Thursday, October 19, 2017

My Political History (3)

The next big step was understanding that the spiritual powers of evil have used politics to leverage their power on earth. Although they were defeated by the cross, they have maintained their authority on earth by using spiritual principalities and powers to control political power and empires on earth. Every town, city, nation and region on earth is controlled by a principality or power in the spiritual realms.

Their authority on earth is perpetuated by a hierarchy of authority.

  • The principalities and powers in the spiritual realms control the political powers on earth, such as kings, emperors and other political leaders. The personalities may change over time, but the spiritual powers remain in control.
  • These kings and political leaders have authority over large groups of people, so this gives them immense authority on earth.
  • The people look to their political leaders to solve the problems that disturb their lives, so they mostly submit to them. They should be looking to the Kingdom of God for their salvation, and to the Jesus as their king.
  • Political leaders and kings use military force and political coercion to control their people. This gives the principalities their power an point of entrance to control them.
This hierarchy of authority allows the spiritual powers of evil to exercise authority on earth, despite their defeat by the cross. The principalities and powers have authority over all the spirits living in the nation or region they control. These follower spirits listen and obey their commands.

Christians frequently talk about principalities and powers, but they have not understood the implications of their power. Kings and political leader are easy for principalities and are dominated by a principality or power, because they are vulnerable to pride and control. They make it easy for the spiritual powers of evil to control a nation. Many Christians assume that other nations are controlled by principalities and powers (Iran and North Korea) but they do not understood that a principality or power controls their own nation by manipulating political power. This is why political actin always disappoints.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Political History (2)

The next big insight was that there is no parliament or congress in the Torah. This dramatically changes political theology. God does not want parliaments writing laws, even if the parliamentarians are believers trying to seek God’s will. Law is such an important issue that God decided to cut out the middle man. When Israel was becoming a nation in the new land they needed a set of laws, so they could live together in peace.

God revealed his Laws for Society directly to his people through Moses. He spoke to Moses on the mountain and he wrote down God’s laws. God is perfectly wise, so the laws that he gives will be the best possible laws that could exist. Because we have his laws, we do not need any other laws. We do not need a parliament or congress to make up new laws.

The laws were applied by local judges who emerged within their communities. They were not appointed by someone from outside. Their wisdom was recognised in their community, so people would ask them to apply God’s law to their disagreement.

The judging processes were voluntary. Judges could not enforce their decisions. There was no process for that in the Torah. People would accept a judge’s decision because they accepted their wisdom. If they rejected the judge's verdict, the judge could not make them comply with it.

Discerning the law was important. We need to know which parts of God’s law are universal and permanent, and which were just for the children of Israel. The key is a set of laws in Exodus 21:1 to Exodus 22:15 which are addressed to every person. I call these the Laws for Society, as they provide a basis for people to live together in relative harmony. All societies need these laws.

The remainder of the Torah is cases illustrating the application of the Laws for Society, or laws that were specific to the children of Israel. I doubt that I would have discovered the Laws for Society if I had not committed to loving God’s law, as Psalm 119 suggests.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Political History (1)

When I was young I was very interested in politics. I went to my first political meeting in my late teens. Many of the problems in the world are caused by politics. It seemed like solutions would be political.

When I went to university, I studied political science for a couple of years, but I found it was a dry well. There are a huge variety of political systems, but none seem to work well. The common answer was that we should persist with the government we have, because anything else would be worst. This was disappointing.

Once I became a Christian, I realised that the solution had to involve Jesus. Every society needs laws, so I spent a long time thinking about how a parliament could produce laws that were consistent with God’s will. The only way that seemed possible, if most of the members of the parliament were followers of Jesus. If that did happen, and it is not common, the people who were not Christians would hate having Christian laws imposes upon them. I realised that imposing Christian laws cannot work, but without them, society will deteriorate. There seemed to be no workable solution.

I committed to solving this conundrum. I went to theological college for three years to get a sound understanding of theology. I learned NT Greek. I read several histories of political thought to understand how we had got to where we are today. I worked for thirty years on the edge of the political system; close enough to see how it worked, but not close enough to be distracted by power. Over several decades God showed me the answers to the questions that were bugging me. I was totally surprised by where he led me.

Over many years of study, a few insights radically changed my thinking about politics.

1. The first thing I discovered was that the New Testament does not contain a political theology. There are a few relevant verses, but they only hint at what God wants. If you want a political theology you need to go back to the Torah in Exodus and Deuteronomy. If we want God’s political theology, if we have to study God’s law.

2. Secondly, I needed a change in attitude to the Torah. I read it, but I was quite ambivalent about it, because I assumed that Jesus had made it redundant (although point 1 means that is not the case). One time, I was reading Psalm 119, the penny dropped. I always understood it as applying to the whole of God’s law, but I suddenly realised it was a Psalm in honour of God’s law.

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me (Psalm 119:57-102).
These verses stunned me. I wanted to be wise in the political space. This Psalm explained that I would only get wisdom if I loved God’s law.

I resolved that I would love God’s law. I understand the love is not a feeling, but a decision, so I decided I would love God’s law and look for the good in it. I put all the laws into a spreadsheet, so that I could sort them by topic and theme to see how they fitted together and when they applied.

I would seek for the precious insights it contains. I believed that everything that had been put in the Torah by the Holy Spirit for a purpose. If I found something, I did not like, I would ask the Holy Spirit to show me what he was saying when he put the passage in the Torah. I did a three-year course in Old Testament Hebrew to understand the Torah better. Over a time, I began to understand God’s law in a totally different way. Loving it became natural. More important, the Holy Spirit gave me some amazing new insights. (I will describe them in my next post).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Different Weapons

In the Book of Revelation, followers of Jesus do not have guns. Their only weapons are love, faithfulness and truth (Rev 14:5). The only protection is white linen robes, which represents their righteous deeds (Rev 19:8).

The only sword that followers of Jesus carry is the word of God, spoken clearly (Rev 19:13,15).

The enemies of God do have weapons (Rev 6:2,4,8; 9:17-19).

Many of those who follow Jesus will be killed because they trust God and proclaim his words (Rev 6:9). They do not fight back with guns. They overcome evil by love, faithfulness, mercy and suffering. Just like Jesus did.

The Kingdom of God comes through their suffering and patient endurance (Rev 1:9).

God is looking for people who will trust in him, and not in guns, so he can give his Kingdom to them.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Passchendaele

This week is one hundred years since the battle of Passchendaele, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War. Memorial services have been broadcast on our television.

Eight hundred young men from New Zealand died in one day. It is good that the huge numbers of deaths and casualties are being remembered, but I do not like the way it is done. I dislike the way that the media try to ennoble the disaster by describing it as a “sacrifice”.

A true sacrifice is free and costly, but worthwhile because it achieves something beneficial for real people. Jesus death was a real sacrifice, because he saved billions of people free from the power of sin and death and rescued them from the spiritual powers of evil.

The First World War achieved nothing. It was a foolish and pointless war. Historians have difficulty explaining why it was started, apart from the stupidity of political leaders at that time. The war tore apart thousands of families, weakened economies, and destroyed the Christian empires of Europe. It made the second world war inevitable. It was not a true sacrifice, because it achieved nothing for anyone.

Passchendaele was a betrayal, not a sacrifice.

The men who died did not choose the sacrifice their lives. They actually hoped to survive and go back to their homes and families far away. They had been told that the war would only last a few weeks and that it would be a great adventure. They were betrayed by their political leaders, who led them into a long, pointless and ugly war that was none of their business.

They were also betrayed by their commanders and officers who made them get out of their trenches and run across muddy fields and barbed wire, straight into a hail of machine gun bullets, even though the generals new before it started that the attack would probably fail. The generals needed to do be doing something because the stalemate was making them look incompetent. The troops had no choice but to obey the command to attack, because they had seen men shot by a firing squad for disobeying stupid orders.

Passchendaele was a slaughter, not a true sacrifice.

When I was young, we were told that they died fighting for our freedom. No one says that now because it was obviously not true. The people of Europe were freer before the First World War than they are now. Back then you could walk across Europe without a passport. There were no income taxes or GST. The thousands of Africans and Indians (many of them Moslems) from the colonies who fought died for the British were not set free by the war. The British colonies would persist for another 40 years.

I dislike the way that the front seats at the memorial services are filled with politicians, royalty and military people. It would be fine if they politicians came clean and admitted that the First World War was a terrible political mistake; but politicians do not admit mistakes. It would be fine if the generals and military leaders would admit that they were badly underprepared and disorganised at Passchendaele, yet they sent the troops to die anyway; but generals never admit that kind of mistake.

They royals would be entitled to a front row seat if they would admit that their grandparents did not speak up to protect the people who trusted them, because war is good for their brand. Instead, the royals flatter us by talking of the bravery of the colonial troops, as if that makes up for their moral failure.

When remembering Passchendaele, it would be good if people remember the terrible waste and decide to never again trust and believe the political and military leaders urging another war, but that does not happen, because the media spin the tragedy into something glorious.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Corruptible

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.
― Frank Herbert

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fading Empires


While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power (Alfred W McCoy)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Empires in Decay

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war (Chris Hedges).
We have seen quite a bit of this recently.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Voting for Principalities and Powers

When the people of a city or nation submit to their political leaders, they give them authority over their lives. If the powers of evil get to control the people at the top of the political hierarchy, they gain authority over all the people submitted to them. Concentration of political power leverages the authority of the powers of evil.

The spiritual powers that control political leaders are called “principalities and powers” in the Bible (Eph 1:21). Some, like Prince of Persia, take the name of their nation (Dan 10:20). They have immense authority on earth, despite their defeat on the cross, because people submit to the leaders controlled by them. Political leaders have legal authority over their people, so attacking them gives the principalities and powers control over cities and nations.

Focussing on individual people is a very inefficient way for the powers of evil to use their shrinking power. If an evil spirit gains control over one person, it can make that person’s life miserable, but that is all. By getting control over a political leader, the same spirit can make an entire nation miserable. The powers of evil amplify their power by attacking people with political authority.

The power of evil is mostly an illusion, but concentrating on a few powerful people has allowed the forces of evil to magnify their pathetic power. Controlling human political power has amplified their authority out of proportion to their strength.

In the modern world, political power has been centralised and consolidated as never before. The leader of a modern democratic nation has greater power and authority than an emperor in Old Testament times, because they can control every aspect of life in their city or nation. This gives the principalities and power that control nations immense power.

When we vote, we submit to the political powers of our nation. We are saying to them, “You can rule me and the rest of the nation”. At the same time, we are legitimising the power of the principalities and powers that control them, which gives them authority in our lives. Voting gives them power.

I refuse to submit to the principalities and powers that control this nation, by voting for the political leaders that they manipulate and control.

Spring Colour in Christchurch

Monday, October 09, 2017

General Election

A few weeks ago, an election was held in New Zealand. A new parliament of one hundred and twenty men and women will get absolute authority over everyone and everything in New Zealand. They will claim their authority is legitimate, because the country was given an opportunity to vote in an election. I do not accept that claim.

I did not participate in the voting charade, because it legitimises an immoral process. I do not recognise their authority as legitimate.

The people elected to parliament will say that the other people who voted gave them the authority to govern me. That is absurd. Another person cannot give someone else authority over me. God made me a free person, so I am the only one who can give someone else authority over me. Anyone who imposes their authority over my life without my permission is a bully and a thug, whatever they pretend to be.

I only recognise the authority of one person. That is Jesus. He earned his authority by dying on the cross, rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. God has made him king of heaven and earth. Any other person or group who claims authority over me is a usurper or rebel against Jesus. I do not acknowledge their authority.

I can see that the power of the parliament is real. They have the power to take a significant share of the money I earn, and spend it how they like. They can make me do things that I do not want to do, and they can impose serious penalties, if I refuse to do them. I unwillingly recognise their power, but I do not acknowledge their authority as legitimate.

I am not going to submit to them, or give their power system credibility, by voting for any of them. I am not going give them authority by voting for them.

Voting is a lie. The politicians pretend it is a process for the people to have their say, but it is actually a process for giving authority away. The voter is saying to the candidates, “you can have authority over me”. When we vote, we are agreeing to submit to the people who win the election, regardless of who they are. By submitting to them we are giving them authority over our lives.

Worse still, we give authority to the spiritual powers that manipulate them. I will explain this in next post. It will deal with the spiritual implications of voting.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Jesus' Offering to God

Here is another interesting sentence from Ephesians that describes the nature of Jesus sacrifice on the cross.

Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Eph 5:2).
Jesus’ sacrifice was a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.

The Old Testament tabernacle had two types of altar.

Outside the tabernacle was a bronze altar. Burnt offerings were offered on the bronze altar. The altar was bronze, because it was not directed towards God, but towards the spiritual forces of evil. The blood was for them too. The primary purpose of these offerings was to appease the spiritual powers of evil, who demanded blood for every sin. They demanded the right to impose the curses of the covenant on the children of evil. The sacrifices were offered to satisfy them. They were not entirely happy, but they had no choice but to accept them, because God said they must be satisfied with the blood of animals, because the animals belonged to humans. Jesus final sacrifice of blood on the cross, completely satisfied their demands, and silenced them.

Just outside the Holy of Holies, but still within the tabernacle, was the golden altar. Incense was placed on this altar as a pleasant aroma. There was very little blood in the Holy of Holies. A little was dabbed on the horns of the altar, once a year on the day of Atonement (Exodus 30:1-10). God is easy to please and a pleasant aroma was all he required.

Paul reminds the us that Jesus sacrifice was not made to satisfy God’s demand for blood. All that God required was a pleasant aroma. The perfect love that motivated Jesus’ death rose as a pleasant aroma to God.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Redemption and Mercy

Ephesians contains an interesting promise.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Eph 1:7).
1. Redemption
We have redemption through his blood (a person is redeemed from someone who holds them captive). Jesus' blood satisfies the accuser who demanded blood for our sins. It frees us from the clutches of the powers of evil by paying the ransom that they demand for our release.

2. Forgiveness
We have forgiveness through the riches of his grace. God loves us and was glad to forgive us. He did not need someone to pay a penalty for sin before he could forgive us. He is loving and kind, so he is glad to forgive us.

We are forgiven by God’s grace, not his blood.

War Weapons

Last night Television New Zealand news, I saw an operator of a Second Amendment Gun shop in the United States being interviewed. He explained that American citizens needed to own the same guns as the government, so that if it ever came to get them, they could fight back. Looking from the other side of the world this sounds bizarre.

Americans who think this way do not realise that they are already ruled and controlled by the most powerful government that has ever existed (a real beast if ever there was one). By the democracy that they believe in, they have already given up a huge range of freedoms. They have paid for the bailout of the enormous state-supported banks that are sucking the wealth out of their communities.

Worse still, they have submitted to the spirits of war and violence, that already control their government.

Ironically, they love the way their government tramps round the world using military force to impose democracy and American values on unwilling peoples. They do not seem to see care that their government has wrecked societies and economies in places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya.

If the people who buy military weapons ever did fight back against their government, it would result in a similar pointless destruction of the communities that they love.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Response to Power

Christian responses to political power boil down to two options.

The first option is to avoid all political power avoid being contaminated by it. Unfortunately, this leaves authority over force in the hands of the people of the world. Their political power is often used badly and society suffers. Evil people often rise to the top and Christians are persecuted for their loyalty to Jesus. The spiritual powers of evil have used secular political power to leverage their power on earth.

The other option is to co-opt political power and use it to advance the Kingdom of God. During the Middle Ages, the church attempted to control kings and empires to bring them under God’s authority. More recently, Christians have used democratic elections to gain power and impose their agenda. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the gospel is diluted, as Christians attempt to transform the world by changing laws and implementing various political programs. The people of the world hate being controlled by the church and tend to reject God too.

Government of God cuts across both these options by declaring that the use of force and coercion are always wrong, even when it is used by governments claiming legitimate right to use it for the common good. Who controls political power and how they exercise it is irrelevant, because the problem is political power itself. Political power is morally wrong, regardless of how it is exercised. God created humans to be free, so he does not want governments forcing people to behave in a particular way.

Political power because amplifies the power of the spiritual powers of evil. The only solution is to get eliminate political power. This book explains how a society can function without any need for the need for force and coercion. Justice and safety can be provided with a person or group of people having the right to impose their will on the rest of society. Political power has no place in the Kingdom of God, so as it comes to fullness, political power will shrivel away.

Christians hate being told what they can and cannot do by secular governments. Yet they often try to use political power to impose Christian morality on this world. This is an impossible contradiction. The only viable solution is a society that does not use force or coercion. I describe how this can occur in Government of God.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Live or Perish

The world that God created is amazing.

One way that it is amazing is that it is possible to live on earth, while hating and disobeying God. We take this for granted, but it is amazing that God continues to sustain the earth, while people living on it hate and mock him. If God stopped sustaining his creation, the world and the people he made would cease to exist in an instant.

In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
A God who would continue to sustain the lives people who have rebelled against him to pursue evil and destroy his universe is mind-blowing.

This explains the final destination of those who reject the gospel and continue to oppose God. After the final judgment, this earth will disappear and be replaced by a new heavens and a new earth in which God fully dwells (Rev 21:1). Those who reject God will have no place to go where they can escape the presence of God. He will be everywhere in the new heaven and earth. With the old earth gone, there will not place left where people can continue to live and oppose God.

People who have not made peace with him through the cross will not be able to tolerate the holiness of his presence. His presence is so glorious that those who have not been cleansed by the blood of Jesus will need to flee the awe of his presence. This leaves them with an impossible dilemma. They need God to sustain their existence, but they can bear to be near him. They need him to give them life, but they hate being near him.

People who have rejected Jesus and continued to rebel against God will face a choice. They will choose to lose his sustaining power, because they hate his presence. If the stops sustaining their life, they will cease to exist.

Jesus said that those who do not believe in him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). The fate of those who to refuse to trust Jesus is to perish. Perish is a more accurate word than “annihilation”, because the latter word implies that God does the annihilating. He does not do this.

Rather, people choose to perish, because they cannot bear to remain in the presence of God, and there is no place away from his presence where they can continue to exist. The will tell God to stop sustaining their existence, because they cannot bear to be in his presence. They will perish when God agrees to their request and stops giving them life. He does not force people to exist against their will. They will perish, because life apart from God is not possible in the new heavens and new earth.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Healthcare and Medical Insurance (4)

Holding back the Curse
The key problem with every system of health care is that sickness is a curse resulting from sin. We cannot turn back this curse with by putting more money into professional health care.

As medical professionals deal with one problem, the curse pops out in another sickness that is worse. Modern medicine has solved diseases like tuberculosis and smallpox, but they now face more serious diseases like dementia and cancer.

People who are following Jesus should cut out the middlemen by praying for the sick to be healed. If the Spirit is moving, the need for funded health care should rapidly diminish. We have the authority to break this curse. More at Healing.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Healthcare and Insurance (3)

Longitudinal Dimension
People tend to assume they are taking our insurance over their lifetime. They assume their no claim years when they are young entitle them to make big claims when they are older. However, insurance companies work on an annual basis. They use the premiums from the no-claim people in any year, to pay for the high claim people in that year. They do not hold reserves to meet the needs of no-claims people in their later years.

People view their insurance longitudinally, but insurance companies manage risk year by year. That creates confusion about entitlement. The person who says, “I have paid premiums all my life, so I am entitled to something back now I am old” does not understand the way insurance companies do their accounting.

Followers of Jesus
The insurance model does not work, because medical risk is hard to share. The single-payer model is compulsory sharing, which is hard to justify. Jesus model was voluntary sharing in a community united by love.

The members of Kingdom Community could commit to paying for the healthcare of everyone living within their neighbourhood, regardless whether they are following Jesus or not. Everyone in the community should commit to paying for the healthcare of others living within it, according as they have need, and means. That would be loving one another, as Jesus loved us.

The good Samaritan showed how it could be done. He rescued the wounded man from where he lay on the side of the road. He took him to an inn and paid for him to be cared for until he was well.

Christians should be seeking creative ways to pay for the healthcare of people of living in their neighbourhoods.

The inter-generational sharing needed for healthcare should take place within families, because they have the commitment and loyalty needed to manage costs across time. This sharing is better done within a wider family, as a nuclear family will not have sufficient resources.

Most health care expenses occur towards the end of life. The best place for managing risk across time is within a wider family. Children have significant expenses for education. When they are first married, a couple have significant expenses for setting up their home and raising their family. Late middle age is a time when earning power is greatest and expenses have reduced because children have left home. Old age is a period of significant expenses for health care. Families can manage expenses across time, by caring for elderly parents when they are at the stage of peak earning.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Healthcare and Insurance (2)

Insurance Model
Insurance is very effective for risks with low likelihood and high impact, but it stops working if the risk changes from being low likelihood to extremely widespread. That is why insurance companies have exemptions for extreme events like war and so-called acts of God. If the city is bombed during a war, nearly every house might be burned down. In that situation, sharing the cost does not help. Paying for a thousandth of the cost of rebuilding all the houses is no cheaper than the cost of rebuilding your own house.

Pooling the risk of an event that will affect everyone similarly makes no sense. Insurance cannot deal with a widespread risk because there is no benefit in pooling the costs.

An insurance model does not work for healthcare, because the conditions necessary for pooling risk do not apply. Health claims are not rare, because almost everyone makes claims against their health insurance. If everyone is making regular claims, the insurance model is inefficient, because the bureaucratic costs of handling claims are high, and costs are not really shared. Insurance companies tend to “gold plate” treatments, because that allows them to increase their margins.

With health care, there is very little uncertainty about where the risk will strike. Most expenses will be incurred by the elderly and by people with existing health issues. The probability of a claim is skewed towards these groups.

Forced Sharing of Risk
The problem with medical insurance is that young people have a very low probability of making a claim, while those who are older or unhealthy have a higher likelihood of making a claim. If they pool the risk, younger people will end up subsidizing the old and sick. That makes no sense, so young people would usually be better off not having health insurance.

If only sick or elderly people were insured, they would not be pooling risk, because everyone would be just making claims from each other. If everyone is likely to make a claim, that is a situation of high likelihood and medium impact. This kind of risk is hard to pool, so there is not much point in having insurance. It just adds a costly administrative layer that transfers money between people. They would just be paying administrators to manage expenses they could manage themselves.

To be effective, health insurance needs young and healthy people to subsidise the old and the infirm. People were willing to do that once, but now they have woken up and are opting out. Consequently, free-market medical insurance does not work very well.

Obamacare gets around this problem by making insurance compulsory and preventing insurance companies from refusing to insure the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. This forces the young and healthy to subsidize the old and sick. This is fine if voters accept that this is what is happening, but they usually do not.

A single-payer system has the same effect. Everyone pays tax at the same rate (more or less) and everyone gets the health care that they need. Again, this means that the young and healthy subsidize the healthcare of the old and infirm.

Single-payer is a misnomer. There is not a single-payer, as everyone pays through their income taxes. Universal payer would be a more accurate name.

The disadvantage of a single payer is that people lose control over how much health care they will receive. Governments rarely budget enough money, so there is never sufficient health services for everyone (Of course, when services are free, the demands expand significantly). Bureaucratic processes have to be put in place to ration scarce health care resources. People who are sick often struggle to persuade bureaucratic gatekeepers that they are sick enough to need care.

The situation is made worse by technology. The range of practical surgical interventions has grown immensely. People are living longer, so everyone needs their knees and hips replaced and their shoulders reconstructed. Some need these several times during their lifetime.
New drugs for cancer and other diseases are extremely expensive. A treatment can sometimes cost several hundred thousand dollars a year, for uncertain outcomes and marginal benefits. This places enormous stress on single-payer systems, because decisions about treatment often become political.

Politicians often get involved in deciding on the value of a life, sometimes on an extra three months of life. In an insurance model, the pressure of technology falls on premiums. In a single payer system, it falls on politicians.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Healthcare and Insurance (1)

Americans are really stirred up about medical insurance and healthcare.

America began with a charity model of health care. I do not know the history of how it changed, but the charity model turned into an insurance model. All that remains of the charity model is a few hospital names pointing back to a more generous past.

Some Americans are now arguing for a single-payer system.

To understand the problems with the insurance model, we need to understand the nature of risk.

Pooling Risk
Understanding and managing risk has become a bit of science. Risk has two parts.

  1. Likelihood
  2. Impact
Likelihood tells us the probability of an event happening. Impact tells us how much harm the event will do. The two factors are combined for an assessment of risk. An event that is highly likely is not a problem if it has no impact.

Insurance is a method of pooling risk to minimise the cost of rare events to any one person.

Insurance works well for situations where the risk has low likelihood, but high impact. For example, the likelihood of a person’s house burning down is quite low. However, the impact is enormous, if it does happen. House insurance is a method for pooling the risk and the costs.

In a city with a thousand homes, only one homeowner might experience a catastrophic fire in their house in any year. If everyone who lives in the city pays into an insurance fund, each homeowner will only have to pay one thousandth of the cost of rebuilding a home to give the insurance fund enough money to pay for the cost of replacing the one house that is burnt down. Homeowners have several good reasons for paying into an insurance fund.

  • No one knows in advance who will have a fire. It might be me.
  • The cost of a fire would be devastating for the family whose house burns.
  • The cost of the insurance is relatively cheap.
  • The probability of a house going on fire can be estimated by looking at the history of house fires.
Insurance deals effectively with risk like a house fire, because it is relatively rare. The insurance company is able to estimate the probability of fires occurring and calculate an appropriate level for premiums. Everyone benefits from sharing the costs of the fire, because they know that next time they could be the one facing a tragedy.

When the cost of a claim is extremely high, but relatively rare, and there is a significant uncertainty about when and where the risk will strike, it makes sense to spread the risk. Insurance is a method for pooling risk.

Insurance works well for house fires, because the likelihood of a house going on fire is the same for everyone. Therefore, pooling the risk makes sense provided your insurance company does not cover too many people who smoke in bed or keep a can of gasoline in their cupboard for huffing.

I will apply these principles to health insurance in my next post.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Science and Economics

Economics claims to be a science. The problem with this claim is that the scientific method depends on the ability to do repeatable experiments. For example, chemistry advances by checking if hypotheses are correct by doing experiments that are repeatable. If a hypothesis fails repeated experiments, it is deemed not to be true.

The problem for economics is that is a subject that deals with the behaviour of people and society, so it is usually not possible to set up an experiment to test whether an hypothesis or theory is correct. People do not like being experimented on. An economist cannot do experiments on an economy, because every economy is different, and changes over time, so any experiment would not be repeatable.

The best that Economics can do is establish models that approximate how the economy operates. Economists use their models to explain historical events, or to make predictions about what will happen if certain changes occur. Unfortunately, the same historical events can be explained by various models. What happens can usually be explained by several different models, so making a correct prediction or explanation does not prove a model is correct. Most predictions by economists are wrong, so faith in their models is risky.

Economists tend to rely on the weight of opinion to decide which is the correct model. They sometimes reach a consensus about which model is best, but they never reach full agreement. Consensus is good, but unfortunately, it is not the same as using the scientific method.

Models have to be a simplification of reality. This means that economics is not really a science, in the true sense of the word.

Climate change faces the same problem. Climate scientists cannot do repeatable experiments, so they have to rely on models, too. Predictions about future climate change depend on the accuracy of climate models. The outcome of the model depends on the assumptions built into the model, and there is often disagreement about these assumptions.

Environmentalists often say that people should accept the weight of scientific evidence for climate change. The problem with this is that climate models cannot be tested in the way that the scientific method requires. It is not possible to set up repeatable experiments, because there is only one world, and it is not possible to repeat climate situations to test the model.

The best that climate scientists can do is to test their preferred model to see if it can explain weather events in the past, or to make predictions and see if they happen. That puts them in the same boat as economists. Weight of opinion is not the same as scientific method. Using the word “scientific” to make the case for climate change is a bit misleading.

Evolutionary theory has the same problem. It is not possible to do an experiment to test if humans could evolve into apes, because this is not repeatable in a laboratory. Small steps in the evolutionary process can be tested in artificial conditions using the scientific method. But the overall process cannot be tested using the scientific method. For this reason, evolutionists often resort to depending on consensus of scientific opinion. However, that is not the same as scientific method.

When climate scientists and evolutionary biologists speak of the weight of scientific evidence, they are playing the same game as economists. Judging by the reliability of economic models this is not a very effective method for arriving at the truth.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thessalonian Politics

When Paul was in Thessalonica, some of the Jews stirred up trouble and some followers of Jesus were arrested. They made the following accusation.

They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus (Acts 17:7).
When they heard this, the city officials were thrown into turmoil.

Paul could have said,

Jesus is not a real king, he just wants to live deep down in your heart. He is not a threat to the Roman empire.
Paul did not say this. Instead, he fled to a different town. He did not say it, because it is not true. Jesus is a real king. His kingdom is a threat to the other kingdoms of this world. As it grows and expands, other kingdoms will shrink and slowly die. Other kings and political leaders will lose their power.

Jesus’ kingdom will be a very different kingdom. It will not look like the political kingdoms of this world. However, it will provide all the justice and protection that worldly governments promise to deliver, but never do. I describe how this will happen in Government of God.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Election

New Zealand has a king and his name is Jesus. He was raised up to that position by God, so we do not need an election to choose a new king, or political leader.

We should seek and honour the king who is already on the throne. Jesus is the only king who does not disappoint.

We need the Holy Spirit of God to teach us how to love and serve the king that God has given us.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Confusion

Confusion will win the election.
Confusion will reign
in New Zealand.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

God and Violence (14) God’s Silence

When Jesus was serving in the world, he would not let the demons speak. The first one he encountered called out,

What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24).
The demons’ words were correct. Jesus is the Holy one. He had come to destroy the power of the spiritual powers of evil. Jesus could have said, “You are dead right”, but he did not. He commanded the demon to be silent (Mark 1:25).

Jesus did not allow the powers of evil to control his revelation of his character or his plans. Jesus did not want to be associated with the word “destroy”, because it would be misunderstood, even though it was true. He wanted to associate his ministry with the word redeem, which was much more positive. He did not want to give the demons to gain glory for themselves by proclaiming the truth.

The same principle applied in the Old Testament. God does not give glory to the spiritual powers of evil. He does not want them given any glory. So he does not ascribe all the violence and evil that they are doing to them. The result is that he often gets blamed for the stuff that the powers of evil were doing. He prefers to remain silent about their actions in the world, because he does not want them getting unnecessary glory. Although he could blame them, he remained silent, even though it means that he often gets blamed for things that he has not done.

This complete series of posts can be read at God and Violence.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

God and Violence (13) Voluntary Law

The system of government that God gave in the Laws of Moses is entirely voluntary. There is no provision for the use of force to coerce people into complying with the law. We are so used to the existence of police and military power to enforce the laws of nation that we assume that the same system of coercion existed in the Laws of Moses. The surprising truth is that they are totally missing.

God did not establish any group or agency to enforce the Laws of Moses. His laws are entirely voluntary. People will obey the law because they are committed to God’s covenant and wanted to receive the benefits that flow from it.

  • The Law of Moses does not have any agency with police powers. There is no police force to arrest people who broke the law.

  • There are no prisons in the Laws of Moses. They only mention of prison is in Numbers 33:34, where the people held a person in custody while waiting for God to show them what they should do about Sabbath breaking. This was not a general justification for imprisonment. There is no provision for using imprisonment for punishment.

  • There is not compulsory taxation in the Laws of Moses. The people were to share their tithes with the Levites and the poor, but there was no organisation to enforce and deliver the tithe. Each person would decide which poor people they would share their tithes with. If someone refused to tithe, the Priests and the Levites had to power to enforce it.

  • There is no bureaucracy of executive power in the Law of Moses.

  • God gave laws required the cancellation of debt and the return of land after seven years and at the time of the Jubilee. However, he did not establish an agency to enforce these requirements. He expected the people to freely act on these laws, because they loved God and were committed to the covenant.

  • Judges could specify financial restitution for various crimes. However, they did not have the power to enforce the payment of this restitution.

Pressure to act on God’s laws would come from the rest of the community. However, the only power that the community had was to exclude someone who failed to acknowledge the law and decisions of judges from their community. Belong to a community was a privilege. If people refused to honour the covenant that was the basis for the community, they could be excluded from the activities of the community.

More at Voluntary Justice.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

God and Violence (12) God-breathed

God inspired the scriptures, but humans wrote them using the language and words that were familiar to them. The Holy Spirit spoke into their minds, but they wrote his thoughts in their own words. His ideas were quite radical, so he often had difficulty getting them to write them down correctly.

When the Holy Spirit was inspiring the scriptures, he was engaging in cross behaviour. He was doing an important task with people that he did not control. He could put thoughts in their minds, but he could not make them use the words he wanted. Sometimes writers used a word that was not the best one for what the Holy Spirit was wanting to say. Provided that the word conveyed the meaning, he would make do with what they put. We must seek the meaning he wanted conveyed.

Moses was responsible for recording the Laws for Society. The only law that he knew was what he had learnt from the Egyptians. Their laws were ugly, ruthless and vindictive. He had also learnt a bit about God from his mother, but his knowledge was limited. The Holy Spirit gave him a set of laws that was radically different. Getting Moses to write them down accurately was extremely difficult.

Moses probably thought that the laws he wrote down were harsher than they were. The Holy Spirit was getting him to record a set of laws that were less violent than he expected. This was cross behaviour, because the Spirit was committed to working through a human who limited his ability to communicate.

Moses sometimes used words that were not exactly right, but the Holy Spirit went along provided the word supported his meaning. We have to look behind what Moses wrote to understand the message the Holy Spirit was communicating. We have to find the ideas that the words carry for him, even if Moses did not understand them. The key question is “What was the Holy Spirit saying to us here?”

Hebrew words often have a range of meaning. Moses often intended the harsher meaning, but the Holy Spirit wanted a milder meaning. If we read the Old Testament with violence in our hearts, we will get the violent message. If we listen to the Holy Spirit as we are reading, we will discover his pure message.

Monday, September 04, 2017

God and Violence (11) Misunderstood

The violence in the Old Testament has been misunderstood due to poor translation and interpretation. Much of the violence attributed to God was actually initiated and perpetuated by the spiritual powers of evil. Part of the problem is translation. Traditional translations often choose the most violent possible translation of the worlds. There are three reasons why they do this.

  1. Justification for Israelite violence. The Israelites perpetrated violence that was not commanded by God. Violent translations of God’s commands justify that violence, incorrectly. This feeds through to support for Israeli violence in the modern world.
  2. To support empire and political power. Once Christians began colluding with the Roman empire, they needed a justification for the violence of the Roman army. They found it in harsh translations of the Old Testament. This reason is still used in support of military power and empire in the modern world.
  3. Harsh translations of the Old Testament allow people to justify seeking revenge in their personal circumstances.
We need a much better translation of the Old Testament that would help us to understand better what is happening (see Spiritual Warfare during the Exodus).

Sunday, September 03, 2017

God and Violence (10) Defence and Protection

An ideology of nonviolence cannot be justified from the scriptures. Violence is occasionally justified for defence; however, these occasions are very rare. Violence should only be used as a last resort.

God allows the use of force for defence when a person or community is being attacked. It is allowed, but not ideal. A person whose family is being attacked can use force to protect it (Ex 22:2). However, a protective miracle is a better option (Luke 4:30; Acts 5:19; 12:6-7; 14:19-20).

A community that is attacked is entitled to defend itself to defend itself, eg the Israelites defended themselves against Og of Bashan and Sihon of the Amorites (Num 21:21-35) and the Midianites (Judges 7). However, physical defence is only justified if:

  • If it is the last resort
  • The benefits outweigh the costs
Spiritual war is always more effective. God organised Balaam to prophesy in favour of the Israelites against the Moabites and Midianites. If the men of Israel had not been seduced, the power of the prophetic word would have kept Israel safe (Num 23-24). Isaiah’s prophesy released the angels to destroy the armies of Sennacherib when he was attacking Jerusalem (Isaiah 37).

Rather than jumping to physical defence, Christians should seek a spiritual victory over the power that are stirring up people to attack them. Resorting to physical defence is a sign that spiritual protection has failed.

Violence should always be the last resort and is rarely justified. Jesus lived a perfect life. He lived his entire life without any need to use violence, except when hammering nails and cutting his meat and vegetables.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

God and Violence (9) Last Resort

Because God uses violence to accomplish his purposes, we cannot say that he is absolutely opposed to violence. In situations where he has limited authority, this is the only way that he can get his will done. He seems to be able to use evil to restrain evil. In this way, he uses evil to achieve good. We do not have his wisdom, so he forbids from trying to do the same (Rom 12:21).

God sometimes had to allow his people to use violence to protect themselves from being defeated by the spiritual powers of evil. Killing the Midianites is an example. The women had seduced the men once before and nearly destroyed the nation, so Moses could not risk that happening again. They would be more subtle and clever and harder to resist the second time.

However, it is clear that God strongly prefers not to use violence. He would sooner convict people and change their hearts by the Holy Spirit. However, because people are free, that is not always possible. In a world where he had limited authority, because he had given authority to humans who had lost it to the spiritual powers of evil, he sometimes had to use violence to accomplish his purposes.

God only uses violence as a last resort. He is perfectly wise, so he knows when it is justified. In the same way, humans should only use violence as a last resort. We do not have the same wisdom as God, so we are at risk of using violence when it is not appropriate. In most situations, violence is not the best option.

Friday, September 01, 2017

God and Violence (8) Desperate Situation

Before judging God, we must understand how desperate the situation was during the Old Testament age. Humans had given the spiritual powers of evil a free rein and they took full advantage. Prior to the flood, they nearly destroyed the earth. The flood got rid of some of them, but the rest still had authority to be on earth.

Through Abraham and Moses, God established a people in a small area of land, but it was still touch and go. If Egypt had recovered and attacked them in the wilderness, the new strategy would have come to an end before it got started, so it was just as well the Egyptians enemies were destroyed. Likewise, if a powerful empire had invaded and destroyed the Israelites once they were in the land, all would have been lost.

Jesus death on the cross is unbelievable. A god allowing himself to be tortured, tormented and killed by beings that he created is a bizarre idea. We are now so familiar with the cross, that we take it for granted, but it was a shocking event. Gods do not allow the objects they have created to harm them. The fact that Jesus had to die shows what a serious threat the spiritual powers of evil are to life on earth. If Jesus had been killed by Herod as a baby, God’s bold strategy of coming as a baby would have failed. I do not know if he had a Plan B, but it hard to imagine what it might be, once his son was dead (Matt 21:33-45).

The gospels say that Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. Paul explains that it was the spiritual powers of evil who did it (1 Cor 1:2). That is why the world was so dark. The crucifixion was not just a nasty incident by a brutal political power. It was a tense moment in a brutal struggle that had been going on since the beginning.

The situation on earth was desperate, so desperate that the God who had created it had to die. It had been desperate from the time of Adam’s sin until Jesus was raised to heaven. God had limited authority on earth. He had to do what did, or just surrender the earth to the spiritual powers of evil as a permanent possession. God refused to do that, so he did what did, even though it was nasty at times.
Modern critics are looking for the cross-like behaviour in the Old Testament. This is the wrong way around. They should be looking at the Old Testament and seeing the desperation that made the cross necessary.

Some of the things that God had to do in the Old Testament do not reflect his character, except for his desperate love for the earth and the people that he had created. When he did what needed to be done, he acted in a way that is contrary to his character. That was a cross he had to bear to deal with the mess that humans had made. He loved us so much, he was willing to appear evil to rescue us.

The cross does not really reveal his full character either. It was a clever trick that fooled the spiritual powers of evil. They walked into it and deserved what they got, because they are tricky, but deceit is not what a good person does. The cross caused terrible suffering for God’s son. That is not what a loving father does, but in this case God was desperate.

I see his character more fully revealed in the ascension and outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that allow him to work in the hearts of a people who love him because he loves them. That is his true nature.

Humans put God in a situation where had to act in ways that are contrary to his character. It is a bit rich for us to criticise him for not complying with our standards of behaviour.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

God and Violence (7) Purpose

God had to use the spiritual powers to accomplish his purposes. Of course, he can use evil spirits if they do his will by mistake, but he cannot make them do things they do not want to do. They are in rebellion against God, so they prefer to do the opposite of what he wants. However, they love violence so they are quite happy to engage in violence, even against other evil spirits that are opposed to God too.

The spiritual powers of evil are not very smart and mostly do what they have done before. If God puts an idea in their minds, they will usually run with it, if it provides an opportunity for them to be violent. The powers of evil love violence so they are quite happy to use violence against their own side. One was happy to be a deceiver when God suggested that to him, because he wanted to destroy a king (1 Kings 22:22).

God uses powerful evil nations to accomplish his purposes. He uses bad nations to destroy evil nations. For example, he used Cyrus of Persia to destroy the Babylonian empire. So while God, might not have organised the violence, he colluded with violent nations to accomplish his purposes. He had no alternative, because he had such limited authority on earth. No other means were open to him in the situation.

While the spiritual powers are doing evil, God seems to trick them into doing what he wants them to. He can accomplish his purposes by manipulating them to destroy other evil. He does not make them more evil. Instead, he gives them ideas to change the direction of the evil that they would be doing evil anyway. They switch from meaningless evil to doing evil that allows God to achieve his goals in the world.

God uses the spiritual powers of evil to accomplish his purposes. They are often extremely violent. They led Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea, where they were destroyed. Could God have stopped this from happening? I don’t think so. He did not have any authority once the Israelites had departed, so the powers of evil had a free hand to destroy the Egyptian army. I presume they did it for their enjoyment. However, it did have the benefit of protecting the children of Israel from being pursued by the people that they had escaped from.

Political Power

Christians are ambivalent about political force and power.

  • They want a political force to control bad people. They want people to be forced to do the right thing.

  • Christians do not want the political powers telling them how to live. They do not want to be forced to do things that are contrary to the gospel.

  • Because political power is so influential, Christian want to be involved in its exercise. They believe that they can use political power to do good.

  • When Christians get involved in politics, they are often ignored, because they are not tough enough to get things done.

  • When Christians get involved in political power, they often get corrupted by it. To get things done, they have to use manipulation and intimidation.

We need a new society that does not depend on political power. I describe how this can happen in Government of God.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

God and Violence (6) Limited Authority

During the Old Testament age, God had limited authority on earth. He had given humans authority over the earth, but they surrendered it to the spiritual powers of evil. God had given this authority without recourse, so he could not demand it back when humans messed it up. He had to deal with the spiritual powers of evil, but they had more authority on earth than he had.

To change the situation on earth, God had to fight an enemy that he did not have authority to fight, because humans had given the spiritual powers of evil permission to operate on earth. He could not attack them directly or destroy them, so he had to deal with them obliquely in the spiritual realm.

God’s lack of authority severely limited the scope of what God could do on earth. He was fighting against a ruthless and violent enemy with very little ability to fight back. He sometimes had to resort to using violent nations to hold back the worst of evil and protect his growing work on earth.

God could not touch the spiritual powers of evil while they were working on earth, as they had authority to be there. However, he still had authority in the spiritual realms, so he had to work there, by deceiving and manipulating the powers of evil. Because they are evil and love violence, he was mostly limited to getting them to stir up violence on earth. They were not interested in doing good things, of course.

By persuading the spiritual powers to fight against each other, and getting the strong nations to attack evil nations and empires, he was able to constrain the worst effects of evil on earth. Working in this way was not ideal, but it was better than letting the spiritual powers of evil get out of control.

God does his own dirty work. Humans had allowed the evil powers in, but God did not expect us to force them out. He chose to do the necessary violence himself, so we would not have to engage in violence. He initiates violent judgment when it has to be used so that we do not have to be violent.

Environment

Environmental issues create a huge amount of hypocrisy.

Here in New Zealand, city people are really agitated about the pollution of rivers by dairy farms. Immense hostility to dairy farmers has emerged, despite a large share of our overseas income coming from the sale of dairy products. Could we still afford our iPads and iPhones if the dairy industry was shut down?

In the city, pet cats do terrible damage to our native birds. They have almost disappeared from parts of the cities. Yet if anyone suggests that people should keep their cats in the homes, there are cries of outrage, as if people were being robbed of a basic human right.

On the environment, it always seems to be easier to point the finger at someone else, rather than cleaning up our own act. That is classic Pharisaism.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

God and Violence (5) Unavoidable

God gave authority on earth to humans. When they rebelled against God, they unwittingly handed authority over to the spiritual powers of evil. God was unable to work on earth because the spiritual powers of evil were in control. They embarked on a millennium of evil as they sought to destroy God’s good creation. God could only intervene on earth if humans gave him authority to act and that did not happen very often, so he was limited in what he could do to turn the situation around.

Once God has chosen Abraham and brought his people into the promised land, he had a place where he had authority to work. However, he had to protect his work from the spiritual powers of evil trying to use the power of empires and nations to destroy it. He could not destroy the spiritual powers, because they had authority to be on earth, given to them by humans. So, God had to resist the armies and kings of the nations that tried to wreck his work.

Once the spiritual powers of evil had seized control of the world, violence became necessary. The worst violence was that done against Jesus on the cross. He surrendered to violence in order to break the power of violence and evil. Prior to Jesus, God had to use violence to constrain their actions and prevent them getting out of hand.

The spiritual powers of evil use God’s justice against him. God’s character requires justice. He is publicly committed to doing justice. Even though they do not believe in it, the powers of evil demand justice on earth. Once God said that life is in the blood, they demanded blood for all sins. They used God standards for justice against his people. They demanded that God punish all sin, and if he showed mercy, they demanded the right to execute judgement and punishment on sinful people. In the incident with the Golden calf, God showed mercy, but the powers of evil demanded plague and death (Ex 32:14,35).

Once humans surrendered to the powers of evil, they were owned by them. The spiritual powers of evil refused to give them back to God unless humans paid the price they demanded, which was blood. If humans had done that, they would be dead, which would not help them. God sent Jesus and allowed the spiritual powers of evil to kill him and take his blood to pay the price that they demanded. His death redeemed us because it met the demands of the powers of evil.

Jesus’ violent death destroyed the authority of the spiritual powers of evil to be on earth. The outpouring of the Spirit allowed him to work through love. The spiritual powers of evil still trespass on earth, but God now prefers that we engage in spiritual battle and use the power of the cross to prevent them doing evil, because that is more effective.

Monday, August 28, 2017

God and Violence (4) Our Sake

The truth is that humans are the ones responsible. God created humans and gave them authority over the world. Humans invited the powers of evil into the world, so we are really the ones responsible for the consequences. Humans love to point the finger and blame God for evil, but we are the ones responsible for evil getting a hold on earth, so we cannot shift the blame back to him. Humans are responsible for every evil that occurs on earth. When God takes responsibility for things that humans caused, he carries our burden.

God takes the blame for what the powers of evil do because, if he spoke the truth, he would have to put the blame on humans. He does not want to do that because it would give the powers of evil another reason to accuse and attack us. God does not want to give them any more grounds for hurting us, so he takes the blame to protect us. He is still speaking the truth, as he is ultimately responsible because he created the powers of evil.

This is another situation where God took our sin and carried it. Humans allowed the powers of evil to seize authority on earth, but the scriptures do not put the blame on us. Instead, God carries the responsibility. For example, the spirit of wrath is called God’s wrath, but he should really be called humans’ wrath because it was humans who gave him a place on earth. God chose not to point the finger at humans during the Old Testament age in order to protect them. If he had accused us, that would have given the spiritual powers of evil extra ammunition to use against us.

God carried our burden by allowing the spiritual powers and the people world to blame him for evil. This foreshadowed Jesus carrying our sins and allowing the powers of evil to punish him. He allowed them to punish him, so we would not need to be punished. This is what the Lord had been doing through the Old Testament age. He accepted unjust blame for evil to prevent humans being further harmed by the powers of evil.

God could carry this burden without lying because he created humans and the spiritual powers, so he is ultimately responsible as their designer and maker. If he had not made them, they would not be able to do evil. He takes responsibility for the way that he set up the world.

Election Bribes

Keynesian economics says that governments should run deficits during tough times and surplus during good times, so they have reserves to meet the next crisis.

This is a version of the advice given by Joseph to Pharaoh, after the dream about seven good years being followed by seven bad years. Joseph’s interpretation of the dream was correct, but his advice was wrong, because it forced the Egyptian people into slavery, when they sold their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food rations (Gen 51). The people would have been better to save their own grain surplus to survive the seven bad years. They might have done that if Joseph had warned them.

Getting back to the current time, New Zealand is well recovered from the global financial crisis. Unfortunately, wages have not recovered much, so people do not have the capability to save for the next crisis.

However, it is election year. The political parties are not interested in building resources to deal with future crises. They are committing instead to huge bribes to buy the election. A billion for this. Billion for that. Billions here. Billions there. Here a billion. There a billion. E I E I O. The sound of the pigs slapping their jowls in the trough is disturbing.

I hate being bribed with my own money. And the whole circus is very short sighted. Their only long-term goal is to stay is in power.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

God and Violence (3) Responsibility

God does not shirk his responsibility for the beings that he created, even when they do evil. The spiritual powers of evil were created by God and then rebelled, so they belong to him. Therefore, responsibility for their actions can be linked back to God. This is why the scriptures often say that God will do something, even though it later becomes clear that it was one of the spiritual powers of evil that did it.

For example, the scriptures often say that “the wrath of the Lord is aroused”. This makes it sound like God is angry. However, wrath is not one of God’s emotions, but an evil spirit called Wrath who loves doing evil on earth (Ps 78:49; 1 Cor 10:10). He is called God’s wrath because God created him, but he is not under God’s control.

In the same way, the destroying angel that killed the firstborn of the Egyptians is one of the spiritual powers of evil. He is called God’s angel because he was created by God and he does not deny his responsibility for doing that. The spiritual powers do great evil, so God takes responsibility for them, even though they had rebelled against him. They were able to kill and destroy because humans had given them authority on earth. Nevertheless, Moses sheets responsibility back to God, because he was their creator. That is a burden that God is willing to carry.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

God and Violence (2)

We must recognise that God created a world in which violence is possible.

  • Angels are powerful and have freedom to make decisions and rebel. The fall of some angels was almost inevitable. Rebelling against a good God naturally made them evil and violent.

  • Humans were created with free will and have the ability to organise and implement violence.

  • Humans have the capacity to form powerful nations and armies that can inflict great violence.

God gave freedom to humans and angels, so he deliberately created a world in which it was always possible for evil to break out. I presume he went ahead anyway, because he knew that he could work it for good bringing benefits that far outweigh any harm that rebels could do on earth.

Statues

Americans are getting really stirred up about statues. They are pulling down statues of people they no longer like.

I do not like any statutes, particularly those of politicians. They are usually made at the peak of their influence, so they are designed to make the politician look good. A statue cannot tell us what the person was like in real life. They cover up their flaws, foibles and mistakes.

If people want politicians to be remembered, they should record their history. That way the good and the bad can be recorded.

The problem with a statue is that two generations after it was made, people have forgotten the politician. They just attach their own myths to it. These often have nothing to do with who the politician really was. The myths connected to statues from the past are frequently used to support one side in current disputes.

The big issue that is not discussed in the United States is the second commandment.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them (Deut 5:8-9).
God does not want his people making carved images of people. He does not want us worshipping them.

I would say that if people are willing to fight over a carved statue of a politician or military leader, someone has slipped into worshipping it. Honouring statues of political and military is idolatry and an insult to our God.

I would be quite happy if all statues of political and military leaders were taken down. The place to remember the is I history books, where their full story can be told, and where we can ignore them if we do not like them.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

God and Violence (1)

Discussions about God and violence are becoming quite common. Many writers are reacting to the violent portrayal of God in the Old Testament and rejecting it because it does not fit with the picture of God that Jesus gave on the cross.

Types of Violence
Before rushing to judgement, we need to distinguish between at least four types of violence that are contained in the Old Testament:
  1. Prophetic warnings of what would happen, if the Israelites rejected God and lost his spiritual and physical protection. It would be very ugly because the spiritual powers are evil and would do terrible things to God’s people. An example is Deuteronomy 28:54-55.

    Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities.
    During a siege of their city, some men would eat the flesh of their own children and refuse to share it. It was a warning of what would happen if they rejected God and lost his protection. This was not God’s will.

  2. Poetic expressions used to make a point. Numbers 23:24 is an example.

    The people rise like a lioness;
    they rouse themselves like a lion
    that does not rest till it devours its prey
    and drinks the blood of its victims.
    Balaam prophesied that Israel would be like a lion. He was not saying that God wanted Israel to drink the blood of its enemies.

  3. Descriptions of how Israel behaved. Israel engaged in some terrible violence, which is recorded in the Old Testament for the sake of the history, but was not God’s will. For example, Jacob’s sons played a trick on the Shechemites and slaughtered them when they had just been circumcised (Genesis 34). This was not God’s will, but human cunning. There are many other situations in the Old Testament, where the Israelites did evil, which was contrary to God’s will. He is not responsible for this violence.

  4. God’s commands and actions. This is the only violence that we should be concerned about. God commanding or doing violence could be a problem.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Making Kingdom Real

In recent years, Christians have become fascinated by the idea of the kingdom of God. “Kingdom” is now the most popular adjective in Christian writing. Yet the political side of the kingdom has been strangely neglected. This is surprising, because a kingdom is a political institution and a form of government. Therefore, a right understanding of politics and government is critical for understanding of Kingdom of God.

The Old Testament tells the story of government. Mostly it was a mess.

Jesus had a very staunch attitude to government. Before he ascended into heaven, he claimed all authority on earth and in heaven. Yet his followers have been confused about their attitude to politics and government.

Politics and government are important, because kings and governments claim authority to exercise legitimate force and coercion. They can pass laws or proclaim regulations and punish anyone who does not obey them with fines or imprisonment. Kings and governments can force people to join their military forces and die fighting wars. They can impose taxes that take income and wealth from people by compulsion.

Governments claim that their authority to use force is legitimate because they are working for the greater good of society. This raises a related question. If a government’s right to use force is legitimate, who should control it? If it is going to be used for good, shouldn’t Christians get into the game? God is the source of all good, so how can he influence the way force is used for good?

Government of God explains how all authority can be submitted to King Jesus without the need for political power.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Elections

In an election, the people vote, but the people do not win.

Political power always wins an election.

And the spiritual powers of evil that manipulate political power never lose.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Donald Trump

Bill Bonner seems to sum up Donald Trump better than anyone.

Just a few short years ago, in 2015, Mr Scaramucci told Fox Business that Mr Trump’s palaver was “anti-American” and that he was just a “hack politician.”

That must have been the most inaccurate assessment of his future boss ever made. “The Donald” is the opposite of a hack. Hacks are reliably dull and serviceable, like a kitchen faucet. Trump is more like a loose fire hose, shooting water all over the place and soaking everyone.

Nor is Trump a politician. Politicians are smooth operators who will say whatever they need to say to get what they want. What is endearing and refreshing about Mr Trump is that he is not a politician.

As near as we can tell, the president is more like a playground bully. In and out of scrapes all his life… failed casinos, failed marriages… vulgar, indecent, and mean… he is as “The Mooch” described him – an “inherited money dude from Queens County” who somehow ended up in the White House.

And anti-American? Wrong again.

Mr. Trump captures the zeitgeist of his era better than anyone – when middle-aged Republicans long to hear the F-word in public... law-abiding Christians from Iowa can’t wait to send a drone to kill people in the Hindu Kush... and every geezer, coast to coast, seems happy to have the feds pay for his pills with money his children and grandchildren haven’t even earned yet.

Mr. Trump is a brawler. Now, he’s in the fight of his life, and he loves it.

Around him, his lackeys, sycophants, and handlers scrap for places at the table – the Goldman guys on the left, protecting the fake money system... the generals on the right, protecting the crony empire.

A third of the country loves him. A third of it hates him. And a third – the most intelligent group – doesn’t give a damn.

Meanwhile, the whole spectacle is entertaining for everyone, like a traffic accident or a nasty divorce. The press can’t take its eyes off Donald Trump.

It’s Trump. All Trump. All the time.

And more.
Donald is a lot of things. He is a skilled street fighter… a practised brawler… a lusty scrapper. But he is woefully unprepared for the battle now upon him.

The president spent his entire career building his brand – big, brash, bold… and somewhat buffoonish.

Like a professional wrestler, he was able to charm the crowds with his brawling style and winner image.

Pick fights. Say outrageous things. Stay in the public eye. Slam his opponents with scurrilous or irrelevant epithets (“Little Marco” Rubio… “Bleeding From a Facelift” Mika Brzezinski… etc.).

Substance didn’t really matter. Trump steaks? Trump University? Trump Airlines? How could any human being possibly be good at so many different things?

Of course, he couldn’t. He just had to be good at building the Trump brand. And that meant sticking to his swashbuckling, confident style.

He was even able to take his brand all the way to the White House, using the same techniques on the campaign trail that he used on his reality TV show.

And once he took office, the plan was simple. He would surround himself with the top guys from the Deep State – the moneymen and the gunmen… the Goldman guys and the generals – and he would go on being Trump.

But something went wrong.

Mr Trump seems genuinely perplexed by it... And he, the president, is doing exactly what he is supposed to do – distracting the crowds while zombies feed upon them and cronies pick their pockets.

People should be happy, he thinks. They should be enjoying the show. Instead, the battle grows more intense and mean.

And the mainstream media – which was supposed to play along by engaging in pointless, showy squabbles with the president – has turned vicious.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

American Nationalism

Anatol Lieven has an interesting book about American nationalism called America Right or Wrong. He says,

America enjoys more global power than any previous state. It dominates the world not only militarily, but also to a great extent culturally (p.1).
Despite this reality, many Americans are frustrated and angry. Lieven explains that they hold deep-rooted beliefs that often conflict with each other, and also with reality.

Most believe that Christian faith has made America great. Yet...

The religious beliefs of large sections of this core population are under constant, daily threat from modern secular culture, above all the mass media.
The extreme tension between fundamentalist religious values and the modern America mass culture, which now surrounds them is an important cause of the mood of beleaguered hysteria on the American right, which so bewilders outside observers (p.9).
Wealth
A “moral economy” prevailed for most of American history, whereby a man who worked hard, was honest and did not drink or take drugs could be assured of a steadily rising income, enough to support himself and his wife in their old age and go give his children a head start in social advancement through education (p.219).
Unfortunately, this seems to have stopped working.
Perhaps of equal importance in the long term will be the relative decline in recent decades in the real incomes of the American middle classes where these groups are situated socially.
This decline has had the effect of forcing more and more women to work, thereby undermine traditional family structures even among those groups most devoted to them (p.9).
Goodness
Like European imperialists of the past, Americans genuinely see their country’s national interests as coterminous with goodness, civilisation, progress and all the interests of humanity (p.28).
This belief in American innocence, of “original sinlessness” is both very old and very powerful. It plays a tremendously important role in strengthening American nationalism and in diminishing the nation’s willingness to listen to other countries, viewed in their turn as originally sinful (p.53).
Other nations are declared to be irrationally, incorrigibly and unchangeably hostile. This being so, it is obviously pointless to seek compromises with them or try to accommodate their interests and views. And because they are irrational and barbarous, America is free to dictate to them or even conquer them for their own good. (p.17).
Openness
Americans believe they are an open nation, welcoming refugees. Yet the long-standing tendency in American culture and politics reflects an expression of social economic, ethnic and above all racial anxieties.
These anxieties stem from the progressive loss of control over society by the “original” White Angle-Saxon and Scots Irish populations, later joined by others. Connected to these concerns are class anxieties.
In America, the supremely victorious nation of the modern age, large numbers of American feel defeated. The domestic anxieties this feeling of defeat generates spill over into their attitudes to the outside world, with 64 percent of Americans in 2002 agreeing that “our way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence”.
These fears help gives many American nationalists their curiously embittered, mean-spirited and defensive edge, so curiously at variance with America’s image and self-image as a land of success, openness, wealth and generosity. Over the years, the hatred generated by this sense of defeat and alienation has been extended to both domestic and foreign enemies.
Unfulfilled dream
This sense of America not just as an unfilled dream or vision, but also as a country with a national mission, is absolutely central to the American national indemnity and forms the core of the nation’s faith in its own “exceptionalism”. It was inscribed on the Republic’s Great Seal as America’s birth as a united nation Novus Ordo Seclorum: A New Order for the Ages (p.33).
Informally, an important part of the creed is also the belief that the United States embodies and exemplifies the only model of successful modernity in general: “Americans see history as a straight line and themselves standing at the cutting edge of it as representatives for all mankind”.
The myths attendant on the Creed include a very widespread belief that the United States is exceptional in its allegiance to democracy and freedom, and is therefore exceptionally good. And because America is exceptionally good it both deserves to be exceptionally powerful and by nature cannot use its power for evil ends. The American Creed is therefore a key foundation of belief in America’s innate innocence (p.49).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keith Giles

I recently listened to the podcast of an interview of Keith Giles by Preston Sprinkle. I was amazed and impressed.

  • Keith Giles is a trained theologian who has served in many church roles, choosing not to take a salary and working with a church in his house. That does not happen often. Especially one that would consider it a failure if he ended up pastoring a thousand people. He seems to be working out some of the principles that I described in my book called Being Church Where We Live, which describes a radically different model for doing church. It focuses on shared leadership with balanced gifting.

  • Keith goes on to talk about his book called Political Entanglement. The clarity with which he exposed the problem was stunning. Looking from the outside, it is obvious the church’s entanglement with politics is wrong and damaging. So it is great to hear someone from the inside, challenging Christian entanglement with politics.

His talk is worth a listen.

I agree with Keith that politics is not the solution to the problems that Christians are using politics to solve. In my book called Government of God, I advocate a solution based on voluntary sharing and caring, rather than political power. The book explains how a radical model of church can resolve the problems of politics.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

US Foreign Policy

Last weekend, I read a coup of interesting articles about US Foreign Policy.

Michael Brenner argues that American governments assume that, because they are the most technologically advanced and richest nation ever, any objective they choose will be achieved if enough resources are committed to it.

There are features of how the United States makes and executes foreign policy that help to explain why Washington is repeatedly thrown into confusion by unforeseen developments. Most significant is a certain linearity of thinking and action.
Every objective must yield to American know-how, ingenuity and strength of will.
He calls this linear thinking. This belief has several unfortunate side effects.
1. Policy failures caused by contingent developments are not recognized as such – neither the negative outcome, nor the disruption of the original plan by unforeseen developments. Hence, nothing is learned.
2. Unforeseen impediments are treated not only as troublesome surprises, but as somehow illegitimate and offensive…. Of particular interest is that developments which are entirely natural and logical given the circumstances are pronounced are unnatural and surprising because they disturb the linearity of American thinking.
3. In other words, the linear mindset blocks out all non-conforming realities in the present and those contingent elements which might arise in the future. Nor does it pay the slightest attention to how achievement of that objective, or some approximation to it, could provoke reactions that carry new dangers and new threats down the road.
4. Yet another tack taken by linear thinkers to avoid confronting the full implications of their limitations is the insistence on “another try.” That persistence has little to do with cool-headed determination of the objective’s importance. Nor is it justified on the grounds that the fly in the ointment (monkey wrench in the gears) that doomed previous efforts has been identified and removed. Rather, it is an expression of a primitive belief in the ultimate triumph of the will. That is an attitude that fits well the deeply rooted American “can-do” spirit. And that failure is not an acceptable word in the American lexicon.
5. The most extreme method utilized by the linear mindset to prevent constructive or ambiguous factors from disturbing their pre-set plans is to negate them – to ignore their existence.
6. A variant of this particularly immature psychological ploy involves the disparaging the importance of unforeseen occurrences.
Brenner gives examples for each side effect.

Harvey M Sapolosky gives further explanation.

Absent a rival on the scale and power of the now dead Soviet Union, the United States is a very secure country. We are the richest country in the world, protected by two big oceans and a military that is second to none. Our population is big (we are the third most populous nation) and resourceful, claiming the leadership in nearly every line of science and technology. And we spend a fortune on our defense, and have done so for decades. So mostly we meddle....
Our wars, though constant, are without victory... There are no wins because we really don’t care that much. Our security isn’t at risk. Win, lose or draw, we are safe. The other people live where we fight.
One president gets us involved in some distant conflict because he fears being shamed for not leading a global posse to right the wrong. The next president tries to get us out because our allies in the fight are shirkers and/or totally corrupt and the costs of buttressing them are too high. Mostly we are half in and half out of every crisis. Nothing requires a fight to the finish... we are drawn to—and easily distracted from—every fight.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Political Change

Some time ago, I sensed that a spirit of destruction had set up a throne the gate of the city of Wellington (the capital city of New Zealand).

We appeared to be heading up to a boring election, but in the last two weeks, we have seen the careers of two national political leaders being destroyed.

The first leader to be destroyed Andrew Little was the leader of the main opposition party in New Zealand. He was a sincere man, but his position was weakened by poor opinion polls, and some unwise comments to the news media that exposed him to a move to replace him. The new leader of the Labour party is a younger woman with charisma and television presence.

The second leader to be destroyed was co-leader of the Green Party. She resigned after coming intense media pressure. She had announced that twenty years ago when she was a sole mother she had given false information when applying for a benefit.

This is not politics as usual, but a sign of what the spirits of destruction and confusion when working together.

The general election is only eight weeks away. I suspect that another national political leader out of Wellington will be destroyed before that day comes.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Prophets to the Nation

God has been restoring his prophetic ministry. He now has many prophets to his church, but still very few prophets to the nation.

Prophetic people should be clearer about who they are addressing. Many say they have a word for America (or the United States) when really it is a word to the Christians in America, ie the church.

The destiny of the church and the nation can be quite different, especially when the church is a minority.

Many Christians in America feel like they are under pressure. God is telling them to press in and he will turn their situation around and lift them up. Many prophetic people are speaking that way to America, but this is actually a message for the church in America.

God's message to the nation and its political leaders is different. America is the most powerful nation in the world, but it seems to have lost its way. The leaders of the United States need a clear word from prophets to the nation, not an encouraging, but irrelevant word from prophets to the church.