Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smacking and Maori Seats; National Hubris!

Man Oh Man I am stunned at John Key and National after the smacking legislation was pulled out of the ballot at parliament yesterday. Here was a chance to do something really good. The new legislation seeks to define smacking, what is appropriate, what is not? I think it is a great idea. This is where the philosophical debate lies. What is violence toward a child? When is a smack legitimate, if it ever is? Etc. Yet with utter contempt John Key simply wrote it off. I am stunned at his attitude.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, he throws contempt on NZ. He shows he is no better as a leader than Helen Clark, who despite her many strengths, imposed her social liberalism on NZ despite NZ not liking it. It is to a large degree middle NZ's fault; we sit passively in our lazo-boys and girls and watch TV and do not get involved. We are apathetic and passive. Yet, I am certain NZ is not happy. They are not happy with legalised prostitution. They are uncomfortable about the number of abortions, homosexual relationships, de facto relationships and civil unions. They struggle with what NZ is becoming, caught up in it, not sure what to do, and living with it. They don't say it out loud, but they are restless and deep down, in many cases, unhappy. They do need to get active. Well, actually, in this case they have, telling the Government that they don't want this legislation as it stands.

Yet John Key can simply say, there will be no change. Why? Because John knows best! Rubbish! This is a disgrace John Key. You do not know better, and you are being politically naiive.

I believe you are being idealistic and unrealistic about Maori seats in the Auckland council as well. For sure, ideally we will have no race favoured as we forge our identity into our history. That is ahead of us at some point. However, we will never get there unless we move with grace, partnership and good sense. Pakeha NZ of which I am a part are too impatient on this. We need to be prepared to walk the long walk in hui with Maori, doing all we can to right wrongs, helping them to raise themselves up. Middle NZ won't help on this one. But I suspect Maori are going to make his life very uncomfortable. So, he started off so well, embracing the Maoris, the right wing NZer. Yet now he is alienating people at pace. Why? It seems to me, because of a certain arrogance and political naiivity.

I suspect he believes he needs to be a strong leader. Helen was and she killed of a string of National Party leaders who were, as Muldoon said of Rowling, shivers looking for spine to sliver up (or words to that effect). But a good leader thinks carefully and does not simply ignore people, especially when 87% of NZers believe something. They read situations carefully, and sometimes shift positions (carefully), make adjustments etc. This was one such time John. You missed it.

I am deeply perturbed at the loss of genuine democratic process. Sure, the Referendum was not a great question, but it got the point across. Here was a chance to seek to refine the legislation with clear definitions. It was not going back to the old, it was a middle ground. John, you missed it. As I have said in previous blogs, it is looking like you won't be PM for as long as I thought. Mind you, the lack of an alternative is obvious. Phil Goff is hardly going to worry you. But don't think NZ is happy John. Some will be, most definitely aren't.

What's the Story

This blog relates to my world at Laidlaw College. At College we love now to talk about the Bible as 'one story' starting at creation, centred on Christ, and ending in the renewed earth. This was a great idea when it really started to take off because it pulled together the disparate parts of the Bible into one flowing narrative. This is good. It is important. It is one important element in biblical interpretation.

The problem is with the term 'story.' I am so sick of it! Everytime I hear it I groan. A few years ago the same thing happened with the word 'journey.' So, I have been thinking. How else can we say it. Here are some ideas: a narrative; an epic; a symphony; a drama; a saga; an account; a chronicle; a tale; a record; a history; a movie. So people of God, try and be creative. I am not sure all these work as well as the other, but surely we can speak in different ways.

There is another problem with 'story'. I tested this with a few friends recently and they all agreed that 'story' can have the sense of 'fiction', 'fairy-tale', not true. That being said, we need to really take care here.

So, to the 7 people who read this blog, let's get creative and use a variety of means to describe the oneness of the Scriptures... please! Cause its driving me up the wall!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Theosis

A friend also asked me about Theosis. Theosis is that idea that humans on becoming one with Christ are in some sense deified or divinised and so become God themselves.

This is a tricky question and for me it is not so much important to define our relationship with God as to set limits.

The first limit is that we as the created can never cross the line to become god's or God. We are humans, created in God's image, and even in our completely transformed states as eternal beings, will be dependent on God and not God.

On the other hand, the other limit is that cannot simply say that we are human as we are now. We are swept up into Christ at salvation, and the Spirit inhabits us. We are thus drawn up into the Community of the Godhead (perichoresis). The mutual indwelling of Christ, Spirit and us means that we are now in some sense drawn into God. At our transformation we become eternal beings, forever a part of God's being in some sense.

For me, as long as theologians and people are working between these two limits, then it is an exciting doctrine to consider. My major concern is the idea that we speak of divination, theosis, deification in an ontological sense. We are forever created and human. However, I am so excited about what it leads to in my mind to think that I am 'in Christ', and the Spirit is in me, and that I will one day be free from sin and death to experience this fully. At that point, I will sin no more, and the impulse will be consumed. I will then have a creator and all that he has done to live in fellowship with. I will forever be the created and He the creator, I will be the worship and he the worshiped, I will be dependent and he utterly in no need of anything; yet he is mine, and I am his.

Wow! That causes me to pause, well up a bit, and worship... 'My best friend is the creator of the universe' (the Lads).

What saves us?

A friend sent me an email the other day. He asked me, "what does it mean to be saved?" Ultimately it is an easy question. Being saved is 'being with the Lord forever.' It is eternal life with Christ. Christians dispute whether this will be 'in heaven' (as in another dimension separate from this creation, a new heaven and earth); or on this earth restored. I think the balance of biblical data favours the latter, we will live with God forever on this world restored and renewed (e.g. Rom 8:19-23).

However, there are many questions. First, how does salvation begin? Paul hammers the point, salvation is by grace through faith. That is, the work of Christ in his life, death and resurrection, has won salvation. He has fulfilled the requirements of the law. He has died a vicarious sacrifice for humanity. He has risen from the dead. His work saves us. He offers us salvation.

For our part, we have to respond to this. The most common NT term to summarise response is 'faith, to believe, to trust.' This is where things get sticky. What does it mean to believe? What things do we have to believe? How must we live out this belief for it to be genuine? At this point it gets tricky and technical depending on interpretations of verses, ideas and whole books.

For me, I cut through this in this way. God wants all to be saved and is reaching out to all humanity. I am uncomfortable with any theology which states that God decrees simply by his own choice some and not others. This would be akin to me as a father choosing one of my daughters as the object of my affection and blessing, and the others for destruction. This is not love in any sense that I can understand whether biblical or otherwise. So, God wants all to be saved and is active in seeking this through his work in history, creation, the Spirit, believers, the church and world.

Salvation faith to me is simply a human saying yes to the offer of relationship God makes. Faith is relational. it is us responding to God's grace with a desire to walk in that relationship. This even applies in human history before Christ's coming, say Abraham and Melchizedek, to name two.

In the NT Christ is revealed as God the Son and salvation faith is found in acceptance of him as saviour and Lord. It is saying, yes Jesus, I believe, save me. Yes Jesus, I trust in you, I seek to live for you. What is clear in Paul is that while good works will flow from a genuine faith, these works do not save. Otherwise grace would not be grace. We would be stuck in the problem of working through how much work saves, what works save?

No, when we accept Christ as saviour and Lord, we enter into Christ and his work saves us, despite our failings. So, it is a cognitive assent to Christ as saviour, a commitment to live for him as Lord. Repentance is clearly a part of this; not in the sense of penitence or necessarily of contrition, but a change of orientation to live for self alone, to God as first priority.

Christianity in its history has lurched back and forth on this. We go through phases of rendering grace impotent by adding works, usually to keep the gospel safe and demand discipleship. At other times we overcook grace making faith empty (e.g. Jas 2). However, one thing is clear to me. We are saved by grace and our response to this grace is 'yes.'

This means that there are many in this nation who do not darken the door of a church and are saved. There are conversely probably many who are not who do go to church. Faith is impossible to quantify. How do you know you believe? Because you do believe.

So, in sum, it is a relational term. It is saying yes to the glorious offer of salvation God gives in Christ. It is accompanied with a desire to live for Christ. At that moment of faith, the Spirit enters us and marks us. We then walk in relationship. The challenge is to yield to the Spirit who now indwells us and not the flesh (sinful desire). When we sin, we do not lose our salvation. We may lose our joy as the Spirit convicts us. However, we are as saved as we were before it happened. As I work with a relational definition of faith, and a volitional view of the relationship in this world, I think there is a point where the relationship is broken. But God will not break it. He will seek us, pursue us, woo us, reach out to us, forever. He is desperate not to lose us. As far as it depends on him, we will remain saved. However, there is a point where we can be broken off the vine through unbelief.

So this means we can have huge assurance. Ask yourself, do I want eternal life? Do I want to be with God forever? Do I desire to believe and yield to God? Even if you stumble and fall, even if you have doubts, even if you make huge errors that would see society completely reject you, God won't, at least while there is a wisp of faith. The NT talks about mustard seeds of faith, perhaps that is all that it takes. The grace of God is way bigger than we can know or imagine. I pray we can know its depth, breadth, height and width.

In the meantime, as believers, we are now joined to God in Christ. We are to get on with being human, to live out our beings with authenticity, reality and joy. We are to build God's world as we go about our work, life, play and family. We are to let this Spirit life well up in us and flow out from us, from our whole beings. This will lead us to spread goodness, joy, hope, peace, life through attitudes, deeds and words. People will be drawn to Christ. Evangelism and mission is not meant to be mechanical but an outpouring of Spirit life from grateful hearts full of grace. We will find as we yield to the Spirit that the world looks different, suffering looks different, joy breaks in, we become winsome and people want Christ. So, yield to God, Christ and Spirit and all will be well with our souls, and planet earth, even in the midst of chaos and brokenness.

So salvation is Jesus, not Jesus + anything. It is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.



Maori Seats on Council

Have the government made the right decision concerning Maori seats on the new Auckland Super-council? On the one hand, I agree with Rodney Hide, Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB and national who have ruled them out. Their logic is sound. There should be no ethnic or other group that gets favoured treatment. This is sound democratic logic. In this way of thinking, there should be no favoured groups. Let the people decide. This is similiar to right wing capitalistic free market views, let the market dictate. So, at one level, they are correct. There should not be seats for Maori, PI, Asian, European, Christian, Muslim; or any other group.

But is it as simple as this? While the Treaty of Waitangi is a minefield and difficult to interpret, what I think we can say with confidence, is that it means that Pakeha NZers (the State + other immigrants) have a responsibility under the Treaty to ensure that Maori are given some degree of priority and a say within NZ. This means I suppose, that while Maori are in the minority, and they are unable through the democratic process to get representation, that the government has a responsibility to ensure that they do. In this case, it would seem that a good argument can be mounted to say that the government should ensure that they Maori are represented. Auckland is a big city and it is important that Maori are represented.

On the other hand again though, this could in fact have the reverse effect. It could stop Maori working hard as all the rest of NZ must do, to win seats through the democratic process. It could stop Maori working to develop the skills and doing the hard yards everyone else has to do. It could in fact limit the number of seats they get as they will get two, and Maori will not work harder to win more. It could reinforce the problem of dependency.

I can see real value in ensuring the Maori voice is heard. Such a voice could be a handbrake to rampant land developers who see Auckland purely as an economic product and will sell it off, develop it, in ways that do not protect the land. They could be a hindrance say to those who want to develop a park into an industrial site, or do something dumb to the sea shore. Can the remainder of Aucklanders be trusted with Auckland's assets?

To me, the time must come when 'affirmative action' will end and Maori, like all NZers will have to take their part in the processess. I hope we mature to the point where we can move ahead as one people with all people on the same level. The question for me is, are we there yet?

So have National got it right? I do not think they have. I think they have unnecessarily alienated Maori and the left. Some will now drift back to Labour/Green/Maori party allegiences.

I think they should have gone in one of two ways; both with a review period? First, they decide not to have Maori seats (as has been done) but set into the process a review of this decision after 3 terms. If there are sufficient Maori able to be elected through the 'natural' political processes, they leave it as it is? If they find they are not, they bring back the Maori seats to ensure representation. Second, which is not ruled out, that Maori seats are included in the process, but Maori are encouraged to stand in other seats as well. If after 3 terms it is clear that Maori can gain places on the council aside from the Maori process, then they are removed.

Either way, Maori should take up the challenge of getting elected.

What National have done is perhaps opened up a hornet's nest with an absolute decision. Personally, I would prefer the first option above. So, behind closed doors I would have hammered that out with Maori the idea that initially there will be no Maori sets and Maori are challenged to seek election through the democratic process. However, if this is unsuccessful, for whatever reason, I would promise a review ensuring that Maori are represented into the future if this does not work.

I have to say though that if Maori had determined to dig their heels in, as I suspect they would have, I may have gone for the other option, even if I lost Rodney in the meantime. I suspect the latter would have been the outcome because while I want us to be at that point where no ethnic group, Maori or otherwise, gets special treatment, I simply don't think we are there yet. We may be a generation away from this. Whatever else, I believe we want Maori represented in such groups.

I get the feeling that National are moving into troubled times. They have alienated many NZers on the smacking issue. They have upset Maori. They have upset the many socially liberal culturally sensitive NZers. They have to realise, that if NZ First had got a few more votes, the left would have won the last election. I sense they are struggling. I am doubting Key's ability to hold it all together. He is making mistakes. I thought he might be a 4 term man; I think he may be a 1 or 2 term man at best now.

Go the All Blacks

Go the All Blacks. They were a different team last night in the test in Sydney. They still made too many mistakes, the backs are still not playing fluidly, and the mistake rate is too high. But their defense and the pressure they exerted was superb. Kieran Read is the man at nos 8. Dan Carter was great not only at first five, but in his ability to lead the AB's around the park. The lineout was a great improvement. The scrum is not what it was but still dominated. The AB's won the breakdown.

My view of the game was that the AB's could have won by more. The Wallabies defended superbly and got the rub of the green. But it was the AB's who pressured the Wallabies. They are not a great side to me, especially without Sterling Mortlock. Their backs are talented but green. Their forwards are triers but lack the sort of power that can dominate the Blacks or Boks.

So, well done Graham H and the team. I suspect that they are starting to peak. I am still concerned about the wings. I am not sure Sivivatu and Rokocoko are the best wingers in NZ. I wonder if David Smith, Hosea Gear and Rudy Wolf are all better wings. Our wings to me lack pace at the moment, and their error rates are far too high. Beyond that, I think we are back on track.

I now believe the Blacks can beat the Boks when they come down here. The forwards are starting to role. They have the right mix now that Tialata is out of the team. They are growing in confidence. I think we have a chance. I think too we are on track with a good chance in 2011. If Haymen and others come home as word has it they are, then it will be a hugely competitive fight to get into the team. The team chosen will be tough. If Dan and Richie are fit for the whole tournament, and they get the mix right, it will titanic, but we have a chance.

A final word of G.Henry. I have questioned him and whether there is true unity in the team. I saw him walking through the team after the game. That is a man who has the players trust. I read Richie McCaw's defence of him the other day in the Sunday papers. The team is united and behind him. I think I have been a little tough on him.

On the other hand I think Robbie Deans is now under pressure. If they lose twice to the Boks which they may indeed do now, how long will the honeymoon last? This is crunch time for the Wallabies. Isn't it amazing what one point either way does? If the AB's had lost, it would Graham feeling the crunch! Who would be an international coach?

Democracy on Trial

The overwhelming result of the smacking referendum should make the government respond. 88%% is a resounding rejection of the current legislation and a statement that NZer’s, right or wrong, believe that they should be able to smack their child. It does not endorse beating a child, but a smack given in love for good discipline. For me, this now puts the government on trial. Both Labour and National tried it on with NZ in their determination to push the legislation through despite it being clear to all that could see that the majority of NZers rejected it. It is possible that this was the decisive factor that stopped the left of NZ politics being reelected. National threw their lot in with this at the time. Now they are on trial. This result is a clear signal from mainstream NZ that they want a change. How they respond could define whether the Key-led government will be a multi-term government or whether it will a one or maybe two term government. If they themselves believe in the democratic process that upholds NZ and much of western society, they have no choice but to respond by revising the legislation to ensure that the average NZer who smacks their child out of love and as a last resort to enforce good values. If they don’t they will not last and neither should they. If they ignore it they insult NZ. They will demonstrate the arrogance NZers have come to hate from politicians. They will reinforce the widely held view that politicians have lost touch with NZ and they should be removed from office at the next election. This has become much bigger than a vote of smacking, it has become a test of whether NZ is genuinely democratic. Who I vote for at the next election will be profoundly affected by their response. What I am seeing so far from Key is a mistake. He should front up and acknowledge NZ's will and democracy. He is making mistakes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

7's and Golf and Olympics

Should 7's and golf get admission to the 2016 Olympics?

To me the answer is an unambiguous, no! There are multiple reasons 7's should not be there. First, it is not the top flight of rugby. It is a derivation sport played by the next tier of players and not the top players. So the best players in the world will not be there. Second, it is not truly a sport played by both genders. It is a novelty sport mainly played by men. I really can't believe it is in the Olympics. Having said that, NZ might win a gold medal, so it is good for us! Mind you, soccer should not be there either. It is an U23 event and the best players are not there. There are enough rugby and soccer tournaments without this.

Golf should not be there. The pinnacle of golf are the 4 majors and that is that. Winning an Olympic gold may excite some players but ultimately, it will become a second rate event. It should not be there.

Just what should and should not be there is an interesting question. The summer sport list includes aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, kayaking, cycling, equestrian, fencing, football/soccer, gymnastics, handleball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, softball, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.

Looking at the list, those sports with an ancient heritage from the Greek games of old like athletics and wrestling should be there. Rowing has its roots in that age as does archery, fencing and arguably equestrian and sailing, so it makes sense that they are there. Sports that focus on individual effort in a similar way like swimming, triathlon, cycling, boxing, kayaking, judo, taekwondo etc seem to fit nicely. Gymnastics has to be there with its tumbling, vaulting, motion and movement. Modern pentathlon is appropriate with its set of all round skills. Shooting fits as it has the sense of combat which the ancient games had, linking sport and military combat. Similarly, weightlifting fits the idea of strongest, fittest and fastest. Questionable must be badminton, baseball, basketball, handball, hockey, softball, table tennis and volleyball. Some of these games are a great watch though for sure. In common these games are team sports and so it seems to me that it is here that the problem lies. Should they be there and if so, which ones, and on what criteria?

Whatever, I don't get Sevens and golf being there. What do you think?