30 March 2006

Blog? What blog?

by Frank "thorn" Turk

No, TeamPyro is not dead. I know that the odds of no posts being made on 3/29/2006 were about 10,000: 1, but it happened, and the bookies in Vegas are breathing a sigh of relief that nobody put down a $1000 bet that there would be a Wednesday in which not one Pyro would have something to say.

Of course, nobody placed a bet because of the moralizing going on over at Pulpit Live, but that's why they are moralizing over there. To keep you from winning the big money and retiring early.

Oh yeah: I also wanted to add that I take a lot of good-natured razzing here at TeamPyro for offering the junk shop and running a Christian bookstore, but I'd like all of you hecklers to go over to Pulpit Live and try to add a comment to Phil's latest post(s). And then leave your comments here.



79 comments:

Phil Johnson said...

Usually a prolonged silence like that is a prelude to an avalanche of posts.

Frank—what does the t-shirt in your image say? I can't find a shirt like that in any of the normal aisles at your famous online curio shop.

Steve said...

I could buy quite a few PyroGear items for that sum that it costs to comment on Pulpit Live. Or better yet, books from Banner of Truth. :)

James Spurgeon said...

Booyah!

Absolutely hilarious post.

I'm laying five to one odds this comments thread gets more comments than all of Phil's posts on gambling over at Pulpit Live! combined.

Any takers?

Oh, and for the record, I haven't actually been keeping my mouth shut. I hav been posting over at the

James Spurgeon said...

Ummm . . .that should have read "over at the Underground.

graydave said...

I went to check out the gambling topic but it looks like it costs $200 to leave a comment?

Modern gambling has really become a form of entertainment. Not one that I enjoy, but not much difference between putting $20 in a slot machine, paying $20 for bowling, $20 to hit a bucket of golf balls, or paying $20 to see a baseball game.

graydave said...

Ah ha! I finally got the whole point. Man I am slow. You were pointing out the cost of leaving a comment... How embarrassing that I missed the point!

David said...

Frank, I was hopeing that StumblingBlog was getting worked on, but obviously your a procrastinator.

and Phil, so far your anti gambling screed works about as well as the baptists who always tried to convince me that wine was prohibited by the bible (something about old and new wineskins). Which is to say, not very well.

And this is coming from someone who has gambled twice in 10 years.(lost 50 cents the first time, $1.50 the second)

chamblee54 said...

I was going to post this to the original site, but that site requires a registration. This is regarding the series on gambling.

Thank you for your commentary. An aversion to gambling is one part of my babtist upbringing that I have held onto.
I look forward to reading the particulars of your moral objection to gaming. While I sense that gambling is wrong, I know few arguments that this is the case.
Also, gambling is becoming more and more fashionable and acceptable. The gaming industry has a powerful p.r. machine, and they are good at confusing people.
I also look forward to the guest commentary by Bill Bennett.
One sentence in your initial post caught my attention...”In other words, one person's gain always comes at the price of hurt caused to others.”
This reminded me of a situation at a job I used to have. I was working closely with an abusive jesus worshipper, who simply would not shut up. While his "faith" may have grown, I became bitterly alienated from jesus. My pain paid the price for his jesus party.

Jung Ho said...

Been very interested in the gambling posts.

Your core argument thus far seems to be that gambling is basically stealing, because you're taking money from other people.

I personally play quite a lot of small stakes tournament poker. I think there's a lot of skill in the game, but on any given night a lot of luck. If I win, I take my mates' £5 notes home with me.

My question is, is this really a lot different to playing in a (hypothetical) Monopoly tournament where you pay to enter (as I think is probably standard in a board game tourney?), and so contributing to the prize pool.

Or, how about a kids 5-aside football (soccer) tournament where you're paying £2.50 to register your team?

This is not to say that your other arguments don't have a lot going for them (eg. becoming, or being complicit in helping other people become, addicted), but as far as I can see, this is the only real 'thou shalt not' kind of argument you've put forward, and I just wanted to pick you up on it a little bit.

Pom.

Jung Ho said...

Just read your stock market comments...

The thing is, if you're a good stockbroker, you've got an eye for selling when your stocks have hit peak value. You sell to someone else usually because you think the stocks are going to go down. The person you've sold them to thus loses money.

I admit it's not quite cause and effect, but at the end of the day, you won't consistently make money on the market unless you know when to let someone else lose.

PS. this name is a pseudonym I seem to be stuck with!

Steve Sensenig said...

Tim Challies had a discussion thread a couple months ago (I think, I can't remember how long it has been) that went through this same debate over gambling.

I'll see if I can locate it (it was right before his server got overwhelmed, and so I'm not even sure it's available anymore) and link to it here.

Or, alternatively, if Tim is reading this thread, maybe he can point me back to it.

I think that paying $200 to place a comment amounts to there being a winner (Grace) and a loser (the commenter) ;) Especially when trying to change Phil's mind on an issue like this would be taking a huge risk of failure!! (those comments are completely tongue-in-cheek)

steve :)

centuri0n said...

Phil --

The T I selected is a defunct design -- it had ZERO sales. It's a picture of Captain Ironjaw in my failed attempt to start a blogging meme. Whatever a "meme" is.

I should make a "I blogged Phil Johnson" t-shirt just for laughs. How much controversy do you think it would churn up?

centuri0n said...

And for the gawkers, I am actually slaving over StumblingBlog. This is the most work I have ever devoted to a blog template, and by a long shot it is the most technically-daring.

Not to mention trying to assemble the first 2 weeks worth of posts to make it worth the wait. And, of course, photoshop some images for Hewitt's new Crosley Solo contest.

Oh, and work for a living. I'm not Challies, for pete's sake.

Phil Johnson said...

jung ho: "how about a kids 5-aside football (soccer) tournament where you're paying £2.50 to register your team?"

I think my definitions answered that question pretty clearly. Whether it's "gambling" or not depends on whether all or part of the "registration fee" is put up as a stake, to be collected as a prize by the winners, or if it's defraying the actual costs of the contest.

____________

The rest of this comment is not for Jung Ho, but for commenters in various forums around the Internet who have e-mailed me this morning and challenged me to meet them in some other forum to have a debate about gambling:

The distinctions I have made in my posts on gambling are not ideas I made up. And they are not as ambiguous as a few of my commenters seem to want to pretend. I am essentially working with a legal description of gambling.

For the record, it is a simple matter of fact, recognized by the laws of every state in the union, that investing in the stock market is different from "gambling." That's what the law says, not just how I "feel" about it. In a comment HERE I've given several sources that explain in detail why this is.

I'm not going to waste time responding to every "well, it seems to me..."-type dissenting argument. If someone wants to make a cogent argument that investing in stocks is really just the same thing as gambling after all, I'm going to insist that you link to a credible source where someone who is knowledgeable about economics and the law supports that position.

The argument that there are losers whose losses correspond to the gains of every winner in the stock market is essentially a simplistic and long-discredited dogma popularized by amateur socialists. I'm not going to waste time replying to every argument like that, either.

There are clearly a lot of people out there who have never really thought through the issue of gambling but have strong feelings about "legalism" and whatnot. My advice to them: let me finish my whole argument, and think through what I'm saying before you react.

For those who simply don't get this subject and don't really care but want to get in on an argument anyway, I'll give you the URLs to some MySpace forums where you'll find people who would be happy to argue with you for days about almost anything. I didn't start the thread at Pulpit Live to host that kind of free-for-all. If that's what I wanted, I would have made a shorter post about it here at Pyromaniacs and invited all comers to join the scrum. The posts over at the Shepherds' Fellowship blog are intended as serious posts, for fellow pastors who are serious about thinking through the subject.

Finally, (for those who predictably demand that every argument START with biblical proof-texts) please notice that I'm making a rather systematic argument, and it's not nearly finished yet.

AFTER I'm done you can scold me if you think my argument isn't biblical. To taunt me with that objection when I've barely finished defining terms is pretty foolish, really. I tried to think of a nicer, subtler way to say that, but I've gotta be honest with you.

And for those complaining about the membership fee at the Shepherds' Fellowship: 1) I didn't set the fee; 2) They've made it possible for you to READ the blog without paying the fee, so you ought to have enough gratitude not to be so snarky about it; 3) If the comments e-mailed to me privately and posted here and there around the blogosphere reflect the level of discussion that would take place at Pulpit Live with an open forum, I'm not sorry the forum is limited to Fellowship members. But for the record, it's not my policy and I've asked the powers that be to consider open comments.

Still, I have to say this: Clamoring for free access and an open forum while making really inane arguments is no way to win my sympathy. Again, I'm trying to be nice here, but....wow.

centuri0n said...

And for those of you ripping Phil's logic re: gambling, you are all making gross category errors.

In Vegas (for example), the largest winner at any table by a long shot is the house. You might call the house merely the best equipped competitor, but that's exactly like calling a cat in a room full of mice the best equipped competitor. What the cat is actually is a predator and not a competitor, and it is disasterous for the mice to be withing paws-reach of the feline.

The house in any gaming scenario is a predator who has every participant out-manned and out-gunned. The only reason the house plays is because they cannot lose in the aggregate. The occational big winner is only bait for the armies for losers at every scale who parade into the box canyon of odds any casino game presents.

In that way, the presenter of the game is guilty of avarice (greed) even if no one else at the table is guilty. But let me suggest something that Phil has not yet filled in: the reason the others are at the table is not merely bowling-league comeradery.

"cent, you mad puritanical baptist," says one game-player whose video slot machine accidentally picked up this blog, "how can you read the hearts of men? Are you Christ? Who are you to judge?"

An excellent question, which you can be certain I am willing to answer. Let's think about why people would gamble, and let's take the best possible example which happens to be about 5 miles away from me at the local Cherookee Casino in West Siloam, OK.

By recently-passed state legislation, the local native American gaming joints can now have more than slots: they can have card tables, but in those tables they cannot have a stake. Translation: they can charge rent for the gamers to game at the table, but they cannot hold a hand in any game and they cannot ever take the pot.

You'd think that no casino on earth would ever set this scheme up, but the larger locations in OK have expanded y almost double in sq ft and have tables open 24/7. And the parking lots are packed -- you'd think they were giving away all kinds of vices, but in fact all they are doing is allowing people to publicly bet their own money against other people in card games.

So in that scenario, what do you think is happening? Are people renting the tables and just playing with chips -- no bacon in the game, just the thrill of victory like (as someone has suggested) a Monopoly tourney or some such thing?

Please: get a grip on yourself. People are walking in with rolls of money, willingly putting it down to play games in a variety of stake levels literally at every hour of the day, and every day of the week. There are no Monopoly money games going on. Only real money, you nancy, and don't even suggest that there's another way to compete.

Now, getting back to my original accusation: why all the real money involved? Why not just rent the table and stake some chips (no real money value), and play until someone is chipless or someone else has an insurmountable percentage of all the chips -- you know, like you could do at your own house?

The answer is so transparent that I am almost too embarassed for all of you to say it: the point of the play is the money. Nobody's playing for nickels and dimes and pennies at these tables: it's all $$$ denomination chips in play.

Now, why is it thus? It is merely testosterone -- like playing football, but without the pads? Is the point to see who can take the hit the best? Seriously: how many "good losers" are there in the popular pantheon of poker players -- people you watch or people you want to be just because they lose a million bucks like a good sport?

There are none, yes? OK: so let's be clear that the point of the play is the pot -- and there is no pot unless all the other people lose. And all the other loser are not just the unlucky ones but are the ones that no one wants to be - they are losers in the metaphysical sense and not just merely the empirical sense that someone else had to win, or they only had the lowest score.

With all that said, the reason to play in a casino -- that is, to gamble -- is becuase of the lure of the pot, the idea that for only your penny ante you might walk away with the big score, and for one minute you get to be a Rat Pack genius with a big roll and some sweet blonde giving you that look (female readers: I know you are all too smart to be gamblers, so bear with my sexism for a little while longer).

It is on that basis that I am proud to declare that the point of gambling is to satisfy greed. It is an active lie that says you can have what other people own but don't deserve because they are not as smart/clever/talented as you, and you can literally trick them out of it at little or no cost.

There is no comparison between that and, as someone has said, a competative Monopoly tournament in which there is an entrance fee. The stakes are much lower; the object is utterly different. And the motives are not even on the same side of the globe.

And that's in the best case where there is no house with a stake in the game. When the house has a stake, the gaming is so tawdry and obsessive that to call it anything but sinful is simply tunnel vision. A perpetual game which has no end in which one hand is always open and always -- in every way -- wins against all comers on an aggregate basis is the best example of greed in the history of the world.

Now: somebody bring up the stock market. I dare you.

Sojourner said...

Are raffles considered gambling under this definition? I would say no if the raffle goes towards a charitable organization and the item raffled is a donated item.

centuri0n said...

Hey Phil:

You know I started this thread as a joke, right? I think it's fairly brilliant to have a forum where serious people (which would not include me) can interact with (how do I say this without sounding like a toady?) leaders in the field in a relatively-open forum on matters that are relevant to their work today. Charging a fee keeps the riff-raff out, and $200/year is les than most people pay for cable.

Anyway, I hope I didn't ruffle your feathers. I intended some good-hearted ribbing to ensure, but nothing that would be intended to hurt.

Jung Ho said...

PJ: Whether it's "gambling" or not depends on whether all or part of the "registration fee" is put up as a stake, to be collected as a prize by the winners, or if it's defraying the actual costs of the contest.

Firstly, it's interesting you seem to no longer be requiring a game of chance in order for something to be gambling - it seems to simply be where a group of people put in some money, and not all of them get it out. I'm saying that because I don't consider soccer a game of chance, but then again, the ball can bounce randomly (certainly in American football), and freak goals can be deadly. Doesn't that muddy the waters? What competitive activity doesn't include chance? So I guess that's one reason why you might have not reiterated the element of chance part of your definition of gambling.

On to stakes and pots. The reason I didn't specify what that £2.50 is for is because this is where it also gets a bit muddy. What's that £2.50 for? Maybe some of it's for a hot dog, maybe some of it's for the prize, either financial or a little cup? Part of the costs of putting on a competition are providing a prize.

This obviously getting a bit pedantic, but it's helpful to note I think that a hard line between gambling and not-gambling is pretty difficult to demarcate in terms of stakes and pots or in terms of chance events.

You could, if you wanted to, limit your idea of gambling to just events where it is completely down to chance whether you win or not, although I think these events are rarer than people generally think - blackjack or roulette certainly have at least the illusion of some skill on the part of the bettor.

You've cast your net more widely though, and with good reason (perils of gambling etc, and your core argument - stealing, as I see it requires you to do that), but does that mean you would censure paying an entry fee for a quiz (I'm sure more Pyro readers do this than my previous examples) where some proportion of the entry fee goes into the prize fund? Can you really define that as gambling?

A couple of apologies - first, that I'm debating this before you conclude your argument, and second, I'm aware I'm only snapping around the heels of your argument. Still, we know what happened to Achilles...

Jung Ho said...

To potentially continue my double-posting antics,

Centurion, I'm readily pursuaded by a lot of your comments about casinos and blackjack, but I don't think you've told me the difference between my small-stakes home game with my mates (where let us be clear, the £5 is not betting on a single pot, but creating a prize fund for the winner of the tournement) and a small-stakes home game of Monopoly.

Of course, small-stakes home games of Monopoly are not as common as small-stakes home games of poker. You might suggest that's because Monopoly is a game, whereas poker is not a game, but just gambling (if I can create that distinction on the fly), and greed comes back into it again.

I'm going to argue that's not the case - poker simply doesn't work without some money at stake, and I'd much rather play poker for a £5er than Monopoly for a £5er, because I think it's a better game not because I love to gamble (tho part of the fun of poker is its crazyness).

For each of us, I think, there is a certain level at which the financial losses are not enough to be any more than entertainment money, and the prize not enough to create greed, but where the money at stake adds to the enjoyment of the game. Am I a sophist?

Phil Johnson said...

Frank: No, I'm glad you posted. Otherwise the blog would have fallen silent for 48 hours.

Where's Daniel?

Jung Ho: The question of whether the "registration fee" is really to defray costs or a thinly-disguised gambling stake is not merely a pedantic incidental. It is what distinguishes between whether the contest is gambling or not.

Such things are usually well defined by state laws regulating gambling. Trust me: a pastor thinking of holding a sporting event with cash prizes in order to draw "seekers" would do well to find out how the law defines gambling before sponsoring a basketball tournament for stakes.

Also, the wording in my article at Pulpit Live was deliberate: "an element of chance determines the outcome." Simple athletic contests and games of Jeopardy are not, strictly speaking, "games of chance," but an element of chance does determine the outcome. Therefore, if you bet on such contests, your bet is deemed illegal gaming by legal definition in most states. Many of them would describe the wager itself, in legal terms, as "a game of chance."

Reference.com has this definition: "Gambling (or betting) is any behavior involving risking money or valuables (making a wager or placing a stake) on the outcome of a game, contest, or other event in which the outcome of that activity depends partially or totally upon chance or upon one's ability to do something."

Again (and for the last time here), I say: please do some serious research and reading on the subject before making "it seems to me..."-style arguments here.

That seems a reasonable request.

centuri0n said...

Jong Ho:

What you somehow overlook is the fact that things like slot machines, card games, roulette, etc., are games that are wildly stacked in favor of the house. The lopsided nature of the natural progression of any series of any length longer than two plays-to-pay in favor of the host (which is to say, the house) is itself indicative of greed. And let's make sure we tie this back to Phil's point: in gambling, the house has a stake in the prize-winning. It is possible that there are no winners but the house in any stand-alone game of chance. In that case, it is likely that the one collecting the fee is lining his pocket, not paying for services like a filed to play on.

It is the big fat pile of money that the house represents that draws the players to the game. The opportunity, however microscopic, that one might actually take the house for a ride is the lure.

And to avoid that problem, you have tried to edge the discussion into a place where the benefactor of the play is not "the house", and the payout is small enough that only the sin-sickest, most-craven money-lover would be enticed to "do it for the money". And from there, you have tried to reason from the obscure to the blatant, where the Scriptural method -- the method of reasoning Christ himself used -- was to reason from the blatant or obvious to the obscure. You know: like defining your neighbor using a blatant example of crossing cultural barriers to do a good deed rather than trying to split hairs over whether a priest can touch the blood of another man while he's on the way to temple. You define gambling by the methods, means and mode, and then when the water gets muddy and the clouds block the stars you stick to your course rather than hope you can guess which way it is to Albuquerque.

Steve said...

It's stunning that there are so many who work hard at trying to justify gambling.

It's simply more evidence that many in today's church would much rather flirt as closely as possible with that which is questionable than keep a healthy distance from it. We're more eager to pursue self-gratification than cultivate holiness.

And Phil, while it'd be nice to be able to comment on Pulpit Live, I have to agree with you. The fee does at least cut down on the number of undesirable comments that might crop up.

Frank Martens said...

David Says... "I was hopeing that StumblingBlog was getting worked on, but obviously your a procrastinator."

centuri0n says... "And for the gawkers, I am actually slaving over StumblingBlog. "

I was just going to say... WHAT UP DAWG? And how's that site coming? But I got my answer :)

Moving on....

steve says... "And Phil, while it'd be nice to be able to comment on Pulpit Live, I have to agree with you. The fee does at least cut down on the number of undesirable comments that might crop up."

This brings up a question of mine, I noticed the Shepherd Fellowship has a fee for registration, but is it limited to just pastors? Are lay people allowed to pay the fee and sign up?

DJP said...

Phil: Where's Daniel?

Oh, I'm around. Out of town on bidness just about all of yesterday, shopping my brains into fried gruel for a pc-upgrade (Athlon? IBM? Dell? Gateway? Off-name-brand?).

My main problem with this blog is I tend to wait until I imagine that I have something weighty, rather than just posting the first thing to pop into my mind like, well, like, you know, some people.

(c;

I do have a mystery quotation I've been holding in my pocket for awhile that could prove a bit explosive....

vegemitechristian said...

Phil,

Am I gambling if I card count blackjack (or shuffle track) with a mathematical positive expectancy?

And similar: if my statistical model shows (after testing for errors and robustness) a positive expectancy for football/other sports/horse race betting - am I actually gambling? Or can I do that and even 'tithe' to the church with clear conscience?

Similar again (and more known): what about the zero sum games of futures and foreign exchange trading. Where in reality, each winner is offset by a loser? You can even turn to 'respectable' people (such as Warren Buffett) to argue that the deriviatives markets (futures, options, CFD's etc.) shouldn't exist.
But again, if I have a positive expectancy model, am I gambling? Investing? Being a good steward?

Not meant to be a trick question either - these are issues I have had to work through (all 3 examples in fact).

Blessings.

Phil Johnson said...

VegemiteChristian: I'm no economist, so I'd be reluctant to judge whether futures markets, etc. are legitimate. If it's really a zero-sum game, then I'd be hard-pressed to explain how it differs from gambling. But again, I'm no economist, so I wouldn't even try to make an independent jusgment on the question.

Fortunately for me, as far as I know, I have no wealthy friends who invest in futures markets. If I acquire such a friend and he asks my advice, I'll prolly recommend he write Thomas Sowell for an opinion.

Phil Johnson said...

PS:

VegemiteChristian, I forgot to answer your question about counting cards. Isn't that illegal? It would be wrong on those grounds alone.

However, increasing the mathematical odds of victory wouldn't diminish my most serious objection to gambling. I'm going to argue that it is a violation of the eighth commandment. Cheating therefore only makes it worse.

James Spurgeon said...

Phil to VegemiteChristian, I forgot to answer your question about counting cards. Isn't that illegal? It would be wrong on those grounds alone.

Counting cards is not illegal, just disliked by the casino owners because it can put the odds slightly in the player's favor.

Phil, However, increasing the mathematical odds of victory wouldn't diminish my most serious objection to gambling. I'm going to argue that it is a violation of the eighth commandment. Cheating therefore only makes it worse.

Interestingly, the MIT guy who invented card counting only did it once, on a test run sponsored by a guy with shady mob ties. He had a very successful weekend and never wnet back. He later wrote his book, then went on to make millions in the stock market which is a lot more lucrative for people who wish to make a killing and have the time and patience it would take to learn to count cards. In other words, if you're that smart, you're better off in the market doing legal and morally defensible investment in business.

I watch the History Channel.

Dan B. said...

I'm a small fish in the pond, but I'll weigh in. While still in law school, I researched this very issue for a client from a law perspective (I've recently been licensed as an attorney, though looking for work)--so I can appreciate the discussion from a legal perspective.

To cite actual law:

18.2-325 of the Virginia Code (the state in which I live, says:

Illegal gambling means the making, placing or receipt, of any bet or wager in this Commonwealth of money or other thing of value, made in exchange for a chance to win a prize, stake or other consideration or thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest or any other event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance, whether such game, contest or event, occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of this Commonwealth.

Translation? Three prong test. Is there an entrance fee or ante? In exchange for the chance to win prize/pot? Does game depend on chance?

Now, my lovely state employs a double standard, since we have a state lottery that is exempt from this by statute. *sigh*

Some will say, but if it's just with my buddies, for not a lot of money, what does it matter?

My response--do you think that addictions start in a big way? Do most alcoholics start off binging? For those that can possibly be disposed to gambling problems, it starts with a quick game of cards or a friendly bet with friends and it grows. I've read some accounts that you only have to win once and that's all it takes.

I haven't thoroughly read Phil's arguments on the "stealing" argument but I think he is right on--there's definitely a difference between investing in the stock market and gambling, if nothing else in the structure and intent of the act. Another tack is that as Christians, should we cause another brother or sister to stumble?

None of this may make sense, and I apologize--just throw me back in the pond.

CraigS said...

It seems to me...

...that Phil's argument that the growth in the value of a stock represents real economic growth is not always true.

Stocks frequently grow due to perception, rather than improved economic performance. The most significant recent example is the tech crash of 2001.

If Phil's understanding of the stock market was right, there would never be a stock market "corrections" (or crashes) because stocks would always be correctly valued. This is naive.

For a really excellent discussion of these issues, read "Against the Gods" by Peter L. Bernstein (who is a very reputable economist and an expert in risk management).

CraigS said...

Now, I want to address the winners and losers argument as well. I own a substantial stake in a small business (a pizza shop). I don't make pizzas, but I do help with some of the strategic decisions.

In a capitalistic market economy there are winners and losers. There are finite consumer dollars out there. When we "win" a customer, our competitors are hurt. It is a "zero-sum" game.

If we increase our market share, our competitors market share is decreased. If we drop our prices, our competitors will have less money. If we put out a really good advertising campaign, it will cost our competitors money.

I mean, why do you think they are called "competitors"??

Now, since my gains as a producer in a market economy come at the expense of someone else, does it make them immoral?

CraigS said...

Oh, reputable source for my last comments - "Principles of Economics" by Alfred Marshall.

As well as my own experience in running a business, of course...

centuri0n said...

Craigs:

As another small business owner, I think your perception of the marketplace as zero-sum is ridiculous.

Let's imagine something for a minute, shall we? Let's imagine the world prior to your pizza joint being open, and let's imagine that you live in a part of the world where there has never been a pizza joint before. In the zero-sum game, you pizza joint would be subject to a finite number of possible business openings:

(1) It gets no business at all because the market for pizza is a zero-sum game, and since last year there were zero pizzas sold, this year there will be no pizzas bought.

(2) The market only has a finite number of dollars net. Therefore, because last year there was no pizza joint in Craigsville, this year the entrance of the pizza joint yields a net decline in grocery/food sales. You might pick up $250K in pizza sales, but that gets carved out of all other food sales, so all other food vendors take a hit.

There might be other choices, but I think they would be variations on these themes. But the fact is that the year your pizza joint opened, The marketplace for pizza expanded -- by a theoretical max number of the total sales of your joint if there was no pizza joint before yours.

Now, if you opened in the face of competition -- like my bookstore did -- there is no doubt that you took *some* business from the others. But I have absolutely no doubt that the net pizza business in Craigsville grew by a max value of (drum roll) the net sales of your pizza joint. Why? Because if the average pizza joint in Craigsville was selling $X/n where X=total sales dollars and n=number of joints, when the total number of joints increased by 1 (you), the net pizza sales did not remain at X. In a very predicatble case, they increased by X/(n+1)^2. (I will explain that hand-made formula another time) The average joint may have taken a hit in net sales, but the net market for pizza undoubtedly expanded.

The only question is if the net expansion still yields a profitable model for the extant joints. If everyone is marginal at X/n, then when you add one joint, it is likely that the pinch of competition will seem like a zero-sum when in fact the net market expanded but the number of noses in the trough went up at a faster rate than the level of slop.

I disagree unequivocally that every win you make is necessarily a loss for your competition. If that were true, we would all be living in rags in a worse-than 3rd world state. There would be no such thing as economic development.

CraigS said...

Centuri0n, the limiting factor is not number of pizzas consumed but the amount of consumer dollars available.

Pizza is a luxury item, so we are affected by people's disposable income. When we opened our store, we took business from the other pizza shops (we know that for certain). If the pizza market "expanded" it was at the expense of other discretionary spending.

I have seen competition in action in the last few months. There were 4 pizza shops in our area. In December a 5th opened. Our sales went down roughly 30% and stayed down. And we were getting worried.

Then, in February, our closest competitor closed. Our sales went up around 50%.

"But I have absolutely no doubt that the net pizza business in Craigsville grew by a max value of (drum roll) the net sales of your pizza joint."

That is certainly not true. We know for a fact that the income of other pizza shops in the area was decreased.

"I disagree unequivocally that every win you make is necessarily a loss for your competition. If that were true, we would all be living in rags in a worse-than 3rd world state. There would be no such thing as economic development."

Your conclusion simply doesn't follow. Every sale I make is someone else's loss. If they buy a pizza from me, they don't buy it from someone else.

Even I've created a new market for pizzas (ie people wouldn't be consuming pizzas otherwise), you will find that McDonalds or KFC are missing out. Or some other item of discretionary expenditure.

Even if they were going to put their money in the bank otherwise, it means that the bank has missed out on their business.

centuri0n said...

And another thing: no doubt that advertising works. No doubt. But Advertising works best on best customers (cf. coupons) and on new prospects (cf. identifying perceived needs).

Some of the latter group are undoubtedly your competition's shoppers. But the most likely people to respond to your advertising in the second group are those who have never tried your product before. People who like Tony's Pizza's sauce better than yours (no offense) are not going to phone you because of a coupon offer. People who are looking for a pizza joint to call their favorite are more likely to use your coupon to find out what's up with the sauce.

And those people are the ones upon whom the growth of the market depends: new buyers. The "gamble" in opening a new business is entering a marketplace where there are enough new buyers or underserved buyers to support the expense structure of the business, and in the end all the commerce is quid pro quo.

To call commerce "a gamble" in the sense that playing BlackJack or Poker is "a gamble" is simply false. Every successful business is not strictly lucky, and every net gain in business is not by any means a necessary loss for competition.

CraigS said...

To call commerce "a gamble" in the sense that playing BlackJack or Poker is "a gamble" is simply false.

Indeed. I don't recall saying that, however.

Every successful business is not strictly lucky, and every net gain in business is not by any means a necessary loss for competition.

We are in a small, relatively isolated area. There are 4 shops servicing 6,000 homes. There are simply very limited opportunities to "develop" new markets.

Most of your customers were already book-consumers before they began shopping at your store. And if you did somehow create a new "book-consumer", it would be at the expense of some other form of discretionary expenditure (eg. DVDs).

If I buy The Da Vinci Code from your shop, of course that comes at the expense of your competitors.

centuri0n said...

Craig:

Suit yourself. If I follow your math, your joint went down 30% and then from that level came up 50% after one of the original joints closed. That means your store netted a 5% increase in sales. That means you went from (as a guess) 25% of the market share to 26.25% of the original market share.

If that happened to the other 2 original competitors, then the net share of the 3 of you went from an average of 75% to 78.75%. And given that you say the new guy took 30% from you, we can imagine he took 30% from everyone, so he ended the shuffle with 30% of the market.

78.75 + 30 = 108.75%

That's net growth. The growth did not outpace the number of competitors, but it is bigger than it started. It happens every time a new player enters a market -- and it is always proof that the potential for growing business is bigger than the pie which was in play when you started.

centuri0n said...

DaVinci Code? Oh brother -- I have a worse reputation than I thought.

You made me sad, Craig. How can I sleep knowing you think I can sell the DaVinci code?

:)

Peace.

Phil Johnson said...

CraigS: "For a really excellent discussion of these issues, read "Against the Gods" by Peter L. Bernstein (who is a very reputable economist and an expert in risk management)."

Yeah, but Bernstein's book does not argue that investing in stocks is "gambling." He's simply exploring the question of "risk," how to control it as much as possible, etc.

Here's an interesting post from an investment banker discussing the proper distinctions between investing and speculating; risk and chance; stocks and futures; and whatnot. He actually recommends Bernstein's book as a remedy for the exact kind of confusion reflected in CraigS's post.

BTW, the next post in the "gambling" series is on line here.

CraigS said...

Suit yourself. If I follow your math,
Sigh. They were clearly round figures. And we would have received a greater "hit" of the closed shops sales as we are the closest in proximity to them.

CraigS said...

Not true Phil - his chapter on von Neumann (for example) draws an explicit parrallel between gambling and invesment.

But anyway, if you read my original comment, I wasn't saying that Bernstein said the stockmarket was gambling. I was saying that his book discussed how factors(aside from actual economic performance) affect the actual price of a companies stock.

Jenson's Blog said...

My 2 cents on this issue is this:
Buying stocks and shares is not gambling, but speculative buying is.

Speculative buying enables a buyer to put in plenty of money in certain shares during a "bull" period, and sells them quickly, hoping for a quick profit. Not sure if that is practiced (or allowed) in your country, but it was legal in the past in mine.

At the end of the day, it reflects bad stewardship. Not to mention a massive risk involved. We have heard of people who lost everything literally overnight because of this practice.

My 2-cents

centuri0n said...

Craig --

I dunno how to convince you that any marketplace not in a recession is growing, in part, because of competition. I guess captialism doesn't work.

David said...

But in California I believe 5 Card draw (a varient of Poker) is classified as a game of skill, not of gambling.

So if the State says it is not gambling, I am ok with it? (I know, I know, we are supposed to wait for the final, grand conclusion and not get so picky on the details)

And Frank - if I am not gambling at a casion, but playing dime a point Sheepshead with 4 friends, is that ok?

And I can't wait to see the final connection to the 8th Commandment

more after I take the kids to school

David said...

The absence of a single commandment or proof-text against gambling ultimately proves nothing. - to qoute phil.

I agree. However, I think it puts a higher requirement for evidence, and opens you up to questions based on reason and logic. For example...

It seems reasonable to state that people gambled in biblical times. (after all, that is something the bible says happened)

It is logical to assume that all of the same problems existed with gambling then as now - people gambled with money they did not have, etc. etc.

With those two facts assumed, I think it is a fair question to ask - if gambling is such a sin, why is it not specifically condemned? Paul did not lump gamblers in with other degenerates. Of the some 619 or so commandments, it is not one of them. Many of the prohibitions were to combat excesses of the people. People gamble to excess now, I think we can assume people gambled to excess then. Yet no biblical condemnation of a very destructive behavior.

While you may not like the little ticky tacky points people make (rather like being nibbled to death by a duck), if you are going to make a point based upon reason and logic (and not on direct biblical statements), all of your points are challengeable. And if those points do not support your arguement, your arguement has holes. In other words, if your arguements leading to your conclusion are not supportable, then people will not accept your conclusion. If you build your arguement on individual supports, and one of those cards is removed - your whole house of cards will collapse.

BugBlaster said...

Wow, I never expected to see a debated on market economies in this place.

craigs: I agree that every pizza you sell takes something away from somewhere else, and all things being equal, it is a zero-sum game.

But all things are not equal. If you are wildly successful in taking business away from someone else, then you and your expanding workforce will reap the benefits. If you are wildly successful, it means you have figured out a better way to do pizza (whatever "better" means). It means that you are creating more value than your competitors. It means you're more productive. In the aggregate, with all sorts of wildly successful pizza places and ditch diggers and pharmaceutical companies, the amount of dollars available to the consumer will increase. It's the multiplier effect, and it is all predicated on humans figuring out better and better ways to make and deliver things.

I work in property and auto insurance, and if you want to talk about risk management and "gambling" on probabilities, then my industry lives and breathes that stuff. But it's not a zero sum game and it's not gambilng.

centuri0n: Will you be selling the new davinci code dvd by mailorder when it comes out? I want to be first on the list.

Gummby said...

Buggy: DaVinci no, but Narnia yes. It's only too bad your kids are older--Boz the Bear is a hoot!
Cent: you selling many of either of those?

As far as books, I would be more with Erasmus: if I have to choose between books and food, I choose books. And I'm not just talking about discretionary pizza orders, either.

Phil Johnson said...

David: "While you may not like the little ticky tacky points people make (rather like being nibbled to death by a duck), if you are going to make a point based upon reason and logic (and not on direct biblical statements), all of your points are challengeable."

OK, but the problem with the vast majority of the "little ticky tacky points" is not that they challenge my reason or logic, but that they are "ticky tacky"—meaning that most of them are lame-o arguments from people who don't really know what they are talking about anyway. To illustrate:

"But in California I believe 5 Card draw (a varient of Poker) is classified as a game of skill, not of gambling."

Yours is a typical misunderstanding, but it is the kind of misunderstanding that perfectly exemplifies why I keep requesting those who haven't really carefully considered the matter to abstain from posting arguments made up on the fly.

Betting on 5-Card Draw is gambling, in California and every other state. The fact that the game includes a substantial degree of skill does not eliminate the element of chance altogether, and betting on the outcome is legally deemed "gambling." It's a different kind of gambling from roulette or lotto, but you are dead wrong when you claim poker "is classified as a game of skill, not of gambling."

Here's a typical court ruling on the question of chance vs. skill; lotteries vs. other types of gaming; and whether poker is legally considered "gambling":

"If any substantial degree of skill or judgment is involved, it is not a lottery. Of course, all forms of gambling involve prize, chance, and consideration, but not all forms of gaming are lotteries. A lottery is a scheme or plan, as distinguished from a game where some substantial element of skill or judgment is involved. Poker, when played for money, is a gambling game, but, since it involves a substantial element of skill judgment, it cannot reasonably be contended that it is a lottery.” State v. Coats, 158 Or. 122, 74 P.2d 1102 (1938) Oregon State Supreme Court. 74 P.2d at 1106.

BTW, I already responded to one question just like this. (See above, my answer to Jung Ho, where I cited the definition from Reference.com.) I highlight David's two posts and respond to this once more only because David's remarks so clearly demonstrate the problems I have pointed out with the arguments of the populist pro-gambling lobby.

You guys really do need to read and seriously consider what I have actually said before you throw more of these ill-considered makeshift arguments into the ring.

James Spurgeon said...

Free market economies a zero sum game?

Wow.

Why is it that over the long-haul the market always grows - always - and in this country at an average annual rate of 7%?

And please don't tell me that our prosperity makes the world poorer. The world grows wealthier everywhere that markets open up. Ask China.

A zero sum game? I'm sorry, it's just that the concept goes so far beyond all reason, to me, that it's unfathomable anyone could think that.

I can tell you this. If my bro-in-law, for example, decides to start his own construction business to build homes for middle income families and asks me to help with some investment money, while I would certainly be putting money at risk, it would certainly not be risking it in a zero sum game where there is no growth. There is always a market for new homes because there are always new people entering the market who need a place to live. As long as there is population increase, there will be need for new houses. It is not a zero sum game. The same could be said for just about any legitimate business or service.

But if you want to believe otherwise, that's okay by me. I doubt if I'll post again on this matter. Theology is much more important and interesting.

chamblee54 said...

I enjoyed the second post of the gambling series.
It is interesting to see the 10th commandment cited. The admonition against coveting is one of the less popular commandments, especially by the proponents of "prosperity doctrine". And why would anyone want to post the 10th commandment at a courthouse where they collect taxes and hear lawsuits?
I also appreciate your use of non-bible based arguments. Not everyone agrees that the bible is the word of god. Those who disagree with you on this point still need some direction, especially on an issue like gambling, with the well financed p.r. machines of the casinos making so much noise.

Phil Johnson said...

Thanks, Chamblee54.

For the record, though, logical arguments showing how biblical principles apply to ethical and moral questions are not "non-bible based arguments."

The subject ultimately matters to me only because I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I'm accountable to its Author. If I didn't believe that, I'd be in the same boat as the hordes of self-destructive teenagers who simply want to have as much fun as possible while they can enjoy it, and beyond that, their goal is to end this life ASAP.

Without any belief that God is sovereign and his Word is true, I wonder what you'd tell one of your own kids if he or she had that perspective? I can't see how you could possibly come up with any rational argument against such a suicidal worldview.

chamblee54 said...

"The subject ultimately matters to me only because I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I'm accountable to its Author. If I didn't believe that, I'd be in the same boat as the hordes of self-destructive teenagers who simply want to have as much fun as possible while they can enjoy it, and beyond that, their goal is to end this life ASAP.

Without any belief that God is sovereign and his Word is true, I wonder what you'd tell one of your own kids if he or she had that perspective? I can't see how you could possibly come up with any rational argument against such a suicidal worldview."

How do we get from gambling to self-destructive teenagers?
And are these the only two choices? To believe in “god in a book” (in violation of the first commandment) or a life of total depravity? I would hope there is another path, because neither of those work for me.

David said...

Phil - My mistake

By law in California, Draw poker is a game of skill, not of chance.

And if played for money (or about 8 other listed things), it is gambling, of course, and regulated by the state.

So, while I misspoke, I am quite correct that at least California defines draw poker as a game of skill, not chance.

Which drops it outside of your definition of gambling, which starts with:

"To gamble is to play at a game of chance for stakes...."

Thus by your definition, draw poker is not gambling

David said...

As to Frank’s comments which focus on Casino’s, states often exempt "social gambling" from the laws. For example in Oregon, as long as the players do not help set up the game and the only money they make is from winning (and not a percentage from the pot), thus categorizing the activity differently than Frank does in his posts.

Thus the state exempts and differentiates games much as several of your posters have - games played to make the house money v. games not played to make the house money. My question for Frank is do you make any differentiation, or are you with Phil, all gambling is sinful whether at a casino or playing penny poker with some friends.

David said...

To answer another question, why play for money with friends? - It is for the competition. People play differently when it is for money - even small amounts of money. When no money is involved, people will take stupid chances in card playing - why not - there is no risk. When there is money involved, people will only play if they believe they actually have a winning hand. Sheepshead for example, is a much different game when you have players playing for money v. for fun. When played for money, people play the game better. They work harder to follow the cards, to make proper determinations on which card to play when. The game is just a better game.

David said...

So when you say "Gambling involves an inordinate desire to get something from one's neighbor without a legitimate exchange. So it is a sin on those grounds, even if we said nothing further", you may be correct in some cases, but you are simply wrong in others.

Perhaps growing up in a community where people played euchre and Sheepshead for small stakes gives me a different perspective. People did not play to "take" from their neighbor. Trust me, playing nickel a point or dime a point sheeps will cost you all of 5 or 10 bucks after 4 hours, even if you lose consistently. When you play with those stakes, it is more worrying about keeping what you have, not coveting the pile of dimes in front of my neighbor.

David said...

Now as to the other points –

Slothfulness – social games are not get rich quick schemes. There is no quick wealth in them.
Foolishness – clearly gambling for many, especially in a Casino, is foolishness. And I agree that states have no business encouraging its residents to throw their money away. But again, your point is only about casinos, not social gambling.
Profligacy – in a casino, yes – in a social setting, no.
Lack of self-control – is it an addiction? Certainly for some it is. And again, as with any activity, lack of self-control will put you in a bad place, even a sinful place.
Time- certainly it can be a concern, but again, as with so many activities it is a matter of individual’s actions.

After thinking about this further, there are many similarities to your position on gambling as there is to alcohol consumption.

Clearly abuse of alcohol leads to many sins, including all of them that you have pointed out – slothfulness, foolishness, profligacy, lack of self-control, time and a host of others. But the bible clearly differentiates the point between use of alcohol and abuse of alcohol.

Frank Martens said...

chamblee54 said...
How do we get from gambling to self-destructive teenagers?
And are these the only two choices? To believe in “god in a book” (in violation of the first commandment) or a life of total depravity? I would hope there is another path, because neither of those work for me.


I'm a little perplexed by what you said here. And please don't think I'm like trying to answer for Phil, because Phil Johnson to Christianity is like Chuck Norris to Karate. And I'm just some peon in the midst :)

But, could you explain by hoping there aren't only two options? Are you saying you hope that God's Word isn't the only method to find God's law and proclamation about Himself and coming into this world?

Frank Martens said...

Sorry, explain what you mean by the statement... " I would hope there is another path, because neither of those work for me. "

David said...

Chamblee - you are correct.
What Phil has done is engage in a logical fallacy of the false dilemma. That is when a limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options.

Phils position is that gambling is either a sinnful behavior or it is not.

The actual answer is, gambling can lead to sinful behaviors, just as many other actions we take can be - alcohol, movies, sex - you name, it can be sinfull. However, as with many things, it is not the act itself that is sinful, but how the act is conducted - drinking v. drunkeness, maritial v. pre or extra maritial, etc.

Other logical fallacy in these posts include the Appeal to Consequences - see all the bad things that happen - ergo,it must be a sin.

Jung Ho said...

Centurion:What you somehow overlook is the fact that things like slot machines, card games, roulette, etc., are games that are wildly stacked in favor of the house. ... And let's make sure we tie this back to Phil's point: in gambling, the house has a stake in the prize-winning.

I don't overlook this point at all. I said at the start of my post that I accepted your points about casinos. If you are playing a game where over time you will come out losing, the attraction is the small 'chance' (i.e. -ve Expected Value) that you have of beating the house. This is probably bad stewardship etc (although I think even here the arguments are by no means watertight).

I agree with David that centurion and Phil seem to be pursuing different lines of argument. To summarise my position with respect to them both, I don't think Frank's arguments bear upon my home poker game, and I think Phil's definition (popular though it may be) is so wide as to not be useful.

I'd like to point out that I have not tried to "edge the discussion"as Frank puts it, by coming up with some obscure example where people play small stakes poker at home. It's pretty popular, and while I can agree that and betting in a casino are both gambling, are both equally likely to lead to sin? I think not.

David: Clearly abuse of alcohol leads to many sins, including all of them that you have pointed out – slothfulness, foolishness, profligacy, lack of self-control, time and a host of others. But the bible clearly differentiates the point between use of alcohol and abuse of alcohol.

Good point I think. I've yet to see that gambling per se is sinful, but I certainly agree it may lead to all sorts of sins, and some gambling (high stakes, no skill) may nearly always be sinful. Interesting that something that appears so functionally similar to alcohol in terms of sinfulness doesn't seem to be mentioned in the Bibile whereas alcohol does...

Phil, you may be wondering what problem I have with your definition, which I admit is well researched.

My problem is - 'what is a game of chance?' Is it a) a game in which all players are equally likely to win - essentially gambling on a die roll? or
b) a game that involves some element of chance, but players have different probabilities of winning?

If a) then poker (for example) doesn't fit into your definition, if b) then all the ridculous examples I've cited, e.g. entering a quiz (not sure if this is a popular activity in America) where you are not sure what the questions are, what the categories are, or how good the other teams are, is gambling.

PS. I don't feel there's much research for me to do on this topic - I'm happy to accept that your definition of gambling is a popular legal one, but that seems irrelevant: is "manslaughter" illegal? Yes. Is it sinful? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I'm also happy to accept the many social ills of gambling, and the potential sin to which it leaves. I'm attacking the basis of your argument logically - it doesn't require a day in a library.

Jung Ho said...

Just to respond to this:

"Poker simply doesn't work without some money at stake . . . the money at stake adds to the enjoyment of the game." He said he plays for small amounts—so that "the financial losses are not enough to be any more than entertainment money, and the prize not enough to create greed."

Analyze that for a moment. Why would the element of gambling make a game more "fun?" There is only one reason: because the "fun" is derived not from the game itself but from the possibility of winning something that belongs to your neighbor. In other words, what makes gambling "fun" is pure covetousness.


Phil, c'mon. There is not only one reason why, as you put it, the element of gambling makes a game more fun. David has argued that when there's money at stake sheepshead is more fun because people pay more attention. In poker it's probably even more the case - people will play more recklessly. The fun is definately the game itself, which is dramatically different when there is some, even a minimal amount, at stake. Put it another way, I wouldn't watch a game of poker that was being played for nothing, whereas I might if it was being played for money.

You'll probably argue that they're only paying attention because they're of the money at stake. Partially that's true, but having something to win essentially declares this is a serious game, the way that a pre-season game doesn't count compared to a regular season game.

The thing is the more money you play with --> the more serious the game (and the more likely I would be to watch), so this isn't disentangled from the value of money to a person, but it's very different to covetousness IMHO.

Jung Ho said...

Just to clarify: In poker it's probably even more the case - people will play more recklessly when there's no money at stake.

Steve Sensenig said...

I'm not sure if I can say this with the clarity I wish to express, but this whole discussion demonstrates to my mind the end result of a lack of true discipleship taking place in our ministries.

Phil, this is not directed at you in particular, so don't take offense at this. But this is not the first time (by a long shot) that this topic or the topic of alcohol, or whatever, have been debated in this manner. And so I'm reacting to the very fact that we, as Christians, continue to have these discussions.

I am convinced, both from the way the New Testament discusses our lives as new creations and from what I have observed, that the first and foremost objective of any evangelism/discipleship endeavor should be to see the new convert grow and mature in their faith to the point that they can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and read the Word, and thereby be led by the Spirit in their lives. (And in turn, be making other disciples.)

While I respect the fact that Phil is trying to get to the underlying issues behind gambling (I respect that effort more than you may know, Phil, even though I don't necessarily agree with your ultimate conclusions), the reality is that we continue to discuss surface "rules" without really equipping people to listen to the Holy Spirit and make these kinds of decisions under God's guidance.

This ends up being the downfall of any Christian denomination or ministry that provides people with a list of "do's" and "don'ts". If we tell people, "Gambling is a sin, therefore you shouldn't be doing it," we may succeed in getting them to stop gambling. But the next time they have a question about a particular activity, they're going to come back to you and say, "OK, what about this one?"

And bingo (no pun intended!), you are now in the position of being "the voice of God" to that person, and they have lost an opportunity to mature in their faith.

It's kind of, sort of, like that "Give a man a fish...teach him to fish" worn-out axiom. Tell a man that gambling is a sin, and you might eliminate one sin from his life. Teach him how to walk in the Spirit, and he will grow and mature and leave so many sins in the dust behind him!

Not sure how all that is coming across, but I am now bracing myself for the responses! ;)

steve :)

Phil Johnson said...

David: "Thus by your definition, draw poker is not gambling

Rather than waste time trying to reason with someone who is so incorrigibly unreasonable, I'll simply refer you once more to the answer I have already given to that very argument.

Hint: I've already pointed it out to you once, and it is in this very comment thread.

On the other hand, if you're just testing to see how far you can go before I start deleting inane comments or close the comment thread, you are wasting both your time and my blogspace. Please don't.

Of course, I have made that same request several times, and a couple of people seem to regard it as a challenge to post even more of the same type of stuff.

Such mulishness fairly speaks for itself, I'd say.

David said...

Fine Phil. I am hopelessly pendantic. I will not mention it again. It is your blog, you win.

But that does not negate any of my other posts which have quite specificlly addressed a number of yours and Franks points. All of which have nothing to do with the issue that shall not be named.

Phil Johnson said...

Steve: If I understand you correctly, I think I agree.

Centuri0n said it very clearly in a comment above:

"[People try] to reason from the obscure to the blatant...

The Scriptural method--the method of reasoning Christ himself used--was to reason from the blatant or obvious to the obscure.

You know: like defining your neighbor using a blatant example of crossing cultural barriers to do a good deed rather than trying to split hairs over whether a priest can touch the blood of another man while he's on the way to temple.

[The correct approach would be to] define gambling by the methods, means and mode, and then when the water gets muddy and the clouds block the stars you stick to your course rather than hope you can guess which way it is to Albuquerque."


Exactly.

Instead, we've got a crowd of people who think every moral principle in Scripture can be made flexible if you just apply enough clever casuistry.

And the legitimate hatred of legalism and manmade rules has been twisted totally out of shape by a generation of churchgoers who are so worldly and so shallow that they simply will not be told that anything is sin, unless you can cite a proof-text with their name and birthdate in it.

Using similar arguments, many are trying to justify everything from homosexuality to pot-smoking to "Christian" nudist colonies. Employing the very same lines of argument that are being used to justify gambling, you could ultimately argue in favor of all those things and much more.

There's no doubt that (as you suggest) this stems from a failure of discipleship--specifically in the realm of teaching.

I think it also signifies a much deeper and more fundamental problem than that, though. Perhaps I'll elaborate in a future post.

CraigS said...

I dunno how to convince you that any marketplace not in a recession is growing, in part, because of competition. I guess captialism doesn't work.

You don't have to convince me because I never claimed otherwise. And I am frustrated that I can't convince you that the sky is blue.

The context of my original comment was whether there were necessarily "winners" and "losers" in a market economy. I never denied that an economy can grow (or shrink).

When my opponents straw man me, I usually conclude that I have them on the ropes.

And Phil, you've said about 100 times "Go and do some reading and get back to me." Please provide a list of the minimum required texts.

David said...

Many actions may be a sinful, but not in and of themselves are they necesarily a sin.

Sex outside of marriage (between a man and a women) is sin. Sex in marriage is a blessing. It is not the specific thing, it is how the thing is conducted.

I have no problem labeling sin as sin.

And does my alcohol arguement have any merit?

Jung Ho said...

Phil,

Addressing the larger point (thus far my comments have been of a fairly academic nature, no matter how much gambling pertains to my own behaviour): I'm not trying to wriggle out of "gambling is not great Christian behaviour", I feel like your kind of wriggling to put gambling in that box which your series of what looks like 6 posts on the topic suggest it is hard to do.

I agree hugely with Steve on this issue, in the sense that we need to grow in love and knowledge of Christ, and all this becomes faff, rather than creating a new law (i say this as someone from a Baptist background - I'm not a hippy). That said, if gambling is a problem for someone (perhaps me) posts like these should help to make the problem plain.

warrenl said...

I have been visiting Pyromaniacs for about two months now and I want to thank all the members for your various posts. I have learnt much.

Phil, thanks for you thought-provoking posts on gambling. I am interested on your view as to how Matthew 27:35 may or may not have any bearing on this debate. An interesting picture of Roman soldiers rolling dice for something as insignificant as a few clothes, while Jesus Christ, God incarnate, in whom we find our sufficiency, is dying and ignored.

Steve Sensenig said...

Phil, it looks like you pretty much did understand me, although to be honest, I was speaking to both sides of the issue -- those trying to avoid calling anything sin, and those spending a lot of energy trying to make the point that gambling is sin.

At any rate, I really look forward to seeing a post from you on what you believe the greater issue is.

Thanks for responding.
steve :)

David said...

"So I will gladly stipulate that the wrong in betting spare change is ordinarily quite trivial. We could probably list a whole lot of similarly trivial sins. I would argue, however, that in no case is it ever wise or even morally justifiable for Christians to practice any sin (even at level we might all agree is "trivial"), for entertainment purposes, or with the express purpose of perfecting one's technique."

Phil, at Pulpit Live

If you had started here, I think most, if all of these posts would of gone away.

Augusitine said

"Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, "Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."

Book XIV Chap. 28
Of The Nature Of The Two Cities, The Earthly And The Heavenly.

I must concede you to be correct in your latest post at Pulpit Live- at some level, there is a component of love for money at the root of gambling. And even if just for pennies (well, perhaps not pennies) but at the $5 bucks a week habbit) there are better things we could do with our money, as Christ followers.

$5 dollars a week would sponser a child at Compassion International - surely a better activity than if we indeed choose to live in the City of God.

Personally, I think focusing on the holiness and stewardship aspect of our lives is a much stronger argument against even "trivial" amounts wagered.

However, this then brings up a bigger issue - it is not gambling that is the problem, it is using resources in an unworthy manner.

Preaching against gambling is easy. Consequences are easy to see, and most pastors don't gamble -kind of like why we have so much preaching against homosexuality - an easy target. But in the end, it they are no greater a sin than any other - sin is sin.

And then what other uses of our money should we not be engaging in? $100 to take my kids to a Milwaukee Brewers Game? Thats 4 months to Compassion International. Dinner out on my aniversary? A $4 latte? Because in the end, they are all as sinful as gambling if we are using our money in a way that does not glorify God.

Preach that Dad should take his kids to work at the Gospel Mission instead of the Ball Game - now that will make you a popular preacher.

Phil Johnson said...

David, the question on the table is whether there's a principle in gambling that makes it inherently wrong.

The question is both valid and important in and of itself. I've been trying to answer it carefully and systematically. The response from people who don't like the answer shows that it's neither an "easy" nor "popular" issue to address. (Nor was "popularity" a goal of mine in the first place.)

When someone finally concedes the point I've been making but then immediately suggests that a completely different topic would have been more fruitful to deal with, I'd say that more or less speaks for itself about why "Preaching against gambling" is not "easy."

Note to preachers: This is not a topic with which to salve itching ears.

Bill Combs said...

Craigs said at 2:36 PM, March 31, 2006:
"I never denied that an economy can grow (or shrink)."

Actually you did at 6:55 PM, March 30, 2006:

"In a capitalistic market economy there are winners and losers. There are finite consumer dollars out there. When we 'win' a customer, our competitors are hurt. It is a 'zero-sum' game."

"If we increase our market share, our competitors market share is decreased. If we drop our prices, our competitors will have less money. If we put out a really good advertising campaign, it will cost our competitors money."

Once you say, "In a capitalistic market economy there are winners and losers.... It is a 'zero-sum' game" you have denied an ecomomy can grow. A growing economy is not a zero-sum game--but gambling is a zero-sum game.

You illustration doesn't work: "If we increase our market share, our competitors market share is decreased.... It will cost our competitors money." This is true in gambling--it is a zero-sum game--but is not necessarily true of a growing ecomomy. If two companies have a 50% market share in widgets and one company then increases its maket share to 60%, the company whose share goes to 40% does not necessarily lose money. If the market for widgets were to double, for example, the company with 40% market share makes a lot more money.

David said...

I would say your conclusion is correct, but the path that got you there is filled with errors, in particular logic errors.

It is hard to see the forest when so many of the individual trees are stunted.

CraigS said...

I strongly disagree that I said (or believe) that an economy can't grow. It is plain from the context of my remarks that I was referring to the size of the market at any one time.

What a massive red herring. No-one is able to dispute my assertion that there are inevitable losers in a market economy. Therefore you play around with my words and attempt to show that I believe something ridiculous.

There is an awful lot of sophistry on this blog.

For the record, I don't gamble and I have no particular desire to. But I don't believe it is prohibited by scripture. And as an exercise of my Christian liberty, next time I pass a poker machine I am going to put a dollar into it.

James Spurgeon said...

craigs, I assure you that whatever sophistry you may have detected in my comments to you were unintentional. I probably misunderstood your assertion that the free market is a zero sum game.

Forgive my ignorance.

David said...

Phil, why did God use Gideon, when he continued to test God?

I agree that we should not test God. I will say I do not think Gideon should of tested God. Yet test God he did, and God still used Gideon to deliver Isreal.