Archives For Theological Reflection

I’ve never really fitted all that well into the establishment. So I often ask God: If I’m not Christian enough for some Christians, but too Christian for the World, am I Christian enough?

The reply is swift: “it’s not about you. It’s about what I’ve done for you. No one is enough by themselves. Others may give off the veneer of self-righteousness, and ostracise those deemed unworthy, but remember this: ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. Not one is righteous. You are righteous because you are in Christ; He alone is righteousness and it’s His righteousness that you wear. No one is Christian enough if they look at others, smile and think to themselves that they are beyond His righteousness and can stand on a righteousness of their own. No matter how holy they sound. You are mine and I am yours. My grace is sufficient –

‘…he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2.Cor.12:9-10)

Guest post by Greg Hutana.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video on the Top 30 things to have prepared in case the Government or Financial systems that we have grown up with should come to an abrupt end.

The first on the list was to have some cold hard cash on hand, if indeed this should happen, while cash is still legal tender. The second was a real surprise. I was dumb struck to find, that according to this commentator’s reasoning, the second was to be debt free.

The person went on to explain that in a crisis like this most people assume that they get a free pass on their debts. In fact this is not the case. Instead the wealthy and those in power, turn to the function of a debtor’s gaol in order to continue having control and influence over people’s lives.

Now is this a fact or not? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but it might be worth investigating some of the small print in your mortgage contracts or credit card contracts to find out.

I realised after my first wife took the houses and left me with nothing, that in fact God had been generous with me in a roundabout way. Overnight I became free of my mortgage. I still had to work for five more years in a cleaning business to payoff my other debt’s, but today I’m debt free.

The Bible talks about not being in debt. Some may just see it as a story or a parable and not all that valid for today, but I believe it’s there to help us not be slaves to this world and its system. It’s very much valid for us today.

The Scriptures and this conversation are not meant to make you feel like crap or condemn you because you might be in debt to your eye balls, but rather to potentially help you to make new decisions around debt and the accumulation of more debt in the future.

People often say to me, “but Greg I have a house I can sell, or my kids must have the best schooling and health, so in fact I am not in debt, but instead, I’m sowing into equity for my kids future.”

The problem with this is that when you lose your job, fall ill or the housing market collapses, the people who loaned you the money, won’t want your brick house, your kids wonderful teeth or good education as payment. They will want the cold hard cash that you owe them, or something else far worse. The equity you thought you had will vanish.

If this teaching stirs up something in you then please don’t let it be condemnation. Let it be rather be a call to action.

One of the main reasons the modern church is so powerless is because the people of faith are as broke as everyone else around them, so how can you sow into your neighbour’s situation when your own is so dire?

Every month I’m able to be generous for no other reason then I have surplus. I have overflow. Will I ever own a house again? Maybe not, especially when I keep giving the savings for a deposit away, but God is big enough and he is more than able.

I’m fortunate, my ex-wife has a knack for milking the worlds systems for all their worth. My kids will never go without. Even though I don’t agree with everything she does, I thank God for her and her wisdom in this area. She has no idea that God has been able to give me confidence to be generous because of her skills.

God is big enough to care for my girls future, pretty awesome ha. God bless you and keep you in the faith. May you find the strength to be generous and work from abundance in regard to your neighbour, on your journey towards being debt free.

‘Keep yourselves free of the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” So we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”‘ (Hebrews 13:5-6, ESV)

Greg is 47, and currently lives in New Zealand.

He is an elder at Beth Melek Jewish Community and a member of Maori Initiatives, helping indigenous people do better. Maori Initiatives runs a podcast, which can be listened and subscribed to via itunes.

He is the proud father of two daughters, and by his own admission is “a terrible example of Christ, who Christ still loves anyway!”

 

 


Image credit: Urfan Hasanov on Unsplash

An article entitled Will the bombing bring peace?’ authored by Johann Christoph Arnold, appeared on the Plough publishing blog feed on the 11th of September 2014.

Not long after that, Tim Costello, Uniting Church minister and CEO of World Vision Australia, authored a piece headlined: ‘Going to war no time for joy

The general flow of both articles advocates a caveat that falls just short of a protest in favour of non-involvement in military action against the self-proclaimed and militaristic ‘Islamic State movement’.

I appreciated the authors caution and respect the underlying pacifism expressed by their concerns.

However, I found both articles disappointing to read.

Whilst written well, they seem reactionary, unnecessary and  out of touch with what the majority really think about this subject.

No healthy individual or civilised community wants war. At the same time, Christians don’t have to walk around blindly ignoring the true nature of a clear and determined enemy, all in the name of peace. Particularly an enemy, such as I.S (Islamic State) who has already proven their hostile intentions towards Christians, Jews and the West in general.

Costello and Arnold’s historical comparisons are fair. However, I’m yet to see the same euphoria that was exhibited prior to World War one, in responses to the West’s involvement in this war against I.S.

What is of immediate concern is the shock and disillusionment at the continued allegiance of the pulpit with what can only be called a resurgence of ‘positive Christianity’. (Seen in the alignment of the pulpit with excessive political correctness, supported by a Gospel that has been emptied of its true content.)[i] Where Costello is wrong is not only in his assumptions about people celebrating war, but also his inability to see the compromise and surrender of theology into the service of ideology.

People aren’t celebrating the West going to War against I.S. In fact the biggest enemy at the moment is complacency and indifference in the face of a determined enemy. An enemy determined to make an enemy of the West and destroy all who show any form of dissent or opposition.

Warnings against complacency and indifference come at us from different historical voices. One of the strongest comes from pacifist and evolutionary biologist, Vernon Kellogg. His observations of the Germans and their adherence to ideology during World War One, demonstrates the need to take action in the face of a socio-political ideology determined to make itself lord of all:

‘For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo-Darwinism [social Darwinism], the Allmacht of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and Kultur…I was never convinced. That is, never convinced that for the good of the world the Germans should win this war, completely and terribly.And this conviction, thus gained, meant the conversion of a pacifist to an ardent supporter, not of War, but of this war; of fighting this war to a definitive end.’
(Headquarters Nights (1917:23).

When conflict is imposed on us, a good percentage of the time it will mean being drawn into a position where most just “push backs” are twisted. They are then used by aggressors, and spectators alike, as evidence of a ‘disproportionate’, ‘inappropriate’ and unethical response.

Enablers, enable abuse. They do so by their silence and discounting of the severity of evidence before their eyes. Enablers don’t want to get involved, because they either have something to gain or something to lose. Fear of retribution or loss of something personally profitable, trumps standing up for the truth.

Instances include Israel’s recent response to ideological belligerents in Gaza and the West. Israel had two fronts, Gaza and the internet. The Israeli defence force had to fight off a constant stream of misleading information that was circulating on social media.

In the case of Australia, our involvement, as the Prime Minister has made clear, is to assist in the defence and provision of humanitarian aid to innocent civilians. Australian involvement is not to make war for the sake of war.

In answer to Tim Costello and Johann Christoph Arnold: nobody wants a war outside those bringing war to us (and perhaps some extremist fringe dwellers that see this as an opportunity to further their own self interests).

An abysmal situation cannot be held back by passivity, apathy, a will-to-power, appeasement or a poorly informed soft diplomacy. 

Responsible action requires the restraint of faith in Christ, open communication, purpose, a unified team and the courage to dedicate a wide variety of resources to neutralise blatant threats to the innocent.

The old challenges of socialist-fascist imperialism, with its deification of men, society and sin, and the new masks it wears, must be answered. The end and actions must not be driven by an apathy, that thrives on the selective protests and permissions of the lords of neo-tolerance.

With regards to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, “just war” advocates do not have to dig very deep to make their case. The basics of which are expressed, in the often quoted statement made by Kennedy who said: Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

The atmosphere which surrounds us, illustrates the need for a firm, restrained response. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the world is seeing the resurgence of fascism. When we witness mass rallies and violence under flags with White script on Black fabric in the East, and rainbow flags that are paraded, in the name of pride down main streets in the West, what we are witnessing is the rise of fascism proper.

Under one there is war, gaol for dissidents and beheadings. Under the other, there is indoctrination, re-education classes, and law suits against anyone who dare to stand by valid opposing view.  

If, as Costello implies, there is any joy being taken in belligerency, we would do well to start our investigation there.

There is no doubt that the path ahead is treacherous. There is no room for belligerency from the pulpit, whether that be in support of Left or Right ideological platforms, but what cannot be forgotten is:

‘…personal safety should not excuse[s] timidity in the pulpit’ [or podium]. 
“It is not that I and all the rest of us have said too much in our sermons, but rather that we have said far too little.”
(Paul Schneider) [ii]

If we completely follow along in agreement with Costello and Arnold, or with those who demand allegiance to their views without question, we, the Church may get to the point where laments like Schieder’s are common place once again.

It’s not at all that surprising to see parallels between the past and present.

The Abyss is opposed to love. Yet the Abyss and it’s agents frame themselves as being the very epitome of love.

So we stand in agreement with Ezekiel, Clement of Rome and Ambrose of Milan:

‘As I live, says the Lord, I take not pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather [his correction]; that he should turn from his way and live’
(Ez.18:21-24)

But in doing so we also hear and act on the clear challenge of Clement:

‘Let us cleave, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.’
(Clement, First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter XV)

References (not otherwise linked):

[i] I am paraphrasing a statement made by Dean Stroud in ‘Preaching in the Shadow of Hitler’ (2013, p.8).

[ii]Paul Schneider, the 1st Pastor to die in a Concentration camp, in a letter to his wife from his jail cell on Nov. 14, 1937 on Preaching in Nazi Germany’ – Stroud, D. 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.47

Photo credit: ‘Early 1960s. Before the construction of the Berlin Wall West German soldiers stare down the East after a young woman makes it across the line to the West.’ – Drive Thru History.

(Encore post. Originally posted Sep 21, 2014)

Creating fear about an apocalyptic event such as “global warming” gives those espousing it, the power to monopolise government initiatives, elections and national economies. In short: they coerce the people into surrendering something for absolutely nothing. In this case, the thing surrendered only benefits those demanding the surrendering. The real catastrophe is in the daylight robbery this allows.

Along with fossil fuels, fear powers their personal jets, pads their bank accounts and helps them position puppet politicians into places of power, where those politicians can be used to further “the crusade for the planet”.

Whilst I agree that humans can, and do, have a negative impact on the environment, and that we ALL are ordained by God to be good stewards of what He created – with the rise of electricity and water bills, also comes a rise in the power of those telling us that the “sky is falling”. With so much profit, celebrity and political power involved, something about the environmental scare mongering doesn’t quite add up.

Is it possible that the end goal, of this holy war for the planet, is absolute servitude to an un-elected bureaucratic caste, and its ideological utopia? A utopia open only to those who are always in agreement with the dominating views. History lends to us the catastrophic example that follows blind allegiance to such movements. Man and woman, equated with God, makes the claim to have taken God’s place. As a result, the führer (or un-elected bureaucratic caste) is revered as knowing what’s best for the fatherland. Therefore the people must trust the führer as though he (or they) were God.

Thankfully, the West isn’t quite at this stage of total surrender to totalitarian agendas. By correcting any bias in their assumptions and opinions, or letting scientists, theologians, and politicians, who present an opposing hypothesis speak freely, the opportunity for false prophets to seize total control is removed.

Fact, freedom and reasoned compassion all stand in the way of selfish ambition and the lust for power. Fact and freedom are threats to the paranoia used through manipulative propaganda because it forces dialogue about the issues. In the example of “global warming” such an approach recognises that the science isn’t settled. It recognises the need to examine the issue from differing angles. In short: to observe and then observe some more in order to truly see what is there and what is not there.

As it is with all authentic science, conclusions that rest solely on hypothesis, circumstantial evidence, inference and opinion remain fluid. They are an open question and must remain so. At least until hard facts can be presented. Facts free from questionable models, subjectivism and speculation. Facts that are free from manipulative propaganda and its master, political indoctrination.

Jacques Ellul provides a helpful look into why we must be on our guard against all forms of manipulation. When it comes to any discussion about environmental issues, or activism in general, it’s helpful to filter the information by asking questions of its source and content.

This is important because we have to ask whether or not, what exists (as part of the flood of papers, news reports and organisations that surround us), is an

‘organised myth that is trying to take hold of us and invade every area of our consciousness, stimulating a feeling of exclusiveness [if we conform], and producing a biased attitude’ along with it. (Ellul, 1965:11)

Are we being duped by slippery sales techniques? Sold to us by slipperier salesmen and women?

Without question, what we see today is the mass use of propaganda for dubious causes. For example, manipulative propaganda is used to force total allegiance to LGBT activism, open borders and environmentalism.[1]  It would be difficult to find someone not affected by the psychological warfare and political indoctrination at work behind all three.

The reason being,

‘education methods play an immense role in political indoctrination (Lenin, Mao)…One must utilise the education of the young to condition them to what comes later. The schools and all methods of instruction are transformed under such conditions, with the child integrated into the conformist group in such a way that the individualist is tolerated not by the authorities but by his peers. Religion and the churches are constrained to hold on to their places in the orchestra [of totalitarianism and political indoctrination]’ (Ellul, 1965:13)

In the case of the environmentalism, whether or not “global warming” is the man-made demon many say it is, or whether it is part of a cycle not recorded by human hands, is beside the point.

The more immediate questions are: What is the average citizen being sold? Why are they being sold it? Who is selling it to them? Why are the scientists who present a different point of view, seemingly and immediately silenced with threats, boycotts, and abuse?[2]

It’s also important to understand that propaganda is a drug, once you’re hooked into the system, you’re hooked into the system.

Propaganda ‘is not a stimulus that disappears quickly; it consists in successive impulses…it is a continuous action…at no point does it fail to subject its recipient to its influence. As soon as one effect wears off, it is followed by a new shock.’ (Ellul, 1965:18)[3]

In order to keep people surrendering something for absolutely nothing, like a lab-rat those people need to be hit again with a ‘new shock’. Once this wears off, a ‘new shock’ has to be given. This is done so as to keep people surrendering something to those authorities and officials, who are free to demand it, but who give nothing back in exchange for it.

This helps to explain the dehumanising language used largely by the Left in the socio-political arena. Logical fallacies are easier to believe because they contain an element of truth within them. As long as it’s enough to hook someone into taking a side, the percentage of truth doesn’t matter.

The antidote to propaganda is dialogue, for ‘propaganda ceases where simple dialogue begins’ (Ellul, 1965:6). Through dialogue we can sift truth from untruth. By thinking for ourselves we can navigate lies and call them out. In seeking dialogue with the issues, and not believing every manufactured-for-effect sound-byte from the 6 o’clock news, or by trusting every meme shared to social media, we can sift fact from fiction; opinion and inference; and challenge what is sold to us.

We can move beyond the propaganda, understanding that not all that glitters is gold; and that unless people question what it is that the auctioneers are selling, we come to the subject with the head of a fool, only to find ourselves walking away with two.[4]


Notes & References:

[1] I acknowledge that this is also used by the opposing sides. I am reluctant to say that the opposing sides do this in the same dishonest way or to the same damaging degree.

[2] Quite a few examples of this exist. It’s universal knowledge and therefore I have no real reason to weigh down this point by padding it with example after example, in order to prove my point.

[3] See footnote 1

[4] Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venus.

Ellul, J. 1965. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes Vintage Books

© Rod Lampard, 2018. Photo by Elijah O’Donell on Unsplash

What people think matters; how people see us matters. We anchor ourselves to the opinions and values of others. Men and women latch their value to the people we see as giving us value. Our worth is then neatly packaged into the confined space of that other person’s thoughts and whims. This is all okay up to a point. Humans were built for community, we need good government and organisation; men and women, living in fellowship, not in isolation, are human together.[i]

That people tether themselves to the thoughts of others without caution is, however, a potential disaster. For example, when we get down to bottom line of Social Media, unless a person is selling something, the heartbeat of those platforms is either genuine sharing or sharing because of a fear of loneliness and isolation. What makes these platforms thrive is the role they play in anchoring one person to a community, whereby that person gains some form of self-worth, validation and completeness as a human. If none of this were true, there would be no rhyme of reason for social media.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the foundation of that self-worth, validation and completeness is at its core faulty and dysfunctional.  If a person gets the feeling that they are accepted and wanted, that’s all that matters. Questions like, “What if that anchor isn’t locked in the right place? What if that anchor only has the appearance of providing safety and isn’t actually safe?” aren’t considered.

What doesn’t seem to matter is whether or not the opinions and values of others are valid, just or holy. These factors seem to be rarely considered. Questioning those who cross-examine us in such a way, is something very few are brave enough to do.

Few want to be a source of healthy conflict. Few want to cut loose an anchor for fear of getting tossed on to rocks and being carried away by violent seas.  Even when deep down they know that the anchor is dragging them down into the abyss, most don’t see it, or want to see it, for fear of losing the very thing that they think grounds them to a sense of worth, purpose, community and inclusion. Oblivious to the false security the unsecured anchor provides, when the storm hits, the ship goes down or gets carried away regardless of how they or others feel.

The reality is that people set standards and draw opinions about us behind our backs. People talk. We are looked at, measured, weighed, judged and then valued. Our position in any community is just as good as our appearance, and our last great performance.  Our worth in those communities is just as good as our silence, compliance and applause for those in positions of power. Sometimes this is done willingly because we want to appease those in power because they have the ability to thrust us into power.

The reality is this: the ambitious, conform. The covetous, charm. The selfish, betray. The prideful play power games; the greedy, lie, and the jealous, manipulate in order to gain. Social media platforms can be just another tool for anyone like this to gain superiority over others. If you can be used as a pawn in this process, you will be.

As stated by Jeremiah, the “weeping” prophet, who had a firsthand experience with rejection and abuse from within his community, the heart is deceitful above all things…who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:9)

In a recent post to their Facebook wall, Sanctuary International Matrix posted the question:

“Dear Pastor Bob: I’m tired of trying to be a good Christian. As hard as I try, I still get criticized for what I do wrong. My Christian friends keep reminding me that I’m not a very good example. I’m considering leaving the faith. I’m just too miserable.”

I agree with Beeman’s response:

“Sometimes the best examples to me, have been the people who fight the hardest. That fall down the most and get up every time. Because I identify with them, and I want the hope that they have. That’s what the Bible says: First Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

It’s worth stopping to think about what anchors us. It’s worth asking what our anchor is secured to; investigating to see whether or not our anchor is secure, or if our anchor only has the appearance of being secured. [ii] If it doesn’t, pull the anchor up and relocate it.

If I measured, or tethered my membership criteria in the Church by the standards of others, and not by what God had set for us all, in Jesus Christ, I’d have quit a long, long time ago.

The struggles are real, but keep both eyes on the prize because inhaled grace ignites.[iii]

‘…Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.’ (Hebrews 6:18-19)


References:

[i] ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (Karl Barth CD. 3:1 p.294)

[ii] “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:21, ESV)

[iii] ‘there is no more intimate friend of sound human understanding than the Holy Spirit’
(Karl Barth C.D. IV.4:28).

Photo credit:  Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

I recently had the privilege of being a guest on an XYZ Google hangouts panel, which included XYZ’s editor-in-chief David Hiscox, & Matt from Matty’s Modern Life.

A few things worth mentioning: this was a first for me, though I don’t think this factor took too much away from the overall discussion. It was great to sit down with David and Matt to discuss, in brief, the finer points of homeschooling, Resurrection, freedom in Christ and cultural Christianity.

The panel was live streamed to YouTube and the link can be found here:

I’ve found that one of the best times to listen to Mozart’s Requiem in D-minor is during a rainstorm. There’s no other accompaniment better suited to the epic melancholic composition, than that of heavy rain hitting the roof. Water spilling out over flooded gutters and raindrops bouncing off fences.

Sometime between now, up until the close of Lent, take a few minutes to listen through one of the most significant pieces of music ever written by human hands. Since a sigh turned towards heaven is translated into a prayer by the Holy Spirit, it’s possible that the heart prays through music. If the latter is indeed as true as the former, may it be so:

.

Rex tremendae majestatis,

Qui salvandos salvas gratis,

Salve me, fons pietatis.

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Recommended performance of the complete Requiem in D-Minor, courtesy of Arsys Bourgogne, YouTube.

Link to the complete English translation of Requiem in D-Minor, courtesy of the Manly Warringah Choir.