Wednesday, April 30, 2008

False Ideas (10) - The Rapture

According to most popular teachers of eschatology, Christians will be raptured out of the world before a "great tribulation" comes. The word rapt means to "be caught away". It is said that all true believers will be snatched up into the air to be with the Lord, in a secret rapture. The people of the world will suddenly realise that a lot of people have gone. In this way the Lord’s people would escape the terrible time of tribulation. This is a nice idea, but there are a number of problems with it.

They are described here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

False Ideas (9) - Jesus Big Prophecy

One of the most misunderstood passages is Jesus Big Prophecy in Matthew 24, sometimes known as the Olivet discourse (there are parallel accounts in Mark 13 and Luke 21). Most people assume that this passage gives a number of signs of the second coming of Jesus. This is not true. Verses 1-35 are actually a warning of the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus was giving a strong warning to the Jews of what would happen to them, if they rejected him. Only at the end of the passage is the second coming described, and here no signs are given.

Start here for a detailed study.

Monday, April 28, 2008

False Ideas (8) - The Seventy Weeks

Daniel 9:24-27 is often misunderstood. It is used to justify the belief that there will be a seven year tribulation, just prior to Christ’s second coming. Those with this view see the passage as a description of the activities of the anti-christ. To get this result they have to insert a gap before the last week. There is not justification of this trick.

Careful study will be necessary to clarify its true meaning. Like Matthew 24, it is really a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. The seventy weeks were fulfilled in Jesus time.

Read here for an interpretation that does not need a gap.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

False Ideas (7) - Mark of the Beast

Modern Christian make a lot of the mark of the beast described in Revelation.

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no-one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for Wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666. Rev 13:16-18
This persecution takes place in a time of famine, when food is scarce. Every person is given a mark, which is a sign of allegiance to the Beast. It is the number or name of the Beast. Any person who does not have this mark, will not be allowed to buy or sell. Christians would not be able to take the mark, so they will not be able to buy or sell. The persecution will take the form of economic discrimination. The actual procedure will be implemented by the false prophet (Rev 17:6).

A great deal has been made about the introduction of credit cards and computerised check-out counters. It has been suggested that each person would be tattooed with a credit number on their wrist or forehead. These would be used to make all financial transactions, in what would be a cashless society. It has even been suggested that there is a giant computer in Brussels which will provide the link-up, and that its operators euphemistically call it "the beast". Some people have even imagined that they see the number 666 on some credit cards.

We should not get too carried away with all this. If we look closely at what John says, we see that each person is not given their own individual number, but the number of the Beast. Each person is given the same number or mark, and not a personal credit number. In fact the mark is not a credit number but a mark of allegiance to a political ruler, the Beast.

This vision does not need modern computer technology to be implemented. In John’s time when a slave was sold in the market-place, he was branded with a hot iron on the forehead or arm with the mark of his owner. This made it impossible for the slave to escape. It would be something like this that John saw.

A ruler could have done this in any age. He would have all his people tattooed with a mark representing his name. A decree would then be issued forbidding all citizens from trading with a person who did not have the mark. Anyone who refused to take the mark would be effectively outlawed. The persecution John saw in the vision could have taken place in any age. We should not place too much importance on the advances in computer technology. Computer technology may be used to bring it about, but the existence of computers and credit cards, does not necessarily mean that it is coming soon.

John did not have a vision of a cashless society. He only saw people being branded with a mark of allegiance. The fact that we appear to be advancing towards a cashless society, does not mean that this part of the vision is being fulfilled.

More here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

False Ideas (6) - The Antichrist

Many end times teachers say that a future ruler of the world will be called the Anti-Christ. They see this Antichrist as a person who sets himself up in Christ’s place in the world. He would rule the world from a throne in the temple in Jerusalem. They say he will demand to be worshipped by the whole world. However, this is a misunderstanding of the way in which the word is used in the Bible.

The word antichrist is only used four times in the whole Bible, and each time in the letters of John. Two of these are in 1 John 2:18.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.
John is writing to believers who have heard that the antichrist is coming. He points out the fact, that even in his time, many antichrists have already come. This tells us that the antichrist is not a single person who will come at some time in the future. There are many antichrists and they will be in the world throughout the history of the church. In verse 19, John explains that the antichrists of his time had gone out from the church. They had originally been in the church, but were not really part of it, because they did not hold to the true faith.

John explains the meaning of the word antichrist in 1 John 4:2,3. He is speaking about testing the spirits, to see which are from God.
Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus in not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
Antichrist is not a title applied to someone who claims that he is the Christ. It is a title applied to a person who spreads false belief about Jesus. In John’s time there were people who claimed that Jesus had not come in the flesh, but had come in a spiritual form. They denied the fundamental truth of Christ’s humanity. John applies the title antichrist to them. They are working against Jesus, because they are denying the truth of who he is. For John, antichrist was a title given to early heretics, and especially those whose teaching about Jesus was incorrect.

This understanding of the word is confirmed in 2 John 7, where he writes,
Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
"The antichrist" is any person who spreads false doctrines about Jesus. Jesus is central to the Christian gospel. Thus any misunderstanding of who he is, undermines the whole gospel. Christians claim that their gospel is true, so anyone who denies the basic truths about Jesus is a deceiver. He is leading people away from the truth, and becomes an obstacle to the gospel and the work of Christ. This is why he deserves the title "antichrist". The antichrist is any person who denies the truth about Jesus.

These are the only references to an antichrist in the whole Bible. John teaches that antichrists are present throughout the Christian age. They are heretics who distort the truth of the gospel. Nowhere in scripture is the word antichrist connected with the Beast of Revelation. It is never used to describe a political figure who sets up a world empire. This means that it is wrong to give the title antichrist to either of the beasts that John saw in Revelation 13.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gallipoli Heroes

I do not like war. I hate the terrible death and suffering. I also dislike the political propaganda that tries to turn something dreadful and awful into something to be celebrated. I particularly dislike the way that the media try to make war appear to be noble and good.

25 April was the first day of the Gallipoli campaign at the beginning of the First World War.

Most wars are stupid, but the first World War was particularly stupid. It started when an Austrian archduke was shot by a Serbian in Sarajevo. Most Europeans could not tell an archduke from an archdeacon and no one cared about the Serbs or Sarajevo, but their political leaders decided they would have a jolly good old war anyway.

The politicians and kings started a stupid war and millions of ordinary young men paid full price for it. When the war finally ground to a halt five years later, nothing had been achieved, but 20 million people had died and another 20 million carried serious injuries.

The politicians and leaders never apologized for their mistake. Instead they turned the dead and injured into heroes. This distracted attention from their stupid decisions and made people feel better about an event that was really a terrible disaster. Calling the soldiers heroes makes it seem that what they had done was worth while.

I suppose that some were heroes, but the line between heroism and stupidity is a fine one. I presume that others were cowards, and others just kept their head down and avoided trouble. The hero story was not totally true, but it fulfils a political purpose.

The Gallipoli campaign was one of those stupid battles thought up by a politician in London that was never going to work in practice. The Australian and New Zealand troops ended up on stuck on a narrow beach in Turkey. The Turkish solders at the top of the cliffs were armed with machine guns and fighting to defend their homes and families. They were never going to lose.

Several months later, the Australian and New Zealand troops withdrew having achieved nothing for a terrible price. One hundred thousand people were dead and another two hundred thousand were injured. The most embarrassing aspect of the fiasco was that white Christian people were supposed to be superior to the Turkish Moslems.

We say now that they died for their country, but that is not true. either The people of New Zealand had not interest in what happened in Sarajevo. Most did not know it even existed. The New Zealand soldiers went to defend the British Empire. I am not very keen on empires and I don’t think that God is either. However, when the British Empire called, the young men of New Zealand left their families and marched off to war without hesitation. The thought of fighting for an empire is not very nice, so dying for your country sounds much better.

We can honour the bravery of the soldiers.
We can honour loyalty to their mates.
We should not honour their blind obedience to the arrogant and foolish poltical leaders told them to go and fight a stupid war

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Tomorrow is the national day when people who were killed in wars overseas are remembered.

We tell ourselves that this was sacrifice,
but it was mostly waste.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Race to the Bottom

Why do Christian like to claim 2 Tim 3:1-5 for their age.

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
In every century, Christians have said these verses are being fulfilled in their time. Every generation seems to believe that they are living in worse times than those that went before. We seem to be on this race to the bottom.

I have noticed that this belief is strongest in times and places when the church is doing badly. This makes me wonder if Christians identify with this passage, because it provides an excuse for failure. If we are living in the last days, then we cannot be expected to be anything more than feeble.

This view is also quite egocentric. We must be special, because the book of Revelation is about us. I have not seen much evidence yet that this generation is special.

I am not interested in being shaped by "last days thinking". I want to be part of the generation that claims Daniel 7:27 for its time.
Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shutting up Shop

Why are Christians so keen for Jesus to return soon? Why are Christians so keen for God to shut up shop on the earth.

The population of the world is currently about 6 billion. I presume the total number of people that have ever lived on earth must be about 10 billion. Taking a generous the total number of Christians including those who have already died would not be more than about 3 billion. That means that God’s team is currently losing the game by 10 points to 3.

What kind of team wants to give up the game when it is losing 10-3. Any decent team wants to keep playing, because they believe can turn the score around. Only a team of losers want to end the game when they are losing. What does that make us?

True, the Western team is on a bit of a losing streak. But why not leave time for a different team to have a go. Maybe the church in Africa or Asia will do the job that we have not been able to do. But, no. We have this attitude that if we cant do it, no one can, so we might as well call the game off now, before we fall further behind.
The attitude among Christian’s seems to be, “I am in. Let’s shut up shop now so that we can get on with the party in heaven. Too bad about those who have not got in yet?” That seems to be a fairly selfish attitude. A bit different from God too. He is patient, not wanting anyone to miss out (2 Pet 3:89).

Should God be satisfied with 3 billion people in heaven? I suppose that he might be, but I doubt it. According to Revelation 5:11, heaven has angels “numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” and that does not include the third that fell from grace. What is the optimal human/angel ratio? How much room is there in the heavenly realms? Plenty I would guess. God promised Abraham that the number of people blessed through him would be as many as the stars in the sky and the sands on the sea (Gen 22:17). That is a good deal more than 3 billion.

I get the impression that we serve a big number God. He does not seem to do things by half. So why should we just assume that 3 billion is enough for him. I believe that he is much more gracious and patient than that.

What if he wants a billion billion people in heaven. Could he not let this earth roll on for a lot longer, so that the full number that he wants could come in. With multiplication that number could be reached quite quickly. If with arithmetic growth, it would take longer, but why not.

The “Shut up shop now” attitude seems to assume that he is more miserly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

False Ideas (5) - Binding Satan

A popular idea is that Satan is bound at the Second Coming.

However, the Bible teaches very clearly that we do not have to wait for Satan to be bound in the future. He was defeated by Jesus’ victory on the cross. Jesus disarmed Satan and all his powers, by making a public spectacle of them, when he triumphed on the cross (Col 2:15). He has already done everything that needs to be done to secure Satan’s downfall.

The reason Satan still seems to be so active is that the church has failed to realise the full extent of what Christ has achieved. In binding Satan, Jesus works through the church. He has placed the chain that binds Satan in the hands of his people. They must restrain Satan’s power over the nations.

Jesus won a judicial victory on the cross. When a decision is made in a court of law it does not become a fact until the police enforce it. The church has the police power to enforce Jesus judicial victory. Satan will not be fully bound until the church forces him to recognise the sentence that was passed against him at the cross.

The church has the power to bind Satan, but is not using the authority that has been given to it. Satan will not be bound in some future event. He will be bound when the church becomes aware of the binding power that it already has, and begins to exercise that authority in Jesus’ name.

More here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

False Ideas (4) Last Days

Most Christians believe that we are living in the last days. This is another false idea.

The Bible teaches that the "last days" are finished. Many readers will find this hard to accept, as I did. The reason we are surprised is that we confuse the last days (plural) of the Jewish nation with the last day (singular), that glorious day when Jesus will return. The last days are really the period of time between the ministry of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

An examination of the Scriptures shows that there are five references to the last days (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Pet 3:3) and two referring to the last times (1 Pet 1:20; Jude 18). In four of the seven, the author considered that he was living in the last days. For example, Heb.1:2 states that Jesus ministry on earth was in the last days. This does not make sense, if the last days come just before the Second Coming. However, if the writer of Hebrews is referring to the last days of the Jewish nation, it makes a great deal of sense. When we remember that Hebrews, James (1:1), and Peter's letters were written to Jewish Christians and that Timothy was a Jew this really makes sense; all the references to the last days were in epistles written to the Jews. They would have understood that they were in the last days of their nation, at the time when they received these letters.

This means that Scripture references to the last days have already been fulfilled. They don’t describe a future event, so it is futile to believe that we are living in the last days now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

False Ideas (3) Jesus is Coming soon

Most Christians believe that the second coming is very close. This belief is now so universal that it is hardly ever questioned. However, Christians in every age have believed that the second coming is near, but they all proved to be wrong. We need to be careful that we do not make the same mistake. The second coming of Jesus is not necessarily as close as most bible teachers claim.

I believe that the second coming of Jesus could be several thousand years away. There is a lot of good stuff promised in the Bible that has not happened yet. Fulfilling all God's glorious promises could take quite a while.

Most Christians will disagree with me, but I am not worried, because through history, people who did not believe Jesus was coming soon have been proved to be right. I am in good company.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

False Ideas (2) Revelation

The common view is that the the book of Revelation is a description of the events leading up to the second coming. This is a serious mistake. The book is primarily about the calling of the Jews, explaining how this relates to the judgments of God and the coming of the Kingdom. This can be seen from the prologue of the book, which summarises the events to be described.

The book of Revelation covers the whole of the church age, but it concentrates specifically on the time when the Jews will be converted, and the kingdom of God established. It has very little about the second coming of Jesus. Once this is understand, our interpretation of this book will change dramatically.

More here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

False Ideas (1) Newspaper Theology

Christians have tended to base their views on the course of history on what they read in their newspapers, rather than on what they read in the Bible. We certainly live in evil times, and our newspapers make rather dismal reading. But the Bible is quite realistic about evil. It warns us to expect times when evil will rise in power. However this realism is never allowed to detract from the certainty of Christ’s victory. Despite the worst that Satan can do, Jesus and his church will eventually be victorious. It is time for the church to rediscover this important biblical message.

This is just one example to the Pessimistic Christianity that has become so prevalent

Monday, April 14, 2008

Voluntary Justice (9) Price of Protection

The modern state allows people to live in isolation without any connection to a community that has moral authority over their lives. People can have physical protection and the support of the rest of society without needing to submit to the moral authority of their community. This means that justice has to be imposed by physical force.

In a tribal society or Christian community, members get protection from evil (physical and spiritual) by belonging to their community. The price of this protection is submission to the justice imposed by the community. People can avoid the consequences of justice, but the price they pay is the loss of the protection. Tribal members refusing the justice required by their tribal judges would become very vulnerable to physical attack.

Christians who refuse to comply with the standard of justice imposed by their leaders will lose physical and spiritual protection. Losing spiritual protection might have more serious long term consequences than the penalty they are attempting to escape. Paul reminded the Corinthians of what happens when those who are unwilling to repent are cut off from the body of Christ.

hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord…. God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you (1 Cor 5:5,13).
Churches will only be able to fulfil this role, if there is a church in every street. A church whose members to drive many miles to a mega meeting cannot be a tribe. Only community-based churches that functions in a defined area can provide protection and justice.

The full article is

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Voluntary Justice (8) Outside Community

If a Christian experiences an injustice at the hands of someone from outside their community they would go to their elders. The elders will approach the community of the accused person and say,

We want to stay at peace with your community, so this dispute needs to be sorted. If you want to continue our relationship with you, we suggest that you encourage the accused person to go before a judge that we all respect. We need to get this issue sorted.
The other community would probably agree to this request, because they would not want to lose the benefits that come from the relationship. Even if they were not a Christian community, they would probably agree to ensure that they would be able to obtain justice for their members in the future.

The members of any community that refused to support justice might find themselves isolated and unable to trade, because they would no longer to be trusted. When trust disappears, the cost of trade increases enormously, so wise leaders would ensure that justice is done, even when a member of their community is being accused.

If the accused person does not belong to a community, they might be able to evade justice for a while. However, they could eventually find themselves being excluded from normal society, so they might need to join an outlaw community to survive. This would be a terrible place to be. Most people will choose to submit to justice, so that they can remain in their community.

Earthly justice will never be perfect, but love triumphs over justice. If the person harmed is unsuccessful in getting restitution, the other members of the church might provide compensation to them as an expression of the love of Jesus. The victim would receive justice, even if the criminal escapes. Of course, their escape is temporary, because everyone will receive perfect justice when they stand before the throne of God.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Voluntary Justice (7) Christian Community

We need a system of justice that does not depend on force or require coercion from above. God’s way is voluntary justice. The key to voluntary justice is free submission to the leaders of a community, in return to their promise of care. Thus, submission to church leaders can also provide a foundation for voluntary justice. This is why Paul described judges emerging out of churches (1 Cor 6:1-4).

If a Christian is accused of a crime, their elders should say something like this.

This accusation could be true. We want to stay at peace with the people of your accuser’s community, so we want you to submit to a judge, and get things sorted. If you do not like the judge they suggested, we will find one we all recognise as being reliable and honest. If you refuse to submit to him, you will lose our spiritual protection and oversight and become an outlaw from your family and church.
The church leaders will urge the Christian to submit to a good and honest judge, so that the church can remain at peace with the rest of the society in which they live. If the judge declares the Christian is innocent, the church will provide them with protection from harassment.

If the judge convicts the accused and imposes a penalty, the leaders of the church will expect the Christian to pay the specified penalty. They may even loan the money and organise repayment over time. The price for this will be closer submission to the Christian(s) making the loan.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Banking Problems

Sean Corrigan makes some interesting comments about the current problems with banking.

If the basic tenets of free-market "capitalism" include the full recognition of property rights, the sanctity of voluntary contract, and the relegation of government to a minimalist role as arbiter – and, reluctantly, as enforcer – of last resort.... the roots of today’s woes lie not in whether this or that regulation was sufficiently well-crafted or implemented, but rather go deeper into the issue of whether banking as currently instituted is – in any way, shape, or form – an activity consonant with such principles.

Firstly, the ability of banks to create money simply by making a book entry in favour of a borrower, without first asking whether anyone else would be willing to place their previously earned cash at the latter’s disposal, is nothing other than a legalized act of counterfeiting or, if you prefer, an act of "watering" the stock of claims upon the totality of private property; of diluting the existing "shareholders" rights to the social product without their prior consent.

Secondly, the fact that depositors are led to believe that they do not relinquish any rights over the funds they entrust to the banks – when, in fact, they are no more than the unsecured creditors of a commingled holding – leads to the reprehensible business of promising demand account customers instant access to "their" cash, while being fully aware that such a promise is wholly fraudulent since the bulk of this "cash" will be rapidly deployed to "fund" any number of the long term, potentially illiquid ventures being undertaken by the bank’s lending department.

The fact is that, by some twisted thread of history, banks have been accorded the unjust privilege of being allowed to ignore the absolutely crucial lines of demarcation between four, wholly beneficial, but utterly distinct, roles.

Monies given into their possession in their guise as "giro," or transmission, agents, or as the custodians of what are, today, largely virtual safety deposit-boxes, are one thing: quite another are the resources entrusted to them in their equally laudable function as asset managers whose job is profitably to invest their customers’ term deposits in a range of what are presumed to be creditworthy ventures.

A third – individually irreproachable – business is that of facilitating the raising and transfer of capital between customers; mobilizing savings, large and small, in order to fund entrepreneurial attempts at wealth creation, whether through arranging trade finance or by bringing issues to the bond and stock markets.

Finally, there is no intrinsic demerit to bankers speculating either with their own capital or, indeed, with that of those clients who are fully cognizant of the fact that their money will be used to bankroll an attempt to outguess other traders and to pre-empt changes in the valuation of securities, currencies, or commodities.

The underlying problem is that banks have been granted the right indiscriminately to mix all four of these often incompatible activities. This gives rise to an unhealthy promiscuity, corrupting their fiduciary duties, introducing irreconcilable conflicts of interest, and opening up countless opportunities for a wholly legal embezzlement which has a small, but significant, chance of going horribly awry – as today’s events have once more forcibly brought home.

....all that is needed is for the same basic principles of law to apply to banks as to any other commercial enterprise, in a manner that they have never done heretofore.

This is the guts of the problem. Modern banking is fraudulent.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Voluntary Justice (6) The Modern World

Free submission to tribal leaders provides a foundation for voluntary justice. A tribal culture has three important characteristics.

  • Loyalty between members of the tribe.
  • Submission to the authority of tribal leaders.
  • Leaders responsible for well-being of tribal members.
The problem in the modern world is that tribal affiliations have been destroyed. People no long belong to a tribe, so individuals are isolated and society is disjointed. This creates problems for voluntary justice. Most people would not recognise anyone they will freely submit to (other than employers). There is no one with sufficient moral authority to persuade them to submit to justice, so justice must be imposed by force.

The good news is that the role of the tribe can be fulfilled by community-based churches that function in the way that I described in my book Being Church Where We Live. A church has the following characteristics.
  • Church members committed to loving each other.
  • Submission to the authority of elders.
  • Elders responsible for caring for church members.
These three characteristics parallel the characteristics of tribes listed above. Community-based churches can become the new tribes.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Voluntary Justice (5) Outlaw Communities

If a person convicted of a crime chooses to avoid justice by leaving their tribe, they could seek to join another. The problem is that most tribes would not accept someone with outstanding justice issues. The tribe would not want to offend a neighbouring tribe by harbouring a person who has refused to submit to justice. The person avoiding justice might not be able to find a tribe to join, because they would be treated as an outlaw.

Groups of people avoiding justice might come together and form a community of outlaws. These outlaw communities would be a terrible place to live, as the leaders of the community would those who have refused to accept justice. The strongest men would rise to the top, so the community would have only rough justice. Outlaw communities would be like self-run, self-funded prisons.

These outlaw communities would be like the Cities of Refuge established in Israel (Num 35:6-14). They were a place of escape for people with outstanding justice issues running away from their tribe.

Entry into an outlaw communities would be voluntary, because the only people entering permanently would be those escaping justice or refusing to submit to the leadership of their tribe. Some Christians enter temporarily to share the gospel and other tough people might visit regularly to trade. Other might call to visit relatives.

No outlaw would have to stay in an outlaw community, but they could only leave by going back to their tribe and accepting the consequences of the justice that that they had been avoiding. To leave the outlaw community, they would have to submit to justice in the community they had escaped.

The outlaw community would not be a happy place, so the cost of avoiding justice would be quite high. Most people would prefer to pay the penalties that had been imposed by the judge, so they could remain with their tribe. This would be a powerful incentive for the voluntary acceptance of justice.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Voluntary Justice (4) Protection

If the accused person is judged to be innocent, the tribal leaders will provide the innocent person with protection from any further harassment.

Belonging to a tribe is voluntary, but the condition for belonging is submission to the authority of tribal leaders. Willingness to submit disputes to a judge and agreement to comply with the judge’s verdict is also a condition for belonging. Freedom is not reduced, because the person is always free to leave their tribe and cease submission. They would lose the benefits of being part of their tribe, but they are always free to go.

Moses is an example of one who used his freedom to escape justice (Ex 11:11-21). The price he paid was forty years in the wildness tending sheep for a much poorer tribe (God used this for good). This is different from the modern nation-state, where submission to authority is enforced with force and people are usually not free to leave.

Tribal affiliations are fluid. If the leaders of a tribe started to impose bad justice, people would leave that tribe and join another related tribe with better standards of justice. The bad tribe would shrink away.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Voluntary Justice (3) Rejecting Justice

The person found guilty by the judge might refuse to accept the penalty imposed by the court. If the guilty person refused to pay the specified restitution, their tribal elders would say,

We want to stay at peace with our neighbouring tribe. If you want to remain part of us, you had better make restitution specified by the judge.
The guilty person would come under immense moral pressure to pay the penalty.
You must act according to the decisions they give you… Be careful to do everything they direct you to do. Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left (Deut 17:10-11).
A person who refuses to accept justice of the judges has placed themselves under a curse.
Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out (Deut 27:26).
The tribe will not want a person that is under a curse in their midst.

If a convicted person cannot afford to pay the specified restitution, family or tribal leaders might make the payment on their behalf and find a way for guilty person to work and repay what they owed. They would do this to maintain peace with their neighbours.
If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him..... If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. He is to be treated as a hired worker or a temporary resident among you (Lev 25:35-36;39-40).
This is an additional benefit of belonging to a tribe. If the convicted person refused to repay their debt to those who had bailed them out, they would lose all the benefits of belonging to their tribe.

Compassion Greed and Need

A good quote from Joseph Sobran.

"Need" now means wanting someone else's money. "Greed" means wanting to keep your own. "Compassion" is when a politician arranges the transfer.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Voluntary Justice (2) Tribal Culture

The system of law and judges established by God functioned effectively in Moses time, because he was part of a trouble culture. Although, most people no longer live in a tribal culture, the experience is worth studying, because it shows how a voluntary system of judges can work. We should also not that the modern drive to destroy tribal culture and replace it with nationalism and democracy has made it harder to operate a biblical system of justice. That is why God blessed a tribal culture (Deut 33) but never blessed democracy. Tribal cultures are conducive to a system of law and judges, whereas democracy establishes justice by force, which God hates.

Tribal societies can be quite fluid, but a persons place in society is established by submission to the tribal leaders. They can change to a new tribe, if they submit to the leaders that tribe, but they cannot have the benefits of belonging to a tribe, if they will not submit to the authority of the tribal leaders. This free submission to tribal authorities makes the system of law and judges work.

Members of a tribe would be expected to submit to the judgment of judge that their family or tribal leaders recognise as being wise. If the accuser was a member of the same tribe, the tribal leaders would demand that the two sides to the dispute get things sorted so that the tribe would not be divided. The accused person could not continue to enjoy the blessings of tribal membership and refuse to go to a judge recognised by their tribe.

If the victim of the crime belonged to another tribe, their tribal leaders would come to the tribal leaders of the accused person and ask for the issue to be sorted. They would agree on a judge that both tribes respected. If the accused person refused to submit to this judge, the elders would say,

This accusation could be true. We want to stay at peace with your neighbouring tribe, so we want you to submit to a judge, and get things sorted. If you do not trust the suggested judge, we will find one that we all recognise as being reliable and honest. If you refuse to the judge, you will lose our protection and oversight and become an outlaw from your family and tribe. We are not prepared to put our tribe at risk of attack, because you are willing to appear before a judge.
The accused person would have no choice but to submit to judgment. To ensure they continue to receive the benefits of being part of their family and tribe, they will freely submit to judgment.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Voluntary Justice (1)

A Christian system of justice will be voluntary and not based on the use of force. The main problem with a system of voluntary justice is that an accused person might refuse to appear before a judge. Of if they are convicted, they might refuse to pay the restitution specified by the judges.

The system of justice established by God during the time of Moses was a voluntary system. The judges raised up to apply the law did not have a police force to enforce their decisions. All the judges could do was hear the cased brought before them. They could not force people to appear before the court. All they could do was hear the testimonies of the people who came before them and announce their verdict. They could specify the amount of restitution that should be made, if a crime had occurred, but they had no power to enforce their decisions.

Cleaning up their own Mess

The subprime crisis and the credit crunch are the result of the "easy money" policies of the Federal Reserve Board during the first half of the decade.

Now they are going to be given more power to resolve this problem.

This is like feeding a laxative to a boy who has fouled his bed.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Rescuer or Bystander

A good quote from David Gushee.

In my doctoral dissertation I studied Christians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. I discovered that in that horrible drama there were essentially four categories of behavior: victim, perpetrator, rescuer and bystander. Most instances of mass evil involve a small number of direct perpetrators killing a large number of hated victims in the presence of a much larger group of acquiescent bystanders, and resisted by a tiny number of rescuers. Scalded by that research, I have vowed with God’s help to be a rescuer kind of Christian.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Blogging (2)

Here is my response to the person asking for advice about blogging.

Blogging is really quite hard. The standard joke is that there are at least a million blogs that are only read by two people: the author and his mother.

The experts say that you need to post regularly, because people will stop coming back if there is nothing new. The best bloggers post every day, but I am not sure if this is necessary. I get bored with blogs that are filled with daily junk. Some of the best bloggers that I read only post weekly or fortnightly. Their quality makes up for their lack of frequency. I use the Netvibes RSS reader, so I do not need to keep gong back to check, because I know when they have posted something new.

Whatever tool you are using make sure that you put in labels on your posts. This makes it easier for search engines to find them. More importantly, it makes it easier for you to find your own stuff when you want it again.

The most important search engine for blogs is Technorati. Go into it and register your blog. You can ping them every now and then to make sure that they are getting your updates. You can also go to their site and see how few people are reading your blog.

Make sure yet set your blog up for RSS readers. All blogging tools support this. It is a good ideal to use feedburner to manage your feeds. Feedburner will provide good statistics about who reading or subscribing to your blog.

Bloggers that do well write a lot of personal stuff. What you ate for breakfast. Stories about your children. Photos of your dog and the adventures of your cat. I refuse to do this, because do not want my private life splattered over the web. This post is about as personal, as I will ever get. However, the personal stuff really does draw readers.

The best way to bring readers is to write comments on blogs that are read by the people who will be interested in your blog.

The next step is to get people to put a link to your blog in return for you putting a link on your blog to their blog. I do not do this much, because I dislike the idea of “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours”. However, I know that it works.

Better still if you can get people quoting your blog and putting links back, but that is harder to achieve.

Andrew Jones is a very successful New Zealand blogger. He has some good tips here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Blogging (1)

A reader asked for some advice on successful blogging.

I am probably the wrong person to ask, as I am not very successful. According to Technorati, there are more than a million blogs that are more popular than mine. That is not surprising, because my interests are very narrow. There are not many people in this world, who hate democracy, love God’s law and enjoy economics.

I am serious about writing, but I only dabble in blogging. My best writing is at Kingdom Watcher. I keep my blog going because it makes Google feel good about that site.

I mainly use my blog as a place to store writing material. I have always had lots of little pieces of paper with new ideas written on them. Many just pop into my head as I am going to sleep or cycling to work. I have always written these down, so they do not get lost. Now I put them into my blog. Google provides free storage and good filing system. My thoughts are all neatly labeled, so they are easy to find when I want them again (much easier than scratching in a heap of paper).

Thanks Google.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Justice and Torah (6)

Here is the final question.

Didn't Jesus modify/intensify the Old Testament law. For example, the Old Testament says "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" but Jesus says, INSTEAD, "Never resist an evil doer" and don't reply. I'm sure you have an explanation for these, but I'm curious.
This is interesting. I note that you said, “the Old Testament says "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth". You have fallen a trap that is common among those who hate the law, because Jesus did not say that the Old Testament said these words. He said “you have heard it said that”, just as he said “you have heard it said, 'hate your enemies'. He was referring to a human tradition that distorted the Old Testament teaching, because the Old Testament does not advocate personal revenge. Not even Leviticus.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD (Lev 19:18).
The reference to “eye for eye” in Exodus 21:22-25 does not refer to personal revenge, it describes a method by which judges decide the financial compensation that should be made to an innocent victim of violence, in this case, a pregnant woman. Financial compensation should be proportional to the physical loss. This is similar to what is done by accident insurance companies when assessing compensation. Loss of an eye is worth $100k, loss of a hand is worth $50k and loss of a toe is worth $5k. Exodus provides a humane way of making compensation to the victims of violence.

Jesus did not say that this law was obsolete. He was criticising people who had twisted this law and made it into a justification for personal revenge. He criticised this approach and raised the standard for personal behaviour to “turning the other cheek”, which those who walk in the spirit should be able to do. He was not saying those who are injured should not receive financial compensation. He never annulled the law that specified financial compensation to victims of violence.

Ironically, modern human justice makes violent people pay fines to the state, but very rarely provides financial compensation to the victims of violence. This is a good example of where God’s standard of justice is better than modern democratic law. Even people who are not Christians would recognise that.