What kind of society do Aussies want?

Bill Shorten proposed some significant changes, but Aussie voters didn’t buy it:

  • They didn’t want change, if change involved a cost (“grandiose policies”).
  • They didn’t want to lose on investments (franking credits, negative gearing).
  • They didn’t want the environment prioritized over jobs (Adani).

The biggest loser was Tony Abbott, and Christians must consider why. Four years ago, he was Prime Minister. Now he’s knocked out, with a massive 19% swing — greater than in any other seat, and when the national swing was towards his party. Why? Continue reading “What kind of society do Aussies want?”

Don’t expect our politicians to be gods

What makes The Avengers so popular? We love stories of superhuman figures defeating oppressors and restoring justice to the earth.

Stories of mythology have always fascinated us. In Germanic mythology, Thor was the storm god, and thunder was the sound of Thor’s hammer. He was worshipped each week: Thursday is Thor’s Day.

In our movies, Thor is not a god but a superhuman figure. We’ve turned away from gods; we prefer humans with superpowers to save us.

Continue reading “Don’t expect our politicians to be gods”

How should we treat the rulers of this world?

Aussies have a rebellious streak. We couldn’t list the names of our Prime Ministers, but we remember Ned Kelly. We love Waltzing Matilda, the ballad of a sheep rustler who drowns rather than surrender to the authorities.

So, do we have a bad attitude to government? Are we meant to respect our government, treating it as God’s servant to maintain order in our society? Or are we right to be suspicious?

Are governments servants of God, or substitutes for God? Continue reading “How should we treat the rulers of this world?”

Activism: confronting the powers

What kind of activism are we called to? Confronting the powers of evil, or being the community of a different king?

Christian activists have usually raised a voice for peaceful protest. Fifty years after Martin Luther King called for nonviolent resistance against systemic injustice, we still hear his voice.

Walter Wink called Christians to expose the evil that is endemic in the power systems of this world. He called us to name evil for what it is, to unmask its insidious nature, to engage it through non-violent confrontation. Even in the titles of his books, you can hear him calling the church to stand against corruption: Naming the Powers (1984), Unmasking the Powers (1986), Engaging the Powers (1992), When the Powers Fall (1998), The Powers that Be (1999). A choir of other of voices also call us to non-violent resistance: John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, Shane Claiborne, Jarrod McKenna, and so on.

Are they right? Is power the problem we must address? Is that our task, to stand against the injustice that’s systemic in the way the world is run? To those questions, I want to answer Yes and No. Their diagnosis of the problem is spot on, but their response doesn’t resolve the problem.

Continue reading “Activism: confronting the powers”

Does God authorize governments? (Romans 13:1-7)

We can’t talk about the kingdom of God without considering how the power of the church relates to the power of the state.

Open Romans 13:1-7.

Does Romans 13 decree the divine right of kings? It has been used that way for centuries. Even today, the royal coat of arms of the UK rests on such a claim: Dieu et mon droit, literally God and my right!

Does Romans 13 authorize war? Many interpreters have claimed that it does, so we’ll address this question in our next post.

Good exegesis starts with Paul’s context, not ours. The power claims in Romans 13 do not originate with Paul. He knew that Roman emperors laid claim to divine right to rule. This tradition dates way back to previous pagan empires, and is found all over the world.

But Paul was a Jew, writing from a Hebrew worldview. In that framework, Paul’s words in Romans 13 are not strange at all. In Romans 9:17, he quotes the Hebrew claim that God raised up even the Pharaoh of the exodus for his purposes.

In fact, a case can be made that Romans is a new Exodus story — a story of God liberating the earth from its oppressive rulers: Continue reading “Does God authorize governments? (Romans 13:1-7)”

Who will save us?

Dial 000, we teach our kids. There’s always someone there. If the threat is physical violence, the police will save us. If the threat is fire, the fire brigade will save us. If the threat is medical, the ambulance will save us.

Government provides these services, including 000. So thank God for governments. They are his servants, authorized by God to save us from a whole range of violent threats.

We rarely think about that when we talk about salvation at church. There we use the word saved to mean being saved from personal guilt or from condemnation in the afterlife. We use the same word to mean two completely different things, without stopping to think why. We can do that because we segregate the secular and religious dimensions of life into isolated compartments.

Continue reading “Who will save us?”

How does justice come?

How can justice ever come to our communities? Did Jesus have anything ideas?

Imagine you’re in a class on Training and Assessment. Everyone makes a presentation, and you choose your topic. What’s your passion?

Students chose everything from surfing to swords. I wanted something related to the kingdom of God that could be relevant, appropriate for a non-religious setting, and doable in 15 minutes.

You can read what I said below, and I’d be interested in your feedback. The group responded well, and the experience helped me think through this issue further.

Clearly this isn’t the whole story. But is this an approach that could help us present the good news in a way Aussies see as relevant and important?

Here’s the script: Continue reading “How does justice come?”

God’s kingdom and politics

What’s the relationship between the kingdom of God and the power of the state?

Mixing religion and politics could start an argument, but we can’t avoid the gnarly question.

How should Christians interact with the power of the country we live in? Should we be politicians, law makers, advisors, ambassadors, judges? Should we lobby politicians over issues like same-sex marriage? Should we oppose institutional injustice like incarcerating people on Manus Island?

Should churches promote and fund activist agendas to challenge government policy? Or should we do those things only as individual citizens? Or is this whole thing diverting us from our calling? Continue reading “God’s kingdom and politics”

The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?

Does being the kingdom of God mean speaking out against abuses of power in the current political system?

Quick: give me a Bible verse on social justice. What comes to mind?

Continue reading “The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?”

Who is the saviour of the world?

Who do you trust to sort out all that’s wrong with the world? It matters where you place your faith.

To say Jesus is Lord is to say that he is the rightful ruler of all. Every power, every authority, every government answers to him and is under his direction. Jesus is not saving souls to take them out of this world to a disembodied existence in the sky. He doesn’t plan to leave this world to the devil. Continue reading “Who is the saviour of the world?”

One ruler can bring humanity home

What kind of ruler could bring an end to war and injustice? He’d need to be a very different kind of ruler, and all humanity would need to submit to him.

As you read the Christmas story, do you see how rulers today still rely on evil and death as Herod the Great did? The spirit behind Herod reigned in the rulers who came before him: Antiochus Epiphanes IV, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh Neco, Sennacherib, …

When Fidel Castro died, some rulers like Canada’s Justin Trudeau sparked a social media storm for eulogizing him (#trudeaueulogies). Michael Bird chipped in with examples of how rulers still reign through the power of death: Continue reading “One ruler can bring humanity home”

Trump and the kingdom of God

Were the prophets who predicted Trump’s victory right?

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Now that the American presidential election is over, I’m writing to beg my friends not to confuse your allegiance to Jesus with your allegiance to a political party or to your nation. I’m an Aussie. I’m neither pro-Trump nor pro-Clinton. I am pro-Jesus. I’m writing this because 4 out of 5 white Evangelicals voted for Trump, and some (not all) of you confused support for Trump and support for Jesus. I beg you to listen, because that’s really dangerous to your faith. Continue reading “Trump and the kingdom of God”