Different approaches

I have been reflecting (arguing within my own head?) about how there are different approaches to engagement and focusing in on the business world, as that is where Gayle is focused in at this time. I don’t know if it would be helpful to put it on a spectrum though one approach I consider is dubious / out of bounds so to put it on a spectrum would not be helpful, but for a moment let me suggest we might use that as a way in.

  • Involved in business but it is a ‘trojan horse’ as the real issue is the spread of ‘the Gospel’.
  • Kingdom business that has a different set of values toward mammon, employment, fair wages, working condition, effect on the planet, thus the business is explicitly Christian.
  • Involved in business and immersed not with the agenda of evangelising, but of helping create an environment for healthy inter-relationships, that promote humanisation and each person becoming the best (a better?) version of themselves.

No guess for which one I remove from the spectrum! The first gives me enormous difficulties as the real motivation is hidden. Of course in situations where one is called to be involved in a geography where there is no freedom for Christian expression of faith business might be the only way in. And in every situation, regardless of the approach, we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. If our hope is not ‘I go to heaven and not hell’ (not the hope of the NT) we need to work out what our hope is and how we express it. Assuming we can get beyond life is evangelism to good news is living energised by the Spirit, then of course all of life becomes sacred and nothing we are involved in becomes ‘secular’.

There is significant space for the second approach, but sticking the adjective ‘Christian’ or ‘kingdom’ in front of business is not enough. By our fruit we are to be known. As indicated in the bullet point on some very key issues there has to be a difference. Maximising profit was always prohibited in Scripture; marginalised benefitting from what we are involved in, at no cost to them, was always desirable; and we need to add – though biblically it was always there – the improvement of the planet is highly necessary. If such a business is ‘Christian’, truly kingdom (not perfect, but redemptive within all aspects of the world God has made, thus moving things in a ‘New Jerusalem’ direction) then we might be able to use the metaphor of ‘light’ to describe it. That certainly was a metaphor to describe the calling of Israel and one that Jesus used of himself and gave to the disciples. Light to light up a path, to show the way. So I think there is a place in God’s economy for this approach.

The third approach is a challenge. Salt enters (for salt would be the metaphor for this) and is largely unseen. But the purpose of the salt is to bring about change, and if the focus biblically is on the salt of the dead sea it was to promote good growth (high in phosphates hence a fertiliser) and to hinder disease (used to protect the environment from human excrement). If that was the central purpose of salt (we can add the savouring of food etc…) then what we have here is the binding and loosing activity – what is permitted and what is forbidden.

No surprise that I favour the last two. All of the above challenges our world-views, our eschatology and our views regarding the good news of Jesus. Or maybe we can reverse that: our world-view, eschatology, and our view of the good news of Jesus will help us critique how we consider we should be involved in the world.

One of my perplexed questions

For a long time I have pondered concerning the actions and prayers of ‘believers’ – if we are pushing in a wrong direction does that cock things up, does it even work against a godly resolution – I will come to Gaza and Israel before I finish this post, but maybe start a little back from that. Of course what I write are ‘perspectives’ but they are based on certain presuppositions (I hesitated to write ‘truths’!!):

  • I do not believe that God controls the future in the sense of exercising omnipotence over all things. For sure God works in all things for a good / the best outcome. God is love, and that love is non-controlling (although I struggle with certain aspects of Oord’s ‘God can’t’ I certainly go with the premise of ‘Uncontrolling Love’). To believe in ‘sovereignty’ in the sense of control runs up against the justifiable ‘problem of evil’ objection.
  • There is no divide between the God of the OT and the God of the NT, but we are not invited to read OT genocidal commands as coming from heaven… we are invited to continue to read and in reading discover that the God who is one (Old and New Testaments) is the ‘Christlike God’. We must engage with the intra-canonical dialogue and disagreement of Scripture. Scripture disarms us as much as parts of it need to be disarmed.
  • (Relevant to Gaza / Israel – surely it is remarkable that there are no NT Scriptures that seek to pull on Ezekiel-type passages concerning Armageddon, the land as promise etc… The only way to get there is to start with a system and then fit the passages into that – something completely absent in the NT… and I include Revelation as apocalyptic (and certainly far from literal) literature in that assertion, which of course does mention the mythical place of Armageddon.)

We spent much time praying into the effects of the Civil War in Spain – and into some of the underlying history from centuries prior to that. A big concern was the burial of Franco inside a huge ‘cathedral’ hewn inside a mountain with the largest cross of its type above the tomb – some 200 metres high. That raised the question as to whether by placing the cross there corrupted the meaning of the cross but co-opted some of the power it symbolised. That is a huge assumption and if true (I think so) indicated why it was such a battle to see Franco’s body exhumed and moved. That experience and journey left me with a conviction that when something that is genuinely ‘of Christ’ is used (abused) it is not something neutral but co-opts what should be present for transformation and reconciliation for something that stands against genuine transformation and reconciliation. Moving on…

This then has given me my perplexed question. What happens if I as a believer in Jesus start to pray for (say) judgement against my enemies – does that in some way release something spiritual that has an outworking against my ‘enemies’, all the while Jesus is saying ‘Martin, love your enemy, bless those who curse you’?

What if, prayers that are ‘wrong’, in the sense of not flowing with the Christlike God and for the kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, actually frustrate the coming of that kingdom or indeed go further and they actually resist the kingdom of God coming? This is the heart of my perplexed question… and if (as I suspect I am partly on to something) it really troubles me.

My guess is that since so much of evangelical Christianity is shaped by (a modified) form of Dispensationalism there are huge amount of prayers that are along the lines of ‘give Israel victory, restore the boundaries to them’ being offered up to heaven in the current war scenario. If not prayers, then I doubt if from that quarter there are prayers being offered up for peace and reconciliation, or if peace is viewed as a good outcome it is as per Rome who built their temple dedicated to the god of peace (Pax) literally on the field that was dedicated to the god of war (Mars). Peace but how? Through war and subduing all the enemies – the way of all Imperial kingdoms / basileia . So different to the path of peace forged through the blood of Messiah – the way of the kingdom / basileia of heaven.

Into Gaza and Israel we have generational trauma on both sides; both groups have been wronged, and of course until we are healed of such wrongs we tend to believe that any wrong that we are now involved in comes under the heading of ‘justice’ – two wrongs making a right / a justice.

The kingdom does not advance and rejoice when blood is shed – blood shedding being one of the primary actions that pollute land and polluted land draws demonic strongholds to it in increasing measure.

I wish I could resolve my perplexed question with the answer that God does not listen to ‘wrong’ prayers, but sadly and painfully I have not been able to do that. If I am only partly right I pray God have mercy on us, forgive us as we do not know what we are doing. I have to increase my faith that God works in the midst of all the mess we have helped create.

God have mercy on… Israel, Jews, Gaza, Palestinian Arabs (many of whom have Jewish ancestry), God have mercy on us who claim to follow the Prince of Peace.

Humanity in the midst?

I finished with a small group that have journeyed through the four books on ‘Explorations in Theology’. I always benefit a lot, and as a result began to think about the Jesus’ phrase ‘where two or three are gathered together in his name then he is present between them’. Given that the first book was on Humanising the Divine, thus emphasising the similarity of God and humanity, that God was fully present in the muman manifestation of Jesus, then maybe we can explore something…

If two people who do not profess faith in God genuinely meet each other and ‘see’ each other then what manifests is something that approximates to true humanity. If in their coming together they objectify / dehumanise the other then what manifests is that which we term ‘demonic’.

If we were able to facilitate in the current climate a Palestinian and a Jew meeting and truly meeting so that hopes, fears and story can be heard by each other then in the space in between humanity would be manifest – the image of God not simply being indivdual but corporate (make ‘them’ in the image of God). That is how close we are to genuine transformation… and why we are so far from it.

While we were enemies of God (‘love your enemy’ not simply being a command but a way of life that God has manifest since the beginning) God sat ‘opposite’ us – not objectifying us but seeing us… we however, unable to see God (eyes of our heart blinded) there was no reconciliation. So God, in Christ, becomes human and incorporates us in Christ through the cross, swallowing up all death, sin and the powers.

If we meet into (eis) his name, come toward his name, representing / manifesting Jesus, to the extent we can do that is the extent that Jesus is manifest. This is much more than a prayer ‘we meet in the name of Jesus’ for we can meet and proclaim that but not manifest the name / character of Jesus… and conversely those without faith could meet, not proclaim any such thing, but there be a manifestation of humanity, Jesus being the fullness and trueness of humanity. This concept of Jesus as the fullness / trueness seems a sensible way to go… loving friends is a genuinely good thing, the fullness is loving one’s enemy; not committing adultery / murder is a genuinely good way to go, the fullness is the total humanising of the other, seeing the other (I-Thou of Martin Buber), not obejcitfying them.

So trying to summarise my babble… all genuine relationships manifest something of what it is to be humanity. Where that which is expressed is not genuine the space is created for the demonic to manifest. We should encourage all relationships to move toward being genuine (not all that is expressed by humanity is unclean and as filthy rags – the ‘righteousness’ provoked by religion is that which is ‘as filthy rags’). Then if we claim to have been reconciled to the Father through the Son the huge challenge is to move into the very character of Jesus (to gather into his name) for humanity will be manifest in that space, but not simply humanity as we know it, but humanity as expressed in Jesus; the fullness and trueness of what it means to be humanity.

Tough old book

Reading Scripture? Love doing that. Imagine doing that though as a Palestinian (and currently when both Netenyahu and certain nationalistic prophets equate Palestinians with the Amalekites!!!)… or reading certain parts as a woman… or as a host of other people. What if one grew up with the pain of definitely not being the ‘favourite’, then go on to read about choice within family, such as God being quoted as saying:

I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.

Yes it is a tough book at times.

I love to think (and sometimes love to say a little tongue in cheek, ‘the author of Hebrews, she says…’) that a woman (Priscilla) wrote Hebrews. It certainly does not seem that any of the other New Testament books are likely to have been written by a woman so let’s at least claim this one. (Paul does not seem an option – the style and content is just not like his. Maybe Barnabas?)

A woman? Maybe… but we read,

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel… (Heb. 11:32).

Who was ‘Barak’. In Judges 4, we read of Barak:

At that time Deborah, a prophet, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Position yourself at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand.’ ” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”

The hero(ine)? Deborah. The ‘judge in Israel?’ Deborah. The one who gets rebuked? Barak! Yet we come to Hebrews 11 and not a mention of Deborah, and Mr. Barak is promoted to the list of heroes of faith. What on earth do we do with this? A re-writing of the history? A deliberate erasure of a woman’s part in the story?

This absence of Deborah’s name probably means Priscilla was simply not the author, but it also further highlights that there are biases in Scripture.

Scripture written in another era and not written to us. Not to be judged by our era, and for us not to live in that era. Live within the story but do not be confined to that time as if the story has been fully written, with nothing further to be said. The letters are typical of that era (genre wise) but they are ever so radical. What about Paul’s claim that we are ‘letters’? Ever so radical in our era or nothing to say?

I appreciate why people bang the drum of ‘back to Judea-Christian values’ by which is meant ‘back to the Bible’… but what if we began to think backwards to our day from the future rather than forward to our day from the past? That just might make us highly creative, provocative but deeply relevant to the situations aruond us.

It is a tough old book; but the story being told (even when the wrong names appear and Deborah does not get a mention) if we follow that story will make the book difficult to read but the rewards will be incredible.

Commands to commit genocide; damning whole people groups; gender divisions… all of that is present within what we read… but let’s read about the past and read from the future.

Family? Who is your mother?

Ever been in a situation where you meet those who are ‘born again’, quote the same Bible, but something troubles you? Probably troubles you about how they talk about those who ‘need to be saved’ and in their approach to evangelise treat such people as objects, not seeing the other as a person and someone to walk with regardless of their response to what is termed the ‘gospel’. Or perhaps in the current scenario of Gaza / Israel? I have been there many times and often leave asking the question – are they my ‘brother / sister’? Do they know the same God (acknowledging that we all have a ‘sub-God’… for the one and true God is the one who ’emptied himself’ as the one who manifested that did so ‘being in the form of God’).

Recently with some major perspectives from VIctor Lorenzo I understand that in Abrham’s family there were a number of descendents. Ishmael and Isaac we are well acquainted with, but after the death of Sarah there were another ‘batch’ born:

Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, while he was still living, and he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country (Gen. 25:1-6).

At least another 6… same father, and at least 3 different mothers; descendents from a different womb.

In John 3 Jesus has a dialogue about being ‘born again’ (the only time recorded he had such a dialogue so the context is important) with Nicodemus. He was a significant person within Israel, a member of the Sanhedrin, and over the course of John’s Gospel we can see how he moves from visiting Jesus ‘at night’ to being one of two men who bury Jesus’ body, surely a path to clear discipleship. Nicodemus asks if he has to enter his mother’s womb again… To enter the same womb again (physically) is impossible but to enter the same womb again metaphorically would not bring about a birth from above.The womb to be entered is the womb of the Holy Spirit. [The virigin birth is just that – there is nothing in common with ancient mythological gods having intercourse with a woman, such as in the founding story of Europe; the Holy Spirit comes upon / overshadows suggests the concept of two wombs – that of a yielded young woman and a nurturing protective Spirit of God.]

Unless one enters the womb of the Holy Spirit one cannot see nor even enter the kingdom of God. To come from another womb might not mean we are not of the same ‘Father’ but we might not see the nature of the kingdom of God. Surely that is what we often encounter when we meet fellow ‘believers’. Even when the talk is of the ‘kingdom’ the nature of what is described is different. Maybe all of us are ‘children’ but perhaps many of us are related to one another as ‘half-brothers/sisters’. And of course, as always it has less to do with others than it has to do with ourselves, with our visit to Jesus ‘at night’ and we find ourselves entering not the womb of our mother again, but the womb of the Holy Spirit again. I need to see the ‘upside kingdom of God’ more clearly than yesterday… if I am to be transformed from glory to glory then the process has to continue.

I certainly do not need to be arrogant, labelling others as ‘half-sisters/brothers’, but neither do I have to accept when others speak of those who are ‘outside’ as less than ‘us’ that this is family talk. And in the current situation in Gaza where there is little pain displayed when we read of Palestinians losing their lives, but there is plenty of noise made outside an abortion clinic, surely even I can see the discrepancy. We must be within a different ‘segment’ of the family at that point – and to each ‘segement’ there are gifts available, for Abraham gave to each offspring from the concubines ‘gifts’.

As always it seems less about salvation from, but far more about salvation for, which always is about what I manifest… Manifesting a family likeness?

Omnipotence challenged

Thomas Jay Oord is creating a few waves with his writings and studies, throwing the net somewhat wider than ‘Open Theology’. His book ‘The Uncontrolling Love of God’ is certainly more than worth a read. I am not able to buy into every argument that is advanced in ‘God Can’t’, but the push back against classic God is omnipotent is something to be ehgaged with. Here is a short video on that push back and his choice of ‘Amipotence’ over ‘Omnipotence’.

We are probably instinctively taught to react to an idea that challenges ‘omnipotence’ though of course even the most conventional have to nuance what they mean, such as ‘God cannot make a four legged tripod’, or the classic ‘?’God cannot make a stone bigger than he can lift’ (and always a ‘he’ in classic understanding!).

It is hard to know exactly where to place Oord on the theological spectrum (he is not classic ‘Open’) but he is far from alone with respect to omnipotence / control. The reason of course is that of the problem of evil:

  • God is all Loving
  • God is all Knowing
  • God is all Powerful
  • Evil exists.

Frank Tupper (1941-2020), a Baptist theologian (yes Baptist) also denied that God is omnipotent. In his view power and love are incompatible—divine love requires the reduction of divine power and control. He said in an interview:

I do not believe that God is in control of everything that happens in our world. Indeed, I would argue that God controls very, very little of what happens in our world . . . God chose not to be a do anything, anytime, anywhere kind of God.

There is a strong resonance between Oord and Tupper though their approach has some significant differences, I am convinced we are invited to participate with God in a God-like manner: that of not forcing a path through dominance but to open up possibilities through love. God and humans in loving partnership.

Challenging my ‘framework’

It is always a joy to host a Zoom get together to look at one of the four books and this week I had an opening one on ‘The LifeLine’. In the preface I initially give a quick summary of what has gone before with the framework of:

  • God elects Israel for the world. This is not a ‘they are saved / Gentiles lost’ in an eternal destiny scenario… but called as priesthood for the nations – to bring the whole world to the fulfilment of human destiny.
  • Choseness is with responsibility and with the hope that a counter-way of life will be chosen in order to bring as ‘salt’ within and sign to (light) a change takes place wider.
  • They choose to be as one of the nations (king and also temple). So a deviation from purpose of the election begins. There is no criticism of Israel, to be chosen is to be called higher – to model true humanity. Failure is not inevitable, but ‘all (both Jew and Gentile) has sinned’. Jesus is NEEDED for sure.
  • By the time of Jesus the fall is complete – we have no king but Caesar / better one dies for the nation than we lose the privileges Rome affords us.
  • Paul puts it that Jesus dies Israel’s death (cursed for us) so that the original blessing of Abraham flows to the Gentiles – which he now describes as the gift of the Spirit.
  • Jesus dies for our ‘sins’ not in the sense of enabling God to get over an anger issue(!!) but in order to release us (forgive) from the powers. Hence the death is to unlock the captivity – to provide a path for the final exodus.
  • The New Testament world then is that of an all-but one world government ruled by an antiChrist (Caesar being ‘lord’, ‘king of kings’ etc.).
  • Paul takes this message of the gospel (another Imperial word used in Rome) to the oikoumene so that a new kingdom (both oikoumene and ‘kingdom’ being used for the Roman Imperial world) can grow and manifest.

[Lots more I am thinking about at the moment – why was Jesus ‘son of David’? So a little out there but to end the lineage? After all (no disrespect) as Solomon (son of David) spectacularly fulfills the warnings about the king – so sets the lineage on a ‘we will make Israel as Egypt’ trajectory. Jesus dies as ‘king of the Jews’ – end of kingship…]

Back to the challenge to the framework. What then about what lay outside the Roman empire? China and all that lay in the Southern hemisphere? A brilliant push-back.

My current and tentative thoughts go along these lines: Israel is representative of ‘one of the nations’, but one of the nations that claims to have the true God on her side (and not without evidence – though that is dealt a major blow in AD70 – when the sign of the coming of the son of man is made clear); Rome is a major empire and representative of all Imperial structures. So a death in the nation of Israel for Israel’s sins opens up each nation to be able to walk the path to redemption; proclamation in and throughout the Roman world is in seed form a proclamation throughout all and every Imperial context. (And this Jerusalem to the ends of the earth – Jerusalem to Spain in Paul’s world – is probably the coming of the son of man in Jesus words in Matt. 24:27 ‘For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man’).

Israel was within the Roman Imperial world, hence the freedom has to be proclaimed in that world. If proclaimed there then there is a freedom for all that Rome represents – the Chinese empire of that day and every other oppressive / less than kingdom of God structures / structures dominated by demonic powers.

OK all the above just a first response – loads to process yet!!

Practically what remains is:

  • Election is to bring freedom somewhere else.
  • There will always be a (wrong) push to have a nation that has a self-perception of being chosen by God and has God as defender.
  • Election is not simply ‘sovereign’ but carries responsibility and with hope that there will be a connection to the election with a ‘we are not set apart’ but ‘planted within for the sake of what is beyond us’.
  • If we can make proclamations of ‘freedom from the powers’ within any Imperial structure, large or small, there is a proclamation beyond to all other imperial structures.

Where to (or) what shapes?

I enjoyed the first Zoom on eschatology – and if I enjoyed it that surely is all that counts? I think though those who came also enjoyed it. It will be repeated in just over two weeks’ time: Oct. 10th, 7:30pm UK time – I will post details here nearer the time. I think the next two will cover the context for Jesus’ prophetic words (Matt. 24; Luke 21; Mark 13) and some of Paul’s material in Thessalonians being that of the intense time of 66-70AD (I use ‘AD’ as opposed to ‘CE’ though in other contexts I would be more comfortable using that abbreviation). And so much more to cover but to give some idea of where I plan to go after that is into a ‘so what?’ set of notes / videos.

Eschatology is intensely practical. It calls for a ‘how then do we live?’ I do not have time for the ‘this is what is going to happen – and it is really bad… so distance yourself now and bunker down’. I do not deny things could get really bad, extremely tough, I simply do not see how we can let the Bible speak for itself and say ‘all this was prophesied’. That will all wait for videos down the road – the ‘yes there could be a one-world ruler’ but this is not what is prophesied. There could also be some very different and wonderful futures – not prophesied also.

But… a much more practical ‘so what?’ relates to how we live. I understand the pull towards holding fast to Judeo-Christian values – but how do we arrive at those so-called values. Old Testament laws can be clearly used to lead us to hold that maximising profits is NOT a Judeo-Christian value (and I suggest also where the ‘bottom-line’ as profit not being a Judeo-Christian value either)… such laws can help us establish a good and healthy shape. We can add to that New Testament material and end with a ‘biblical’ view on…

However, eschatology calls to a deeper level. If there is ‘new creation’ that is our context (now) we have to be shaped by that, in other words we have to be shaped by what is to come, and that includes what is not to come!

Here comes the wonderful tension of the overlapping of two ‘creations’ (I think it is better to use the ‘creation’ word rather than the ‘world’ word at this point). We do not deny this current fallen creation as a context where we live while embracing that it alone cannot shape us. Indeed it does not shape us, new creation shapes us; this creation modifies the shape. I don’t fully know where this takes us, but I consider that we might arrive at a ‘Judeo-Christian’ view of marriage from wrestling with Scriptures, but the new creation does not have marriage within it. Judeo-Christian values takes us so far, or perhaps better stated set us on a trajectory, but where is the trajectory headed?

New creation: no money (and I presume no trade nor trade agreements); no gender, class and other category divisions; no ‘temple’ in the city… healing for the nations, no untameable source for disruption (no sea). New creation. Many areas to explore.

Over-realized eschatology can lead to many problems and beyond problems to ‘sin’. But sight of ‘new creation’ takes us beyond legislation that calls for abolition of slavery, but whole new working environments, distribution of resources, Jubilee-esque responses.

‘How then should we live?’ becomes the question. I might not believe what ‘popularised’ eschatology gives us on the tribulation, the antiChrist, the one-world government. I might be wrong – though if I am wrong there are degrees of ‘wrongness’!!! Right or wrong I suspect the final exam paper I will sit will be something along the lines of one important question:

Given your context, Martin, how then did you live; how did sight of new creation manifest in and through your life and how did it affect those around you? (Sub question – how do you think it affected your neighbours, J & E, and their two sons? Answer carefully as I also have an exam paper for them with one question on it – how did Martin’s life affect you and your values and approach to living within creation?)

Very practical – always eschatology is practical. I will wait in vain (maybe for 1000 years?) for the exam question of ‘outline what you believed, Mr. Scott?’

Not the last word!!

Not that I have the last word on anything – nor do I suspect does anyone else… There are words that won’t pass away but as for the rest of what we say and write???

Anyway I am still working on boundaries / borders, so this will not be my last word on this, and once it is my last word there will be much more to say!

My entry to this is stimulated by Paul’s hugely optimistic and ‘wideness in the mercy of God’ approach where he positively quotes a poet that we (all) are God’s offspring and that in God we all move, live and have our being, and he relates this back to God setting for the people the boundaries and times (kairos) where they live with the purpose / hope that God might be found. A very positive view of ‘God-set boundaries’… So the converse – we are in a war zone (spiritual) – would be that if boundaries are brought in that are not ‘God boundaries’ the ‘stumbling so that they might find God’ would be resisted. Then loads of stuff in Scripture about boundaries…

War – Ukraine currently – re-drawing boundaries… colonialism likewise.

In a forthcoming biography on Mitt Romney the author describes how:

Romney has become obsessed with a large map, printed in 1931 by Rand McNally, charting the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful civilizations. “But what struck Romney most about the map was how thoroughly it was dominated by tyrants of some kind—pharaohs, emperors, kaisers, kings. ‘A man gets some people around him and begins to oppress and dominate others,'” Romney told his interviewer. “It’s a testosterone-related phenomenon, perhaps. I don’t know. But in the history of the world, that’s what happens.”

Surprisingly I do not have a downer on the male gender (I wonder why?) but I do believe there is an underlying critique of patriarchy / so called male ‘headship’ throughout Scripture that culminates in God in male form submitting the Incarnation to the cross – to bring about a new humanity that does not have the Genesis narrative to categorise it as ‘male and female’. As Romney puts above the grab and take (moving ancient boundary stones in biblical language) lies at the door of the male gender (a generalisation that is all-but an absolute).

So in this season – and this is an indication of where my thoughts are headed:

  • I expect boundaries to be challenged. In a few days time I will with family – 3 generations – visit Orkney. Might seem far fetched that there could be a push for Orkney to align with Norway, but it is a sign. The earth yields signs. I expect conflictual pressure with respect to national / regional boundaries. Alongside boundary challenges, new alignments that indicate partnership and travelling together – so watch trade agreements, and (as indicated at the beginning of the year) currency alignments. Not all of these will establish new ‘God boundaries’ but some of us need to be alert enough to help with the new distribution.
  • Old categories that simply circumscribe ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ will be increasingly challenged. There will be a pushing to escape! The Spanish football team (the women) recently won the world cup on the field and beyond the final they are engaged in exposing male abuse of power… Spain has a long way to go; the world has a long way to go, but Paul said if we are in Christ the old categories no longer should be drawn on, for there is ‘new creation’. This is more than a new world, it is more than re-ordering the kosmos, it is about seeing that there is a new creation (ktisis) that can be seen. That new creation will appear to be ‘feminine’ not because it is, but because it will be in contrast to the kosmos we have created from the first ktsis (creation).
  • I suspect there is a close relationship between gender and land… for land to be free there has to be something to follow (land follows people), so that then land releases its gift for the freedom of people. People and land are like two legs – one moves, the other follows, then the other moves. Hence I see a people / land relationship that Paul draws on in Romans 8 as being parallel to the Israel / Egypt relationship (or maybe we put it in more up to date terms church / world). Shelter and protection became oppression and bondage so that there might be liberation with a resultant shelter and protection – I know that is a bit obscure, but it is a work in progress – so we see it in the life of Jesus: down to Egypt, release from Egypt so that there might be salvation for ‘Egypt’.
  • A time to see boundaries expand… and shrink.

And I guess when I do write about boundaries I might need to put something in there about our internal boundaries… if they are in good shape that will help us find God. And part of finding God will be that with healthier internal boundaries we might cease to see others in the artificial categories we create – and maybe if we see them… we might just see God (a little clearer)?