Paul's blogprojects

Christianity for Bitcoiners

There's God and then there's...

This began as a subtweet of the Bitcoin Book Club discussion on "Maps of Meaning," if you're curious who are these generic Bitcoiners I'm arguing against in my head.

I've recently enjoyed the book Thank God for Bitcoin. It's a book that makes the moral case for Bitcoin and serves as an easy introduction for Christians of the importance of money and the qualities of Bitcoin.

But what should a Bitcoiner think about Christianity?

Many non-Christians in this circle have kind things to say about religion in general and Christianity in general, largely thanks to the work of Jordan Peterson and Nassim Taleb's "Lindy" concept. The way I frequently hear it told, Christianity is a powerful, world-shaping myth. The Abrahamic God is worshipped by a good percentage of the world, and the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths can be traced back thousands of years. There is likely much we can learn from these faiths about the structure of existence, and some morals we can cherry pick as appropriate, and perhaps even some religious observances we can pepper into our own life as a form of meditation.

In other words, we can be shitcoiners when it comes to religion.

"Bitcoin is great, it got everything started. It's digital gold. But I'm interested in blockchain technology and what else can be accomplished beyond money."

The shitcoiner believes he has discovered a fundamental truth in Bitcoin, but that Bitcoiners have been too narrow minded to take the idea to its full, Turing-complete conclusion. Bitcoiners are fundamentalists clinging to outdated notions like proof-of-work and radical decentralization. Bitcoiners faint like scandalized church ladies when you talk about pre-mines. Bitcoiners are superstitious rubes who can't appreciate technology.

But Bitcoiners know that Bitcoin is more than an interesting idea that kicked off an industry. It's a one and done. It's the single opportunity at digital scarcity that we know of, because everything after Bitcoin is money printing. Bitcoin isn't just a single software instantiation of an idea, it is the idea itself. 21 million, halvings, proof-of-work, and difficulty adjustments aren't just features of a single coin they’re the whole innovation. Everything else is just LARPing.

The Bible teaches quite clearly that there's only one God, and who in particular that God is, so why do we behave as if God is merely conceptual, or pretend as if any substitute could be sufficient?

Adam and Eve's original sin was not trusting God. They wanted more and they got it: the "knowledge of good and evil." The price was simply a cursed, painful, and mortal existence for themselves and their children.

The story of the people of Israel throughout the Old Testament is scenario after scenario where people who trust God are sustained, blessed, and delivered by God, while those who don't trust God soon suffer the consequences.

And this isn't always a "blind" faith like many Christians have operated from in modern times.

When God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, he did it with a large quantity of unsubtle miracles. Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and then a pillar of cloud to guide them during the day and a pillar of fire at night. God wasn't in any way a theoretical entity to them.

You might be skeptical any of those things ever happened. Perhaps this is just a fairy tale. But from the point of view of the characters in this story, all these things had just happened last week.

And what did they do the moment Moses took his eyes off them for five seconds to go up the mountain and receive the 10 commandments? They created an idol of a cow out of gold and started worshipping it. Instant shitcoiners.

The Israelites frequently expressed to Moses that they would prefer slavery in Egypt to this newfound liberty.

Sound like anyone you know?

The Christian recognizes that, by nature, we’re all like Israel. We’re all shitcoiners. Despite a knowledge of God, perhaps even practical miraculous experiences, or at the very least an understanding of the miracle of existence, we reject God for something vastly, comically worse than God.

We pick money. Or power. Or fame. Or family. Or a football team. And we bow down and worship it. And it constantly disappoints us. And yet we avoid worshipping the only thing in existence -- the God who created existence -- worth worshipping.

God, being God, is not surprised by our stupidity -- the Bible calls this "hardness of heart."

Here are the first two commandments that God was giving Moses while the people of Israel were debasing themselves in front of a gold cow:

  1. You must not have any other god but me.
  2. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind of an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.

Pretty explicit, yeah?

Here's how Paul (my namesake) explains it in the book of Romans:

But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Ultimately, our proclivity to shitcoin is so strong, we are completely hopeless. We can't help ourselves. We are born shitcoiners, tainted by Adam's original sin that has been passed on to us -- the knowledge of good and evil turned out to be hereditary.

This is why the "immaculate conception" is so important to Christians. Because Jesus didn't have an earthly father, he wasn't a born shitcoiner. He didn't have rebellion against God built into his soul. And so he was able to live a perfect life, and act as a perfect sacrificial substitution on our behalf, ultimately repairing the damage that Adam did in the first place.

This is the simple gospel ("good news") that a Christian believes: Jesus is the Son of God, lived a perfect life, died on our behalf so we could be reconciled to God, and rose again from the dead to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt he is who he said he is.

To view this as a mere archetype, as the best example of a hero's journey, as an impressive myth worth imitating, is to completely miss the point. To not take the gospel literally isn't some subtle, modern way of viewing the Christian message, it's the oldest human flaw in the book. There is only one literal actual God, and there is only one literal son of God, and only one literal way of salvation. Everything else is a lie with a very bad outcome.

Here's how Jesus himself explained it:

You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the may who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

Unless this sounds discouragingly difficult, here's another prayer of Jesus:

O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

And later in that same passage:

For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

In a sense it's ridiculously easy to be a follower of Christ. You simply trust him to save you and he does. You’re merely choosing to dedicate your worship and affection, that you were by nature going to dedicate to something, to specifically Jesus.

But in another sense, it's very hard to do this. It's a narrow way, and we are constantly tempted to worship something, sometimes it feels like anything else, not out of some self-interest, but out of some built-in hatred for God that we inherited from grandpa Adam.

Bitcoiners are familiar with this dichotomy.

It's ridiculously simple and easy to do Bitcoin: buy and hold. Trading is a distraction, shitcoins are worse, and fiat currency is the dumpster fire that inspired Satoshi and the cypherpunks in the first place -- a violence-based system where the elite profit and the rest of us suffer.

Stay humble and stack sats

But the way is narrow, and so many have fallen off the path. Greed, impatience, a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Bitcoin, and a fatal lack of humility have all turned honest Bitcoiners into shitcoiners over the years. Many of us started out as shitcoiners, fell into a few traps early on, and are grateful to be on the other side now. Poorer than if we'd never shitcoined at all, but perhaps wiser for the experience.

Christians have a phrase along those lines: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."