Thursday, February 21, 2019

Trinity and Gospel

I have just listened to a talk on the Trinity and the Gospel given by Fred Sanders at the Lanier Theological Library. I like the way he brought the Trinity down to earth and explained how it is part of the gospel. Here is some of what he says, but the entire talk is worth a listen.

The Trinity and the gospel always go together.
The Father sent the Son and the Spirit. This is the main thing that happens in the Bible.

If you want to have good Trinitarian thoughts when reading the scriptures, do not look for triangles. Rather ask two questions.
What is Jesus doing, and
what is the Holy Spirit doing
as they are sent by the Father.

If you have a solid doctrine of Jesus Christ
and a solid doctrine of the Spirit,
They will include being sent from the Father
on supporting missions.

The central event for Christians is not the arrive of a book with truth in it. That might be the case for Mormon history and for Moslem history.
Christians have a book, and it is a great book.
However, the arrival of this book was not the main event.
The coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the Father was the main event.

This is a great talk. He handles a complicated topic in an understandable way. The good news is that the Father has sent the Son and the Spirit to rescue us.

There is also something delightful about a world expert on the trinity being called Fred.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Liberal Hegemony (9) Kinzer

I recently read Stephen Kinzer’s book called The Brothers about the John Foster Dulles and his brother Alan Dulles, who were serious Liberal Hegemonists. It is an ugly story.

In a review of Stephen Kinzer’s book called The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, Dr Michael Welton records several lessons that Kinzer draws from American history of intervention that are worth careful reflection.

  1. American imperialists (and many Americans) truly believe that they are superior and that the world would become a better place if nations submitted to their leadership. The United States would be better off, Kinzer says, if it became a learning nation and not a teaching one.

  2. Early promoters of American intervention were zealous patriots. They proclaimed love of country and loyalty to the flag. Yet they could not imagine that people from non-white countries might feel just as patriotic. Love of country was a mark of civilization. Lesser peoples, therefore, couldn’t grasp it.

  3. Americans have been said to be ignorant about the world. They are, says Kinzer, but so are other peoples. The difference is that American leaders, puffed with a sense of mission, acted on ignorance. American leaders see little reason to bother learning about the nations whose affairs they intrude.

  4. Violent intervention in other countries always produces unintended consequences. Intervention in the Philippines sparked waves of nationalism across East Asia that contributed to the Communist revolution in China in 1949. Later American interventions also had terrible results planners never anticipated. From Iran and Guatemala to Iraq and Afghanistan, intervention has devastated societies and produced violent anti-American passion.

  5. Generations of American foreign policymakers have made decisions on three assumptions: the US is the indispensable nation that must lead the world; this leadership requires toughness; and toughness is best demonstrated by the threat or use of force. Thus: America is inherently righteous; its influence on the rest of the world always benign.

  6. Most American interventions are not soberly conceived, with realistic goals and clear exit strategies. But violent invasions always leave so-called “collateral damage”: families killed, destroyed towns, ruined lives, damaged land.

  7. The argument that the United States intervenes to defend “freedom” rarely matches facts on the ground. Many (most?) interventions prop up predatory regimes. The goal is simply to increase American power rather than to liberate the suffering.

  8. Foreign intervention has weakened the moral authority that was once the foundation of America’s political identity. Today many people around the world see it as a bully, recklessly invading foreign lands. The current invasion of Venezuela is such an example. The name “United States” is associated with bombing, invasion, occupation, night raids, covert action, torture, kidnapping, and secret prisons. Who wants to be saved by America? John Bolton recently threatened Maduro with prison in Guantanamo if he doesn’t get the hell out of Venezuela.

  9. Nations lose their virtue when they repeatedly attack other nations. That loss, as Washington predicted, has cost the United States its felicity. Kinzer says that the US can regain it only by understanding its own national interests more clearly. He thinks it is late for the United States to change its course in the world—but not too late.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Liberal Hegemony (8) Future

John Mearsheimer believes that the season for Liberal Hegemony is over. I am not sure that he is correct. I suspect that the policy of Liberal Hegemony will continue to be popular in the United States.

  • Mearsheimer says that the emergence of Russia and China as great powers will constrain American power. I doubt this is true. The Russian economy is about the same size as that of Italy. Despite irrational American fears, the Russian military spending is less than a tenth of the US spending, so it will never be a serious threat, comparable to the Soviet Union.

  • If the Chinese economy continues to grow, it could become a threat to the United States. However, because the Chinese economy is built on unstable foundations, it could collapse and stagnate. More important, the Chinese seem to prefer spreading their business by migrating and buying businesses.

  • The American economy is also fragile, being built on a foundation of debt and low-interest rates, but it is strong enough to fight two wars on the other side of the world at the same time, so it is unlikely that any other great power can constrain it.

  • Many peripheral nations will side with the United States against China when they recognise their security is more important than the prosperity that comes through economic integration.

  • American faith in military and power is still strong. It will take more than a few failed wars to shake that faith. The impetus to intervene in other countries will remain strong. Many American Christians would like to invade Iran.

  • Many American Christians believe that God has called their nation to be the world’s policeman. They believe this is a burden that America must carry, even it becomes a heavy load.

  • The Beast of Revelation is a liberal hegemon. For the United States to fulfil John’s vision, it will be around for longer yet.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Liberal Hegemony (7) Sanctions

After the failure of many efforts to bring change by military force, the remaining Liberal Hegemonists have fallen back on economic sanctions to force social and political change in other nations. This is surprising, because the record of economic sanctions in bringing about real economic and political change is fairly poor. The problem is that sanctions punish nations. Nationalism means that sanctions actually strengthen the resolve of the nation to resist external pressure.

Ruthless and dishonest people with control over economic resource find ways to get around sanctions. The government empowers these corrupt people to do deals that avoid sanctions, because it needs them to make purchases on its behalf. These oligarchs get rich and at the expense of ordinary people. However, despite hardship, the loyalty of the people to their nation and their leaders remains strong.

Economic sanctions are war by different means, so the results are often similar.

The gospel of Jesus is a more effective tool for change than military or economic power. A good society and economy is based on strong Christian faith. The gospel must come first. As faith grows, the gospel and the Spirit can transform society and the economy. Imposing social and economic change by force puts the cart before the horse.

Economic Sanctions are used by the Beast of Revelation.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Liberal Hegemony (6)

There are several other reasons why efforts to export democracy and free-market capitalism fail.

  • Foreign Aid to support democracy and economic development often ends up in the hands of the wrong people. Funds are either wasted or stolen by corrupt officials. So instead of fostering development, economic aid creates opportunities for corruption to thrive, and oligarchs to prosper.

  • As John Mearsheimer noted, Nationalism is a powerful force. Nations want to determine their own direction. They do not like a powerful nation telling them what kind of government they should have.

  • Religion is as powerful a force as nationalism. I believe Islam is a faulty religion, but I can understand that people living in an Islamic culture want Islam to have an influence on their government, just as Christians in the United States want Christianity to have an influence on their government. Forcing people in a very religious society to accept a secular government is asking for trouble.

  • Failure to recognise the power of sin and evil is a serious mistake. During wars, revolutions, and political coups, ruthless people who know how to control and use power rise to the top. They do bad things to gain power, and then carry on the way that they started. So often the government that emerges after a war or a revolution is often worse than the one they tried to replace. This is evident in Libya.

  • American hubris is another reason that attempts to export their economic and political systems fail. Americans are confident, can-do people. This confidence contributes to their economic success, but it has a downside. Americans sometimes rush into situations that they do not understand, particularly at the political and international level.

    From Vietnam to Libya, Hubris has caused American Presidents to take on tasks that are actually beyond their capability. These efforts often result in chaos, because, American leaders did not understand the nature of the problems they were dealing with. Blowing confidently in nations of the world that they do not understand is a recipe for failure.

    • Paul Bremer took the role of governor of Iraq, despite knowing very little about the history and culture of that nation. He did not know who were the key religious and tribal leaders. He often looked up with people without pollical credibility, because they talked big.

    • While the American controlled the city, Baghdad was ethnically cleansed without them realising, because they did not understand the tribal and religious divisions in the city they controlled. In some cases, they actually protected the people doing the ethnic cleansing.

    • The US Army provided financial support to Sunni leaders, then withdrew. Some of these disappointed people became leaders of ISIS.

    • President Obama allowed military resources to flow to radical Islamist groups in Syria to put pressure on the Assad government. In hindsight, it is evident that these policies contributed to the rise of ISIS.

    • ISIS was partially a creation of American Hubris.

    • Mike Pompeo believes that because he has read the Bible, he knows what is best for Iran and Venezuela, despite very weak knowledge of culture and history of these nations.

    • The list goes on.

Identifying problems in other nations much easier than developing practical, working effective solutions. “Do what we do” does not go far.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Liberal Hegemony (5)

Many American Christians want to export their economic and political system to the rest of the world. However, even without military force, exporting political and economic systems is a difficult and often impossible task.

  • In efforts to support democracy, the United States often hooks up with ruthless political leaders who are not interested in democracy. People see that commitment to power and profit, usually trumps the commitment to democracy and draw their own conclusions. The US often rejects the results of elections, because it does not like the results.

  • When capitalism expands into other nations, powerful corporations will be at the forefront of economic activity. These corporations focus on providing benefits for their American shareholder, as they were created to do, so their activities often harm the people and businesses in the host nation. The main beneficiaries are usually the aristocratic families who own land or control economic resources. Local oligarch families often prosper by colluding with US corporations, while working people suffer. Large agribusinesses often buy land and change production processes that harm local people and make food expensive. These businesses are just doing what businesses do, but it makes local people hostile to American capitalism.

  • When the American financial sector invests in other countries, it seeks profit-making activities. Often these activities strengthen the position of local oligarchs and trap poor people in debt that they cannot escape. This makes local people negative about the US financial system.

    Rescuing the too-big-to-fail banks by a policy of for the finance sector socialism during the Global Financial Sector undermines the credibility of the US economic system. People who were made to suffer during the Asian financial crisis decided the international system was stacked in favour of American banks.

Efforts to export the American political and economic system often undermine the credibility of what is being exported.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Mearsheimer - Liberal Hegemony (4) My Take

John Mearsheimer’s thesis explains many of the actions of the Western powers over the last few decades. However, some other issues are also important.

Belief in Liberal Hegemony in the United States is strongly propelled by Christian faith. This is true of liberal and conservative churches. More liberal Christians believe that military force and political power should be used to support the expansion of human rights all over the world. Christians on the more conservative side believe that God has made the United States strong so it can be the world’s policeman. They believe that if the United States stops fighting wars all over the world, evil and anarchy will prevail. This is why Christians supported the invasion of Iraq so strongly.

Christian faith gives a strong impetus to a policy of Liberal Hegemony. This impetus can be described in another way.

  • Americans believe that they have the best system of government in the world.
  • Americans believe that they have the best economic system in the world.
Christians naturally want to export these systems to the world. They believe that God has called them to this task.
Unfortunately, because Christians in America have immense faith in military power, they believed that they could use military force to export their economic and political systems. I could understand why they would use education and persuasion to share their political and economic wisdom, but using military power force to achieve these objectives does not make sense.

I suspect it was the experience of World War 2 and the Marshall plan that made them think it was possible. The difference was that Germany had a Christian memory and an attachment to Enlightenment principles that made democracy seem desirable after the destruction of Hitler’ power. Moreover, they had wise leaders, like Ludwig Erhard, who adopted free markets, despite the guidance and advice of the Allies.

Western Europe was a unique set of circumstances, so I don’t understand why American leaders believed that they could use military force to establish their economic and political systems in countries shaped by different religions, cultures, and histories.

Wars strengthen the hand of ruthless men, who often seize power and use it for their benefit. When the United States invaded countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, it has sided with warlords and ruthless military leaders. Think of Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam, the Sunni Warlords in Iraq, Abdul Rashid in Afghanistan, President Sisi of Egypt and host of others. Taking sides with evil and ruthless men, because they are on our side, undermines faith in democracy and freedom. Supporting bad leaders works against what American leaders are trying to achieve.

War does not produce a Thomas Jefferson or a Nelson Mandela. The American Revolution was possibly the only one in history where reasonably good men rose to the top. A well-developed culture made this possible. The British gave up before the economy and society were wrecked by war. The British didn’t have an air force with which to destroy the local infrastructure. The French revolution, which produced new autocrats is the other more normal type of revolution.

I cannot imagine many Christians who would think that they could persuade their neighbours to become a Christian by threatening violence against them and bullying their children. So why would they assume that this strategy would work at an international level? The gospel of Jesus is a more effective tool than military force.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mearsheimer - Liberal Legemony (3)

John Mearsheimer says that Liberal Hegemony was defeated by Nationalism and Realism. There are several reasons for the failure of Liberal Hegemony.

  • Nationalism was the main reason for the failure of liberal hegemony. Nationalism believes that human beings are naturally social animals. People are born into social groups or tribes. Loyalty to the groups takes priority over the individual. In the modern world, apart from the family, the nation is the most important group.

    A nation is a group of people with characteristics that distinguish them from other nations. Nationalism believer that a nation should have their own state, so their nationality can be preserved and not be squashed.

    Nations place tremendous on sovereignty, or self-determination. People will fight to protect their nation. Whereas liberalism prioritises the individual and their rights, nationalism prioritises sovereignty.

    The world is populated by nation-states, so liberalism must coexist with nationalism. These forces can co-exist, but when they clash, nationalism almost always wins.

    In a world where nationalism is the most powerful political ideology, self-determination or sovereignty matters hugely for all countries. Nations don’t want a great power telling them what kind of political system is best for them.

    Although the excise duties imposed by the British were trivial by modern standards, the American colonists wanted to be free from British control. Their desire for self-determination was not unusual. In the same way, the nations of the Middle East did not want their fate to be determined by the United States, even if its intentions were good. They wanted to determine their own fate.

    The Chinese don’t like the American navy running ships up their coastline.

    Brexit is a triumph of nationalism over international institutions.

  • Liberalism’s emphasis on human rights means that countries should accept refugees seeking shelter, and that there should be few obstacles to individuals moving freely from one state to another. However, in a world where national identity matters, mixing different people together is a recipe for trouble.

  • Fundamentalist religious groups rejected liberal democracy and chose to fight against the forces of Liberal Hegemony.

  • Attempts to produce a liberal democracy in Iraq and Syria using military force failed, and instead produced ISIS. Similar attempts in Libya produced anarchy.

  • Militaristic behaviour is almost certain to threaten its own liberal values. Liberalism abroad leads to illiberalism at home.

  • The crusader mentality that underpins the building of a liberal international order poisoned relations with the nations it was supposed to help. Power behaviour pops out when least expected.

  • People don’t always care about human rights, particularly in other countries. They care far more about the fate of their own nation.

  • In many parts of the world, people have lost confidence in democracy. The 2016 presidential election contributed to that loss of confidence, because the system looked dysfunctional. The Chinese believe that their system produces better leaders.

  • The Global Financial Crisis and the growth of inequality shook confidence in the American economic system.

  • The hyper-globalisation that began in the late 1980s has produced impressive growth at a global level, but has caused major problems in many nations. Jobs disappeared quickly, throwing numerous people out of work. Many were unskilled workers who found it difficult to find well-paying alternatives.

  • The emergence of regional powers, such as Russia, and more so, China means that the United States has had to shift to dealing with what are perceived to be emerging threats to US hegemony.

  • Liberal foreign policy is not a formula for cooperation and peace, but for instability and conflict.

The election of Donald Trump signalled the defeat of Liberal Hegemony. He campaigned on policies to end interventions in other nations, avoiding international institutions, and putting America first.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mearsheimer - Liberal Hegemony (2)

Liberal Hegemony aimed to remake the world in America’s image by doing three things.

  1. Spreading democracy over the planet. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was believed that democracy was the only game in town. Fascism and Communism had been defeated, so there was no viable alternative to democracy. The world will eventually be populated by liberal democracies (Francis Fukayama - The End of History).

  2. Integrating nations in the international economy and spreading capitalism.

  3. Getting the nations into international institutions like the WTO and the UN, so they will become responsible stakeholders.

Liberal hegemony had three main benefits for the world.
  1. Humans rights violations would be reduced as nations become liberal democracies. This gave the US a strong impulse to interfere in other nations.

  2. Democratic Peace Theory suggested that wars would disappear if liberal democracy spread across the world.

  3. Spreading free enterprise capitalism would allow the nations of the world to share in the prosperity that America had experienced.

Madeline Albright announced that America is the “indispensable nation”. This justified pollical involvement and military interventions in other nations.

The policy of Liberal Hegemony explains many events.

  • The Bush Doctrine aimed to turn the Middle East into a sea of democracy. Once other nations saw the benefits of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, they would choose to go down the same path without needing military pressure.

  • The reasons for expanding NATO and the EU eastward was to spread liberal democracy. (Mearsheimer says that the purpose was not to contain Russia). Since the purpose was to spread democracy, it was not a threat to Russia (Unfortunately, Russia did not see it that way). the Liberal Hegemonists believed that Russia would welcome the advance of democracy. This is why they were so shocked by the Ukraine crisis.

  • The Liberal Hegemonists believed that if China is engaged in trade and embedded in international institutions, it would eventually become a liberal democracy.

Mearsheimer says that the policy of Liberal Hegemony prevailed through the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies, strongly supported by the UK, France and Germany, but has failed abysmally. The number of liberal democracies in the world has declined significantly, and America has got stuck fighting unwinnable wars. It is only the amazing strength of the American economy that has prevented these endless wars becoming an impossible burden.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Mearsheimer - Liberal Hegemony (1)

I recently listened to a talk given by John Mearsheimer at the London School of Economics about his book called Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities. His views are also summarised in an article called Rise and Fall of the Liberal International Order. Since I studied International Relations at University, I have enjoyed discussion on this topic.

John Mearsheimer has some really good insights that explain what has been happening in the world over the last few decades. He says that the United States and its allies have pursued a grand strategy of Liberal Hegemony, building a world order based on liberal principles. He explains that Liberalism is based on two underlying assumptions.

  1. Humans are individuals who form social contracts (not social animals). Liberalism prioritises individualism.

  2. Humans cannot reach agreement on foundational issues of life by rational discussion, so there will always be conflict. Differences will be so profound that people will fight over them.

(Mearsheimer actually defines two types of liberalism, progressive liberalism and a more classical form. These differ significantly at the domestic level, but in international relations, they adopt the same policies).

A liberal solution to the potential for violence has three parts.

  1. Human Rights - Every individual has a set of rights that enable them to live the life they choose, regardless of the differences.

  2. Tolerance - Provided people don’t interfere with others, they can live how they choose.

  3. Night-watchman state - This is needed to make sure that people do not harm each other. A small state is prioritised. Liberals fear a strong state, because it will impinge on human rights.

There is a universalistic aspect to liberalism. Every person has rights, regardless of where they live, and it is important to protect them. This is what gets liberal hegemony going.

Mearsheimer says that Liberal Hegemony was made possible by the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. This created a unipolar world, dominated by the United States, which used the opportunity to advance change the world. The American foreign policy establishment embraced a policy of Liberal Hegemony with optimism and enthusiasm.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Hell

The spiritual world is multi-dimensional. Some Christians claim to have visited hell during a near death experience. If their description of what they saw is three-dimensional, they are not describing the true spiritual reality of the afterlife. They are seeing is a physical representation of a spiritual reality described in a physical way to fit with our physical way of seeing.

The parable of Lazarus and Dives describes Hades, not Hell. The scene described is physical (three dimensional), ie “over here”. This is a physical representation of a spiritual reality.

When we die, our bodies die, as do our mind, emotions and imagination. Hades must be a spiritual reality. This means that Hades is not a physical place, but a state of being or a situation.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Treaty of Waitangi

Today is Waitangi Day in New Zealand. On this day in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and the Maori chiefs of the tribes of New Zealand. This country was unique, because the indigenous people were not conquered, rather the British settlers and the Maori tribes reached agreement on how they could live together.

This was a brilliant start. I cannot think of any other country in the world where such a thing happened.

Unfortunately, the British settlers did not carry on the way that they began. They got greedy for land and brought in the troops to defeat Maori who were unwilling to sell their land. Land confiscations continued up until the First World War. In one large city, land was taken while the adult men were away in Europe fighting for the British.

Fortunately, that was not the end of the story. Over the last half century, successive government have negotiated treaty settlements to make restitution for the stolen land. I explain the reasons why this restitution is important in an article called the Treaty of Waitangi.

The process has not been perfect. But it has bought peace between the races, something which is missing in many parts of the world.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Prophets to the Nation

I believe that a rare few people will rise to be a prophet to their nation, so I write quite a bit about that role in my book called Prophetic Ministry. I believe this is a serious need in our time. I observe the prophetic bulletin boards and consider most of it to be “prophetic mush”.

America’s most serious problem is that it lacks real “prophets to the nation”. Prophetic people who have not become cheerleaders for Trump are busy attacking him. Unfortunately, he is just a symptom of much deeper problems. A real prophetic voice would be exposed the faith in political power, the love of war and economic manipulation. Being left without real prophets is a terrible thing for a nation. But that’s God’s problem, not mine.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Prophetic Ministry

Back in the 1980s, I did a study of the prophetic ministry. I got hold of every book and article on the topic I could find. I copied hundreds of quotes onto paper (This was before I had a computer). When I found everything available, I coded all the quotes into themes with alpha codes. I then chopped up the bits of paper, and sellotaped the quotes for each theme together, and a book called Prophetic Ministry sort of fell out. Of course, I wrote a lot of other stuff that I discovered as well.

I think that it is my least important book, but it is the best seller. I originally published my notes on the web. I only put them into book form when I got lots of requests from people wanting a hard copy. I had been reluctant to do that, because I did not have references for many of the quotes, as when I gathered them, they were only for myself.

I think the book is popular, because it has some practical stuff, like why pastors and prophets do not get on, the difference between intercessors and prophets, what its like for prophet’s wives, etc. (Some people who sound a bit weird, also write and say they found it helpful, so I am not sure).

Many biblical teachers make prophets into itinerant ministries. My approach is to push the prophetic ministry, along with the other ascension gifts down into the local church. A church should be led by a team of elders, which will include a couple of shepherds, one evangelist and one prophetic person Having this balance is essential for a balanced mature body.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Church Leadership

A church should not be led by a woman.

A church should not be led by a man, either.

The Holy Spirit should lead the church,
working with a team of male and female elders.

Women will only find their rightful place in the church,
when we have a radical new leadership model in the church.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Headship (4)

As an aside, I wonder if the church has contributed to the modern focus on gender identity, by pushing forward narrowly-defined roles for men and women. In the stereotypical roles that the church has propagated, a husband is supposed to be physically and emotionally strong and provide for his family. A woman is supposed to be gentle and kind, and care for her children. However, many men and women have personalities that do not fit these stereotypes. This can make them ambivalent about their role.

A man who is physically weak and gentle is often called “effeminate”. A woman who is physically and emotionally strong and enjoys her employment is often called “manly”. Therefore, it is not surprising that people who do not fit the gender roles emphasised by the church feel like they need to change their gender. Christian definitions of manhood and femininity are too narrow, and much narrower than God used when creating men and women. He has designed a huge variety into what it means to be a man, and what it means to be women. We should accept what God has done, rather than condemning people because they do not fit a narrow mould that we have defined.

We need a much broader understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman. I am physically weaker than most men. I have never managed to do more than two proper press-ups in a row. I was the slowest runner in my class at school. I hated fighting. We did military cadets at high school. Most of the boys loved marching around with guns, but I hated it, and found a way to avoid participating. I enjoyed reading Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice. I cry at sad movies. I am different from many men, but I have never thought of my self of anything other than a man.

I believe that we need much more room for people to be different. Creation shows that God likes variety, so we allow people to be different if he made them different.