Editorial -- By: Andreas J. Köstenberger

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 52:1 (Mar 2009)
Article: Editorial
Author: Andreas J. Köstenberger


Andreas J. Köstenberger

A generation ago, Francis Schaeffer prophetically lamented that the West had lost its spiritual moorings in its pursuit of prosperity, personal peace, and affluence. Now, as Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore, and Peter Tanous suggest in their recent book The End of Prosperity, it appears that this prosperity is fast slipping away, too (though, as will become clear later on, while I agree with their diagnosis, I believe their solution does not nearly go deep enough). In fact, the current economic crisis is global in scope, and the depth of the recession increasingly approaches the magnitude of the Great Depression. The major economic indicators paint an exceedingly dismal picture, as the following sampling of relevant information illustrates. Consider this disturbing set of data.

The unemployment rate in the US is currently 8.1 percent; it is projected to rise to 9.4 percent by 2011. The total number of unemployed Americans as of February 2009 is 12.5 million. Almost two million jobs were lost in the last three months alone (the highest number since 1945). Since the Obama inauguration, the stock market fell by 32 percent; the decline since October 2008 is 62 percent. The projected budget deficit for 2009 is $1.752 trillion (12.3 percent of the GDP). By comparison, the deficit in 2007 was $162 billion (1.2 percent of the GDP), and the total federal spending in 2000 was $1.79 trillion! (i.e. in nine short years we went from what amounted to the total spending per year becoming equivalent to the annual federal deficit).

The recent federal government bailout for the US banking system totaled over $700 billion; the price tag for the bailout for the auto industry stands currently at $17.4 billion and is likely to rise to at least $40 billion. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the GDP declined by 3.8 percent, the worst performance since the first quarter of 1982. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2008 trade deficit with China amounted to over $266 billion. Housing starts were down 15.5 percent in December 2008 compared to the same time the previous year and are at the lowest level since 1991, while foreclosures increased by 81 percent from 2007 to 2008. 2.3 million American homeowners face foreclosure, and 860,000 properties were repossessed in 2008 (more than double from 2007).

The rapid economic decline, in turn, coincides with the growing moral malaise in our culture. This includes the increasing fragmentation of the family, divorce and teenage pregnancy rates, and the number of abortions. While simplistic cause-and-effect relationships are to be eschewed, this economic and social data is hardly unrelated. In fact, the moral dimension of economics has rarely been clearer than in recent months. Reck...

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