“Even now hedge fund titans rake in billions.”March 26th, 2009
“Even now hedge fund titans rake in billions.” A friend sent me this piece that appeared in the business section of The New York Times on Wednesday. The headline would catch anybody’s eye, given the massive economic downturn that we and the rest of the world are enduring right now. The article was accompanied by a photo gallery of the top ten hedge fund managers and their estimated earnings for 2007 and 2008. While the markets were melting down, apparently the earnings of these ten men were still mounting up. The top three: James H. Simons, head of the Renaissance Technologies fund, earned $2.5 billion last year; John A. Paulson, “who rode to riches by betting against the housing market,” earned $2 billion over the same period; and George Soros, a familiar name on the wealthiest Americans lists, accumulated $1.1 billion from his hedge fund. Total take last year for the top 25 managers—$11.6 billion (half of the $22.5 billion they earned in 2007). “The managers’ compensation, which was breathtaking in the best of times, is eye-popping after a year when hedge funds lost 18 percent on average, and investors withdrew money en masse” (www.nytimes.com/2009/03/25/business/25hedge.html).
The populist hue and cry this past week over the AIG bonuses, along with this report of the top hedge fund managers’ earnings, is one more reminder of the age in which we now live. In fact there is a New Testament passage, with language so strong I am choosing not to quote it here, that links what is often called the “obscene” accumulation of wealth with the meltdown of human society and the return of Christ. James 5:1-6 specifically identifies financial hegemony at the expense of the hapless laborer and the downtrodden poor. A century ago the words of James’ were prefaced with this comment: “The Scriptures describe the condition of the world just before Christ’s second coming. Of the men who by robbery and extortion are amassing great riches, it is written . . . [James 5:3-6]” (9T 13, 14). But James turns upbeat with hope for the economically disenfranchised and the socially marginalized: “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. . . The Judge is standing at the door!” (v 7, 9 TNIV). I.e., economic injustice between the have’s and the have-not’s will have its day in court, when the Judge returns.
So how then shall you and I live—we who will never be ranked in any top ten or 25 or pick-the-number listing? With our meager finances, how shall we survive what is portending to be the coming economic earthquake? Join our new mini-series (at worship, on television, podcast and radio) with four financial secrets on how to survive these tough economic times. Come to worship. Download the podcasts. And share the promise that “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). After all, his hedge fund is out of this world!
“Sex discrimination is destined to continue in the scorching fires of Hell,March 10th, 2009
“Sex discrimination is destined to continue in the scorching fires of Hell, according to a study approved by the Vatican which suggests that men are most likely to commit lustful sins whereas women are beholden to pride.” The headline to this report on the London Times website last week would catch anybody’s eye: “We’re all sinners but the gates to Hell are marked His and Hers.” Who would’ve thunk it! (www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5755481.ece)
Because our three-part miniseries, “The Truth about Hell,” ends today with “My Journey to Purgatory (and Back),” perhaps it is fitting we note this latest Vatican study, since purgatory is a trade-marked teaching of the Roman Catholic church. The Times online report goes on to quote Monsignor Wojciech Giertych, personal theologian to Pope Benedict XVI and the papal household, who told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that when it comes to sinning there is “no sexual equality.” And thus it is that men’s souls in hell are “pelted with fire and brimstone,” while the souls of women “are more likely to be broken on a wheel.”
What does the Bible teach about hell, the most somber subject between its covers? Does the Word of God detail separate and diverse punishments inflicted by God upon men and upon women, punishments that—according to the majority report of Roman Catholic and Protestant theologians—are divinely executed upon hell’s hapless and suffering victims forever and ever (which, of course, means there will never be a full and final execution—just one interminable “almost but not quite there” pain-tortured partial execution)?
In “The Truth about Hell” (now available in podcasts at this website), we have candidly examined what exactly the Holy Scriptures do teach about this much caricatured subject. Could it be that for all these years we’ve been living with a portrait of God that simply is not true? A friend and colleague of mine, Tony Bueno, has paraphrased the beloved John 3:16 to fit the dominant caricature of hell that many still embrace: “For God so hated the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever does not believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life . . . in Hell.” It is amazing the forced conclusions one must make if the doctrine of an eternally-burning and tormenting hell is accepted. What else should one conclude from such a doctrine, but that God hates those who do not believe in Jesus and will torture them forever in hell, thus rendering the gift of eternal life not exclusive to those who believe in him, but extended also to all who do not believe?
Over and against such a notion stands the towering testimony of Calvary’s love. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39). Turns out the His and Her gates lead to him!