a different zion(ism)

Stephen Sizer is in NZ.  He preached this past Sunday at our church, and is doing a seminar called “7 Biblical Responses to Popular Zionist Assumptions” tomorrow night.  It’s been good revisiting the whole Zionism issue again, and refreshing my understanding of the issue.

The Zionists are concerned to demonstrate that God will not ‘forget his people Israel’, and that we should not either. For them, God’s faithfulness to Israel (including his modern day restoration of them back to their ancestral land) should be accompanied by our support of Israel – theologically, financially & politically.  My understanding, however, is that the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus exceeds and eclipses all (not some) aspects of the Old Covenant.  The types and shadows of Israelite religion (prophet, priest and king, law, land/’inheritance’ and temple) reach their climax and fulfillment in Jesus, who is the final Prophet, the High Priest, the King of kings; and in the Law of Christ (‘love’), the Inheritance of the entire Earth, and in Christ the new Temple.  In short: God keeps God’s promises in God’s way, and he has chosen to keep them in and through Christ.  God has been faithful to his own purposes for humanity (including Israel) and creation in and through his self-giving, self-donating, loving act in and through Christ.  Nothing more is needed for God to demonstrate his faithfulness.  Christ is enough.  As Paul says (2 Corinthians 1:20), “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes.”

There is one response I want to address, and it is the complaint of ‘over-spiritualising’ God’s promises.  These people are unhappy with an understanding in which all of the tangible, here-and-now promises of God are ‘spiritualised away’.  Here, I’d want to point out that it is Christ and his people, the Church which fulfill the promises.  It’s just that the aspects (prophet, priest, etc.) are lower-case, post-Christ versions of their ultimate fulfillment in and through Him.  There are prophets in the Church, and we still have a priestly calling to the world, to bring his kingdom.  We are the ‘living stones’ of the new Temple.  And the law of Love is quite literally the most down-to-earth thing you could imagine, to be lived out in the entire earth.  Only in a radical dualistic framework would ‘spiritualising’ something make it less relevant for physical, ‘earthy’ things.

rights and responsibilities

Three recent events, a complaint about a sermon, a movie about Margaret Thatcher and a FB conversation about gun laws, have me reflecting on the tendencies of ‘left-wingers’ and ‘right-wingers’.  Both left and right folk will express concern for both ‘rights’ and ‘responsibilities’, but at different times.

On the topic of social welfare:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the poor/unemployed
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the poor/unemployed

On the topic of gun laws:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of gun owners
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of gun ownership/use

On the topic of war:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of all humans to have peace
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of defending peace

On the topic of abortion:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the woman
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the man and woman

On the topic of ‘the environment’:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of individuals and businesses
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of individuals and businesses

In all of these scenarios, I am interested in embracing the tension between BOTH rights AND responsibilities.  I’m interested in BOTH short-term practicalities, AND long-term wisdom.

I’m interested in social policy that is both generous and sustainable – that avoids the extremes of too much or too little assistance, which (ironically) both end up cementing the poor in their poverty.

I’m interested in gun laws that are both practical and wise – that avoid the foolish extremes of taking guns away or assuming that no regulation is needed at all – both of which will end up causing harm.

I’m interested in a military policy that is both prepared to use force, and seeks to be accountable to human rights – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic and passive pacifism on one hand, and a short-sighted/arrogant agression on the other.

I’m interested in an abortion policy that is committed to the quality and quantity of life for both the pre-born human and the mother (and father, family…) – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic, legislate-heaven-to-earth, fantasy on one hand, and a careless, inhumane, abortion-as-contraception nightmare on the other.

I’m interested in environmental policy that uses both legislation and education to motivate people and businesses to care for creation – avoiding the extremes of avoidance and assumptions that all is OK on one hand, and aggressive, undemocratic pushing through of eco-laws on the other.

finished

Well, it’s been a good little while since I’ve posted, because I’ve been finishing my undergrad degree :)  I’ve turned in my last essay just this Sunday, which was one of two larger (6,000 word) research projects.  I attach links to the PDFs below.

Upon graduation in March, I will officially have three qualifications, one related to building houses, and two related to ‘building up’ people :)

AAS (Associate of Applied Science: Building Materials Merchandising)
DipPL (Diploma of Pastoral Leadership)
BappTheol (Bachelor of Applied Theology)

I’m not sure what my posting regularity or content will be like.  Time will tell.  But anyway, here are those PDFs.

  • orientation –disorientation –reorientation(PDF) a thematic integrative research project on homosexuality –Myk Habets, supervisor
  • alternative currency: An Economic Contrast of the Harlot & Bride in John’s Apocalypse & Implications for Alternative Ecclesiology in Consumptive Culture(PDF) theological research paper –Andrew Picard, supervisor

prophecy & politics

…funny how most (not all!) American Christians are happy to ‘get political’ when it comes to abortion and gay marriage (‘Oh yes, let’s fight for godly legislation!’), but scream ‘socialism’ when it comes to issues like benefits for poor, out of work, or infirm people – or (shock, horror) free health care…

Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims—
Laws that make misery for the poor,
that rob my destitute people of dignity,
exploiting defenseless widows,
taking advantage of homeless children.

What will you have to say on Judgment Day,
when Doomsday arrives out of the blue?
Who will you get to help you?
What good will your money do you?

Isaiah 10:1-3 (The Message)

rapists into lovers?

Just reading those intro chapters of Genesis, and I noticed what seems quite a contrast between the human vocation statements in the two creation stories.

  • Gen 1:28 says humans are to ‘fill‘ (מָלֵא mala – be full; fill) and ‘subdue‘ (כָּבַשׁ kabash – be raped; subjugate; be humiliated; etc.) the earth…
  • Then Gen 2:15 says they are to ‘tend‘ (עָבַד abad – work, serve) and ‘keep‘ (שָׁמַר shamar – keep, watch, preserve) it.

Quite striking! The first has images of conquest; of a top-down power play… The second has images of care-giving; of a bottom-up servant-hood…

I wonder if this would be the starting place for a biblical theme of violence?  Perhaps, just as there is a tension between priestly (pro-temple) accounts and prophetic (pro-justice) accounts in the OT, this also evidences a tension between understandings concerning violence and war…

…and just as Jesus agreed with the prophets (over against the ‘religious’ priests), he also agreed with those who were the servants and preservers of creation (over against the violent ones who would kill for religious liberty)!

Thoughts and insights welcome.

teenagers

I’ve had recent ponderings about the increasing violence, recklessness, selfishness, and hedonism of many young NZers represented in the news.   Oh sure, there are some sterling exceptions, but not enough.  I’m a pastor for youth, and I am for youth, not against them… but the reality of how things are saddens me.

I’ve said it in person, though probably not here: though humans have always been and will always be a mixed bag and swinging pendulum of both wretchedness and radiance, mod-western teens are an historical/geographical rarity.  The difference: the very recent and unwise concept of ‘teenager’ (being [be]t[w]een the age of child and adult).  It’s post WWII stuff – that recent.  These human beings have almost certainly the highest options-to-responsibilities ratio in the history of humanity.

We expect almost nothing from them, and that’s what we get.  We expect them to consume resources & time and many do just that and no more.  Meanwhile, the rest of the 13-19 yr olds around the world and throughout human history were a) viewed as an adult (usually entering adulthood through rites of passage – such as a Bar Mitzvah), and b) had the responsibilities of an adult.

At home, at school, and in towns/cities, these kids need jobs to do.  They have intellect, energy and creativity and it so often gets wasted.  Here’s to them getting the support and guidance (starting with a few parents who need a rather massive wake-up call) they need to be all they can be!

fiery survivor of abortion

Here (I don’t know if you have to have a Facebook account or not).

On emotion. This morning an abortion-activist (pro) was on TV – then this evening I get forwarded this.  My wife’s comment about the activist this morning was that she seemed far too ‘clinical’ about a very sensitive issue.

On free speech. Both sides (and various positions in between) have reasons to say that emotive statements from the other side are offensive, and hurtful.  Whilst I strive for an approach that tries to respect emotions and protect life, when push comes to shove, life is more worth protecting than emotions.

On reality. The reality is a rainbow of varied circumstances.  In the mix of those considering abortion will be a tiny percentage of women who’ve tragically suffered rape, incest, or a combination of the two.  Also in the mix will be a less-than-tiny percentage of women (and their absentee male partners and absentee community/family/friend support) who just don’t want to be bothered with the responsibility of parenthood (not to mention a sexual relationship).  It is naive to say that selfishness is not part of the picture, and non-PC to say that it is.

On relationships. Abortion is one part of a problem with sexual ethics, which is one part of a problem with human relationships in general.  Sadly, modern/western (read: over-convenienced, over-entertained, over-bandwidth-ed, over-socialised, etc.) people have few friends/family that they have a deep/trusting enough of a relationship to be able to a) get the support they need (before and after the unplanned/unwanted/inconvenient pregnancy), and b) have loving truth spoken to them when needed.

On urgency. Whilst screaming ‘murder’, ‘genocide’ or using phrases like ‘silent holocaust’ are maybe not advisable, this is still a freaking life & death issue.

On law. If you know me at all, I’m not for Christians trying to enforce our beliefs through law.  But if the role of government is not to protect life (survival first, quality of life and personal ‘rights’ second), then I don’t know what government is for.  This is one hairy beast of a problem, and I don’t claim easy fixes.  In isolated and short-term cases, an abortion of a 3-day old foetus may look ‘better’ than a drugged-addicted teenage couple being non-parents.  Though there has to be some form of legislation to protect life and people from their own selfishness and indifference, merely making abortion illegal wouldn’t solve the problem.  Whatever one thinks about free abortions or free contraception, etc., hopefully we can agree that families, communities, and yes, even nations need to stop band-aid-ing the problem and address the sexuality and relational confusion that underlies all of this.  “To each their own” (or “live and let live”) is so indifferent and uncaring a philosophy it might as well be hatred.

On increasingly moralistic society. Has anyone else noticed how moralistic society is?  Ads telling people to confront each other about their drinking, and warning people about speeding, and a host of other examples.  This is surface stuff that belies a deep uncertainty about just what to do about some issues.  Tolerance, like ‘rights’, only goes so far.  Convictions, values, responsibilities and real community will go further toward societal change than more laws and more guilt.

On long blog posts. Sorry y’all.

two water related parables

We need the healthy idealism reflected in the parable of the starfish.  One single act has value even in a sea (or in this case, beach) of hopelessness.

But we also need the wisdom reflected in the parable of the river.  We must not fight the problem, but find the source of the problem.  (Reminds me of the Dom Helder Camara quote: “I feed the poor, I’m called a saint.  I ask why the poor have no food, I’m called a communist.”)

easy hard

quick reflections:

  • It’s easy to paint Islam as a) inherently evil/violent or b) docile/dormant and harmless – it’s hard to patiently assess what Islam is actually like.
  • It’s easy to tell a woman considering abortion a) that she’s a murderer or b) that whatever choice she makes is the right choice – it’s hard to journey patiently, lovingly, understandingly, etc-ingly, with not only the her, but the father, her family, her friends, her community in and through difficult and complex times.
  • (repeat with all kinds of issues…)