Friday, July 31, 2009

Rare Penalty

The Old Testament imposes a number of requirements that will make the death penalty vey rare. All of the following conditions must be met before the death penalty can be imposed.

  • The crime must have observed directly by two or three independent witnesses (Deut 19:15).

  • The witnesses must not have committed the crime they are testifying about. Adulterers cannot testify against adulterers. People with a record for violence cannot be witnesses to crimes of violence (John 8:7).

  • A young man cannot be given the death penalty, if his parents object. If they think that he is redeemable, he must be given another chance. They would need to take responsibility for helping him change (Deut 21:18-21).

  • The victim’s family must agree to the death penalty. They will often refuse consent, because they will benefit more if the murderer pays restitution. The rest of the community could only overall, if the murderer continued to be a threat. The death penalty was only permissible in situation where protection of the community took priority over the compensation of victim’s family (Num 35:31).

  • The death penalty can only be implemented, if the murderer criminal stays in his community. Most murderers would flee their tribe or community to avoid punishment. There were no police force, no prisons to retain criminals. There were no extraditions laws to get convicted criminals returned for sentence. Fleeing criminals could escape justice, but they would cease to be a risk to their community, because they would be afraid to return.

    The fleeing criminal would lose the protection and privileges that come through being part of a tribe or community. He might find it difficult to find another tribe or community to participate in and might end up living among other outlaws. This would be dangerous as someone might seek revenge by paying someone to kill him.

  • When a society has become “hard of heart”, the community should stop imposing the death penalty in most situations, as excessive use the death penalty brutalises a society (Matt 19:8).. It is better for crimes to go unpunished than for society to be become vicious and violent.

Most situations where the death penalty is imposed in America will fail to meet one of these conditions. If these conditions were imposed in America, the death penalty would almost disappear. The Old Testament is much more merciful than American justice. People who assume that the Old Testament is harsh do not understand it.

More at Crime and Punishment.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Death Penalty

Most people believe that the God of the Old Testament is harsh and cruel. The death penalty is one reason for this belief. It is true that Old Testament provides for a death penalty, but it is very different from what is generally believed. The way that the death penalty is used in most American states is totally different. The modern use of the death penalty is not supported by the Old Testament.

Modern criminal justice uses two main penalties.

  • fines paid to the state for lesser crimes
  • imprisonment in state funded prisons for serious crimes.
Old Testament justice is totally different from anything we know. Prisons did not exist, because they were not practical in among agrarian, nomadic, tribal societies. They could not afford the millions of dollars needed to run prisons.

The Old Testament system is based on restitution to the victims of crime. A thief had to repay four times what they had stolen back to the person they had stolen from (Ex 22:1). This compensated the victim for the cost of tracking down the thief. It provides a strong deterrent against theft.

When a person assaulted another, they were not put in prison. They had to compensate their victim for all the damage done. The expression “eye for an eye” was not an instruction to take revenge. It was first used in the Old Testament in the context of calculating the compensation due to a victim of assault. If the assault victim lost an eye, the criminal would have to pay financial restitution sufficient to fully compensate them for the loss of an eye (Ex 21:23-25). If the victim lost an arm, the criminal would have to compensate then for the loss of potential income. This was a severe penalty.

If the criminal could not pay restitution, he would have to find someone in his community to pay the restitution, in return for his agreeing to work for them for sufficient years to payback the money that had been loaned. Indentured labour allowed a poor criminal to pay restitution to their victim (Ex 22:3).

A murderer had to pay his victims family restitution to compensate them for all the income and support his victim would have provided during the rest of this life. Unless, he was rich, he would usually have to mortgage his life as an indentured labourer for a long time to pay what he owed (Num 35:31).

In very serious cases of murder, the Old Testament does not allow the restitution alternative. A serial killer or serial rapist who is unrepentant would continue to be a danger to his community if the was allowed to pay restitution (Num 35:31). He could not be locked up in prison, so the death penalty was the way to protect the community from a dangerous community. Just as a sheepdog that develops a habit of worrying sheep has to be put down, a person who becomes so evil that they murder several people, may need to be killed to protect the community from harm. This is probably more merciful than locking them up and throwing away the key for thirty years.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Money

Money should be a sign that I have given up something in exchange and yet received something back.

I have some goods, I do not need. Two people want them. One has some money and the other does not. Who would I give them to?

Unless I wanted to do an act of charity, I would not give them to the person with no money. I would not want to encourage people to expect something for no effort. Knowing it takes hard work to produce things, I would give up the goods in exchange for money. I would give my goods to the person with money, because I know that he is a producer. He has also had the made the commitment of giving up some goods or services for money in exchange for money, before he has received anything back. This is behaviour that should be encouraged, because it facilitates economic exchange. I hope that when I am in the same place, that someone will take my money in exchange for the goods and services that I want.

I would give my goods and services to people with money to exchange for them, because I want to encourage other people to be productive. I know that the alternative to using money is barter and barter severely limits my ability to trade. I will encourage people who are using money honestly, so that my potential form trade is improved.

I will know that trade with money only works if people are willing to exchange goods and services for money. I would prefer to reward the people who run the risk of accepting money, because I want to encourage this type of behaviour.

More on Money.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Timing and Prophecy

There are two situations in the scriptures.

  1. Some prophecies are conditional, so there is no time attached to them.
  2. In other situations God is very precise about time.
Therefore we cannot just give up on timing. We actually need to do better at it.

When a revelation comes, the prophetic should ask four questions.
  1. When is the revelation to be communicated?
  2. How is to be communicated?
  3. Is it conditional or does it have a specific timing?
  4. What is the timing?
The need for question 4 depends on the answer to question 3.

The reality is that we do not have a full revelation until we have the answers to all these questions. People get so excited about getting a revelation that they forget to press in and get the rest. They stop before they have the lot.

If Christian prophets want to be taken seriously, they will have to do much better on timing. Being vague about timing is really just a “cop out”. God can do better than that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

South Ossetia (2)

The Ossetians and Georgians living in South Ossetia generally live in separate villages with only short distances between them. The next village up the valley from an Ossetian village will be often be a Georgian one. These people have lived in uneasy peace for a hundred years, despite their close proximity. The villagers will sometimes buy and sell from each other, but generally just get on with their live. Sometime a young man from an Ossetian village would fall in love with a girl from a Georgian village, causing anguish to their families. The modern Romeo and Juliet would have to decide might find themselves on the fringe of both their villages.

People can live in peace despite their different religion and different culture provided they are left to themselves. The problem comes when a state is established to control all of the villages. Democracy does not resolve the problem. If Georgian win a majority in the government, Ossetians will start to feel aggrieved. If the Russians gain control, the Georgians will feel oppressed. One culture always suffers, when the other is gets control.

Georgian and Ossetian villagers who have lived together in peace suddenly become enemies when they have to decide which cultural group should rule over everyone. They were quite happy to live close to people from a different culture, because they could ignore them most of the time. However, they were very clear that they did not want to get into a situation where that other group had control over them.

Most political commentators would say that religious or cultural differences are the problem. That is not true. Religious and cultural differences only become a problem, when people from different background are forced together in one state. The state is the problem, whether or not it is democratic, because it allows the winning cultural group to control all others.

Political authorities attempt to impose their control over an entire region. The state takes resources from some people and gives them to others. This will usually work in favour of the majority cultural group. Minority groups always end up feeling abused.

The solution is not to eliminate cultural and religious differences. Nobody really wants to be put dumped into a great melting pot. The solution is to get rid of the state. Then people of different cultures will be able to live in peace in their villages. The people of South Ossetia do not need the Russians or the Georgian governments to control them. Peace would be easier to obtain, if both government kept out. Meddling of western governments will not advance peace, because they always want to pick which side will control the entire area.

This same problem exists all over the world. People of different tribes and religions have live along side each other in many places. Colonial governments often put several these tribal groups together in one nation, where not nation existed. With independence, democracy gave one tribal group control of all the others. Oppression of other tribal and groups was inevitable and internecine war eventually followed.

The solution is not to eliminate tribal and religious difference. The problem is caused by the emergence of the nation-state during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The nation state is a system of control. The only answer is to get rid of the nation state.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

South Ossetia (1)

The Ossetians are believed to be descended from tribes which migrated into the area from Asia many hundreds of years ago and settled in what is now North Ossetia.

As the Russian empire expanded into the area in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ossetians did not join other peoples of the North Caucasus in putting up fierce resistance. Some fought alongside the Russians against neighbours who had long been rivals, while others made the difficult journey south across the mountains to establish villages in the part of Georgia, no called South Ossetia.

Bolshevik forces occupied Georgia in the early 1920s. During the carve-up which followed, the South Ossetian Autonomous Region was created in Georgia and North Ossetia was formed in Russia.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, South Ossetia declared its intention to secede from Georgia in 1990. Georgian independence the following year increased South Ossetia's determination to consolidate the break with Georgia.

In an unrecognised referendum in November 2006, South Ossetians voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from Georgia. A simultaneous referendum among the region's ethnic Georgians voted emphatically to stay.

The tensions came to head in early August 2008, when, after nearly a week of clashes between Georgian troops and separatist forces, Georgia launched an full air and ground assault attack on South Ossetia, reportedly gaining control of Tskhinvali. Russia said its citizens were under attack and responded by pouring thousands of troops into South Ossetia and launching bombing raids on Georgian targets. Within days, Russian troops had swept the Georgian forces out of both South Ossetia and then proceeded to occupy parts of Georgia.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pedestal Prophets

The root problem with one-man leadership is that those who get to the top often feel insecure, so they surround themselves with sycophants and “Yes Men”. Anyone who might challenge their authority is kept at a distance.

The other side of this problem is the platform or pedestal prophet. The senior pastor who does not have his own pet prophet brings one in from outside and puts him on a pedestal. From that platform, the prophet is allowed to give encouragement to the people and challenge those that need sorting out, but the senior pastor always stands behind the prophet, safe from his words.

The pedestal prophet has authority because the senior pastor testifies to his credibility. In return for this authentication, the platform prophet must submit to the authority of the pastor/manager and honour him. The prophet is kept on the pedestal where his ministry can be controlled. The platform prophet must go along with this charade, or be kept in silence.

The truth is that a prophet is not needed to expose the problems of a Ted or Todd . The people who are close to the leader, usually know what is going on. The problem is that they are too loyal to challenge a person that they look up to.

The real problem is that God has provided a way to protect leaders and people, but the church consistently refuses to adopt it. These incidents will only stop when we go back to Balanced Ministry, with churches led by a team of pastors, prophets and evangelists working together in submission to each other. As long as we perpetuate the myth that one guy must be "top dog", these embarrassing incidents will continue to shame the church and hurt innocent Christians. God cannot protect his people from evil, while the leaders of his church refuse to adopt the Spiritual Protection he has provided.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Many Christians who have escaped dispensationalism are still caught up, because they still believe two things.

  1. The final judgment is getting close.

  2. Things will carry on as they always have till then.

These beliefs have two implications.
  1. We are well through history on earth. Not much more is going to happen.

  2. We have seen the best that the Holy Spirit can do.

These hidden, but pervasive assumptions contribute to a lack of expectation among believers, but they are totally wrong. The scriptures tell us about some great things that God still has to do. The usual approach is to push them to after the second coming, but there is no good reason for doing that. If we just expect more of the same as we have had, that is what we will get.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Iron Rod

Many Chrisitans believe that Jesus will eventually return to earth and rule the world from Jerusalem. He will oversee a large bureaucracy and powerful army that will force people to obey and worship him. This view of Jesus is based on misunderstanding of an expression used several times in the bible: “He will rule them with an iron rod” (Rev 19:15).

The iron rod is a fairly simple image. Iron represents permanence and strength. The rod is a shepherds crook. New Zealanders should understand this phrase, because the aluminum shepherds crook was invented here. Aluminum was a superior metal for crooks, because it is lighter to carry and can be bent more accurately.

When I was a young farmer in the late 1960s, I would use my crook to catch a sheep that needed assistance. While the sheep was staring at my dog, I would sneak up behind the sheep and hook its hind leg. The crook presses on a nerve that forces the sheep to move backwards towards me, so I could grab it and tip it up to give the attention needed.

I used my crook to catch sheep the needed assistance and to catch lambs that had strayed from their mother. If a sheep was being attacked by wandering dogs, I would have used my crook to drive them away from the sheep. I never used my metal crook to strike the sheep.

The iron rod is an image of Jesus caring for his flock; it is not a weapon used by him to enforce obedience.

Many Christians think that Jesus sitting in Jerusalem and ruling as a king would be the perfect government, but this is awful. The thought of Jesus using an “iron bar” to crush his opposition is repulsive, because it is contrary to the gospel. God will never use force to change to the world. He prefers to touch the hearts of people, so that they will freely choose to obey him. His answer to the problems of the world is the gospel of Jesus and the healing power of the Spirit. If Jesus has to come back to sort out the world, the gospel must be powerless and the Holy Spirit is a failure. God is backing the Holy Spirit to get the job done, so wait for Jesus to return to do it is a false hope.

We must never forget a very important fact. God’s greatest gift to mankind is freedom. Therefore, he will never force people unwillingto obey him. He will allow them to experience the consequences of their choices, because that is part of freedom, but he will not stop people choosing. God wants people to obey him, because they love him, not because they have to. The most that he will do to make them obey him is the stirring of the Holy Spirit in their conscience.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marriage Supper of the Lamb (3)

Jesus has his name written on his thigh.

KING of KINGS and LORD of LORDS (Rev 21:16).
This name shows that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him. As the Church proclaims the gospel in the power of the Spirit, the nations of the world will choose to submit to Jesus. Nations, political powers and human governments will be swept away as the Holy Spirit advances Kingdom of God. This is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, "Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great" (Rev 19:17-18).
The supper of God is the defeat of kings, generals and might men and those who rely on their power. This is not a literal supper, but a symbol of their downfall. Human governments and those who support and trust them will fall away before the advance of the Kingdom of God.
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. ….. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh (Rev 19:19-21).
As the Holy Spirit advances the gospel, rulers, kings, presidents, parliaments and their bureaucracies will wither away and disappear.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marriage Supper of the Lamb (2)

Jesus is called “faithful and true”, because he is is faithful to his promises. His truth will drive all darkness and evil out of the world. The vision describes how this happens.

With justice he judges.
Jesus does not use warfare to establish victory. He achieves victory by replacing human government with a justice system based on his word.

Jesus is followed by a huge army.
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean (Rev 21:14).
The heavenly army that rides behind Jesus is the church. It is dressed in clean white linen to show that its sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. The followers of Jesus are riding on white horses to show that they understand the implications of his victory on the cross. They are not sitting around worshipping the political power, while waiting for Jesus to rescue them, but are serving him in the power of the Holy Spirit. These people know that human government is a false hope.

John described the weapon used by this army.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written (Rev 21:15).
This is not a literal sword, but symbolises the word of God (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12). The sword in Jesus’ mouth represents the words that he spoke. The followers of Jesus will destroy his enemies by speaking his word in prophetic power. Christian prophets will speak out against the kings and rulers that oppose the kingdom of God.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marriage Supper of the Lamb (1)

Most Christians assume that the marriage supper of the lamb is the rapture, when the church is united with Jesus in a great celebration of togetherness in the air. This is not true. The marriage supper is a description of the defeat of human governments and rulers. This is made clear in Revelation 19. This passage begins with a description of a rider on a white horse.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. (Rev 19:11-13).
The widespread view that this is a description of the second coming, comes from an over literal interpretation of what is clearly a figurative passage. Jesus will not be riding a white horse when he returns. If taken literally, the passage portrays Jesus as revelling in blood as he destroys people with a sword. This grotesque interpretation is contrary to the gospel. He refused the power of the sword and warned that those who did would fall by it.

In biblical times, a white horse was the preferred mode of transport for a victorious king or general. The white horse proves that victory has been achieved. A vision of Jesus on a white horse is reminder that Jesus has already won the battle. The blood on his robe explains how victory was achieved. This vision reminds us that the cross was a victory over the enemies of God.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Capital is unavoidable. It is the only way out of a life of subsistence. The key issues is ownership of capital. The choice is between public ownership and private ownership.

A key difference between privately and publicly owned capital is that private owners have a strong incentive to look after their capital and make sure it does not deteriorate or become obsolete. If private owners do not shepherd their capital they suffer.

With public ownership of capital no one has an incentive to care for it. Look at the way the military wastes and damages valuable capital equipment for evidence. Likewise in the Soviet Union capital was often wasted.

Capitalists are often accused of greed. The reality is that greed, avarice and pride come out of the human heart, so they can manifest in any area of life. The great irony is that in the free enterprise system, capitalists are forced to care and serve. To become wealthy, they have to provide a service or product that people want.

If you start a business in and free enterprise economy with the goal of becoming rich you will almost certainly fail. Capitalism actually forces people to serve other people. If you talk to any person running a modern business, you will find they are flat out trying to provide the service that their customers need. They know that if they do not care about their customers enough to find out what the need, they will lose them. The business that does not serve its customers will eventually fail.

On the other hand a public bureaucracy does not have the same incentive. Dealing with the bureaucracy is often compulsory, so they do not need to worry about serving customers. People get ahead in a bureaucracy by working the system, not by caring for customers or serving their needs. The party hacks in the Soviet Union got their dacha’s by being ruthless and greedy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cost Benefit Analysis (3)

The price/cost/benefit grid is useful in every area life, but it should never dictate all our decisions.

Prices bring together information about costs, usefulness and value to other people in an imperfect but informative way. Money is a scale that allows us make comparisons between vastly different objects. How do you compare the value of a rose with a computer? Having a common value scale that allows us to make and approximate comparison between disparate things in away that helps us to make decisions. This scale is never perfect, so it should never be the only factor that feeds into decisions.

This grid is useful in every sphere of life. If a friend who lives 20 miles away asks you for pastoral care, you will drive to see him, because you care. If he lives a hundred thousand miles away, you would first find out the cost of the airfare. You might decide that you could not help the person enough to justify spending the money it would cost. You might suggest he get help from someone who lived closer. On the other hand, if the person was really close to you and think you could really make a difference, you might go regardless of the cost. The money/price grid must not dictate your decision, but it should inform it.

The same is true in business. A person will not buy a new business just because the benefits outweigh the costs. They will need to have an affinity for it. It will need to fit in with what they think is an important. Very few people can devote their life energy to something they do not value. Many factors other than cost benefit will affect the decision. Other values will be important in most decisions that are made. Price/cost is just one factor to that will feed into a decision making process. A business person will often put some business the way of a friend who is struggling, because he cares, even if the cost/benefit does not add up.

Business people should not become cost benefit machines, and I doubt that there are many that are. Certainly, they are not portrayed that way in business biographies that I have read. The cost/benefit driven business person is mostly a straw man set up by envious Christians. People in business know that life is much more complicated than that.

The price/money grid is useful for all of life, but it is just a tool. It must not be our supreme guide. Only God can take that role, whether we are a pastor or a plumber.

None of our decisions should be made solely on the basis of the price/money grid. That would be foolish. On the other hand saying that there are areas of life where it is irrelevant is equally foolish.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cost Benefit Analysis (2)

Cost benefit analysis must not dominate any area of life, including business. Economic considerations should never totally dictate decision-making even in business. Responsibility to God trumps cost/benefit in every area of life, including business.

A businessperson may not steal, even if the benefits outweigh the costs. They cannot use violence or threats against their staff, even if the benefits outweigh the costs. They cannot use sexual favours to get ahead. A manager is still required to care for his/her family.

Second, we cannot divide into life business where prices and free exchange prevail and other areas (health and education) where caring and giving prevail. Life is not that simple.

In every area of life, whether business, health or education, we are free to give away our services for free or sell them for a price. We must not force other people to provide services for nothing. A doctor (or pastor) will sometimes sell his services for a fee. At other times he may choose to give them for free. The choice is his. We must not force him to provide his services for free, and he must not charge exorbitant prices to people desperate for care. He is always accountable to God for how he uses his gifts and calling.

The same applies in families. Parents will do most of what they do for their families expecting nothing in return, but sometimes a father will say, I will take you to the game, if you wash the car. A parent must never treat their children as slaves. Parents are accountable to God as parents.

The businessperson has a duty to care for the poor, even if, like the good Samaritan, he uses his own money to pay someone else to provide care for the needy person. He must not take other people's money to care for the poor, because that would be stealing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cost Benefit Analysis (1)

Cost/benefit decisions permeate the whole of life. I go to a prayer meeting rather than stay in bed, because the benefits outweigh the cost. If the prayer meeting loses the plot, I will stop going.

Jesus said we should count the cost before we decide to follow him.

A doctor working in an emergency department will do triage, to ensure that he puts energy into those who will benefit from his care. A caring hospital will manage costs extra carefully, so it can help more people.

A good teacher will put efforts into activities that will benefit learning. He will have to decide how the costs/benefits of Shakespeare compare with those for trigonometry.

Parents have to make choices between working to provide for their family and spending time with their children.

Benefits and costs are inescapable because everything we do has benefits and costs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The first kingdom to exist was the kingdom of heaven. Heaven is more real than earth, so God is the only true king.

When men seek to become kings and rulers, they are attempting to be like God. Even David could not be a true king. God let David take the role as a type of Jesus Kingdom, just as the tabernacle was a type of the heavenly sanctuary. However, a type is always a shadow of the reality it represents.

Every human king is a usurper of God’s true kingdom.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Jubilee

I am not sure how the Jubilee can be applied in the modern world (Leviticus 9:8-13). Every time I ready the Jubilee passages, I get the sense that I am missing something really important. I plan to keep seeking till I find it, but here are a few preliminary thoughts.

The jubilee is a marvelous principle. It means that every second generation, got access to some capital to use for their economic development. They get another chance, no matter what their predecessors have done.

The jubilee tells us something about human nature. The assumption is that if the Father “loses the plot”, his son will think the same way. The land comes back to the third generation with the hope that foolish thinking has been broken by the season of poverty.

Another implication of the Jubilee is that when helping the poor, it is not enough to give aid. Poor people need to be given access to capital. This theme has be been developed by Herman De Soto.

Perhaps in countries with oil or mineral wealth, instead of this being owned by the government, every citizen could be given an equal share in the company owning the resources. People could use this equity as security to get started in business.

One of weakness of free-market capitalism is that the successful people accumulate capital, while the rest do not. The children of the successful get a head start over the children who have no capital. This inequality can often create envy. Even Christians look at this inequality of opportunity and say it is unfair (though it is hard to fault parents helping their children). The jubilee, if it could be made to work in some way, would roll back this inequality and give everyone and equal opportunity start.

I do not see the jubilee laws as justifying enforced redistribution by the state. Maybe we need to develop a voluntary process for making the jubilee process work. Maybe Christians who have been successful in business an accumulated a lot of capital could look for young people with potential and provide them with capital to get started in business. This might be a combination of gleaning and jubilee.

I am interested that as Bill Gates has reached his jubilee, he has lost interest in trying to get Windows to work, and is more interested in helping the poor. Maybe, when an entrepreneur gets to a certain stage in life, they become more interested in providing capital to third generation people who need a leg up.

Monday, July 13, 2009


When one group sees the world as Moslems at the gates if Vienna, while another group sees the world as Christians at the gates of Teheran, this leads to fear, hatred and misunderstanding on both sides. God sees the situation differently.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Prophets are Deviants

Every team needs a deviant, someone who can help the team by challenging the tendency to want too much homogeneity, which can stifle creativity and learning. Deviants are the ones who stand back and say, “Well, wait a minute, why are we even doing this at all? What if we looked at the thing backwards, or turned it inside out?” That's when people say, “Oh, no, no, no, that’s ridiculous “. And so the discussion about what’s ridiculous comes up… The deviant opens up more ideas, and that gets you a lot more originality.

In our research, we've looked carefully at both teams that produced something original and those that were merely average, when nothing really sparkled. It turned out that the teams with deviants outperformed teams without them. In many cases, deviant thinking is a source of great innovation.

I would add, though that often the deviant veers from the norm at great personal cost. Deviants are individuals who are willing to say the thing that nobody else is will to articulate. The deviant raises people's level of anxiety, which a brave thing to do. When the boat is floating with the current, it really is extraordinarily courageous for somebody to stand up and say, “We've got to pause and probably change direction,” Nobody on the team wants to hear that, which is precisely why many team leaders crack down on deviants and try to get them to stop asking difficult questions, maybe even knock them off the team. And yet it’s when you lose the deviant that the team can become mediocre.
Diane Coutu in a Harvard Business Review article called Why Teams Don’t Work based on a study of numerous teams in a variety of situations.

This is a good description of the role of the prophet.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures (4) - Tough Task

The Holy Spirit had a few problems getting the scriptures written. He could whisper thoughts in the author’s ears, but he could not force them to write exactly what he wanted. So he sometimes had to have a second go, just to get everything that he wanted in. That is why we have the book of Deuteronomy. Much of it already written in Exodus, but Moses missed a few important things. So the Holy Spirit got him to write down the law again many years later, after he put those missing ideas and concepts into Moses mind.

If the Holy Spirit had been able to control Mark, we would probably have just one gospel. But Mark missed out some important parts of Jesus teaching, so the Holy Spirit got Luke and Matthew and John to have a go. Between them they got down everything that the Holy Spirit wanted in the gospel.

The theology stuff was really hard to get right. Paul did really well with Romans and got a lost of stuff tied down. However, he had to write quite a few more letters before he had recorded all the technical stuff that the Holy Spirit wanted in the scriptures.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures (3) - Late Additons and Hard Passages

Some passages may have been added later by a different author. That does not matter, provided the Holy Spirit wanted them included. Mark 16:9-20 and John 8:1-11 are good examples. They are absent in the earliest manuscripts, which suggests that they were either added by a different author later or copied from a different piece of writing by the original author. Neither passages adds anything that is not stated elsewhere in the scriptures. They are inspiring passages, so I am certain that the Holy Spirit wanted them there.

When dealing with hard passages, I do not focus on the problems, but ask what the Holy Spirit is saying. I ponder his reasons for putting the passage in the scriptures. This has lead to many interesting insights.

When considering a controversial modern issue, my first thought is to ask, “What has the Holy Spirit put in the Bible to deal with this issue?” This usually leads to some interesting insights.

A good example is the modern dispute about genetic engineering. Most people would just assume that the Bible has nothing to say, because genetic engineering did not exist in the biblical world. I actually found some interesting teaching in the book of Leviticus. The author did not understand the full implications of what he was writing, but he was giving insights into how we should deal with this difficult issue.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures (2) - Differences

Some people worry about difference Jesus words being recorded differently in different gospels. We should remember that preached almost every day for three years. He would repeat the same message numerous times using slightly different wording each time. The different gospels just record the version spoken on different occasions. The Holy Spirit provided these different versions so that we can get a fullest possible understanding of Jesus message.

Translation was also an issue. Peter’s response to Jesus question about who he was is recorded differently in different gospels.

The Christ of God (Luke 9:20)
You are the Christ (Mark 8:29)
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt 16:16).
The most likely reason for these differences is that the gospels were written in Greek, whereas Jesus and Peter spoke in Aramaic. The Holy Spirit often needed slightly different Greek versions to get the full meaning of what was spoken in Aramaic. We should be glad for the fuller insight this provides.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures (1)

I take a fairly simplistic approach to the scriptures. I just assume that the Holy Spirit got everything that he wanted into the book.

He gave the authors lots of freedom. Their writing style reflected their personalities. They put in lots of personal stuff and bits of their family history that are not very important. However, the Holy Spirit ensured that they got the key stuff right.

The actual text was written by humans, so understanding the objectives and culture of the author may sometimes be helpful for translating and interpreting the Bible. For example, it is helpful to understand that Matthew used the expression Kingdom of Heaven because he was writing for Jewish readers.

My key question when interpreting the scriptures is “What is the Holy Spirit saying in this passage?” This question leads to real insights.

The Holy Spirit's meaning is not limited to the understanding of the author. The Holy Spirit sometimes put ideas in the author’s heads that they did not fully comprehend. They sometimes thought they understood what they were writing, but the Holy Spirit was using them unwittingly to communicate something they did not understand.

Monday, July 06, 2009

False Hope, True Hope

The people of Jesus time were praying that God would take his power and reign, that he would become king. They hoped that he would exercise his sovereignty and rescue them. “You are the King of the world. Why don’t you come and be king, so the world can be put right.”

They were totally disappointed with Jesus. He came as King and Messiah, but not as they expected. They rejected his deliverance, and eventually Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.

Most modern Christians have the similar hope. They want Jesus to return and put the world right. They will be disappointed, because Jesus has already done everything that he could do, when he died and rose again.

God is invading the world, not by Jesus returning, but through his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is capable of doing everything further that needs to be done to restore peace and blessing to the world. He just needs willing people to work through. He needs people to trust in him, rather than looking for a vague future hope.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

True Justice

Mark Rushdoony talked recently about true justice.

The real objective is righteous (righteousness = justice in scripture). Justice is the righteousness of God. It cannot be defined in terms of right or left, or political definitions.

Grace, mercy, judgement and our responsibility, must be defined in terms of God’s word. If we fail to do this,
grace becomes entitlement
  • mercy become welfare
  • judgment become a political decision.
Our responsibility is now directed toward a vaguely defined good society, rather than to a godly society.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Beast Day?

People celebrating Independence today may actually be worshipping the terrible beast of Daniel's vision.

After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time (Dan 7:7,8,23-25).
This frightening kingdom devoured the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing everything that stood in its way. This is a description of a powerful military empire that will dominate most of the earth.

Not Europe
Most biblical commentators say that this prophecy will be fulfilled when the European Union transforms into a super-state, like a restored Roman empire. There are real problems with this view. Disagreement between the EU members means that they will be unlikely to hand over full sovereignty to the European parliament. Europe is economically weak and its population is declining. European military forces are very limited and the anti-war sentiments of the population would make a military build-up difficult. Therefore, if this prophecy is being fulfilled in our time we need to look outside Europe.

A Union of States
The most obvious interpretation of the beast with the ten horns is that a number of independent nation states hand over their sovereignty to become part of a single united nation. One third of these nations refused to hand over their sovereignty and are forced to join under threat of military force.

America is only once place where this has happened in recent history. The thirteen states that gained independence from Britain were each independently governed, autonomous nation states. They joined together to fight for their independence, but they remained politically independent. After the war of independence, these nation states came together and established the United States. They created a federal system in which they handed over very limited powers (mostly defence) to the federal government. All other powers were retained by the states.

We sometimes get confused by the use of the word state in this context. These states were not provinces of a greater state, but independent nations that gave some power to a federal government. Because they joined freely, many states considered that they could also withdraw from the Union. At the beginning of the civil war, the southern states attempted to withdraw from the Union and establish a separate confederacy.

The civil war was primarily fought over the right of these states to secede from the Union. The army of the twenty northern states (two thirds) destroyed the armies of the 11 southern states (one third). The victory of the union forces enabled them to maintain the union, eliminating the power of the states to secede. This opened the way for a gradual shift of power to from the states to the federal government.
During the following century, the United States became the most powerful nation in the entire world and the states are now just provinces of this greater entity.

Commentators are looking for a powerful confederacy of nations. They forget that a powerful union called the "united states" already exists. Daniel saw a group of nations (ten horns) joined together to become one nation (a single horn). At first the federal government had very limited power (a little horn). The federal government defeated a group of states that tried to withdraw from the union (three horns) and then the federal government became very powerful (little horn becomes large beast).

The numbers ten and three should not be taken literally. Ten symbolises completeness, indicating that all the states joined freely. The number three indicates that 3/10 of the states would be defeated in their attempt to secede. The number also symbolises God. At the time of the civil war, the southern states were the more godly, whereas the northern states were dominated by a heresy called Unitarianism.

Ten minus three is seven. Seven symbolises divinity. This indicates that the conquering states would take attempt to take on sovereignty that belongs only to God. The beast attempts to "try to change the set times and the laws". This is a reference to a rejection of God’s laws.

Since the civil war, the United States government has become increasingly secular and humanistic. The Supreme Court has forced through a separation between church and state that has shut the influence of Christianity out of the corridors of power. Whereas the thirteen original states had laws directly based on the bible, American law is now dominated by pragmatism and humanism.

More at Terrible Beast.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Rushdoony on the State

Thus the true church in every age has a mission to the state, to proclaim the fall of Babylon, to declare to the state that civil government can endure only under God and in obedience to His word, that every attempt of civil government to become as god, to be the purveyor of grace and of paradise, is damned and doomed. The cleansing of civil government and the indictment of it by the word must be the task of the church in every age.
Rousas Rushdoony in Thy Kingdom Come, p.178.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Rushdoony and Radical Libertarianism

Rousas Rushdoony wrote,

Few things are more commonly misunderstood than the nature and meaning of theocracy. It is commonly assumed to be a dictatorial rule by self-appointed men who claim to rule for God. In reality, theocracy in Biblical law is the closest thing to a radical libertarianism that can be had (Roots of Reconstruction, p.63).
Chris Ortiz has explained that Rushdoony describes theocracy as a "radical libertarianism" because morality is lived out and scrutinized around a minimal state, or civil government. In this sense, Rushdoony is truly libertarian, as set over against those seeking only to get civil government out of the bedroom and their stash of pot:
The state in Scripture is a minimal institution, and so too is the church as an institution. The rule of God's law is essentially through the lives of men as they apply their faith, and as they create tithe agencies to govern various areas and needs. Where faith wanes, then theocracy wanes (Systematic Theology p.1141).

Foreshore and Seabed

The foreshore and seabed has become a political issue again in New Zealand. A ministerial panel declared that the existing legislation should be repealed.

My article called Ahab and the Foreshore is still relevant.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Rushdoony and Government

Rousas Rushdoony was very clear that we should not try to re-capture or take back existing institutions. We should create alternative institutions. He put most of his efforts into doing this for educations.

We must apply the same approach to politics. We should not try to take back the existing institutions, as the Christian Right have done. We should creat alternative institutions, that can eventually replace them.

Christians should start building an alternative justice system in their local communities. If their judges provide good justice, people will bring their cases to them. (In New Zealand, we can use the second clause of the Treaty of Waitangi as basis for an alternative justice system).

The biblical pattern is the law at the top, self disciplined men at the bottom and a system of appeal courts in between (Gary North - Unconditional Surrender, p 140).