Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Poland seizes bond investments in private pension plans

Amy sent me this story from Reuters.


Poland said on Wednesday it will transfer to the state many of the assets held by private pension funds, slashing public debt but putting in doubt the future of the multi-billion-euro funds, many of them foreign-owned.

The changes went deeper than many in the market expected and could fuel investor concerns that the government is ditching some business-friendly policies to try to improve its flagging popularity with voters.

The Polish pension funds’ organisation said the changes may be unconstitutional because the government is taking private assets away from them without offering any compensation.

Announcing the long-awaited overhaul of state-guaranteed pensions, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said private funds within the state-guaranteed system would have their bond holdings transferred to a state pension vehicle, but keep their equity holdings.

He said that what remained in citizens’ pension pots in the private funds will be gradually transferred into the state vehicle over the last 10 years before savers hit retirement age.

The reform is “a decimation of the …(private pension fund) system to open up fiscal space for an easier life now for the government,” said Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura. “The government has an odd definition of private property given it claims this is not nationalisation.”

I was looking for someone who could take the spin off of this and found this article on Zero Hedge.


While the world was glued to the developments in the Mediterranean in the past week, Poland took a page straight out of Rahm Emanuel’s playbook and in order to not let a crisis go to waste, announced quietly that it would transfer to the state – i.e., confiscate – the bulk of assets owned by the country’s private pension funds (many of them owned by such foreign firms as PIMCO parent Allianz, AXA, Generali, ING and Aviva), without offering any compensation. In effect, the state just nationalized roughly half of the private sector pension fund assets, although it had a more politically correct name for it: pension overhaul.

[...]By shifting some assets from the private funds into ZUS, the government can book those assets on the state balance sheet to offset public debt, giving it more scope to borrow and spend.

It is nationalization, and we should expect to see a lot more of it as spendthrift governments start to run of road to kick the can down. Maybe even here at home, some day. The United States is already up against the debt limit now, and our credit has been downgraded twice already. How soon until IRAs are nationalized into Social Security to prop it up?

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Was Hitler a Christian? Is Nazism similar to Christianity?

One of the strangest things I have heard from atheists is the assertion that Christianity is somehow connected to the fascism, such as the fascism that existed under Adolf Hitler. Two posts by Jewish author Jonah Goldberg from National Review supply us with the facts to set the record straight.

Let’s start with the first post.

Here are some of the points:

1) Hitler wanted Christianity removed from the public square

Like the engineers of that proverbial railway bridge, the Nazis worked relentlessly to replace the nuts and bolts of traditional Christianity with a new political religion. The shrewdest way to accomplish this was to co-opt Christianity via the Gleichschaltung while at the same time shrinking traditional religion’s role in civil society.

2) Hitler banned the giving of donations to churches

Hitler banned religious charity, crippling the churches’ role as a counterweight to the state. Clergy were put on government salary, hence subjected to state authority. “The parsons will be made to dig their own graves,” Hitler cackled. “They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.”

3) Hitler replaced Christian celebrations with celebrations of the state

Following the Jacobin example, the Nazis replaced the traditional Christian calendar. The new year began on January 30 with the Day of the Seizure of Power. Each November the streets of central Munich were dedicated to a Nazi Passion play depicting Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. The martyrdom of Horst Wessel and his “old fighters” replaced Jesus and the apostles. Plays and official histories were rewritten to glorify pagan Aryans bravely fighting against Christianizing foreign armies. Anticipating some feminist pseudo history, witches became martyrs to the bloodthirsty oppression of Christianity.

4) Hitler favored the complete elimination of Christianity

When some Protestant bishops visited the Fuhrer to register complaints, Hitler’s rage got the better of him. “Christianity will disappear from Germany just as it has done in Russia . . . The Germanrace has existed without Christianity for thousands of years . . . and will continue after Christianity has disappeared . . . We must get used to the teachings of blood and race.”

5) Hitler favored the removal of mandatory prayers in schools

In 1935 mandatory prayer in school was abolished…

6) Hitler favored the banning of Christmas carols and nativity plays

…and in 1938 carols and Nativity plays were banned entirely.

7) Hitler abolished religious instruction for children

By 1941 religious instruction for children fourteen years and up had been abolished altogether….

And now the second post.

8) Hitler opposed the ideas of universal truth and objective moral absolutes

…Just as the Nazi attack on Christianity was part of a larger war on the idea of universal truth, whole postmodern cosmologies have been created to prove that traditional religious morality is a scam, that there are no fixed truths or “natural” categories, and that all knowledge is socially constructed.

Practically everything this man believed was 100% anti-Christian. But he fits in fine on the secular left.


Adolf Hitler was a man influenced by two big ideas: evolution and socialism. His party was the national SOCIALIST party. He favored a strong role for the state in interfering with the free market. He was in favor of regulating the family so that the state could have a bigger influence on children. And he favored the idea of survival of the fittest. His ideas are 100% incompatible with Christianity and with capitalism as well. Christians value individual rights and freedoms, small government and the autonomy of the family against the state. The differences are clear and significant.

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J. Warner Wallace’s surprising advice to stop apostasy among young Christians

J. Warner Wallace has posted his recommended plan to halt the exodus of young Christians from Christianity during college. It’s all up at Please Convince Me.


In my last post, I summarized the studies and publications that describe the flight of young people from the Church. A compelling cumulative circumstantial case can be made to support the fact that young college aged Christians are walking away from Christianity in record numbers. What can we do about it? What can be done? Whenever people ask me this question, I always say the same thing. STOP TEACHING YOUNG CHRISTIANS. Just stop it. Whatever Christendom is doing in its effort to teach it’s young, the effort appears to largely be a failure. In fact, Ken Ham (in his book, Already Gone:Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It) found that young Christians who faithfully attended Bible classes were actually more likely to question the authority of Scripture, more likely to defend the legality of abortion, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex, and more likely to leave the church! What’s going on here? I think I know. It’s time to stop teaching our young people; it’s time to start training them.

There’s a difference between teaching and training. Training is teaching in preparation for a battle. Boxers train for upcoming fights. In fact, boxers are sometimes known to get fat and lazy until the next fight is scheduled. Once the date has been signed, fighters begin to train in earnest. Why? Because they know that they are going to eventually get in the ring and face an aggressive opponent. We train when we know we are about to encounter a battle. Imagine for a moment that you are enrolled in an algebra class. If the teacher assured you that you would never, ever be required to take a test, and that you would pass the class regardless of your level of understanding, how hard do you think you would study? How deeply do you think you would come to understand the material? How committed do you think you would be to the material?

[...]Years ago, as a youth pastor, I started taking annual trips to Salt Lake City and Berkeley. Why? I was scheduling theological and philosophical battles to help prepare my young Christians for the larger looming battle they would someday face on their own. If you want to teach your young people theology, there is no better method than to put them in direct contact with people who believe in a very sophisticated heresy. Mormons use the same terminology as Christians but deny the basic tenants of our faith. In order to dialogue with Mormons effectively, we first have to understand what we believe. When we train young people in preparation for an evangelism trip to Salt Lake City, we give meaning and purpose to the content of our teaching. In a similar way, our evangelistic trips to Berkeley (where we contact notable atheist speakers and atheist groups on campus) require us to prepare ourselves to answer the myriad of atheistic objections we will inevitably encounter. Once again, the content of our teaching in preparation for this trip takes on purpose and meaning when we know the level of our understanding will eventually be tested.

Read the whole thing. Mr. Wallace has experience working with young people, and lecturing on apologetics here at home and abroad. He understands young people because he has had to deal with them. Even if you don’t agree with them, it’s an interesting view. Would the church really turn away from being inward-focused and rooted in blind faith and emotional singing, and re-invent their approach so that it takes the other side seriously?

By the way, this is something I like to use in my mentoring of young people and in courting women as well. If I am trying to choose someone to work on, my first questions are always about what they do for a living, what they’ve studied, who in their lives is a non-Christian. I am always looking for people who have some opposition to Christianity in their lives, because it’s those people who have a motivation to learn. I am always surprised how naive pastors and worship leaders and youth pastors are about the opposition to Christianity in the world. They seem to be in their own little happy bubbles, never coming out to deal with people who disagree with them. I think the problem is that they often think that Christianity is not about truth but about feelings, and so no work needs to be done to defend any truth claims.

I was having a conversation last night with a friend who is curious about Christianity and he told me about his encounter with a “Christian” girl from the Deep South who told him about her eating disorder and how God saved her from it. He asked her if she knew who William Lane Craig was and she said no. He asked her if she knew how to defend the existence of God or the resurrection, and she said no. She had been taught but not trained. Her education was in dancing and the performing arts, as well. All of the the fields that are of interest to Christians who want to make truth claims – physics, philosophy, biochemistry, history, etc. – were foreign to her. So you are left with the odd situation of people being raised in a Christian culture who have “experiences” with God making them happy. Their faith is all about them and nothing to do with anything in the real world out there.

I think that this woman is a very good example of what the church produces, by focusing on teaching, preaching, singing and never, ever taking seriously doubts and questions. What the church approach produces is faith as a personal preference – faith for the benefit of my feelings. But Christianity isn’t a subjective experience, it’s a set of objective claims that its adherents believe and have reasons and evidence to support that belief. And with that knowledge of those truth claims, we then proceed to have experiences in the world informed by a relationship with God. It is very confusing to jump right into having experiences, many of which are just subjective experiences, and having nothing to say to an honest questioner who wants to see the evidence. But I would suspect that most pastors and church leaders are like the eating-disorder girl, and they just aren’t trained.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The problem with the slogan “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship”

From blogger Allston Dee.


Most people understand the word religion to mean a set of supposed truth claims about God and life after death; which are united with a way of life informed by those very truth claims. If this is how religion is defined, then Christianity surely is a “religion.”

Think of it this way—without proper doctrine, beliefs and sacraments (visible religious acts to symbolize God’s grace), how could one know they are in right relationship with God in the first place? If there was no religion (as defined above) at all, how does one know they are in relationship with God?

[...]Take for example the Christians and the Jews. An essential doctrine of the Christian faith is that Jesus is God and is the promised Messiah. Conversely, Jews believe that Jesus is not the promised Messiah and that he is not God. The law of non-contradiction (this is the second of the three basic laws of logic) attests that both of these statements cannot be true at the same time and in the same way. Either the Christians are right, or the Jews are right, or they are both wrong.

[...]It’s worth noting that most religions have a sense of a relationship with God. Given that Mormons, Jews, Muslims and Christians all claim to have a relationship with God—and that we know contradicting views on the nature of God cannot be true at the same time and in the same way—there must be something that defines the true nature of God and how we come into relationship with Him.

He writes that you need to know who God is before you can have a relationship with him. I agree.

And Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason also had something interesting to add to this:

First, we don’t know about Christianity by faith.  Everyone knows about the claims of Christianity and the Bible in the same ways other things are known.  Faith isn’t a way of knowing. It’s trusting in what we have come to know to be true.  Faith is laying hold personally of what is true in the Bible.  Knowledge is the first step and it’s no different than coming to know about anything else.  So it can be discussed between those who have faith and those who don’t because they’re both operating in the same way to evaluate truth claims.  Faith comes after knowing.

Second, Christianity isn’t a private topic.  This is a way to subjectivize Christianity – to relativize what Christians believe.  But essential to the what the Bible teaches is that it’s not subjective or relative.  It’s true for all people.  Things happened in history that were witnessed and reported.  And what the Bible teaches is for all people.  So engage in consideration of the truth claims of Christianity, but don’t dismiss them as private, subjective beliefs.

I agree with her, too. My concern with the notion of Christianity as a relationship is that people will cash it out as a subjective thing that they do for fun privately and that it is never the basis of public actions or words. And my fear is that without theology, people just project their own character onto God and discern his character through their feelings and intuitions, instead of through a study of the Bible and theology.

A relationship is not projecting your needs and desires onto the other person. A relationship is when you get to know the other person by studying him, and you start to incorporate his values and goals into your behavior. You re-prioritize to take his needs into account when you act. And when you act on his interests, it may be the case that other people won’t like you, and that might make you feel bad. But when you are the other person’s friend, you do what’s right for them and you just live with the fact that not everyone is going to like that. The Christian life is not about a private relationship and private feelings. It’s about the public actions you take because of your knowledge and convictions about God’s character. It’s not private. It’s not meant to make you feel good. It’s public.

Consider Matthew 10:32-33:

32“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.

33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

And her’s another like it 1 Corinthians 4:1-4:

1So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.

2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

3I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

And 2 Timothy 2:4:

4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

And 2 Corinthians 5:20:

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

A good ambassador doesn’t represent himself – he doesn’t project his character onto his sovereign. A good ambassador represents his sovereign, and that requires knowing about him, as well as experiencing him. When you have a relationship, you have a responsibility to know who that other person is and to act on their interests – which may be quite different from your interests. And it really doesn’t matter what the people around you, who are not friends with your friend, think about you for doing that.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What happens if a city decides to privatize all its functions?

Everything good, and nothing bad.

Privatization makes costs go down, and quality go up.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , ,

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