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Why Not an Alms Race Instead?

Further to my blog yesterday, today when asked about his tweet, US President Elect Donald Trump had this response: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Glorious! Sounds like a game of Survivor: “outwit, outplay, outlast.” Have you noticed that the word Twit is found in the first of these terms? Just saying.

I won’t go over the ground I covered in my previous blog in which I suggested that while Donald is right to say that the world needs to come to its senses concerning nuclear weapons, as leader of the “free-world” and “the greatest country on earth,” and as a citizen of this world, he should lead the conversation toward global disarmament. I can hear Hillary’s words in July resounding in my head: "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” She had her flaws, but one of them wasn’t this kind of macho bravado crap.

Incidentally, Vladimir’s response is wonderfully reassuring: “Indeed, they have m…

Why Trump is Right; This Christmas the World Does Need to Come to Its Senses Regarding Nukes (sort of)

So today, December 23, 2016, Donald J. Trump, US president elect, tweeted this: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
President Elect Trump is of course absolutely right in the final part of the Tweet—the world must come to its senses regarding nukes. Nukes are an abomination. This has been seen by the action of his beloved U.S.A., when they nuked Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Aug 6 and 9, 1945. In those bombings, supposedly justified to end WWII—the jury is out on that one—between 150,000 and 226,000 people were killed. It is sobering to thing that today’s nukes are around 3,000 times more powerful than WWII bombs.
According to one news report, if the Russians let off one of their ten nukes aimed at New York there would be no survivors within seven to ten km of its epicentre, not to mention the radioactive fallout. If they launched all ten, New York and its people would basically ceas…

Seriously Bishop Brian, Part 2

Having written my previous blog on the idea that natural events are caused by personal sin, I had another string of thoughts that I must put out there.
Bishop Brian claims it is murder (e.g. Cain and Abel), homosexuality, and other such sins that directly caused the event. Often abortion is also singled out in such ‘prophetic oracles.’ Let’s just assume for a moment that the honorable bishop is correct, and God is smiting New Zealand for these sins.
The first question that comes to mind is why this place of all places? According to GeoNet the quake hit fifteen km north-east of Culverden. I suppose on the rationale of the bishop we are to suppose that the people of Waiau and Culverden are really bad sinners. As God supposedly chose this place, they must be guilty of more of this than other New Zealanders? Their sins have purportedly made the earth there heavy, and it is spewing up.
Now, in 2013 Culverden was a country town of 428. North-east is Waiau, very close to the epicentre, which…

Seriously Bishop Brian!

Oh Brian, seriously! Brian Tamaki’s latest sermon statements concerning the earthquakes besetting NZ reveals the deep theological illiteracy of many NZ Christians. The idea he is espousing is an old one, going back to the earliest days of human religious understanding. It works like this—natural events need explaining. The answer, someone of us did something wrong to displease the deity(s). So, when an earthquake hit in ancient Greece, the gods were displeased. If an earthquake hit Israel, Yahweh was displeased. In response, the deity(s) caused the horrendous event as a warning and punishment. We find this all over the OT—sin leads to God’s specific judgment. They then jump to the particular sin and sinners that caused the event. They then blame them. In the ancient world, whole groups were shut out of cities for such things.
Now as we come to the NT, we find that Jesus utterly severs this link. Here are three examples. 
In Mark 2:1–11 there is a blessed suffering severely disabled man…

Reflections on Galatians 2: Recipients, Setting and Date

An important point of discussion concerning Galatians is the old debate concerning the setting and date of the letter. One set of scholars holds that Galatians was written around the time of Romans and the Corinthian letters, so the mid to late 50s. Others consider it was written around 47–48. Scholars dispute to whom Paul wrote. Those who prefer a later date argue Paul wrote the letter to churches in North Galatia planted on his second Antiochian mission journey (Acts 16:6) or even on his third (Acts 18:23). Such a setting pushes the date to the mid or late 50s. Others who hold an earlier date argue that he wrote it sometime between his first Antiochian mission (Acts 13 – 14) and his second. Another critical factor is whether the visit to Jerusalem in Gal 2 matches the visits to Jerusalem in Acts 11 (the famine visit) or Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council discussion on Gentile Christians the Law).
It seems to me that the arguments for an earlier date are much stronger than those for the…

Reflections on Galatians 1: The Authorship of Galatians

It is not debated whether Paul wrote Galatians. It is one of the seven undisputed letters alongside Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Its acceptance is due to its similarity to these other letters in style, theology, and vocabulary and the details concerning Paul’s life (esp. Gal 1:10 – 2:14; 4:8–19; 6:14–16). However, there are two things worth noting concerning the production of the letter. First, it is the only Pauline letter where ‘all the brothers who are with me’ is mentioned in the prescript. ‘Brothers’ here can mean his co-workers (e.g. Ellis), but most likely means all the Christian brothers and sisters at Paul’s point of writing. The letter is likely written from Syrian Antioch if I am right about the date. Otherwise, this would include the Christians in Corinth or Ephesus, if the letter is later.
The brothers and sisters are likely mentioned not because they are co-authors or even co-senders, but they endorse the material in the le…

Let Us Be Confident in the Gospel

Note: A piece prepared for a newsletter.
If Paul was writing a letter to the New Zealand churches today, he might write something like this: ἀλλὰπείθεσθῶσανἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ (alla peithesthōsan en tō euangeliō), which can be translated: ‘but, let us be confident in the gospel.’ This lack of confidence is because many Christians in NZ have lost their confidence in the gospel and have adopted a quietist approach to sharing Christ. They live out the supposed mantra of Francis of Assisi (which he never actually said): ‘preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.’ There may be good reasons for our reticence, with many New Zealanders very resistant to the gospel. One could imagine Paul becoming very testy if he was to observe our unpreparedness to open our mouths and share Christ. For what counts for Paul is that in every way, Christ is proclaimed (Phil 1:18).
Christ himself demonstrated the importance of sharing the message of God, even when the gospel was repudiated. He died bec…

Brexit: Well Done the UK

Congratulations to the UK for the Brexit vote. Having seen the outcome, and having considered the discussion, I am convinced they made the right decision. My reasons are this. 

First, sovereignty. Decisions like who can come into your country must be in the hands of the citizens of the country involved not in some non-democratic government across the water. The UK has a parliament and they have to have sovereignty to preserve the best interests of that nation. If Europe is for real, and nations like the UK are to be involved, then there needs to a full elected government from the President down and a disempowering of national governments. However, as the UK is only one country among many, they put themselves in the position of being dominated by others who have a different agenda. So, the decision gives the UK sovereignty again. They can now take control of who is coming and going from their country with points systems like Australia and England. They can now work to make the society t…

ANZAC 2016, I Will Remember

Lots of my Christian friends struggle with ANZAC. They do so for good reason. The Christian message is one of non-violence. Jesus preached ‘love your enemies’ and ‘turn the other cheek. Despite claiming he could in an instant call on legions of angels to demolish the Romans, he did not do so. Rather, he went to the cross without using violent force in his defence. The closest we get to the use of violent force is Jesus in the Temple, making a whip, throwing over tables and driving animals and people out. However, these passages are carefully written to remove any insinuation that Jesus struck the people. Assuming the veracity of the biblical accounts, he was imbued with immense power, but never used his force to impress others, in answer to their requests for signs, in defence, or in compelling people to believe in him. In a ruthless world not unlike the Seven Kingdoms of the Game of Thrones, He taught and embodied non-violence.

Knowing this, many Christians are simply quiet at ANZAC…

Why I am Voting for the Old Flag

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It seems likely that NZ will vote to retain its flag in the referendum which is on at the moment. I suspect that even if a lot of NZers might be keen to have a new flag, there is no reason at present to make the shift. It seems to me this is the sort of thing you do when and if you become a republic. As there is no reason, many people are miffed at the whole thing and the money spent. The process was poorly conceived and destined to fail from the beginning. I say this quite liking the new flag myself, but hey, many people liked the Wallabies before last year’s RWC, but they were never going to win.
On Sunday at church we were singing ‘We want to see Jesus lifted high, a banner that flies across this land,’ and we started pondering what it would be like to have a flag with Jesus on it.

After the service I thought more about it and realised that in a roundabout way we do have Jesus on the flag, four times. The Union Jack sits in the left corner. It is made up of three crosses, the cross o…

Sixty–Two People, Half the World, What a Stunning Statistic!

I first heard the statistics concerning wealth distribution released by Oxfam the other day with horror. According to their study, the richest 62 people in the world have the same combined wealth as the poorest 50% of people in our world ($1.76 trillion USD)—that is 1,760,000,000,000,000,000, or 1.76 million million million dollars! In percentage terms, only 8.382375298816469e-7% (0.000000083%) of the people of the world hold the same as ‘the other’ 50%.

Aside from statistics related to problems of death through violence (genocide, abortion, war, the Holocaust, etc), I can’t think of a statistic that has shaken me more. It is horrific. How has this come to pass?

I did a bit of digging on the 62 and some—like Charles and David Koch from Koch Industries, the Waltons of Wal-Mart, the Mars who make Candy (mars bars, yummy)—are from the same families, so it is a little worse; it is actually 57 people or groups who hold this wealth (see http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/#version:real…

Jesus, Friend of Sinners (the Feeding of the 5000)

I was working through John’s account of the Feeding of the 5000 in John 6:1–15 yesterday and realised something I hadn’t noticed. The miracle is the only one found in all four Gospels (Mark 6; Matt 14; Luke 9). As in the other accounts, in John, Jesus provides food for the whole crowd, which may have been as large as 20,000, as only the number of men is noted. John adds cool details. The disciples are there on the mountain with Jesus, so they are fed along with the crowd. He tells us that the loaves are barley-loaves, the bread of the poor, barley being cheaper than wheat. The fish are ‘small fish,’ which are perhaps pickled. A boy who can be anywhere from a little fella to a young man (the Greek is fluid) provides the food; a neat touch, also showing that there are children present. The food is worth around 200 denarii, which is two hundred day’s money for a day labourer. If we assume a NZ minimum wage for an eight-hour day (and they did longer days too!), that is something like $2…

Dear World, Some thoughts for 2016

As we launch into another year, 2016, I thought it would be good to make a few suggestions to a few people around the world in the hope that they may listen, that we could have a year of relative peace and prosperity on planet earth.

Dear Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi,
Please can you end this violent desire to take over the world? I admire your zeal, but sometimes zeal is misguided—and this is one of those times! Seeking world domination and the imposition of extreme Islamic ideals by violent force is stupid because you will fail and many will be killed as you try. People generally don’t respond to being told they have to follow a certain religion. Take it from us Christians, we have tried this, and it does not work! So, please give it up? Why not just lay down the weapons and say, ‘enough,’ end the conflict, urge your followers to do the same, and retire?

Dear Donald Trump,
As John McEnroe said, ‘you cannot be serious!’ Please just go back to your business and reality shows and leave global p…