Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Demoralised Culture

I recently read an article by John F Schumaker, who is a retired psychology academic living in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. The article called The Demoralized Mind has a message that our modern world needs to hear. He explains that western culture has becomes demoralised in a way that is impossible to avoid in a modern consumer culture.

Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment. The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.

As it is absorbed, consumer culture imposes numerous influences that weaken personality structures, undermine coping and lay the groundwork for eventual demoralization. Its driving features – individualism, materialism, hyper-competition, greed, over-complication, overwork, hurriedness and debt – all correlate negatively with psychological health and/or social wellbeing. The level of intimacy, trust and true friendship in people’s lives has plummeted. Sources of wisdom, social and community support, spiritual comfort, intellectual growth and life education have dried up. Passivity and choice have displaced creativity and mastery. Resilience traits such as patience, restraint and fortitude have given way to short attention spans, over-indulgence and a masturbatory approach to life.

Most people do not have a philosophy of life or set of guiding principles that give life meaning, so they easily become dislocated and dispirited.
Despite surface appearances to the contrary, the consumer age is deathly boring. Boredom is caused, not because an activity is inherently boring, but because it is not meaningful to the person. Since the life of the consumer revolves around the overkill of meaningless manufactured low-level material desires, it is quickly engulfed by boredom, as well as jadedness, ennui and discontent. This steadily graduates to ‘existential boredom’ wherein the person finds all of life uninteresting and unrewarding.

Consumption itself is a flawed motivational platform for a society. Repeated consummation of desire, without moderating constraints, only serves to habituate people and diminish the future satisfaction potential of what is consumed. This develops gradually into ‘consumer anhedonia’, wherein consumption loses reward capacity and offers no more than distraction and ritualistic value. Consumerism and psychic deadness are inexorable bedfellows.

Schumaker says that human culture has muted into a marketing machine dominated by economic priorities and psychological manipulation.
Today’s consumers are by far the most propagandized people in history. The relentless and repetitive effect is highly hypnotic, diminishing critical faculties, reducing one’s sense of self, and transforming commercial unreality into a surrogate for meaning and purpose.

The more lost, disoriented and spiritually defeated people become, the more susceptible they become to persuasion, and the more they end up buying into the oversold expectations of consumption. But in unreality culture, hyper-inflated expectations continually collide with the reality of experience. Since nothing lives up to the hype, the world of the consumer is actually an ongoing exercise in disappointment. While most disappointments are minor and easy to dissociate, they accumulate into an emotional background of frustration as deeper human needs get neglected. Continued starvation of these needs fuels disillusion about one’s whole approach to life. Over time, people’s core assumptions can become unstable.

For the younger generation, boredom, disappointment, disillusion and demoralisation are almost inevitable.
Understandably, they have become the trance generation, with an insatiable appetite for any technology that can downsize awareness and blunt the emotions.
This sounds like an ideal situation for a real gospel.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gospel

When interviewing NT Wright, Trevin Wax asked him to describe the gospel in two minutes. He described what he had said to a Japanese student on a train who asked a question just minutes before he had to leave the train. Tom Wright was reading a book about Jesus and the student, who knew nothing about him, asked Tom who Jesus was. He said,

Jesus was a Jew, who believed that God’s plan to rescue the whole world was coming to fulfilment in him. He died to take the weight of evil upon himself. He rose from the dead and launched God’s project and invited the whole world to join with it and find themselves.
I like that way of putting it. When I became a Christian at the age of 25, I did not hear this gospel, but it was the gospel that I received and believed.

After looking out on the world from a farm for five years, I had realised that it was a mess. I went to University to find out what was wrong and who knew how to put it right. After completing a degree in economics and politics, I discovered that this was a dry well. No one knew how to fix the world, because they did not know how to deal with the problem of the human heart.

When I heard about Jesus again, I realised that he not only knew how to clean up the mess that humans and the spiritual powers of evil had made of the world, but he had done everything that needed to be done to make it possible. That was the good news that lead me to follow Jesus. I was glad to be part of Jesus project, because he knew what he was doing.

A year later, I discovered that he had sent also sent his Holy Spirit to tell us what to do, and to empower us to fulfil the good news of his Kingdom.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Administrative State

In a September 2015 interview, political scientist Charles Murray stated,

The American project, as originally defined, is dead.
In an artcle called Constitutional Conservatism: Its Meaning and Its Future, Samuel Gregg responded with this comment.
One need not accept that stark claim to recognize that impeding (let alone reversing) America’s continuing drift toward an ever-expanding administrative state, rampant crony capitalism, shrinking protections for religious liberty, and a public discourse dominated by sentimental humanitarianism, populist demagoguery, and even socialist rhetoric is not, to put it mildly, going to be simple.
The intensity of debate about the presidential campaign shows that commitment to the Administrative State is alive and well.

Charles Murray explained with the following comment.

The American project consists of the continuing effort, begun with the founding, to demonstrate that humans can be left free as individuals and families to live their lives as they see fit, coming together voluntarily to solve their join t problems This culture was so widely shared among Americans that it amounted to a civil religion. That culture is unraveling (Coming Apart, p.12).
It seems to have been replaced by a culture of a militaristic and administrative state.


T

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fairly Feeble Forces (3) Two Swords

Jesus confirmed the Fairly Feeble Forces principle when he faced a threat of attack by hostile forces. He checked to see if his disciples were armed. Only two of his disciples had swords.

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied (Luke 22:38).
The disciples had two swords. “Machaira” refers to a short sword or long knife that was better for defence than attack. It would have many uses in a Jewish household for cutting food and cloth, so it would not be surprising that the disciples had a couple of them.

Jesus said that two knives were enough for a dozen men, even during a crisis when the authorities were and hostile their lives were under threat. With two knives, twelve men could protect themselves from a small gang of robbers, but nothing more. They would not be capable of dealing with a bigger threat.

When Jesus said that two swords would be enough, he was applying the principle articulated in God’ law, that his people should be weak in weapons, so they would rely on the power of God. Jesus understood the importance of spiritual power.

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels (Matt 26:53)?
Jesus did not need physical weapons, because he trusted his Father. However, his disciples would not have the same level of faith, so he was happy for them to have a couple of weapons in case they came under attack. But he wanted them to be weak, so they would be forced to trust in God.

Once Jesus was confronted by a “crowd armed with swords and clubs” sent by the Jewish authorities (Mark 14:23), Jesus counted the cost, and decided that he would surrender to them, even though they had no legal authority to arrest him. He chose to go to his death, rather engage in a futile fight.

That principle has not changed. Jesus still prefers that his people trust in him for their protection, rather than relying on weapons of war. War does such terrible harm, it is usually better to suffer and die, than to go to war.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fairly Feeble Forces (2)

The restrictions on military forces provided by the law mean that the ability of the people of God to engage in warfare will be very limited. This has the following benefits.

  • Military adventures to gain wealth by seizing control of another community are not practical.

  • Empire building is impossible.

  • Using miliatry power to advance democracy and capitalism would be impossible.

  • When a community faces an external military attack, they will usually have to sue for peace.

  • If they choose to resist the invader, they will have to rely on God’s assistance. If God does not come to their aid, they will fail.

God prefers to work with weakness, because when his people are weak, he is strong. A weak defence gives him an opportunity to demonstrate his power.

The Midianite army faced by Gideon filled the Valley of Jezreel like a swarm of locusts. Their number was too many to count (Jud 6:33). Gideon stood up against this massive army with a revelation from God and 300 men, armed with trumpets and torches (Jud 7:7,16). They do not seem to have had swords. When they turned on their lights and sounded their trumpets, God threw the Midianites soldiers into confusion and they attacked each other (Jud 7:22). The formidable army fled the country in fear. This is how God prefers to defend his people.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fairly Feeble Forces (1)

The limitations specified by the law mean the people of God will always have fairly feeble military forces. In fact, they will hardly be military at all. Here are some of the restrictions to military power specified by the law.

  • Acquiring offensive weapons is forbidden (Deut 17:16: Joshua 11:6). That rules out high-powered rifles, machine guns and artillery.

  • Participation in defence of the community is voluntary. No one should be forced to engage in fighting against their will. Compulsory military training and service is forbidden (Jud 7:3).

  • Men who have recently married, or built a house or started a business should not be involved in defence, because they need to focus their attention on what they have just started (Deut 20:5-7).

  • People who are afraid or tender-hearted should be freed from defensive activities (Deut 20:8).

  • God’s people must not to form alliances with powerful nations (Is 31:1).

  • The people must defend themselves with what they have (1 Sam 13:22). . They would use the tools and equipment that they already had for use on their farms and in their households. Knives and hayforks were their only weapons. This prevents them from relying on their weapons rather than on God.

  • The community must not waste resources making or buy weapons or war. In Samuel’s time, the children of Israel did not have blacksmiths. They relied on the Philistines for sharpening their ploughshares, axes and sickles (1 Sam 13:21). From an economic perspective, this was unwise, but from the perspective of faith, it was perfect. None of the Israelites except Saul or Johnathan had a sword or spear (1 Sam 13:22). They Philistines had 3000 chariots with two skilled soldiers for each chariot (1 Sam 13:5). Israel was outnumbered in men and weapons, but that did not matter, because this was a perfect because they had to rely on God for their physical protection.

  • All military leaders must be temporary. They are given authority by local communities when a threat arises, but they must go back to their normal lives when the battle is complete. This limits their ability to fight wars, but it is better than having permanent military leaders who become advocates for unnecessary wars.

  • Professional military forces are dangerous, because those who constantly train for war eventually start looking for opportunities to fight. Under God’s model of defence, ordinary people come together to defend their communities. They will not be skilled fighters, but that does not matter, because they will be forced to rely on God.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Territory

Christendom understood the importance of territory. Its problem was that sought to control territory using Imposed Authority supplemented by state power. That approach undermined the gospel and eventually destroyed Christendom from within.

We need an approach to Kingdom of God that understands the importance of territory, but expands its influence using Free Authority.

See Kingdom Authority.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mild Autumn

We have had a very mild warm autumn. The Port Hills to the south of Christchurch are still very dry.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Clean and Unclean (4) Different Threat

Jesus explained that his ministry changed the situation with respect to eating impure animals.

Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” ( Mark 7:14-23).
When Israel went into the Promised Land, they were relative spirit-free. They needed protection from the evil spirits that filled the land and controlled the Canaanites. The Laws for avoiding impure animals and activities were designed to protect them from picking up evil spirits, but this problem was long gone by Jesus' time.

The children of Israel had rebelled against God and ignored his law. They had chased after sin and lost their spiritual protection. The evil spirits that had filled up the land had taken hold of the children of Israel. The situation was so bad that all the evil spirits in the land had moved to the people who entered the land.

Jesus explained that evil was now at work within them. Avoiding impure foods provided no spiritual protection, because the evil spirits had already moved from the animals and high places into the hearts of the people. Refusing to eat an impure food was pointless, if your heart was full of evil, because you have already given many evil spirits a home there.

The world had changed. Impure animals were no longer a spiritual threat. The real problem was that hundreds of years of rejecting God and pursuing evil had left the Jewish people under the control of the spiritual powers of evil. The spiritual powers of evil knew that something would happen in Jerusalem, so they had concentrated their forces there. The people of evil were controlled and dominated by the forces of evil. This influenced their behaviour. As Jesus said, these evils came out from inside their hearts and defiled their behaviour.

By dying on the cross, Jesus intended to set them free from the spiritual powers of evil that corrupted and crushed their lives. However, the powers of evil stirred them up to reject Jesus and call out for him to be crucified. Most Jews continued to reject Jesus, and their city and country was destroyed in AD 70.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean (Matt 23:25-26).
In Jesus time, the spiritual threat came from the hearts of the people, because they had allowed the spiritual powers of evil to make their home there. Even the teachers of the law and the Pharisees were corrupted. External evil was no longer a threat, so the laws about impure food were no longer relevant for spiritual protection.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Clean and Unclean (3) Jesus

Jesus changed the spiritual situation on earth. By his death on the cross, he destroyed the authority of spiritual powers of evil. He provided full spiritual protection for those who choose to follow him. He gave the gift of spiritual discernment, so that his people can discern evil spirits wherever they are working. We no longer need to rely on blanket rules for spiritual protections. Instead, we can discern evil spirits wherever they are working, and if we put on the spiritual armour, they cannot touch us.

Jesus had perfect spiritual protection, so he did not have to be careful to avoid situations where he might pick up and evil spirit. They could not touch him, so he went boldly into the world confronting evil spirits and bringing them under the authority of God. For example, When Jesus saw a person with skin disease, he did not need to avoid him, because he could discern if there was an evil spirit at work, and if there was, he had the authority to force it to leave. Therefore, he reached out and touched the leper who asked him for healing (Mark 1:42-44).

We should follow Jesus example. We have spiritual protection in him, so we no longer need to hide from places and situations where we might come into contact with evil spirits. Instead, we should discern their work and confront them and drive them away.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Clean and Unclean (2)

The Old Testament describes several types of things that should be avoided, because they are spiritually impure.

  1. Sickness and Disease
    Sickness and disease are mostly caused by the spiritual powers of evil. So a person who touched a sick person risked picking up the spirit that caused the sickness. Skin disease was often the first sign that someone was under attack by evil spirits. Therefore, avoiding someone with skin disease was a means of spiritual protection.

  2. Death
    When a person dies, the evil spirits they carry look for somewhere to go. They will often move over to those who touch the dead body. Therefore, avoiding dead bodies was a way of avoiding evil spirits.

  3. Impure Animals
    The law specified a list of impure animals, but impure animals existed before the law was given. Noah took impure animals onto the ark (Gen 7:2,8). That raises and interesting question. Where did they come from? When God finished creating the animals, he said that they were good (Gen 1:24). The answer is that God had given authority on earth to Adam and Eve. They were tricked into submitting their authority to the spiritual power of evil, and then could not get it back.

    So during the 1000 plus years between creation and the flood, the spiritual powers of evil had a free hand to work on earth. At first, there were not many people to attack, so they concentrated their power on corrupting and perverting some of the animals and plants. The evil angels do not have the ability to create new species, as God did. However, they could modify the genetic material of existing species to make new ones. The animals that they had modified are referred to as impure.

    These impure animals were the work of evil angels, so there was a risk that they were still attached to them. The children of Israel were warned not to eat these animals, as if they did, they might take on the evil spirits that attached to them (Lev 11).

    Many of the impure animals are destructive scavengers. They enjoy eating rotten bodies of sick and dead animals. This reflects the nature of the evil spirits that modified them. They also love destruction. They do not have the power to create anything, but they love to scavenge on God’s creation.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Clean and Unclean (1)

Religious people assume that clean and unclean are religious terms. When talking about unclean, they often say “ceremoniously unclean. This religious approach creeps into most English translations of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is not a religious book. It is a spiritual book. This means that clean and unclean are spiritual terms, not religious terms.

The Hebrew word for unclean is “tame”. It means foul or dirty. The word translated as clean.is “taher”. It is much stronger than clean. It mean pure, clear or bright. It is used to describe pure gold.

We need to think about what makes things pure and other dirty. Everything God created is pure and good. Unfortunately, the spiritual powers of evil got hold of his creation (through a human mistake) and everything they touched they corrupted and make foul.

In the Old Testament, unclean (tame) means spiritually impure, ie contaminated by the spiritual power of evil. The opposite word “taher” means spiritually pure.

The laws dealing with clean and unclean describes things that Israel the children of Israel must avoid, because they are polluted by demonic powers. Their problem was that they did not have the gift of spiritual discernment, because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. Therefore, God had to give them blanket rules listing things to avoid because they were affected by evil.

The children of Israel had come of slavery in Egypt. Evil spirits are not interested in slaves, because they are infatuated with power. They always seek to control people in positions of power, so they can leverage their influence. This meant that the Israelites came out of Egypt, relatively spirit-free. Most of the evil spirits remained behind with their Egyptian masters.

Once they came into the land, they needed to remain spirit-free, by avoiding picking up the spirits that had controlled the Canaanites. Most of these were meant to flee the land with the Canaanites, but some remained, attached to animals and things in the land.

The laws about spiritually pure- and impure-things were guidelines to the Israelites about things to avoid in their new land, because they might be controlled by evil spirits. Not every incidence of these things would be infected, but it was better to play on the safe side, because they could not tell which ones would be dangerous.

Keeping away from impure things was essential, because they did not have the ability to deal with evil spirits, so they needed to remain as spirit-free as possible. If they came under control of a spirit, they had no way to get rid of it, so it was best to avoid every situation where they could pick up an evil spirit. They must avoid all situations where they might come into contact with evil spirits that they could not control or resist.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Prophets and Kings

Christian prophets must speak out against evil, always. But they must speak out against evil on every side of the political spectrum. If they back one side, they lose their credibility.

But prophets should not appoint kings. They should speak against evil, but be careful about claiming that a new person or party is God’s answer.

The problem is that all political leaders are controlled by the spiritual principalities and powers in the spiritual realms that dominate their nation. That is why they always disappoint. They rarely start out as evil. Most begin with good intentions, but once they gain power, they come under attack by the principalities and powers and become evil themselves. This is why most political leaders usually end up being just like their predecessors, even if they are from the other side.

And if the prophets have symbolically anointed the new leader, they will find it hard to critique them, because they will feel loyal to their selection.

Political power is a false gospel. The kingdom of God will not come in fullness until the god of political power has fallen. But God will not allow it to fall, until has people are prepared to bring in a kingdom based society that is a real alternative.

When Christians vote in elections, they are submitting to the principalities and powers that control the state.

Prophetic people would be better not to vote, as it would be a step towards getting free from the control of these powerful spiritual forces.

If they can get free, they could become prophets to their nation.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Clown or Knave

Well, it seems like America has a choice between a clown and a knave.

It would be wiser to choose a clown, as he would expose the futility of a combining multiplicity of states and expecting one man to lead it. No human could can the expectations that are put on the American president.

If the clown is elected,
He will have a great and triumphant inauguration,
because he is skilled at entertainment
but he will struggle to put together a skilled cabinet/administration.
the leaders of congress will mock him and refuse to cooperate with his plans.
and create a terrible fuss
He will not be able to go to war.
The leaders of other nations will laugh at him,
He will be unable to fulfil his plans
and it will seem like the country is run by impotent clowns.
But strangely enough,
life will better than it was before him.

If the nation chooses the knave
she will put together a competent administration
but she will react to an external threat
by starting a war that will cripple the nation
An internal threat will allow her to seize extensive powers
that will set the nation on a dangerous path.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Political Power

Jesus refused to have anything to do with political power.

Many Christians have said that politics is the devil’s business. It is dirty and divisive, so Christians should avoid it.

That view is true, but an important implication is forgotten. We must establish a new model of society that does not need politics. That was where Jesus was going.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Holy of Holies

The Holy of Holies was the place were God dwelt. The main furniture was the golden box containing a copy of the covenant between God and the Israelites. Just outside, but still within the tabernacle of this was the golden altar. Incense was placed on this altar as a pleasant aroma. There was not much blood in the Holy of Holies. A little was dabbed on the horns of the altar, once a year on the day of Atonement (Exodus 30:1-10). God is easy to please and a pleasant aroma was all he required.

The burnt offerings were offered on the bronze altar outside the tabernacle. The altar was bronze, because it was not directed towards God, but towards the spiritual forces of evil. The blood was for them too. The primary purpose of these offerings was to appease the spiritual powers of evil, who demanded blood for every sin. They love blood and gore, because they love killing and doing evil. They demanded the right to impose the curses of the covenant on the children of evil. The sacrifices were offered to keep them at bay. They were not entirely happy, but they had no choice but to accept them, because God said they must be satisfied with the blood of animals, because the animals belonged to humans.

The tabernacle court was a dangerous place to be, because the spiritual powers of evil hung round there, enjoying the death and gore. They would attack anyone who was not authorised by God to be there.

The tabernacle was not the centre of ceremonial religion, or a type to teach us mysteries. It was the site of an intense spiritual battle, in which God won and enforced a strategic victory that foreshadowed a much greater victory of Jesus cross and resurrection.

The Israelites had very little spiritual discernment, so they needed strict rules to keep safe in this situation. Following the cross, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, spiritual protection comes from the gift of discernment and walking in the Spirit.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Wrath and Tabernacle

The spirit called Wrath made the tabernacle of God a dangerous place to be.

The Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there will be no wrath on the Israelite community. So the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony (Num 1:53).
God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, because the Covenant with Moses gave him the right to be there.

The spiritual powers of evil hated this intrusion, because they thought the earth belonged to them. They didn’t want the children of Israel being close to God, so they gathered there and did their best to harm those who went near. God had put spiritual protection in place for the Priests and Levites, by specific sacrifices and keeping them away from activities that could open them up to spiritual attack. They camped around the tabernacle, because they were only ones who were safe in this dangerous place. They put up their standards to mark the safe area (Num 1:52).

When the tabernacle was being packed up was a dangerous time, because the boundaries and safe places were less clear.

Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is put to death (Num 1:51).
It is usually assumed that God would put them to death, but that is wrong. Wrath and his evil angels would put people to death, if they got caught in the wrong place.

When Samuel was a boy, the Philistines captured the covenant box, but they experienced terrible sickness. People in the vicinity came out with awful tumours (1 Sam 5:1-10). They had been attacked by Wrath, so the sent the covenant box back to Israel. At Beth Shemesh some men looked into the covenant box, but many were killed.

Then he struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the covenant box of the Lord (1 Sam 6:19).
They thought it was God, but they were most likely struck down by the spirit called Wrath.

When David was taking the covenant box back to Jerusalem, he forgot to involve the Levites. Uzzah touched the covenant box, when the oxen stumbled, and he died beside the covenant box. Most English translations imply that God struck him down, but that is misleading. The Hebrew text says that Wrath of God struck him, because he was careless with the things of God. David had failed to followed the instructions that God had given Moses, so the powers of evil got at one of his men.

The spiritual power of evil hated the covenant box, because it was the place where God dealt with the sin of the people and provided them with spiritual protection. They wanted to make the people fear it, and be unwilling to take it back and restore their spiritual protection.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Odd Contrast

One of the most intriguing passages in the Old Testament is Num 14:18.

The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but he by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.
The first half of this verse describes amazing love. God is abundant in mercy, and forgives iniquity and transgression. However, the second half of the verse seems to contradict what went before. It seems it be saying that God forgives iniquity, but then judges grandchildren and great grandchildren for it. That is illogical. If God has forgiven the person who sins, he is not going to punish their descendants.

I believe that there is something wrong with the standard translation. First of all the word “guilty” does not exist in the Hebrew, but is added by the translators. That is why it is in italics. Secondly, the expression “he by no means clears” is a very expansive translation of a couple of Hebrew words. Literally, the Hebrew says something like “to acquit not he will acquit”. I am not sure what this strange expression means, but I doubt that it means what the English translators say it means.

I presume the second half of the verse is talking about what the spiritual powers of evil want to do, in contrast to God. God is full lovingkindness, so he forgives transgressions. The powers of evil want to punish transgression to the fourth generation.

Maybe the verse should read like this.

The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression and making pure, not visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation (like the spiritual power of evil).

Friday, April 29, 2016

Propitiate Who?

Commentators have argued about how Romans 3:25 how should be translated. Some translators use the work propitiation

Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood (NKJV).
Others have used the word expiation.
Whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood (RSV).
Some modern translations use the neutral but meaningless expression, “atoning sacrifice”.
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (NIV).
The Greek word is “hilasterion”. In Hebrews 9:5, it is used to describe the cover of ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle. Our problem is that none of these words mean much to modern readers.

The word propitiate is directed towards a person. Someone is offended and they must be satisfied. Others do not like the word, because they thing it means that God is angry and hard to please.

Those who argue for propitiate are correct that Romans 3:25 describes Jesus as satisfying or appeasing “someone”, but they are wrong about who that person is. They assume that it is God the one who needs to be propitiated. That is wrong. God is gracious and great in love, mercy and patience, so he does not need to be propitiated.

Everyone who sins is a slave of the spiritual powers of evil. They demand the implementation of the curse of the law against everyone who sins, so we need to be ransomed from their power. They need to be propitiated, because they are operating according to the letter of the law and demanding retribution on all sinners.

Romans 3:25 says that Jesus has satisfied the powers of evil and redeemed us from their power. His death fulfilled the requirements of the law, cancelling out the demands of our accusers. It nullified the curse of the law that was against us.

If we trust in Jesus, we died with him and rose with him. That means our old life is dead. A prosecutor cannot bring charges against someone who is dead. The powers of evil have no rights over our lives.

They cannot object to that because they have already agreed that Adam’s sin gives them authority over all his descendants, ie everyone sinned in Adam. They have used that principle for all it is worth, so they cannot disagree with the parallel truth that all who believe in Jesus died with him and rose with him to a new life. They want us to share in Adam’s sin and loss of authority, so they cannot object to us sharing in what Jesus established as the head of the new covenant.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Propitiation and Redemption

The sacrifices and rules of separation specified in the law of Moses provided spiritual protection for the children of Israel. The cost of this protection was that it allowed the accuser to demand the implementation of the curses against the disobedient.

The Old Testament sacrifices satisfied God (because he knew that they would be supplemented in the future by Jesus death on the cross). The powers of evil were not satisfied with the sacrifices. They liked the covenant, because it gave them the ability to enforce the curses on sin, but they did not like the sacrifices, because they felt that people were getting off to light.

God was willing to forgive sin. It was the powers of evil who wanted it to be punished.

God is judge over everything.

God is the judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25).
However, he is not the prosecutor. He does not bring a case against humans. The accuser/prosecutor is Satan. If he is silenced, there is no prosecutor, therefore no case for the judge to hear.

The Holy Spirit is our defence attorney/counsel (paraclete). Jesus also defends us before God the judge.

But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1).
The righteousness of God means that he is not caught up in false accusations of the spiritual powers of evil. He does the right thing by his covenant, and declares us to be righteous. He silences the spiritual powers of evil and the accuser who want to bring charges against us.

The enemy’s greatest trick is to deceive the world and Christians into believing that God demanded death and hell for sinners, when it was actually the spiritual powers of evil themselves who demanded it. They have tricked us into believing that God is full of wrath and vengeance, when it is really them. God is gracious and forgiving, whereas the spiritual powers of evil are harsh and cruel, but they have tricked the world into believing the opposite.

God wants to restore people. The powers of evil want to punish. It is sad that many Christians seem to be on the side of the latter.

Some Christians believe that we need to preach God’s wrath as part of the gospel. They fall into the trap that Paul exposed.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance (Rom 2:4).
The kindness of God leads us to repentance, when we realise that he gave his son to rescue us from the spiritual powers of evil, while we were still alienated from him. That is the good news we should proclaim.