Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is GEICO the Mark of the Beast?

From the December 2009 E-Block.


It's time once again to answer a reader request and have a look at a very odd Christian website of the sort that makes Bob Jones look like Ben Witherington. We shall not name this site nor link to it, but we will look at two claims it makes:
  1. Should Christians buy insurance? NO.
  2. Should Christians get into debt of any kind? NO.
The former is clear as is but the latter requires some explanation. The author is not merely counseling against excessive debt, of the sort that you need to call on Larry Burkett to bust. The author here means ALL debt -- including mortgages and credit cards. So if you're ready to have Allstate apply a trifecta of sixes to your forehead, let's have a look, starting with arguments made against insurance.
Here's what the site says regarding insurance and why we shouldn't have it. We have extended ranting and repetition edited for brevity, as well as excluded commentary attributing insurance to the wiles of Satan.
Insurance deceives the unsaved into thinking that they can get along quite well without God. If you're wondering how this is arrived at, I am not sure I understand either. Apparently the "unsaved" reason thusly:
  1. I have insurance.
  2. Therefore, I don't need God.
I have to admit, however, that I have never seen this argument from Paul Kurtz, Richard Carrier, or even Dan Barker, and I have been watching atheists and other "unsaved" people for over a decade and a half now. I daresay that anyone who does use such reasoning is as likely to also reason:
  1. I have feet.
  2. Therefore, I don't need a car.
To put it simply, GEICO has yet to offer a Salvation Policy. At the same time, the idea that God is there to, eg, pay for repairs to our hurricance-damaged roof is the product of a health and wealth mentality, perhaps, but is not found in Scripture. The critic here is mismatching purposes, though we will see later how he tries to argue he does not. 

  • Insurance is foreign to the Scriptures. When we lose our property we should be like Job and have a good attitude about it. Of course, we can have a good attitude about it (or lack it) with or without insurance, and nothing indicates that Job is a model for all believers for all time; the fact is, personal insurance wasn't available to people like Job (the site notes some forms of corporate insurance available at that time). It is simply presumptive, and not a little silly, to argue that buying insurance is like trying to "avert God's working" in our life when He tries to bring tragedy on us for a purpose. If God wants to start a tragedy on us, a little thing like insurance isn't going to stop Him. I am reminded of a woman I once knew -- a member of Benny Hinn's church at the time -- who refused to wear seatbelts in her car because the Scriptures said that God gave His angels charge over his people. The author's logic here is not much different -- if he's really this adamant, then we have some questions:
    1. Has he removed the seatbelts from his car?
    2. Has he trusted God to make sure he is not arrested for not having seatbelts (if he is in a state where they are required by law)? After all, Satan is in charge of the world system, so seatbelt laws could be a way to deceive us into being worldly.
    3. Or, is he believing that he will someday be arrested, because God has a plan for him to be an evangelist in prison?
    4. Does he save his data before he is finished typing his articles?
    5. Does he have an article teaching that farmers cannot use pesticides or even scarecrows?
    6. Does he save money? (Technically, insurance is just people pooling saved money.)
    And so on. The bottom line is that this logic by extension forbids any and all measures to prevent any "step backwards" in our lives. It results in absurdity. It is also based on an eisegesis of Scripture, not an exegesis.
    And that's basically it on why we shouldn't have insurance, aside from the "Satan wants you to be part of the world" routine. Now how about the other part, on whether Christians should borrow money? There's some good stuff offered against materialism that can hardly be disputed, but on the critical points there remains a high degree of failure.
    1. Paul says, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another" (Rom. 13:8). This verse is one of several similar that is batted around, along with Prov. 22:7: "The borrower is slave to the lender." The author refers to debt thus in terms of "spiritual bondage" but that's not quite what's in mind here. Rather, what we see here is a picture of a collectivist society in which reciprocity was expected for any good deed. When Paul says not to "owe" anything to anyone, what he means is, don't let yourself be outstanding in reciprocating good deeds. Proverbs reflects the same thing, albeit in a somewhat harsher social setting, but the bottom line for both is that these are matters of patronage, not "bondage" (much less of a "spiritual" sort). (Ironically, insurance is actually one of our closest analogues to this sort of thing: The pooling of resources in a common fund, in essence.)
      And does this apply today? Not hardly. Our mortgages and such are far from in the model of patronage relationships. They are distant and formal, and there is no sense of personal obligation -- just a legal sense of obligation, at most.
    2. Jesus and John said not to loan anything to anyone and expect it to be returned. It is also argued that Christians should not loan to others. Cited here is Luke 3:11 and 6:34-5, but the former describes charity and does not in itself forbid loaning for expectation of return. Luke 6 is a little better, but is not quite a moritorium on all lending: "If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked." Note: Jesus specifically says to lend not expecting to be repaid. The word used essentially means, don't let it worry you about when you'll get your money back -- which means you might or might not. Also note that this does not indicate indiscriminate giving -- see on that here.
      In the social world of the NT, what this amounted to was a refusal to participate in the "circle of obligation" that patronage involved. So does this apply today? If we are using our own resources to help others, yes -- personal lending is much closer, by analogy, to what was happening here. On this point the author is closer to the mark.
    3. Acts 2:44-45 shows that Christians should turn to other Christians for the funding of needs, and not to the institutions of the world. Not quite. Acts 2:44-45 shows the church acting after the fashion of a normal collectivist "ingroup" -- even pagans had the same kind of organizations, in which social ingroups helped each other. That said, while it is indeed an ideal model, it does not thereby forbid other avenues of seeking financial backing -- that must be read into the text. We have said ourselves that the American church could stand to emulate its more collectivist origins in this regard, but either way, it is not a restriction on where we can go to get backing.
    4. Things like credit cards promote the impulses of a covetous heart. There's not much that needs to be said here; "blame the object" approaches are merely childish excuses for lack of self-control.
    Other that this, there is some generalized commentary about borrowing money indicating a lack of trust in God to provide for needs -- a rationale which falls on the same logic as that for not having insurance or seatbelts -- and more about Satan being in charge of the world system of banking (which even if you are not a preterist, frankly ought to be regarded as a tad paranoid). The author closes by advising readers to cut up credit cards, sell all mortgaged property, use only cash, and listen for the leading of "the Lord" to a property you can rent. We've said enough already about those who think God talks to them this specifically, so we need say nothing more.
    In the final analysis, it is certainly wise to have ourselves be as free of debt as possible, and to be wise stewards. However, the "no debt, ever, for any reason" argument is based on a misplaced application of Scriptures that were issued in the context of a collectivist society where reciprocal obligations were much more central to the way people lived. It is no surprise to see elsewhere on the author's site this commentary:
    Beloved Christian, you can learn more relevant, important, scriptural truths reading all the articles on this website than you could learn by attending any church, seminary or Bible college on this planet. The problem is, more than 99% of all Christians cannot handle most of the scriptural truths presented herein (especially so-called pastors, seminary professors and Bible teachers). YES, REALLY.
    To put it in a nutshell: When serious study is thrown to the wind, and substituted with private interpretations based wholly or mostly on one's own plain readings, an implacable arrogance coupled with ignorance is nearly always the natural result -- and that applies whether the reader is an atheist or a putative Christian.
  • 1 comment:

    1. Wow, that site sounds much like Gothardism's teachings about loans and debt.