Monday, September 30, 2013

Old Testament Violence

For Christians who take the Old Testament seriously, violence is a serious issue. Part of the problem is that God sends to encourage the use of violent force. This contrasts with Jesus warnings against the use of violence. Most theologians resolve this dilemma by driving a wedge between Jesus and the God of the Old Testament. They are happy to do this, because they hate the law.

Psalm 119 advocates a different approach. We will only find the answers to the issue of violence by loving the law.

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditateon it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes (Ps 119:97-99).
I have deliberately chosen to love the law. This has changed my perspective.

I have written on the topic in God and Violence. I note that part of the problem is misleading translation. The translators of the English bible, do not love the law, so they translate it as harshly as possible, I presume they do this to make the Jesus and the gospel look good.

I have now realised that there is another reasons for this harsh translation of God’s commands. The translators take a justificatory approach to Israel’s behaviour. To justify the behaviour of the children of Israel, they translate God’s commands in a way that makes it appear that Israel’s behaviour is consistent with God’s command.

This approach provides justification for warmongering Christians. They like the violence in the New Testament, because it allows them to be advocate the use of massive military force, while claiming to follow Jesus.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Small Smart Boy Syndrome

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the need that New Zealanders have to prove themselves by excelling in sports that the rest of the world do not take seriously. I call this “small boy syndrome”.

A school playground is often dominated by a bully. A few crawlers hang around him and bask in his glory, but most of the boys are scared of him and stay out of his way. Often a small boy who is mocked by most of the rest of his group will go and give cheek to the bully, and then runs away and hides in the crowd before the bully can strike back. The bully does not chase after the small boy, because he is too small and weak to be bothered about. The small boy builds himself up as a hero among his friends, but most of the boys in the playground realise that he is just a small boy, and they expect juvenile behaviour from small boys.
Every now and then, the bully of the playground gets fed up with the smart small boy giving him lip, so when he comes near he grabs him and gives him a good thumping.

The small boy is out of the scene for a while, but once he is back with his friends, he starts yapping again. First, he has a whole lot of excuses for getting caught. Then he starts boasting about how he will outsmart the bully next time, and bring him down to the ground. But the other boys look at his black eyes and broken knees, and laugh quietly to themselves.

The nation with the "small boy syndrome" got a good thumping earlier this week, but it was not long before the excuses were being trotted out.
We had the best sailors and the best designers, but were beaten by Larry Ellison’s money.

They got assistance from Boeing Engineers.

They had a computer that controlled the foiling. We were beaten by their computer not by their sailors.

The rules cheated us out of several races that we could have won.

We are good sports, the Americans are cheats.
This is odd. We do not know how much money Larry Ellison put in, and Team NZ was sponsored by the Al Maktoum family from Dubai. We have quickly forgotten that the New Zealand sailors made several bad decision and mistakes that cost them a number of critical races.

Now the talk that will do better in the next Americas cup is building up.
Our sailors deserved to win the cup, so the government should pay for another challenge.

An America’s Cup challenge would turn the NZ economy around.
We are still behaving like the small boy in the playground.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Seer and Watchman

A reader asked me about the difference between a seer and a watchman. I have always seen the watchman seen the watchmen and the seer as being quite similar. I presume that at time every seer will have to give warnings to the people in the same way as the watchman.

I noted in my response that when I wrote my book about the Ministry of the Prophet, I should probably should have included a bit more about the seer. I was probably side-tracked by 1 Sam 9:9, which says that prophets were previously called seers. The word seer is not really used outside that chapter.

I see the prophetic ministry as having a broad spectrum. The Holy Spirit is infinitely creative, so every prophetic ministry will be different from others. Some will be strong at hearing God’s voice, others will be better at seeing. Others will do a bit of both. The main thing is that each person learns who they are and develop a way of operating that pleases God.

On the other hand, we must be careful not to put ourselves into a box that limits how the Spirit can use us. The Holy Spirit will often work through us in ways that we do not expect, and that are outside our comfort zone. We must be prepared for these opportunities.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bigger Box

The Kingdom of God is a bigger box than the church, as it contains most of life, whereas the church is limited to related people.

A business can be in the Kingdom, if the people operating , it are doing God’s will. The people are in the church, but the business is not part of the church.

A single action can be in the kingdom, if God’s will is done. A cluster of actions complying with God’s will comprise an activity. A number of activities that comply with God’s will make up an event that is part of the Kingdom. But actions and activities are not the church.

The church is people, whereas the Kingdom of God is every aspect of the life that complies with God’s will.

A more relevant question is whether the Holy Spirit can operate outside the church. The answer is not really, because he can only go where Christians give him permission through prayer. So even when he is working in the world beyond the church, he is linked to the prayers of the church.

The other question is whether people who are not Christians are part of the Kingdom, if they are doing God’s will without intending. The answer is no, because it is not enough to God’s will, but it must be done with the right motivation, which is the love of God.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kingdom and Church

Is the Kingdom in the church? This seems to be the wrong question. People are looking at the same thing from a different perspective, and think that they are looking at different things.

The church is people, their relationships with each and with Jesus. By the grace of the Spirit, the Church represents Jesus in the world.

The church is people, and people are dispersed throughout the world, so the church has no boundary. Therefore it is meaningless to say something is outside the church. We can talk about place where the church is not present, because no Christians go there. The church needs two more people to be present in any place to be the church there. That limits its presence in the world.

The Kingdom of God is authority, and Jesus exercise of authority through the Spirit. The boundary of the Kingdom is fluid, depending on where and when that authority is acknowledged and God’s will is done.

The Kingdom just needs one person with authority, to hear the voice of the Spirit and obey to be present in the world. That means the Kingdom can be found anywhere there is authority and people following Jesus.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spiritual Time

God created the heavens and earth in seven days (Gen 1). No one was there to observe, so this must be God’s view of time. He lives in the spiritual world, so Genesis 1 speaks of spiritual time, whatever that means. We live in a physical world, so we find spiritual time a difficult concept to understand.

We live in physical time. Physical time is created in the image of spiritual time, in the same way that humans are created in the image of God. Thinking of physical time gives us a hint of spiritual time, means but it is only a hint. It is so totally different that we find it hard to grasp what it means. Peter said that one day to God is like a thousand years for us (2 Pet 3:2), but that is only a hint and not a linear relationship.

God lives in the spiritual realm, so he is not limited by physical time. He can jump from one point of physical time to another without limit. The existence of spiritual time suggests that God’s activities are punctuated in some way that is analogous to the way we live, but a way that is freeing, and not constraining like our lives.

This means that the events that God describes in terms of spiritual time, may not match what actually happened in physical time. Actually, physical time only got started part way through the process of creation, so it is not a very good guide to the order of things.

The fact that God operates in spiritual time explains why God can give a different perspective on the creation in Genesis 2. He is explaining what he did, which is not the same as what was experienced by the physical world in physical time.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


A popular theme in the modern church is "harvest". This is good, but if we just complete the harvest we have failed, as we will not have failed the second part of the commission. Jesus' claim to all authority in heaven and earth will be just empty words. He is counting on his church to make his words a reality. If we don’t establish his kingdom on the earth, we will have failed him.

The first part of the great commission is important, but the harvest is not an end in itself. A farmer does not work hard just because he enjoys harvesting. He does the hard work of the harvest, to get the grain to make bread or feed his animals. If the grain had no value, the farmer would not bother harvesting the crop. Most farmers have had crops that were not worth harvesting. In the same way the church is not fulfilling its purpose, if it completes the harvest, but leaves Satan in control of the kingdoms of the world. The church must follow up the harvest and bring all things under the authority of Jesus, by teaching the nations to obey him.

Friday, September 20, 2013

America's Cup Fever

New Zealand is currently obsessed with the America’s Cup. Most people in the world do not know it exists, and many who do don’t care. Even in San Francico, most people do not know it is on.  It is different here. People are talking about nothing else.

The America’s cup was a yachting trophy for a challenge between the United States and Britain that began more than a century ago. For the first hundred years, it was held by the New York Yacht Club. Since the rules were made fairer a couple of decades ago, the cup has been held by teams from Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and currently the United States. The latest challenge is taking place on huge catamarans off San Francisco between an American syndicate sponsored by Oracle and a New Zealand syndicate sponsored by Emirates Airlines, which needs only one more win to take the cup.

Although most the world has not noticed, the people of New Zealand are really stirred up. Our television channels have wall to wall coverage and people are going to work late, so they can catch the first race each day (at 8 am New Zealand time). Primary school children are wearing red socks and doing America’s Cup activities.

I am intrigued by the way that television can be used to make people passionate about something they should not care about. This one does not matter, but the ability of the media to draw people into something trivial is scary.

When the race this morning was cancelled this morning due to unsuitable weather conditions, there was huge disappointment. An online news organisation captured the tone with these words.

The wait for glory continues for the team and the nation.
The contest seems to have been turned into a measure of our value as a nation.
This is quite hard to understand.
  • Yachting is a minority sport in New Zealand. Most of cannot distinguish between port and starboard, or know the difference between a sheet and a halyard.

  • The America’s Cup is a competition for billionaires, outside the scope of most people.

  • New Zealanders tend to be egalitarian. They usually hate to see rich people showing off their wealth. The early settlers came to New Zealand to get away from the class system in England, and the wealth and poverty that went with it.

  • Most of the sponsorship for the New Zealand based syndicate comes from Emirates, so it is really a Middle Eastern syndicate that has purchased New Zealand crew and designers.

Nevertheless, winning the America’s Cup has become really important to us. The people of New Zealand seemed to have this need to prove themselves by excelling in a sport that the rest of the world does not take seriously.

I call this “small boy syndrome”. A school playground is often dominated by a bully. A few crawlers hang around him and bask in his glory, but most of the boys are scared of him and stay out of his way. Often a small boy who is mocked by most of the rest of his group will go and give cheek to the bully, and then runs away and hides in the crowd before the bully can strike back. The bully does not chase after the small boy, because he is too small and weak to be bothered about. The small boy builds himself up as a hero among his friends, but most of the boys in the playground realise that he is just a small boy, and they expect juvenile behaviour from small boys.

The sad thing is that we are not small boy. God brought the Maori people here many centuries ago, and then English and Scottish settlers more recently, because he had a purpose for this nation. This was summed up well by the English Evangelist David Pawson.
God wants New Zealand back.
He wants New Zealand back as
a nation that will be a model to the nations
of a people who are living under the government of GOD.
God intends New Zealand to be one of those nations
where he demonstrates his Kingdom.

God wants New Zealand back.
He is wanting his people to reign with him.
Don't wait for eternity to begin to reign with him
He is looking for a queen to reign with him now,
because New Zealand has a king an his name is King Jesus.
This country needs a change of government.
New Zealand is a nation that could be brought
under the government of God
and be a light to the nations.
God purpose is to establish his Kingdom in New Zealand in a way that will shine as a light to the nations. When we seek and receive the Kingdom of God, rich men’s sports will not matter any more. We will have something real to be proud about, but we will have stopped caring about national pride, too.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Apart from one storm that brought snow, we have had a very mild winter and spring has come early. Rhododendrons and Camellias do well in Christchurch, and they have bloomed really well this year.

This is one outside our neighbour’s house. I snapped it nearly a month ago.

This is ours. It is on the shady side of the house, so it is a bit later, but it is blooming beautifully.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Maslow and Markets

Robert Reich writes in After-Shock (New York 2010 p. 86):

Much of what people want can’t be bought anyway. In 1943, behavioural scientist Abraham Maslow wrote “A Theory of Human Motivation,” a paper in which he posited a hierarchy of human needs. At the bottom are food, shelter, sex, and sleep (of which the first two are typically purchased, although markets also exist for the latter two). Next comes safety and security (which we normally purchase as well, typically though locks on the doors and taxes that pay for police officers and a system of criminal justice). If we lack any of these basics, we’re forced to spend most of our time trying to remedy what’s missing. But once these fundamental needs are met, according to Maslow, our higher needs cannot be satisfied in the market-indeed, they very act of trying to purchase them robs them of their emotional sustenance. They include “belonging needs, such as love, acceptance, and affiliation, and esteem needs”, by which he meant self-respect, social status, and he approval of others. At the top of Maslow’s pyramid are "self-actualisation” needs - our yearning to find meaning in our lives and to express ourselves.
The non-market sector is important. There are two sub-sectors. In the philanthropic part to non-market sector people give things away to people that need them, because they care or think that they are important. In the other part of the non-market sector people club together to provide goods and services for themselves. These are usually paid for with subscriptions or fees. Goods and services are only provided to those who are members.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bond Servants

A correspondent asked me to comment on Exodus 21:20-21.

Atheists attack it saying you can beat your slave half to death and if he dies a day or two latter your off the hook for manslaughter and the only punishment is the loss of the slave and your money. A slap on the wrist for the master. What is your opinion on all this?
You have asked a really good question. It illustrates the basic problem with the law.
  • People who hate the law, read it looking for evidence against God.

  • People who love the law, read it looking for evidence of God’s goodness. I presume that you are in this group.

Most human legal systems protect the rich and the powerful. God’s law works the other way. The verses in this part of Ex 21 must be read together, because they build on each other to provide protection for victims and the vulnerable, while preventing the perpetrator from wiggling out of their responsibility.
  • It deals first with assault leading to death (vv. 12,13). I have written about that elsewhere.

  • "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth" is not license for revenge (vv. 22-25). It was a method for working out the financial payment to be made in restitution for injury caused by assault. It is was a scale, a bit like the ones that accident insurance companies use today. An eye is worth more than a toe. Financial restitution must compensate the person for what they have lost from the loss of a limb or organ.

  • Women are protected. In most cultures men can beat women, especially wives with out any consequences. Restitution for assault applies to women and wives in God’s law (v. 22).

  • A person who is assaulted but recovers quickly is protected. If he recovers in a few days, there would be no permanent injuries to justify a restitution payment. In this case the assaulter is not let off the hook, but is required to care for the person while they are injured and compensate them for the time they have lost (vv. 18-19). Restitution is required whether the person recovers or not. If the person recovers, the restitution is for lost time, rather than lost limb or organs.

  • Bond servants have the same level of protection. vv. 20, 21 must not be looked at in isolation, but is clarification of vv. 18-20. Most cultures allow servants to be mistreated without redress. God’s law treats everyone the same. If a man injures his bond servant, he must care for them if they are injured, but recover, as vv. 18-19 requires. However, there is a difference. The master does not need to compensate the servant for their loss of time. The reason is that the master has already bought the servant’s time, so he is the one who is losing while the servant is injured. The passage is not saying that the bond servant is a chattel as some suggest. It is saying that the master has already paid money for the bond servants time.

  • A person becomes a bond servant when they got into debt. They bonded themselves for a time to someone in return for their paying their debt. The bible limited the bond to seven years.

  • The NIV speaks of slaves in vv 18,19 and bondservant in vv. 26-27. This is misleading because the same Hebrew word is used in both. The bible does not support chattel slavery. I explain this here.

  • The protection for bond servants was higher than for ordinary people (vv. 26-27). If a bond servant was permanently disfigured, they were set free. This was even more generous restitution than in vv. 18-19, and it did not set it aside. This protection was unique in being available for women as well as men.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bombardment of Syria

The key to understand what is going on in the modern world is Dan 11. Many Christians are wanting to see the fulfilment of Daniel 12, when the those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and lead many to righteousness, but they do not understand that Daniel 11 must be fulfilled first. I give an explanation of this passage in Whats Going On.

The last event that has occurred was the invasion of Iraq, by the King of the North. The King of the North represents the nations of the West led by the United States.

The next event is another military invasion of the middle east. It takes place a couple of years after a specific number of years.

The king of the North will return after a certain number of years and raise up a huge commotion, much greater than the one that went before (Dan 11:13).
This attack creates an even greater attack than the previous one. The nature of the attack is different too.
He shall come with massive forces and massive military equipment (Dan 11:13).
The previous attack involved a “great throng of military forces” (Dan 11:10). This suggests a huge army with many soldiers, like the army that invaded Iraq. This attack is different. It comes with massive forces and massive military equipment. The emphasis is on powerful military equipment. This suggests an aerial bombardment with bombs and missiles.

It is too soon to tell, but if the United States attacks Syria with stealth bombers and tomahawk missiles, it could be the fulfilment of this verse. On the other hand, it might be too soon, and the fuss will die down.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Justification for War - Syria

I really dislike war on principle, but I acknowledge that there are a few situations where war is justified. The Bible provides principles that clarify the rare circumstances when war is justified. I describe these principles in detail in Defence and War.

The major weakness with these biblical principles is that they are rarely applied seriously, even by Christians. Most of the wars throughout history that have been supported by Christians would not be justified, if the biblical principles were applied correctly.

1. Defence
The first principle is that war is only justified for the defence of a local community. The people from several communities might join together to impose and external enemy, but the decision to join the battle must be made within the local community. People cannot be conscripted into fighting a war, by a greater political power.

This principle of defence only rules out pre-emptive strikes against nations that might be a threat in the future. It prevents political leaders from acting as judge of the nations, and punishing nations that do not comply with their stands of behaviour.

2. Last Resort
War should always be the last resort. Before starting a war, civil leaders should try every means possible to obtain peace (Deut 20:10). Until every possible means of obtaining peace is exhausted, war is not justified.

3. Benefits Exceed the Cost
War is only justified, if the benefits of the desired objective clearly outweigh the potential cost of the war. If the cost exceeds the benefit it is better to sue for peace (Luke 14:31-32).

This is a killer principle. As the cost of most wars are horrendous, so very few wars pass this test. Counting the cost of war is not just a matter of estimating how many soldiers will be lost. The full cost of the war should be counted. The cost for the families of those who die is enormous. For the soldiers who survive the cost can also be high. Many will have injuries that blight their lives. Worse still, war has a desensitising effect on its participants, and good men can be drawn into doing great evil. They will have to live with their consciences. The value of one life is significant. The value of several thousand lives is immense. War is also a waste of economic resources, so when the full cost is counted, very few wars can offer benefits that justify their cost. The more I read the history of war, the harder I find it to think of a situation serious enough to justify the enormous costs of war.

Defence is rarely a practical option. Enemies with weaker military forces are unlikely to attack. (Some radical religious or political groups may be foolish enough to attack a stronger nation, but this will also be rare). The enemies that do threaten us will generally have an overwhelming superiority of forces, so an attempt at defence would be pointless. This means that there will be very few situations where a nation can defend itself against attack. War is justified if we are attacked by an army that is weaker than ours. If invaded by a stronger army, we would be better to surrender and sue for peace.

Conduct of War
The Bible also gives principles that should govern the way that war is conducted. Attacks on civilians are forbidden. Those engaged in war also are prohibited from attacking and damaging the land (Deut 20:19-20). The land belongs to God, so humans must not attack it.

This rules out total war in which an entire nation and its economy is a valid war target. Nuclear weapons do not meet this standard. Most missile and bombing attacks do not comply, because the harm civilians and the land.

The proposed war on Syria fails all these principles.

  1. The war is not for defence. Syria is not that to the United States. God is still the Judge of the Nations. He has not delegated responsibility for judging Syria to Obama Barack.

  2. Opportunities still exist for negotiating a solution. We are not yet at the last resort.

  3. What can be accomplished by bombing Syria is very uncertain. It could well make the situation far worse. Such uncertain benefits do not outweigh the cost in human lives of a bombing attack.

  4. The planned attack will use weapons that do not comply with the biblical principles governing the conduct of war.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Judge of the Nations (Syria)

God is the judge of the nations. He sets the standards for the behaviour of nations.

All the nations will stand before him at the end of history to give an account of their behaviour.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him (Matt 25:31-32).
God makes interim judgements on the behaviour of the nations through the events of history. When prophets like Jeremiah spoke to the surrounding nations, they declared their failure to meet God’s standards for the behaviour or nations. The prophets also explained what the consequences of this failure would be. God will eventually bring about the downfall of the nation that failed to meet his standards.
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth… He made all the nations.. and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands (Acts 17:24,26).
Modern people no longer believer this. Many Christians don’t. Unfortunately, people who have lost faith in God, look for another power to judge the nations. This is wrong, and dangerous.

God has not delegated responsibility for judging the nations to the President of the United States. Yet, Obama seems to want to take this role with Syria. He has decided that the president of Syria has not met his standards for the behaviour of nations, so he must be punished. He wants to use military force to bring judgment on Syria. Unfortunately, the President of the United States might have the power to act as judge of the world, but he does not have the wisdom.

Presidents of the United States have a long history of looking out for their own interests. They tend to punish nations that they do not like, such as Syria, Iraq and Iran, but they turn a blind eye to the failures of their allies. The King of Bahrain has attacked his own citizens, but he gets away with it, because the US has important military bases on this island kingdom. Saudi Arabia has funded and organised terrorist activity all over the world, but the US president does not judge this nation, because it hold important oil reserves.

Some people want the United Nations to act as judge of the nations. However, it does not have the wisdom to make fair judgments, and it does not have the power to bring judgment evil nations and political leaders. That is why God has not delegated the role of Judge of the Nations to the United Nations Organisations.

John Kerry seems to be saying that the community of nations (whatever that means) sets the standards of behaviour for nations. That only seems to apply when the nations support his view.

I prefer to continue trusting God. He is perfectly wise, so he is the only one who can make good decisions about the rise and fall of nations. He moves slowly, but he will eventually work out his purposes, bring justice to all nations. God is till the judge of the nations.

Political leaders who set themselves up as judge of the nations are usurping a role that belongs to God. That is dangerous move that will eventually lead to their own downfall.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

International Pharisaism

Classic pharisaism was clearly demonstrated by Jesus’ parable of the pharisee and the tax collector.

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:9-14)
The Pharisee trivialised his own sin, by pointing up at the sin of someone who seemed to be worse. This is a common method for dealing with sin. Point the finger at someone who is worse than you, and your own sins suddenly seem less serious. Find someone bad enough and you can feel almost good.

This Pharisee method is popular in international politics.

Their problem is that deep down, most national leaders know that they are guilty of misusing their power. They take actions that are morally dubious to advance their nations interest. They deal with this ambiguity using the Pharisee method. They justify their actions by shifting attention to some other president or king who is far worse. It does not matter which nation is picked on, as long as there is a general consensus that it is really evil.

International Pharisaism is shaping the international response to events in Syria.

Bashar al-Assad of Syria is not very nice. The business and military powerbrokers behind his him could be even worse. However, the nations who are making the greatest fuss about him all have records that are embarrassing too.

  • The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Israel are the nations most stirred up about the possible use of chemical weapons. They each have a significant stock of nuclear weapons, and claim the right to use them. These weapons kill indiscriminately. If used they would kill millions of children.

  • These four nations are amongst the world’s leading exporters of military weapons. These weapons are wreaking havoc on human lives all over the world.

  • The United Kingdom probably used chemical weapons in Mesopotamia, but it has refused to acknowledge it. The British hero Winston Churchill advocated the use of chemical weapons to control colonial rebellions, saying:

    I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.

  • The United Kingdom has supplied chemicals that can be used to produce weapons to various countries. In the past it provided technical advice on how to produce them.

  • The United States used depleted-uranium shells in Iraq. These cause indiscriminate deformation of human lives.

  • The coalition of the will killed thousands of children in Iraq, first by sanctions, and then by military force. Can anyone remember what good that achieved?

  • Israel used white phosphorous bombs in Gaza in 2008, although the weapons seem to be banned by international conventions.

  • Saudi Arabia is grandstanding against Syria, but it funds and organises terrorist activity all over the world.

  • After 9/11 numerous prisoners were “rendition” to Syria, so they could be interrogated/tortured by the CIA outside US legal jurisdiction. The United States has encouraged Syrian nastiness

I could go on....

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Syria - Red Horse Kicking

Syria has become the big issue that is worrying the world. To understand why the war is so difficult to end, we need to understand that the situation is exacerbated by Syria being the fault line for several larger struggles.

  • Prior to the first world war, Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire, which was based in Turkey Some political leaders would like re-assert Turkish influence in Syria.

  • The dregs of the Cold War are still stewing in the Middle East. Russia has a naval base at Tartus in the western Syria that gives it access to the Mediterranean Sea. The US would love to see the Russians squeezed out of the Mediterranean.

  • Syria is on the fragile fault line between the Shia and Sunni forms of Islam. The Assad government is Alawite, which is a sect of Shia Islam, while the majority of the population is Sunni.

  • The Shia revival is centred on Iran, and Syria is has been allied with Iran. The war in Iran has strengthened the position of Shia Islam in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and more recently Qatar are the leading Sunni nations, although they have much smaller populations. They see Syria as an opportunity to engage in a proxy battle against Iran.

  • Between the wars, Syria was a French Mandate. The French have many economic interests in the area, and are always looking for to expand their influence by dabbling in the Middle East.

  • Israel is occupying Syrian land in the Golan heights. It would love to see Syrian power being smashed.

  • Hezbollah has emerged as a powerful force in Lebanon, because it was the only serious resistance to Israel’s five invasions of southern Lebanon (1978, 1982, 1993, 1996 and 2006) not counting aerial incursions. Hezbollah imports its weapons through Syria, so it needs to maintain access.

  • Nations with major weapons industries are flooding Syria with cheap weapons to sustain their economies through the economic turn down.

  • The United States has a long history of dabbling in Syria. The CIA organised a series of coups between 1948 and 1956.

  • American hawks are embarrassed by the outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are looking for an opportunity to show off American military power”.

The existence of these vested interests make it almost impossible for the United Nations or any other group to mediate a solution. Every proposal for peace has an interested party from the other side that opposes it. Moreover, most of these external interests are fuelling the dispute by providing financial support and supplying weapons to the participants in the civil war.

Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire. It only became a nation at the end of the First World War. The Middle East was split by the Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain in 1916 along artificial national borders that gave no recognition to the different people that populated the region. The European powers ignored local interests, because their main object was to ensure access and control of oil supply, but their short-sightedness is coming back to haunt the world.

Syria is a nation made up of different tribal groups. The majority of the population are Sunni Moslems, but most have been shut out of political power. A number of minority ethnic and religious groups are spread round the country. The Alawite people originally lived in the west of Syria, but many have moved to the big cities of Damascus and Aleppo. A significance group of Kurdish people lie in the North East of Syria. The tensions between these groups have been suppressed by the Assad government. The civil is creating a new set of hatreds that will make these tensions worse.

To understand Syria, we must recognise that Red Horse of Revelation has been released. This horse represents military struggles between ethnic groups that will tear apart nations that were established during the age of nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Assad family dictatorship has kept a lid on the ethnic tensions in Syria, but when the regime eventually falls, these cooped up ethnic forces will destroy the unity of the nation. The “big sword” indicates the ferocity of these struggles. The bitter struggle in Syria is an example of this big sword.

The capital of Syria is Damascus. It has had a continued existing going back to the time of the Old Testament. Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Damascus, but he did not explain how it would happen.
A prophecy against Damascus: See, Damascus will no longer be a city, but will become a heap of ruins (Is 17:1).
If the struggle for Syria continues on and grows in bitterness, Damascus could end up as a heap of ruins.

Note: the Red Horse is not a sign of the second coming of Jesus. Its role in God’s plan for history is described in Times an Seasons.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Playground Bully

A playground bully has to beat up one of the small kids every now and then. If he lets too much time go by without showing off his capacity for intimidation, the small kids will start giving him cheek and running away before he can react. If they get away with it for too long, some of the bigger boys will start having a go at him too, and that will be the beginning of the end of his domination.

Obama’s determination to whack Syria is more about protecting the reputation of American political and military power, than about protecting Syria’s children from indiscriminate killing by chemical weapons. A couple of hundred children have been indiscriminately killed by Obama’s drones. Children in Iraq are still being born deformed as the result of the Uniteds States use of depleted-uranium shells. American sanctions are killing children in Iran, just like they killed children in Iraq. Children all over the world are losing their limbs to American-made cluster bombs. These kinds of indiscriminate killing seems to be okay.

The real problem is that American military is currently suffering a defeat in Afghanistan. It failed to achieve its objectives in Iraq. The world is forgetting shock and awe, so Obama needs to thump a small nation to remind the world of America and Military dominance, before some of the bigger boys start thumbing their noses at him. Syria’s Assad was just the first smart kid to put up his hand and give Obama an opportunity.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Do Unto Others

People want a government that will force other people do things.

People don’t want the government forcing them to do things, so they want limited government.

This is do unto others, but not unto me. A slight distortion of the golden rule.

Political power does not attract the best people. It throws up power seekers and self-servers. Sometimes a really nasty person will get to hold political power.

Giving these people the power of the state, amplifies their ability to do harm.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

FM on Money (8) Narrow Banking

Felix Martin describes a proposal for 100% Money made by the American Economist Irving Fisher in the 1930s. He calls it simple and radical.

Fishers proposal was to require that any deposit that could be withdrawn or used to make a payment on demand be backed by sovereign money – and banks which offered such deposits be permitted to do no other business. “The checking deposit department of the bank”, Fisher wrote, “would become a mere storage warehouse for bearer money belonging to its depositors and would be given a separate corporate existence as a Check Bank. As for the rest of what banks now do – whether client facing or not, whether wholesale business or retail – these things would be treated like all other capital market activities, and the institutions that undertake them would neither enjoy special sovereign support, nor suffer special sovereign supervision.

The market would decide what products would be offered, and what institutions would offer them. Outside the realm of “Check Banks”, even the dodgy promise of liquidity transformation would be permitted. If investors wanted to gamble on an intermediary’s ability to synchronise payments in and out of its balance sheet, they would be quite at liberty to do so – because there would no longer be any illusion on any side that such investors would be bailed out if the promise was not met.

Fisher's proposal was taken up into the 1930s by economists at the University of Chicago, after which it became popularly known as the “Chicago Plan”. Today under the banner of “Narrow Banking", it is being advocated once again by some the world leading regulatory economists. It has been the subject of a new study by the International Monetary Fund, which found that test its consequence suing a forma mathematical model strongly corroborates Fisher’s argument that it would lead to great macroeconomic and financial stability.
Fisher’s plan to separate money transactions from debt and credit is a valid one. Felix Martin believes that governments might do it, but they will not, because they want to keep the benefits they get from inflating the currency. I describe a better way in sound banking system. I describe them as transaction banks.