‘Crisis of Responsibility’ by David L. Bahnsen: A Review

The main culprit in the decline of modern American as a lack of responsibility on a personal level.

If we do not go beyond the specificity of Reformed doctrine and develop the ability to apply it to our work, then we end up in a closed theological academy without any application to the world in which we live and work.  In our desire to be pure in doctrine, we may become irrelevant.  David has taken his biblical principles along with his success in the business world, and combined them into a very beneficial and enlightening book.  I only wish that others could and would do the same.

 

David L. Bahnsen is the son of the late reformed theologian Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen.  David was twenty-one years old when his father died.  After the death of his father, David became a broker on Wall Street and is now the Managing Partner of The Bahnsen Group of HighTower Advisors, managing over $1 billion of capital.  He is a frequent guest on Fox Business News and CNBC, and is annually recognized as one of the top advisors in the country by Barron’s, Financial Times, and Forbes.

David has shared with us his views on major economic (and cultural) issues in his new book.  David writes as one who has seen Wall Street from the inside. It is a short book with brief chapters, easily readable.  As the title suggests, he sees the main culprit in the decline of modern American as a lack of responsibility on a personal level.

What impressed me most about the book is that David is very balanced.  He exposes numerous “bogeymen” as seen from both the political right and the political left.  These include Wall Street, K-Street, Main Street, Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Global Trade, the Collegiate Educational Business Model, and many others including Immigration. Without a total indictment of any of these, he points out their problems.  Nobody gets a free pass.  However, after pointing out the good and bad in each arena of activity, in every case, he returns to a crisis in personal responsibility as the primary malefactor in the decline of America.

In his survey of the 2008 Recession he highlights the mortgage industry, and divides the mortgage-holders into four categories: the Swindled, the Reckless, the Gamblers, and the Diligent.  This discussion makes the book worth its price.

As I was reading the book several things came to my mind.  Initially, it seemed to be just another book by a conservative economist writing to other conservative economists.  Although biblical principles were quite evident to me in David’s arguments, there was no particular reference to the Bible or to Christianity, not that this is always necessary in all books by Christians.  I had to consider who his audience was.  However, soon my disappointment was eased when he focused on the example of the people of Israel demanding a King in 1 Samuel 8, showing its relevance to modern America.

Maybe the most important thing that I carried away from this book was not the biblical principles relating to economics and financial investment, but rather the idea that a non-clergyman would take up the challenge to write about current issues from a Christian perspective.  David writes as a Christian, but he is not offensively dogmatic.  This is the type of book that could be very useful in a Men’s Bible Study Group on current events.

The church needs more men like David writing such books from a Christian perspective on their areas of expertise.  Sometimes, I think we have enough books on theology, and we need more non-professional theologians (well trained in theology) writing on their various disciplines.

Two things are needed for successful endeavors in publishing books on cultural issues from a Christian perspective.  First, the writer must be grounded in solid biblical doctrine.  David, I would gather, gained much from his father.

Secondly, any writer needs to be accomplished in the area of his calling.  He needs to have demonstrated himself as a master (conqueror) in his career. Like David, we need men who are recognized by the world as successful in their trades. Proverbs 22:29 tells us, “Do you see a man skilled in their work?  They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.”  These are the men who need to write the books for the next generation.

Lastly, I am thankful for the revival of Reformed doctrine in my generation.  Reformed doctrine is simply biblical doctrine to me.  However, if we do not go beyond the specificity of Reformed doctrine and develop the ability to apply it to our work, then we end up in a closed theological academy without any application to the world in which we live and work.  In our desire to be pure in doctrine, we may become irrelevant.  David has taken his biblical principles along with his success in the business world, and combined them into a very beneficial and enlightening book.  I only wish that others could and would do the same.

Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.