Friday, January 30, 2015

KC (5) Constantinian Temptation

In chapter 12, Scot McKnight summaries the themes of Kingdom Conspiracy in fifteen theses. Theses 5 and 6 expose the Constantinian Temptation, which is to use state power to impose Christian values.

Thesis 5

The church’s historical temptation is to make “kingdom” public by aligning itself with the state or the powers of culture, often called the Constantinian Temptation. In the United States, both the Moral Majority (or the Christian Coalition) and the Christian progressives have succumbed to Constantine; that is, they are tempted to use the state’s force (even if of the majority) to legalize the Bible’s teachings and its arena to carry out their battles.
Thesis 6
The historical context of much of Christian activism today is rooted in the social gospel, which turned Christians into public advocates for the poor and powerless, and this was often propped up by political or social progressivism’s theory of political action. The social gospel then morphed in the middle of the twentieth century into liberation theology, which turned the Christian toward economic systems at work in the world. In particular, Marxism (or neo-Marxism, or softer forms) shaped much of liberation theology. Then liberation expanded into a message liberating all who are oppressed (women, African Americans, etc.). Most notably, building somewhat on the social gospel, liberation theology decentered the church and made the church an arm of the government’s progressivist aims. It is not unfair to see conservative Christian politics as a conservative liberation theology rather than its opposite. Either way, each side of the culture war has succumbed to Constantine and operates with the mistaken belief that the most important arena of God’s mission in the world is the political sector.
These two theses are the most important in the book. This is the kingdom conspiracy that Scot McKnight is worried about.
I agree with his concern. Collusion between religious and political power is always dangerous. What Scot seems to miss is the destruction of political power is a key message of the Daniel and Revelation.

I explain how the collapse of political power changes the authority situation on earth in Chapter 14 of Kingdom Authority.

Towards the end of the Times of the Gentiles, political power will be expanded and centralised. This concentration of power will further empower the principalities and powers.

The kingdom of man will be unable to deliver on its promises and will eventually collapse.

When the time is right, Christian prophets will also announce God’s judgement of this political empire. Their prophetic words will release the power of the Holy Spirit to destroy human government and political empires throughout the world. Big powerful government will sink like a millstone thrown into the sea, never to be seen again (Rev 18:21). Its destruction will be so horrifying that the people of the world will never trust it again.

When human rulers and empires collapse, the principalities and powers that have amplified their power through them will be shattered. With no place to stand, they will become common evil spirits defeated by the cross. When political leaders lose their power, the spiritual forces will be fragmented and weak.

When human governments stop functioning, a power vacuum will exist. Those who have trusted in democratic government will be desperate for something different and better. With human government crushed by events it could not control, people will be desperate for a saviour who keeps his promises. They will welcome the Kingdom of God.

As human political powers are swept away, authority will return to families and local communities. Political power will be chopped up, pushed down and spread around to people who trust Jesus and walk in the Spirit. The kingdoms of the world will disappear and be replaced by the Kingdom of God (Rev 11:15).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

KC (4) Comparing Church and Kingdom

In chapter 12, Scot McKnight summaries the themes of Kingdom Conspiracy in fifteen theses. In the second and third, he notes that many Christians compare the present church and the future kingdom, and concludes that the Kingdom is greater. This is an unfair comparison.

Thesis 3

Kingdom is “eschatological”: both present and future. The kingdom’s future entails a flourishing fellowship of people following final judgment and the establishment of righteousness, and that kingdom sets the tone for kingdom living now. Church is also eschatological: both present and future. The church’s future is also one of a flourishing fellowship forever according to the plan of God in history.

Thesis 4

When comparing kingdom to church, most people make fundamental logical errors. The most common is to compare future kingdom and present church. Kingdom is a both-and, a now and a not yet. The church also is a both-and, a now and not yet. The church, then, is an eschatological reality. To compare kingdom to church, one must compare now-kingdom with now-church and not-yet-kingdom with not-yet-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.
Scot is right about this. The weakness is that he does not explain how the future church will change enough to make the future kingdom glorious. I describe how this will happen in Kingdom Authority.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

KC (3) Geopolitical Kingdom

In chapter 12, Scot McKnight summaries the themes of Kingdom Conspiracy in fifteen theses. In the next few posts, I will list them, and comment on them.

Thesis 1

The word “kingdom” in Judaism (the Old Testament, Josephus, etc.) has a natural synonym in the words “nation” and “Israel,” not the words “redemption” or “salvation.” Thus, kingdom is front and center about a people and cannot be limited either to a social ethic or a redemptive moment.
I agree with this. A Kingdom is a geopolitical reality. It is an area of land and a group of people that is under the authority of a king. Making the Kingdom of God to a spiritual reality, limits it seriously.

Thesis 2

Kingdom is— almost always, with varying degrees of emphasis— a complex of king, rule, people, land, and law. Church is also a complex: a king (Christ), a rule (Christ rules over the body of Christ), a people (the church), a land (expanding Israel into the diaspora), and a law (the law of Christ, life in the Spirit).
I agree with Scot that a kingdom has a king and a law and involves a land and a people. His application of this to the church is a bit limited. Jesus is the King and the people is the Church, no argument about that. He suggests that the new law is summarised in the Sermon on the Mount.
What about the Torah? King Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount as the Kingdom Torah for kingdom citizens(Chapter 6).
I think this is a weak. In his teachings about economic life, Jesus pointed back to the Torah and showed how it applies in the modern world. I have explained this in Principles for Economic Life.

Scot suggests that the land is the church.

We should see local churches as the land promise… (Chapter 6).
This does not really wash. The fulfilment of the land promise requires location-based churches that establish God’s authority over a neighbourhood or village or area of land. I explain how Churches can operate in a location-based way in the Being Church Where We Live, without imposing authority over other people.

Monday, January 26, 2015

KC (2) Back-Story

Scot McKnight, like many writers who are influenced by post-modernism, emphasises the back-story to the gospel in his new book called Kingdom Conspiracy. He argues that we cannot understand who Jesus is and what he has achieved, unless we understand the context in terms of the history of Israel.

Bible scholars today are searching for the best way to tell the bible’s story (Chapter 3).
He begins by describes the traditional gospel presentation as C-F-R-C. This is true, but not complete, so it creates a distortion.

The C-F-R-C is the story of salvation in the Bible. It goes like this:

  • God is the author of Creation (the C) and made all things good…
  • Adam and Eve chose to go their own way, sinned against God, did the very things God said not to, and this lead to the fall (the F) of humans into sin.
  • Next comes R, which stands for redemption…. Jesus Christ and his redemptive work in his life, death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation on the cross establishes in the here and now a beachhead for the kingdom.
  • Redemption will only be completed at the second coming when God will usher in the full kingdom of, called the new heaven and the new earth… This will be the consummation (the final C) of redemption (Chapter 3)...
Scot argues that this story is flawed, because it does not need Israel and the Old Testament
Those who read the Bible solely through the C-F-R-C plot have an annoying propensity to read Genesis 1-3 to get their C and their F in place, but then they skip all the way to Romans 3 or to the crucifixion scenes in the gospels to get their R (Chapter 3).
To make the story first about us, or first about me and my salvation, is to reduce the story and to rob Jesus of the glory of being the central actor (Chapter 3).
Scot proposes a new framing story that he labels A-B-A. It is outlined in the following quotes.
Plan A extends from Adam and Abraham to Samuel. The p period is marked by one major theme: God rules the world through his elected people, but God is the one and only King.
Adam and Eve decide they want to rule “like God” instead of ruling “under God”, which means Adam and Eve are usurpers.
Plan A has four characteristics.
  • God alone is King.
  • Humans, from Adam and Eve to Abraham, are to rule under God.
  • Humans usurp God’s rule.
  • God forgives the usurpers and forms a covenant with Abraham (Chapter 3).
Plan B comes in when the Israelites want a human King (1 Sam 8).
  • God alone is still King.
  • Israel is to rule God’s created world under God.
  • Israel wants to usurp God’s rule.
  • God accommodates Israel by granting it a human king.
  • The story of the Old Testament becomes the story of David.
  • God continues to forgive Israel of its sins through the temple system of sacrifice, purity, and forgiveness.
God’s rule was gone, and monarchy had arrived; treaties became vogue.
Plan A takes a divine detour in Plan B, where God accommodates Israel’s selfish desire. During Plan B arises the memory and a hope for the return to Plan A, to God’s rule in Israel with not human king (Chapter 3).
Plan A revised

Under Jesus, Plan A take on a new form. Here are the major elements

  • God alone is King
  • God is now ruling in King Jesus.
  • Israel and the church live under the rule of Kind Jesus.
  • Forgiveness is granted through King Jesus, the Saviour.
  • The rule of Jesus will be complete in the final kingdom (Chapter 3).
We cannot enter into this story without surrendering. Why? Because if Jesus is the one and only King we must surrender to Jesus as the King. There is no kingdom mission apart from submitting to Jesus as King and calling other so surrender before Kind Jesus.
Kingdom mission means an ever-deepening discipleship (Chapter 3).
Although A-B-A is an improvement over C-F-R-C, I found it a bit clunky. I do not expect it to become popular. There are two main weaknesses.
  1. A-B-A hardly mentions the powers of evil. Scot does not seem to understand the effect that evil had on and in the world after Adam and Eve rebelled. He ignores the big authority shift that occurred and how it limited God’s ability to restore the earth.

  2. Scot just starts his story with Abraham out of the blue. I think this that he has to do this because he has an evolutionary view of human origins, so Abraham is the first “concrete” person he can hang his hat on, so has to begin with him. He does not have a back-story to explain why God needed Abraham. His story does not explain why God did not do anything for more than a thousand years, and then chose Abraham. He makes it seem like God gradually got tired of being grumpy and decided to forgive humans and have another go with Abraham. This does not really work as a back-story.

My book Kingdom Authority provides a much fuller and complete back-story (history) for the ministry and victory and Jesus. It uses the entire Old Testament and does not start with Abraham. I explain how the rebellion of Adam and Eve brought a huge authority shift that gave the power of evil immense authority on earth. This authority shift severely constrained God’s ability to work on earth.

The Old Testament is the history of how God gradually got back into a position where he could do what he wanted to do on earth. It took a long time because it was a difficult task and very human helped with it. God chose Israel because he needed a place to work and a people to give him authority to work in that place. When he had secured the authority he needed, and everything was in place, He sent Jesus to accomplish another big authority shift that destroyed the spiritual powers of evil. He is now constrained because his people do not understand what was achieved by this big authority shift. Kingdom Authority explains how that hindrance will be broken.

God’s strategy cannot be reduced to four letters. The best I can do is a brief summary.

  • Kingdom Authority Gift
    Authority on earth given to humans.
  • Bad Authority Shift
    Human sin gives authority to spiritual powers of evil bringing in a millennium of darkness. Evil gets a place in heaven and God shut out of earth.
  • First Authority Shift Back
    Enoch, Lamech and Noah work with God to put a constrain on the powers of evil.
  • Land and People Authority
    Abraham provides God with a people who can give him authority to work on earth. Moses provides a land in which he can work.
  • Authority Setback
    Kingship perverts authority
  • Big Authority Shift
    Jesus destroys the authority of the spiritual powers of evil. They lose place in heaven and his followers gain a place in heaven. He gives authority on earth back to humans.
  • Last Authority Obstacles removed.
    Calling of the Jews and collapse of human government leads to fullness of the kingdom.
  • Final Authority Shift
    Consummation of all things as Jesus hands all authority back to the Father.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kingdom Conspiracy (1) Scot mcKnight

I have just read Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight. Having just published a book on the kingdom called Kingdom Authority, I am interested in what other writers are saying about the topic. I have studied the Kingdom for a long time, but I can always learn something from others.

When I first began writing thirty years ago, no one was interested in the Kingdom of God. Most Christians just saw it as another word for the Church. In the last ten years, all that has changed and “Kingdom” has becomes a favourite adjective among Christians. This is great, but there are dangers as well.

Scot McKnight has two concerns about the interest in the kingdom. He describes these in the first two chapters of the book.

The first has the view that the Kingdom of God is just another expression for heaven and that the gospel is about how sinful people get a ticket to heaven. Kingdom work is evangelism to get people saved and into heaven.

The kingdom has been boiled down to specific redemptive moments, moments when God’s redemptive reign breaks into to save, to restore to reconcile to heal (chapter 2).
Scot has already dealt with this issue in his book the King Jesus Gospel, so he does not focus on it in this book. I agree with his concerns. Jesus came to put right everything that sin and evil put wrong. An escapist gospel that is limited to rescuing Christians from the world is severely truncated.

The second approach that Scot McKnight challenges is the common view that everything done to make the world a better place is “kingdom Work”. He gives a couple of examples to illustrate this shift.

Another pastor told me that on any weekend he wants he can solicit large buckets of money and lots of volunteers if he needs them for “kingdom work” and social activism, for compassion for the poor, for AIDS, and for building water wells in Africa. But, he said to me, “If I ask for money for evangelism, I am lucky if anyone gives a dime”
A missionary wrote this to me recently: Religious work in Africa is very interesting. Almost no missionaries are doing bible teaching, evangelism, discipleship, or church planting. We’re all doing orphanages or trade schools or working with the deaf or HIV/AIDS education, etc. I am puzzled as to why that is our reality”. He did not say it, but I suspect that those missionaries who are doing these good deeds think they are doing “kingdom work” (Chapter 1).
This shift changes the gospel.
Kingdom means good deeds done by good people (Christian or not) in the public sector for the common good.
Boiled down to its central elements, kingdom mission in this approach is working for social justice and peace (Chapter 1).
I agree with Scot on this issue. He argues that in recent decades that a form of liberation theology has moved surreptitiously into mainstream evangelicalism. I presume this is why he writes about a “Kingdom Conspiracy”. The consequence of this shift is that the gospel becomes a political eschatology.
The location of God’s work is in the world. In essence, the church gets replaced by Washington, DC, and the ethic of Jesus is translated into Western liberalism’s noble ideals. Kingdom work, then, is when good people do good deeds in the public sector for the common good (Chapter 1).
This problem infects both the Christian Left and the Christian Right.
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 (Appendix 1).
Scot McKnight makes his point emphatically, by saying that there is no Kingdom outside the church. Many will disagree with him, because it is common to say these days that the kingdom is much bigger than the church. However, there is some truth in what he is saying. If the church consists of all Christians, and only Christians can do Kingdom work, then the Kingdom work must be done by church people. It cannot be done by those who do not belong to Jesus.

I go beyond this in one way. The kingdom is about authority (McKnight does not quite get this). When a person who is not a Christian submits freely to a Christian, either for pay or because the respect their wisdom, the activities that they submit are part of the kingdom, as they are under the authority of Jesus. The Kingdom extends beyond the church in this way, but not very far. I explain this in Kingdom Authority chapter 13.

I got frustrated with this book at times, because it does not seem to go far enough. It is better at identifying problems than providing solutions (I think my book Kingdom Authority is superior in this respect). There are some important spiritual issues that Scot seems to miss out. Nevertheless it is an important book. It challenges some really bad ideas that have taken hold in the Christian world. Many Christians will read it and be pushed into the right direction. I think my book is better, because it gives solutions that will work, but many people will not read it because they will find it a shift too far, so I will be glad if they read Scot’s book and begin the shift.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Times and Seasons

When I became a Christian, back in 1973, I studied the book of Acts and discovered the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit. I was baptised in the spirit and experience the working of his power. I also studied all the scriptures and discovered the greatness of God.

Later I read Hal Lindsay’s book The Late Great Planet Earth and other end-time teachers. Hal Lindsay had a big influence at the time. When I became a minister, I taught the same teaching, but after a while I became uneasy, because it seemed so negative. This did not fit with what I had learned earlier about the power of the Holy Spirit and the greatness of God. So I started studying the scriptures, to see if the Hal Lindsay’s teaching was correct.

I discovered that the end-time teachers play a clever trick. They take all the negative scriptures and apply them to the current age. They take all the positive scriptures and push them out to the millennium. This explains why their teaching for the current period is so negative. Then they line it up with the newspapers, and it seems plausible.

However, I could find no justification in the scriptures for splitting the scriptures in the way that they do. There is no reason why all the negative stuff goes into the current age. So I began to study the scriptures for a paradigm that made more sense. I discovered the rock and the mountain in Daniel, which suggested that there are two stages in the development of the Kingdom.

A turning point was reading a book called The Puritan Hope by Ian Murray. This was a history of a revival that took place in England and Scotland in the 17th century. It came out of Cambridge University and a group of Bible Teachers who were really skilled at the preaching the scriptures. So many people would turn up to hear them preach, that they would not fit in the buildings. They would preach for several days in a row. It was an inspiring story, but the interesting thing was that they believed that they should pray for the conversion of the Jews. From studying the scriptures, they believed that the promises of the gospel would not be completely fulfilled until the Jews were converted.

The importance of the calling of the Jews was a new insight for me. It led me to studying Romans 9-11. This opened up a new way of understanding the scriptures, because I realised that the key to the next stage of the Kingdom coming is not the Jesus returning, but the fullness of Jews. I then went to Revelation and I found that this approach made sense of that book too. It changed my perspective on Jesus Big Prophecy too.

I then spent about ten years studying all the scripture and building up an understanding of how they all fit together. My book Times and Seasons is the result of that work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Site Preparation

This machinery is preparing a section (lot) for building. The vibrating probe goes down into the ground and shingle and cement are put in from the top to increase the stability of the site, so a new house can be built.

Back in the winter, when the previous earthquake damaged house was demolished, the excavator got stuck in the mud. Its tracks had disappeared from sight. I do not know how they got it out.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Asiatic Lillies

In the winter, we brought some cheap lily bulbs at The Warehouse (the New Zealand Walmart). They have grown well and are now blooming beautifully. Some the flowers are as big as my hand. I should have spaced them out a bit more.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Shifts and Shocks

At the end of last year, I read Shifts and Shocks by Martin Wolf. He is chief economics commentator at the Financial Times. He has also worked as an economist at the World Bank, so he part of the economic establishment.

I get frustrated with these establishment economists. They acknowledge that the monetary system is seriously flawed, and that the monetary authorities were unable to foresee, or prevent the Global Financial Crisis from occurring. They have no confidence that the monetary authorities will be able to prevent any future crisis. Yet they are unwilling to recommend serious changes to the monetary system.

I presume there are two reasons.

  • Many members of the economic establishment have profited from the system, so they are unwilingl to eliminate future opportunities for their families and friends to prosper from the system in the future.
  • They understand that the monetary system gives inordinate power to the state. As part of the establishment, they do not want to lose that power.
Martin Wolf is typical of the economic establishment.
There is a simple and telling reason why, notwithstanding all the regulatory reforms, the system is bound to fail again and again; it is designed to do so. The reason for this is that the fragility is built in. The financial system makes promises that, in certain states of the world, it cannot hope to keep. The reason for this is that institutions finance long-term, risk and often illiquid assets with short-term, safe and hilly liquid liabilities. The people who provide the funds regard their deposits and other loans as a very close substitute for ―if not exactly the same thing as—money. But the assets held by the institutions to which they have lent are not in the least like money; they are subject to significant solvency and liquidity risks. At a time of trouble, providers of funds will panic: it always makes sense to try to be among the first to leave a burning theatre or even a theatre that might burning. In withdrawing their funds, providers will trigger what they fear. The assets held by institutions will be dumped at fire-sale prices turning illiquidity into insolvency.

This is the world’s Faustian bargain. Some argue for a drastic solution: abolish it. Make term transforming finance, in general, and conventional banking, in particular illegal.
Wolf then quotes Charles Goodhart, whom he called the doyen of British analysts of finance as saying this solution is not wanted by anyone
The problem with proposals of this kind is that they run counter to the revealed preferences of saver for financial products that are both liquid and safe, and of borrowers for loans that do not have to be repaid until some know future distant date. It is one of the main functions of financial institutions to intermediate between the desires of savers and borrowers, ie to create financial mismatch. To make such a function illegal seems draconian.
Wolf makes the following assessment of Goodhart's response.
Goodhart is right in saying there is a strong preference for a financial system that mismatches maturity, not to mention riskiness. But one must ask: at what price?
Wolf seems to accept this argument, and concludes that the benefits outweigh the risk.

However, there is a flaw in Goodhart’s argument. Borrowers prefer long-term loans and they do not mind risk, because time is on their side. Savers want short-term and low risk. The system gives borrowers what they want, but it only gives savers half of what they want. They can get short terms, but not security. This is wrong. The money belongs to the savers, so they should be able to decide what they want. However the banks and financial authorities refuse to let them have it. Instead they give the borrowers what they want, because there is more profit in it for them.

There are plenty of other avenues for savers who want high risk and high return. We need banks that will provide savers with an deposit account that meets their requirements.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Terrorism and Government

Bill Bonner says that the relationship between governments and terrorists is symbiotic.

Terrorists give governments an enemy to protect people against (conveniently, one that can never really win). In return, they get fame, power, money and more recruits, thanks to governments’ heavy-handed “wars” against them.

And if the history of empires is predictive, we can expect more consolidation of power in the executive branch, more rules and regulations to “protect” us from evil, more controls, more costs, more spending and more debt.
The taxpayers will grumble and groan about the increased burden, but as long a war is in the headlines, they will fall into line.
As the military gets more money, it will favor more costly weapons systems, entrenched tactics, old military technology and a more bureaucratic internal structure. It will become stronger and stronger on paper, but more vulnerable to quick-moving opponents. After fighting so many phony wars for so long, it will be incapable of defending the country in a real one.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

When

When did selective truth become freedom of speech?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Radical Community

I found this note that I wrote on a scrap of paper, maybe twenty-five years ago.

We need a community which will be:
  • A challenge, and a visible concrete alternative to the world.
  • A place where Christians can develop a distinctive and biblical lifestyle, which will answer some of the hungers of the modern age. Where the radical demands of the gospel may be lived out in a simple life style, uncluttered by the things of the world, and centred on the kingdom of God.
  • A place of shelter that will enable Christians to stand firm in a time of social upheaval.
  • A place where Christians can learn to love each other. This love will be expressed in mutual support, economic sharing , regular prayer and common worship.
  • A place where Christians can grow to maturity developing in the ministry to which God has called them. It would provide an environment which is congenial to growth.
  • A model, which can demonstrate publically, of a church structure which is more appropriate to the times in which we live, and is more closely aligned to the commands of scripture.
  • A base for evangelism and are community that can draw new converts in. It should forth the reality of Christi reconciling power.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Modern Terrorism

Terrorism has always existed, wherever there have been powerful rulers and empires, but tactics have changed.

In Jesus time, the zealots attacked the Roman army. They usually suffered massive defeats by the superior Roman forces.

In the 11th century, a group called the assassins attacked a Turkish Sunni dynasty that controlled Persia. They introduced a change in tactic by attempting to assassinate powerful political leaders. This was the method used by an anarchist group in 1914 against the Austro-Hungarian empire, when they killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir of the emperor.

Modern terrorism emerged in the middle of the twentieth century. The big change in tactic was to use the power of the emerging mass media to generate fear and gain attention. Modern terrorists attack targets that will get them maximum publicity. Their aim is to make themselves seem more powerful than they really are. They also try to undermine the confidence of their rulers and shake the confidence of the population in their leaders, in an attempt to get up and go away.

Modern terrorism tactics were first used successfully by Jewish terrorists fighting against the British powers in Palestine. They bombed the King David hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 91 people and injuring 46 more. Only 28 of those killed were British and most the dead were clerks, typists and messengers, hotel staff and canteen workers.

Nevertheless, the bombing had a huge impact, because the hotel housed the British military and administrative headquarters for Palestine. It gained huge publicity all over the world, but especially in Britain. The government claims that it had the situation in Palestine under control were undermined. Public support for British involvement in Palestine collapsed. The incident showed that an attack on a target with symbolic power could have bring big changes in political power.

Radical groups all over the world learned the lesson. Direct attacks on military forces are pointless, because the costs are high and the benefits are low. With the King David Hotel model, the costs were low, (for the attacking group) and the benefits were high. Many radical groups have applied this model. They look for symbolic targets, which will gain maximum publicity through the international media, while greater great fear and anxiety in the ruling nation, while making their political leaders look impotent.

Another example of the modern tactic was the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England in 1984 by Irish independence groups. Only five people were killed, but the incident had huge impact, because Margret Thatcher and many senior members of the Conservative Party were staying in the hotel prior in readiness for a Conservative Party. The event involved the same combination of symbolic target and maximum media publicity. A number of similar types of attack eventually lead to the British government changing its goal and negotiating a peace in Northern Island.

The attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo follows the same pattern. Unfortnately, the frenetic political and media response plays into the hands of the perpetrators. It is sad that people died, but the significance of the event has been blown out of proportion by political leaders and news media. What they do not seem to understand is that this is exactly the response that the attacking group wants.

  • Political and media leaders are claiming that the incident is a threat to press freedom and freedom of speech. That is nonsense. Magazines and newspapers open and close all the time. Dozens could disappear without freedom of information being compromised. In the overall scheme, Charlie Hebdo was a fairly trivial contributor to the information system. I presume it was engaging in attention-getting activities, because its circulation was declining. Government censorship if a far greater threat to freedom of speech, than the demise of an obscure French magazine.
  • President Hollande of France declared that the incident was an attack on Freedom. However, the French have always had a fairly ambivalent approach to freedom. France conquered Algeria back in the 1830s. This brutal war resulted in the deaths of up to a third of the Algerian population. More than a century later, the Algerians rose up in revolt, winning their independence from Paris in 1962. As many as 1.5 million Algerians perished in this war. The French have never worried about the freedom of Algerians.
  • Political leaders have declared that the incident was an attack on Western civilisation. David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain, said, “We stand absolutely united against this threat to our values – free speech, the rule of law, democracy. It's absolutely essential we defend those values today and every day." This is nonsense, too. The British government supports political dictators in many places provided they support British interests.

    An attack on a French newspaper, that most Britons had never heard of, is not a threat to British values and system. Many British values are not that great anyway. Far greater threats to good British values come from within the culture. British civilisation has been in decline for more than a century. These are the real changes that the British should be concerned about.
  • Political leaders have made grand statements about being united with the French. David Cameron said, “We stand absolutely united with the French people”. This is nonsense too. Britain and France have always competed with each other for power, and that has not changed. More seriously, this grandstanding together just amplifies the power and influence of the group that undertook the attack.
  • Describing the incident as a terrorist group is just what the perpetrators want. They are an incredibly weak group, not capable of anything more than an attack on few defenceless people. Treating them as a military organisation makes them seem more powerful than they really are.
Political leaders are not stupid. They understand that giving publicity to the perpetrators of politically-motivated violence is exactly what they want, but politicians cannot be silent, because they also know that political violence also increase the power of political leaders, especially those on those on the conservative side of the spectrum. The Brighton bombing brought a massive increase the popularity for Margaret Thatcher, and politicians have learned the lesson.

All political leaders are insecure and fear a loss of popularity. That is why political leaders all over the world have jumped on the bandwagon of events in France. They all want their people to be glad that a person who hates political violence controls their nation.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Watchmen

The watchmen should not be in the city eating and drinking with the townsfolk. They should be out on the watchtower and looking into the night.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Farewell to Mars (3)

Brian Zahnd gets stirred up about warmongering eschatology.

Isaiah, in his prophetic poems, frames the Messianic hope like this: A Prince of Peace will establish a new kind of government, a government characterized by ever-increasing peace. Weapons of war will be transformed into instruments of agriculture. At last the nations will find their way out of the darkness of endless war into the light of God’s enduring peace. This is Isaiah’s hope. Christians take Isaiah’s hope and make a daring claim: Jesus is that Prince of Peace. Jesus is the one who makes Isaiah’s dreams come true.

From the day of Pentecost to the present, this is what Christians have claimed. But then a doom-obsessed dispensationalist performs an eschatological sleight of hand and takes the hope away from us. On one hand, they admit that Jesus is the Prince of Peace who has come, but on the other hand, they say his peace is not for now … it’s only for when Jesus comes back again. Bait and switch. Yes, swords are to become plowshares … but not today. For now plowshares become swords; in our day, it’s war, war, war!

They abuse Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century by always applying it to the latest contemporary geopolitical events. They replace the hope of peace with an anticipation of war! They find a way to make war a hopeful sign. Think about that for a moment! And here is the worst irony: It was precisely because Jerusalem failed to recognize Jesus as Isaiah’s Prince of Peace right there and then that they rushed headlong into the war that ended with their own destruction!

End-time prophecy experts keep trying to force the same mistake on us in our day. We should refuse. I am a conscientious objector to the doom-obsessed, hyperviolent, war-must-come, pillage-the-Bible-for-the-worst-we-can-find eschatology of Hal Lindsey and his tribe. We must reject that kind of warmongering misinterpretation of Scripture.Zahnd, Brian (2014-06-01). A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace (Kindle Locations 1895-1908). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
I present an eschatology that is more consistent with the gospel of peace in Times and Seasons. I may not have got it totally right, but do not know of anyone else who has even attempted to do this.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Farewell to Mars (2)

Another good quote from Brian Zahnd.

Do we believe that Jesus really is reigning over the nations? Or have we reduced Jesus’s role to that of a personal Savior who presides only in the hearts of believers? If Jesus is relegated to the hyperspiritualized role of personal Savior, then we are free to pledge our political allegiance to the latest incarnation of empire. This is why Christians from the days of Constantine onward have been so pliable in the hands of beasts.Zahnd, Brian (2014-06-01). A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace (Kindle Locations 1634-1637).

Monday, January 05, 2015

Farewell to Mars (1)

Great quote from A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd

Salvation is the kingdom of God. Our personal experience with the kingdom of God (including forgiveness) is our personal experience of salvation, but the kingdom of God is much bigger than our personal experience of it. The problem we have today is that the term “kingdom of God” is archaic and obscured under layers of religious veneer. “Kingdoms” went out with the Middle Ages and we tend to think of the “kingdom of God/ heaven ” as privatized Christianity experienced in our personal spiritual lives. But Jesus was [doing something far more radical when He proclaimed the kingdom of God— he was announcing] that the government of God was at long last being established in the world through what He was doing … in light of this , we need to rethink our lives and begin to live under the administration of Christ.

Perceiving the kingdom of God as an actual political reality is a game changer. Once you see that Jesus has his own political agenda, his own vision for arranging human society, his own criteria for judging nations, then it’s impossible to give your heart and soul to the power-based, win-at-all-costs partisan politics that call for our allegiance . Unfortunately, what I’ve learned through bitter experience is that a lot of people don’t want the game changed. They want to win the game— not change the game.

They simply cannot imagine how God’s will is going to be done if “our side ” doesn’t win the political game. This is the game most of the church has played for seventeen centuries— use Christianity to endorse or buttress a particular political agenda. Christian then becomes a mere adjective to the dominant political noun. What is dominant is a particular political agenda. Politics trumps everything. The political tail wags the Christian dog. Christianity’s role is to serve a political agenda. So viewed through the American lens, Christianity is seen to endorse democracy and capitalism, just as it was once seen in Europe to endorse monarchy and feudalism.

The problem with the chaplaincy view of Christianity is the assumption that the kingdom (government) of God has yet to come. If we think the kingdom of God is still waiting in the wings, then our political allegiance is given to one of the players currently on stage. Christianity becomes subservient to conventional political power, a chaplain to offer innocuous invocations, a lackey to hand out “Christian voter guides.”

But what if the whole assumption is wrong? What if the reign of Christ over the nations has already begun? What if the politics of God are already present? What if the age to come has already been inaugurated (even if far from fully established)? What if Jesus has no interest in endorsing some other political agenda because he has his own?!

That would change everything. And it’s clearly what Jesus believed about what he was doing! If we learn to read the Gospels free from the Constantinian assumption that the kingdom of God has not yet dawned, we will find a fresh, new story. If we let the Gospels speak for themselves instead of hammering them into a sword for our favorite empire, we would see a radical alternative. Once we stop trying to use Jesus to endorse monarchy or democracy, feudalism or capitalism, it becomes quite clear that Jesus was announcing the arrival of the reign and rule of God through what he was doing. (Zahnd, Brian (2014-06-01). A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace (Kindle Locations 1543-1574)).

Friday, January 02, 2015

Graeme Cooke Word for New Zealand

When Graeme Cooke spoke at a conference in Auckland last month, he brought a word from the Lord for New Zealand. Every Christian who is serious about what God is doing in New Zealand should set aside 30 minutes and listen to it. You can find it at this link.

Graeme Cooke’s message had four main themes.

  1. God is establishing his kingdom in New Zealand.
    The Kingdom (will) emerge in this country, strong, powerful. And it will be a prototype for nations across the earth. And many will come to this nation to see what God is doing. There is a new level rising in this country. It’s called the Kingdom. And all and every church will bow to the requirements of the Kingdom in this country.
  2. This is a season of transformation and purification.
    There is a time set aside for this nation, which is now. And these are days when the Lord is beautifying the church in this country. Days of purification. Days when the hand of the Lord is going to be heavy upon us for transformation.
  3. God is sending a storm on New Zealand to sweep away everything that is not of God everything that is not seeking his spirit.
    I see a storm coming into this nation. A storm that will sweep away a religious spirit. A storm that will sweep through the body of Christ in this nation. And the Lord says that churches … some will be swept away by that storm. And others will find themselves standing on a rock that is the Christ. And the Lord is saying He will send a storm on this nation and He will sweep away that which does not own His name, that which does not pursue His Spirit He will sweep away. But this storm also will cause us to be swept along in a whole new time of power and anointing unprecedented in this country’s history.
    There is a riddle in the word, because he does not explain the nature of the storm. I presume it is has already been announced in the prophecies referred to below.

  4. We are in a season of acceleration and prophecy that have been spoken over the nation during the last fifty years will be fulfilled soon. He urged God’s pattern to be students of prophecy.
    This is the day of dreams becoming true. This is the day of vision being realised. This is the day of prophecy long spoken over this nation coming to fulfilment. So the Father says there is already a word and words in this nation’s history that are soon to come to pass in this nation’s immediate future. And you shall see in the next 12 months prophetic words spoken decades ago coming to fruition. So the Father says He’s calling His bride, He’s calling His body to be students of the prophetic. Go back over your own words as an individual. Take out your own prophetic words and hold them up before the Lord because the Lord is saying “This is the time of fulfilment. This is the time of vision being realised, and dreams being fulfilled, and prophetic words long spoken coming to pass, that you may stand in your nation in this day and say "This is that which was spoken. This is that. This is that."
    Christians should bring out the words that the Lord has spoken, held them up, repeat the promises and invite the Holy Spirit to fulfil them. This important. God has given authority over the earth to people. He can only fulfil his prophecy and promise for New Zealand, if people invite the Holy Spirit to do what he wants to do.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Satan and the Wrath of God

The scriptures contain two different accounts of David counting his fighting men. They are almost the same, except for the cause of the incident.

The wrath of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah” (2 Sam 24:1).
Satan stood up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel (1 Chron 21:1).
Samuel records that the wrath of God incited David. The chronicler says that Satan incited him. This points to an important reality.

When people rebel against God and come under his wrath and lose their spiritual protection, Satan takes the opportunity provided and attacks the rebellious people.

God’s wrath and Satan travel together. More correctly, Satan goes wherever God’s wrath goes and picks a few scraps to feed on.

This means that many events described as the wrath of God are actually he work of Satan.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mercy or Wrath

When the people of a city or nation cast off restraint and reject God, they lose their spiritual protection and leave the powers of evil unrestrained. They have the authority to bring judgment against the city or nation, but they often wait until sin is filled up so they can do more evil. The powers of evil execute judgment in a way that causes the most harm and pain, because they love to rob, destroy and kill.

God will sometimes pre-empt this judgment so that less harm is done, and to ensure that his purposes are accomplished. Because the people have turned away from him, he does not have authority to bless them, but the does have the right to send judgment.

By getting his angels to bring the judgment, rather than waiting for the powers of evil to deliver it, he can turn it for good, and use it to achieve his purposes. The holy angels hate executing judgment, because they love to do good. They will only do it, if they have a clear prophetic word from God’s prophets explaining how it will bring glory to God.

God’s people sometimes need to choose. Will they wait for the power of evil to execute their plans, or should they ask God to bring a pre-emptive judgment that is more merciful.

An example is the judgment after David counted his fighting men (2 Sam 24). When he realised he had done wrong, the prophet Gad came to him with three options:

  • Three years of famine in the land.
  • Three months of running before his enemies while they pursued with the sword.
  • Three days of plague.
David chose the third option. This was a bit selfish, because he was the one who had sinned, but the people would suffer most. This is a reminder that when the leaders of a nation sin, it is their people who suffer most.

When the judgment started, David realised that he had been selfish and cried out,

I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family (2 Sam 24:17).
But it was too late, because the decision had been made.

Nevertheless, David had made the right decision, perhaps for the wrong reason. He explained the reason to the prophet when he made his decisions. He said to Gad,

I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man (2 Sam 24:14).
There were really only two options. One option was to come under judgment executed by God. The other option was to fall into the hands of man, literally the hands of Adam. David did not fully understand this, but Adam had lost his authority when he sinned, so falling into the hands of Adam literally meant falling into the hands of the powers of evil.

Two of the three judgments, would be executed by the powers of evil. The famine and defeating war were their plans for Israel once David’s sin had given them the right to do it. (The powers of evil are often divided and disagree over what they want to do. If David had chosen the plan of one group, the Holy Spirit would have rested the other group, so they would not be able to fulfil their plans.)

Even though David did not realise that he was avoiding falling into the hands of the power of evil, he did realise that it was best to choose the judgment that would be executed by God. God opened David’s spiritual eyes and he saw the angel of God with the sword of death outstretched. This was terrible, but it was better than would have happened if the powers of evil had been able to execute evil for three years or three months. Three days was merciful by comparison, and when David repented of his selfishness, God cut it short to less than a day.

When a nation hardens its heart, the power of evil get authority to work their plan in it. The Holy Spirit often shows a prophet what the powers of evil have planned. The prophet must be careful not to prophesy these plans, except as a warning (if you keep doing this, that will happen), because it increases the authority of the powers of evil to do their stuff. Sometimes, the prophets may see several forms of evil, that different factions of the power of evil would like to do (they are seldom united).

The prophets in this situation should ask God if there is a pre-emptive judgment that he can bring that would be better for the nation than what the Holy Spirit has shown them the powers of evil intend to do. It will often not be nice, but it will usually be better than falling into the hands of the powers of evil. The prophets may need to pray for a lesser more merciful evil, so that God has authority to execute it.

David, and through him Gad, had authority in Israel. When Gad prayed and told God their choice, it gave God authority to send his angel to release the plague. It was a terrible plague, but at least it was a good angel bringing it. This was better than releasing evil angels to do their thing.

In the same way, prophets may sometime have to make a similar choice. They might need to choose to give God authority to bring a pre-emptive judgment. That will be hard to do, but it is usually better than waiting for worse evil to come from the hands of the power of evil.

Gad had a relationship with David, so he was able to consult with him. Many prophets will not have a link to the political powers, so they will not be able to consult. They will have to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and make the decision for their nation.

Many prophets have seen terrible things happening to their nation. They should check before prophesying them, to make sure that God has not shown them what the powers of evil want to do, because their vision might be what will happen if the nation is left to its own devices, but it might not be what God wants to do. The prophets should acknowledge that judgment is inevitable for the nation, but recognise that there is a milder judgement that God could bring, if he were given permission to act in the nation.

Some prophetic people have bitter stomachs, often through frustration and rejection. If they are not careful, they can become hard, and slip into enjoying and prophesying what the enemy plans to do. They have the wrong half of the truth. True prophets make sure they understand God’s purpose, before they prophecy judgment.

In New Zealand, prophetic people have warned of a tsunami that destroys Christchurch, an earthquake that destroys Wellington, and a volcano that destroys Auckland. I suspect that these people have heard what the powers of evil would like to do, if sins are filled up and they get authority in the land. But these events are not God’s intent for the nation.