Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Covid and Popular Theology

I am interested that much of the Christian discussion about Covid focusses on the infectiousness and morbidity of the disease and the effectiveness of vaccination. While some of this discussion is helpful, this discussion takes place in a materialistic/naturalistic framework without any consideration of whether the cause of, or solutions to, Covid are spiritual. I am struck that my worldview seems to be very different from that of many other Christians.

The popular theology these days seems to be that God created the world and set it going (so everything that happens is his will); he sent Jesus to die and get us to heaven, but apart from that, we should not expect him to do too much in our world. I call this theology that we have imbibed from our culture “practical deism” with a bit of fatalism thrown in. Most prayer and thanksgiving is for things that could happen anyway; my daughter will find a nice man to marry (not surprising if she is nice), the surgeon will do a good job on my mother’s bowel (which he has trained for years to do), but we don’t expect too much more. Some hope that God will dramatically intervene in the world to bring revival, but they don’t really expect it.

In parallel to this is an implicit materialism/naturalism that says that everything important happens in the physical world we can observe and that the spiritual powers of evil do not influence the big events of life (also imbibed from the culture). The assumption seems to be that the billions of evil spirits that the Bible describes are in Africa working with the witch doctors or doing trivial things like tempting me to eat an extra chocolate biscuit (actually just my flesh). In the scriptures, the spiritual powers of evil are very strategic, working cleverly at pivotal times to shape history and shift the balance of power on earth in their favour.

I am concerned that many of the Christians I encounter are more willing to blame evil on human conspiracies than on the spiritual powers of evil: eg, the dastardly Chinese released the virus to destroy us, the medical organisations and governments are suppressing information about vaccine side effects, drug companies are suppressing good news about Ivermectin, the Democrats stole the election from Trump. Many Christians seem to be willing to believe that human conspirators are responsible for most evil in the world but choose to ignore the works of the spiritual powers of evil.

If it is assumed that the spiritual powers of evil are involved in situations where they are active, it appears as if the materialistic/naturalistic worldview assumption is correct. This is risky for the future of the church.

When Christians think about what is going on with Covid, they need to rise above the naturalistic assumptions that we have imbibed from our culture. I see the Covid pandemic as a spiritual attack on the people of the earth, that does what the spiritual powers of evil love to do; kill, rob, and destroy.

Luke records Jesus healing a woman crippled by an evil spirit that had done its best to rob and destroy her life.

A woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all (Luke 18:11).
If the powers of evil could damage a woman’s spine and prevent her from raising her head for eighteen years, it must be easy for a few evil spirits to meddle with the DNA of a bat virus so that it can infect humans, or to tamper with the Covid virus and create a Delta variant so that it becomes more virulent and infectious.

War is Ugly

In Afghanistan, nasty stuff was done by all sides fighting in the war.

As the United States desperately searched for an exit strategy in Afghanistan, the war itself descended into a hopelessness that strained the laws of land warfare to the breaking point with targeted killings that, on the surface, appear as the murder of civilians, but were institutionalized and deemed legal by the U.S. military.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Climate Change

Christians who are concerned about climate change need to understand that it is part of the spiritual battle that we are engaged in. The battle for the climate is described in the Seven Trumpets of Revelation 8 and 9. I explain this further in an article called Seven Trumpets.

God has appointed four angels to watch the earth and its atmosphere to protect it from being harmed prior to the fulness of the Kingdom of God (Rev 7:1-2).

An army of evil spirits is trying to destroy God’s creation because they hate him. In the last century, they have been empowered by the reckless use of fossil fuels and rampant consumerism of Christians, particularly in the western world.

When God’s people fail to care for the world that God entrusted to us, the spiritual powers of evil who want to destroy it are empowered. The damage done to our climate in the last 200 years is partly the result of Christian’s unwitting complicity with the spiritual powers of evil who are trying to disrupt it.

Followers of Jesus have an important role in this spiritual battle for the climate. Our prayers can bind the spiritual powers of evil trying to harm the world and release the power of the four angels that God’s angels who are protecting the earth (Rev 8:3,4). However, we only have authority to pray for the creation if we are being good stewards of the part of the earth that God has entrusted to us.

If we are using the earth ruthlessly for our own benefit without caring about the harm our activity is doing, the authority of our prayers will be nullified. The spiritual powers of evil can mock us and say they don’t respect the authority of the prayers of people who don’t practice what they preach.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Bowman in Afghanistan

In previous articles called “The Bowman” and “Islam Advances”, I explained that the Bowman riding on the white horse in Revelation 6 represents a resurgence of Islam that has been developing all around the world, and particularly towards the West.

This resurgence began with the Islamic Revolution in 1978, and has been progressing ever since. The replacement of a secular Baathist government in Iraq with an Islamic government following the US invasion was another step in this resurgence.

I presume that the defeat of US forces in Afghanistan is also a sign that the bowman is still at work in the world.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Afghanistan Economy

While the world media is focussed on the shambles at Kabul International Airport, I am far more concerned about the Afghanistan economy and the effect that the twenty-year war and the sudden US withdrawal will have on the economic well-being of the people.

  • Two-thirds of the population of Afghanistan live below the poverty-line of $1.90 per day. They don’t have the capacity to cope with the serious economic shock that is inevitable.

  • The Afghanistan government, which has collapsed, had 300,000 people in its armed forces. Those 300,000 people no longer have a job and have lost their source of income. That is a huge increase in unemployment in one hit. Some will be able to go back to the countryside from where they come and live on their family farm, but most won't have any income until they find new employment.

  • Many people in Kabul worked as cleaners, cooks, drivers, child care, security, etc. for the wealthy, western diplomats and business people who have now fled the city. These people will have lost their employment.

  • Five million people live in Kabul.

  • Eighty percent of the Afghan population lives in rural areas. The average land-holding is 1.4 hectares. Nearly half the workforce is involved with agriculture, and 60 percent of households derive some of their income from agriculture.

  • Estimates are that three-quarters of the spending of the collapsed government was funded by foreign aid. If Western governments are peeved by their defeat by the Taliban and cut of their financial support to the nation, it will have a serious impact on the local people. The US has already frozen billions of reserves owned by the Afghan central bank. The IMF has already withheld $450 million of aid that was due to be sent.

  • Afghanistan is not self-sufficient in food. It relies on imports for about twenty percent of its food supply. With a weakened economy and devaluation of the currency, it might struggle to import sufficient food to meet the needs of everyone.

  • Only an eighth of the land is arable. Much of the land is only suitable for pastoral activities, and a huge amount of land is mountainous or arid or semi-arid, so agricultural activities are tough going.

  • Afghanistan is rich in mineral deposits, including iron, copper, gold, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, and many of the rare earth minerals needed for modern electronics and electric cars, but they are not easily accessible. Unfortunately, most of the income from efforts to extract minerals usually goes to the large mining companies and rarely benefits the local population. It is hard to see how Afghanistan will be different.

  • Afghanistan has low levels of debt, but increased borrowing might not be a wise option.

  • Opium poppies have been the best-paying crop for many Afghan farmers. When the Taliban came to power the first time, they banned the production of opium, but when the North Alliance took control with US support, opium production got underway again. It is not clear what the Taliban will do about opium production this time around.

Even if the war is over, and I hope it is, the suffering of the Afghan people is like to continue for some time.

Saturday, August 21, 2021


Western media organisations are on the lookout for the Taliban taking revenge against the people who opposed them during the war. This is a bit naïve as the destruction of war always produces desires for revenge. War and revenge have always fed on each other and always will.

The war in Afghanistan was started because many people in the United States wanted revenge for the 9/11 attacks. So, if Americans are allowed revenge for attacks on their cities, why are the Taliban not allowed revenge on people who betrayed them. Expecting otherwise is a double standard of morality.

Of course, many Afghans who worked with the American and NATO forces will be afraid. However, choosing to work with an invading army (even the US or NATO) is a risky business, even if the money they offer for collaboration is good. You need to be sure that the side you have chosen will win in the long term.

I suppose that most of those who worked for the Americans assumed they would win, so that working for them was a sure thing. That has proved to be a mistake (Given the developing pattern of withdrawals from the wars it started, working for American forces anywhere is likely to be a mistake). No doubt, a few assumed that by working for the American forces, they were on the side of good, but that is a doubtful proposition.

The news media assume that the people wanting to escape Afghanistan are choosing to flee to freedom. I suspect that it is simpler than that. Most are wanting to flee because they know they will now be seen as collaborators with an invading enemy army. Some will be especially fearful because they have betrayed their villages or families to the US-backed security forces. Some will be really afraid because they supplied information to the Americans that resulted in villages or groups of people being bombed. Some will be afraid because they dobbed in their enemies to settle old scores.

I feel sorry for those who chose to collaborate with the losing side in the Afghan War, but some choices have serious consequences. Losing armies rarely care about the locals that supported them when they retreat. The US people want to forget this war, so they don’t want a huge influx of Afghan refugees into their nation, even though it was their political leaders who started and perpetuated this war.

The large number of people wanting to leave Afghanistan is a consequence of the modern way of fighting a war. Traditional armies took cooks, drivers, and other supporters with them into the battle zone (officers had their orderlies and the ordinary troops fended for themselves). So, when they withdrew, everyone who fought could return home, provided they survived the fighting.

Modern military forces don’t work like that. They send trained fighters, but employ the local people in the country they have invaded to provide logistical support. The modern army needs huge numbers of cooks, cleaners, translators, drivers, loaders, mechanics and office staff to support. Sending them from the home country is too expensive, so they choose to hire local people who are much cheaper to employ.

The invading nation uses its greater wealth to seduce local people into supporting their cause. These people do extremely well if the invading army wins the war, but if the invading army has to retreat, they find themselves being treated as collaborators with the enemy of their nation.

This practice is hugely dishonest. By paying local people to provide logistical support for their military forces, western nations are effectively bribing people to betray their own people, which is not fair. If Western nations are unwilling to send people from home to support their armies, or train their own people to speak the local language, they probably shouldn’t be there. War on the cheap is immoral.

For countries like New Zealand, Australia and the US to send military forces to a foreign country and recruit locals to support them without a plan to extract them if the war turns bad is morally irresponsible. The lack of planning by the US and its NATO allies that has created the shambles at Kabul International Airport shows that they did not really care about the people that they paid to collaborate with them.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Crocodile Tears

I get a bit frustrated with the commentators in the western news media crying crocodile tears for the women and children of Afghanistan.

The truth is that living in a US-created war zone for the last twenty years has not been great for Afghan women and children.

  • Fighters on all sides of the war have been abusive of women.

  • The US did not bother counting civilian casualties (because they did not want to know about them) but estimates are that 70,000 to 100,000 civilians were killed during the twenty-year war. Many of these were women and children.

  • About 100,000 Afghan fighters were killed during the war. A far greater number were received permanent, crippling injuries. Many of these casualties would have had wives and children, who are now facing permanent suffering as a consequence of their loss.

  • During the twenty-year war, the US military dropped at least 50,000 bombs on the country. Many of these would have fallen on, or near villages. We know that weddings were bombed and other gatherings of people were targeted. This was awful for the women and children affected.

  • Those who weep for the women and children of Afghanistan should think about what it was like for a young person to grow up to the age of twenty-five and not be able to remember a time when there was not a war going on around them. Living an entire childhood, not knowing when a bomb would fall from the sky. Going to bed, wondering if they would be woken by an artillery shell or grenade hitting their village during the night. Being kept awake by nightmares about the time when US marines knocked the door down in the night and took away two young men living in the house for interrogation. Living an entire childhood with the noise of bombers flying high overhead and drones circling above them. War is always terrible.

The last twenty years have been terrible for the women and children of Afghanistan, so those who assume their situation will get suddenly worse because the Americans have fled are a bit naïve.

Most Afghan women and children will be hugely relieved that the war is over (provided that the CIA does not try to stir it up again).

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Lost War, Lost Lessons

The United States has lost the war for control of Afghanistan, but have the lessons been learnt?

The foreign policy experts who advocated for the invasion and futile nation-building efforts are still in their think-tanks earning big salaries and will sign up for government jobs when they get a chance.

The generals who lied that they were on the verge of winning when the Taliban was growing stronger have retired and gone into lucrative roles in the military.

The security experts who claimed to understand how victory could be achieved, but failed to predict that Kabul would fall in four days are still in their roles telling the government what should be done.

Unfortunately, the belief that the United States is the greatest military and economic power in the world and that it has the responsibility to use that power to remake the world in its image is so deeply ingrained in the political culture that the same mistake will almost certainly be made again.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Prophets and Nationalism

Nationalism makes it difficult for prophets to speak to the sins of their nation. They find it much easier to call out the sins of other nations; especially if that nation is the favourite bogeyman of their political leaders.

I saw an example in a recent article on Elijah List called We’re Here to Rescue You that warns about ungodly leadership in China. The writer says that they are going to “start offering rescue plans to poverty-stricken nations giving them incentives of finances and governmental help... but the fine print says: You just gave us your nation, it's ours, and we are going to make it a communist country and make you slaves to us. We are going to degrade your people even more than your current situation.”

When I read this, I couldn’t help thinking about the numerous times the United States has said to poor countries, “We will rescue you”; but then proceeded to wreck that nation. However, the prophets in the US always remained silent.

  • The prophets were silent when the US said to the people of Vietnam, “We will rescue you”; but then proceeded to bomb the crap out of their nation.

  • The prophets were silent when the US said to the people of Afghanistan, “We will rescue you”; but then proceeded to wreck their nation.

  • The prophets were silent when the US said to the people of Iraq, “We will rescue you”; but then proceeded to wreck their nation.

  • The prophets were silent when the US said to the people of Syria, “We will rescue you”; but then proceeded to wreck their nation.

  • The prophets were silent when the US said to the people of Libya, “We will rescue you”; but then proceeded to wreck their nation.

  • The prophets were silent when the US said to the people of Yemen, “We will rescue you”; but then proceeded to wreck their nation with bombs and missiles.

I do not know what is in the hearts of the Chinese leaders, but I cannot think of any nation where they have done what the US has done in any of those listed above. So why is God suddenly speaking about this issue; or were the prophets prevented from hearing by their nationalism.

The irony is that the Chinese seem to be involved in many poor nations building infrastructure, such as railways, roads, bridges, airports and ports. They might be doing this in exchange for unaffordable debt, but sovereign nations can repudiate debt, if they choose. Whereas the Chinese cannot remove the roads, bridges and other infrastructure that they have built.

In contrast, the buildings, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, airports and ports wrecked by American bombs are not instantly restored, when the US decides that the war is unwinnable, and withdraws from their rescue efforts.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Angrynomics (3)

In their book called Angrynomics, Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth write about the problem with seeing labour as commodity.

In such a world the domestic political process becomes seen as a sham. You can have an election, but you can’t change anything. The local political elites may know this – and they may not even like it – but when you don’t have your own currency and central bank, what can they do? You can neither devalue nor inflate nor default, so you have to cut your way to prosperity, which doesn’t work. It is entirely logical under such conditions that electorates will get angry and seek alternative solutions. 45

The United States is an interesting contrast insofar as while it now has full employment, the benefits to growth are far from evenly spread and the recovery, has not really been a recovery except in terms of the employment rate. Or take healthcare as another stressor: In the United States you really have to worry about healthcare, it’s a personal consumption expenditure. Your employer, if you’re lucky to have one that still does this, pays for a bit of it and you pay for a bit of it, and increasingly the employers have been paying less and less of it.

In that type of labour market, you’ve got much more sensitivity among workers to their real wages than in, for example, Italy where you can get by on €1,200 a month, because healthcare is not something you have to worry about as an impoverishing out-of-pocket expense. You simply cannot get by in metropolitan areas in the United States on $1,200 a month without falling into poverty. So although there are common global themes behind the public reaction to perceived economic injustice, there are very different micro-stressors at work in different geographies. 47

Current political trends are, in part, a confused reassertion of the nation-state to mitigate the consequences of unconstrained capital flows and the power of business more generally- But the deep economic sources of legitimate public anger remain unaddressed – our failure to deal quickly and powerfully with recessions despite knowing how to do so, and the major surge in inequality in income and wealth that has happened across the developed world as capital prospered as labour stagnated. 49

Polanyi s insight boils down to this simple point; the more that you try to treat wages as a price, as just another cost to minimize, the greater the social reaction against market exchange it provokes. 65

To sustain the economic fiction of labour as a commodity coming up against a political reality which is that if you treat people like a sack of potatoes, they end up throwing the system into the fryer. 66

Allowing capital to be free to find its highest return has costs. Huge flows of capital, and rapid reversals, caused a series of increasingly severe booms and busts across the developing world. 77

Capital would be more efficiently allocated, and at one level, it was. But what that means in real terms is that investment leaves capital-rich countries and ends up in capital-poor countries, such as China. Western firms benefit from this, as do their shareholders. Consumers in western countries benefit from cheaper goods, but the investment that would have happened in their country now happens elsewhere, which is a cost. This is why trade is now such a contentious issue. 78

The bottom 80 per cent were effectively paying for the mistakes of the top one per cent, while in the process bailing out the assets and incomes of the top 20 per cent – right across the world. It was, as I described it at the time, “the greatest bait and switch in human history” as the private sector liabilities of the banking system ended up being put on the public balance sheet of states as more public debt, which was then blamed by the political classes that had allowed all this to happen on a crisis of “overspending” by states that simply didn’t happen in tie first place. 85

Technology has been a huge facilitator of competition and disruption in lots of industries, not just in telecoms, but increasingly in retail and other sectors. So, the inequality we see in income and wealth has a mirror in the returns to capital itself. Rapid innovation, scale economies, and competitive markets push down one end of the distribution to be sure, but they also generate big winners at the other end. 99

Globalization, technological change, margin suppression, the reclassification of employees as contractors as firms face stiffer competition, and the intensification of competition all increase the uncertainty felt by workers, even in supposedly well-paid and secure employment. One does not have to be a member of the precariat to feel precarious. And feeling precarious as a permanent state is a giant insecurity generator. 101

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Angrynomics (2)

In their book called Angrynomics, Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth explain some of the problems that are caused by globalisation. The main consequence is increasing inequality.

But this story has deeper roots than the 2008 crisis and its economic legacy. Specifically, a lack of voice is related to the sense that the nation-state has been neutered by globalism. At some level, it is not just that the population at large is unheard, and the empirical research shows that they are not listened to, but their traditional representatives also seem resigned to their situation: “Globalization made us do it” “There is no alternative”, etc. This certainly seems to be a major concern and the rise of nationalist politicians seems to be the result. The lack of voice paired with a perception of futility is a toxic mix. It's like voting for populists in Italy and then figuring out that they can’t do very much either. The result undermines democracy itself.

You have markets, whose reach is global, or at least as far as the division of labour, technology and finance allows them to go, and then you have democracy, which is inherently local, bound by this thing called the nation-state and the people, the citizens, that constitute it. This generates an inherent tension between the openness of the global economy and the responsiveness of the state to the democratic wishes of the public. The more open you are, the less control you have. The less control you have, the less you can respond to what the global economy demands that you do. Globalization, democracy and sovereignty are mutually incompatible in such a way that you can only ever have two out of the three. And once you have accepted globalization, you can either have democracy or sovereignty but not both. 39

If you were an investor in the years after the Second World War, you were bound to the territorial nation-state, which meant that local labour could quite effectively exercise its voice through strikes to claim its share of productivity gains. But what happens if capital can go global? What happens if capital can exit the nation-state, but labour stays local? Or if they can move your job abroad, which is the same thing really? They take away the ability of labour to demand their share along with their voice- And since the 1980s this is what has increasingly happened.

The top one per cent globally captured as much income growth as the bottom 50 per cent of the entire world economy since the end of the 1980s… The poor really have gotten poorer as the rich have gotten richer. 40

That decline parallels the rise of a world where unions are all but extinct in the US and are much weaker than they were in Europe. Even German unions know that globalization starts 60 km outside of Berlin with the threat to move jobs to Poland should German workers ask for more than their employers are willing to give.

Similarly, in politics, parliaments are increasingly impotent with the important stuff given out to technocrats to independent central banks, to the WTO, to the EU. The elected politicians are effectively governing over less and less at the same time as the stresses on their constituents, macro and micro, are increasing. We went from a world that was very friendly, relatively closed, and that provided a social safety net, to a set of institutions that generates a massive skew in the returns going to the very top of the income distribution uncertainty for the majority increases – all while the media tells them that it’s their fault. 42

Representative politics, through the emergence of a post-Cold War technocratic centrist consensus, stopped listening. This was compounded by globalization. by globalization- particularly the free movement of capital and the inability of labour to negotiate its share – and in Europe, by the power grab of a centrist technocracy. 43

Rather, the failure of policymakers to deal effectively with the recession following the 2008 financial crisis, and subsequently the 2010-13 euro crisis suggests that like income, listening skews to the very top. The euro crisis, much more than the crisis in the US, showed beyond any doubt that a policy of cutting spending in a recession only ever makes things worse. But they knew that already and went ahead and did it anyway. And then they doubled down on it, even when they saw it wasn’t working. 44

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Angrynomics (1)

I have just finished reading a book called Angrynomics by Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth. They analyse the reasons why modern economic developments have created so much anger. Like many economists, they are better at identifying problems than developing solutions, but they have some really good insights.

A key problem that they identify is the hollowing out of democracy and the failure of politicians to connect with the concerns of their people.

What is curious about the Cold War-era is the extent to which fervent, motivating political identities were grounded in the economic ideologies of left and right, and these were in turn, deeply embedded in social and political institutions, such as vortical parties, trade unions, working men’s clubs, churches, and small associations.

People in this period did not identify politically primarily based on tribal, ethnic and nationalist grounds, as did in political identity during the Cold War years in what could legitimately be called an economic ideology – a collection of beliefs about the economy – concerning how it works, who owns what, who gets what, and why they do, or do not, deserve it Whether you were pro-state, or pro-market, a clear set of beliefs about your economic interests, whether You were pro-business or pro-labour, was the name of the game. People also had a very clear sense of the real differences between political parties on fundamental issues of policy, and that their interests were being represented by one party and not the other. These ideologies motivated people to vote. Those identities were quite stable.

The post-Cold War shift to neoliberalism was not just a huge shift in economic organization, it also destroyed the political identities of a great many people… post-Cold War era was defined by a loss of political identity and the political disengagement of large parts of the population, especially by those most hurt by the economic changes of the period.

There were no strongly motivating political identities or competing ideologies. Everyone was assumed to believe in some variant of a market economy and to embrace a cosmopolitan individualism. If you did not, you were considered a relic or worse, a nationalist. When those ideas went up in smoke in the financial crisis of 2008, politicians had to find something new, and they did. So much of what we see today is politicians attempting to fill the vacuum created by a discredited neoliberal consensus with a more motivating set of political identities.

The rise in tribal anger, and its exploitation by the media and the political class, is not a consequence of the financial crisis alone, or even the sources of legitimate moral outrage such as the neglect of the US Midwest or environmental degradation. It significantly precedes these phenomena, and it exists even in economies that have been far less economically stressed. The hollowing out of democracy, the corruption of the political classes, the seeming irrelevance of elections, the inability to prevent recessions, increases in wealth and income inequality, and rapid technological change, all matter. But these are channelled in different ways in different countries due to the coincidence of interests between politicians’ need to motivate a minority to win elections and the legitimate grievances of those most affected. Modern tribalism has its origins in a loss of motivating political identity. The political classes have responded to the dilemma of how to get people out to vote in the absence of motivating ideas by reverting to tribalism.

It is important to keep tribal anger and moral outrage distinct. The financial crisis, the brutal recession in its wake, the euro crisis, rising income and wealth inequality, and an abject failure of political representation, are at the core of our problems. They are and should be objects of moral rebuke. But while these factors motivate anger, and that anger finds its way into politics, this has to be separated from the energy of and the cynical exploitation by politicians and the media of latent nationalistic identities to get elected and to sell copy - how they chose to fill the vacuum created by an anodyne identity-free, political centrism. 28, 29

We described the era of neoliberalism as fostering a loss of political identity – creating a vacuum that tribal anger has filled. But an unintended consequence of the post-Cold War political convergence between parties in the 1990s and 2000s was the emergence of a lifeless and largely self-serving technocratic centre, which caused large segments of the electorate to feel voiceless and unrepresented, which was steadily reflected in declining electoral turnouts. 37

From this perspective, public anger is a response to a lack of representation, to a real sense of being ignored and not listened to. It is also a failure to present a compelling and motivating alternative to the centrist consensus. What has happened over the past ten years in Europe and America is similar. The political centre was totally blindsided by a crisis that they thought could never happen. And they had no response to it except to pile misery on the very people who didn’t cause it. Unsurprisingly, those people got very angry about that, and that anger has been amplified and hijacked in multiple ways. 38

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Tabernacle of David (5) Conclusion

Years ago, I attended a large worship service in the city centre. A team of a dozen musicians led the worship in a very polished manner. The singing was enthusiastic and the presence of God could be felt. As we were singing a song about Jesus seated on the throne in heaven, the Holy Spirit allowed me to hear what the evil one was saying. The voice I heard said:

Who cares;
I am winning.
You can do what you like in here,
I am winning out there where it all happens.
You can sing about heaven as much as you like.
I am winning in the world where it counts.

Praise is good. It is the right way to enter God’s presence, but praise does not change the authority situation on earth (https://bit.ly/3yxaEn8).

David did not create a superior tabernacle that could replace Moses Tabernacle. The Ol Testament does not even use the same Hebrew word for David’s shelter. The Tabernacle of David covered sins and provided for the spiritual protection of the Israelites. David created some beautiful songs and loved to worship, but that was not a substitute for the real victory provided by Moses' Tabernacle.

The Psalms provide plenty of justification and guidance for community worship (see Psalms 144, 148, 150) so we do not need to create an artificial justification using the shelter of David.

Friday, August 06, 2021

Tabernacle of David (4) Open Heaven

The associated teaching about an “Open Heaven” is another idea that is not supported by the scriptures.

The Holy Spirit provides the link between us and God. During the Old Testament, his presence on earth was intermittent. Only special people experienced his presence, and even then, he came and went. The Old Testament writers spoke of the heavens being closed as a way of saying that the Holy Spirit was not present with them. They often felt as if God was far away, and this was a good way to describe it. This was true, because Jesus had not come.

Jesus changed everything in the spiritual realms. On the day of Pentecost, he poured the Holy Spirit out on all those who believe and trust in him.

Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear (Acts 2:33).
This event changed everything. The Holy Spirit is with followers of Jesus all the time. He no longer comes and goes as he did in Old Testament times. We should expect him to be with us all the time, and if he is there, we have a direct connection to the Father, because he and the Father are one.

The Holy Spirit only moves away from us if we grieve him by persisting with unrighteous behaviour, but even when we push him away, he keeps on knocking on the door to come back to us (Eph 4:25).

Following Pentecost, we no longer have a closed heaven in the sense used by the Old Testament. Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the heavens are open to God’s people all the time, unless they move away. That is why, when the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus at his baptism, John saw the heavens being opened (Matt 3:16). Saying that the heavens were opened was another way of saying that the Holy Spirit had come. The heavens have remained open for believers ever since. When people are baptised into Jesus’ name, the Holy Spirit will come onto them in all his fulness and the heavens are opened to him all the time through his presence.

Because we humans are locked into the physical world, we often have difficulty in discerning the presence of the Holy Spirit. Different personalities discern his presence in different ways. Some people find it easier to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in a large group of people singing and praising together (other things work for different personalities). If that helps them, that is really good. But they need to understand what is happening.

The worshippers are the ones who have changed and become aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence. The Holy Spirit has not come back, because he has never gone away from his people. The heavens have not opened, because they are always open for God’s people. The spiritual powers of evil have not been pushed away by the praise. The Holy Spirit is always present on earth with his people, so if our awareness of his presence increases, it is because we have changed, not him.

The associated teaching that the evil powers control the second heaven and that they can prevent our prayers from passing through it to reach the father is nonsense (for more on this topic see Third Heaven Intercession. The Holy Spirit is with us and he hears our prayers directly (Romans 8:26-27). The powers of evil cannot prevent him from hearing us.

The spiritual powers of evil cannot separate us from the Holy Spirit. We can always communicate with him, just by thinking and speaking. The evil powers can try to make us take actions that will grieve the Holy Spirit, but they cannot become a barrier that stops us from connecting with the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Tabernacle of David (3) Jehoshaphat’s Victory

Evil is defeated by obedience, not praise. This principle is illustrated in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, although the passage is usually interpreted incorrectly to claim that worship caused the victory.

The Moabites and Ammonites raised an army and attacked Judah during the time when Jehoshaphat was king. When he sent his army into battle, he put singers at the front of the army. The usual teaching based on this passage presents a pattern,

Crisis ▶ Worship ▶ Victory
This account of Jehoshaphat’s victory misses some important details.
  • When Jehoshaphat heard that a huge enemy army was approaching Judah, he resolved to inquire of the Lord. All the people came together to seek God (20:2-13).

  • The spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the prophet and gave him a message for Jehoshaphat describing exactly where and how he should fight the invading army. God said that the Jehoshaphat would not have to fight the battle. They should stand firm and watch the victory of God. 20:14-17

  • Jehoshaphat and the people worshipped God (20:18-19).

  • Jehoshaphat told the people the word of the prophet and told them to trust it. He said that they should have faith in God.

  • Jehoshaphat set people at the front of the army to sing praises to God.

  • God intervened and defeated the invading army.

The pattern of behaviour in this account is the following.
Crisis ▶ Seek God ▶ Prophet speaks ▶ Obedience ▶ Praise ▶ Victory.
There were three keys to this victory.
  • Jehoshaphat responded to the crisis by seeking God’s help.

  • Prophets were present who could deliver God’s instructions.

  • Jehoshaphat and the people obeyed God’s instructions.

The worship was a good response to God’s promise because it expressed faith in him. However, the worship was not essential for the victory. If they had sought God, listened to his prophets and obeyed God’s instructions, they would have achieved the victory anyway. Praise was a good expression of faith, but it was obedience to God’s instructions that produced the victory. The worship was good, but superfluous to it.
  • If the people had obeyed God, but not worshipped, they would still have received the victory.

  • If the people had praised God but failed to obey his instructions, they would have been defeated.

Praise is not a substitute for compliance. Worship is not a substitute for compliance with God’s will. This is a truth that seems to have been forgotten by the worship leaders who teach that victory over the spiritual powers of evil comes through praise and worship. This is a dangerous delusion that will lead to disappointment and defeat.

Victory comes through hearing God’s word and obeying it. We forget that at our peril.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Tabernacle of David (2) False Teaching

A common teaching that parallels the Tabernacle of David teaching is that intense corporate worship produces a spiritual victory. Worship leaders frequently tell the people that praise defeats the spiritual powers of evil. Many of the modern worship-songs articulate this view, but it is not true.

The truth is that the spiritual powers of evil were defeated by Jesus’ death on the cross. They had used Adam and Eves sin to gain authority on the earth and enslave their descendants. They demanded an expensive ransom for their release. Jesus gave his life as a ransom to redeem humans from their bondage to the spiritual powers of evil. Once their right to accuse humans of sin was gone their authority on earth was broken.

Jesus’ defeat of the spiritual powers of evil is enforced by his followers preaching the good news of release from captivity to the world. To fully experience that victory his followers must walk in obedience to him. They must form together into a united body that can stand firm against the attacks of the spiritual powers of evil. Although defeated, they continue to try to cheat their way back into power by attacking the body of Jesus wherever they perceive weakness.

Jesus instructed elders to watch over the flock they have been called to care for and guard them from the attacks of the enemy.

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
The spiritual powers of evil will be defeated in the territory occupied by the body of Jesus following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Victory over evil comes through obedience, not through worship and praise.

Worship and praise are good because they express a correct attitude to God. He is so far above us in goodness and glory, that the only way that we can respond to him correctly is with praise. If we know him our full life should be filled with constant thanksgiving and praise. However, God does not need human praise. He is fulfilled in himself, but we need to praise him to be consistent with who he is.

I don’t think that praise affects the spiritual powers of evil that much. It annoys them because they hate God and do not like to hear him being honoured. Praise probably spurs them on to do evil, but it does not defeat them, because it changes nothing in the spiritual realm. The spiritual powers of evil are not defeated by noise; they can only be defeated by human obedience on earth.

The irony is that during a century when church worship has been developed to unprecedented levels of elaboration and intensity with thousands of new songs and sophisticated musical instruments, the church in the west has gone backwards. Worship has not translated into victory; it has decorated defeat by creating an illusion of success.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Tabernacle of David (1)

A popular preaching point in many modern churches is the Tabernacle of David. Some pastors proclaim that the Tabernacle of David is a shadow of type of the freedom that we have to come directly before the presence of God through worship. They claim that Davidic worship emulates heavenly patterns of worship around the throne room and releases victory to the church. Reference is made to a promise in Amos 9:11.

I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins—
and will rebuild it as it used to be.
James quoted this verse in the church meeting at Jerusalem (Acts 15:16,17) but he was not referring to worship, but explaining the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles.

The main problem with this teaching is that there is no tabernacle of David in the scriptures. There is only one Tabernacle and that is the one established by Moses according to God’s instructions. This Tabernacle provided the Israelites with protection from the spiritual powers of evil.

God did not command David to put the covenant box in a tent in Jerusalem. In contrast to Moses’ tabernacle, he gave no instructions for how it should be built. The tent in Jerusalem was David’s idea, and was mainly for his convenience, because the true tabernacle was still at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4). Unfortunately, by separating the covenant box from the tabernacle, David undermined its capacity to provide spiritual protection for the people.

The Hebrew word used to describe the tabernacle is mishkan, which means a “residence”. A mishkan can be quite simple, but it is place where someone dwells. God dwelt in the tabernacle created by Moses.

The tent that David put up in Jerusalem was not a tabernacle (mishkan). The Hebrew word that Amos used used to describe it is “sukah”, which is used to describe a hut or lair, booth, cottage, pavilion, or tent. (The other common word for tent in Hebrew is ohel).

  • In Job 38:40, sukah is used to desrive a thicket of bush where a lion might be hiding.

  • The word sukah is use to describe a shelter for cattle in Genesis 33:17.

  • The word is used to describe the temporary booth/shelter that the Israelites stayed in during their harvest festival (Levitcus 23:39-43; Deut 16:13-16). This feast is often referred to as Sukkot. It is misleading to call it the Feast of Tabernacles, because the word mishkan is not used. It is more correctly called the Feast of Shelters.

  • The word sukah was used to describe the tent or booth that a king lived in while he was on the battlefield. Sometimes several kings would meet and celebrate there. Ben-hadad of Aram had a booth when he attacked Israel with the support of is an example. He and the kings were drinking in their shelters... Ben-Hadad and the 32 kings allied with him were in their shelters getting drunk (1 Kings 20:12,16). Uriah the Hittite refused David’s permission to go into his house, because Joab and the armies of Israel were living in shelters (2 Sam 11:11).

The so-called Tabernacle of David would more correctly be called the shelter of David. Referring to it as a tabernacle gives it a spiritual significance that it does not have.

The shelter of David was the booth that he stayed in when he went out to battle with his army. Being the king, he would have had a good one. When he got too old to go to war, he moved the covenant-box into this shelter and used it as a place of worship (2 Sam 6:1-18), God had instructed Moses how the Tabernacle should function to provide spiritual protection to the children of Israel, and especially to deal with the spirit called Death.

David prioritised having the covenant box in Jerusalem because he loved to worship God, but by separating it from the Tabernacle, he undermined the spiritual protection God had provided for the people. There is no suggestion in the OT account that God told him to perpetuate this separation. Unfortunately, this allowed Death to keep on attacking Israel and its leaders when he should have been defeated by the giving of the law. When dealing with the spiritual powers of evil, worship cannot compensate for following God’s instructions that provide for spiritual protection.

James explained word given through was Amos was a promise the God would restore David’s kingdom through Jesus.

After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things (Acts 15:16-17).
God had promised David that one of his sons would remain on his throne forever. That promise was fulfilled by Jesus when he initiated the Kingdom of God by dying on the cross and rising and ascending to God’s right hand in heaven. This restoration of David’s kingdom is what Amos meant when he said the Shelter of David would be restored. The promise did not refer to a use mode of worship. Isaiah made a similar promise, but he used the other word for tent (ohel).
In mercy a throne will be established;
and one will sit on it in truth, in the tent of David,
judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness (Isaiah 16:5).
Isaiah is clearer than Amos. He explained that a descendent of David would be established on his throne. He would bring in justice and righteousness. This prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus.

The promise of the restoration of the Shelter of David was not a promise of restored Davidic worship, it was a messianic promise that was fulfilled by Jesus. Jesus has been appointed as King in David’s line, and his Kingdom will grow and fill the earth.

When a king was too frightened to fight, bought off, or defeated, his pavilion would disappear from the battlefield. The return of David’s pavilion indicates that a successor has returned to the battlefield and will be victorious.