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The Christadelphian | January 2011

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial The Bible in translation
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “The early years of Jesus” | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Between the Testaments 1 – World events | Peter Caudery
  • Workers together 4 – Paul with Luke and Peter | John Boulton
  • Faithful King Jehoshaphat | Trevor A. Pritchard
  • Providence in the life of Jacob 1 – God fed him all his life long | Dudley Fifield
  • Ezekiel – prophet to the exiles 13 – I will sanctify my great name | Andrew E. Walker
  • The Messiah in Zechariah Part 2 | Stephen Whitehouse
  • “He committed himself …” | Steve Weston
  • Signs of the times The Eurozone under pressure | Andrew Bramhill
  • Israel and their land Cyber war
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Signs of the Times

The Eurozone under pressure

WHAT is to be made of the latest financial stresses being seen across Europe? Once again the media is awash with headlines concerning the financial crisis, but this time it is not in relation to banks or major financial corporations, but to governments themselves. Highly publicised rescue packages for Greece and most recently Ireland have drawn attention to these and more trouble is expected.

It is now over two years since the failure of a number of major banks and finance companies across the Western world. During that period, many household names required strong financial support from their governments as customers hurried to withdraw their deposits before the banks failed. To avert the crisis governments injected capital, issued blanket guarantees, instructed central banks to provide liquidity and in some cases even bought the banks, all in an effort to shore up confidence in a damaged system.

For a while it seemed the strategy was successful. Stability has been evident and a general, if uneasy, calm has returned to the financial markets. But this has disguised other problems which are now beginning to surface. It is clear that some of these governments who, out of necessity, had pledged such strong support to the financial system, simply could not afford to fulfil these promises. They were already rather indebted themselves, either because they were borrowing to stimulate flagging economies or because they were simply not disciplined in their financial controls.

Poor financial controls

The problems are most evident in the countries on the periphery of the Eurozone, the bloc of European countries which use the euro as their currency. Some of these have always been noted for poor financial controls (Greece, Portugal and Italy for example), and to guard against this the Germans amongst others were eager to ensure strict financial rules were to be observed when the euro was established. It is now clear that certain countries have failed to observe the rules. Earlier this year Greece came under particular scrutiny for poor financial control and in May became the first to receive a financial ‘bail out’ from other EU members and the IMF. Since then Ireland, a country with considerable banking and property problems, became the focus of attention and a second financial rescue was hurriedly arranged. More are expected – it is widely assumed that Portugal will take financial help early in the new year.

So far the impact is not too great, being restricted to these small countries. There is however growing nervousness that the problem is spreading. Spain, with its weak economy and greatly troubled property sector, is also having to shore up its banks and may need financial help. Policy makers are wondering how they could afford to rescue an economy which is twice the size of Ireland, Portugal and Greece combined. And if Spain needs help, will Italy, and Belgium and France?

The need to hold fast

We of course as Bible readers are privileged to view these things from God’s perspective, and some aspects of the current crisis are notable.

  1. As governments wrestle with budget constraints they are forced to make deep cuts in spending, including reducing jobs and services. This is now leading to public dissatisfaction and civil unrest, with general strikes and protests being widespread. Perhaps this is another piece of evidence of the “distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring” (Luke 21:25).
  2. The problem is too complex and difficult for man to resolve. Political statements intended to reassure often add to nervousness in financial markets. | The Financial Times (with its tongue only half in its cheek) recently called for the Nobel Prize to be awarded to any individual who comes up with a workable solution to the problem.
  3. Many now wonder what will happen next. Market commentators suggest the Eurozone will fragment with the peripheral countries having to leave, no longer being able to operate within the disciplines of the system. This could run against the general idea we have of a strong united Europe prevailing in the last days. A break up of the Eurozone however is far from certain. It is extremely difficult to see how countries forced out could operate – their reintroduced currencies (Irish punts, Greek drachmas etc.) would be unacceptable internationally; they would not be able to raise much needed funds in the financial markets and might be forced to default on their debt. Instead we could see Europe with more centralised fund-raising and fiscal controls, tying all the countries closer together.
  4. The strength of Germany is ever growing. The weakened euro has boosted this already strong manufacturing / exporting economy, to make it one of the fastest growing today. It also holds the purse strings of the EU and through the crisis has refused to provide easy relief to other countries except on Germany’s terms, and is imposing new rules and obligations. All of this (intentionally or unintentionally), strengthens Germany’s position at the heart of Europe.
  5. The folly of the developed world’s financial system is laid bare for all to see. Governments issuing ever more debt to make ends meet have allowed their central banks to ‘print’ money, all of which is used to buy government debt. This laughable circular arrangement means that (for example) the Bank of England holds twenty per cent of all the British government debt, with the result that the government pays twenty per cent of its interest to itself!

The crumbling financial system may bring uncertainty and fear to those who know nothing of God’s ways, but to the man of faith this is yet another sign that all things are leading to the day of His great intervention in the affairs of men. This presents us with an opportunity to let the reassurance of God’s message be known to others. Let us hold fast to the unseen but enduring things, “nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

andrew bramhill

 

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