Here is a great quote from the famous French Economist.
The State will always act through means of force, imposing its services, and determining the services people must pay in return under the form of taxes. The problem then boils down to this: What sorts of things do men have a right to impose on their fellow men by resorting to force? I have no right to compel anybody whatever to be religious, charitable, earned, or industrious. But I have a right to compel him to be just…. Precisely because governmental action implies resorting to force such actions must be essentially limited to maintaining order, security, and justice (The State, p40).
Technorati Tags: Bastiat State
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Here is a great quote from the famous French Economist.
Friday, September 29, 2006
The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has got its "knickers in a knot" about the ordination of homosexual ministers.
Wrong issue, wrong time!
In my view, the ordination of straight ministers is a far greater problem for the church than homosexuality. The ordination of a select group of people to do the work of ministry has robbed millions of Christians of their ministry and severely weakened the church. We need a radical vision for leadership that will make the ordination of an elite group unnecessary.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
What should George Do?
How should I know. I do not even live in the United States.
But there are a couple of things that he could think about.
1. George Bush's role is to defend the United States. The biblical rules for this role are outlined in Defence and War. George has not been appointed as the world's policeman. Tramping round the Middle East in big boots will not bring peace.
2. God does not need to United States to complete his purposes. American civilisation will not save the world. American democracy will not save the world. The United States is currently in danger of becoming part of the problem. Maybe God has stirred up Islam to bring judgment on the United States Empire.
3. Absolute security cannot be achieved, no matter how much is spent on military power. George Bush may not be able to prevent every attack. If American culture is strong then it will survive. Life will go on. The gospel will advance.
4. A relevant passage is 2 Chron 25:8:
Even if you go and fight courageously in battle,Before going to war, you had better be sure that God is on your side. If he is against you, the strength of your forces will be irrelevant.
God will overthrow you before the enemy,
for God has the power to help or to overthrow.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Gene Redlin said,
I recognize that the Gospel is the weapon that will get us further than any bomb or force. I understand your idea of interchange and communication. I do think this is a war for the ideals good and bad of western civilization. Capitulation defeats us all.First of all, I need to point out that terror is the weapon. It is a weapon used by some Islamic groups, but the United States military also uses terror as a weapon. A one-ton bomb dropped from a B1 bomber causes just as much terror as bomb let off by a suicide bomber. The difference is that the B1 pilot has better technology than the suicide bomber, so he can cause terror without risking his life. If the latter had the technical ability to hit his target without risking his life, he would probably do so. However, they both cause terror to the people they target. Islam does not have a monopoly on terror.
My question of you, and what I wish you would blog on is this: Given that terrorism is a weapon. Given that the USA is not going to be a terrorist nation. Given that terrorism is rooted in a political/religious ideology called Islam (not many Lutherans Blowing themselves and others up) and given that we are not fighting a war that seems to get desired results, if you could have the Presidents ear and give him sound (even Biblical) advice on a strategy that does accomplishes the purpose for which he rules at this point, protecting the people under him, and pursuing the path of peace in the world, What would you advise him to do?
Secondly, we need to understand that both Islam and Christianity are expansionist religions. They both claim to have a monopoly on truth. They both want the whole world to accept the truth that they hold. This fact puts them on a collision course. The key issue is how they spread their beliefs throughout the world. Will they work towards their goal by sharing ideas, or will they use military power to accept what they believe to be the truth.
Throughout most of history, Christians have used military force to support the spread of Christianity. We now seem to have gone beyond that and most Christians would now prefer that people freely accept the gospel. However, we need to understand that many people in the Middle East see the invasion of Iraq as another attempt by a Christian nation to conquer Islam. I presume they see US threats to bomb Iran in the same way.
Islam’s history is not much better, as Islam was also expanded by acts of war at times. Some Moslems may still want to spread Islam by force. However, it is unfair to dump that on all Moslems. Those who want to use military force are primarily interested in getting rid of invaders like the United States. I presume that you would do the same, if Saudi Arabia had a hundred thousand troops in New Mexico.
I am confident that in the end the gospel of Jesus will be successful, not because we have bigger guns, but because we have the Holy Spirit on our side.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
My comments on the war against terrorism drew a response from Gene Redlin. I will answer his question tomorrow, but first want to respond to his underlying view of the world. Here is what Gene said,
I wasn't comfortable for a while, but they really want to kill us. Kill us all. Nuclear annihilation. I recognize that the Gospel is the weapon that will get us further than any bomb or force. I understand your idea of interchange and communication. I do think this is a war for the ideals, for good and bad of western civilization. Capitulation defeats us all. Gene, a few of them want to kill you, but if you ignore the posturing, the truth is that they are mostly powerless or incompetent. Most of them just want to survive. They fear that the United States wants to kill them and there is a fair bit of evidence to justify their fears.
The United States assisted the British to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Iran in 1952. They then propped up the Shah of Iran for many years while he ruled with an iron rod. In 1978, the United States helicopters invaded Iran in an attempt to rescue American prisoners. The United States encouraged Iraq to invade Iran in 1980.
At the end of the Kuwait war, the United States encouraged the Shia of Iraq to rebel against Saddam Hussein and then watched in silence while he murdered thousands. The United States currently has a hundred thousand troops in the Middle East. It has powerful aircraft carriers just outside the Persian Gulf. Politicians and think tanks are calling for air strikes on Iran. It has armed its client regime in Saudi Arabia. I am not surprised that the people of Iran think that America wants to destroy them. I am not surprised that they are really afraid, and people who are afraid often fight back.
The people of the United States have very little to fear. You live on a large island that is almost impossible to invade. Even if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it has no way to get them to the United States. Terrorists have found it very difficult to strike against the United States, with only one success in a couple of decades. Far more people are killed by automobile accidents than by terrorists, but there is no war against the automobile.
If Iran had overthrown the Unites States government in the 1950s, or had stationed 100,000 troops in Mexico, or had persuaded Canada to invade the United States, or had several aircraft carriers in the Caribbean Sea, you would have something to worry about. I suspect that American culture has far more to fear from the corrosive growth of state power and the false gospel flowing out of Hollywood.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Ted Gossard has some good thoughts on politics and the Kingdom of God that set me thinking.
The words "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" roll easily off our lips, but what do these words mean? The modern equivalent would be "government of governments".
What does it mean for Jesus to be "the government of governments"?
What does this mean for Government the United States of America?
State = Government, so...
The Government of United States = Government of united governments
There can only be one government of governments, so one will have to go. Jesus is government of governments, and he is not going anywhere.
So where does that leave the Government of the United States.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
The bun fight between our political leaders has turned nasty. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Prime Minister is “corrupt”. The Prime Minister says that the Leader of the Opposition is “corrosive". Neither can see the plank in their own eye, but the true nature of politics is being revealed.
- Politics is a corrupt business.
- Politics is a corrosive activity.
Taking money off people without their permission is usually called theft, robbery, embezzlement or fraud. When politicians do it, it is called fiscal policy. The fact that politicians think that there is a difference shows how corrupt they have become.
Despite an enormous increase in state power over the last century, the world has not become a better place. The reason is that most political activity fails to achieve its goal. So politicians always want more power and more money to fix up the problems that they have created. This shows what a corrosive activity it is. Politics eats away at everything that is good to make it mediocre.
The politicians are talking about conspiracy, but the truth about politics is being revealed.
Friday, September 22, 2006
If God has given a system of government and it has not been abolished, then why do Christians assume that God is silent about political issues? The answer is that we do not like God’s system. His law is okay, but we want something more. This is just like Israel. They were not satisfied with the law. They wanted the law plus a king (1 Sam 8). We are the same. We want the law plus a constitution, or the law plus democracy. Everyone wants the law and more.
We look in the law and find that there is no laws prohibiting alcohol sales, censoring movies, controlling the money supply, prohibiting monopoly trading or implementing tariffs, so we decide that God’s law is inadequate. We feel that God’s law does not deal with every modern situation, so we want a parliament to create more law.
But we forget what we are saying. We are saying that God’s law is inadequate. Saying that God is wrong is a big call. He does not make many mistakes, so it is more likely that we are wrong and that his law is not inadequate.
Our problem is that we want to use civil government for purposes that God never intended. The reason that the issues that we worry about are not covered in the law is that they cannot be resolved by civil government. Law and More will not work because law cannot do more than God than he specified.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The third possibility is that the law is not for the New Testament Age
There is no evidence from the scriptures that the system of government given by God to Israel was abolished by Jesus ministry. There is no indication in the New Testament that it has been replaced by something else.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (MattThere is no indication that civil government was abolished by Jesus (Rom 13). Therefore we do have a biblical system of government and justice that we can test political issues against.
The second possiblility is that the Law and Judges were only for Israel.
This does not seem to be true. God also intended the law for the nations around Israel. He expected them to see the wisdom of Israel’s law and copy them for themselves.
Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? (Deut 4:6-8).The tabernacle and sacrifices were just for Israel, but the civil law was for all nations.
The first possiblility is that God has never given his people a system of government.
Many Christians look at the New Testament and find no system of government revealed. They are looking in the wrong place. A system of government is described in Exodus and Deuteronomy. God gave Israel a system of government before they entered into the Promised Land. It was based on his law being applied by judges. We cannot say that God has not provided a system of government.
Many Christian believe that God's does not provide a definitive answer about most political issues. Here are some examples from blogosphere. We must never presume that our political ideas are absolutely correct and perfectly aligned with God's will. Together with law, economics defines the true meaning of politics: "What is the best way of managing things?" We don't have a specific, definitive answer about this from the Bible.
If these statements are true, then the best that we can do is get involved in the political system and hope that democracy will produce good government.
True, all nations, governments, and parties within governments seek their own self-interest. By definition, they can't represent the kingdom of God. I don't think its possible, or necessary, to work out a dogmatic ethical stance on the many issues this raises that would apply to all people at all times. Christians simply have to strive to follow God's leading on these ambiguous issues. We have to be okay with unresolvable ambiguity and with people having differing perspectives and callings on these matters.
I find this view quite astounding. Civil government is a really important aspect of human life, so I would be amazed if God’s word was silent on political issues.
There are three possible reasons why people might believe that we cannot find solutions to political issues in the bible. I will cover these in the next three posts.
We must never presume that our political ideas are absolutely correct and perfectly aligned with God's will.
Together with law, economics defines the true meaning of politics: "What is the best way of managing things?" We don't have a specific, definitive answer about this from the Bible.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The leaders of our two main polical parties are having a bun fight. One accused their opponent of having no integrity. The other accuses their opponent of corruption.
Both are both certain of their own innocence, and they are equally certain their opponent's guilt. I am reminded of Jesus words.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Matt 7:3-5). We have enough planks to build a platform.
Another reminder than democracy produces moral mediocrity.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Celebrations of the ninetieth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme are currently being held in France. The number of casualties during this five-month battle at the end of 1916 exceeded 1 million. More than a quarter of a million men were killed or missing in action.
The First World War was a war without purpose. It was started by kings and politicians, who were too proud, stubborn or stupid to admit that they had made a mistake. Jesus told a parable about counting the costs of war.
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace (Luke 14:31-32). I cannot imagine what sort of benefits would justify a million casualties or a quarter of a million deaths.
Nevertheless, when the command was given for the soldiers in the trenches to go “over the top”, they would climb out over the bodies of their fallen comrades and run as hard as they could through the mud until they were cut down by a hail of machine gun bullets. Those who were injured quickly were the lucky ones.
What sort of military commander would order men to die in this way? What sort of political leader could believe that such a waste of life was justified? What I cannot understand is why the men did not refuse to go. Why didn’t they walk a way saying “Fight you own stupid war!”
What caused sensible young men to choose to die for such a pointless cause? What madness swept over them that made them willing to die in such a terrible way. Why were they able to be used as cannon fodder for the foolish plans of politicians and generals? The military commentators say that the soldiers believed that they had “proved themselves”. But what had they proved: that politicians can whip up support for foolish causes?
We should remember the sacrifice of the million men, but we should never glorify such a terrible waste of life. We should also remember that when politicians make terrible mistakes, they still get their statues on Whitehall. Those who died in the mud at the Somme paid the price for the blunders of the politicians. There is very little glory in dying in the mud in a pointless war.
Monday, September 18, 2006
The City Council has decided to close the Edgeware Swimming Pool. They claim that the pool is not well used and the costs of operation are increasing. The people of Edgeware are out protesting. A group is standing beside a busy road with banners calling for passing cars to honk their horns in support. Others have signs on their fences. This illustrates the problems that arise when economic decisions are turned into political ones.
Think about some examples. There is a video shop in Edgeware. This shop remains open, because the revenue received from renting videos exceeds the cost of running the shop. If people stopped using the shop and revenue declined dramatically, the owners would have to close the shop. The criteria for this decision are simple. If the people of Edgeware are willing to spend enough to cover the costs of running the shop, it will stay open. If they start spending there money somewhere else, it will close.
Consider a business thinking of opening a gymnasium in Edgeware. If the gymnasium can get enough paying customers to cover the costs of running the gymnasium, it will proceed. If the is insufficient people willing to pay the fee that the gymnasium charges, it will have to close.
When the city council provides services, economics is irrelevant. The politicians have no sensible criteria for deciding whether the pool should stay open, because the entry fees to the pool are totally unrelated to the cost of operating the pool (including the cost of capital). Politicians can only respond to political noise, but they never know how many people are making it. If the noise is loud enough, they have no choice but to keep the pool open, because their main objective is to not lose their seats at the next election.
The only way to find out how much the people of Edgeware value their pool is to look at how much money they are willing to pay to use it. Honking of horns tells us nothing, because honking a horn costs nothing. If people are spending their money on other things, they must value them more. From appearances, it seems that most place a higher value on videos than swimming.
Political decisions are totally detached from economic reality. They tend to be bad decisions, because they are based solely on political noise which is cheap.
City Councils should not be making decision about services like swimming pools. If there is sufficient demand for a swimming pool in Edgeware, I would expect an entrepreneurial person to provide one. If there are insufficient people in Edgeware willing to pay an entry fee that covers the full cost of operation, then they do not want a pool that badly.
No doubt someone will raise the issue of the poor with no place to swim. The answer is obvious. I doubt that the City Council has responsibility or authority to care for the poor, but even if it does, there are better ways of assisting the poor than providing a swimming pool at Edgeware. I suspect that the poor people in the area get more pleasure from the video shop down the street from the pool.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
A senior politician in New Zealand has been accused of having an affair.
Most modern commentators say that the private lives of politicians are not relevant to their political life. Personal stuff should be off limits to the news media.
The biblical approach to leadership is different. Elders are expected to be temperate and wise. The best way to discern a potential elder is to look at the way they treat their family and their attitude to money (1 Tim 3:1-7).
Politicians have been given responsibility to make laws for their nation. Laws are enforced morality. Therefore, the moral attitudes of parliamentarians are important. If a politicians will cheat on their spouse, why should theybe trusted to put the needs of their people ahead of their own benefit.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Last week a meteorite hit the atmosphere over southern New Zealand. The loud sonic boom was heard over much of the South Island. Observers saw a bright light in the sky breaking into pieces, making me think of a bright light being snuffed out.
Was the loud boom meant to wake us up?
People often get upset about the behaviour of their political leaders. What they do not understand is that democracy tends to produce mediocre leaders. In 2004, the United States put enormous time, money and energy into deciding whether George Bush or John Kerry would be president. Yet the most interesting feature of the struggle between two men was their mediocrity. If you made a list of all the wise and talented leaders in the United States, neither would make the top 1000.
This is normal, because democracy generally produces mediocrity.
Democracy sometimes produces incompetency or tyranny, but the best that it can do is produce medocrity.
The amazing thing is that Christians believe so strongly in government by the mediocre.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Bill Bonner is wondering about a War on Peanuts. Since 2001, terrorists have caused fewer deaths in America than allergic reactions to peanut butter. We are awaiting a War on Peanuts.... But the spending...the searches...the bullying...the scare-mongering continue. Why? Since 9/11, reports The Observer in London, "a highly lucrative industry" has arisen in the United States of America - protecting the homeland from terrorists. In the entire fifty states, there may not be enough terrorists to fill a small county jail, but that doesn't mean there isn't any money in homeland security. In fact, since the dawn of the 21st century, almost half of all new jobs have come, directly or indirectly, from two booming industries - housing and homeland protection - one a delusion, the other a diddle. "Seven years ago, there were nine firms with federal homeland security contracts. Now there are 33,890. Since 2000, $130 billion of government contracts have been dished out." "There is a powerful economic incentive," continues the report, "to exploit the terror threat - even government officials are leaving office to join the gold rush. John Ashcroft, former Attorney General, controversially extended state surveillance powers before leaving to set up the Ashcroft Group, which lobbies on behalf of technology firms aiming to capitalize on the new powers." The Observer wonders whether the money was well spent. It mentions one contract, for example, to provide bullet-proof vests for dogs in Ohio. Is that a worthwhile expenditure? We don't know. But we will take a wild guess: from now until Hell freezes over, not a single American Homelander will be saved from terrorists by a dog from Ohio wearing a bullet proof vest.
Since 2001, terrorists have caused fewer deaths in America than allergic reactions to peanut butter. We are awaiting a War on Peanuts....
But the spending...the searches...the bullying...the scare-mongering continue. Why?
Since 9/11, reports The Observer in London, "a highly lucrative industry" has arisen in the United States of America - protecting the homeland from terrorists.
In the entire fifty states, there may not be enough terrorists to fill a small county jail, but that doesn't mean there isn't any money in homeland security. In fact, since the dawn of the 21st century, almost half of all new jobs have come, directly or indirectly, from two booming industries - housing and homeland protection - one a delusion, the other a diddle.
"Seven years ago, there were nine firms with federal homeland security contracts. Now there are 33,890. Since 2000, $130 billion of government contracts have been dished out."
"There is a powerful economic incentive," continues the report, "to exploit the terror threat - even government officials are leaving office to join the gold rush. John Ashcroft, former Attorney General, controversially extended state surveillance powers before leaving to set up the Ashcroft Group, which lobbies on behalf of technology firms aiming to capitalize on the new powers."
The Observer wonders whether the money was well spent. It mentions one contract, for example, to provide bullet-proof vests for dogs in Ohio. Is that a worthwhile expenditure? We don't know. But we will take a wild guess: from now until Hell freezes over, not a single American Homelander will be saved from terrorists by a dog from Ohio wearing a bullet proof vest.
Taxes on the rich harm society. Wilhelm Roepke explains why in The Humane Society. Very many people imagine that taxation of the higher If, then, the higher income groups are crushed by progressive taxation, it is obvious that some of their functions will have to be dropped....
income brackets merely implies restriction of luxury spending and that the purchasing power skimmed off from above is channeled into "social" purposes down below. This is an elementary error. It is quite obvious that larger incomes (and larger wealth) have so far mainly been spent for purposes which are in the interests of all. They serve functions which society cannot do without in any circumstances. Capital formation, investment, cultural expenditure, charity, and patronage of the arts may be mentioned among many others.
Very many people imagine that taxation of the higher
If, then, the higher income groups are crushed by progressive taxation, it is obvious that some of their functions will have to be dropped....
Last week our Parliament degenerated into disorder and confusion. During question time, govenment members made so much noise that many MPs could not hear the questions. Then during the answers, the opposition shouted so loud that the answers could not be heard. In any other form of human endeavour this lack of courtesy and respect would be unacceptable, but politicians are different.
The Speaker of the House has said that she is going to become tougher. She will thow members who misbehave out of the debating chamber. I find this amazing. Will these men and women only show courtesy, if they are threatened by punishment? What has happened to personal responsibility?
Men and women who will not govern themselves should not be allowed to govern others.
Technorati Tags: politics self government
Thursday, September 14, 2006
George Bush sees the War on Terror as part of a Struggle for Civilisation. I suggest that he does not understand war or civilisation.
Civilisation is expanded by communication, sharing ideas, trade, tourism, education. Christian civilisation is spread by people sharing the gospel. More important, it is spread by Christians live the gospel in hostile environments, demonstrating the superiority of the Christian way. War cannot spread the gospel and it cannot spread civilisation.
We need to understand what war does. The weapons of war kill people and destroy building and bridges. The military mind says, “If you hit me, I will thump you harder!” What George W does not seem to understand is that you cannot advance civilisation by "thumping people".
People who are trained at "thumping people", often forget to do good, and slip into evil. This evil undermines civilisation, rather than building it up. Abu Ghraib and the Marine rapes in Iraq are examples. This is what Paul meant when he said that evil cannot be overcome by evil (Rom 12:31). Evil can only be over come by good; and war is rarely good.
War can take control of territory, but it cannot change the way people think. The military can take control of government institutions, but they can only change attitudes and values, if people allow it. War cannot establish civilisation. The irony is that the war in Iraq is currently destroying many of the better aspects of Iraqi civilisation.
War cannot defend civilisation either. War can be used to defend territory. Military force can stop enemies from entering a country to kill people and destroy building, but that is not the same as defending civilisation.
Another irony is that terrorism is not a threat to American civilisation. Terrorism cannot destroy a strong culture. The events of 9/11 did not weaken American civilisation; they probably strengthened it. Even if Al Qaida had completely destroyed the White House, Congress and the Pentagon, American civilisation would not have been destroyed. If American civilisation is destroyed, it will be destroyed from within and not by external attack.
Just as conquering a civilisation by military power is very difficult, destroying a civilisation by warfare is almost impossible. Civilisation is rooted in the minds of the people. As long as Americans continue to believe in peace, freedom and justice, their civilisation will be hard to destroy.
Technorati Tags: War on Terror Bush
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Why did God allow 9/11, if America is a godly nation? Why did he allow the planes to hit the business centre and military centre of the nation? Al Qa’ida’s plan could easily have gone wrong, but it did not. Why?
In Luke 12:55-56, Jesus rebuked the Jews, because they could read the weather signs, but they could not discern the times in which they were living. His comments must have aroused their curiosity. Luke 13:1-5 records their questions about two events that had happened recently. In the first, some Galileans had been killed by Pilate and their blood mingled with Roman sacrifice. In the second, eighteen people had been killed when the tower of Siloam had fallen on them. Jesus said that the sins of the people killed in these tragedies were no worse than those of other Galileans, or other people living in Jerusalem, but he said that unless they repented, they would all perish.
The city of Jerusalem was placing itself under a curse by hardening its heart against the Messiah of God. The two events they asked about were signs of the judgement that would come, if they did not change their attitude. This is what did happen. The Jews crucified their messiah and in A.D 70, the Roman army besieged Jerusalem, smashed down its walls and slaughtered those who survived.
The principle is that God sometimes gives a warning by allowing unusual warning events that are typical of a larger scale judgement which will come, if the people do not turn back to God.
Has anyone wondered if 9/11 was a warning event for the people of the United States? Is God warning of a business collapse and military defeat for the United States, if there is not change of direction. Who is reading the weather signs?
Technorati Tags: Warning Event 911
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
What is Terrorism?
When an Arab flies a plane into a building he is a terrorist.
When a Palestinian lets off a bomb in an Israeli restaurant he is a terrorist.
When an American pilot dropped a bomb that destroys a village in Afghanistan, because someone said a member of Al Qa’ida was there, the people would have experienced a moment of terror before they were pulverised to dust. But the pilot is not a terrorist?
When an Israeli pilot dropped a half-ton bomb on an apartment building in Beirut, the people hiding within would have experienced a brief moment of terror as they were crushed to death. But this is not terrorism?
In all four cases, the victims experienced terror. In each situation innocent people died. So terrorism is not defined by terror. Nor is it about the killing of innocent people.
Terrorism is often just a label that we put on those we perceive to be our enemies.
We have always given labels to our enemies, because it is hard to fight hard against “people”. The First World War was fought against “Huns”. In the Second World War we battled the “Nips. In Vietnam we fought against “Gooks”. Now we are fighting against “Terrists”.
Give them a label, and it will be easier to hate them. We don’t have to love them.
If we are serious about following Jesus, we will have to learn to love our enemies.
If we loved our enemies we would not give them labels that dehumanize them and make it easier to hate.
If we loved our enemies we would try to understand what motivates them. Calling them “mad” is a cope out. Calling them religious nutters does not help (many people would put that label on us). If we loved our enemies, we would try to understand what motivates an educated young man, with all of life before him, to kill himself for his cause (I am serious about my cause, but I am not sure if I would die for it). We might find that he sees the world differently from the way that we see it. We might even start wondering why he sees it that way. Who knows were that would lead.
It might even lead to more love and more peace.
Technorati Tags: Terror Peace
Monday, September 11, 2006
The war on Terror began on September 11, 2001
This statement has been repeated over and over again, but that does not make it true.
War on Terror is a strange name for a war. Terror is a weapon, not a war. So who is America actually fighting against: Al Qa'ida, an Axis of Evil, all Muslims, the Middle East nations?
Fighting a war against an undefined enemy is dangerous. You do not know who is on your side or when you have won.
This war did not begin in 2001. A new stage may have started, when America was invaded for the first time, but the war did not start then.
Maybe the war began when the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953.
Maybe it started when the Western powers chopped up the Middle East to reflect their interests at the end of the First World War.
Maybe it began when the British Army dealt with a revolt in Iraq in 1920-22, more effectively it dealt with an earlier revolt by 13 states in America.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Last month a New Zealand-born journalist Olaf Wiig was caputured an held as a hostage in Gaza. This event was the first event on our television news every evening, with life hook-ups to commentators in Gaza. Diplomats and politicians were hard at work lobbying for their freedom.
A million people are imprisoned and the whole world is strangely silent. The news media go back to human interest stories and the politicians go back to squabbling amongst themselves.
No one is interested. Have we got our priorities right?
Here are a couple of interesting articles.
Gaza is a Jail
If it is a war against terror, why did they bomb the electricity plant and bulldoze the olive grove?
Technorati Tags: Gaza Prison
Friday, September 08, 2006
The key to a successful system of government to function, is finding the "highest common denominator", to twist a mathematical expression. The highest Common denominator is what most people will committed to, or at least not object to. The aim should be to find positions that most people can agree on.
In the past, when a Christian world view was more widespread, that highest common denominator was more Christian, but as pluralism increases, some of the things that were widely accepted in the past, are no longer part of the highest common denominator.
Culture and the media shape the highest common denominator, so it is not constant, but changes over time. Prayer in schools was once part of the highest common denominator, but now it is not. Likewise, abortion was once was, but now is not part of the highest common denominator.
The best common denominator is the second table of the law. It limits law to prohibiting crimes that will always be part of the highest common denominator. Almost everyone believes that murder, assault, theft and false witness are crimes. They are specified as crimes in most legal systems. Most people believe that adultery is wrong, but not everyone wants it to be a crime (Moses did not enforce the adultery laws). The second table of the law remains part of the highest common denominator, even in a wicked or pluralistic society.
The same applies to the biblical principles about the functioning of the law. Everyone accepts the principle of proportional restitution. Everyone accepts that just should be tempered by mercy.
A highest common denominator approach means that politics must remain humble. The problem is that most politicians want to do too much, so they end up going beyond the highest common denominator and start forcing significant groups of people to do things that they do not want to do, ie forcing a minority to do what the majority believe is good. God’s law is more humble.
Technorati Tags: Law Highest Common Denominator
Thursday, September 07, 2006
God expected the nations to look at Israel’s laws and system of government and say “What a great system! Why don’t we copy it!” Unfortunately, God never even got his own people to say these words. Instead, they looked at the nations with their kings and said, “What a great system. We need a King!”
Now God cannot get Christians to look at his law and say “What wonderful laws!” Most Christians either hate his law, or are totally ignorant of its content. Instead, Christians look at democracy and say “What a great system! We will go with that”.
This should be a wake up call for us. God expects people to look at his law and say “What a great system!”
Oh, how I love your law!We must have missed something. We have not understood the greatness of God’s law. Perhaps it is time to have another look and find out what God was so excited about when he actually came down to earth and gave the law to Moses.
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands make
me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path. (Psalm 119:97-104).
Technorati Tags: Law System
The law was not just for Israel. God’s purpose was that nations would see the effectiveness of his laws and want to copy them.
See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? (Deut 4:5-8).God’s law would make Israel into a great nation. The other nations would look at their body of laws and express amazement. They would choose to follow the Israelite examples. God’s influence would not grow through the expansion of the Israelite kingdom. Rather it would spread, as the nations copied the laws that God had given to Israel.
God’s system was a unique combination of law and no human king. The nations all had kings and arbitrary laws.
God’s plan failed because Israel refused to accept his system. They chose a mixture of God’s law and human kings that produced failure and not greatness. The nations never got to see the greatness of God’s system of laws.
In the Old Testament, the expectation was that the nations would copy the second table first. Once people had experienced the benefits of these laws, they would start to enquire about the God who given them and get interested in the first table. The law came first, and loving God came second.
Since the coming of Jesus, the order has been reversed. As the gospel is preached, the nations accept Jesus as Lord. They would then be taught to obey his laws. The nations will love God first as they hear the gospel, and then apply his laws as they study his word.
Technorati Tags: Law Nations
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Christians have this view that the New Testament is about love and the Old Testament is about law. They seem them as opposites. The words commonly used to describe the Old Testament law include harsh, cruel, severe and merciless.
Jesus had a different view of the law. When asked what is the greatest law, he said,
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The first part of his response is well known, but the final sentence is fascinating. Jesus says that the law hangs on the command to love your neighbour as yourself. How can harsh laws hang on a command to love your neighbour? Jesus saw the law as being about love, so how can it be harsh and cruel.
Paul was even blunter in his statement about the law.
The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself (Gal 5:14).
The law is summed up by the word love. How can a law that is harsh and cruel be summed up by the word love? This does not make sense.
Only one conclusion can follow from these two messages. Those who believe the law is harsh and cruel have misunderstood it. If we read the law in the way that Jesus read it, we would see God’s love and the love of man, not harshness and cruelty. If we are not seeing love when we read the law, then we may need to read it again through the eyes of Jesus.
I believe that Christians who want to understand political systems need to seriously study of the Old Testament law. However, we need a radically different approach. We need to approach the law in the same way as Jesus and Paul, looking for love of God and love of neighbour. We might be surprised at what we find.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Jesus has strong warning for those who teach people to ignore the law. Those in the modern church who despise the law should take note.
Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches othersto do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoeverpractices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom ofheaven (Matt 5:19).
This is an amazing statement. Those who teach people to ignore the law are at the bottom of the heap. Those who teach the law will be called the greatest in the kingdom. This is one that we have not noticed. Christians should think twice before they knock God’s law.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Another common misconception about the Law of Moses is that it contains a complete list of all sins. This is just not true.
God gave the law revealed to Moses to provide a way for people to live in harmony. It was not intended to be a list of all sins. Pride is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Neither is presumption or gluttony. We should not be surprised at these omissions, because this is not the purpose of the law.
Moses understood this. He was the most humble man on the earth, even though humility is not one of the Ten Commandments. He was humble because he loved God, not because of the law. He understood that the law was not given to define sin, but to provide a way for people to live in peace.
Jesus corrected this error in the Sermon on the Mount, by giving a true standard of righteousness. He then explained that keeping the law was not sufficient for a holy life. There are plenty of people who have never committed adultery, murdered someone, stolen from their neighbour or perjured themselves before a court, but that does not make them holy. Jesus explained that anger and lust are sins, even though they are not forbidden by the law.
Our righteousness must surpass the standard required by the law (Matt 5:20).
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48).
Keeping the law makes us peaceful citizens, but it does not make us holy. God’s holiness requires a much higher standard than the law.
Some Christians assume that Jesus was changing the law and setting a higher standard. This is not correct. He confirmed the law.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I havenot come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heavenand earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen,will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt5:17-18).
Jesus was not changing the law. He was explaining the difference between the laws needed for the harmonious working of society and the standard of holiness of righteousness required by holiness. The law is sufficient for people to live in harmony, because that is its purpose. It is not our standard of holiness.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
The law came as part of a passage. At the same time as he gave the law, God gave a system of priests and sacrifices to deal with sin. These sacrifices were a constant reminder to the people of their sin. As part of the package, God also gave some other external distinctives, like the Sabbath and circumcision, to separate them from the nations around them.
God no longer works through a nation, so the external distinctives are not long longer required. Our agape love should distinguish us from the people of the world. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus ended the need for the Old Testament sacrifices. Jesus became the great high priest, ending the need for priests.
However, a method of restraining wickedness is still needed. Everyone understands this. Even nations that reject God have laws against theft and violence. They might mess up God's law by adding human accretions, but they generally understand the need for laws against these crimes. Everyone understands that law is essential for a peaceful society.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Some Christians assume that the law was given as a temporary way of righteousness until Christ came. The problem with this view is that at least three thousand years had gone when God gave the law. If a temporary system of righteousness was needed, why did God wait for so long to give it?
Nearly 400 years before the law was given, Abraham understood righteousness through faith in God (Rom 4:9). Moses was also accepted by faith, before God gave him the law (Heb 11:24, 25). If righteousness through faith was already available, why would God give a system of righteousness by law? Why would God replace a superior righteousness with an inferior law?
The answer is that God gave the law just when it was needed. Up until the time of Abraham, there was plenty of room in the world, so people did not need live in close proximity. When people had disputes, they could just move away from each other. By the time of Jacob, people were starting to live closer together and disputes over property were becoming prevalent (Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Laban). A system for resolving disputes was needed.
Then they went down to Egypt to live as slaves, with no choice but to accept the Egyptian system of justice. This changed when they escaped. With a million people living in a small country, disputes would be bound to occur. God have the law to deal with the problem. He gave it just when it was needed.
The law was a system of justice for dealing with disputes over property and to violence towards people. God gave the law to restrain crime. It never had any other purpose and that purpose has not changed. It was given when it was needed, because God’s timing is always perfect.