Saturday, July 31, 2010

Parable of the Minas (5) Third Servant

The third servant was different. He had guarded the mina carefully.

Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth (19:20).
This servant had done nothing wrong. He had cared for the coin that had been entrusted to him. The king complained that he could have taken the money to bankers and earned interest. This was a shallow claim. The bankers in Jesus time were notoriously ruthless, looking after the rich and robbing the poor. If a servant had entrusted the coin to a banker, he might not have been able to get it back. Hiding the coin was probably a safer option. Despite being innocent, this man was castigated as a wicked servant.

This servant represents Jesus. The cloth that he wrapped the coin in was a “suderion”. This is a cloth for snot, and for cleaning dead bodies. This pointed forward to Jesus death. He was innocent. He had done nothing wrong, yet he was convicted unjustly and placed among the wicked. His suffering would inaugurate the kingdom.

Jesus was explaining how the kingdom would come. He would inaugurate the kingdom by suffering on the cross. Like the third servant, Jesus had done nothing wrong, but he died.

The death of Jesus would be followed by suffering of the citizens of the kingdom. The parable ends with the citizens who had opposed the wicked king being killed. The king said,
But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me (Luke 19:27).
Jesus was warning that many of those who follow him would suffer as he did. Christians who standard in prayer against the usurped authority of the evil one will face persecution. Those who challenge the false authority of human political power will suffer tribulations before the kingdom comes into reality. Many of those who challenged the Roman empire were persecuted and died. It took 300 years for the empire to collapse, and many Christians would die.

The political and economic powers came together to destroy Jesus on the cross. However, Jesus destroyed the political and economic powers by dying on the cross. This is how the kingdom comes. God’s people will not impose the kingdom by seizing political power. As they suffer and endure in obedience to Jesus, the kingdom of darkness will collapse and retreat before their bright shining light.

This parable explained the coming of the Kingdom. It was also a warning to Zacchaeus and any other member of the political establishment. Once it was known that he had given money away, and would refuse to take more than he was owed, he would be a soft touch. His days as a tax collector were finished. By exposing the corruption and illegality of the tax system, he became an enemy of the political establishment. Zacchaeus would find himself in the same situation as the citizens who opposed the wicked nobleman. We do not know what happened to Zacchaeus, but we can presume that he would have had a rough time, the next time he met with his Roman controllers.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Parable of the Minas (4) Ten Servants

The nobleman had called ten servants and given each of them a mina to take care of. A mina was coin worth about three months wages. When the man returned as king he called his servants together to see what they had achieved. The first servant had earned ten minas.

The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.'
'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities' (Luke 19:16).
There are two things to notice about this response.

We assume that the servant had done well, but this needs a closer examination. The nobleman would have been away for less than a year, yet the servant had turned one mina into ten. That was a thousand percent interest. He could not have got that sort of return by planting and harvesting a crop.

Jesus listeners would understand that the only people who could make this sort of return were loans sharks and crooks. In those times, it was common practice for unscrupulous people to make loans to poor and desperate people. When the borrowers failed to repay the loan their property would be repossessed.

The first servant understood the character of his master well. To get a thousand percent return he must have reaped what he did not sow or taken out what he did not put in.

The reward of ten cities is telling. The king was not making his servant king of ten cities. A king would not give up that sort of power. He was giving the servant tax collection rights over ten cities. The main role of kings like Herod was to collect money for the Roman empire. The king was appointing the servant as a chief tax collector, just like Zacchaeus. From the king’s point of view, the servant was the perfect man for the job, because he had extracted a thousand percent interest from the person who borrowed his mina. That was just the sort of ruthless attitude that an effective tax collector would need.

The second servant had only produced a 500 percent rate of returns. Because he was not as ruthless, he was only given tax collection rights in five cities.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Parable of the Minas (3) Real Enemy

The nobleman in the parable actually represents the devil. He will gain authority that he is not entitled to have. He will use that stolen illegitimate authority to destroy the honest man and the citizens of the kingdom who object to his claims to power. When the enemy has failed to destroy Jesus by putting him on the cross, he will turn on Jesus followers and try to destroy them as well. As long as the devil is allowed to hang on to his illegitimate authority, he will persecute Christians who challenge his authority.

The parable is a veiled political statement. Zacchaeus and his friends were all tied up in the local political system. They had collaborated Rome. Many had become rich through theft and violence. Jesus was reminding the people that those who collaborate with political power and empire are dangerous. Challenging the servants of political power will always be dangerous.

This is a parallel to the unjust judge in the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18. In this parable, Jesus had already provided the solution to this problem. The persistence of the saints will gradually the enemy down, and he will have to surrender his false authority to the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Parable of the Minas (2)

The main character in the parable is a rich nobleman, who went to another to be made king.

A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return (Luke 19:12).
The usual interpretation is that the nobleman represents Jesus, who has gone to heaven and will return to be made king at a future date. A close study of the parable shows that this view is wrong.

(Keesmaat and Walsh point out the story Jesus told was based on a recent incident in local politics. When Herod the Great died, his will divided his territory among his three living sons. They had gone off to Rome to dispute the will with Caesar, because each wanted the entire kingdom. Some Pharisees also went to Rome to dispute the will and ask for a Jewish king. Caesar accepted Herod’s will and sent them all home with a third of the kingdom. Herod Archelaus, the son who controlled Jericho was so angry when he returned that he rounded up a large group of the Pharisees and had them crucified. Jesus listeners would have understood this historical allusion.)

The nobleman had gone to a far country to be made king. This should ring an alarm bell. A ruler in a far country does not have authority to impose on a king on the local people, unless he is an emperor controlling a large empire. This shows that the nobleman was a collaborator with the evil empire. Only God could appoint a king in Israel. By going to the emperor to be made king, the nobleman was denying God’s authority and honouring Caesar’s authority.

The nobleman boasted about his evil character.
I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in,
and reaping what I did not sow (Luke 19:22).
He admitted that some of his wealth was undeserved. He had become rich by stealing from others. He was also ruthless and violent.
But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me (Luke 19:27).
This man did not just want his enemies killed. He wanted to enjoy watching them be killed.

The nobleman was a dreadful character. He was a collaborator, a thief and extremely violent. This man does not represent Jesus. Any interpretation of the parable that assumes that the nobleman is Jesus is a dreadful insult to the son of God.

Only those who want Jesus to get angry and violent would see the noble man as representing him.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Parable of the Minas (1)

I always presumed this was a parable about stewardship of our talents. We must use what God has given until Jesus returns. After reading Jesus and Politics by Alan Storkey, I realised this approach is wrong and some gained new insights.

Jesus told the parable in the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2). Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. He would have controlled all the taxes collected from part of Jericho, maybe the entire city. In Roman times, tax collectors were not benign impartial civil servants. They would often had paid for the position. They would extract as much money as the get, pay what Rome demanded, and keep the rest for themselves.

Tax collection was a path to riches. Only a ruthless man could hold this job, as he had to squeeze tax out people who could not afford it. He would become very rich for his efforts, but would be hated by the people.

Luke explains why Jesus told the parable. This one does not being with the usual expression, “the kingdom of God is like… ”.

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once (Luke 19:11).
Many healings and the repentance of key people like Zacchaeus led many people to believe that the kingdom was go to appear straight away. Jesus knew he was going to the cross, so he did not want them to be disappointed. (Some of the disciples still had this view in Acts 1:6).

The parable gives important insights into Jesus thinking about the Kingdom. He had said all along that it was at hand. He would inaugurate the Kingdom by dying on the cross. However, it would take some time for it to be established throughout the world. Many of his followers would have to suffer persecution first. Like yeast, the kingdom would take some time to permeate the whole of society. On the other hand, he probably did not expect it to take 200 years, but he did not realise how slack the Church would become.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weightless Organisation

A few years ago the "weightless" organisation was a trendy idea in management literature.

I find it a great irony is that the world is leading the church in building "weightless" structures. As the Holy Spirit is invisible, the church should be the ultimate "weightless" organisation. Instead the church is moving towards greater control, as apostles are being appointed to rule over large groups of Christians.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Missing Millennium (3)

Many Christians will find this hard to accept, but the commonly-believed idea that a millennium occurs at the end of the age does not come from the scriptures. This raises and interesting problem. Where did this deception come from? When forensic accountants are tracking down fraud, they say “Follow the money”. In other words, to find out who perpetrated a fraud, find out who benefits. The best way to find out the source of the “millennium fraud” is to work out who benefits.

Robbed of Promises
Christians have not benefitted from the millennium deception. Instead they have been robbed of many of the promises of God by end-times Bible teachers who take all the good promises in the scriptures and assigned to the millennium. All the good promises are pushed out into the future, so that Christians are left with scraps for the current season. This has left many Christians very negative and defeated by the immediate future.

Holy Spirit Insulted
The millennium deception is an insult to the Holy Spirit. The cross and the resurrection opened up the way for him to do great things on earth, but if God’s victory does not come until the millennium, after the Holy Spirit has been taken out of the world, he is destined to be a failure. He was supposed to do greater things than Jesus, so if he cannot pull off a victory and has to call in Jesus to do it for him, he is not much cop. The Holy Sprit did not come up with this deception.

Power to the Enemy
The sole beneficiary of the millennium deception is the devil. Here is how it works. If the saints do not reign until the end of the age, they are slaves now. If the devil is not bound until the end of the age, he has full freedom on earth now. If Jesus does not reign until the end of the age, someone else can reign until then. That can only be one person. The problem with the millennium deception is what happens before the millennium. If Jesus only reigns during the millennium, then the devil is reigning until the millennium comes.

If these ideas are true, the great commission is totally changed. Here is what Jesus must have said.

All authority in heaven and on earth was been given to me, but I am giving it back to the devil for a couple of thousand years. Go and make disciples, but it will be really hard work, because the devil reigns on earth until end of the age. The Holy Spirit will be with you, but he is no match for the enemy.
This is obviously absurd; but it is the clear implication of the millennium deception. That alone should be enough to make us let it go.

The Kingdom
Our gospel is the good news of the kingdom. The kingdom is our inheritance and the kingdom is our hope. The millennium is a trick to give power to the devil. We should give up looking for a millennium in the never-never, and focus our energies on the kingdom of God that came with Jesus.
Forget about the millennium and focus on the kingdom of God.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Missing Millennium (2)

How long is the thousand year epoch?

The answer to the first question seems obvious, but is not. The number “one “thousand” could be taken literally, but many of the numbers in revelation are not literal, so we should not just assume that is the case. One thousand is ten to the power of three. Ten symbolises completeness. Three symbolises divine perfection. Therefore ten to the power of three symbolises God’s perfect completeness. In Jewish literature of the time, the expression “one thousand years” was often used to refer to a “very long time”. This is the most likely what John means. Satan will be bound and the saints will reign for as long as is needed for God to complete his purposes. That could be a very long time.

When does the thousand years begin?

This is a far more important question and easier to answer. John tells us the two things that happen at the start of this “long” season, so its beginning is easy to identify. The two events that mark the beginning of the season are:

  1. Satan is bound (Rev 20:2).
  2. The saints are raised to life – the first resurrection (Rev 20:4).
If we can identify when these two events take place, we know when the long season begins.

1. Satan was Bound by the Cross
The Bible teaches that Satan was bound at the cross.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:15).
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity, so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil (Heb 2:14).
These verses are very clear. The devil was totally defeated by the cross. Jesus made the implications clear when he was challenged about why he was able to cast out spirits.
How can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house (Matt 12:29).
He was able to cast out spirits because Satan was bound. The early church was able to heal the sick and cast out demons, because the devil was bound by the cross. After his resurrection, Jesus said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matt 28:10).
All means all. If Jesus had all authority in heaven and on earth, that means that Satan has none. He was stripped of power and bound by the cross.

2. First Resurrection
We are raised with Jesus when we believe in him.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life; he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).
Those who believe in Jesus were raised to life when Jesus was raised to life.
God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-6).
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Rom 6:4).
Christians were raised to life in the resurrection of Jesus. This is the first resurrection.

Already Started
The scriptures quoted above represent the clear teaching of the scriptures. The same themes are repeated again.
  • The devil and his angels were bound by the cross.
  • Christians (the saints) were raised to life in Jesus resurrection.
The two events marking the beginning of the “long season” have already occurred. They took place at the end of Jesus ministry on earth. The thousand years have already begun.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Missing Millennium (1)

Many Christians believe in the millennium, a future, thousand year period of blessing on earth. When they read scriptures that speak of hope, they often think of the millennium. Unfortnately, this is a false hope that has robbed Christians of true hope.

The gospels never mention a millennium. Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming “The kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15) and he continued to speak about the Kingdom throughout his ministry. He was very precise about when it would come.

I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9:1).
Jesus did not refer to a future generation. He said that those standing in front of him would see the kingdom coming. That should make us think. He said that the kingdom is at hand, but he never mentioned a millennium that is far off.

The New Testament epistles never mention a millennium. Paul reminded the church again and again that Jesus is Lord. He has been raised to the right hand of the father and he is king of kings and lord of all. He never mentioned a future millennium. This is odd, if the millennium is our hope.

The book of Revelation begins with Jesus reigning. John saw a worship session in heaven.
In a loud voice they sang:
Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and on the sea,
and all that is in them, singing:
To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honour and glory and power,
for ever and ever! (Rev 5:12-13)
This is what John saw taking place in the first century. You have to go to Revelation 20 to get a hint of a millennium, but even here an event called a millennium is not mentioned. This is really strange, if a millennium is core part of God's plan.

What we have in Revelation 20 is two statements.
Satan is seized and bound for a thousand years (Rev 20:2,3).
The saints come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection (Rev 20:5,6).
These two statements raise a couple of simple questions.
How long?
I will answer these questions tomorrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lion or Lamb

When Jesus arrived on earth, the Jews were looking for a physical kingdom. They expected the messiah to overthrow the Romans, the Sadducees and other local collaborators and rule the kingdom of Israel from Jerusalem. Even the twelve disciples held this view. Mrs Zebedee asked Jesus if her two sons could be his leading political henchmen.

Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom (Matt 20:21).
James and John thought their role was to call don fire from heaven on anyone who opposed the rule of the Messiah.
The people there did not welcome him…. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them? "But Jesus turned and rebuked them (Luke 9:53-55).
These guys were still looking for this power ministry after the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:8).
It took the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to get their heads straight.

The Jews were wrong in their expectations. Jesus explained that his Kingdom would be totally different from the kingdoms of the world. Coercion and force have not place in Jesus kingdom. He refused to call the angels to come and fight on his behalf (Matt 26:53). He established his Kingdom by submitting to the political powers of the time and going to his death on the cross. This is a totally different way of doing kingdom. The Kingdom of God will not be established by military power and political coercion, but by suffering and service.

Unfortunately, most Christians still have not accepted Jesus teaching. We have limited Jesus accomplishment to paying the penalty of sin and making peace with God on our behalf. That is good, but no one expects anything more. We should not expect to see evil defeated or the world transformed.

Few Christians have any confidence in Jesus strange way of bringing in the kingdom. Most do not believe that it is possible to be defeat evil by suffering and death. Sin is too strong. Evil cannot be beaten. The best we can do is get on with getting as many people as possible to accept forgiveness of sin.

Just like the Jewish people of Jesus time, we want a messiah who will beat up the political powers and impose the kingdom on the world. To get what we want, we do a clever twist on the gospel. Jesus came as a suffering servant the first time, but when he comes again, he will establish his kingdom by force. Some Christians even expect to be there calling down fire from heaven on those who oppose the returning messiah’s authority. A Zebedee-style kingdom is still the focus of Christian hope.

The most common form of this twist is the common belief that Jesus came as a lamb the first time, but will return as a lion at the end of the age. It this belief were correct, you would expect the book of Revelation to be full of references to Jesus coming as a lion. The problem is that Jesus is only described as a lion in the Revelation on one occasion, and that refers to an earlier ministry (Rev 5:5). Most of the references to a lion in the New Testament refer to the devil. In contrast, there are thirty references to Jesus as a lamb in the book of revelation. That belief that Jesus will return as a lion is blown out of the water.

Jesus never promised to return and establish the Kingdom of God at the end of the age. We just assume he did, because that is what we want. Jesus actually preached a gospel of a kingdom was near when he lived on earth. He believed that his kingdom could be established by suffering and service. Jesus will not establish his kingdom by military or political force. Those who hope he will are making the same mistake as the Zebedee boys. They will need to make a radical change in their thinking about the way the kingdom comes, or face huge disappointment. We need to rediscover the Kingdom of the Lamb.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Beautiful Kingdom

The Holy Spirit will bring in a beautiful Kingdom. He will work in the hearts of all people to convict them of sin and to testify to Jesus. He will draw all men to Jesus, causing them to be born again. The Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth and teach them how to live. As he produces the fruits of love, peace, patience, kindness and joy, people will begin to care for each other and provide everyone with what they need. Peace on earth will come and the groaning creation will be restored.

The Kingdom of God that the Holy Spirit creates will be a voluntary kingdom. There will be no need for coercion and force. Political power and violence will become redundant. The Holy Spirit will create a beautiful kingdom.

The kingdom that most Christians want is an ugly Kingdom. They want Jesus to return to Jerusalem and rule the world with an iron rod. His followers will control the world using political power and military force. Those who hate Jesus will be cowled into silence and forced to obey his word. Those who rebel will be destroyed by violent power. This is an ugly kingdom, but it is not the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed.

Monday, July 19, 2010


An interesting quote from Dr A Bernstein on How to Deal with Emotionally Explosive People.

People who see themselves as victims or the defenders of victims are claiming the right to victimize others. In 30 years of doing therapy with angry people, I have never met a bully who did not consider himself or herself a victim(Dr A Bernstein - How to Deal with Emotionally Explosive People).
This seems to apply in the political world too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


The issue of female elders is one that really gets Christians stirred up. To resolve this issue, we really need to set aside our modern experiences with elders and have a totally fresh look at New Testament teaching on eldership. The things that I write about eldership in my book Being Church Where We Live do not make sense, if they are applied to eldership as it operates in most churches today.

The problem is that in the modern church, eldership has become a “power” role. Becoming an elder gets you onto the committee that controls the church. Elders decide how the money is spent, who will be employed, who will get to preach, what programs will be run, and a whole lot of other stuff. In some churches, the elders even get to sack the CEO (woops Pastor).

This is totally wrong. Jesus was adamant that in his kingdom, leaders would not control people but would serve them (Mark 10:42-45).

In New Testament, eldership is not a power ministry. First, elders as a group do not have many decisions to make. Every couple of years, they may need to decide who to send out as apostles. If someone really loses the plot, they may decide to cut them loose, but that should be rare. If the church is following the leading of the Holy Spirit, there will be very few decisions for elders to make. Most of the situations that need committee decisions in our modern churches simply will not occur.

The main task of the elders is to ensure that every Christian grows to maturity, and to ensure that Christians build relationships with each other in a way that will allow the body to function effectively (Eph 4:7-16). This task is simply not done in the modern church, because it is assumed that these things will happen automatically if the people hear a good sermon each week. The great irony is that in place where it is being done, this role is mostly being undertaken by women, because the male elders are too busy at their committee meetings.

In the New Testament, eldership is mostly discipling less mature members of the church. NT elders have no power or control over those they are discipling. What happens is that a new Christian will submit to an elder and accept correction and guidance from them and give them authority to pray in agreement on their behalf. This is a voluntary relationship. The person who has submitted can walk away at any time. The elder earns the privilege of speaking into their disciples’’ lives by their love and service. This is the way it was with Jesus. The disciples submitted to him, because they loved him, not because someone had appointed him as an elder. Judas (probably permanently) and Peter (temporarily) were free to withdraw their submission to Jesus when they chose. Jesus never once said to his disciples, “You must submit to me, because I am you elder”.

There is a place for appointing elders, but this is just recognition by the other elders and the church of what the person will already doing. An apostle would be unwise to appoint a person as elder, who does not have new Christian asking for their guidance and correction. The elders cannot make people submit to a person they appoint as elder.

In the New Testament, eldership is primarily a relationship ministry. That means that it must be based on healthy relationships.

Once we understand that eldership is relationship ministry, the sex, age issues disappear. A young man of 25 would be unlikely to submit to a man of 90. He would want to submit to someone younger, who understood the issues he faces in life. A 40 year old male elder should not want a 25 year old single woman submitting to him. He would be better to encourage her to submit to a more mature woman.

Jesus was modelling the discipling of new followers by living and working together. He did not have any women among the twelve disciples. This was not because women cannot be disciples, but because it was not appropriate given the intimate relationship he had with his those he was discpling (Dan Brown could really go to town).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Change the World (3)

Hunter suggests that Christians hold a flawed theology of power.

The politicisation of everything is an indirect measure of the loss of a common culture and, in turn, the competition among factions to dominate others on their own terms. Our times amply demonstrate that is far easier to force one’s will on others though legal and political means or to threatened to do so than it is to persuade them or negotiate compromise with them (p.107).

World changing implies power and the implicit theories of power that have long guided their exercise of power is still influenced by Constantinian tendencies towards conquest and domination…. Thus it is not surprising that, in conformity to the spirit of the modern age, Christians conceive of power as political power. Christians, like most modern people, have politicized every aspect of public life and private life as well-from church/state issues, education, the media, entertainment and the arts, and the environment to family values, sexuality, and parenting. In this, they mistakenly imagine that to pass a referendum, elect a candidate, pass a law, or change a policy is to change culture. (p.275)

We need a new language for how the church engages the culture. It is essential to abandon altogether talk of “redeeming the culture”, “advancing the kingdom” “building the kingdom,” “transforming the world” “reclaiming the culture,” “reforming the culture” and “changing the world”. Christians need to leave such language behind them, because it carries too much weight. It implies conquest, takeover, or dominion, which in my view is precisely what God does not call us to pursue—at least not in any conventional, twentieth-or twenty-first century way of understanding these terms.

It isn’t just the Constantinian temptation the church must repudiate, but more significantly, the orientation towards power that underwrites it. The proclivity towards domination and toward the politicization of everything leads Christianity today to bizarre turns; turns that, in my view, transform much of the Christian public witness into the very opposite of the witness Christianity is supposed to offer. (p.280).
Jesus had a different approach to power (Matt 5:42-44).We need a new philosophy of power.

Friday, July 16, 2010

To Change the World (2)

Hunter also challenges the idea that politics are the key to change. He actually suggests that politicization of the whole of life is a significant part of the problem.

Politics has become so central in our time that institutions, groups and issues are now defined relative to the state, its laws and procedures… In short, the state has increasingly become the incarnation of the public weal. Its laws, policies and procedures have become the predominant framework by which we understand collective life, its members, its leading organisations, its problem and its issues.

There are other forces that frame common life as well—most notably the ubiquitous market—but these are not autonomous from the state, but linked integrally with its extensive instrumentalities. This is the heart of politicisation and it has gone far as to affect our language, imagination, and expectations. The language of politics (and economy) comes to frame progressively more of our understanding of our common life, our public purposes, and ourselves individually and collectively.

Given this turn, it is hardly surprising that the language of partisan politics has come to shape how we understand others. …..Taken to extreme, identity becomes so tightly linked with ideology, that partisan commitment becomes a measure of their moral significance, of whether a person is judged good or bad. This is the face of identity politics (p.103).
If Hunter's view is correct, most of the efforts to bring change through the political process are wasted.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To Change the World (1)

I have just finished reading To Change the World by James Davison Hunter. The subtitle of the book is The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the late Modern world. This is a really important book. I would urge anyone who is interested in making a difference in the world to read it.

Hunter challenges the common view among Christians that if we change the way people think then the world will be transformed. He explains why culture is difficult change and suggests that most Christian efforts to change the world will fail, because Christians do not understand the way that culture changes.

The first problem is that the implicit social theory that guides so much of their efforts is deeply flawed. Christians from many different traditions tend to believer that cultures are shaped from the cumulative values and beliefs that they hold. This is why Christians often pursue social change through evangelism, civic renewal through populist social moments, and democratic political action (where every vote reflects values.

The evidence of history and sociology demonstrates that this theory of culture and cultural change is simply wrong and for this reason, every initiative based on this perspective will fail to achieve the goals it hopes to meet. This is not to say that the hearts and minds of ordinary people are unimportant. To the contrary. Rather the hearts and minds of ordinary people are only relatively insignificant if the goal is to change cultures at their deepest levels.

Cultural change at its most profound level occurs through dense networks of elites operating in common purpose within institutions at the high prestige centres of culture production. In light of this, the cultural economy of contemporary Christianity is strongest, in the main, where cultural leverage is weakest on the social periphery, rather than the cultural center and in tastes that run to the lower middle and middle brow rather than the high brow. The idea that significant number of Christian are operating in the hall so power” in ways that thoughtful and strategic, then is simply ludicrous.

Christianity in North American and the West more generally is weak culture. Weak insofar as it is fragmented in its core beliefs and organisation, with a coherent collective identify and mission, and often divided within itself, often with unabated hostility. Thus for all the talk of world-changing and all of the good intentions that motivate it, the Christian community is not, on the whole, remotely close to a position where it could actually change the world in any significant way (pp.273-274).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seeing our Love?

Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for each other.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).
How can the world see our love, if we only meet once a week in a church.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matt 5:14-16).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is everywhere and exercises all the awesome power of God.

In contrast Jesus is constrained by the physical limitations of being human. Even though he has a spiritual body and can move between the physical and spiritual worlds, he can only be one place at a time. He could not raise himself from the dead, but needed to be raised by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here is my question: If the Holy Spirit, who is all powerful cannot bring in the Kingdom of God, how would Jesus be able to do it when he returns?

I suppose that he could get his followers to kill everyone who opposes him, but that would not be a very nice kingdom. It would be quite different from the Kingdom that he promised.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kingdom and Government

Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. He proved this by healing the sick. The resurrection confirmed him as king.

The Kingdom continued to advance and the kings and ruler fell before it. The ruling class in Israel was swept away in AD 70. The Roman Empire collapsed in the fourth century. Unfortunately, the church were not ready with an alternative kingdom government, so they attempted to prop up the existing governments. That was a disaster that killed the kingdom

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Second Heaven

Many Christians believe that the devil controls the second heaven. Some have been taught that our sky is the first heaven and that our prayers have to pass through the second heaven to get to God in the third heaven. They allege that our prayers are not answered, because the devil prevents them from getting through to God. Sometimes God opens the heavens, which means that the devil cannot prevent prayers from getting through.

This doctrine does not have any basis in the scriptures. In fact, the second heaven is not mentioned in the Bible. Paul refers to the third heaven and links it with paradise.

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise (2 Cor 12:2-4).
Paradise is the place where Jesus and the thief went after they died (Luke 23:43). If there is a third heaven, there must be a second heaven too, but we actually know very little about the way that heaven is structured. We must be careful building up a doctrine of several heavens, because we just do not know enough. If God wanted us to have this understanding, he would have got Paul to tell us more about what he saw, but he did not.
He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell (2 Cor 12:2-4).
Paul was not permitted to tell what he had seen. Those who claim to know the shape of the heavens are claiming to know things that Paul was not allowed to speak about.

The one thing that we do know is that Satan was thrown out of heaven (Rev 12:7,8). In Old Testament times, he could go into God’s presence and accuse the people of God. The cross destroyed that right and he lost his place in heaven. He is a still spiritual being without a body, so he has to operate in the spiritual dimension, but he does not have a place of authority in any part of heaven. The idea that he can control our access to God through prayer is nonsense.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Dimensions (10) Afterlife

Christians understand life after death in different ways. Some see it as a totally spiritual existence, but that makes it rather ephemeral. A few theologians are now reminding us of the new heavens and the earth. They suggest that life after death will have strong parallels with life on earth as it is now.

Neither view is totally correct. After the final resurrection, we will have spiritual bodies like Jesus. That will enable us to move freely in the spiritual dimensions of life. Because we are human we will be continue to be at home in the physical world. When we move into this multi-dimensional life, we will gain a totally different view of existence. The physical dimension will not be limited to life on earth, but will encompass all the starts and planets throughout the entire universe. We will also understand how the entire universe links to the spiritual dimensions of reality.

In the future life, we will move freely throughout the universe and through the heavenly, spiritual dimensions of life that we currently see dimly. That will be truly amazing. The descriptions of human theologians cannot do just to this life.

No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).
I doubt that linear algebra can describe that.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dimensions (9) Creation

In the first two chapters of Genesis the universe seems quite small. The sky looks like a great bowl over the earth. The sun and stars and moon seem to be close.

The reason is that after the creation, the physical world was still open to some dimensions of spiritual reality. Adam Eve could speak with God. God could walk in a garden on earth. This spiritual openness allowed Adam and Eve to see into some of the spiritual realms of existence. Compared with the glory of the spiritual world, the physical world seemed quite small and insignificant.

The fall changed everything. Sin almost totally blocked the spiritual realms off from Adam and Eve. Once mankind could no longer see into the spiritual dimensions of existence, the physical world began to dominate their reality. (This is the opposite of the effect that will take place at the parousia and the physical world seems to disappear). The heavens seemed to roll out like a scroll, when the far greater glory of the spiritual dimension disappeared from human sight.

When evening comes, the stars seem to appear out of nowhere and roll out across the sky. Of course, they were there all the time, but were hidden from our view by the greater brightness of the sun. We can only see the stars, when the sun disappears. Likewise, when the spiritual dimensions of reality were hidden from mankind, the physical world seemed to take on a new splendour.

Losing contact with all the time dimensions in the spiritual realm, drew out the time dimension on earth, making it seem much longer. Since then mankind has never fully understood the concept of time.

We must remember when we look at the earth and sky that we are only seein g a small part of the reality of God.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Dimensions (8) Second Coming

The second coming is not Jesus coming back down from way up there, like a bungee jumper on a sky hook. The Greek word used for the second coming is “parousia”. It means to appear. It is speaks about our seeing. What is actually going to happen is an opening up of the spiritual realm, so that people on earth can see into the spiritual dimensions of reality. The Greek word used is epiphaneia, which means “manifestation” (2 Thes 2:8). The spiritual dimensions will be blown open for everyone on earth to see.

Everyone will see Jesus seated on the throne at the right hand of God, (whatever that means given that it is an imperfect physical analogy for a far greater spiritual reality). Those who have not been born again will be almost destroyed by the sight. Those who are evil will be totally powerless before his glory.

The spiritual realms will be so glorious that the physical world will shrivel in comparison. It will seem like earth and sky are collapsing and disappearing, but it will just be that everything is coming into it correct perspective. When we can see clearly into the spiritual realm, everything in earth and space will fade away under the comparison.

The elements will seem to be dissolving before our eyes. The stars will seem to be rolling up like a scroll. It is not that they will be disappearing. Rather, the beauty and wonder of the spiritual realms will be so wonderful, that the earth and sky, as we know them, will fade into insignificance.

Some of this is captured y this woodenly literal translation of 2 Pet 3:10,12.

The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The spiritual world will come near with a booming, the orderly arrangement of things will be loosed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be exposed…. That day will bring about the releasing of the spiritual dimensions by fire, and the order of things will liquefy in the heat.
The words give a sense of the spiritual world intruding into the physical world. Such a dramatic event would produce plenty of heat and light.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Dimensions (7) Goal of History

Paul described God’s eternal purpose with the following words.

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Eph 1:9-10).
Gods ultimate purpose is to bring heaven and earth together under Jesus. The Kingdom of God puts everything under Jesus. This Kingdom is God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. It is things on heaven and earth coming together. If heaven is up there and earth down here that cannot happen. However, if heaven consists of additional spiritual dimensions along side the physical dimension that we do not see, God’s purpose can be fulfilled now.

In the rest of the letter, Paul explains that this mystery is not an event that comes at the end of the age.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known (Eph 3:10).
The mystery of God will be fulfilled now, through the church. If the heavens consists of additional spiritual dimensions alongside the physical world, then heaven and earth can come together now in the age.

Jesus cannot bridge these two worlds, because he took on human flesh. When he came to earth, he had to leave heaven. When he left earth, he ascended into heaven. However when Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, he poured out the Holy Spirit on his people (Acts 2:33).

The Holy Spirit is God, so he is at home in the spiritual world. We are at home in the physical world. When the Holy Spirit comes and lives in a Christian, the spiritual dimensions and the physical dimensions come together. If we walk in the Spirit, heaven and earth come together under Jesus in the way that Paul promised. The Holy Spirit is the perfect link between heaven and earth. They spiritual and the physical dimension of life come together. We just need more people on earth to open their hearts to him.

Heaven and earth came together when God poured his Spirit out on all flesh. When we are filled with the Spirit the spiritual and physical dimensions intersect.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dimensions (6) Heaven

Christians tend think of heaven and earth as two different places. Heaven is way up there, and earth is way down here. There is a huge gap between. The gap between heaven and earth is real, but the assumption that they are far apart is misleading. A better way to think about the earth is to see heaven as spiritual dimensions that exist alongside, or within our physical world.

An even better way might be to see the physical world as three additional dimensions added on to a multi-dimension spiritual world. The spiritual world is more real than the physical world, so this latter view is most likely correct, but it is too hard for us to handle, because our eyes are calibrated for a physical world. Seeing heaven as spiritual dimensions attached to our physical world is not perfect, but provides some useful insights.

At the ascension, the disciples saw Jesus ascending and a cloud hid him from sight. It is not that he disappeared out into space, like an interstellar rocket, to a place on far distant planet. Rather, he moved back into the spiritual dimension from which he had come. Because the eyes of the disciples were calibrated to the physical world, he was hidden from their sight.

Angels and evil spirits live in the spiritual world. They can touch our physical world at only once place at one time. This limits what they can do on earth. In contrast, the Holy Spirit is present everywhere on earth at any time. This gives him unlimited power and makes him far greater than any angel and gives him much greater reach than the devil.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Dimensions (5) Higher Life

When the visitor to Flatland carried the narrator into Spaceland two things surprised him. The first surprise was that he could see into himself. His organs that had been enclosed in a two-dimensional world, were totally exposed when he was taken into a three-dimensional world. The narrator was totally embarrassed by what he saw.

This describes how we will feel when we stand before God on judgment day. We will have moved into a world of extra dimension where time does not count and physical things are totally exposed. On that day we will see ourselves for the first time as we really are. That will be totally embarrassing and we will be full of shame. Just as well we can call on the blood of Jesus to wipe our sin and shame away.

The narrator of Flatland was totally amazed by what he saw in Spaceland. He looked down on the two-dimensional world that he had come from and it seemed poor and shadowy compared with the new world that he had entered. We are impressed by life in this world. When we have access to the dimensions that God moves in we will realise how small and insignificant is life on this earth. We will look back on our lives and feel like they are just a blink of an eye.

This is a problem for scientists trying to understand they world. When they look into space through their powerful telescopes, they are only seeing three dimension. When you include time that is four dimensions, but they are not certain about time. The problem is that they are only seeing three dimensions of a multi-dimensional existence. Without an understanding of the spiritual dimensions of life, they are not seeing all that exists, so naturally they do not understand it.

The narrator was totally blown away by what he saw in Spaceland. His eyes were calibrated for seeing in a two-dimensional world, so he just could not make sense of what he saw. He just knew that it was absolutely wonderful.

Christians who get a vision of the heavenly realm face the same problem. Their senses are tuned for a physical world. Their language is designed for describing a physical world. This makes it impossible for them to communicate what they have seen. For example, Paul visited the third heaven in a vision. He was dramatically affected by what he saw, but he could not describe it (2 Cor 12:2-4).

John faced the same problem in the book of Revelation. He had a wonderful vision of worship in heaven, but he did not have the words to describe it. He took words like emerald, crystal, rainbow, glass, sea, thunder, gold, lampstand, snow, that describe some of the most amazing things in this world, and jumbled them up to describe what he saw in heaven. We should not assume these are literal descriptions. John was doing his best with words designed for describing a three-dimensional world, but he was actually describing the indescribable.

We should be very careful about Christians telling us they know what life in heaven will be like. Even if they have seen it, they will not really understand what they have seen, and they will be totally incapable of describing what they have seen.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Dimensions (4) Barriers

Flatland had houses and walls. The characters of flatland could not pass through walls. The visitor from Spaceland was able to choose where he entered and departed the flat world. He once entered the locked room in which the narrator was sitting. He was able to go out of the room and move into a locked cupboard and carry them back to the room where the narrator was waiting.

When a person living in a three-dimensional world has the capacity to move into an additional dimension, they are no longer constrained by physical barriers. When Jesus first came to earth, he was stuck in three dimensions, so he was restrained by physical barriers. After the resurrection, he had a spiritual body. This gave him access to an additional dimension, making him immune to physical barriers.

When Jesus entered the upper room where the disciples were hiding behind locked doors, he could choose the point of entry to their physical world. The physical doors and world were ineffective barriers.

After the resurrection, Jesus could move around the physical world, in the same way that the sphere from Spaceland could move around Flatland. Access to another dimension changes life in the remaining dimensions.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Dimensions (3) Spiritual

Towards the end of the Flatland, the narrator who lived in flatland had a visitor from Spaceland, a world with three dimensions. This visitor was a sphere, but when he entered the world of Flatland he appeared like a circle. When he first appeared the circle was small, but as he entered further, the circle became larger.

The visitor had a great deal of difficulty persuading the narrator that he was a sphere, because all the latter could see was a circle. The concept of a sphere did not make sense to someone who lived in a two-dimensional world. He eventually persuaded the narrator by rising up, causing the circle to shrink in size, despite not moving further away.

This reminded me that God had to become a man for us to understand him. People living in our physical world find it hard to understand the concept of God who is Spirit. God moves in many more dimensions than us. We will not recognise him with senses that calibrated for use in a three-dimensional world. By becoming a man, Jesus was able to bridge the barrier between our three-dimensional world and God’s multi-dimensional world.