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Saturday, April 29, 2006

pat robertson has a race horse, christian liberty and gambling

Since it's derby time here in the land of Colonel Sanders and baseball bats, I thought a race horse story would be appropriate.

It was discovered that Pat Robertson owns a half-million dollar racehorse.

I don't know if Pat Robertson has condemned gambling or not but it's hard to imagine that he hasn't at some point. I don't necessarily agree with this article, especially the comparison of prostitution to gambling, although it is a rather amusing analogy. I just think it's an interesting article.

Somehow, growing up Baptist, I picked up Sola Scriptura but not "Scripture and Baptist Tradition Alone", which I have called it in earlier posts. I don't know how I came to be this way. I seem to have a logical mind and enjoy debating. I guess it's just a gift of God. This makes it really difficult to be fundamentalist in reading and applying the Bible to one's life. The prohibition of gambling was something I questioned as a kid but I never received a good answer. Once I found a tract about gambling in one of those “tract racks” in the back of church. Did anyone else have those?

The tract was pretty lame. If I remember correctly, the only scripture reference it had was about the execution detail casting lots for Christ’s robe. This certainly seems bad and it went on and on about how terrible that was. The crucifixion was terrible and the actions of the soldiers were a further humiliation of Christ. I think the significance of this verse is the trivial manner in which they behaved, not recognizing just whom it was on the cross and that it was the pivotal point in history. To use this as a verse about gambling is to miss the point entirely.

Something I always think about in situations like this is if God thinks gambling is a sin why aren’t there any scriptures specifically forbidding it? He told Israel to put tassels on their garments and what to do about mold but he forgot this? Certainly not. I think what we are left with is that it can be wrong when it violates other laws, for instance, those requiring provision for one’s household.

One way to make gambling a sin is to make the same argument used for alcohol in that there is no moderation and all gambling leads toward gambling addiction and impoverished families not to mention mafia debts that shylocks come to collect. Anyone who has ever gambled knows that this is absurd because a lot of times it’s not really that fun and there’s too much freakin math involved. I don’t mean it’s not fun because you lose I mean it’s just not that exciting.

One could get addicted to ugly ebay lamps and waste that money which one’s family required for sustenance, but that does not make ugly ebay lamps a sin.

Once as a child I got in pretty big trouble for “gambling”. The classified paper, the Dandy Dime had a football contest. One had to pick the winners of the games that week and there were cash prizes. I languished at the bottom for a few weeks picking which mascot animal would win in a fight. This strategy proved effective in predicting the results of Seahawks games but failed miserably in Bears games. Then I started using win/loss records and did a little better. Then, I found out that sports experts and mathematical geniuses calculated the odds for every game in something called a “spread”. I also found a couple old guys that had nothing better to do but watch football. This one guy was almost never wrong.

Then one day First Baptist Church’s preacher’s son won the football pool and his name was published in the Dandy Dime! Good times.

Let me remind you that this was not actually gambling as no money was put in. I had nothing to lose but my misspent youth, oh, and maybe some privileges. I was pretty excited and it was a significant amount of money in those days and children were forbidden to work in official capacities and the only way to get work was to work un-officially for old people from the church that thought a quarter was a fair wage for hours of work. (think of that chicken farmer scene from Napoleon Dynamite)

Let me also remind you that spanking with a leather belt was used as a means of discipline rather than a sexual practice in those days.

I like to go to the Westminster Larger Catechism for difficult questions like this because it is usually quite clear once one understands the meaning of the older English words. In question 141 it asks, “What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?” Part of the answer commends “frugality” and says, “…to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.”

Question 142 asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?” It answers, “…prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God hath given us.”

Particularly relevant to Kentucky is question 142’s prohibition against “manstealing”. So all you hoochies out there consider yourself warned.

I found a fascinating article on gambling at the Q&A section of the OPC's website. It seems that there is some disagreement over what the catechism actually means! Does it prohibit only “wasteful gaming” and not other gaming?

The article says that Richard Baxter (you may know him as the 1600’s author of The Reformed Pastor) considered this a matter of Christian liberty and laid out some circumstances where it might be allowed. One of them was in the case of betting that another’s assertion was not true. He seems to think it is a useful device to deter persons from making false assertions. I remember doing this all the time as a kid because children are constantly saying outrageous things. If you don’t think calculating the chance of something happening is a sin, (and those creationist defense guys better hope it isn’t) I have calculated the odds of actually being paid on these childhood bets at one in 50 trillion. I think I remember being told not to say I bet you're wrong, etc. because, “We don’t bet.”

I think it is appropriate to study these matters as they are useful for conscience’s sake and in the ministry it is likely that you will be asked these questions of practical morality. Will you have an answer?


Blogger Laur said...

good point. veeeeeeeeeeeery good point. so my dad really DOES owe me that $100 from the time i bet him my friend had a dark blue ring around her iris... ;-)

now you can be like derek webb and write a song. his is called "a new law" and i commend it to you. it's about this business of making up, well, new laws.

come to think of it, i may already have mentioned it on here... hope not...

Sat Apr 29, 04:51:00 PM PDT  
Blogger iconoclasm said...

No, you haven't mentioned it but it sounds like it would be perfect.

O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers; show your dad Q. 145, specifically, "breach of lawful promises" and the supporting scriptures. Do I get a cut of this sweet enforcement?

Sat Apr 29, 11:27:00 PM PDT  

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