Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So Who Owns the Water?

Preliminary Note: Before beginning, let me say that I believe that in light of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Government should consult Māori on major decisions related to NZ’s natural resources. Whether we like it or not, that is part of NZ’s essential bi-culturalism. What I have written below is critiquing the claims to “ownership” of the waters of NZ in the discussion, from a biblical perspective.
NZ is embroiled in a great debate over this question; who owns the water? Māori contesting the asset-sales claim that they own the water. John Key suggests no one owns the water. Well, let me humbly suggest that neither are correct from a Christian biblical point of view; it is simple, God owns the water.

That God owns the waters of the world is clear in such verses as “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, for he founded it on the seas, and established it on the waters” (Ps 24:1). This is quoted by Paul in 1 Cor 10:26 indicating that Christians believed in this. In Gen 1 waters are explicitly mentioned in the creation narrative a number of times, water an essential aspect of the created order. As Exod 20:11 says, he created the seas (Exod 20:11). Or Ps 95:5 which says, “The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.”

Psalm 33:6–8 speaks of God’s creation to which humanity should respond with reverence not radical claims of exclusive ownership:

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the worlds revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (cf. Ps 65:7; 74:15–19; 89:19; 104:10; 107:33; 135:6; 146:6; Isa 40:12; 41:18; 51:10, 15; Amos 5:8).

God demonstrated his control over the waters at the time of Noah (Gen 6). God’s authority over water is seen at the plagues of Egypt as the Nile turned to blood and fish died (Exod 7:17–24), and at the Exodus and Jordan as Israel passed through the waters untouched enroute to the land (Exod 14:16–29; Josh 3:8–16). God provided water for Israel in the wilderness (e.g. Exod 17:2–6). Jesus demonstrated his dominion over the seas by calming them, and walking upon them, turning water into wine and his divine knowledge of what was in the waters (Mark 4:35–41; 6:45–51, Luke 5:1–11; John 2:1–11; 21:1–7). The NT confirms the notion of God’s creation and sovereignty over the waters of the world (Acts 4:24; 14:15; Rev 10:6; 14:7). Jesus lordship is over all of creation.

So, whatever should be decided about the waters of NZ and who should be consulted in terms of its use, or indeed the wind, or the solar energy, it is not the possession of anyone and this should not form the basis of the argument. All citizens of NZ under its government are stewards of the waters of the nation on God’s behalf. In Gen 1:27 humans, created in the image of God, are given dominion over the animals of the world and are to subdue the earth. They are not given ownership of the world, its waters, or any part of it. We are to rule on God’s behalf under his sovereignty. If we choose to claim ownership we usurp God’s rule and ownership. 

While one can understand the standpoint of anyone who claims ownership on the basis of prior arrival in a particular land, it doesn’t stack up. This debate should be conducted on other grounds, specifically the Treaty. What rights do Māori have over the natural resources of this nation on the basis of prior inhabitation and the Treaty? Now that is the question. That is much more difficult to answer. As I said above, I think at the least it means that there should be genuine consultation over such things to maintain national unity. Whatever the answer, from a Christian perspective at least, the debate is not over ownership. 

Fresh Evidence Jesus Had a Wife?

The news is reporting that a Coptic papyri scrap has been found which has the words “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’” and supposedly will “ignite the debate as to whether Jesus had a wife.” I am sorry, but I can’t help laughing as I read such things. The small business card size scrap is late second century at best, written in Coptic and believed to be a translation of a Greek document. This of course is the time of the Gnostic movement, which produced a number of spurious works with the weirdest perspective of Jesus.

Interestingly the words after “My wife” are deleted and so it may not have anything to do with his wife, e.g. “my wife is the one who obeys my word.” Or, “my wife, the church, my beloved bride.” It is hardly anything like “evidence” Jesus had a wife.

The truth is that there is still no evidence of Jesus being married. The NT says nothing of his marrying anyone although he had a lot of female friends and traveling companions. Such things are pure romantic fiction for those who do not believe the accounts, or want to raise doubts about Jesus and the Christian faith.

The papyri also mentions Mary, the first reference likely alluding to his Mother who “gave to me life.” It says, “Mary is worthy of it.” “It” could be anything. Mary is elusive, with at least three mentioned in the Gospels.

One line says, “she will be able to be my disciple.” This could refer to a female being Jesus’ disciple. Nothing new there, we already know that there were female disciples. For example, when Mary sits at Jesus’ feet in Luke 10, she is taking up the position of a disciple. Secondly, Matthew 12:49 suggests that there were female disciples. There are also female disciples in Acts, like Priscilla and others.

So, like so many of these fresh discoveries, it is a very interesting historical discovery which adds to our knowledge of the early Christian movement, but despite claims to the contrary, we know nothing more of the Jesus who lived 170 years before this incomplete Coptic papyri  came to light.


she will be able to
be my disciple

Let wicked people
swell up

As for me, I dwell with her in order to

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Another Political Party?

Also Published in Challenge Weekly Sept, 2012.

I had a thought the other day and wonder what you think?—is there a need for one more political party in NZ, a party that upholds a centre-left-wing economic ideology while upholding traditional Christian values? (Not necessarily a Christian party, but a more general party for the wider populace of similar mindset).

Every election I am uncertain who to vote for. On the one hand, I want to vote for those who believe a government should be very concerned for social justice. I am not a hard-core leftie, believing in personal responsibility, incentive and the ownership of personal property, but I do lean left. Romans 13 and Jesus’ teaching in particular lead me to the view that the State is God’s agent to help people who, in an unjust world, are in genuine need, cannot work and are severely disadvantaged. A good government helps people get a hand-up and ensure all can access cheap primary health care, get a good education and feel safe (justice). It acts to ensure that our egalitarian way of life is upheld. In an age of ecological threat, it will wisely move the nation toward greater ecological sustainability. In these issues I feel more comfortable with some of the economic and social ideals of left wing parties like Labour (well its original values not its current form), and the Greens.  
On the other hand, as with most evangelicals, I am conservative morally, valuing traditional marriage, the importance of family and sexual fidelity. I find abortion and active euthanasia abhorrent. I oppose gay marriage. I am dismayed at the on-going agenda to progressively dismantle the Judeo-Christian ethic that has undergirded our nation from its inception. On these things, I am more comfortable with parties that uphold these values which tend to be right wing. Similarly, I am very uncomfortable with the social agenda of Labour and the Greens in particular. Socially and morally I am right wing and conservative.

So how do I vote? With my economic leanings? With my moral leanings? Every election I try to make the best decision, but I never feel comfortable. This is because there is a massive gap in NZ politics—a party with a left-wing economic perspective but which affirms traditional Christian and western ethics and morals?
Is it time for those who hold this point of view to get serious and seek to form such a party?—one that is economically left but socially and morally right. This would give Christians who see the gospel in this way a place to vote at each election. 

Or, has the horse bolted and would it now be a fruitless waste of time? Would it be better to join an existing party and get active and seek to influence it in the direction of the gospel in all facets? Is this a red herring, and should Christians be focussing more on building redemptive communities of faith that embody the Christian ethic? What do you think?