The Stupidity of Politicians

Why do smart people do such dumb things? This is not a trait found just in politicians but it is ESPECIALLY prevalent IN politicians. Take the current impeachment process of President Trump. It is clear that the Democrats have wanted Trump out since November 2016. And they may have valid grounds for their complaints. BUT, the jump to impeach the President is a dumb move. Before we explore why it is a dumb move, there is another worrying issue surrounding the impeachment effort by the Democrats. They are uncertain as to whether the upcoming election will remove Trump. That is a HUGE indictment of the Democratic Party. A President supposedly THIS bad, and THIS racist and THIS unjust still has a chance to remain in office. Surely a man this unqualified to be President and who has ripped this nation apart and who tears at the very fabric of the Republic  should have no chance of reelection. But the fact that he does shows how bad the Democrats are right now in their own ideological battle and confusion.

Why is the Democrats attempt to impeach this Prudent stupid? Because they now have opened the door to ANY Congress opening ANY impeachment enquiry simple because the do not like the President. Of course Trump has done stupid things and the Ukraine call was a mess – but nothing He has done has stayed from the realm of ‘idiot’ to high crimes and misdemeanors. And so now, if a Republican House decides they don’t like a Democratic President they have a precedent to start impeachment proceedings. That’s stupid!

Review: Homeward Bound: Sabbath Rest for the People of God by Graeme Goldsworthy

Graeme Goldsworthy is an accomplished and requested Australian theologian who has written a good book on the theological and eschatological significance of the sabbath. The problem with the book is that Goldsworthy places this issue of the Sabbath rest firmly as an eschatological event and simply dismisses the physical command for a day of rest.

With regards to what he writes about the sabbath as an eschatological event, it is very good and extremely insightful.  Using Eden as a starting point Goldsworthy says that humanity was driven from this place of rest and has been looking for the place of rest ever since. Goldsworthy argues that Cain’s building of cities was a futile attempt to find rest and recreate Eden. Indeed this is one of the many fascinating thoughts in the book. Goldsworthy writes, “The city is presented in a surprising way very early in the biblical story as humankind s first attempt to find rest without God. If Eden or paradise is the original ideal of home, the biblical account comes to link a unique city with it, so that the final vision of Johns Apocalypse is that of the heavenly Jerusalem with the life-giving features of Eden.”

For Goldsworthy, in this period before the final eschatological work of God, humans remain homeless. Only in the heavenly city – the city to come – will we find true rest. 

Another fascinating discussion that Goldsworthy has is about the homelessness of Jesus. “The amazing truth of the incarnation is that God, in Christ, joined us in our exile.  The homelessness of Jesus of Nazareth is consistent with this fact of the divine submission to exile. He begins his earthly life as one born in a stable; Jesus was constantly on the move. Not only does the exile’ of Jesus fulfil the role of Israels exile, but it also recalls Isaiahs description of the return from- the Babylonian exile. Jesus is portrayed as never having had any sense arriving home while he was here on earth. This means that we also are sojourners and exiles in the world until we arrive at the new Eden.

Goldsworthy brilliantly ties the theme of Jesus’ homelessness with the theme of the city when he writes “While Jesus is referred to as a Nazarene he is not portrayed primarily as a city dweller.  Rather, the gospels emphasize the crisis in his ministry when ‘he set his face to go to Jerusalem: this great city for him is not the place of refuge or belonging, but where he must suffer and be put to death. The city, or town, is also the place where Jesus warns that the messengers will meet opposition: Cains city of refuge from the judgment of God was a futile gesture (Gen. 4:17), but the grace of God leads us through the earthly Jerusalem to the heavenly city of God. What we are shown in the New Testament is the fulfilling in Christ of the central Old Testament images of city and temple. Israel is redeemed from slavery and exile in Egypt and given the promised land. God s chosen messianic king, David, transforms the godless Jebusite city of Jerusalem into the city of God. God’s messianic son, Solomon, is gifted to build the dwelling place for God, the temple. The three concentric circles – land, city and temple – express the presence of God dwelling with his people. All are fulfilled in Christ.”

The glaring issue with Goldsworthy’s book is the lack of any real engagement with the physical command for rest on the 7th day in the Hebrew Scriptures, other than a somewhat trite dismissal that a physical sabbath has any value.  He does not engage with scriptures such as Exodus 31: “16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

This passage says two things very clearly – 1. The sabbath is a command from the living God who never changes – 2. The people are to keep the sabbath FOREVER.

Goldsworthy does not engage with such passages – which is a shame.

Also, Goldsworthy makes a sweeping statement regarding the lack of information in the Apostolic Scriptures about the sabbath – “The New Testament epistles give no encouragement to Sabbatarianism, neither do they say almost nothing about  physical rest and recreation.”

But the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) is a Jewish document – it was written BY Jews. Is it possible that they assumed that sabbath observance was a given? Also, Goldsworthy is not clear about what he means by sabbatarianism. He writes, “For Christians the Sabbath law is not a direction concerning what to do, and what not to do, on Sunday. Rather it is the essence of the eschatological hope of eternal rest.” 

Of course the New Testament would be silent about resting on a Sunday – because that is not the sabbath. Christians may have Sunday as a day of rest – or other days in the week – but that is NOT sabbath, There is ONLY one sabbath as established by god – Friday at Sundown to Saturday sundown.

There is much in this book which is challenging and fascinating. But it is a 30,000 feet, spiritualized look at the topic of the Sabbath.

For Goldsworthy, the reality of the sabbath, the day of rest, is experienced ONLY when our homelessness has finally come to an end at the end of the age and  we come into the presence of Christ.  All our experiences in life is a shadow, or foretaste of this final day.

In the meantime we are, as Goldsworthy says, homeless, exiled, journeying to our rest.

Goldsworthy, in his theological  and eschatological overview of the sabbath produces some excellent insights into the wider understanding of the spiritual day of rest but he sadly, in my opinion, does a disservice to the practical and physical issues of the sabbath. He also, I think, makes some typically unhelpful statements (which are especially common amongst reformed christian’s). One such statement is regarding the law of Moses, which Goldsworthy seemingly dismisses as irrelevant “To make Sunday our version of the Jewish Sabbath is to ignore it’s Christ-centeredness and to return to the Law of Moses, something the New Testament warns against.” This sentence is both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’. We must remember – Jesus affirmed and promised that the law of Moses would never be abolished – this is because the law of Moses is good and the New Testament does not warn us against it. The Law of Moses IS the perfect word of God because it came from the mouth of God. The New Testament does not warn us against the law of Moses – the New Testament affirms that we have fulfilled and kept the law of Moses IN Christ.

Overall there is so much here to enjoy and learn from, just a shame that Goldsworthy falls into the same old traps about the Old Testament.

 

 

 

Review: Sustainable Young Adult Ministry – making it work, making it last by Mark DeVries and Scott Pontier

One of the church’s persistent cries is “we are losing the young people.” This book is a thoughtful, honest and practical response to reaching out to young adults.

DeVries and Pontier structure the book very simply – the first six chapters take you through the six common mistakes the church makes when trying to reach young adults. Two of the mistakes are especially prominent in my own church tradition – Mistake # 2 is to change the worship style; Mistake # 3 Expect the youth director to do it. With each Mistake the authors help you frame an understanding of why church’s try and do this (often with  good intentions) and why ultimately it does not work.

There are then six chapters (called paradox chapters) on how to reach out to young adults. They are called paradox chapters because they advocate doing things which you would thing are the opposite of what you should do. An example is paradox #5. It is often the mistake of a church to try and provide multiple options for young adults to make connection easy so that they do not need to make a big commitment because we believe young adults tend to have a mentality that lacks commitment. Yet paradox #5 says – respond to lack of commitment by asking for more. How? The authors write “Strangely, the young adult who has no time for thirty-minute optional Bible study actually might give ten hours a week to a compelling vision they believe in.” Are we scared to ask young people to give a bigger commitment because we assume they will say no because our perception is that they lack commitment?

Another paradox which the authors explore is that if you want to reach young adults….then take your focus off young adults! Their reasoning though is very sound – the focus should be reaching our communities, and ultimately the world. The more effectively we do THIS, the more likely young adults will be drawn in.

If your passion is for young adults to be reached by the church and more accurately, brought to faith in Christ, and you are looking for a quick fix on how to do this then this is not the book for you. DeVries and Pontier give you a LOT of food for thought, practical and achievable suggestions and a road map which, if followed, will take months, even years – not just to reach young adults – but to reach communities for Christ which in turn will draw in young adults.

Review: The Old Testament in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic by Christopher J Wright

It is extremely hard to produce an accessible  introduction to the Old Testament that will not, on the one hand, be too flimsy and weak, lacking in anything substantive in terms of understanding or on the other hand too much to read for the non academic Christian. Christopher Wright has managed to straddle these two issues with The Old Testament in Seven Sentences.

In a masterful way and in 162 pages, Wright tackles and explains seven ‘hinges’ upon which the Old Testament moves, Creation, Abraham, Exodus, David, Prophets, Gospel and Psalms and Wisdom. Writing in a clear and engaging way Wright takes you through each chapter outlining the key issues to know.

As a pre-introduction to studying the Old Testament’s themes, and without the dense forest of technical theology found in the weightier tomes of Old Testament Introductions, this is an invaluable resource.

Highly recommended for the beginner in Old Testament studies and for those wanting a re-fresher on it’s key themes.

Review Storm of Fire and Blood by Taylor Marshall

I tend not to read fiction. I usually find novels frustrating and to be frank, I do not want to do the work of having to plough through 10, 20 or 30 pages ‘getting into’ a novel. When I do read fiction it is always a historical novel – but even then, with the best of writers, I usually give up fairly quickly.

Which is why Taylor Marshall’s trilogy has been so surprising for me. His first two books, The Sword and Serpent and The Tenth Region of the Night were the first novels I read through in their entirety in many years. And the third book, Storm of Fire and Blood, is no different. These books have captivated me and I hope that Taylor Marshall will continue to write such stories in the years to come.

Set in the early church period of the fourth century, Storm of Fire and Blood does not just have a captivating story which grabs you from the opening lines; or wonderfully rich and engaging dialogue which often has a delightfully humorous undertone; or complex and deep characters with whom you will feel the full gambit of emotions, joy and laughter, frustration and anger. Most remarkably, Marshall takes you into the life of the fourth century. You feel yourself walking in the cold of Britannia or experiencing the smell of the fish in the docks of Myra. You are drawn into this incredible yet deadly world of the Roman Empire and the early Church. This is truly historical fiction – in the midst of an entertaining and gripping story you are engaging with and learning about the real people of this period.

Storm of Fire and Blood follows the exploits of Jurian / Georgius and his friends Agapius, Menas and Sabra and their adversary Casca. Marshall does a wonderful job weaving multiple stories together from Jurian in Britannia to Sabra in Cyrene to Casca their nemesis. The backdrop of the story is spiritual warfare. The Emperor Diocletian is about to unleash persecution upon the church but underlying the physical persecution is the spiritual evil of the enemy who hates those who profess Christ as Lord. How does the Church of Christ stand in the face of evil and persecution, danger and death? This is the core of the story – and in the answer you will see bravery, deep faith and trust in God even in the midst of overwhelming opposition. And oh my, the ending will leave you stunned.

Finally, I want to mention Nikolaos. He is one of my favorite characters in the book. Nikolaos is mysterious. He appears just as people need him. He is peaceful, he is joyful, he is generous and he loves and trusts the Lord Jesus even when in danger. He is a true Saint and this character radiates peace. Whenever he appears in the book I would physically become peaceful.

As a pastor of an Anglican Congregation I have frequently recommended to my congregation the previous two books in this series – and Storm of Fire and Blood will be no different. A perfect Christmas present.

Review: The Crown by Joanna Stafford

During Henry VIII’s reign there was the dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry dissolved and shut the monasteries of England because of the corruption that was inherent at the time. Monks and Nuns lived in luxury. Monks often had mistresses and children. One of the side benefits of the closing of the monasteries was that the English Crowns treasury was filled with the wealth the monasteries had amassed. The dissolution of the monasteries took place in three stages – the smaller monasteries were closed first, then the medium sized monasteries and then the larger monasteries.
This novel is set during this period and begins in 1537. A novice Dominican nun from Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford defies the rule of enclosure and leaves the Priory to go to London. Her cousin is to be burnt at the stake. However while in London events lead to her being arrested and being confined to the tower. She is then interrogated by the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner (Bishop Gardiner became the Archbishop of Canterbury in Queen Mary’s reign and he was the man who condemned Thomas Cranmer to death). Bishop Gardiner has Joanna’s father and threatens his life unless Joanna goes back to Dartford Priory and unearth an ancient (and supposedly powerful) relic – the Crown of Æthelstan – which the Bishop believes will stop Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries.
Æthelstan was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the English from 927 to 939.[c] He was the son of King Edward the Elder and his first wife, Ecgwynn. Modern historians regard him as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. Æthelstan was one of the most pious West Saxon kings, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. His household was the centre of English learning during his reign, and it laid the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century. No other West Saxon king played as important a role in European politics as Æthelstan, and he arranged the marriages of several of his sisters to continental rulers.
The Novel follows Joanna’s attempts to find this relic.
It is written by a Catholic author and so you will find that her sympathies lie against Henry VIII. She is critical of Anne Boleyn who makes a b rief appearance in the novel.
But despite the catholic bias regarding the history of the time, it is a wonderful suspense / murder mystery. The writing will grab you and draw you into a fascinating period of time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be reading the other two in the series over the summer.

Review: Finding The Holy Spirit in The Stained Glass Window: The Charismata in The Anglican Tradition by Dr James Guthrie

Dr Guthrie’s book, which was his Doctor of Ministry Thesis, is desperately needed in the Anglican Church in North America and for Anglican’s in general in the West. As he states at the beginning of the book, “The Anglican Church in North America needs a renewed sense of the charisms (or gifts) of the Holy Spirit, especially those listed in 1 Corinthians 12, to be at work in ministry contexts and congregations.” Notice the words ‘renewed sense.’ This book is not about trying to introduce the gifts of the Holy Spirit into an Anglican context but about re-discovering the work of the Holy Spirit within Anglicanism. Many would not associate the charismatic gifts with a liturgical church. And this why Dr Guthrie’s book is so important. It is a theological, historical survey of why Anglicans SHOULD expect the gifts of the Spirit to be not simply operating in a liturgical context – but that it should be normative because the gifts of the Spirit have been evident throughout it’s history. The tragedy is that many Anglican’s have ceased to expect the gifts to be present in the Church.

If you an Anglican I highly recommend you read this book – it is thorough, easy to read and fascinating. If you are not an anglican this is a valuable source of historical theology to help you understand the Anglican Church – it’s roots and it’s spiritual heritage.