Random but not…

Beliefs, non-beliefs, just a random set of posts, but never controversial and never, ever wrong! It is amazing the diversity of Christian belief all claimed to be based on Scripture. That should tell us something about what God is looking for, and it does not seem to be ‘correctness’. The law and the prophets hung on two commandments, and I suspect the newer covenant likewise. It would be easier at one level if it all hung on right beliefs, but I guess given the huge amount of disagreement we might all come a cropper. And centring everything in on love for God and for those close and those far just highlights that I do not need greater understanding simply a bigger space for yieldedness to the Holy Spirit.

So randomly let me jump to the new heaven and new earth. ‘In the beginning (when) God created…’ I love that chapter with its major opposition to similar creation myths from the surrounding cultures. In it certain aspects of science might not be ‘corrected’ but deviant views of the divine certainly are. The whole of creation as a Temple, a place where God dwells and the image not made of wood or stone but of the very dust of the earth that is inbreathed by God. So profound – earthly creatures, image of God.

Those two elements are intrinsic to humanity and when we lose either it seems to me that we fall short of the glory of God – when we lose either or treat people as less than either we ‘sin’: miss the mark of being human. The wonder of the encounter with Jesus is that we no longer see anyone according to previous culture-shaped categories. Of the earth – super-spirituality is not something to be admired nor intimidated by, and we see in Paul a hesitation to talk about experiences that were clearly ‘other worldly’. We are of the earth and have a wonderful calling to be access points for heaven to touch this world. We are inbreathed by the Spirit to become resources for anyone that comes across our path (I am thinking currently about ‘presence’ being a better way to describe our calling rather than ‘power’).

It is strange that many people have this belief of the future is some sort of disembodied life in heaven without the physicality of either body or creation. Such a view suggests God began something and then seems to give up on the conclusion of that ‘project’. [Heaven and earth is a ‘merism’ for the whole of creation. A merism is something that takes the extremes and includes everything in between – I searched ‘high and low’ does not mean I did not search in the ‘middle’!] ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ (and with the sense of ‘re-newed’: kainos not neos being the adjective). We pray for the coming of the ‘kingdom’ to earth… Jesus prayed that God would not take us out of here… we hope for the regeneration of all things… Jesus is the firstborn of all creation…even the trees of the fields will clap their hands – a sign of true liberation from the bondage that creation has been subjected to.

‘Going to heaven’ is not a biblical hope, but one day that every tear will be wiped away, death will be no more, and God will dwell with us (if we think of a move it is not from ‘here’ to ‘there’ but from ‘there’ to ‘here’). To live in a way that fits with that hope is surely the first step in being ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us? [An Aside: there is one NT passage – with a bad translation, actually with a Greek verb that was changed in a later strand of manuscripts, from the ‘works in the earth being found / disclosed’ to the ‘works being destroyed’. Changed because with a view that came into Christianity of the devaluation of creation, it made no sense to have ‘works being found’… even some manuscripts don’t change the verb but add ‘not’ in front of it (‘not found’)!! Bad translation, change of verb by a scribe aside… Peter has already said that the former world was destroyed by water (the flood) and at the final judgement creation will be totally ‘destroyed’ by fire in the sense of totally and completely purified in a way the flood could not achieve.]

I don’t intend to pick up a course on harp playing so that I might get a starring role in the heavenly world, I personally would like a long life here as it seems that being here is the place of leverage to contribute to change (to the works that will on that day be disclosed). The transition from this age to that age does not appear to be an evolution for the new Jerusalem (a symbol both for the people of God and the whole of the new creation) has to come down, not rise up – there has always been a rival city that seeks to rise up – but if the works that come through the fire are the building blocks for the future surely there has to be some measure of random evolution in our world. To contribute to that future would be wonderful. To have the hope of going to heaven when I die would be a little less than a response to the opening verses of Scripture.

My hope is ‘he comes’ not ‘I go’. That we all together see a ‘new heaven and a new earth’. Between then and now? A contribution, maybe a tiny one, to a new creation and a new humanity.

Speak up about hope

A Scripture that I have known for some time hit me at a new level yesterday (with the verse I am focused on emboldened below):

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect. Maintain a good conscience so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13-17).

The word ‘defense’ is probably a little too strong – a ‘reply’ a ‘response’ is probably closer, like ‘asks for’ is probably better than ‘demands’… However we translate it the sense remains.

At the back of my mind of course the concept of always be ready to explain that I am full of hope of escaping eternal punishment because I am one of the ‘born again’ ones, and of course a sweet Scripture to place under the ‘evangelise / apologetics’ heading in the book of discipleship… BUT…

Hope in the New Testament is future oriented and ultimately tied to the parousia and the restoration of all things – the putting all things right. That is the hope, not the one that is in the back of my mind colouring how I read that Scripture. The context of the verse is of suffering unjustly, and not to respond with fear. The current scenario will give way to a different day. It will give way to ‘I see a new heaven and a new earth’. That is hope. Hope has come through in different contexts concerning the future -‘this world is not my home, I am just a-passing through’ was hope expressed in the context of slavery. We can critique the hope, but maybe all we need to do is change the lyrics a little. How about:

This world and its structures is not the home God intends for anyone, and as I honour Christ, I see a world beyond it, for the generations to come, and one in which I too will participate on that great day.

Not really suggesting that the above can be sung and give hope to the masses(!!), but my point is hope in the midst of this world is for the transformation of this world. Like the words of MLK when he spoke of day coming for his children when human relationships will be totally re-shaped.

Anyway back to our verse. Why would someone ask me about my hope? Well they are not going to ask if it is not evident. That is the first provocation – do I have hope for the here, or have I simply opted for a Greek-oriented (i.e. an unbiblical one) view of ‘life in the celestial by and by’? Amidst crises, pressures, setbacks if I have hope for a different world maybe someone will be provoked to ask me ‘why do you have hope’. Then I need to be ready with my answer. ‘I see a new creation’… it will come… it is coming… and even the pain and suffering is contributing to the future… that’s my hope.

Protest movements, protest marches stand against what is here, but within them is also a statement of a different future. I want to change so much – I keep watching economic structures (strictures) – but as much as protesting against, nay more than protesting against I need to see what is coming… and then to sow where I see the world is going.

There is a world that is doomed, world in the sense of what we have done with it; but there is a world that coming into view, world in the sense of ‘and God saw and it was GOOD’. There are false hopes always available to pull on, they are marked by what will pull strongly on the past, and in the Christian context draw on Scriptures and the (positive) impact of Christendom… They are false, not because they contain no truth, but simply because the viewpoint is expressed from the wrong location, and in being located there will not ease the transition but resist it.

So a note to self: Martin what is your hope? When asked why on earth (I like that phrase ‘on earth’) are you hopeful cos you are facing some setbacks… I think I will answer with ‘what is here around us is temporary, if I live inspired by what I see beyond the here and now, I am hopeful that I will contribute to the manifestation of what I see… and maybe inspire you to get similar sight… thanks for asking’.

And a final Scripture that indicates even some pretty entrenched people can be inspired by the hope they see in others:

[E]ven some officials of the province of Asia [Asiarchs] who were friendly to him sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theater (Acts 19:31).

Asiarchs… responsible to maintain the wonderful order of Rome, holding positions of great influence, having a lifestyle that would be considered a suitable reward for their work of expressing the glory of Rome far and wide; Paul proclaiming ‘Jesus, not Caesar’, disturbing all things… What hope did he carry that meant they did not want him to risk his life, even if that meant they were willing to risk their own lives? What did they see in his eyes?

The more I read the NT the more I am hopeful that if we can more and more align with what we read maybe we can come closer to that of a ‘new heaven and new earth’.

Loads of sight

The first chapter starts with so much sight, with the repeated use of the terms ‘sight’ and ‘good’:

And God saw that it was good (Gen. 1:10; 1:12; 1:18).

Then we have the added words that ‘God blessed them’:

And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”… And God saw that it was good (Gen. 1:21-22, 25).
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:28).

And the final verse of the chapter reads:

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Gen. 1:31).

What an amazing start… turn a few pages and we read again about ‘sight’ but ‘good’ is absent:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5).
But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord (Gen. 6:8).
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth (Gen. 6:11, 12).

Quite a fall!! A fall from ‘good’ to ‘wicked’, ‘corrupt’, with Noah as a hope. [We could also look at Genesis 11 and the ‘tower of Babel’ where God came down to see the situation.] Let’s jump back to Genesis 3 for a bit more on sight:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves (Genesis 3:6, 7).

I have referred to this original sin as being that of ‘consumerism’, of which our cultural use of the word is one example. It is consumerism described in succinct form: saw, took and consumed. Lose sight of the generosity of God (eat of every tree) and it can only lead in the wrong direction, and with the loss of sight come new, damaging sight.

How do we go from good (not perfect / mature but with all the potential to move toward maturity) to corrupt? It seems to be that shame has a big part to play. Their eyes are opened to sight of themselves as naked, in every sense of the word. I suggest that ‘glory’ is the opposite of shame (Paul in 1 Cor. 11). Loss of sight bringing shame was a doorway from ‘saw and it was good’ to ‘saw and wickedness was great’. Such a loss of sight leads to the statement that ‘all… have fallen short of the glory of God’. Fallen from that place of maturing toward true humanhood.

An aside

There are some parallels with the building of the tabernacle that Moses was the architect of, shaping it according to the pattern that he saw above. In three parts – holy of holies, the holy place and the outer court: one ‘tent’ with three parts, symbolising heaven (God’s dwelling place), the holy land of promise and the outer world. At the end of the construction of the tabernacle we read:

When Moses saw that they had done all the work as the Lord had commanded, he blessed them (Exod. 39:43).

It was a little bit of creation, a sign as to how things were – mobile so that wherever God led the people they could construct the image of the world; a sign that drew the presence of God… ultimately lived out in the Incarnation (he ‘tabernacled’ among us; Emmanuel); and that sign of the tent / temple thus became obsolete and was soon to disappear (Heb. 8:13, of the former covenant). And if we keep the trajectory going, to a whole earth without a separate temple.

New Creation

Genesis 1 –> Genesis 11 good –> corrupt via deceptive sight of a tree.

This takes me to the sight that Paul pushes us to have:

From now on, therefore, we regard (understand / know – using mental perception) no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew (knowledge as in experience) Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know (knowledge as in experience) him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look (a stylistic use of a word to emphasise a new scene), new things have come into being! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation… (2 Cor 5:16-18).

Sight, sight and more sight! Away from categories so that the shame environment is removed. Inspired imagination that does not stop at a tabernacle / temple but where everything ‘old’ has passed away. That kind of sight would not take us back to a garden where God might show up at evening-time but an ‘outer court / outer world’ still continuing in existence. Yes, that world still exists… but it can exist far too strongly in our imagination / sight. God saw… and it was good. What a start. Eve saw… and what a fall. Paul encourages / provokes us to see what one day will be.

Burnt up? NO WAY

Always toward a new creation

I am working my way through some former material on this site and realise that the podcasts on ‘eschatology’ I recorded some 14 years ago. I would still stand by what is in there but would modify some aspects and express other aspects differently. [A revision of those is a forthcoming project… now what date is indicated by the word ‘forthcoming’?]

In thinking about where I would take any revision I am re-visiting the passage in 2 Peter 3: 10-13:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be destroyed with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and destroyed and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

The one passage in the NT that might be able to be read as the destruction of creation. There is much to comment on here, and most of that will wait the appointed time in a fresh podcast! However, here are a couple of comments:

The flood ‘destroyed’ the kosmos (3:6). That destruction was not what we would term a destruction, but is an appropriate ‘apocalyptic’ word to describe what happened. It destroyed the world as it was known and as it behaved. The language is over-stated (like our statement ‘you frightened the life out of me’ does not mean ‘please now bury this corpse’) but although literally overstating the situation, it is using language to inject meaning into the phrase.

In other words ‘destroy’ (apolluō) does not mean ‘destroy’ but is descriptive of a before and an after. Pre-flood the theology is of Adam and those who follow; post-flood Noah and those who follow. Hence the reference to ‘the world that then existed’ when Peter writes about the world pre-flood.

The current creation (3:7) is being kept for a different order of ‘destruction’ – one by fire. The ‘fire’ element is common to descriptions of the future; fire to purify with the imagery based in the work of the iron foundry where metal is purified through fire, all the ‘dross’ being removed, ‘burned up’ and what remains being pure.

The flood waters destroyed one order of creation… but only to a level and only temporarily. There is a different order to come. Paul uses the same imagery:

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the work that someone has built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a wage. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

Testing of fire awaits one and all. Material that is appropriate for temple building (Paul’s context in those early chapters of 1 Corinthians) will survive the fire [‘temple building’ is another future podcast… as and when]. That material is related to the ‘work’ that has been done (2 categories of ‘work’: one that burns in the fire and does not come through the fire, and one that survives the fire).

Return to 2 Peter…

and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Old translations have ‘burnt up’ for that final word ‘disclosed’. The NIV (1970s) was the first version to move away from ‘burnt up’. ALL older manuscripts have the word (literally) ‘found’ as that final word. Only later manuscripts carry the alternative reading (‘burnt up’) – it is certainly wrong, and has (almost) clearly been changed because of a world-view. That world-view being one of earthly existence ceasing and we ‘all float off to the sweet by an by’ (a wonderful fulfilment of Greek hope and a total anathema to Hebraic hope!). Anyway, my point is that the final word is ‘found’ (same verb that we and the ancient Greeks used to shout out ‘I have found / discovered it’: Eureka!).

Further the text translated as ‘everything done on it’ (NRSVue) is literally… OK let me go back a little:

The heavens passing away, the ‘stoicheia’ will be burned up, with a loosing result that the earth and the works will be found!

A complicated verse to translate, but it seems to me that Peter is communicating a major shift of order (‘stoicheia’ is used to refer to principles that bring order / oppression and often seem to refer to heavenly powers – see my notes on Galatians); then the final part of the verse having the verb ‘to loose’ perhaps being connected to the last part of the sentence or to the whole shift of order… but whatever part it connects to, something is loosed.

And as far as the earth is concerned. It is found and the ‘works‘ (literally: ‘and the earth and the works within it’). Now we can see the link to Paul – the works will be ‘revealed’ by fire.

The earth – burnt up? No way. It will be found – the real earth, not the one we have polluted and oppressed. (Another podcast? The comparison of humanity to Pharaoh; Pharaoh oppressed Israel; humanity oppressed creation; Israel cried out groaning; the earth groans for release / redemption…)

So, the one passage, the ONE passage, that could be construed to be a burning up of creation does not stack up. It only indicates a burning up if we first come at it with a belief that that is the future (a Greek world-view); that we do not allow the word ‘found’ to be the correct word in the manuscripts of the text; and if we disconnect ‘fire’ both from the ‘water’ reference within the same text and the wider use of ‘fire’ in the New Testament of the future; and that we twist apocalyptic language / imagery to be literal.

And if in doubt Peter goes on to say

But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

A new creation (using the adjective ‘kainos’, not the adjective ‘neos’: kainos being ‘renewed’, ‘neos’ being ‘something that was not there before’).

That is the one hope that is consistent in Scripture. A ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ hope, of which all statements that ‘I have a dream’ points to. ‘Let your kingdom come’.

What do you see?

Where do you live?

I have posted on Revelation 21 and Galatians over previous days and in those chapters we have the phrases ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth’ indicating the renewal of creation in totality, and Paul’s stark statement that ‘new creation’ swallows up all other (old) distinctions. All of this is tied of course to Jesus who is the firstborn of all creation; the one who in his resurrection gives us a hope for the future: our resurrection and the renewal of all things (could be translated as the ‘re-genesis’ of all things, the rebirth, re-start of all things – Matt. 19:28).

A future reality? What is the process to get to that future reality? The second question is not easy to say; my conservative nature means we await the parousia in a fairly classic sense: those who have died in Christ return with him (all the language used is the language of the then current empire and all the activity of the Emperor visiting the city is parallel, where he would come with his own into the city for the imperial visitation). Perhaps like those of the OT era who were waiting expectantly a coming Messiah we will get a lot of surprises. However, the easiest way I have found to tie it all together is that we are supplying the material (every cup of cold water given to big wonderful acts of kindness / creation investment) for the age to come.

John saw the whole of creation renewed; Paul says in Galatians:

For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but a new creation is everything! (Gal.6:15).

That last phrase is somewhat abrupt, with it being simply: ‘but new creation‘. In contrast to that basic divide between covenant people and non-covenant people, Paul simply says (I imagine him with a megaphone), BUT NEW CREATION!!! That statement changes everything, every human relationship, every value system. Everything is redefined.

It is the same phraseology in 2 Cor. 5:16, 17:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we no longer know him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!

Again ever so succinct – if anyone is in Christ, NEW CREATION, with the next part could equally be translated as ‘everything from a former era has passed away’.

I think the megaphone concept works well. The contrast is so great that there is a dramtic before and after. It is the same shock as we get when we read Rev. 21 about the new heavens and the new earth. Same shock and with John we might be able to simply say ‘future… and until then nothing really is different’, but Paul does not let us make that mistake. It is NOW. The only qualification is that we are ‘in Christ’.

It is that location that affects our sight. How we see ‘everyone’. All are called and invited to live in the new creation where we all make a contribution to the future where there is no more sorrow, tears, indeed no more death.

It does not mean we cover our eyes to what is damaging (there is enough of Paul in the various letters where he confronts all damaging behaviour), but the reason for confronting is that the contribution to the fulfilment and appearing of that new creation is hindered every time we fail to live out our lives humanly (this I think gets to the heart of ‘sin’, to fall short of the glory of God). We are not blind to issues but we see through eyes that, in the words of one who has already made a contribution to the future, ‘I have a dream’.

When teaching on the prophetic I like to describe the seeing aspect as being similar to driving a car where one can see the outside physical world, but if there was a piece of paper on the dashboard and the light comes in a certain way one can also see the distracting piece of paper. If driving best not to look at the piece of paper, or to remove it! If prophesying it is best to focus on the piece of paper. Two realities vying for focus. That is the reality Paul writes about. He is well aware of over-realized eschatology that denies living in a fallen creation, but that awareness is placed in the context of ‘new creation’.

Sight. ‘What do you see?’, is a question God asks, e.g., Amos or Jeremiah; one that Jesus asked of Simon the Pharisee.

It is one that we also have to respond to. It is that sight that motivates us in our relationships and causes people to work for the renewal of creation. Ecological problems do not exist in the new creation, and if ‘new creation’ is here…

A run through Revelation 21

Been thinking a bit about Revelation 21 (actually also been thinking would love a tattoo with:

Καὶ εἶδον οὐρανὸν καινὸν καὶ γῆν καινήν (I saw a new heaven and a new earth) combined with:
‘I have a dream’).

Anyway, tattoos or not, the words have been spoken out by John and MLK has echoed them, and they are eternal words with power. Of course we can suggest Revelation is future but only in the sense that in critiquing political / Babylonish power structures we are still longing for the full outworking of what John saw. The book is prophetic not predictive.

I am of the camp that we await a very specific appearing of the age to come through the Person of Jesus, and in that sense I am very conservative, but I am also very cautious in that ‘who knows’ and are we going to be more right in our expectation than the Jews of the first Century were? And whether conservative or cautious the one thing that seems clear (I hope it is clear!!) is that we are to pray for the kingdom to come, the will of God be done on earth as in heaven. So maybe this is to be the future , it certainly has to be the way we pray – hence I have no time for ‘AntiChrist will come with a one world government’. I have no time for it primarily because to make that idea work one has to combine all kinds of scriptures one with the other, and it is certainly not clear that they are all speaking of the same thing.

If the above is unclear let me try one more time… I expect the fullness of the ‘new creation’ to only be manifest when we have what we term ‘the return of Christ’… but given that we are to pray ‘let your kingdom come’ maybe we have misunderstood the return of Jesus, and that the return of Jesus is the restoration of all things. Either way we pray, long for and work for a transformation of this world… not through domination but through going wherever the Lamb travels.

[And a little ‘footnote’ I don’t think this has anything to do with replacing those in power with some good little Christians so that they take over and make all things nice (meaning crush nasty people and dictate that only things God likes will prevail and be implemented! As well as being as un-kenotic as it comes such an approach also assumes too much that the shape is OK and all we need what fills it to be different. There are three steps in creation – CHAOS, shape and fullness. We have shapes – shaped from Babylon, and we pretty much have fullness of those shapes. A future must first go back to CHAOS, so that we can find some shapes that are worthy to be filled, that can be viewed by the God who hopefully will then say ‘that is good’.]

The first verse of Rev. 21:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

‘Heaven and earth’ here and in Gen. 1 is a merism for ‘all creation’. It takes the two end points with an inclusion of everything in between: ‘I searched high and low’ does not mean I did not search anything in between! So John saw a new (kainos) creation. Jesus is the firstborn through the resurrection of creation; creation has a hope because of Jesus; indeed part of material creation has gone ahead, for his body (material physicality) is not to be found in the grave. The resurrection is the hope for us all… and the hope for all of creation. This was a central theme in Paul (and something he insisted was a present and not simply a future reality)… the only thing that counted was ‘new creation’, and this changed everything. To hold on to old ways of being holy simply meant that the person was now a transgressor(!) and that our sight of everyone (not simply those who were ‘in Christ’) was transformed; and that all old categories were abolished.

John uses the kainos word for new, not neos. Kainos newness is not ‘I destroyed the old thing… look here is something totally new’, but rather carries the sense of ‘re-newed’, or we might use the term ‘transformed’. The transformation of the whole of creation – a vision beyond one that we carry, for sure, but one that includes everything we hope for.

And in this newness he did not see any sea, for it was ‘no more’. In the original creation we have three elements: heavens, earth and the middle element of ‘waters’. Waters above and waters below. Everything from heaven could only come to earth through the element of the waters. The waters / sea were symbolic of resistance, of everything that was not controllable. The disciples were amazed at one who could control the waves (‘what kind of human is this?’); Jesus walked on the water… The beast that arises out of the earth follows the beast that arises out of the sea in Revelation; the sea was the means by which trade took place in Babylon / Rome; the trade being unjust and also involved trading in ‘human souls’.

For us now there is a sea… there is a resistance… we pray for heaven to come but we have to deal with the unruly for it come… Maybe even we can read in this verse the need for and a vision of the transformation of all trade. It is for this reason we need to take note of ‘they will not be allowed to trade (buy and sell)’ with caution about all we are involved in economically but also to realise that there is another interchange in Scripture, that of giving and receiving. It is more blessed to give than to receive, so the shift has to be into ‘what I have I give to you’, rather than how can I earn money (and using such an approach we have to radically redefine how Scripture uses the term ‘work’)… and in that we discover that God gives an increase to the giver, hence of the increase of his government there will be no end. The giver receives and there are no losers!!

A new creation – where ultimately all who have passed away and are in Christ will be resurrected (hope was always in Scripture for the receiving of the blessings of God here… not there) is what we pray for. We live in the light of it, so our actions are to be a witness to the hope that is in us; it is not here yet… maybe we await for the parousia, maybe the parousia awaits this to happen… either way we need our vision corrected on a daily basis (what do we see?) and we pray ‘let your kingdom… the fullness of creation come… on earth as in heaven’.

Europe is dying?

Flew back to Spain a few days ago and with a few hours to spare in the airport I went for a quick peruse through the book store. I saw this book ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ which caught my eye, but quickly moved on. At the other side of the shop I had this strong impression – go back and buy that book. So I picked it up and bought it. If I had skimmed through it I probably would not have done so, it is not exactly on my page!! Glad though I have read it, and if one follows the trajectory laid out, the destination does seem to be ‘the death of Europe’. Of course, I am of a different persuasion (and biased) that Europe is being privileged and carrying a responsibility to open a whole new path regarding the kingdom of God. I with faith / optimism / delusion hold to the rebirth of not simply Europe but of the globe with the seeds sown from the first Century truly coming to fruit… a ‘reformation’ (not sure that is the right word) beyond that of the 16th Century. Also given that reading is a challenge for me, let me get in to it!

Why will Europe die? Murray draws the three strands together that are in the sub-title: immigration, identity and Islam. We cannot afford to allow immigration as is happening to continue, for the identity of ‘who / what is Europe?’ will be radically altered. Europe will no longer be Europe, compounded by the incredible increase of Islam eroding the shaping foundation of the Judaeo-Christian values and faith will further mean that no longer will Europe be connected to its roots and in an embrace / appeasement of Islam Europe as Europe will simply no longer exist. This death of Europe has started and the final outcome is in sight. Facts, figures and stories abound in the book, and I suggest if we project from here to the not-too-distant future his thesis is indeed compelling.

I could argue of course that what we have is a far-right perspective and so say ‘typical’ (OK maybe I cut the post short now and simply say that!), but what really provoked me was what might a faith response look like? Murray is a ‘Christian’ atheist, one who does not believe in God but in the core values of the Judeo-Christian tradition (as he sees them), hence the projection from the past is important, and the only framework he has. Across the pond the same appeal seems to be being made, hence the trajectory there can be seen in what takes place here. Re-birth becomes possible if faith is involved, otherwise we should simply begin to write the obituaries now, and write them without hope. We could slow the death, and really make re-birth difficult with (my opinion) the ‘between the lines’ appeal by Murray. Stop the immigration, restore sovereignty to the nation-state, legislate from the centre…

He is no fan of any form of identificional repentance, nor sees the validity of Imperial seed sown and the reaping of that later. Confessing guilt for the past, for colonisation, trampling over cultures has no place and only adds guilt and the accommodation of foreign cultures and values. He does not accept that what has been sown is coming back to be reaped. And of course on Christendom, this is where he as a ‘Christian’ atheist and myself part company. This is not to suggest that society has no benefits from that era of dominance, much like the fall involved in the monarchial institution in Israel was not without its benefits, but those benefits being due to God being willing to go where we go, and certainly not due to God’s approval of either monarchy nor Christendom.

But a vision?

If anyone is in Christ… sight changes. I understand that when one looks at where we are, and draws the graphs forward there is little of good cheer involved. But what if we were to be crazy. What if we thought there was ‘new creation’? What if we did not despair, but any looking to the past drew great hope from the context that the small Jewish sect (followers of the way) that grew up in an obscure Roman province, and who carried a message that was offensive to their own people (crucified Messiah) and foolish to the wider audience (one crucified of countless thousands) that was not simply being branded about in evangelistic settings (raise your hand) or in revival settings (I will put my hand on you), but in the darkest, occultic, multi-faith, politically oppressive scenarios… Hope and then… a huge big ‘forget that, for I do a new thing’. Hope from the past but not shaped from the past. WOW.

Immigration. Always a sign of new stewardship coming. Multi-faith – I don’t like that – but do we have to learn about true faith. If we start with faith defined in a box it will be very difficult to find faith. This is the biggest days of opportunity, amidst chaos, and the ‘dust of death’ to see something birthed that will be incredible. Maybe ‘The Sure start of something to get on board with in Europe’ might be a good title (yes I know a little too long, but we can work on it).

The book is sobering, but it is not the content of the book that is depressing. It is for me how much we as the body of Christ just long for a return to where things were. That might be understandable for a ‘Christian atheist’. The challenge for us as believers is whether the ‘god’ we have believed in, the ‘god’ we have commanded the Scriptures to confirm, is truly the God who makes all things new or not. Maybe not ‘atheism’, but…

More than meets the eye

The eye… what one looks at, or more precisely ‘how’ one looks at ‘someone’ is important for us all. A central element in Paul seems to be that something has already happened, for

… if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 4:17).

That is pretty comprehensive: ‘there is… everything… everything.’ The preceding verse states that ‘we regard no one from a human point of view’. Sight has changed, how we view everyone. That is a challenge beyond a challenge. Vladimir Putin is included? I guess so, for when Paul said no one, he had to be including Caesar and that particular one who raised the sword against him – Nero, the person who sparked the ‘antiChrist’ theme of Revelation (666 / 616 both being how his name was numerised).

Now to a Jesus’ text on how we see.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28).


In John 8 we read of the woman ‘caught in adultery’ and of course we do not read of ‘the man caught in adultery’. Patriarchal world-view, let’s pin the blame where it belongs… and enough in Proverbs to back this up biblically. So Jesus saying ‘but I say to you’ is not simply going from action to the heart (via the eyes) but is also going against the flow of biblical patriarchy (yes I did write that). If we only had Jesus we would be reading the ‘man, and only the man is guilty’.

We have then a wonderful correction to patriarchy. We see the same thing with his statements with regard to divorce where he (unlike the culture of his day) gives equal rights to women as to men.

The purpose of the ‘look’ is central to what Jesus is saying, interestingly the word ‘lustfully’ does not actually appear. It is the Greek word, epithumeo, the same word that Jesus said when he spoke to his disciples that he desired to eat the Passover with them (Lk. 22:15), and is the word used to translate the 10th commandment:

You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (Exod. 20:17, LXX).

The text is a whole lot deeper than ‘control your sexual desires’, for that 10th commandment includes coveting donkeys and animals. When we combine it with Paul I think it is informing us that our sight is important. Whether that concerns sexual boundaries, or other boundaries, but essentially it is to do with our desires of possession. If there is a new creation we can have our sight changed. Old (patriarchal) definitions have gone, indeed old creational definitions have gone. We do not ‘see’ anyone that way. Ticking the box concerning sexual ‘lust’ gets us so far, but there is much further to go. No-one is here to meet our expectations, nor to be the fulfilment of our desires. They are first seen as living in this new creation and so cannot be classified nor objectivised.

Favourite verses

You must be born again / from above (John 3:7).

That is a favourite verse… spoken to one person… but to be fair it also says ‘no-one can see the kingdom of God without being born again’. So perhaps justified as a ‘favourite verse’.

Go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor… (Matt. 19:21).

Not such a favourite verse, spoken to one person, but maybe with some justification it is not universally applied (just wiped my brow with relief right then).

It is amazing how we choose some verses over others, and thankfully maybe just about come down on the side that is OK-ish.

I was totalling up the other day who intimidates me:

Those with more money than me5%
Those who are not of my gender50%
Those younger than me92%
Those smarter than me91%
Total: thank God the battery on my calculator ran outQuite a lot

So a favourite Scripture of mine is:

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 5:16,17).

My short list above has a left-sided column that is composed of categories ‘from a human point of view’. Not surprisingly then the right side column is not a pretty sight. ‘See’ is the command. Now there is a challenge. See there is ‘new creation’. This current one is groaning, currently visible in the Ukraine, but groaning when Martin sees with old eyes. One is visible to all via TV; the other I can keep hidden… though the fruit will be visible to anyone who approaches me.

I think maybe this (2 Corinthians 5:16,17 quoted above) is my (current) favourite Scripture. If the born again Scripture is a favourite it seemed that Jesus said the sign that we really are allowing the reality of what we favour to be true for us is that we are unpredictable. If I allow the content of the verse that I claim as favourite to transform me then my categorisations need to go. Got a lot of work to do… or find another favourite Scripture. The latter will be easy, the former… not really sure I know where to start.