Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hardness of Heart Principle

In my previous post, I showed that adultery was listed as a crime in the Ten Commandments. However, this law was never enforced by Moses.

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning (Matt 19:8).
Moses did not enforce the law against adultery, because the people’s hearts were hard. There were so many people committing adultery that applying biblical sanctions would have been unacceptable. God does not want his law to be enforced on a society that is opposed to it. If a law is constantly disobeyed, the authority of the entire law will be undermined. If adultery were widespread, a law against it would be a joke. Better to put the law on hold until society has changed.

If a law is being ignored, the state should stop enforcing that law. This is what Moses did. Instead of undermining respect for God’s law by failing to enforce a law against the adultery that the people did not want, he chose not to enforce it. This same principle also applies to homosexuality. In a society, where homosexual activity is widespread and most of society would oppose it, enforcing a law against a law against it would be impossible. This law should be taken “off line” due to “hardness of heart”.

This is the key to the question of what the state should do about homosexuality. The answer is that it should do nothing until the church has changed society (by the Holy Spirit changing hearts, not by force). Until the church has effectively preached the gospel and most people are Christians, the state should ignore homosexuality.

The full article on this topic is here.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Coming Out

Andrew Strom has announced that he is leaving the "“Out of Church Movement". I have some sympathy.

A big part of the problem is that it is easier to sit round and criticise the established church, than to get out and build something better. A workable strategy for those who want to go forward and build the body of Christ is not as popular as a critique of the church. The flaws of the church, justify our inactivity. Throwing stones is easier than building a glass house (that the world can see into).

Being "Out of church"” is a backward looking position. It describes who you are not, not who you are. . You cannot get to where you are going, by continuing to look back at what you have left. You cannot get to where your destination, by knowing where you want to leave. The only way to get to where you are meant to be is to find a good map and get on the road and follow it.

Those who are dissatisfied should stop looking back at what they have left, and get into something better. If something better does not exist, then get a godly strategy and establish something that will glorify God. If you don't know how to do it, ask someone who does. There are plenty of good maps available.

The body of Christ will not be built by looking backwards. It will only be built doing the hard stuff and moving forward into the Lord's new thing.

Hamas Victory

The Hamas victory in the Palestinian election brings out a lot of ironies.

  • The news media were totally shocked by the result. This shows how "out of touch" they are with what is happening in Palestine. Living there is not very comfortable, so they tend to watch from a distance.
  • George Bush is the champion of democracy, but he will not deal with a democratically elected government, although Hamas got 53 percent of the vote, more than the 51 percent that GW got in his last election.
  • George Bush will not deal with a government that has a military arm, even though his military arm has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq. I know: he is setting the Iraqi people free; but isn't Hamas trying to get freedom for the Palestinian people.
  • According to US intelligence, Israel funded Hamas during the 1970s and 1980s. They took this action to undermine the PLO, which was secular. Now their agent has become their enemy.
  • The Israeli government will not deal with terrorists, even though at a least one Israeli Prime Ministers was previously a terrorist. Menachem Begin was the head of Irgun, a terrorist group that bombed the King David Hotel in 1946, killing 91 people. He became Prime Minister in 1971.
  • Ariel Sharon watched over the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Phalangist militia units during the Israeli invasion of Lebannon in 1982, yet he is a man of peace that George Bush can deal with.
  • Israel established its current boundaries by military force. This makes those who are trying to take back their land feel justified in using military force too.

Sign of a Dying Culture

One sin always leads to another. This pattern of going deeper into sin can be seen in Romans 1:18-32. When a culture denies the existence of God, worships the environment and exalts human wisdom, either they, or the next generation, will fall into sexual immorality.

They became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another (Rom 1:23-27).

When people persist in worshipping created things, they end up worshipping their bodies and they have no protection from lust. God gives them over to the “desires of their hearts” and they often end up in sexual perversion. This may take more than one generation to work through, but without repentance, it is inevitable.

One reason why homosexuality has become more common in our society is that previous generations stopped believing in a Creator and exchanged the truth about creation for a lie called evolution. Therefore, God has given the current generation of our society over to seduction and homosexuality
Rather than condemning those who are inflicted, we should see their fate as a warning about the state of our society, and we all share responsibility for that. The Church is the guardian of the gospel, so the greatest responsibility rests with us. Like Sodom, we are a society that enjoys wealth and comfort; and the church has not been much different. Even those who do not accept the prosperity gospel are fairly serious about their comfort. Therefore we should not be surprised that our culture is going down the same path as Sodom.

Instead of being stirred up about homosexual behaviour, we should be seeking God to find out how we turn our nation round. God’s invisible qualities, which have been visible in creation since the beginning of time, should be even more evident in the church. If society could see them clearly, we might now be on a path to blessing. Maybe we should be more agitated about the state of the church and God’s witness in the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Second Generation Sin

Most homosexual people would say that their lifestyle was forced upon them and is not something that they chose, so we need to understand why so many people live under this curse? The answer is that sin has consequences that are sometimes only fully worked through the generations. (2 Kings 10:31). When a sin is widespread in a society, worse sins dominate the subsequent generations.

Most Christians will be surprised to learn that Sodom’s root sin was not homosexuality, but pride and greed. Ezekiel explains what really started the rot in Sodom.

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).

The original sins of Sodom were arrogance, laziness and refusal to care for the poor. It seems that when a society makes and idol of comfort and pleasure, it will descend into promiscuity and eventually into homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a second generation sin. The sin of the previous generation curses the following generation to an even worse life. I am not saying that the later generation is not accountable for their actions, but their behaviour is often the consequence of a pattern established by the behaviour of a previous generation. What Lot found in Sodom was just the natural outcome for a society that worshipped comfort and wealth.

Our individualistic culture finds the inter-generational aspect of sin hard to understand. In some cases it passes directly from father to son, but more often it works from one generation of a society to the next. When one generation moves into sin, the next is hardened or emboldened to go further. When we invite an evil spirit into our society, it goes and finds seven friends.

Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matt 12:45,46).

Looking from the divine side, when the first generations sins, God restrains them for the sake of the faithful people that have gone before. When the next generation persists in the same direction, God stops restraining them. Each successive generation has less residual blessing, more bad experience, less restraint and more evil spirits, so they go deeper into sin.

Instead of being stirred up about homosexuality, Christians should be stirred up about the sins of pride and greed that are so prevalent and really do the damage.

The full article on this topic is here.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Homosexuality : Sin or Curse

Homosexuality is a challenging issue for Christians. The Bible seems to be clear that homosexual activity is a sin, but when Christians teach this truth, they are often accused of being harsh and “out of touch” with reality. I believe that a clearer understanding of the full biblical teaching about homosexuality will enable us to “speak the truth in love” about this difficult issue.

Sin or Curse
Our starting point must be love and compassion. If we understood how tough the homosexual lifestyle is for those who are stuck with it, we would be more compassionate. God created us male and female so that we can be united in marriage. To be shut out from this blessing is a curse, as much as it is a sin. Having known the joy of loving a woman, I fell really sorry for anyone who is incapable of finding that joy. An old proverb says:

There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden (Prov 30:18,19).

Every man who has fallen in love with a woman knows that this is true. How sad to be unable to experience “the way of a man with a maiden”.
The human body is designed for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. It is hard for anyone who has enjoyed this gift from God not to feel sorry for someone can enjoy it. No matter what people say, sodomy is a poor substitute for God’s gift, so those who declare that they enjoy being homosexual might just be making the best of a bad job. They probably feel like they have not other choice. Christians should feel compassion for those who are stuck in this place.

Being different from the rest of the world is tough, and even worse if you are hounded for being different. Homosexual people face the problem that they will always be a minority. Some estimates claim they are ten percent of the population, but they real figure is probably much less, so they are quite a small minority. Christians understand what it is likely to be a minority, but at least we have the potential to become a majority, if we get on with the gospel. Homosexual people will always be a minority, so we should be sympathetic to their plight.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Michael and King Kong.

The New Zealand government contributed $25 million to the cost of King Kong. It also contributed $200 million to the Lord of the Rings. I did not get any say in this. Michael decided to spend my money for me, because he knows best. If he had asked me I would have said, "Don't bother, I am not into King Kong. Give me my $25 back and I will buy another Dire Straits CD. But being a politician, skilled in spending other peoples money, he did not ask, so I go a movie when I really wanted to hear some music. So I hope you guys enjoy these movies and think of me when King Kong is beating up the heroes. You will know how I feel about Michael (our finance minister).

Rare Penalty

The adoption of biblical principles will make the death penalty very rare in a Christian society. It would generally only be applied for particularly brutal murders. This demonstrates the holiness and mercy of God. While his holiness demands serious penalties for serious sins, his mercy has put in place a process that ensures that most people do not receive the full penalty that their crimes deserves. This does not matter, as everyone will get full justice in the age to come.

A society that become harsh and applies the death penalty ruthlessly has forgotten the mercy of God.

This is my last post on Crime and Punishment. The full series is available here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Perfect Justice

A common concern about the death penalty is that innocent people might be put to death. This concern is based on the frequent mistakes of modern courts. They often rely on dodgy witnesses and circumstantial evidence when making decisions. Often new evidence comes to light that proves an earlier decision wrong. Human systems of justice will always be imperfect.

Christians know that perfect justice is impossible here on earth, but we also know that everyone will receive perfect justice on the last day when we appear before God’s court. In this context, the death penalty is not a cruel punishment, but a referral to a higher court that provides perfect justice.

Human justice is never final, so judges in a biblical system of justice can apply a much higher standard of proof than modern courts. A person will only be convicted of a capital crime if there are three independent, innocent witnesses. Convictions for murder will be rare, as most murders will not be witnessed by three innocent people and circumstantial evidence will not be allowable. Criminals will we frequently escape justice while on earth, but they will still receive their just deserts in eternity.

In a few rare cases, innocent people will receive the death penalty due to miscarriage of justice. However, a person arriving at the last judgement having paid the penalty for a murder committed by another person will get a very sympathetic hearing. Jesus might say, “The same thing happened to me”. Being referred to a higher court that provides perfect justice will be better than being imprisoned for twenty years for a crime you did not commit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Image of God

This combination of death penalty and ransoms will only work effectively in a Christian society. The reason that we can exercise the death penalty is that we are made in the image of God.

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed;
for in the image of God has God made man (Gen 9:6).
The ability to make wise judgements is something that we inherit from God. When a society turns away from God, the image of God is lost, and with that goes the wisdom to make wise judgement. Without the presence of God in their lives the jury may lack the mercy that many situations require. Without the love of God in our hearts, the desire for revenge might overcome us. Justice functions best when the image of God is restored in man through the work of the cross.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mercy over Judgment

Mercy should always triumph over judgement (Jam 5:13). For the death penalty to be implemented, a group of witnesses, judges and community leaders would each have to be willing to enforce it. If just one judge or witness were squeamish, the death penalty would be commuted. This would make the death penalty quite rare. The crime would have to be sufficiently horrendous to overcome their revulsion towards the death penalty. They could not pretend that it was not happening, but would have to look the murderer in the eye.

Most judges and witnesses would choose mercy, especially if the criminal was willing to pay a ransom. If there were any doubt about guilt or any extenuating circumstances, they would refuse to implement the death penalty to avoid being guilty of killing an innocent person. If a criminal has repented and made peace with God, they would prefer a ransom to a death penalty. God’s justice leaves room for mercy.

On the other hand, some murders are so horrendous, that a death penalty seems to be the only just penalty. A person who sadistically kills several people or tortures and kills children seems to deserve a harsh penalty. Some repeat offenders are so incorrigible, that society may need to be protected from them. Locking them up for a lifetime is cruel and costly, so the death penalty might be a kinder solution. I suspect that in these situations, a community would be willing to implement a life sentence. They would also be unwilling to accept a ransom.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Judges and Witnesses

Here are some important biblical principles that will limit the use of the death penalty.

  • The judges and witnesses must jointly implement the death penalty. This would really sharpen their minds and make them cautious about giving evidence and deciding on guilt. They would not be tempted to convict an innocent man, as this would make them guilty of murder. They might not be convicted of this crime during this life, but they would still be accountable to God in the next.
  • The death penalty can only be implemented if the prosecution witnesses and judges were unanimous about the sentence. The technology should require each one to press the button to implement the penalty. This would prevent them from pretending to go along with the others.
  • Other leaders of the community where the crime occurred should also be involved, so that the penalty is the action of the entire community.
  • Judges might convict a criminal, but still refuse to implement the death penalty. They would be free to choose mercy.
  • The family and friends of a victim cannot enforce the death penalty without the agreement of their community.
  • A community can decide not to enforce the death penalty. In a harsh environment, the death penalty would be more common. In a more developed society, it should be rare.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Stoning and Technology

In biblical times, the stoning was the most common method for enforcing the death penalty (Lev 24:23), but it is a technology, not a principle. Stoning is not mandatory, but can be replaced by any technology that achieves the same result. The stoning technology had several benefits for the administration of justice. Death would generally be quick, so suffering was minimised. A hit on the head would quickly render the criminal unconscious. The other benefit is that nobody would know which stone actually killed the criminal, so no individual is responsible for the criminal’s death. At least twenty representatives of the community would be involved, so the death penalty would be the action of the entire community.

In the modern world, stoning should be replaced by a technology that makes death as pain free as possible. This technology should ensure that no one person is individually responsible for the criminal’s death. Beheading or hanging by an executioner is not acceptable. A professional executioner is dangerous, as he might be corrupted and start enjoying death. The death penalty should always be implemented by normal people. Many who would go an watch an execution would be not want to be responsible for the execution.

More on Crime and Punishment

At the end of last year I posted some material on Crime and Punsishment. The next few posts will complete that series with some comments on the death penalty.

If judges apply the principle of hardness of heart, ransom and mercy, the death penalty will be very rare. However, we should be prepared in case it is needed in the future.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Rumbustious Iran (2)

The resurgence of Iran was prophesied by Daniel.

I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great (Daniel 8:3,4.)
The angel told Daniel that this vison would be fulfilled during a time of wrath a the end of the times of the Gentiles (Dan 8:17,19). The ram prepresented Persia, which is now called Iran.

The the ram had two horns, representing two powerful leaders. The first horn was fulfilled by Ayotallah and the Islamic Revolution in the 1980s. The second leader emerges later, but is more powerful. I believer the we are now seeing the emergence of the second horn in Iran. That is why President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is provoking the West. He is attempting to re-establish Iran as the center of revolutionary Islam.

Christians should understand What is Going On.

The rapid advance of Islam in the least two decades is the White Horse of Revelation.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rumbustious Iran (1)

The international community is getting really stirred up about Iran’s decision to acquire nuclear weapons. This odd title does not make sense as it is not include the whole world, but only the rich and powerful. And it has about as much connection with a real community as a gang of playground bullies.

Anyway this so-called international community is stirred up about Iran. They seem surprised that Iran would want nuclear weapons. I cannot think why.

Iran is sitting on a mountain of oil and is surrounded by nuclear nations. On its eastern flank, India has a billion people and nuclear weapons. An Indian empire threatened Iran during the 16th and 17th century. To the north is Russia with an enormous nuclear arsenal and a ruthless government. Within striking distance from the west is Israel, also armed with nuclear weapons and a history of striking beyond its border.

Even closer to the western border of Iran is Iraq, which invaded Iran in 1980. More than a million Iranians died defending their nation from this attack. Iraq does not have military weapons, but is currently hosting 150,000 United States forces.

The Iranians have a long history of dealing with the United States and it is not a pretty story. In 1953, the CIA organized the overthrow of the democratically-elected Mossadeq government and installed Shah Reza as dictator over Iran . The Shah caused terrible suffering for the Iranian people, but when he was overthrown by the Islamic revolution, the United States responded by freezing all Iranian assets held in America (so much for building democracy).

The United States also provided support and weapons to Iraq when it invaded Iran. It even got involved in 1988, when an American warship stationed in the Gulf shot down an Iranian airbus on a scheduled flight to Dubai. Two hundred and ninety-nine passengers were killed, many of them women and children traveling to a wedding celebration.

Iran is surrounded by nations with nuclear weapons that have attempted to invade it in the past, so I am not surprised that the Iranian government wants the protection of nuclear weapons.

The international community was powerless to protect Iran when Iraq invaded in the 1980s. In fact many of them cheered the invader on, secretly wanting to see the Khomeini government fall, so I am not surprised that Iran does not trust the international community.

I believe that nuclear weapons are immoral, but I can understand why the Iranians want them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Theft and Politics

I enjoyed this quote.

Thievery and chicanery are essential to the political process. A politician cannot help one person without first stealing from someone else (Vedran Vuk).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Terror to Women and Children

At the weekend, 17 people were killed in a village in Northwest Pakistan. The United States launched four Hellfire missiles from CIA predator drones at three houses in a mud-walled compound. They were acting on "good information" that an Al Qa'ida leader called Aymnan al Sawahirir was in one of the houses celbrating a a Moslem holiday. Five woman and five children were killed.

Now it seems that the Al Qa'ida leader was not there, so the attack was a mistake. Senator John McCain said, "We apologise, but we would do the same again".

I presume that Paul was speaking of godly government when he said.

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong (Rom 13:3).
What has happened to the United States when it becomes a terror to women an children. Or are all Moslems classified as evil?

What kind of government launches Hellfire against women and children. Can this be the work of a godly nation?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Throwing Pebbles at Satan

On the last day of the Haj, pilgrims at Mecca go to the Jamarat bridge and throw pebbles at three column representing Satan. He came to lie, steal and destroy. Throwing pebbles at Satan apparently does not work, as 345 pilgrims were destroyed in a stampede.

The reason is that the source of Satan's power is human sin and disobedience. Throwing pebbles does not remove sin. Jesus dealt with Satan effectively by dying on the cross to break the power of sin. By resolving the root problem, Jesus totally destroyed Satan's power.

Unfortunately, most Christians are also just throwing pebbles at Satan. They pray that good will overcome evil, but deep in their hearts, the are convinced that Satan has not yet been defeated. They believe that Jesus will only bind Satan when he returns at the end of the age. This idea is great for Satan, but it is a denial of the cross. He only has as much power on earth as Christians allow him to have.

Christians should stop throwing pebbles at Satan and rediscover the rock of Jesus victory. It is finished.