfastness of faith, despise dangers, then do we ascribe to him lawful government; for if we are not convinced that innumerable methods, though unknown to us, are in his power for our deliverance, we conceive of him as a dead idol.

Then he presents God’s “blessing and cursing” of obedience or disobedience:

And let him be your fear and let him be your dread. He…means that [those] will be free and exempted from [anxiety], if a sincere fear of God be deeply engraven on their hearts, and never pass away from them; and indeed every person who freely devotes himself to God, and undertakes to fear him alone, so as to lay this restraint on himself, will find that no haven is more safe than his protection.

But as the ungodly do not cease to provoke his anger by shameless transgression, he harasses their minds by continual uneasiness, and thus inflicts the most appropriate revenge for their careless indifference.

And Calvin goes deeper and explains God’s relation to His people:

And he shall be for a sanctuary. He promises that the true worshipers of God will enjoy tranquility of mind, because the Lord, covering them, as it were, under his wings, will quickly dispel all their fears…

The meaning therefore is, that God demands nothing for which he does not offer mutual recompense, because everyone that sanctifies him will undoubtedly find him to be a place of refuge. Now, although in this sanctification there is a mutual relation between us and God, yet there is a difference, for we sanctify him by ascribing all praise and glory to him, and by relying entirely upon him; but he sanctifies us, by guarding and preserving us from all evils.

He then punctuates the explanation with strong encouragement for his hearers:

To the two houses of Israel. …[Isaiah] enjoins believers, though nearly the whole multitude of both kingdoms should dissuade them from obedience to God, not to be discouraged, but to disregard everything else, and break through all opposition…

This is a remarkable passage and cannot be [recalled often enough], especially [now], when we see the state of religion throughout the whole Christian world brought nearly to ruin. Many [people] boast that they are Christians who are strongly alienated from God, and to whom Christ is a stone of stumbling…

Wherever we turn our eyes, very sore temptations meet us in every direction; and, therefore, we ought to remember this highly useful instruction, that it is no new thing, if a great multitude of persons, and almost all who [claim] that they belong to the Church, stumble against God. Yet let us constantly adhere to him, however small may be our numbers.

Then turning, with Isaiah, back to the disobedient, Calvin says:

For a snare to the inhabitant of Jerusalem. …[Isaiah] means that God became a snare, not only to the common people who were scattered throughout the fields and villages, but to the nobles themselves, and to the priests who dwelt in Jerusalem, who dwelt in that holy habitation in which God intended that the remembrance of his name should be chiefly preserved…

And, finally, he reiterates God’s admonishments to both groups:

And many among them shall stumble. …Let not the ungodly…imagine that they are stronger or wiser than God; for they will find that he excels them in strength and wisdom, and that to their destruction. They must, therefore, unavoidably be ruined; for either they will be utterly bruised, or they will be snared in such a manner, that they can never [extract] themselves.

This threatening also regards the godly, that they may not hesitate to withdraw from holding fellowship with the multitude, and that they may not resolutely disregard the sinfulness of revolt…Peter reminds us that, though many unbelievers stumble, this is no reason why their stumbling should obstruct the progress of our faith; for Christ is…a chosen and precious stone. (1 Peter 2:4.)

Let us therefore, Sanctify the God of armies and cling to Him.

***

Perhaps the greatest conspiracy that was plotted and actually carried out was the one where the leaders of Israel, the occupying rulers, and the government servants conspired to withhold the Good News of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, it was all in accordance with God’s consummate plan. God’s servants prayed that God would thwart their enemy’s plan:

“…Now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

And, as a result:

…When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Is your world shaking? Or are your energies spent in foolish controversies?

R.C. Sproul: The Resurrection of Christ, YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on May 29, 2015

The Fourth Revolution – Review and Commentary

The book by former Economist Editor in Chief John Micklethwait and Management Editor Adrian Wooldridge: The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State contends that states in the West must complete the revolution started by Reagan and Thatcher and become smaller, more efficient systems that provide greater individual liberty.

In 1814, during the first revolutionary period, John Adams said: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” He also said: “It is vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than autocracy or monarchy…” The authors of The Fourth Revolution contend that the secret of good governance lies in checking human desires, not letting them run free.

America’s founding fathers also worried that democracy would crush individual liberty. The majority would use pressure and regulation to press the minority into conformity. The authors say few examine these issues now. In the vacuum, voters regard the practice of democracy as corrupt and inefficient. And yet they won’t question the theory. Their contempt delegitimizes government and turns setbacks into crises.

Democracy is overloaded with obligations, overburdened with unfulfillable expectations, and distorted by special interests. The population’s dependency forces government to continuously expand. During the second revolution, nineteenth century liberals in Great Britain reformed both the state’s machinery and its form of representation. The authors suggest today’s politicians should trim the state and renew democracy.

The rise of the Beijing consensus’s top down modernization and meritocratic governmental institutions makes the west’s democratic alternative seem regressive. America demonstrates too many of democracy’s vices and Europe too few of its virtues.

America’s checks and balances, though successful in the past in preventing the tyranny of the majority, has been subverted to become a political tool that decreases efficiency, compromise, and justice. America’s gerrymandering voting districts entrench special interests, extremism, and mediocre representation for a lifetime. America’s lobbying by special interests awash in money begs the question of graft and favoritism.

Europe, in an effort to stifle popular passions that caused two world wars, has sacrificed national sovereignty to technocratic governmental, financial, and trade bodies and, in the process, are vivifying national populist movements.

Economic inequality is putting western democracy to the test. Quoting Louis Brandeis, “we can have a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.” In the era of financial crisis with less to go around and a bloated but inefficient welfare state, the West must stop democracy’s decay or risk their people’s ire.

The authors call for limited government that constrains itself through self-denying ordinances. In the process, three government dangers must be overcome: liberty encroaching expansion, surrender to special interests, and making unfulfillable promises.

As remedies, the authors propose balanced budgets over the economic cycle, fully funded and means tested entitlements tied to life expectancy, and sunset clauses for laws and regulations. Handing some economic power to technocrats and independent commissions and pushing decisions to the states and cities are ways to limit centralized power.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge say that the cost of inaction is high—unreformed, the welfare state will collapse under oppressive debt. The opportunity is great—the rewards to states that revive democracy and reduce the burden of the state will sprint ahead of its peers economically and in life satisfaction. History will be on the side of the nations that promote individual liberty.

We in the West are polarized politically. Our leaders pander to special interests instead of providing for the common good. How much longer can we mortgage our children’s future to pay for our pensions and health care? We are getting less benefit from and paying more for our educational system. We’re transferring tax revenues to the middle classes and crony capitalists in agriculture, defense, finance, etc. at the expense of caring for the truly poor.

The world is looking to the East as the model for economic advances and a better life at the expense of individual liberties. We in the West must become serious about reforming our systems or be left behind in the rubbish heap of history. Some western states, provinces, and cities are becoming more efficient through experimentation. There are lots of ideas to try, if only we were willing to start.

In the coming weeks we’ll cover how Beatrice and Sidney Webb laid the foundations for the welfare state in the third revolution, how Lee Kuan Yew created the Asian Consensus, and how the Nordic states point the way to the future.

The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State