One of the more entertaining elements is that he brings his English culture to America, and one of the funniest lines to come out of that is the statement that “Being born an Englishman is like winning first prize in the lottery of life.” Now, that’s a very quaint thing to say, and I joked about that one for weeks with my wife. (A 12-lecture series takes me about two weeks to listen to, given my commute). Trueman also made jokes about trips out west in which he made some [for him] memorable purchases of cowboy boots and cowboy hats. I really like him a lot.
Back when I was leaving Roman Catholicism, I looked for all the help I could find when it came to “leaving,” and on a consistent basis, I found that help in works I read from the Reformation era. Another thing I found was that these works were consistently grouped with works from the great Princeton lights, Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, and B.B. Warfield. So I followed that lineage, and once liberalism infiltrated Princeton, then J. Gresham Machen carried the Reformation torch across the river from Princeton into Philadelphia, where he organized the OPC as a response to liberalism within Presbyterianism. I attended an OPC for several years before a fire shut them down. (And today I am a member of a PCA church that is probably just a few miles up the road).
I know that the Westminster seminaries have come under fire for one reason or another in the past. I think that this may be because they’ve adopted some positions that are less than popular, and in some cases, they’ve been criticized with good reason. The net effect is one of disappointment because, from my perspective, looking at the tradition of the Reformation, Westminster was the thought leader in America, and when a leader in whom you have some hope fails to lead properly, it is disappointing.
So I, for one, want them to succeed. And now, Trueman is taking some steps toward leading a Reformed effort to understand the Roman Catholic Church in our day, and I, for one, find that to be a very hopeful development. He is noticing that we, in our day, “need a thoughtful, learned, respectful, confessional Protestant book on Roman Catholicism.”
But, if Dr. Trueman believes he is the person to write the book, I hope he would take a cue as to how to approach this topic in a way that will be meaningful to Americans, and not confusing in any way.
For example, my hope is that he does not invent an unpleasant word, like “Refortholics” or something like that. There are clear differences between the Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholics. And such differences are hugely meaningful, even today.
And here is another caution for him. Speak and write in American. Don’t say things like “Roman Catholicism is the default position,” and “we need good solid reasons for not being Catholic.” I heard him say that in those lectures, and I understand why he’s saying it. It’s rhetorical hyperbole, and he admitted as much. But such use of the language confuses some people and even prompts them to dishonesty.
In this vein, I’d recommend that Trueman consider emulating someone who truly understood what it meant to wear a cowboy hat and be an American.
Before becoming President, Ronald Reagan, among other things, was a prolific writer, and one of his regular contributions was to write, and deliver, daily radio commentary. As it turned out, Reagan wrote his own commentaries, and in the process, he crafted his own policies that, with some historical hindsight, have turned out to have been remarkably successful, not only for himself politically, but for the US and the world.
We the people need more common sense economics and a lot less demagoguery if we are to make or support decisions affecting our welfare. I’ll be right back.Now, Economics is a difficult topic, but Reagan knew how to boil it down in ways that Americans could understand it. This radio address, entitled Economics I, was delivered July 31, 1978. Reagan was commenting on a California tax-cutting initiative that was known as “Proposition 13”. (I am old enough to remember the news stories on this issue). Labor unions officially opposed the measure, which nevertheless passed. Reagan used the issue to provide a simple lesson in Economics, and this is the style that I think Trueman could adopt.
Reagan perfected a combination of sound policy with straightforward rhetoric that Americans could understand. Cue Ronald Reagan:
Early in July the leadership of the California AFL-CIO met in convention and made a few decisions that will affect the livelihood of the workers they represent. These leaders of organized labor were more than a little upset about the passage of Proposition 13. Meaning no disrespect, I feel compelled to say, the remedies they proposed reveal that they believe too many of the economic fairy tales widespread in our land today.
In the first place they must be out of step with their own rank and file members because those members voted for Prop 13 in large and enthusiastic numbers.
But where the fairy tale shows up is in the convention’s decision to battle for reimposing the property tax that Prop 13 cancelled back on business and industry. They said it was a $3½ billion break for business and therefore by their reasoning bad for the individual citizen. If they have their way, that $3½ billion will end up being paid by the very individual citizens they claim they want to help.
So Dr. Trueman, I hope you will continue to write about Roman Catholicism. In our day, it truly is a needful thing. But what’s most needful in this respect is to call an Evil Empire an Evil Empire. That kind of honesty, unpopular though it may be, is the kind of thing that helps to accomplish genuinely meaningful things.
Let’s take the case of a corner grocer in a nice middle class neighborhood. The store keeper rents the building. Everyone who shops there can understand that he must charge enough to cover the wholesale cost of the things he sells, wages to helpers and his rent, plus a fair return for himself so he can make a living. But now supposing he buys the building? There is no more rent but there is interest on the mortgage and property tax instead of rent. Obviously he can’t stay in business if those costs can’t be recovered in the price of the things he sells. And just like his wage earning customers (many of them union members), he has to make enough gross income to pay his living costs—after he has paid his income tax.
What this all adds up to is that government can’t tax things like businesses or corporations, it can only tax people. When it says it’s going to “make business pay,” it is really saying it is going to make business help it collect taxes. Into our corner store comes a regular customer to pick up a loaf of bread on his way home. We’ve already covered the fact that the grocers mark up includes a share of the property tax on the store. But the truth is that the wholesale price the store keeper paid to the bakery includes [the bakery’s] taxes, and more than 150 others going all the way back to the farmer who raised the wheat. If he can’t get a price for his wheat that will cover the real estate tax on his farm, he can’t stay in business either. If the trucker who hauled the wheat can’t charge enough to cover his license fee and gasoline tax, he can’t stay in business.
Union leaders will serve the men and women they represent a lot better if they’ll drop the demagoguery and take a simple course in economics. This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening.