Thursday, January 31, 2008
...the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
People with a non-Kingdom mindset ("'pagans") instinctively try to find their security in whatever they think will ensure that their self-interests are met (minimally, food, clothing and shelter). They "run after" these things. This is why they serve money and why they worry incessantly. But Kingdom people are to "run after "only one thing: the reign of God. Part of what this means is that we should trust that God will provide for our basic needs and not worry about ensuring our own self-interests.
We've seen in previous blogs that the reason we have governments is because the fallen human race finds it hard (impossible?) to trust God. Like the ancient Israelites, we want rulers to protect our self-interests (I Sam. 8). This is why people with a non-Kingdom mindset "run after" and worry about politics. So much of their self-interest is at stake! But Kingdom people are empowered to trust God to provide for them and thus to be be freed from these preoccupations.
I don't believe this entails that we can't participate in the political process. In a democracy we are invited to give our opinion about how things should be run, so if you're so inclined, go ahead and give it (whether by voting or participating in some other way). But this passage definitely entails that we should not serve, chase after, or worry about these matters. Our total trust is in God, for whom all the governments of the world are "less than nothing" (Isa 40:15-17).
You cannot serve two masters. If your allegiance is to the reign of God, it cannot be to anything else -- including money and government.
Stay centered on the King,
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
According to the Christian Anarchist (or Christ-archist) therefore, human governments have no significance for Kingdom people. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and are “foreigners,” “exiles” and “strangers” in this world (Phil 1:27; 3:20; Heb 11:13; 1 Pet 1:17; 2:21).
I also want to be clear that I'm exploring this train of thought in these blogs. I'm reviewing what Scripture says about God and government and finding, thus far, that it supports the view of Christian Anarchy. But I want to be clear that I'm still in process on this topic.
So far I've tried to establish that, according to the Bible, earthly governments are premised on mistrust of the rule of God (I Sam. 8). It was not part of God's original plan for humans, but rather exists as a way of God accommodating himself to human sin. I've also tried to establish that, from God's perspective, all governments are "less than nothing" (Isa 40:15-17). Since our trust is exclusively in this God, the "ruler of the nations," we should adopt this same perspective. To live under the reign of God is to live solely under the reign of God and to therefore regard earthly government as insignificant.
What I now want to argue is that all human governments are not only premised on mistrust: they are actually ruled by Satan. In Luke 4:5-7 Satan offered Jesus all the authority of the governments of the world, for he claimed to own all this authority and claimed that he could give it to whoever he wanted. What's amazing is that Jesus does not dispute his claim. He granted that Satan owned this authority and thus could give it to whoever he wanted. But he refused to put himself under Satan's rule to acquire governmental authority.
Everything else the New Testament says about Satan and governments confirms that Satan was, in fact, not exaggerating his power. Jesus three times refers to Satan as the “ruler (arche) of this world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16;11). An arche referred to the highest ruling authority (the "boss") in any particular region. Satan is also referred as the “the god of this age” and “the principality and power of the air” (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2). And John goes so far as to claim that, “The whole world lies under the power of the evil one” (I Jn 5:19). If the whole world is under the power of the evil one, it hardly seems Satan was exaggerating in claiming all government was under his power.
Not only this, but Satan is referred to as “the destroyer” who “deceives the nations” (Rev. 9:11; 20:3, 8 cf. 13:14) . All earthly governments are depicted as belonging to a single Kingdom that is under Satan's rule but which is now being delivered over to Jesus (Rev. 11:15). Consistent with this, scholars agree that “Babylon” in Revelation symbolizes earthly government under Satan's authority. Babylon rules “all nations," all of which are “deceived” by her “sorcery," which appears to be the deceptive lure of power. (Rev. 18:23).
Just to be clear, this obviously doesn't mean that all leaders in earthly governments are under Satan's rule. Many leaders are God-loving people who are sincerely trying to serve their society and the world. But these passages suggest that the whole power-over system that constitutes human government is under Satan's oppressive influence. I see no way around this conclusion.
Given this clear and consistent witness in the New Testament, followers of Jesus have to seriously question how much confidence we should ever have in any government and how preoccupied we should be with their innumerable fights and problems. We must remember that we are not only "foreigners" and "exiles" in this land; we are soldiers stationed in enemy occupied territory. We are not to become preoccupied with "civilian affairs" and are to "always seek to please our commanding officer" (2 Tim. 2:4).
What our commanding officer tells us to be is fully invested in living under the reign of God, yielding to the Spirit who continually works to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. We are to live Spirit-led, radically counter-cultural lives. And we're to collectively form a contrast society that puts the beauty of God's self-sacrificial character on display in the midst of a world that has grown profoundly ugly.
To live this way is to revolt against everything in our lives, society, government and the world that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To live this way is to revolt against Satan and the Powers that empower all that is inconsistent with the reign of God. To live this way, in other words, is to be a revolutionary.
Viva la revolution!
F.Y.I. For two interesting websites that espouse something like Christian Anarchy or Christ-Archy, see http://www.jesusradicals.com and http://www.jesusmanifesto.com
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Behold, the nations are like a drop in a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust...
All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
Though all governments are premised on mistrust of God (as we saw in the previous blog), and though they are all ruled by Satan, the "lord of this world" and the "god of this age" (Lk 4:5-7; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4), God nevertheless uses their sword wielding violent tendencies to achieve certain objectives, including keeping as much law and order as possible (Rom. 13:1-6). Still, the passage we're looking at today reveals that God invests these governments with no significance. They are to him like a drop of water that disappears once dropped in the bucket and like a speck of dust that doesn't register on the scales. They are "nothing," "less than nothing" and "meaningless."
To belong to the Kingdom is to place all of our trust in this God. Part of living in the Kingdom, therefore, is to accept this perspective of all the nations, governments, politics and armies of the world. They are "less than nothing."
The fallen natural mind of course sees our trust as insane, impractical and probably irresponsible. The fallen natural mind instinctively believes that everything hangs on what politicians, governments, nations and armies do. This is why people with this fallen mindset grow anxious about who is getting elected, what policies are being put in place, what nation is gaining the upper hand and which army is growing the strongest. The fate of the nation and of the world hangs in the balance on such issues! We must do whatever it takes, using violence if necessary, to ensure that the "right" people get elected, the "right" policies are put in place, the "right" nation gets the upper hand and the "right" army grows the strongest.
The "right" ones, of course, always happen to be our own. And the bloody merri-go-round of history keeps spinning round and round.
This outlook is natural for fallen humans. But people with a Kingdom mindset know better. Our trust isn't in nations, governments, politics and armies, but in the God for whom all these things are an insignificant speck of dust. This is why a Kingdom person can enjoy "perfect peace" as their eyes are fixed on him (Isa 26:3).
This doesn't mean that Kingdom people are to simply resign themselves to whatever comes to pass in our nation and around the globe. To the contrary, we are called to be revolutionaries. Following the example of Jesus, we are to revolt against everything in our life, in society and around the world that is inconsistent with the will of God in the world.
But we aren't called to be revolutionaries by acting like pagans who pin their hope on resolving the endless problems of worldly politics the "right" way. We're to be revolutionaries by acting like Jesus who placed all of his trust in his Father -- for whom all the politics of the world are "less than nothing." This is why Jesus could refrain from using power available to him to crush his enemies in self defense and rather offer his life up in love for his enemies.
Of course this sacrifice -- like all Kingdom sacrifice -- looked insane, impractical and irresponsible from the perspective of the natural mind. But Jesus confidence in his Father paid off three days later. This launched the Kingdom revolution we are part of today, and we're called to advance it by living with this same sort of confidence in God and same sort of sacrificial love toward others, including all enemies.
Viva la revolution!
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The last two days I've been reading Ellul's The Presence of the Kingdom. Fantastic book -- though many readers will find his somewhat elusive "dialectical" style challenging (Ellul writes, and thinks, in terms of antitheses.) Anyway, the book inspired me to re-study everything the Bible says about governments. I'm recording my reflections in an essay I'm writing for our new website that will be entitled God, Government and Christian Anarchy. (We've hit some snags, but hopefully the new site will be up pretty soon).
Here's a sampling. It's my reflection on I Sam. 8:1-22. I've come to suspect this text is absolutely foundational for a proper understanding for God's view of all human government. (You might want to stop and carefully read the text before proceeding).
It wasn't part of God’s original plan for humans to ever rule other humans. This came about because of the fall. I Samuel 8 indicates that one of the things God originally intended to do with Israel was to begin inching humanity back to this ideal, for up to this point in Israel's history they hadn't had a human ruler. True, God had occasionally appointed judges to settle disputes, but there had been no established government or positional ruler.
In the age in which Samuel lived, however, the faith of the Israelites wavered and they wanted a king “to be like other nations,” and to “go out before us and fight our battles.” In other words, the people felt having a king would give them greater security. They no longer trusted God to do this.
God responded to this request for a king by decrying,
…they have rejected me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day–in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods…”
God pleaded with his people not to go down this path. He warned them that giving a person power over them would wreak havoc in their lives (vss. 11-18). What God knew – but what the people seemed incapable of accepting – was that when sinful humans are given power, they tend to use it in sinful ways. Exceptions to this are very rare, as history readily testifies. But the people would not listen. They demanded a king. So God reluctantly gave them what they wanted.
This passage reveals that governments are a concession on God’s part to humans who cannot trust God to rule them. Since humans are rebellious and insist on having them, God uses governments, as much as possible, to preserve as much law and order as possible (Rom. 13:1-5). But this doesn’t mean that God approves of them. Often in the Old Testament God used a wicked nation (e.g. Assyria) to punish Israel, only to turn around and punish the nation he used for being wicked (e.g. Isa 10). God uses what he does not approve. That’s God’s attitude toward governments. They are under the influence of Satan (Lk 4:5-7) and are inherently corrupt, but God nevertheless uses them to achieve his objectives, so far as this is possible.
By contrast, the Kingdom of God is premised on people trusting God as their sole ruler. This is simply what it means to live under the reign of God. It follows that Kingdom people should place no more trust in governments than Jesus did – which was none. If a government's laws happen to be consistent with the rule of God, we obey them. If they’re not, we follow the example of Jesus and disobey them. But either way, it’s clear that our behavior isn’t dictated by what government says, but by what God says.
This is why it's appropriate to refer to the Kingdom's view of government as "Christian Anarchy" (an [without] archy [authority]). Because we trust God and have pledged our sole allegiance to God, we are to have no trust in any of the the "archys" that are premised on not trusting God.
Think about it.
Monday, January 21, 2008
For the first time in history, we have an African American who is a viable candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Barack Obama wouldn't be doing what he's doing today if it wasn't for what Martin Luther King Jr. did 40 years ago -- at great cost to himself. This man did more to free America from its historical racism than any other single individual (though, of course, we still have a long way to go).
From a Kingdom perspective, the thing that stands out most about King is not that he rallied blacks to push back on unjust laws. This was of course a good and necessary thing to do. What makes King a truly great man from a distinctly Kingdom perspective, however, is the way he did this.
Before marching, King would always tell his audiences he didn't want anyone marching who could not genuinely say she loved her white oppressors and was marching not only for her own freedom, but for the freedom of her oppressors (for King saw that oppressing another is as much a form of bondage as being oppressed). Not only this, but King would tell audiences he didn't want anyone marching who couldn't commit to refraining from all violence, even in self-defense. King explicitly based all this on the teaching and example of Jesus.
This makes what King did not simply a good and necessary social movement. It makes what King did a Kingdom movement. Indeed, I'd argue that the early civil rights movement, led by King, was one of the clearest expressions of the Kingdom in history.
It's unfortunate, though hardly surprising, that the beautiful Kingdom dimension of King's vision has largely been forgotten today. For the most part, King is remembered simply as a leader who fought for the rights of oppressed people, and the civil rights movement is remembered only as a political and social protest movement. In my opinion, this doesn't do King justice. It misses the most important thing about the man. While the civil rights movement spun off in a number of directions -- including some that contained violence -- the man who birthed it had a vision of a movement that would look like a giant Jesus, fighting for the freedom of all though loving service to enemies rather than relying on anger and force.
To honor King rightly, we must never forget this.
Indeed, to honor King rightly, we must never cease to practice this.
Live in love, as Christ loved you and gave his life for you (Eph 5:1-2).
Friday, January 18, 2008
Enjoyed a nice date with my wife last night. We saw the movie Atonement. I loved being with my wife, but this movie frankly left me a little flat.
Atonement is supposed to be a poignant love story. I was expecting a sort of Doctor Zhivago story of lovers who are tragically separated for long periods of time, but whose love endures against all obstacles, yada yada. Didn't happen.
Two lovers are indeed tragically separated, but the movie didn't make me care about them all that much. The movie never convinced me these two young folks were really all that in love in the first place. Their whole relationship consisted of a single passionate encounter in an office (I kid you not)! It was physically passionate, but not particularly romantic. It lasted maybe 90 seconds and then was interrupted by a snoopy bratty girl. The lovers are then immediately separated for the rest of the movie (except for one brief encounter in a hospital cafeteria that wasn't very emotionally compelling).
Sorry, but you just can't leverage very much on one 90 second sexual encounter. True, you had the sense that these two people had loved each other for some time prior to this encounter, without acknowledging it to one another (leaving the viewer to guess why). And I'm sure this hidden love is fully developed in the book. But in the movie it was just too vague to make you more emotionally invested in their relationship.
So, as a love story, I felt it flopped.
But all was not lost. For this movie isn't only, or even primarily, a love story. It's even more fundamentally a story about living with guilt. You see, the reason the lovers were separated for years was because the little girl who caught them "doing it" ended up telling a vicious lie about the man that got him sent away to prison and then off to war. Basically, she destroyed the life of both the guy and the gal. She gradually comes to realize the seriousness of her sin and then must struggle with the question of how she can atone for it.
For me, the redeeming point of this movie was the brilliant way it addressed this issue. Basically, there's nothing this girl can do to atone for her what she's done. The message is, you can't undo destroyed lives, and so you can't remit guilt. The girl thus lives a condemned life.
I may be reading too much into this movie (Shelley says I always do), but I felt the movie (probably unwittingly) testified to the need for a Savior and the need for an afterlife, in which all wrongs are made right, if anyone is ever going to experience true atonement. If death ends everything, there is no hope.
In my view, the depth and poignancy of this profoundly important theological point atoned for the movie's flat love story.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
You can check out the minute and a half clip HERE.
Man, is he going after the evangelical vote, or what?!
Now, I can't help but wonder what this sincere man means when he says he wants to "amend the constitution to fit God's standards." Of course, he probably means he wants to outlaw gay marriage, since the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. But if we're going to make our constitution fit "God's standards," as reflected in the Bible, why stop there?
Marriage throughout most of the book of "God's standards" allowed for polygamy and even concubines. If the Bible is to be our standard for marriage in America, perhaps our constitution should be amended to reflect its comprehensive view of marriage.
So too, the Bible allows for (and even occasionally commands) slavery, as the good old pre-abolition Christian South was eager to point out to the liberal secularists in the North. Would Huckabee have us amend our constitution to fit this aspect of the book of "God's standards"? Why not? If our goal is to conform to "God's standards," why be selective?
How about the way women are treated as property throughout much of the Bible? And let's not forget the pervasive "holy wars" we find in the Old Testament. If we want a constitution that truly reflects "God's standards," why not incorporate these as well?
And of course, the Bible knows absolutely nothing of any "inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness." This comes out of John Locke, not the Bible. So maybe these pagan concepts should be jettisoned if we're going to seek to have a constitution that conforms to "God's standards."
Then again, for Christians "God's standards" are centered on Jesus Christ and the New Testament. Since Huckabee is appealing to Christian voters, and apparently wants to promote a "Christian America," why shouldn't he center his constitution amending policy on this central aspect of the book of "God's standards"?
Now that would be interesting.
Can you imagine if it was in the U.S. constitution that whenever we as individuals or as a nation were attacked, we by law would have to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, bless our assailants, do good to our persecutors, refuse to retaliate, offer them whatever they ask (expecting nothing in return), offer to feed them, clothe them and provide housing for them, and of course offer our lives up on their behalf, however evil they may be (e.g. Lk 6:27-35; Mt 5:39; Rom. 12:17-21)?
Goodbye to "the right to bear arms"!
If this is the direction Huckabee would like to amend our beloved constitution, I would greatly admire his courage and wish him the best -- because there's no way in perdition Christians would get him elected if that is what he meant! They may want a constitution that "conforms to God's standards," but only certain passages carefully selected out of his book of holy "standards," and certainly not the standards set by Jesus Christ!
Isn't it ironic?
Now please hear me. My point is not to weigh in on the political issue of gay marriage. Vote your faith and values (like anyone doesn't do this). My point is that there's something profoundly naive, if not disingenuous, about trying to pretend like we can resolve this or any other political issue in our pluralistic society by trying to make the Bible law.
Even worse -- much worse -- when Huckabee and other well-intentioned Christians talk this way, they earn the right to be despised by non-Christians, and thus to have the Gospel they claim to represent despised as well. The beauty of God's self-sacrificial love is once again smothered in the ugliness of politics.
Jesus never let politics get in the way of the message he was sent to bring. And the central job of his followers is to simply imitate him (Eph. 5:1-2).
How I'd love it if Huckabee would call on all Christians to consider their own sins to be much worse than the sins of gay people (Mt 7:1-3; I Tim. 1:15-16) and to commit to demonstrating God's love for gay people by sacrificially serving them.
Of course, he'd never get elected.
He might get crucified.
But I'd certainly vote for him!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Thanks again for all your prayers. I'm feeling much better.
I'm still a bit sick, but I managed to travel to Columbia, Missouri, this weekend to preach/teach at a friend's church (Woodcrest Chapel). Had a very nice time sharing my testimony. Coughed up a couple phlegm balls, but no big deal.
A bigger deal was the fact that I lost my driver's license on the way down to Columbia (how shocking, right?). I had no other I.D. I thought I was totally up-a-creek, but it turns out you can fly without an I.D. -- it's just a real hassle. You have to be thoroughly searched at every checkpoint and have all this paperwork filled out. But you can do it.
While traveling there and back I read Jacques Ellul's The Subversion of Christianity (I'm obviously on an Ellul-kick these days). This is a man after my own heart (and head)!!! Everybody needs to read this book!
Ellul's basic thesis is that the Kingdom Jesus inaugurated with his life, death and resurrection has been subverted -- converted into its opposite, in fact -- in the religion of Christendom. This happened primarily because leaders in the 4th and 5th century decided to give into the temptation that Jesus resisted (Lk 4:5-7) -- namely, acquiring political power (thus, submitting to the devil's authority). Christianity thus was co-opted by "the powers." A movement that was in its very essence non-conformist became a religion of conformity. Indeed, Christianity has historically usually been a defender of the status quo ("conservative").
More specifically, Ellul shows that Christianity has been subverted by:
* SUCCESS. The Kingdom only works when it's lived out in small numbers. Once it becomes a mass movement, it becomes an ideology and loses its soul.
* MONEY. A movement that was founded on people renouncing all possessions got seduced into sanctifying the "right" to possessions.
* MORALITY. This is a huge point. Ellul totally gets that eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is judgment and is at the root of all sin (see chapter IV). The Kingdom revolution is a revolution of the Spirit -- which is the antithesis of living on the basis of ethics. He continually stresses that the New Testament and the early Jesus-movement "has no morality." Once Christianity became a ruling power and a successful mass movement, however, it had to control people with rules.
* RELIGION. The Jesus movement is anti-religious. But people crave religion. They have "religious needs" that the Jesus movement undermines. When the movement became a mass movement, it became a Christianized version of pagan religion.
* PRAGMATISM. The Kingdom was founded on the singular concern to be faithful to God, not a concern to fix the world. Once Christianity became successful, however, it wrongly assumed responsibility to rule the world and got practical. Since most of Jesus' teachings are impractical, they had to be set aside.
* VIOLENCE. Non-violence never seems practical, so it was among the things that needed to go. (Here Ellul curiously argues that the example of Islam was the main influence in making Christianity a violent religion, see Chapter V).
* POLITICS. Here Ellul is at his best, showing how Jesus' apolitical/anti-political movement was transformed into the handmaiden of politics. He shows that Christianity has almost always pathetically given divine sanction to whatever political regime it found itself in. Using ingenious theological arguments right out of the Bible, the Church defended the monarchy when it found itself under a monarchy and the Republic form of government when under this type of government. So too, it defended Socialism under Socialism, Communism under Communism and of course Democracy under a Democracy. The movement whose heart is to revolt against all government to manifest the reign of God is reduced to a silly defender of whatever government happens to be in charge.
* POWER. The heart of the problem, Ellul argues, is that we fear the freedom the Kingdom offers us. It's the radical freedom of possessing nothing -- including power. We rather crave the security of things, of power, of rules, and of pretending we are free (e.g. by having a vote) when in fact we are in bondage. The Spirit was to set us free, but this requires relinquishing all these things.
Anyone who knows my work can see why I would be very excited reading this book.
A few other things are worth noting.
* Ellul is unequivocally an open theist, though he (writing in the 80s) doesn't use this term. He never gives a sustained argument for this view, but takes stabs here and there at the idea that the future is pre-settled in God's foreknowledge or will (predestination).
* Ellul's writing style is a bit erratic. Some readers will find his thought process hard to follow at times. Also, he presupposes a lot on the part of his reader. He constantly makes references to people, movements and ideas without explaining them. You can follow the gist of his argument without a knowledge of these things, but it does make his book more challenging.
* Ellul has an assortment of idiosyncratic ideas I find entirely implausible. Sometimes his interpretations of particular passages border on being bizarre -- as when he argues that the "abomination" referred to in Matthew 24 refers to the corruption of Christianity. He also denies that Satan and demons are personal agents or have any reality apart from humans. His view of the Trinity is rather modalistic. And he doesn't seem to endorse the worship of Jesus. There's other quirky things as well.
Still, all this aside, this is a book I'd encourage everyone to wrestle with.
Now I'm onto the next Ellul book: The Politics of God and the Politics of Man. I'll let you know how it goes.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Not 100% for sure, but compared to Wednesday, I'm the epitome of health. Thanks for your prayers.
Well, obviously the last five days haven't been the most productive in my life. But when I wasn't a total zombie staring at the TV I managed to get a little work done for the new website. I transposed many of the Q & A e-mails I've saved over the last year onto the site, where we have Q & A and essay sections. (Don't worry, I took out all the names and any possible personal references and I edited most of them). The site will be up and running very soon.
I also managed to read a couple of good books on "Christian Anarchy."
For some background I first read Daniel Guerin's Anarchism (gives a history of secular anarchism). I then read Jacques Ellul's Anarchy and Christianity, followed by a re-reading of Vernard Eller's Christian Anarchy. All are highly recommended.
So, you're wondering, what is Anarchism?
Basically (this will be very general) it's a political philosophy that goes back to two radical thinkers in the 19th century: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his disciple Mikhail Bakunin. They held that there are no political solutions to human problems, because politics lies at the foundation of most human problems. All top-down forms of government -- which means, pretty much all governments -- are evil. If the collective whole of humanity would commit to not allowing anyone to rule anyone else, a new bottom-up kind of order would naturally arise as humans formed egalitarian, reciprocally beneficial associations with others.
Unfortunately, the elite and powerful benefit from the present hierarchical political and economic systems and the masses have been brainwashed to believe that they need to be ruled. The masses fear freedom, which is why they surrender autonomy over to alleged superiors. (In totalitarian regimes, people surrender autonomy by allowing the regime to go on. In democracies, they surrender it with a vote -- which Anarchists view as little more than a means by which a government gives citizens the illusion that they're empowered). As I understand it (mainly from Guerin), the Anarchist movement was born to help people escape their brainwashing, see the truth of what is going on and be empowered to live truly free lives.
Jacques Ellul was a brilliant French thinker who saw profound similarities between Anarchism and the view of government espoused by Jesus (and, he argues, the rest of the Bible as well). Of course, the secular anarchists were too optimistic in thinking humans could ever govern themselves. But they were right about the evils of government. Government is ruled by Satan and the rebellious principalities and powers (which, unfortunately, Ellul thinks are mythic symbols of human evil).
The Kingdom Jesus established is anarchistic in that it recognizes God alone as the arche (supreme power). It thus lives free from all other powers (an-arche [anarchy] means without authority). Governments are part of the fallen, oppressed world system that has been done away with in Christ.
In Ellul's estimation, it's not appropriate for Kingdom people to either support or revolt against governments. This gives them too much credit. Rather, following the example of Jesus, we should ignore them as much as possible, put up with them as much as we need to, and stay focused on living out the radical Kingdom. If we do this, then we, like Jesus, will find ourselves revolting against the government (and culture). We are, most fundamentally, called to be non-conformists. Our service to the world is the way our counter-cultural lives expose the invalidity of all forms of government by manifesting the reign of God.
Anyone who has read The Myth of a Christian Nation would immediately know what I think of this perspective.
Vernard Eller's Christian Anarchy espouses basically the same perspective and covers much the same ground and Ellul - but he's actually a better writer than Ellul (though this may partly be due to the fact that Ellul's work is translated from French) and is more thorough. He also has a playful style I enjoyed (especially when feeling close to death as I read it). Here's how he re-states Paul's call to submit to ruling authorities in Romans 13:1-7:
"Be clear, any of those human arkys [governmental authorities] are where they are only because God is allowing them to be there. They exist only at his sufferance. And if God is willing to put up with a stinker like the Roman Empire, you ought to be willing to put up with it, too. There is no indication God has called you to clear it out of the way or get it converted for him. You can't fight the Roman Empire without becoming like the Roman Empire; so you had better leave such matters in Gods' hands where they belong" (Christian Anarchy, p.11).
Anyway, I encourage you to join the Christian Anarchistic movement. Get along with the ruling powers as much as you can, but put no trust in them. Let's let our lives reflect the truth that governments are part of a fallen world order that has been rendered obsolete in Christ. May our lives reflect the truth that the hope of the world lies in the power of the cross, not the sword -- or the vote.
Viva la revolution!
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Saturday night I got hit with something nasty. The last four days have been spent sneezing, coughing and groaning. My lungs burn. Every joint aches. My throat is raw. I haven't showered, shaved or slept much for four days.
I looked in the mirror last night and scared myself.
A few blogs ago Marcia celebrated the band I play in, "Not Dead Yet." I feel like I' m close to falsifying our bands name.
Have you ever been so sick you get irritated just waking up -- because now you realize you have to be conscious? I wish someone would invent a pill you could take to go into a temporary coma to ride out this sort of thing.
At the same time, I realize that, while I may feel like I'm close to death, I'm going to be just fine in a few days. And I realize there are millions of people around the globe who are, at this very moment, experiencing much more misery than I am and who have no hope of getting out of it.
When I use my little slice of misery to empathize with their huge dose of misery, it makes my misery much more bearable.
Another example of the Kingdom principle that it's in our self-interest to put others' interests above our own interests (Phil. 2:3-4).
So, I should quite whining and go back to my semi-comatose T.V. staring.
But I certainly wouldn't mind any "quick recovery" prayers you'd shoot up on my behalf.
Greg the half dead
Monday, January 7, 2008
See, quality takes time.
And does anybody know anyone else who says "Bug!" when they're peeved? One of the things I love about Marcia is that she's just... shall we say... a little different. Sometimes I like irritating her just to listen to her unique way of expressing herself. It's so cute!
Well, for the next NDY gig we'll try to get a bigger venue so we can actually let people know about it (The Dugout could only hold 175 people).
Speaking of quality taking time, the new site is coming along... any day now... I personally can't wait, partly for selfish reasons. I get 40-60 e-mails a day. About a third of them are questions, and around 90% of these are questions I've answered, in one form or another, a dozen to a hundred times. I've been saving my responses and plan on transferring them to this new site. (This will take awhile, so don't expect them all up when we debut in a couple days). Then I can just respond to these questioners by saying, "check out the site."
Try to remember the most important aspect of your environment each moment is that God is present there. If you're not aware of God, right now, you're filtering out the most important thing.
"Practice the presence of God" (bro. Lawrence)
Sunday, January 6, 2008
ok, first I just have to say, RUDE!
GB needs to chill.
he simply can't get over the messy room issue. DUDE!
but, since I'm a mature, gracious, God-loving & fearing woman, I will look past Greg's latest blog dedicated completely to disparaging my character...I won't go there. Before I get to the pictures...as a representative of Providence Ministries I'd like to say a huge thanks to NDY and everyone who came out to hear them...over $1000 was raised towards our work in Haiti! THANKS!!!
I give you NDY...already!!
Yes, Marcia WILL BE giving a pictorial blog on the NDY debut later... like I PROMISED in my previous blog. A slight delay it seems. Marcia has read parts of my forthcoming book Cosmic Dancing, and so, apparently, has learned that time is relative -- to humans, but not to God. So, since Marica is human, and not God, very soon could mean... well....
dum dee dum dum....
any day now, for sure....
It'll be something alright.
Quality takes time you know.
Soon as it pops up, it'll be really special. Yes sir.
Heh, just checked out my friend Terri's blog. She got the "A Roar for Powerful Word's" award for blogging! Way to go Terri! She's only been doing this for a couple weeks. Wow. But if anyone roars with words, its her. Check out her blog here.
What do ya think about Huckabee and Obama? Was I right about that, or what? Wow.
I didn't preach today cause I was sick. Fortunately they could show the video from the Saturday night service.
In case you wanted to know.
Friday night rocked. You'll see.... soon.
Some of you may recall that this is the same Marcia that embarrassed me a while back showing how messy my office is. I love her tons, but kind of owe her some grief, don't you think?
She's really got a gift for photography. Punctuality? -- not so much.
But you'll see, it'll be worth the wait...
Earth calling Marcia. Come in Marcia???
Peace on you all.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Now, I'm of course not one to say "I told you so," so I won't...
but just FYI, I did. (See previous blog)
Let's see if I'm right about the presidential run off.
Greg (the humble and wise)
ps. Had a GREAT time last night playing with NDY at the Dugout as a fund raiser for Providence Ministries. Marcia will post a pictorial blog of it later.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Yes yes yes, a little belated. So what. Time is relative.
Well, this blog is called RANDOM reflections, and the blog today will show why. I'm going to push randomness to a whole new level. I'm just feeling in a random mood. (We should coin a new adjective: "I'm feeling randomy.")
1) I'll start by telling you about my New Year's celebration. As we always do, Shelley and I ushered in the New Year with our small group, our kids and a bunch of their friends. It was a packed house. We played lots of games (including our favorite, Mafia). We also played a new game where you have to shout out random word associations, and I was reduced to tears (of laughter) when Marcia Erickson (our small group paparazzi) tried to convince us that "Ostriches fold." You kinda had to be there.
2) Our daughter Denay and grandson Soel came and stayed with us for the week between Christmas and New Years. Heighlos, our son-in-law, joined us for a day as well. He manages (very successfully I might add) the Buckle clothing store in Fargo, so he had to get back for the day after Christmas opening.
Soel wakes up every morning and wants to watch videos of drummers on the internet. Then he wants to play drums. Then he wants to watch more drumming videos. Then he'll drum when he eats, takes a bath, watches TV, gets changed... basically always. He drums with drum sticks, spoons, pens, markers, straws, tooth brushes... anything. And the little dude is getting good! How many 19-month-old kids do you know that can do a "long roll" (where you bounce each stick twice eat time you hit)?
3) Well, ladies and gentlemen, the rock-n-roll band I play in -- NDY (Not Dead Yet) -- debuts tomorrow night (Friday, January 4th) at "The Dugout" in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. NDY is composed of the guys in my small group (Dave Churchill, Greg Erickson, Alex Ross and myself) and we'll be joined by the very talented Steve Lutz on keyboard and the musical genius worship pastor of Woodland Hills Church, Norm Blagman. We've been practicing a lot, and NDY is getting NTB (not too bad). If you're in the area, stop by (music starts at 9:00). We're going to have a blast! It's a fund raiser for Providence Ministries and the suggested donation ("cover charge") is $5. Marcia plans a pictorial blog of the event...so watch for that.
4) Speaking of Providence Ministries, we raised almost $20,000 in December for the Haitian Education Project that supports three different schools through Woodland Hills Church and other supporters! Praise God, and a hearty "thank you" to all who are sacrificing for this great ministry. There are of course always far more needs in Haiti than there are resources, so we can always use more support. Visit their blog for more information.
5) Speaking of Haiti, it's been a delight having the lovely Dr. Jen Halverson back with us the last two weeks. As many of you know, Jen is in the middle of a 9 month stint doing medical work in Haiti. She too can always use more support. You can find out about her ministry by visiting her blog.
6) Saw The Great Debaters last night with Shelley. Very uncreative title, but excellent movie. Yes, it's a bit formulaic, but it's a sweet, feel-good formula! This is the true story of an African American debate team from a tiny Texas town who in 1935 ended up beating the Harvard team which was, at the time, the reigning national champion. It's a nice "against all odds" sort of flick. But it's also a story also about racism, courage, hope, love and -- believe it or not -- non-violent civil disobedience. And it has a good dose of suspenseful drama. What more could you ask for from a movie!
7) Also saw Enchanted the other day. Very cute, funny and touching. A nice escape from reality movie. The lady who plays the cartoon-turned-real Princess (forget her name but she's from Minnesota) deserves an Oscar. Well, maybe not. But she is perfect for the role.
8) In a couple of days, Christus Victor Ministries will have a new web site! Yes, I know we just got a new one last year, but for a number of reasons it wasn't working for us. This new one rocks! Even before we launch the site, I want to say thank you to my good friend Julie Ross who has graciously poured her formidable website designing skills into making this a first rate site. Check out the above link in a couple days (if all goes smoothly).
9) Another person in my small group, Terri Churchill (married to Dave the lead singer of our famous rock band, NDY) started her own blog the other day. You can check it out here. This is good news to the world, because as everybody who knows Terri can testify, this woman is an insightful thinker and incredible writer. We've been encouraging her to publish some of her stuff for years. This is a nice move in this direction and I bet those who check out her blog will be blessed.
10) Finally, as you all know, today the rat race officially begins. By the time you read this the Iowa Caucus will probably be about over. Only 10 more months of insanity left!!
I think it's fun to try to guess who'll win. So, just for fun, here's my two cents.
I've been saying to Shelley for the last five months that Huckabee is going to win the Republican nomination. Five months ago hardly anybody knew who Huckabee was. He's the only candidate who conservative Christians could possibly rally behind, and he's the only one who knows how to push all the evangelical buttons. But he didn't appear "winnable" until recently. Now he does. I'm guessing that Evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson who threw their weight behind Rudy Giuliani (despite his rather liberal stances on certain issues and less than stellar personal life) and Mitt Romney (despite his Mormonism and notorious flip-flopping) are kicking themselves right now. I suspect he'll win Iowa, but however it goes in Iowa, I'm predicting you're going to see the conservative Christian crowd rally together (which concerns me, of course), and Huckabee will take the nomination.
But it's just a guess.
On the democratic side of things, it's obviously wide open. But if I had to, I'd put my money on Obama. I've thought from the get-go that Hilary just has too much baggage. Her last name is Clinton. Her political involvement in the past has been very polarizing -- at a time when people are exhausted from the intense polarization of the present administration. Consider also that almost half of all people polled say they would vote against Hilary regardless of who her opponent is. That's a very hard deficit to overcome. Not impossible, but formidable.
So, I'm guessing it will in the end be Huckabee against Obama. And, despite the conservative rally I don't think Huckabee stands much of a chance. Obama will be our next president.
And none of this matters much -- which is the main point for Kingdom people to remember. Whatever happens in this rat race, please don't let yourself get sucked in. Have you're opinions, make your guesses, vote if you want to. But always remember that the power that will ultimately conquer evil and save the world is not the power that flows from Caesar's throne. It's rather the power that flows from Calvary.
This year, lets commit to exercising that power 24/7.