Month: March, 2012

I Like My Government Lazy

I hear so often, mainly from the left, but not always, that they want the government, especially Congress and the President, to “do things.”  That they need to “work together” and “get things done.”  These people are seriously misguided.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to make some changes.  Eliminate campaign finance laws.  Repeal Obamacare, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Welfare. End the Fed, the EPA, and the Departments of Energy, Commerce, Education, HUD, Labor, Interior, HHS.  Gut the military-industrial complex.  Amend the Constitution to eliminate the post office and forbid the government from engaging in the money supply business.  Repeal anti-trust legislation.  Repeal the 16th Amendment.  I could go on; I won’t.

That isn’t so much the government “doing things” as undoing really dumb things it has done in the past. Dumb things.  Stump stupid.  Do you hear me?  If you like those things, I think you’re either a stupid person or morally reprehensible.  Fix yourself.

Here’s a short, non exhaustive, list of what happens when the government does things:

–The currency is inflated
–Wealth is taken and redistributed to special interests
–The returns on productivity are further diminished
–The ability of charities and other NPOs to operate is severely damaged
–Markets are distorted, creating uncertainty and instability, diminishing return on investment
–Rights are trampled
–Poverty, single parenting, abortion, bad business practices, sexual promiscuity and other unfortunate things / moral failings are subsidized, decreasing the opportunity cost for them, making them more widespread.

In short, civility is damaged, and the ability of a peaceful society to exist is threatened.  Not all of these happen with every executive order, new regulation, or piece of legislation, but some happen so close to all of the time that it may as well be.

I’ll take a lazy, do-nothing, gridlocked government over one that “works together to get things done” any day.  Unless “getting things done” means undoing past instances of “getting things done.”  It’s no small wonder that the most successful, effective pieces of legislation in the last 20 years are Welfare Reform and the Bush and Clinton capital gains tax cuts.

Stop telling the government to do things.  You just may get what you wish for.

The Excluded Middle: Why Either ObamaCare or Roe v. Wade Must Go

There is a rule in logic called the law of the excluded middle: in reality, something either is or is not.

The ruling on Roe v. Wade was a ruling of the 9th Amendment (at the District level, and a very poor one: the Supreme Court, although it upheld the ruling, discarded, mocked, and borderline shamed the District Court’s rationale) and 14th Amendment (at the Supreme Court level).

The relevant Constitutional text comes from Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:

nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

This merely extended the protection of life, liberty, and property citizens have under the 5th Amendment to state laws:

nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

The 5th Amendment was irrelevant to Roe v. Wade, because the law challenged was a state law, not a federal one, but it does demonstrate that because of the identical text, if the principle applies at the state level, it also applies at the federal level.  This is not a power granted to the federal government that is prohibited to the states.

The end result of Roe and subsequent decisions was that “privacy” was a liberty in a doctor-patient relationship, especially in matters related to procreation (largely due to Skinner v. Oklahoma, which prohibited states from forced sterilization of “habitual criminals”), if and only if those interests outweigh the interests of the States‘ interests: “safeguarding health, maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life.”  Regardless of the merits of such an argument, and even such pro-choice liberals as Alan Dershowitz and Cass Sunstein, as well as Blackmun’s own clerk, Edward Lazarus, admit it stinks on ice, that’s the result.

Which begs the question: if the federal government is not allowed to impose mandates on a doctor-patient relationship (and method of payment is an aspect of such a relationship), and states are only allowed to do so if they can demonstrate that they doing so in “safeguarding health, maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life” efforts, how is ObamaCare Constitutional when it does exactly that?

Either the text “liberty” in the 14th and 5th Amendments prohibits such interference or it doesn’t.  It’s the law of the excluded middle.

Why Christians are not Pelagians

There is a word that gets thrown around by Calvinists to describe Christians who do believe as they do: Pelagian.  They use it so loosely and to describe so many different things (Classical Arminianism, Neoarminianism, The Church of Christ / Christian Church, Pentecostals, many Baptists, and several others) that they clearly either have a few distinct (and inconsistent) definitions or believe this one: that the free will of human beings is sufficient to choose faith in Jesus Christ and be saved without external aid (or forcing) by God.  Put another way: that original sin, irrespective of its existence or mechanism, does not make a person so depraved as to be unable to choose saving faith.

Indeed, this is what Pelagius taught and seemingly believed, and he even went further: to believe passages like Ezekiel 18 and deny original sin altogether.  This is also what Clement of Alexandria, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Origen, Irenaeus, and the other pre-Augustine Church leaders believed and taught as well.  Yet Christians aren’t described by any of these names, just the name of Pelagius, who came after all of these people.

And indeed, this is the belief of the Church of Christ / Christian Church and some of the others mentioned above.

The irony is that the truth of what Pelagius taught and believed, while admittedly being quite distant from either, has more in common with Calvinism than Christianity.  Pelagius believed that a person’s free will was sufficient, even though it would never happen, to live a life free of sin and therefore deserve to go to Heaven.  Calvinists believe that if your sins have been atoned for, God is unjust to keep you out of Heaven, and therefore you will go to Heaven.

In this way, both adhere to what I call “clean slate” soteriology: that God is some sort of cosmic accountant who, so long as you have a balance sheet that isn’t in the red, will let you in to Heaven.  You won’t find that notion anywhere in the Bible, and I would argue that 1 Timothy 3:16 proves that notion untrue.  However, it was the belief of Pelagius and is the belief of Calvinists.  In spite of their adherence to clean slate soteriology, we don’t call Calvinists “Pelagians.”

Pelagius also believed that Jesus was an anti-type of Adam.  Indeed, Romans chapter 5 makes this abundantly clear.  The problem is that both Pelagianism and Calvinism don’t seem to understand the type: the contrast between the person by whom sin and the person by whom salvation entered the world.  Calvinism makes the type independent of choices: Adam’s sin actually made you a sinner independent of your choices (always); Jesus’ salvation actually makes you saved independent of your choices (maybe).  Pelagianism makes the type completely dependent upon your choices through “moral example:” choose the way of Adam and get death, choose to be sinless and get eternal life.

Neither is totally right or wrong.  The message of Romans chapter 5 is that through Adam, sin entered the world, and death through sin, because sin became available for all and all sinned by choice.  Through Jesus, salvation entered the world, and eternal life through salvation, because eternal life became available for all, and many chose union with Christ.  Again, even though they take an extreme-yet-anti-Biblical view of Romans 5, we don’t call Calvinists “Pelagians.”

Maybe we should.  Well not really, but it would be more accurate for a Christian to call a Calvinist a Pelagian than vice versa.  Sorta like a libertarian calling a Communist a Nazi; it’s not true, but has far more in common with the truth than the more common opposite.

So why are Christians called this name by Calvinists? Because Pelagius was marginalized as a heretic (correctly, for the reasons noted above and others), and his teachings run contrary to Augustinianism, which, although clearly contrary to Ezekiel 18, became Catholic dogma.  It was a holdover by Martin Luther (who was an Augustinian monk) at the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, and has been clung to as ‘orthodoxy’ ever since.

When they say this, they are calling you a heretic.  Don’t stand for it.  Correct their error in truth and love, and if they don’t accept it, well, just remember that they believe God needs people to go to hell to manifest His glory.  We’re not dealing with the best or brightest.

Why I’m Such a Big Fan of the Constitution

I’m a libertarian.  Very much so.  I border on minarchist.  Yet I’m a very big fan of the U.S. Constitution, which isn’t all that libertarian.  So what gives?

Sure there are some very libertarian elements to the Constitution.  The Bill of Rights, for example.  But there are some parts of it that aren’t so libertarian: the power of Congress to socialize the currency,  the power given to the government to establish Post Offices and postal roads, etc.  These things are not libertarian.  Libertarians prefer free market money, roads, and shipping, and know that any effort of the government to engage in such things almost certainly distorts the market and makes people less free and prosperous.  I would be the first to support amendments to such things.

Yet I’m still overall a big fan.  Why? Because it protects my tastes from yours and vice versa.  I’ll explain with an anecdote.

So I’m taking a bath last evening after hitting the gym.  I put on some Chopin on the iPad to play while I soaked, a change from my favorite, Beethoven. I thought to myself, “Some people couldn’t tell the difference between the two.  Many of those people could tell the difference between Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.  Those people are what’s wrong with music.”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that just isn’t true.  The existence of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga don’t alter my enjoyment of Chopin or Beethoven one bit.  They don’t limit the availability of Chopin.  I can think such people’s knowledge of music and beauty is shallow and/or limited, and I do, but those people aren’t what’s wrong with music, and neither is the fact that their tastes create a market for such music.  There’s not much wrong with music at all.

Where that notion could come into play, however, is at the ballot box.  People who couldn’t tell the difference between Hobbes and Locke, Marx and Von Mises, or Keynes and Hayek vote.  I would wager such people are the vast majority of voters.  Among those who actually can tell the difference, I get no assurance that they agree with my views on them or their ideas.

What’s more, even if I can convince those in my locale to adopt my thoughts on those thinkers, that doesn’t mean that voters hundreds of miles away won’t have a different opinion and try to force it on me.  California could try to govern Ohio; Mississippi could try to govern Massachusetts.

And even if I could convince every single person of the intellectual and moral superiority of my thoughts on the ideas of those people, that still doesn’t mean they’d vote the same way, and even if they did, that those elected wouldn’t change their minds.  People aren’t perfect; people have different tastes and interests.

So why am I such a big fan of the Constitution? Because it protects that very thing from mattering too much.  If California or Vermont wants socialized medicine, fine.  If Maryland or Illinois wants take money from its people and use it to subsidize abortions, fine.  If Indiana or Kansas wants to take money from its people to pay farmers to do nothing, fine.  If Michigan or New York wants to take money from its people to save rich, irresponsible automakers or bankers from their bad decisions, fine.

Of course it’s not really fine. All of those are very stupid things to do and will, in the long run, make them poorer.  As an Ohioan, they are all trading partners, and their being less wealthy decreases my opportunities to engage in mutually beneficial exchanges with them, potentially making me poorer.  It is fine by the U.S. Constitution, however.

The U.S. Constitution does prevent those things, short of an amendment, from happening on a national level.  None of those things are expressly granted powers of the federal government, and the 9th and 10th amendments make it clear that unless something is an expressly granted power of the federal government, or both necessary and proper for the maintenance of the Constitution, the federal government does not have those powers.  Alabama would be poorer due to a poorer New Hampshire, but Alabama isn’t forced to adopt a bad policy just because New Hampshire does.

Even better than that, it’s easy to see how the prevention of those things on a national level aids in the prevention of them on a state level.  It certainly, at a minimum, hinders them.  Maine may want each of its lobster exports to be subsidized by $2, but Mainers would be far less friendly to the subsidy if it cost every Mainer $1000 per year than if it cost every Mainer, Ohioan, Minnesotan, and Californian $1 per year.  It is in this indirect fashion that the Constitution, while in no way prohibiting Maine from enacting such a policy on its own, discourages such fiscal and property rights imprudence from happening on a state level as well.

Is it any wonder that in spite of the fact the states are completely free to institute completely socialized medicine, and some are in favor of it, that very few have socialized medicine at all, and those that have done so have only done so in a very limited capacity?  It shouldn’t be.

Also, the Constitution is clear, written, available, and able to be changed.  We can plainly see what it says and what it does not say.  Don’t like something?  There’s a few processes for that.  This keeps the law clear, making it easy for markets to adjust to even those provisions that aren’t purely libertarian.

The Constitution protects my tastes from yours; Oregon’s from West Virginia’s, and vice versa.  Or at least it would if we obeyed it.  That’s why I’m such a big fan.

Ephesians 2 Teaches Class Election and Synergism

There is perhaps no passage more quoted by Calvinists and other monergists in order to persuade Bible believing people to their worldview than Ephesians chapter 2.  The first few times different people tried to do this to me, I was insulted.  “They can’t possibly think I’m stupid enough to believe something so contrary to the text, let alone the context, of the passage, can they?”  After a while, I started to suspect they actually believed it themselves.

I’m not interested in reading other people’s minds and projecting my interpretation of their intentions onto them.  Maybe I’d be right; maybe I’d be wrong, but I don’t see how anything of meaning is accomplished.  So for the sake of argument, I’ll take them at their word and at the word of their various catechisms and confessions of faith, several of which cite Ephesians 2 as “proof” texts of these teachings.

Such people are clearly wrong, and Ephesians 2 in and of itself is sufficient proof.

Why Class Election (a.k.a. Corporate Election) is the only possible interpretation of Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:5-7

5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Christians are raised up together (in the past) with Christ and made to sit together in Christ Jesus (in the past) so that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace (in the future).

This is completely inconsistent with the notion of individual predestination, especially since the resurrection and ascension of Christ was 2000 years ago.  No individual can be on earth today if he was, in the past, made to sit together in Heaven (again, in the past).  Heaven and earth are two different places.  If you, as an individual, have already been raised up and made to sit in Heaven in the past, you are not on earth.

The passage only makes sense if the “us” Paul refers to is a classification of people (the classification of people “in Christ”) and individuals are not predestined to that class.  It is in that way and only in that way that Christians are raised up together (as should be obvious, the deaths of Christians have been quite staggered over the last couple millennia) with Christ in order to show them the riches of His grace in the future.

Some monergists will respond, “Sure, class predestination, fine, but individuals can still be predestined to that class!  You haven’t proven that isn’t true!”  Not if you read verse 7.  If individuals were predestined to that class, the riches of His grace would have already been shown.  Since the liberality and abundance of His grace (“riches” is a fine English word to use there, but “liberality and abundance” is a more accurate description of the transliterated Greek “ploutos”) is to be shown in the future to the individuals of the classification, in spite of the fact that Christians are raised up together in the past, individual predestination to salvation is logically impossible in light of this passage.

Why synergism is the only possible interpretation of Ephesians 2

Some monergists will point to verses 8 and 9 and say they teach monergistic faith:

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Such people simply do not look at the text.  “That” is not of yourselves.  Interesting thing about the word “that:” it is a singular pronoun.  “That” must either be referring to grace OR faith, but not both. Yet I’ll admit, those verses in and of themselves do not prove that faith isn’t “not of yourself.”

Clearly at least one of either grace or faith must be “not of yourself.”  The monergist and the Bible are in agreement there.  We’re left with three logical possibilities:

(1) Grace AND faith are not of yourself.
(2) Grace is not of yourself, but faith is.
(3) Faith is not of yourself, but grace is.

(3) is so ridiculous as to hardly warrant discussion, but for the sake of academic thoroughness I’ll give it its due.  You are saved by grace (v5) because you are raised with Christ (v6).  You did not resurrect Christ.  Therefore, (3) is wrong.

(1) is the belief of the monergist, and it is logically irreconcilable with Ephesians 2.  There is a sequence to grace and faith, either: (A) faith must come before grace, (B) grace must come before faith, or (C) they must come at the exact same time.

As was demonstrated above, the class of those in Christ was raised with Him (in the past) so that the riches of His grace would come (in the future).  This makes both (A) and (C) irreconcilable with (1).  If neither faith or grace is of yourself, but you, as an individual, are raised with Christ in the past, before you or your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents were even born, then you have received grace before you had faith.  To say otherwise is to say that you deserved to be raised with Christ at that time, which again, was in the past. If you deserved it, then it would be of yourself.

(B) is impossible in light of verse 8.  By grace you are saved through faith.  Faith is the channel by which grace is received.  Without faith, there is no grace.

Being exhausted of possibilities, (1) is logically irreconcilable.

Therefore, the only logical possibility is that grace is not of yourself, but faith is.  Monergistic faith, a.k.a. irresistible grace, stands in complete opposition to Ephesians 2.  It stands in complete opposition to many other passages in the New Testament, as well as several of the Messianic prophecies.

Christians need not shy away from discussions with Calvinists about Ephesians chapter 2.  It is true, and the truth is on the side of Christ.  It’s also only logically on the side of class election and synergism, even in and of itself.

Mitt Romney is a Fraud

In a speech in Chicago, Mitt Romney said the following:

For three years, President Obama has expanded government instead of empowering the American people.  He’s put us deeper in debt. He’s slowed the recovery and harmed our economy. And he has attacked the cornerstone of American prosperity, our economic freedom.

Mr. Romney is absolutely right on all fronts.  Barack Obama is guilty of all of the above.

What I fail to understand, Mr. Romney, is how the man who (1) signed RomneyCare, (2) forced Massachusetts citizens to pay for other people’s abortions and contraception, (3) endorsed an absurd, arbitrary energy tax to curb a fake problem, and (4) tried to raise Massachusetts’ corporate taxes by so much that the heavily Democratic legislature cut the tax cut in half can be expected to be an alternative to that.  You drove Massachusetts into debt, slowed its recovery, and harmed its economy.  You crushed economic freedom.

You’re a fraud, Mitt Romney.  If you truly believed economic freedom was the cornerstone of American prosperity, you would advocate ending the Federal Reserve, ceasing unconstitutional overseas spending, and ending the income and corporate taxes.  In other words, you would drop out and endorse Ron Paul.

It Takes More Than a Clean Slate: 1 Timothy 3:16

One of the very common arguments for ‘original sin’ is that without it, it would be possible for men to be blameless in God’s sight without a need to repent or be baptized, and if you’re blameless to God, you’ll go to Heaven. Since the Bible says that those things are necessary, all mankind must somehow be inherently sinful from their creation.

Another silly argument (of which most Calvinist clergy know the problems, but they see no problem trying to trick less knowledgeable people with. Some people would call that ‘lying,’ but I digress) is that if Jesus died for everybody, then everybody must be going to Heaven, otherwise God is unjust: He’d be punishing the same sin twice.

Regardless of whatever other problems (and there are many) exist with such a worldview, a huge one is this: the Bible makes one thing clear in 1 Timothy 3:16 in conjunction with a sinless Christ: it takes more than a clean slate.

16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Christ in the flesh was justified by the Holy Spirit. Christ committed no sin in spite of the fact that he was tempted in every way we are (Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22). He was blameless by the law. Yet He was justified by the Spirit, not by His lack of sin.

This is of very serious importance. Christ’s lack of sin was His own doing (Hebrews 4:15), yet He was justified by the Holy Spirit. To say that Christ was justified by His lack of sin is to equate Christ’s actions with the Holy Spirit’s, and therefore to tread in Modalist territory.

It takes more than a clean slate to go to Heaven. Thankfully, that’s what being united with Christ, who was justified by the Holy Spirit, provides: a clean slate and more. He’s able to sanctify you wholly and present you to the Father with great joy. The Bible makes clear that’s in addition to being presented blameless in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and Jude 24:

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
—–
24Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Original sin is not a logical necessity for all mankind to need Christ, and a clean slate is not enough. You need Christ because blameless, even though you won’t reach it anyway, isn’t enough.

Obvious Lessons From the Current State of the California Pot Market

Cord Jefferson in the Spring 2012 Issue of Good Magazine, published an article entitled, “After the Gold Rush,” decrying the decline and uncertain future of the marijuana industry in California.  Regardless of how you feel about marijuana or marijuana legalization, it’s a good read.  A particularly interesting bit is the following:

     No jobs, lax laws, lower stigma.  To thousands of people like Maldof [the subject of the piece], it was the perfect opportunity to cut their losses in the regular economy.  At the forefront of legalized pot, sunny California seemed like a place where any man with a will to succeed and a few weed plants could find a fortune, or at least a living.  The green-gold rush was on.

But three years later, California narcotics officers began noticing a change in the pot operations they were busting.  Growing marijuana is technically only legal for individuals, who are allowed to possess up to six mature and 12 immature plants.

Thing 1: Freedom makes jobs.  Obviously.  Industrious people satisfying their natural perceived best interest will try to do so, and they will engage in peaceful, mutually beneficial market exchanges.  The government doesn’t need to “do things” or “create jobs.”  Government needs to get out of the way.

Thing 2: Anti-free market regulation kills jobs.  Arbitrary, artificial capital requirements placed on the producers of marijuana hurt consumers by raising prices and making the job market more uncertain.

Thing 3: Imagining that people somehow forfeit their rights by coming together in groups, be they ‘unions,’ ‘NPOs,’ ‘charities,’ ‘farms,’ or, yes, even ‘corporations,’ is silly and damaging.

And since these lessons are so obvious from one of your very own pieces, Good Magazine, I suspect you’ll stop your silly practice of encouraging higher taxes, more regulation, and parroting the latest silly left-wing bumper sticker, “Corporations aren’t people.”

The Time Independence of God

I’m planning a series of posts in which I lay out Christian responses (though I won’t go as far as to say all-sufficient ‘answers,’ for those who reject the Bible, just Biblical ones) to Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy.  In rereading Russell’s classic yesterday, I was reminded of one attribute of God: His time independence.

Anyone remotely familiar with Christianity (or Judaism, Islam, and most of the other religions) knows that it is not beyond the God (or god) of those faiths to intervene or dwell in whatever universe in which we dwell.   The universe in which we dwell is one of space-time; a 3-dimensional space that combines with time to make a singular mathematical manifold.  What I want to make clear is that the God of Christianity doesn’t have to: His existence is not dependent upon the existence of time.

Some logic:

1. Time (which, for the sake of this will be the dimension of time in which we exist) exists. (axiomatic)
2. Time is either eternal  or time has origin.
3. God exists. (axiomatic)
4. God is either eternal  or God has origin.
5. If a set of events has a property of time ordered sequence, they must exist within time. (axiomatic)
6. If something exists and has origin, there exists a time-ordered sequence of events, at a minimum: the origin event, the event of its present existence.
7. God either must completely exist within time all the time or not, which is to say that either time’s existence is a necessary precondition for God’s existence or it’s not.
8.  If time’s existence is a necessary precondition for God’s existence, then either time is eternal or God has origin.
9.  If God is eternal, either time is eternal or time need not be a precondition for God’s existence.

Logically, we’re left with very few possibilities.  If God exists, we either have to believe in a created God (by which I mean a God with origin, be it some cosmic incident or actually created by some other ultra-mega god), in eternal time, or in the time independence of God: a God who, while by no means incapable of existing within time, need not necessarily.

Genesis 1:3-5:

 3And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.  5And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

By that passage, there is no room to believe that time, again, by which I mean the dimension of time which in tandem with space, forms the space-time in which we exist, is eternal.  There was a first unit of time, meaning time has origin, meaning it is not eternal.

1 Timothy 1:17:

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

By that passage (and many others), there is no room to believe that God has origin.  God is eternal.

Therefore the Christian is left with two necessary logical truths: God is time independent and there is existence outside of our space-time manifold.   Indeed, it is in these things that the Christian hopes: that by grace through faith one has union with God, and in that union one has access to eternal life.

Paving the Way: John the Baptist

A very solid Christian blog I follow, CloudIn, made a post on John the Baptist as Elijah.  I heartily recommend reading it.

I don’t wish to detract from their work, but expand upon one of the prophecies of John the Baptist’s coming (that comes from 2 different places): that John would prepare the way for the Christ.  Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1

 3The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

1Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

Other prophecies refer to the fact that the messenger would be Elijah, and Jesus himself confirmed that John the Baptist was Elijah in Matthew ch 11:

 10For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

11Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

But how did John prepare the way for Jesus?  John was Jesus’ seemingly crazy cousin.  A guy who wore camel skins, ate locusts and honey, didn’t drink alcohol, and cried out for the people to repent.  So how did this prepare the way for Jesus?

John did have an effective ministry.  John did make it clear by his mannerisms that he was very similar to Elijah, which would make people on the lookout for the coming Christ.  Both are part of the way John paved the way for Jesus, but I don’t think they are the only way.

John the Baptist personally denied being Elijah (John 1:21).  Which was true in a sense.  He wasn’t literally Elijah.  He had earthly parents, and he was conceived by Elizabeth after John’s father Zacharias returned from his duties as the temple priest.  Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind centuries ago.  But he was a type of Elijah.  He came in the spirit and power of Elijah.  This is very important.

Jesus came and established a new covenant by fulfilling the old one.  Many of the Old Testament commandments under the old covenant were to the Israelites and anyone else with them forever.  Forever means forever.  The grain offerings, the wave offerings, the Passover, the atonement sacrifices: they were a commandment forever.  Jesus is all of those things, but he’s not literally wine, water, grain, bulls, goats, or lambs.  He was fully man and fully God, and is fully God.

The fact that John both was and wasn’t Elijah paved the way for Jesus.  He made it clear that although not literally Elijah, he was Elijah in a sense. Just as Jesus is not literally any of those things, He is in a sense.  He is our eternal Passover Lamb, atonement sacrifice, etc.

The things of the old covenant were shadows of the new.  They were types.  God made it clear with John both being in the spirit and power of Elijah and not Elijah in the flesh that he was fulfilling the old covenant just as He had promised, with something new and eternal.  The things of the old covenant were not the physical manifestation of the things of the new.

The manifestation would change.  The spirit and power would not, as even the faithful of the Old Testament are saved by Jesus’ power through their faith.  God made that clear with John, and that paved the way for Jesus.