Saturday, June 21, 2008

No Criticism says Henry

I heard Graham Henry claim on TV3 last night that he has not heard any criticism in Christchurch. Well I am sure he doesn't read this, but here is some;

Dear Graham,
Until last year I was your greatest fan. I believed you to be one of the truly great coaches of all time and modern era. I forgave your Lions loss as I think you were on a hiding to nothing.

However, you lost the plot last year!

I criticise your coaching for these reasons:
1. You should not have taken the AB's out of the Super 14 in 2007.
2. You should have retained the same combination through 2008 apart from one or two of the weaker opponents to enforce combinations and match hardness.
3. You should have organised some pre-World Cup matches in Europe against the big guns in preparation.
4. You should have played the A team throughout the World Cup.
5. You should have picked Mauger, Jack, Howlett in the 22 for the quarter final.
6. You should have resigned on return from the World Cup.
7. You should not continue your futile rotation.

So, Graham, there is some criticism. You should resign from the AB coaching job now and let Steve Hanson take over.

Are you listening?

Why Rotation is Wrong

The latest AB selection illustrates why the AB's struggle when the heat is on. The switch of Smith and Kahui, the addition of Thompson for Kaino and the addition of Wolf are all mistakes to me. Here we had the opportunity to cement a combination. Nonu and Smith have been in and out over the years and the chance was there to have a third match in a row to continue to develop confidence and combinations. Yet, Henry makes the change again. I think this is wrong. They should have stuck to the A team. Why:
1. It disrupts combinations at a time when these people are all growing in confidence and getting into the rhythm of playing.
2. There is no need for rotation. Injuries are certain to come to players and rotation will come around naturally and there is no need to do this.
3. The interchange rules mean that players can be rotated during games when games are won while retaining combinations.
4. Rotation means that people get caps too easily. This cheapens the AB jersey and enhances the public's disatisfaction and disinterest in test rugby which is now 'friendlies' between the real games which come around every four years. AB jersey's should be the hardest things to get in the world.
5. The Super 14 is a good enough competition to discern whether a person is good enough for test rugby. Test jersey's should be so hard to get, that when they are won, the person will die for the jersey. They are too easy!
6. The giving out of the jersey to people on a rotation basis bumps up their value on the world market and adds to the player drain. A player who realises that they are only ever going to be a fringe player can take the money and run, their one or two caps meaning their asking value is increased. Henry is helping drive players values up and thus increasing the drain.
7. Form comes and goes and if we drop players on the basis of form and not the whim of a rotation system, players will fight harder for their places. Nothing is more certain than losses will come and these players will need replacing.

All in all, Henry is making errors. These changes are unnecessary and I am not going to back off saying so.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things worth dying for 6: The Spirit has come and lives within us

Christians agree that the Spirit is the third person of the trinity and that the Spirit indwells believers. However, they differ on their view of the Spirit. The common ground is that the one God is expressed in three eternal persons including the Spirit. They believe that the Spirit was active in creation, and that the Spirit is involved in the animation of all natural life, sustaining creation and providence. They believe that the Spirit is at work in conversion, convicting of sin (Jn 16:8-11). They differ on the role of the Spirit in conversion. Some believe that the Spirit causes a person to be saved through irresistable grace. Some believe that this is God's sovereign choice alone and human response is not a factor in conversion. Some believe the Spirit works in the sense of 'prevenient grace' causing all to have the opportunity to be saved. However, human freedom or volition means that some resist the Spirit and salvation and are not reconciled to God.

Some believe the Spirit is received at conversion and that is it. Some believe that the Spirit is received at conversion but there is a subsequent second experience evidenced by the speaking of tongues. Without the speaking of tongues, there is no evidence of the Spirit. Some go as far as saying that without speaking in tongues, one is not a Christian and does not have the Spirit. Some believe in receiving the Spirit at conversion and that the Spirit will indwell the believer and walk in relationship with them. Consequently, believers will have ongoing experiences of the Spirt in many and different ways.

Another issue Christians have divided over is the filioque clause which states that God and Jesus send the Spirit, rather than just God himself. This split the Catholic and Eastern churches at the end of the first millenium.

Another debated area is the nature of inspiration and illumination of Scripture. Some believe the Spirit dictated the Scriptures to the writers and the very words are inspired revelation. Others believe in a less direct process, whereby the Spirit overshadowed the human authors in more general sense as they communicated within their world. Some believe that the Spirit connects with the words of the bible as read and preached and it is at this point that the word becomes dynamically the Word of God.

So how do we work this through?

For me, what is worth dying for is that the Spirit is a part of the Godhead, the essence of God himself in his creation. Similarly, that we receive the Spirit at conversion is worth standing for. This is clear in Paul's writings where he speaks of the Spirit being received at conversion, the Spirit a gift of God sealing us for salvation i.e. God's presence in us. In other words, eternal relationship has begun and will go on eternally. Check out 2 Cor 1:21, 22; Eph 1:13-14; 1 Cor 12:13. Essential to Christian belief too is that in some way the Scriptures are God-spirited, inspired and so authoritative and reliable.

So what is going on in Acts when there are seemingly second blessing experiences? Read carefully what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2); in Samaria (Acts 8); in Paul's conversion (Acts 9); in Cornelius' conversion (Acts 10); in Ephesus (Acts 19). The order varies in each, in some they speak in tongues; in others they praise God; prophesy; see a healing; go out into mission etc. In other words, the situation varies. Hence there is not complete pattern.

I think what is clear is that when we come to believe, God enters our being by his Holy Spirit and is with us in relationship. He transforms our being giving us the fruit of the Spirit. He empowers us for mission. He gives us gifts to share, new abilities. He makes our 'natural' gifts 'supernatural' enhancing them for his use. He gives us a passion for his Word, for prayer, for love for others. When we read the written word of God, the Spirit speaks through it and makes God known to us.

To me it is clear that as this is a relationship, there will be subsequent experiences of this God who is powerfully living within us. He will give us fresh experiences of his presence, new gifts as he sees fit, make changes to our character, guide us in our life and mission.

The argument over who sends the Spirit, the Father alone, or the Father and the Son in some sense, to me is crazy. There are texts pointing both ways and the debate is Christians at their most pedantic.

So what is worth dying for? Not that all Christians must speak in tongues, that is for sure. The Scriptures indicate that not all will (cf. 1 Cor 12:28-29). Not that we all should have the same experiences. Not that the inspiration of Scriptures have to be defined in a particular way; better to stick with what is affirmed, the Scriptures are God-breathed and the sword of the Spirit, whereby God reveals himself through them as they are read and heard. Not that the Spirit was sent by the Father and not the Son, this is getting way too deep. Not that we need a second experience to receive the Spirit; it is clear from Paul's writings that we receive the Spirit at conversion as a seal guaranteeing our experience of eternal life (some would say if we remain in that relationship; others would say, period!). Not that the work of the Spirit ended in some way at the close of the apostolic period so that the gifts we see in the NT are only for that time (this has no support in the NT except a misreading of 1 Cor 13:8-13 as a distinction between the age of the apostles and church and not this age and the age to come).

It is interesting to note in the Scriptures that speaking in tongues is not the mark of the Spirit for Paul. For him, love is the supreme evidence and way (1 Cor 13). For him, the ability to confess Jesus as Lord is indicative that a person has received the Spirit; similarly, a Spirit-filled person will not curse Christ in anyway (1 Cor 12:3). For Paul, the Spirit testifies inwardly if we have received him into our life; that is, how do we know we have the Spirit? We know, because we know! For Luke the mark of the Spirit is mission; the Spirit empowering the person for witness (Acts 1:8). Certainly the mark of the Spirit is not any one gift whether it be miracles (cf. Mat 7:21-23), tongues or whatever.

I should add the reason for this last comment. In 1 Cor 12:29-30 Paul asks a set of rhetorical question beginning with the Greek mē. This construction expects the answer 'no'. So Paul is really saying this: 'Not all are apostles are they? Not all are prophets are they? Not all are teacher are they? Not all are workers of miracles are they? Not all have the gifts of healing do they? Not all speak in tongues do they? Not all interpret do they?' It is plain as day here that Paul did not think all had the gift anymore than all were apostles or prophets! Why people persist with the view that all should speak in tongues is beyond me. Paul did want everyone to speak in tongues, but that is not saying that they would or could!

Anyway, despite this, it is time for Christians to stop allowing the disputed matters around the Spirit divide us. Let's discuss and debate them for sure. But lets stand on the big things:

1. The Spirit is the third person of the trinity that makes up the triune God living in eternal relationship with God the Father and Jesus.

2. The Spirit is involved in creation and the world.

3. The Spirit is at work in conversion convicting and in other unspecified was drawing people to faith and enabling their response.

4. The Spirit indwells the believer at the moment of conversion and faith; the believer is the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).

5. The Spirit gives various and different gifts as the Spirit determines to believers (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12; 1 Cor 13; Eph 4).

6. The Spirit indwells, animates, leads and unifies the church as the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16).

7. The Spirit works inward transformation in the believer granting fruit, supremely love (Gal 5:22-24).

8. The Spirit can be grieved and quenched through our sin and resistance (Eph 4:30).

9. The Spirit inspires people for mission (Acts 1:8).

10. The Spirit inspires the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16) and empowers proclamation and makes it effective (Eph 6:17).

11. The Spirit is free and cannot be contained in our systems and perspectives except that we can completely trust the Spirit to move in love and goodness and in accordance with God's purposes (cf. Jn 3:8).

Now that's a Spirit worth dying for!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I don't care

Rattue's column in the herald is right on the button ( He has put into words what I feel. I was asked by my father-in-law who I thought would win in the Irish-NZ test this weekend and I said I don't care. This stunned me. Why? Because it is the first time in my 46 year life that I don't care who wins. Why don't I care? I don't care because I realise that this tests means diddly squat. Why? Because it is not a world cup game and the only chance of redemption for this All Black team and Graham Henry and his cronnies is the world cup.

It goes like this. Rugby have chosen to make the world cup the only thing that matters. NZ has played into this totally. Everything for four years will now go to finding a team that can be unbeaten over 4 weeks in 2011. By this rugby structure, what was the pearl of the game, international rugby, is now merely a time to build for this. This means that it is inevitable that through this time experimentation, reconditioning, rotation, team changing, positional transitions etc, will be the order of the day. It means that players who have 2 years left in their careers like Jerry Collins are no longer of any use. This means we continually have a young team.

It means that other nations send B, C teams down here with rebuilding in mind. It all adds up to, it doesn't matter who wins. Throw into this that NZ retained the worst coach in its history, Graham Henry, that it is impossible to be interested. Why do I say he is the worst coach in history? Because, now ALL that matters is the world cup. We lost in the quarters. Not only did we lose, but we lost effectively because he took the best team in the world by a country mile and screwed them with failed preparation and selection.

So why care? I am not one who is deserting the All Blacks and supporting the Aussies, Irish and English; but I am not interested.

There are those out there saying this is a really important game for redemption. IT IS NOT. It matters not. You see, we could win the next 50 tests leading into the world cup, all by 40 points +, and it would mean nothing. Because, if we don't win in Auckland in 2011, it will be of absolutely no meaning.

It is like the Black Caps last week (see blog below). They had a good first innings, bowled out the English and were 80 for 2 only to capitulate in disgrace and get beaten. All that went before means nothing, except for the individuals that did OK. Who cares about the Bledisloe? Who cares about the Tri-Nations? There is nothing new in them. They go on year after year.

What really needs to happen is a restructuring of rugby away from a world cup. The combination of the World Cup and the European club dominance of rugby politics and huge wealth in the north is rendering rugby outside of world cups of no value. We may as well do what soccer does, and call them, 'friendlies'. Who cares if Australia become dominant over the next four years, which I believe they will. Who cares if we lose or win?

More than all this, who cares when most of our best players are now in Europe. A team with Haymen, Oliver, Jack, Collins, Flavell, Marshall, Kelleher, Spencer, Evans, McAlistar, Mauger, King, Howlett and more unavailable for the AB's is tragic. So, I don't care who wins because it means nothing. It is a rugby friendly. What I do care about, is that Henry should not be coaching the All Blacks and I cannot support him and his team. I care that the best coach in the world is coaching the Aussies and one of the best others is coaching Wales. I care that the arrogance of NZ rugby is astonishing. When will they get it. We don't care. If we still do, we want Henry gone... get on with it! Fall on your sword Graham! But then again, Robbie has gone, so who cares.