Thursday, March 05, 2015

Consumerism and Politics

In many western countries, voters are becoming dissatisfied with traditional political parties on both the left and the right. The Economist explains that long-run forces are at play.

As the British class system has given way to a mish-mash of socio-economic groupings, tribal loyalties to Labour and the Conservatives have evaporated. Voters no longer belong to the left or the right. They have become political consumers who shop around. More recently, proud Scottish, nostalgic English or anxious green identities have counted for more than whether someone works on the factory floor or oversees those who do (The Economist 26/2/2015).
Consumerism now extends into politics.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Ananias and Sapphira

I have always been uneasy about the traditional interpretation of the incident with Ananias and Sapphira recorded in Acts 5. Jesus rebuked James and John for wanting to call judgment down on people who rejected Jesus, yet this incident seems more like their behaviour than Jesus behaviour.

Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit. It is clear that Ananias lied to Peter, but why charge him with lying to the Holy Spirit. That would imply that anyone lying to a Christian is lying the Holy Spirit. That seems a bit strong.

Anyway, lying to the Holy Spirit does not justify death or we would all be dead. There is no place in scripture that specifies death for lying to the Spirit.

The situation with Sapphira is even more strange. According to Acts 5:2, Ananias made the decision to keep some of the money. His wife knew about it and went along, but she was just submitting to her husband’s decision. That was a sin, but it does not seem to justify the death penalty. So why did Peter put a curse on her.

The other interesting question is why the couple were under such pressure to give all their money to the apostles. An examination of the relevant verses shows that an interesting transition had taken place. In the beginning those, those giving away their possessions distributed their money themselves.

Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:45).
Within a short period of time, the giving was all going through the apostles.
Those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:34-35).
The apostles had seized control of the giving process. This was a significant change that increased the power of the apostles. The apostles had committed to feeding a lot of people who were hanging around in Jerusalem, rather than being sent out as Jesus had commanded. This put tremendous financial pressure on the apostles.

Maybe this pressure caused them to begin putting pressure on the members of the church to give more money, which allowed sin to get in. Had Ananias and Sapphira succumbed to that pressure and then regretted it?

Did Ananias just die of shock? Did Peter reinforce the fear this produced, by declaring that the same thing would happen to his wife? I wonder if Peter was abusing the power of the Spirit in the same way that Elijah did when he set bears on the smart boys and got them killed (2 Kings 2:23-25)? I suspect Peter may have been abusing his power in an effort to get more money for the church?

Prophetic power must be used carefully. It should not be abused.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dual Citizenship??

That slogan that Paul was a dual citizen of Rome and Heaven is used without analysis to wiggle out of Jesus clear teaching that you cannot serve to masters.

Paul was clear that he was a citizen of heaven and that is how he lived.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 3:20).
He explained his attitude to political and religious citizenship in Phil 3:5.6. Paul considered these all crap.

Paul was recorded once as using his Roman citizenship, but that does not make it right. He was already a prisoner, and pulled his Roman citizen card to avoid another beating (Acts 22:22-30). I am not sure if the was right in doing this, as in the past he seems to have chosen to take the beating.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones (2 Cor 11:23-25).
Maybe in Jerusalem he could not just face another beating. I can understand that and would probably have done the same, but that does not make it right. The problem for Paul was that it left him under the control of Rome. By appealing to Caesar, he go taken to Rome, but he lost his freedom to operate as an apostle. If he had taken the beating and been rescued by the Spirit, he would have been free to travel to Rome as an active apostle. He might have achieved more for the Lord.

Maybe God needed to put Paul into prison, to prevent the church from turning him into a Pope. Perhaps God took him out of play, so he would write more letters and open the way for others to step up.

Whatever, Paul’s decision in a moment of weakness, should not be used as a basis for a political theory.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Citizen or Outlaw

A citizen of Spain has no interest in defending the Kingdom of Bavaria. This seems obvious, but it also means that a citizen of the Kingdom of God has no interest in defending the kingdom of United States. We cannot give allegiance to two kings. If I am loyal to King Jesus, l cannot serve the Kingdom of the United States.

A man cannot serve to master. We cannot belong to two kingdoms. If we are a loyal citizen of one kingdom, we become an outlaw in the other.

I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God, but I am also a resident of New Zealand, Because I am a citizen of the Kingdom God, I am an outlaw in New Zealand, because I am committed to another king and another law. While I am a resident, the government of New Zealand claims authority to make me pay taxes and obey its laws. I usually do, because they hold all the power, but I do not acknowledge their authority to rule me. Only Jesus has authority to do that.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

KC (17) Socio-Political Church

This is my final comment on Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight.

Scot McKnight asks if the Kingdom is different from the church. He concludes that there is no kingdom outside the church.

When we compare present kingdom and present church, or future kingdom and future church, we come out with near-identical identities. This means it is reasonable to say that the kingdom is the church, and the church is the kingdom—that they are the same even if they are not identical. They are the same in that it is the same people under the same King Jesus even if each term— kingdom, church— gives off slightly different suggestions. In particular, “kingdom” emphasizes royalty while “church” emphasizes fellowship. Slight differences aside, the evidence I have presented in this book leads me to the conclusion that we should see the terms as synonyms.
Making the Kingdom synonymous with the Church allows Scot to show that political action for Christian purposes is not kingdom work, because it is an attempt to use the world system of power to achieve God’s purposes, which is impossible.

The danger of approaching the problem in this way is that it pushes the kingdom back into church, when we really need to be pushing the church into being a kingdom. The church needs to become more like a kingdom. A kingdom is a political entity. The Old Testament people of God was a society with a system government. Israel was a political entity.

The New Testament describes the church using political words, like kingdom and citizen. There has been a tendency to tone this down by translation. For example, the Greek word ekklesia is translated as church. This is wrong, because the English word church is a transliteration of the Greek work kuriakos, which means “of the Lord” This word is used for Lord’s supper (1 Cor 11:20) and Lord’s day (Rev 1:10) in the New Testament and later for the Lord’s House.. the word use for the church in the New Testament. Ekklesia is a political word. It is a “gathering of citizens of a town or city called out in a public place”. When Paul was arrested in Ephesus, the town clerk appeared before the ekklesia responsible for the city (Acts 19).

Toning down the political aspects the of word church, turns the church into an NGO (non-government organisation) that operates under the authority of the civil government. This prevents it from being a threat to the political powers.

This is wrong. The church is an alternative society with an alternative government flowing from an alternative political system. It is a threat to political elites, because it will eventually replace them.

Scot seems to gets this.

To say the church is a politic is not to say the church needs to be more political by becoming more active and aggressive in the political process. The kingdom is the people under King Jesus who fellowship with one another and form churches. These churches are the politic of Jesus in this world. That is, a local church embodies— or is designed by God to embody— the kingdom vision of Jesus in such a way that it tells the kingdom story. That is a politic, a witness to the world of a new worship, a new law, a new king, a new social order, a new peace, a new justice, a new economics, and a new way of life.... Christians have failed to embody the church as an alternative politic and have instead opted for influencing and improving Caesar or transforming culture or using the political process to accomplish their wishes.
The church is the politic of Jesus in the world. It must embody a new social order, a new social order a new justice and a new law. Unfortunately does not explain how the church can become an alternative poltic.

Both kingdom an church are socio-political terms. This leads to an important question. How can the church becomes a socio-political reality, without colluding with the existing political powers that are controlled by the spiritual powers of evil? How can the church become more like a kingdom?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Picton

On the last day of our holiday, we visited the small town of Picton. Set in Queen Charlotte, it is the port where the ferries that provide a link between the North Island and the South Island berth. The inter-island ferries take people, cars and railway wagons across Cook Straight into Wellington harbour at the bottom of the North Island. On a sunny summer day, the town surrounded by bush-clad hills is a beautiful place.




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Nelson

Nelson is a great place. The tide was out when I took the photo on Tahunanui Beach. It is a popular swimming spot.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Kaiteriteri

The most beautiful beach in the Nelson area is Kaiteriteri.

This is Little Kaiteriteri, a great spot for swimming.



Looking north from the hill above Kaiteriteri is Breaker Bay and futher round Honeymoon Bay.
Below is the main beach at Kaiteriteri looking down from the top of the hill. It is popular for camping and boating.



Little Kaiteriteri is the the bay on the left and Kaiteriteri on the right.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tata Beach


The nicest spot we visited in Golden Bay was Tata Beach. It has beautiful golden sand and the water was warm for swimming.





It is just round the corner from Pohara, which is very nice too.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Golden Bay

We have just returned from our summer vacation in Nelson and Marlborough.

This is Golden Bay from near Patons Rock.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Deflation

In the December 2014 quarter, the New Zealand CPI feel by 0.2 percent, mostly as the result of declining fuel prices.

Now everyone is talking about deflation, but this misses the point.

  • Houses prices are up 5 percent in the last year.
  • Rents have risen sharply.
  • They price of farmland has been booming.
  • Share prices are at record levels
  • Local authority rates continue their upward drive.
  • Insurance premiums continue to increase.
  • All monetary aggregates from M1 to M4 are increasing.
We are a long way from deflation.

Deflation can be a problem if assets prices fall sharply, as the people who have borrowed against them have to sell them at fire sale prices. This further reduces the demand for assets, which depresses prices further. The combination of declining asset prices and high levels of debt can be a toxic combination. However, there is no sign that this is happening in New Zealand.

Yet.

Monday, February 16, 2015

KC (16) Creeping Liberation Theology

In the second appendix of Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight examines the influence of liberation theology on evangelicalism.

I see two major themes among those who want kingdom to be a living theology. Those two themes are, first, a culture-transformation kingdom vision and, second, a social and liberation kingdom vision.

This conversation must begin with the transformation understanding of the kingdom because this view is the heritage of North American (and European) Christian thinking.

The major problem in this approach— often the transformationalist can be found reframing and reducing and reforming the kingdom vision of the Bible to make it fit culture. In the second theme of social liberation, the kingdom gets quickly connected to activism for justice and peace, and therefore it often gets tightly webbed into economic theories that need to be implemented at the political level in order to institutionalize what is perceived to be the “kingdom” vision.

Liberation theology is now growing in corners of North American and European Christianity in unnoticed ways and with implications that are far-reaching, and it is revolutionizing as well what the word “kingdom” means.

Kingdom theology, shaped as it is now by these two major streams of thought— the transformation and liberation approaches— has become a combination of good people doing good things in the public sector and an activistic striving to undo injustices and establish justice against the oppressive systemic forces of, most especially, capitalism and colonialism.

This liberation theology approach to the kingdom focuses on social justice and peace through the liberation of the oppressed, in a variety of contexts. This stream, I think, has overflowed its banks and is flooding the church of the United States with a highly politicized framework for understanding the Christian life. More and more people today perceive the Christian calling to be fundamentally about relief of the poor and release of the oppressed, and this is largely enacted in the public sector where the primary energy is spent on political power and social activism. An increasing number of white evangelicals are in the grip of this vision...

I shall contend that this stream, if it stays within the banks, has much to offer the church and society. But if it runs loose, it floods the other streams, colonizes the kingdom into little more than political action devoid of the gospel of the kingdom itself, and thereby strips the church of its calling in this world.

Liberation theology’s kingdom theology has been embraced by the surging growth of progressive Christians, including blocs and blocs of (often young) evangelicals, and it is now the default definition of kingdom for the majority.

Contemporary kingdom theology tends mostly to be liberation theology articulated by white people on behalf of the oppressed and poor and marginalized, who (by the way) more often than not have themselves moved beyond anything whites have to offer.

Contemporary kingdom theology tends mostly to be liberation theology articulated by white people on behalf of the oppressed and poor and marginalized, who (by the way) more often than not have themselves moved beyond anything whites have to offer. The transformation approach pointed to a biblical reality: the cosmic reign of God. Walter Rauschenbusch represents those who expanded salvation to the social. Liberation theology has made salvation almost entirely social. This is not a slippery slope, nor is it a “give’em an inch and they’ll take a mile.” The social is profoundly important to the Bible’s sense of kingdom, but the social dimension of salvation has become a totalizing force in much kingdom thinking today. Progressive kingdom theology has become too often an emasculated kingdom of those whose theology is framed to make reparations for past injustices. As such it functions as little more than the puppeting echoes of progressive Western liberalism and politics with a thin veneer of soteriology slathered on top of what is little more than a feeble attempt to salve a guilty conscience over a sinful history. Many evangelicals and progressives today are steamed up about their opportunity to change the world and to be significant and to do something important. For all the “good” this movement can do and is doing, I contend that, far more important, it is largely a shame-based movement masking a shallow gospel and an inept grasp of what kingdom means in the Bible. One wonders at times if kingdom theology for many is religious language used to baptize what to most other observers is merely good actions done by decent people for the common good. Is kingdom language, then, the attempt to make something wholly secular somehow sacred?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

KC (15) Constantinian Temptation

I thought the best part of Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight was Appendix 1, where he challenges the what he calls the Constantinian Temptation. Here are some pertinent quotes.

Kingdom theology today faces a Constantinian Temptation, which I call the Constantinian Temptation: the temptation to get the state to combine its powers with the church’s powers to accomplish, institutionalize, and legalize what is perceived to be divine purposes.

He began the process that eventually led to what we call the Holy Roman Empire. That empire, often called Christendom or Constantinianism, 1 combined the church’s beliefs with the state or the state with the church so much so that the state’s power was used to legalize, enforce, and coerce those who threatened the state or the church with disagreement.

The Puritans were a godly Constantinian and Christendom movement.

Let’s name names: both Jim Wallis and Ralph Reed operate on the basis of a Constantinian blending of church and state. Both want Washington, DC, to enact their brand of Christian virtue. Whenever church and state get connected, the word “kingdom” quickly takes on the sense that it is the sociopolitical and church government of a given city, state, or country.

The Christian Left and the Christian Right are doing the same thing— seeking to coerce the public or, more mildly, seeking to influence the public into their viewpoint through political agitation and majority rule.

Christians are advocating for Christian views on the basis of the Bible and Christian tradition and are making use of “secular” logic so it will appeal to the “common good.”

Winning in the Christian influence theory is getting the state to back up the Christian voice. Do we see what this means? It means we give the final authority to the state.

The neo-evangelical revival of the Christian influence theory has come at a severe cost, in part because it is yet another manifestation of Constantinianism.

I remember when it happened in the 1970s and 1980s. Active Christian leaders, like Francis Schaeffer and James Kennedy, joined hands with active Jewish leaders to form what some called a “Judeo-Christian ethic.” This combined ethic created religious, moral, and political power behind a common political aim.

There is no such thing as an ethic that is both “Judeo” and “Christian,” for one simple reason: the “Christian” part of the ethical equation adds Jesus as Messiah, the cross as the paradigm, the resurrection as the power, the Holy Spirit as the transforming agent, the necessity of the new birth, and the church as the place where God is at work. Hence, a “Judeo-Christian ethic” either strips the Christian elements or turns the “Judeo” part into a Christian ethic. What it usually does is secularize the ethic of all involved. Instead of letting each ethic stand in its own separable power, a common denominator is found, which both modifies each ethical system and creates a brand new one. Whether conservative or progressive, it is a political ethic with the veneer of a religious claim in order to create moral force and gather support from those with differing faiths. This, in other words, is a civil religion.

Civil religion works by denying everything unique and distinct to a religion and seeking the common ground of cooperation, all to accomplish a political goal. In the process, proponents and participants in this civil religion alienate the opposing political advocates and turn the Christian (or Jewish, or Mormon, or Catholic, or Baptist) set of beliefs into a political platform. Civil religion, then, surrenders faith to politics and turns the church into a tool of the state. Civil religion denies the cross, the resurrection, and the lordship of Christ over all, and therefore cannot be squared with the gospel.

This “civil religion” emerges in American history in another way, the way of baptizing the nation by using biblical language for our civil hopes, civil unrest, and civil activism.

A most remarkable turn of events accompanied liberation theology: the church was decentralized and the state was centralized. What began with common grace, and was pushed even further into the state by the social gospel, was slowly emerging in the Western world as a progressive belief in the capacity of the state to deliver redemption. Kingdom work became political work. Justice became social justice. Salvation became social and economic and racial and sexual liberation. In short, American liberal progressivism and kingdom were now wedded to one another. The kingdom is peace, justice, economic equality, and equal rights.

This vision of kingdom is essentially social gospel and liberation theology in an American context largely voiced by privileged whites. Its hallmark is benevolence, but benevolence is what the privileged and powerful and wealthy give as a donation to the poor and marginalized as a form of social redemption. One must ask if benevolence is not something more oriented to the privileged than to the actual transformation of society. Benevolence, then, is donation to the poor that promulgates the very injustices it seeks to ameliorate. One has to wonder if at times this kind of benevolence is not better called “reparations.”

The focus of energy in this theory of the kingdom is the political process. Instead of seeing the church as the central place of kingdom expression, public activism for the common good, especially through acquiring votes and establishing public policies, becomes the place where kingdom work gets done best.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

KC (14) Doing Good in the World

In Kingdom Conspiracy, Scot McKnight extracts some good stuff about Doing Good from Peter’s first letter.

Peter uses words that by and large are missed by most today. I will quote the verses and italicize the words that reveal what he means by “good deeds.”
. . . or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. (1 Pet. 2: 14)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (2: 15)

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (2: 20)

. . . like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (3: 6)
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (3: 17)

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (4: 19)
The word Peter is using is built on two words, “good” and “doing” (agathopoieo, agathapoios, agathapoiia), and it describes those who are marked by pleasing, good, and noble moral behaviors— kindness, generosity, compassion, obedience, and civic virtues. But there’s more: this term was often used to describe Roman and Greek citizens who acted benevolently in the public sector for the common good.
The final observation from 1 Peter 2: 11– 12 is that good deeds solicit, inherently and unavoidably, the praise of the powers of this world because good deeds are unimpeachable. Peter says they will see your “good deeds” and “glorify God,” and in this Peter sounds like Jesus, who said much the same about being salt and light (Matt. 5: 13– 16). These deeds aren’t done in order to solicit their praise; they are done out of obedience and love, and their inherent goodness is inherently praiseworthy.
Scot claims that doing good in the world is important, but this is not kingdom work.
Peter does not come close to describing benevolence as a kingdom work. Peter saw kingdom as the realm of redemption and the redeemed, not what followers of Jesus did in the public sector.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

KC (13) World View of Power

In Kingdom Conspiracy, Scot McKnight writes some good stuff about what he calls a World View of Power.

Another worldview and idolatry (is) at work both in the world of Jesus and in our world: the worldview of power (Chapter 4).
Romans politics is about power and domination and might and force and coercion and sword. The politics of Jesus is about sacrificial love for the other, even if that means death from the sword (Chapter 4).
True power is with God, the three King and Emperor, and Jesus will submit only to that God (Chapter 4).
Power has always been a temptation, and I want to argue that majority rule in America carries with it an empire temptation for many Christian citizens (Chapter 4).
The political left takes one posture on issues, while the political right draws swords from another posture. If we step back we see that each side seeks to impose its view on the minority. This is ruling over the other.
I call this quest for power through the political process the “eschatology of politics”-that is, the belief that if we usher in the right political candidates and the right laws, then kingdom conditions will arrive.
I submit that our eschatology has becomes empire-shaped, Constantinian, and political. And it doesn’t matter to me if it is a right-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Republican wins or a left-wing progressive wringer her fingers in hope that a democrat wins. Each has a misguided eschatology. The kingdom story counters the culture of politics as the solution to our problems (Chapter 4).
Politics is a colossal distraction from kingdom mission. Politics entails diminution of our kingdom message, because to speak well in the public forum means we have to turn our gospel-drenched message that focuses on Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection into acceptable, common-denominator language and vision. Instead of talking discipleship and a cruciform life, we talk about values and soak it in the pretentious “Judaeo-Christian ethic”. Politics means seeking to influence the state in the direction of the kingdom, but in so doing, it is asking the public and the state to put into law and policy the kingdom story.
We kingdom people don’t need the state, we don’t need the majority, and we must refrain from equating victory in the world with kingdom mission (Chapter 7).
Amen

Monday, February 09, 2015

KC (12) Back to the Church

In the last three theses of Kingdom Conspiracy, Scot McKnight hitches the kingdom tightly to the church.

Theses 13

Connecting kingdom to church does not “disengage” the Christian. It redefines engagement toward
  • an alternative community in the local church;
  • a loving community of good deeds, seen in Matthew 5: 13– 16 but especially in the “good works” in 1 Peter (public benevolence) out of love. Christian public actions are, then, the “spillover” of the church’s inner workings. A Christian not engaged in the world in “good works” has failed to live according to the kingdom vision.
Thesis 14
Kingdom mission, then, is local church mission.
  • Evangelism
  • Worship
  • Catechesis: wisdom
  • Fellowship: love
  • Edification: advocacy
  • Discipleship: nurture
  • Gifts: Spirit unleashed
Thesis 15
The only place kingdom work is and can be done is in and through the local church when disciples (kingdom citizens, church people) are doing kingdom mission.
These ideas are expanded in the earlier chapters.
Kingdom is people; church is people. A people under King Jesus begins to live into an alternative society that witnesses both to and against the world system.
Kingdom mission cuts deep into our way of living. Instead of seeking to make the world a better place through the political process, kingdom citizens are called to live into the kingdom with one another
What shocked the Jews living in Jerusalem when the earliest kingdom communities formed was that the community became visible. The people became a family (Chapter 7).
Anyone who calls what they are doing “kingdom work” but who does not present Jesus to other or summon others to surrender themselves to King Jesus as Lord and Saviour is simply not doing kingdom mission or kingdom work. They are probably doing good work and doing social justice, but until Jesus is made know, it is not kingdom mission (Chapter 8).
This stuff is good, but it will need a radically transformed church.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

KC (11) Moral Fellowship

Thesis 12 of Kingdom Conspiracy says,

Kingdom citizens are a moral fellowship marked by a cruciform life of righteousness and love, and this life permeates every dimension of life, including peace and possessions.
Scot explains the implications of this for politics.
Kingdom mission as church mission means the church is a kingdom fellowship, or a kingdom politic. Both the word “kingdom” and the word “church” come straight from the world of ancient politics (Chapter 7).
Christians have failed to embody the church as an alternative politic and have instead opted for influencing and improving Caesar or transforming culture or using the political process to accomplish their wishes. Americans love politics, as do people all over the world. America is made up of lots of Christians and this means many Christians get riled up in the political process. Many fall for what I called earlier the eschatology of politics, the belief that the next candidate or vote can bring in kingdom conditions…. To be blunt, many who have abandoned the church and opted for the political process are now calling it kingdom work.
People are groping for words that sanctify and justify and legitimate and, if I may use the term, spiritualize good work like building water wells because people want their efforts to have transcendent significance (Chapter 6).

Friday, February 06, 2015

KC (10) Judgment

The 11th thesis of Kingdom Conspiracy focuses on judgement.

Thesis 11

Since kingdom theology believes in a final reckoning and knows the future judgment is God’s, and because kingdom citizens know the reality of injustices, kingdom citizens ache for God’s judgment, the judgment that both ends sin and establishes the kingdom of God.
This is good, but needs greater explanation. I explain how judgment works in articles called Prophetic Events and Nature of Judgment.

Waitangi Day

Today is Waitangi Day in New Zealand. Our nation was founded by a covenant, not an invasion. The best way to celebrate the Treaty of Waitangi is to honour and fulfil it.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

KC (9) The World

The nature of the world is the subject of the 10th thesis of Scot McKnight in Kingdom Conspiracy.

Thesis 10

Kingdom and church don’t resolve their relationship until one forms a biblical understanding of the “world.” The New Testament use of this is almost entirely negative. It is what Yoder calls “structured unbelief.” Since Niebuhr, especially, “world” has become “culture,” and in the Reformed wing, then, “culture making” is a Christian activity of preeminent concern. The use of the term “culture” too often puts a mask over the summons of God to redeem people from the world into the kingdom/ church, rather than to improve the world for its own sake.
This is a real danger, so understanding how the scriptures use the word world is really important. Back I the 1970s when I first became a Christian, I read the a book by Watchman Nee called Love Not the World. I think he has fallen out of favour a bit these days, but he had some really good insights. He explains that the world is not just the physical world that can see. It is actually a system of authority that controls the world that we see. This system is controlled by the powers of evil. The world system opposes the Kingdom of God.
While it is true that these three definitions of ‘the world’, as (1) the material earth or universe, (2) the people of the earth, and (3) the things of the earth, each contribute something to the whole picture, it will already by apparent that behind them all is something more. Behind all that is tangible, we meet something intangible, we meet a planned system…

Concerning this system there are two things to be emphasized. First, since the day when Adam opened the door for evil to enter God’s creation, the world order has shown itself to be hostile to God. The world “knew not God” (1 Cor 1:21) “hated” Christ (John 15:18) and “cannot receive” the Spirit of truth (John 14:17) “Its works are evil” (John 7:7) and “friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)…. God’s attitude to it is uncompromising.

This is because, secondly, there is a mind behind the system. John writes repeatedly of the “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). In his Epistle he describes him as “he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and matches against him the Spirit of truth who indwells believers. “The whole world” John says, “lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19). He is the rebellious kosmogrator, world-ruler—a word which, however, appears only once, used in the plural of his lieutenants, the “world-rulers of the darkness” (Eph 6:12).

There is, then, an ordered system, “the world”, which is governed from behind the scenes by a ruler, Satan….
Scripture thus gives depth to our understanding of the world around us. Indeed, unless we look at the unseen powers behind material things we may readily be deceived (Love Not the World, p.12).
Much of the church has lost this understanding. This is why it slips so easily into culture-making, without understanding the nature of the world and the spiritual powers that control it.