18 November 2009

Oh, and one more thing . . .

by Phil Johnson



he following is adapted from comments I originally posted in other forums, but since what I have to say below is germane to the large subject under discussion, I've distilled it here and am posting it so that it will be permanently attached to this thread. Like my remarks in the immediately preceding post, this one answers several e-mails that have been sent to me directly, and a few posts that have appeared other forums:

The distinctions I made in the "definitions" post are not ideas I made up. And they are not as ambiguous as a few argumentative souls seem to want to pretend. What I have attempted to give is essentially a simple summary of the legal definition of gambling.

Please allow me first of all to try to cut through a lot of niggling questions that have been put to me about whether investing in the stock market is really any different from "gambling": The distinction I have made between gambling and investing in stocks is recognized by the laws of every state in the union. Investing in stocks is not a form of "gambling." That's what the law says, not merely how I "feel" about the question. In the preceding post I gave several sources that explain in careful detail why this is a valid distinction. Notice that the articles at the links I gave all expand on pretty much the very same arguments I made in the post itself. I'm not inventing these arguments as I go.

Unfortunately, I simply can't take time to respond individually to every dissenting "well, it seems to me . . ."-style argument. So if someone wants to try to make a cogent argument that investing in stocks is really exactly the same thing as gambling after all, please link to a credible source where someone who is knowledgeable about economics and the law agrees with and supports that position.

As John Calvin would say, Good luck.

Incidentally, the argument (made by more than one person who e-mailed me) that there are always losers whose losses correspond to the gains of every winner in the stock market is essentially a jejune argument based on the long-discredited dogma of popular socialism. It simply is not true, and the economic growth in the United States since World War II seems rather convincing proof that the socialist argument holds no water whatsoever.

The comments in my in-box today make it clear that there are a lot of people who have never really thought through the issue of gambling but have strong feelings about "legalism" and whatnot. In many cases, it seems, they are prepared to offer a kneejerk denial to any suggestion that this or that questionable vice or popular "leisure" activity is inherently sinful. One of my more prolific critics basically admitted that he was making up arguments on the fly, but he wanted me to help him think out loud. Sorry. That's not what we are doing here.

My plea is simple: If you're just spoiling for a fight about some argument you think I am going to make—or if you have already made up your mind (no matter what) that gambling is OK and you are going to try to deconstruct any and every argument against it—please at least let me finish my whole argument first. I would also encourage you to read carefully and seriously think through what I'm saying before you react.

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.

I'm sorry there is no easy biblical proof-text about gambling. Often the question of whether something is sinful or not has to be thoroughly considered as a matter of biblical principle rather than instantly dismissed with a Scripture reference. In such cases, it is usually necessary to be even more careful in defining and thinking through the foundational questions step by step.

But I acknowledged all of that at the very outset, and I have already said where I am going in the discussion (i.e., "Each of the essential characteristics of gambling violates one or more biblical principles. In the next post in this series, we'll begin to see why"). So comments e-mailed to me from lurkers who say things like "You haven't really given us anything biblical yet"—frankly are not particularly helpful.

The definitions I have given are essential groundwork for showing why gambling violates certain biblical principles. I actually said so in the post itself.

After I'm done, you can scold me if you think my argument isn't biblical. But to throw out that objection when I've barely finished defining terms isn't really a helpful approach to an issue like this one.

While I'm at it, here's a special note for some particularly mischievous first-time commenters: Please try to be serious if you comment. I'm really not looking for off-the-cuff arguments from every penny-ante poker aficionado who might be lurking. These are meant to be serious posts about a serious problem with serious ramifications in our society, and the feedback I'm most interested in is from church leaders who are serious about considering a tough subject carefully.

Phil's signature

88 comments:

Richard said...

I almost wish you could disable the comments until its all done :)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I second Richard.

I'm okay with disabling comments until all four parts are posted too.

bugblaster said...

Nice 'stache.

CR said...

You know, Richard, I've been wanting to suggest the same thing. It might be better to disable the comments until the series is done and the full argument is made. I've seen it done it before.

DJP said...

It's interesting when we have commenters commenting that we should disable comments.

Frank Turk said...

I think it's interesting that none of the stock market villifiers have yet thought at all (at least in the comments) about Mat 25.

How does 10 talents become another 10 anyway? Even in an age where there is no stock market? And what meanest the hard ruler whence he saith, "Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury"?

{sigh}

DJP said...

Turk: "Thou oughtest"

Heh.

Somewhere, Brandenburg's verklempt.

CR said...

DJP: It's interesting when we have commenters commenting that we should disable comments.

touché

David Rudd said...

see, my problem was that i misunderstood what phil meant by no "stake" involved.

for the longest time i couldn't figure out why he was only against gambling in tents.

i get it now.

seriously, i am looking forward to phil's pulling these definitions into an argument.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "It's interesting when we have commenters commenting that we should disable comments."

It's only because Phil wrote the following:

"After I'm done, you can scold me if you think my argument isn't biblical. But to throw out that objection when I've barely finished defining terms isn't really a helpful approach to an issue like this one."

It's not that hard to figure out.

Sir Aaron said...

Frank,

Because people have been brainwashed into thinking profit, any profit is bad. Somehow if I make a great product, you buy that product from me, and I make money somehow that is evil. And God forbid that I then invest the money I got from you into some other business venture that also makes money. That's a stoning offense.

CAUGHTNOTTAUGHT said...

I agree that there is a legitimate distinction between what gets called gambling and investing in the stock market. Since we're on defining terms, I modestly propose that the term "gambling" might be used meaningfully to describe anyone hoping to gain directly or indirectly at someone else's expense and to their detriment.

And because scripture is the authority, how about the commandment not to covet? I'm sure there's one of those somewhere in the book. Not that you want to be proof texting at all...

Jason & Jodee said...

I'm often inclined to think that those who offer a "kneejerk" reaction and defense of actions or thoughts they feel are blanketed under liberty have forgotten that pleasing God should be our utmost pleasure. If gambling is really just "entertainment" we should be even more willing to change (rather than come to its hasty defense) when it becomes questionable. For what have we "lost" in seeking to please God?

Sir Aaron said...

Jason,

you could say that about a lot of things. Meat sacrificed to idols and holidays comes to mind.

stratagem said...

I'd like to make a few points about this question of the day-trading bi-vocational pastor, and other uninformed comparisons between gambling and investing:

There are two things that greatly affect the returns you get in the stock market, and your ultimate success or failure:

1) The number of separate companies you invest in. The more there are that you spread your money into, the more likely you will make a positive return.

2) The holding period. The longer you hold these companies, the more likely you are to make a positive return.

3) If you combine points 1 and 2, and (for example) invest in fifty different companies of decent quality and hold them for fifty years, you will make a positive return - probably more than you will make in just about anything else. So I think it's safe to conclude that anyone, pastor or not, is simply foolish to engage in day-trading, which makes it bad stewardship and perhaps a sin simply because it is bad stewardship.

4) In gambling, the longer you play, the more likely you are to walk away having lost everything. In investing, the longer you hold a diversified set of investments, the more likely you are to walk away with a great deal more than you started with.

My friends, if you can't see the difference between the two outcomes in point #4, then no one can help you and you are simply repeating something you've been told.

I might also add that you must invest your money in something. If you loan your money, there actually are Biblical admonitions against that in certain circumstances. In fact, it was the Church's prohibition against usury that (in the Middle Ages/Renaissance) led to the invention of double-entry accounting and the concept of equity (stock) investing in the first place.

Zaphon said...

I would think that this topic would be self-evident to most Christians, but I assume too much...

Jon said...

I haven't even read the articles yet, but I'm glad Corky has been immortalized in TeamPyro fashion!

Andrew said...

Sir Aaron,
Be careful my friend! In the "definitions and distinctions" meta I suggested that collectivist brainwashing had infected Christian thought about this subject (particularly when they assert that legitimate businesses exploit people just like a casino). I was scolded for being "proud" and unloving.

Whenever I hear that "exploiting the masses for profit" yada yada, I cannot help but imagine they watch MSNBC and believe the OP Ed section of the LA Times verbatim.

Maybe this is not *always* the case, but man, I am tired of hearing that same old country song.

buddyglass said...

This comment refers more to your definitions post, but since comments are blocked on that one...

You lay out four essential traits of gambling that make it not kosher:

1. Something of value put at risk,
2. Something belonging to someone else is put at stake as a prize,
3. Some element of chance is involved in determining the outcome,
4. No new wealth is created.

I'll suggest that there are some activities people engage in that most would consider gambling that nevertheless fail to meet these criteria, either wholly or by degree.

Let group the first two criteria together since they seem like to halves of the same thing, and say that it's possible to "gamble" without putting anything at stake that would be considered "valuable". For instance, consider a low-stakes poker game. Does $10 have value? Of course. But is it something I'd describe as "valuable"? Not really. If a ten dollar bill falls out of my wallet and is lost, I'm not going to be overly upset about it.

Now the element of chance. I'll again use poker as an example, but fantasy baseball would work as well (assuming a scenario where participants "buy in" and someone walks away with "the pot"). While there is an element of chance to each of these (poker and fantasy baseball) it's clear that in the long run some individuals are more skilled than others. So they are also games of skill, to some extent. Now, I play fantasy baseball, albeit not for money, and I find it fascinating, but only due to the skill aspect. If someone offered to bet with me on coin flips I would find that wholly uninteresting, because it is purely a matter of chance. Which brings me to a last point...

You state that one of the hallmarks of gambling is that it's a zero sum game. For someone to win someone else must lose. That is true if you limit yourself only to an analysis of wealth changing hands. What you fail to consider is the entertainment aspect. Amusement is a byproduct of this money changing hands. When I've gambled in the past, what I expect to "get in return" isn't material winnings, it's a payback in the form of entertainment.

In the case of a friendly game of low-stakes poker, I know that 1) I'm not going to risk something valuable enough that, if I lost it, it would upset me, and 2) whatever I lose is going to someone who, had they asked, I would have freely given the money to anyway, and 3) win or lose, at the end of our friendly game I'm going to have spent some enjoyable time with friends being entertained by our game.

I have a hard time seeing anything wrong with that.

MrMathMan said...

Your definitions are accurate enough, but your gambling equation is wrong. You are missing the essential component: the gambler gains entertainment. So gambler is guaranteed to gain something for the purchase price that cannot be taken from him.

You're right, it's not like the stock market. It's like the grocery store. I buy bread, the store gives it to me and keeps ALL my money. But a casino gives me a chance that I'll get a bunch of money back to go with my bread.

JD

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"For those who defend investing/playing the market as not being gambling, would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?"

Frank Turk: "Yes it would -- but "day-trading" is not investing."

Stratagem: "So I think it's safe to conclude that anyone, pastor or not, is simply foolish to engage in day-trading, which makes it bad stewardship and perhaps a sin simply because it is bad stewardship."

One Pyromaniac is okay with a day-trading bi-vocational pastor and a regular reader is not okay with it.

More input please (particularly Phil Johnson's).

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make his living?"

Chris: "Why not? I personally would not simply because I'm no good at it."

Sorry, forgot to include Chris. So that's two people who are okay with a day-trading bi-vocational pastor and one who's not.

Susan said...

1. That pic of Pecadillo ought to scare off any potential gamblers...but I digress.

2. Thank you, Phil, for this series. I've heard of the "entertainment" argument many times but never knew whether it was really legitimate. Entertaining or not, the ills of gambling far outweigh the entertainment value. I have a friend who suffered for years because her husband was a habitual gambler. She ended up shouldering the bulk of earning income for the family. (None of them were believers before they married, but now she is and he isn't.) From her sharing I can see how her husband's gambling habit had affected not just her but their children negatively, even though the children are now grown. Another friend of mine (an amateur poker player) once told me a story about how some of his father's friends got together for a game of poker, and this one guy kept losing. He finally put down his wife as ante--and lost. I remember the sheer horror of hearing the account and how it confirmed what my dad had told me from the very beginning: Don't gamble, and never marry a gambler. (This doesn't mean that I am totally unfamiliar with poker terms--some of my guy friends [including the friend who told me that horrible story] tried so hard to convince me to play whenever they had a game on, but I thank the Lord for protecting me from their influence.)

Michael said...

At the risk of muddying the waters. (Since the Stock Market argument is an attempt to justify gambling)

I think investing in the stock market can be done in a way that becomes gambling. When the person punts on the market rising, when they have no real intention of contributing and when greed is in their heart. Yes I'd call that gambling. But I probably would not call that investing That person has no intention of leaving their money with the company for its growth and expecting a reasonable return. They do in the short term expect to gain from another's loss. But not all investing is like that.

Farming can be done in a way that becomes gambling. A farmer who brings in a crop by the sweat of the brow has the right to hold onto it till prices rise (A perennial problem here in Australia as our small harvest comes in after the rest of the world's bumper) So, many farmers scratch their heads and try to work out the best time and way to sell. But when a farmer buys a load of hay because the market is low, holds it and sells it when the market is high. He's no longer farming is he, he's a speculator, and I would be prepared to say he now makes no contribution to the general welfare or economic growth.

Anyway.
This pastor has been challenged to desist his amateur share trading on the side (just for fun, with only a modest capital at stake, but with no real intention to contribute long term and a foolish prideful desire to beat those suckers in the market who panic and act like sheep.)

Yes it is so close to gambling that I wonder why I didn't see it before.

God Bless,
Michael Hutton
Ariah Park, NSW

Susan said...

I suppose I should get back on topic. Sorry if someone has already said this before, but I was just thinking why the "investing in the stock market is just like gambling" argument won't work. In stock market investing, whenever one purchases a share of stock, he owns a piece of that company. Nevermind that he owns so little that he won't ever be able to buy out the big guys, but he does own something, no matter how well or how poorly the company fares. In gambling, one owns nothing when he puts down his ante. (Some may use the "entertainment" argument here, but I speak of owning capital that can be liquidated.)

Stefan said...

"As John Calvin would say, Good luck."

That cheeky gem is the first thing I've read that's brought a smile to my face, since this whole debacle^H^H^H^H^H^H^H discussion began.

Praise God for Calvinistic humour.

Zaphon said...

Calvinistic humor...isn't that an oxymoron? :-)

butterfli75 said...

Judge gambling by its fruits. When someone is involved in a game of chance, there is anxiety, fear, worry and oftentimes wild feelings and manifestations of desperation, greed,and huge pride as well.

This fear, also present in other entertainment means, like a roller coaster ride, does not produce elation and a feeling of well being when the activity is over. Instead, a loser feels humiliated, victimized, alone. Worse, gamblers attribute their fortunes to outside forces. They feel abandoned by higher powers (God, Lady Luck, Chance, etc.), cheated by the winnning agents, etc.

Any activity resulting in an isolated desperation, a feeling of separation, looking to blame outside forces for one's plight, is countetr to the realities of Biblical truth, which teaches thaqt we look at and examine ourselves in the light of the mirror of God's Law.

buddyglass said...

Susan: Allow me to make a small edit to something you posted in order to make my point:

Edited:

I've heard of the "entertainment" argument many times but never knew whether it was really legitimate. Entertaining or not, the ills of alcohol far outweigh the entertainment value. I have a friend who suffered for years because her husband was a habitual drinker. She ended up shouldering the bulk of earning income for the family. From her sharing I can see how her husband's drinking habit had affected not just her but their children negatively...

Now, is that a good argument for the inherent sinfulness of alcohol?

olan strickland said...

In God's economy there are both legitimate and illegitimate means (this absolutely means that methods do matter!). This is easily enough deduced from even a casual reading of the Bible. Most temptations come in the form of shortcuts or illegitimate means of achieving what otherwise would have been an authorized end. God who ordains the end also ordains the means - so to attempt to arrive at a legitimate end with illegitimate means is to SIN.

And one more thing - there are both explicit and implicit principles in Scripture. Gambling isn't explicitly dealt with in Scripture but it is implicitly dealt with. Shortcuts are unauthorized and illegitimate - Selah!

Not of This World said...

to buddyglass:I have written something to explain things about investing vs speculation (a.k.a stocks gambling) in the previous post comments in more detail. Dunno whether it helps. Don't think i shld recomment here, because it is quite long.

with regards to gambling, the things that drives gambling as mentioned by Phil is not according to biblical principles. Greed, addiction, so on so forth. The things surrounding gambling tends to also be in direct clash with biblical principles. With so much temptations in and around gambling, it is suicidal to even try it.

The main driver of gambling= greed. However, the main driver of alcohol is not = drunkenness.... so there is a difference in the root driver.

Johnny Dialectic said...

The main driver of gambling= greed. However, the main driver of alcohol is not = drunkenness.... so there is a difference in the root driver.

That's just not accurate for the small type of entertainment style games I and some others have mentioned. There is absolutely NO greed involved when I play backgammon. Just fun. If that's the motive, then this activity is excepted from your definition.

Which I think will be the key to understanding and applying Phil's argument.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Butterfli75: Allow me to make a small edit to something you posted in order to make my point (hat tip to BuddyGlass)

Edited: Judge alcoholic consumption by its fruits.

Now, is that a good argument for the inherent sinfulness of alcohol?

Not of This World said...

I forgot to add another thing

Lets set the definition of good stewardship: using the money that God has given us wisely.

Being a good steward of the money that God has given us means that we have to choose the type of activity and things that we decide to put our money in.

Games that involve money tend to trivialize money. (the attitude of what I have read so far seems to be- its no biggie to lose that amount of money for entertainment). And trivializing money is definitely not wise stewardship.

Ok, I am treading a very fine line here, because I can see arguments about entertainment etc. start coming in (like spending money in ball games, cds,movie, clothes etc.) Is it possible to trivialize money from these activities. I would say that yes, it is possible. (e.g. watching plenty of trashy movies, watch every ball games so on and so forth), however, it does not trivialize money from the word "go".

Games that involves money, however, does just that. The money is put up front. And exchanges and so on and so forth. The very act of it is like throwing money around with no main purpose except for "entertainment". Granted, it does give a high or fun, but the act itself degrade the gift that the Lord gives us.

I remember that one person said that he is willing to give money used to play these games to people who ask and in need.(not sure who, sorry that I forgot.)My suggestion is to then really give these money to those in need, and serve them through community service. Believe me, it is worth it much more than using it to play such games.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Yes, I would say it's too fine a point, being stretched to reach a conclusion it can't support. It's really quite simple. If I spend $1.50 for a candy bar, I'm exchanging money for pleasure. If I did that all the time it would be unwise and maybe at some point sinful. But once in a while? If I can afford it?

Exchanging some small amount of money for the pleasure of a game is exactly the same thing. If I do it too much it's unwise, and at some point perhaps sinful. But once in awhile? If I can afford it?

In each case the money is paid "up front." And it's not trivializing money. In each case, I see the value of the exchange.

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny Dialectic: "Yes, I would say it's too fine a point, being stretched to reach a conclusion it can't support. It's really quite simple."

It only seems simple and thinly stretched because you're ignoring the real thrust of the argument.

When you gamble, you're not "spending" money for some innocent "pleasure" like a candy bar; you're putting up a stake that gives you a chance to win someone else's money. The "pleasure" is derived from taking that which belongs to someone else.

If the thrill of the contest alone were the only reason for your "pleasure," you could play for worthless chips. The fact that (by your own testimony) there's no "pleasure" in the game unless the money is real (irrespective of the amount) reflects a motive that, on the face of it, will not be easy to justify biblically.

If you want to even start making a case for your position, you need to explain why the contest loses its appeal for you without real money--and give sound reasons that don't involve any element of covetousness or any unwholesome love of money.

But your "argument" so far utterly fails. By comparing the "pleasure" of gambling to eating a candy bar, you are begging the question.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "The definitions I have given are essential groundwork for showing why gambling violates certain biblical principles."

It would be nice to say otherwise, but a desire for honest communication has to let you know that so far, your "essential groundwork" is not sufficient enough (yet) for you to build your building/argument/case on.

I mean, you can build it, but a few deft blows will crumble what you've built (provided that your last two posts don't shore up the foundation of what you've laid down so far).

I hope they do. It would be a great rhetorical device to dig a hole for yourself and then climb out of it. Ala Houdini.

We'll see.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I hope they do."

I hope your last two posts succeed in helping you make your case. So far, your first two haven't.

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD:

We'll see about the "deft blows." So far it's only been a barrage of Nerf bats. Have you got some "deft blows" up your sleeve, or are you planning to keep flailing away with a bogus argument that has already been answered repeatedly?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil Johnson,

Nothing up the sleeve. I'm still waiting (and waiting and waiting) for you to answer (unambiguously) these two questions:

(1) For those who defend investing/playing the market as not being gambling, would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?

(2) Does entry fee tournament play constitute sinful gambling under the definitions you provided? For example, entry fee tournament play such as tournament bowling, tournament golf, tournament poker, tournament backgammon, tournament bass fishing, tournament etc...."

Phil Johnson said...

Tell you what: I'll answer those questions if you'll interact meaningfully with the actual posts I have made.

You've repeatedly declared my definitions "insufficient," but you haven't actually critiqued the definitions or offered any of your own.

In other words, if you'll post something that is actually on-topic, I'll answer your off-topic questions. Deal?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Those are not off-topic questions at all. Those questions are actually very helpful to you because your answers will then highlight and delineate with helpful clarity as to the specific outworking of the case you're making, and the definitions that you're using to make your case.

They're on-topic. Answer the questions. Why evade? Evasion doesn't help you.

Johnny Dialectic said...

The "pleasure" is derived from taking that which belongs to someone else.

But it is not something that someone cannot depart with. It is not something so "valuable" that the person is at "risk." So this principle, which on a macro level can lead to bad consequences (paying what one cannot justly afford, for example) does not apply here. The stake is the voluntary price the other person pays to play, and if it is a pleasure for them as well, there is no immorality here. At least, you have yet to prove that.

The fact that (by your own testimony) there's no "pleasure" in the game unless the money is real (irrespective of the amount) reflects a motive that, on the face of it, will not be easy to justify biblically.

Hmm, is my motive to steal? No. Is it to enjoy a game with another person, one who likes to play and fellowship with me? Yes.

How hard was that?

You see, the burden of proof is still on you, Phil. You started this entire debate by admitting there is no scriptural admonition against gambling. You have not completed your argument, and you have not carried your burden.

I have nothing to prove. I am engaged in an activity that the Bible does not call sinful. I have not begged any question because you have not yet made your case. I'm not going to argue against air. If you can convince me that your central biblical principle applies to the activity I've described, I'm quite ready to reconsider it.

But so far all you've done is argue from a definition. You have not shown that this definition applies to my activity. The key is the term "valuable," I think, but I await further clarification.

Brad Williams said...

I confess, I am less concerned about Phil's argument as to the morality of gambling at this point as I am the nutty way in which investment is being talked of as gambling because it involves risk.

Here's an illustration:

If there is a world-wide apocalyptic corn-weevil, and we get down to only 1,000 corn seeds in the world before the pest is destroyed, then we have a serious problem. The problem is that everyone wants popcorn but we only have 1,000 kernels of corn left in the world.

One guy says, "Hey, let's divvy the seeds up amongst the best farmers in the country, in different locations. That way, some crops are sure to produce and we can have more popcorn!"

If another guy goes, "Forget that! Let's play cards for the seeds. Winner take all, and he gets to eat all the popcorn!"

If these scenarios are the same to you because they both involve risk...Jesus will never put you in charge of anything, probably (cf. Matt. 25:14-30).

And, I kid you not, my word verification is stingesi, which everyone knows is latin for stingy.

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD:

I'm not "evading"; you are. Deal with the definitions I gave. That's certainly not an unreasonable request.

Moreover, if you gave a little care to understanding what I have written, you'd discover that my answers to your questions are implied in the definitions I already gave.

Moreover, your argument works only if I have incorrectly defined what distinguishes gambling from investing. You haven't tried to establish that. Indeed, I don't believe you can. Instead, you have merely declared my definitions insufficient without bothering to say what you find insufficient in those definitions and without offering any definitions of your own.

So when you stop evading and deal with the topic on the table, I'm prepared to answer your questions, but not before.

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny Dialectic: Hmm, is my motive to steal? No. Is it to enjoy a game with another person, one who likes to play and fellowship with me? Yes.

How hard was that?


Apparently VERY hard, because you still sidestepped the heart of the question: If it's only the thrill of the game and the joy of fellowship you seek, why does betting real money enhance the pleasure for you?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Stalemate.

Let's agree to disagree then.

I say you're evading. You say I'm evading. I say my questions are on-topic. You say my questions are off-topic.

That's life. Your foundation, your "essential groundwork" can't even handle "nerf bats."

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny Dialectic: "You started this entire debate by admitting there is no scriptural admonition against gambling."

No, didn't. What I said is that Scripture doesn't address the issue explicitly, so if you're looking for a proof-text or a single neat commandment that deals with gambling by name, you won't find it. Same with arson.

I almost hesitate to spell that out because given the simplistic and irrational way some of our commenters are defending gambling, I half expect a group of churchgoers who burn down old buildings for sport to show up and use the "no scriptural admonition" argument to defend their chosen form of "entertainment."

Indeed, if the principle you have just cited is a valid one, how could you possibly refute them?

DJP said...

TUAD:

That's particularly rich.

A man who cowers behind a screen name, using it to start brawls wherever possible, accuses Phil Johnson (screen name for Phil Johnson)... of being evasive!

Ay yi yi.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "you'd discover that my answers to your questions are implied in the definitions I already gave."

To be frank, I honestly don't know what your "implied" answers are. Why don't you just explicitly answer the questions then? Your response just confirms the belief that you're being evasive.

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD:

Fine, if that's the way you want to leave it. But let it be noted that you refused to interact with the definitions I gave. I did say I was willing to answer your questions if you would first explain why you find my definitions "insufficient" or offer better definitions of your own. If you're not willing to defend a declaration like that (which you have made repeatedly), I don't see why anyone else would be obliged to take it seriously.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Phil, I'll try to answer. The "pleasure" comes from the enjoyment of trying to win using strategy. It's a thinking man's game. That strategic component is only pleasurable (to me, at least) when there is a tiny bit of money on the line (otherwise, the game is just luck). That's why, BTW, I never play for high stakes. That's NOT pleasurable and it's not good stewardship.

Yes, I am trying to win the other guy's nickel. He's trying to win mine. But in this context, where the "cost" is less than a candy bar, I still see no biblical injunction or immorality.

Now I'm patiently waiting for you to finish your biblical argument and show my why my activity is sinful. We're still not there. I'll hold off until your next big post, which I hope will be the one to make the attempt.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "But let it be noted that you refused to interact with the definitions I gave."

Bogus. Did you read what I wrote here:

"Those questions are actually very helpful to you because your answers will then highlight and delineate with helpful clarity as to the specific outworking of the case you're making, and the definitions that you're using to make your case."

I'm definitely interacting with your definitions by asking you how they apply in certain, specific situations.

Look again:

(1) For those who defend investing/playing the market as not being gambling, would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?

(2) Does entry fee tournament play constitute sinful gambling under the definitions you provided? For example, entry fee tournament play such as tournament bowling, tournament golf, tournament poker, tournament backgammon, tournament bass fishing, tournament etc...."

These questions help to better understand how your "biblical principles" and how your "definitions and distinctions" work. That is certainly interacting with your definitions.

Let that be noted.

Phil Johnson said...

buddyglass cites the four elements of my definition:

1. Something of value put at risk,
2. Something belonging to someone else is put at stake as a prize,
3. Some element of chance is involved in determining the outcome,
4. No new wealth is created

buddyglass: "Let group the first two criteria together since they seem like to halves of the same thing, and say that it's possible to "gamble" without putting anything at stake that would be considered "valuable"."

But you lose one of the main points by "group[ing] the first two criteria together" and then dealing with it as if the only important issue hinges on the word "value."

What makes gambling wrong is not only the issue of how much I risk. There's also the reality that if you win, you take what rightfully belongs to someone else.

I'm amazed that no one (yet) has even raised the issue of "mutual consent," which is the typical defense against the argument that gambling violates the eighth commandment. (I plan to deal with that argument, BTW).

But surely it's significant that all the commenters so far who are defending gambling have been almost wholly concerned with the issue of whether they themselves are injured if they lose--and they have seemed blissfully unconcerned about the effect of their gambling on those who lose when they win.

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny Dialectic: "That strategic component is only pleasurable (to me, at least) when there is a tiny bit of money on the line . . . Yes, I am trying to win the other guy's nickel. He's trying to win mine"

You don't see even the hint of a motive that might be indefensible there?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "I did say I was willing to answer your questions if you would first explain why you find my definitions "insufficient" or offer better definitions of your own."

Alright. I find your definitions (and distinctions) "insufficient" because I don't know (until you explicitly answer them) how they answer the two questions I posed previously:

(1) For those who defend investing/playing the market as not being gambling, would it be okay with you to have a bi-vocational pastor who day-trades to help make a living?

(2) Does entry fee tournament play constitute sinful gambling under the definitions you provided? For example, entry fee tournament play such as tournament bowling, tournament golf, tournament poker, tournament backgammon, tournament bass fishing, tournament etc...."

Explanation given.

Your turn. Answer the questions (unambiguously) please.

Word Verification (I kid you not): berapyro

Berate a pyro?

;-)

Phil Johnson said...

Let's recap:

Johnny Dialectic: "You started this entire debate by admitting there is no scriptural admonition against gambling."

Once more for the record, I said nothing of the kind. I carefully qualified what I DID say, and even stressed the key words with italics. Go back and reread it.

But let me be more specific here: I believe gambling violates both the eighth and the tenth commandments, and it seems to me that several of the arguments in favor of gambling have more or less conceded that point. Their argument is that if the AMOUNT stolen or coveted is trivial, then the covetous motive doesn't matter.

I think that's a bad way for Christians to think.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "Let's recap."

Let's do.

(1) You claim: "But let it be noted that you refused to interact with the definitions I gave."

Not true. The latest interaction was @ 12:08pm on this thread.

(2) You claim: "I did say I was willing to answer your questions if you would first explain why you find my definitions "insufficient" or offer better definitions of your own."

I gave an explanation @ 12:27pm on this thread.

Let the record show that. No stalemate. Waiting for Phil to answer the questions. He says he's not evading.

Jugulum said...

Phil,

I disown the "evasive" accusation, and I think the "few deft blows" comment was silly.

But I share one of TUaD's questions--"do you think fee-tournaments with prizes fit the definition of gambling?" And I can't meet your challenge to TUaD, because my question isn't based on finding your definition insufficient. You say the answer is in your definition; I want to know your answer, to help understand your definition.

It seems like fee tournaments do fit the definition--with a couple gray areas.

4.) No new wealth is created. (Gray area: Unless you count (1) the spectators' entertainment or (2) the participants' entertainment from playing or (3) the spectators' entertainment from playing for a prize. You've addressed (3). (2) is like playing poker just for chips. (1) is like NFL games, but I don't think you've commented on that.)
3.) An element of chance is involved. (Just as much as it is when people bet on sports.)
2.) Something's at stake as a prize, and it came from others' fees.
1.) Something valuable, the entryfee, is put at risk. (It's used both to fund the overhead for the tournament and for the prize. But... Gray area? Does it matter that part of the fee is used to pay for the tournament? But the same's true at casinos. Does it matter that everyone "paid the fee" already, so the money isn't theirs anymore? But you could see all gambling the same way.)


If it turns out that I'm just being dense in reading your definition or muddled in my analysis, I apologize.

Andrew said...

TUAD
Why don't you admit that you STILL do not intend to interact with the definitions and distinctions after Phil answers your 2 questions?

You will respond that his answers are insufficient (no reason given)unless he then clarifies by answering 2 MORE of your questions.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "I disown the "evasive" accusation, and I think the "few deft blows" comment was silly."

You can't disown what you've never owned in the first place. And fwiw, some of Phil's comments are "silly" too.

"You say the answer is in your definition; I want to know your answer, to help understand your definition."

And that is how I'm interacting with Phil's definitions and distinctions.

Andrew,

You sound very confident that Phil will unambiguously answer my questions. I hope he justifies your confidence.

Why not wait until he answers those questions to see what I will do or not do?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Phil, I do see the principle on a large scale, and have stated as much from the start. But I am not convinced my activity violates any commandment, nor any scriptural mandate. You have shoehorned "stealing" and "covetousness" into the argument via ipse dixit.

I'm sorry, then, I have to nix it.

If that's where we are, we will disagree. But I know there's more to come, and I'll read it with interest.

Jim Pemberton said...

I'll risk comparing this to meat offered to idols. That's not to justify gambling. I simply don't understand the entertainment value of playing games of chance, which is an illusory notion, using the resources that God has provided for my family. But inasmuch as God has provided all things, we must understand that whether something is right or wrong is not a legal matter as much as it is a matter of what you trust in your pursuits.

If I truly trust God, there is nothing alluring about gambling. John Piper had a recent sermon along these lines. What I ask proponents of gambling to ask themselves - and I ask no confirmation of this for my own ego, only ask yourself - do you defend gambling because you want gambling to be justified? If you argue that there is no biblical prohibition against gambling, then you must also recognize that there is no biblical permission either. If you therefore want to justify gambling because you like to gamble, then you must ask if your motives are just, for sin lies in the intent rather than the act.

My intent is to be a good steward of that which is entrusted to me. To be sure, I can't say I'm always a very good steward, but that is my intent - that is my desire.

What is your desire? For unless you are honest about this, then your arguments of justification are deceitful. A true apologetic would be, "I want to gamble and I want it to not be a sin to gamble. Therefore I chose to read biblical principles in such a way as to justify being able to gamble without sinning and will develop my arguments after my desire."

Andrew said...

Have any of the "small stakes" gambling defenders yet explained specifically why they must play with nickles vs. chips?

Why is playing for nickles entertaining, but not chips?

Someone said without playing for nickles, it's just "luck". Why? If you limit the number of chips at the beginning of the game, all "entertaining strategies" should be just as challenging and thrilling, right?

What am I missing?

Andrew said...

*ahem* not sure why i spelt "nickel" as "nickle" so many times.

man that is embarassing! I promise I spell better than that in real life. heh

Jugulum said...

Johnny,

Be a bit more temperate, please. Phil didn't shoehorn covetousness by ipse dixit; he argued it here. (And his major argument is coming, as everyone keeps noting.)

Even if you think the answer you eventually gave is adequate and Phil's response lacks insight, don't rewrite the history of the conversation.


But as to your answer... I don't understand what you mean by "it's just luck".

By the way, have you ever played spades? I haven't generally found that penny stakes are necessary to make people take the bidding seriously. Honestly, my family is too prone to be competitive even there!

Of course, I've played with a few people who were exceptions. They were casual; the points didn't mean anything to them; they weren't competitive. And that affected their playing style. I'd be more inclined to do penny stakes in that situation.

Phil thinks covetousness is at the root of what makes us start taking it seriously. What do you think? Is it more about defending your pennies than acquiring them? (That wouldn't be coveting, but it could still be greed/materialism.)

Johnny Dialectic said...

Hi Jug. I re-read Phil's comment, the one you linked to, and it's still Phil inserting "covetousness" into the activity (the shoehorn) and I still reject this assertion. The "taking of" a small amount from a voluntary participant is not covetousness.

And let's not devalue the word (covet) by applying it so blithely. That dishonors Scripture, too. The Bible uses this word as a serious sin. "To covet is to desire inordinately, to place the object of desire before love and devotion to God." (Tyndale Bible Dictionary).

That is so far from what is going on in the petty games discussed that it is true intellectual folly, if not downright debasement, to argue that way.

To accuse of sin where there is no sin is also a very serious matter. Tread lightly.

By "just luck" what I mean is that, in backgammon, there's always a chance the dice will get someone out of a losing position. The stakes are there to make the player "pay" for that. Otherwise, he can play to the end in the hopes he gets that miracle roll. The use of the doubling cube is there for this purpose.

You know what? It's just plain fun. And those who voluntarily play the game are having fun, too. I've yet to be convinced that this activity is inherently or indirectly sinful. And from the way the comments have been going today, I'd say the "odds" are against it happening.

Jugulum said...

So why isn't that an issue in a game like spades?

Are there any games that you ever play with friends where you don't play for small stakes? When are the stakes necessary to make people take it seriously, and what makes the difference?

I'm not sure what kind of game you're talking about. Keep rolling until you get a winning role? I guess that could apply to craps, or roulette. But how does it apply to games with competition?

Johnny Dialectic said...

You'll have to study, and perhaps learn backgammon to understand. Sorry I can't make it clear.

Jugulum said...

Ah, backgammon. No, I don't know the game. Aside from that:

"So why isn't that an issue in a game like spades?

Are there any games that you ever play with friends where you don't play for small stakes? When are the stakes necessary to make people take it seriously, and what makes the difference?"

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Johnny Dialectic: "To accuse of sin where there is no sin is also a very serious matter. Tread lightly."

I agree. Isn't that what the Pharisees did to Jesus? And didn't Jesus rebuke them harshly for it?

Phil Johnson,

Out of curiosity, are you consulting with your Pyromaniac co-bloggers to answer my questions or can you just answer my questions on your own without their input?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Jug, i don't play any other game for money, even pennies. I don't know of any other game analogous to backgammon.

Jugulum said...

Johnny,

I apologize, I just noticed that you did say "backgammon" when you were talking about rolling. I knew that you had been talking about backgammon earlier, but somehow I missed it in that post. *sigh*


It's scoring and competition that keeps things "real" in other games, right? But there's something about backgammon that makes the principle not apply?

Well... What if you played backgammon with chips, instead, using them to keep score? If "worthless" points are enough to keep the game "real" in other games, why wouldn't that principle apply here? That would be the incentive not to keep rolling till they get the miracle roll; they only have a limited number of points.

Johnny Dialectic said...

It's just not the same thing as in other games, Jug. I'll have to leave it at that, because we're artificially running this meta up to 100!

Jugulum said...

I tried approaching it from the perspective, "Do you agree that in other games, ____ is what makes people take it seriously?", and you don't want to engage even there--so I guess if you don't want to respond, there's nothing more to do.

buddyglass said...

Phil writes:

"But surely it's significant that all the commenters so far who are defending gambling have been almost wholly concerned with the issue of whether they themselves are injured if they lose--and they have seemed blissfully unconcerned about the effect of their gambling on those who lose when they win."

Actually I responded a while back to some posts by NOTW and apparently the blog software ate it (or you just haven't approved the post yet). In that response, I laid out what I view as some guidelines (perhaps not exhaustive) for situations where I agree that gambling would be sinful. One of those covered the situation where you enable someone (by consenting to gamble with him) to risk something he can't afford to lose.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Jug, dont use that ploy. I did try to respond several times. It wasn't a "don't want to respond." That demeans what I thought was a real exchange. Very sorry to see that.

You admit you don't know backgammon and I think that's the problem.

But it is also quite irrelevant to the main discussion: is this playing for pennies sinful per se? No.

Jugulum said...

Johnny, that wasn't a ploy. I was referring to what followed this one--where you decided that we reached an impasse because I don't know backgammon.

I tried probing & comparing, but you still think nothing more can be said in this area without understand the details of backgammon. That's what I meant.


You really think it's not relevant? The conversation got here because Phil's argument depends on the question, "What's going on in your heart & motivations such that the game needs money?" Precisely there is where he sees the violation of biblical principle. You're saying that in backgammon, money is the only thing that gives the right kind of motivation to prevent frivolous playing.

You don't see how this line of examination is relevant?

Tom Vasel said...

I don't gamble for money, but I am a pretty big board game player.

I am confused about one argument here. I see people asking why playing poker for money is more exciting than chips. And they ask that in a bit of an incredulous fashion.

But the simple truth is, that when the stakes are raised, games become more intense - which is more fun for most people.

That's why we keep score in a basketball game - shooting around is fun, but the competition is even greater. And when a trophy is on the line, then it's even more intense and fun for some people.

For me, the less the stakes are, the more fun I have. But I do recognize that a lot of people love it when games feel more tense.

Andrew D said...

Tom,
If you read the post "Definitions and Distinctions" you will find that you are using your own definition of "stake".

That is okay and I would guess that your thoughts are internally coherent, but you must adopt the definition put forth by Phil if you want to have meaningful interaction.

E.G. You cited keeping score in basketball as a "low stakes" game. There are no stakes in such a game.

If you actually meant to say, "Why should anyone be surprised that wagering money on a game generates excitement?"... well that is not surprising at all.

The pursuit of others' possessions has inspired many. Nothing new there.

Jugulum said...

Andrew,

So, you think the thrill is pursuit of others' possessions.

Meaning, you think the thrill wouldn't be there for Tom if he put up all the money for the stake himself?

Daryl said...

"To covet is to desire inordinately, to place the object of desire before love and devotion to God."

With all due respect to Tyndale Bible Dictionary, I'm pretty sure that the 10th commandment makes it clear that coveting is simply wishing and wanting something that does not belong to you.


I've never understood the money angle either.
My family is competitive to the point of not being able to play some games together. We've never played for money, never needed to.

"It's not the same without money" sounds like a red herring to me.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Jugulum: "The conversation got here because Phil's argument depends on the question, "What's going on in your heart & motivations such that the game needs money?" Precisely there is where he sees the violation of biblical principle."

With regards to that question, one can play the stock market for free (click here for an example). So what's going on in people's hearts and motivations such that they want to play the stock market with real money instead of for free?

Phil Johnson,

You say you're not evading. I'm still waiting.

You say your definitions and distinctions are fine as they are. Okay then, let's hear your answers.

Brad Williams said...

TUaD,

When I invest in the stock market, I'm hoping to make money. The beauty of the stock market is that I do not have to take someone else's money to make money. The other beauty is that it seems abundantly evident in he Bible that he trading of commodities is a legitimate way to earn a living.

Andrew D said...

Jug - Yep, that's the idea. Not an original idea with me. I took it straight out of the first post.

Not sure how what you described qualifies as a "stake".

Definition (from the 2nd post):
"A stake is a prize one person stands to gain through the loss of others."

Andrew D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew D said...

TUaD earlier today:
"...your "essential groundwork" is not sufficient enough (yet) for you to build your building/argument/case on."

TUaD now:
"You say your definitions and distinctions are fine as they are. Okay then..."

Are you conceding that you never really put forth anything to substantiate the earlier claim?

Jim Pemberton said...

It seems as though the nature of investment is lost on many.

Business 101:

The value of money is agreed upon based on the value of product. Nationally, this is called Gross National Product. For any particular business, the cost of a product is typically broken down into Material, Labor and Overhead (MLO). Labor is applied to Material through leadership and other support (Overhead) to create something is more valuable than the cost: price. The difference between cost and price is cal;led margin. But there's another cost that resides in company assets and fueled by interest that comes from margins. this cost is called capital. Capitol provides the foundational expenses that make the generation of wealth possible through LMO. Investment is the practice of providing capital. So without investment, there is no wealth created. the money made from this kind of investment is not at the expense of someone else. Instead, it fuels the creation of economic wealth by rewarding investors with some returns on their investment. This increases the value of the investment which is measured and disbursed to investors by means of stocks.

One day trades by quickly buying and selling stocks that change value rapidly. They change value rapidly because people are trading them as though they are betting. One can make more money off of them, but at higher risk - not based on the actual performance of any company, but because investors are falsely led to believe a value is there that is not. I'm not in favor of this. It skews the market and changes the value of the stocks falsely.

However, letting investment companies day trade as a part of any mix of 401K investments seems to not be unwise for returns. I don't know. I'm not convinced that they actually perform better over time, but investors seem more confident in other investments when they see a lot of day trading on any given day.

So, in general the stock market isn't gambling. Wise investment is necessary for any economy. Unfortunately, people who don't have the means to invest come to despise the ones who do because they don't understand that those who have the means to invest are the ones who make it possible for them to have a productive job.

And gambling? I have yet to see the appeal aside from competing for gain that comes from the monetary loss of others rather than contributing to their productive benefit.

So the two are a world different. I apologize if this rather belongs in the comments from the last article in this series where I thought this was clarified, but it seems to keep coming up and I don't see where some have "got it" yet.