Book Sale

Tuesday 28 February 2023

An Ancient Feminist Correlation

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One of the most remarkable historical correlations I have observed in my studies of ancient cultures is the fact that there has never been a strongly egalitarian/feminine or matriarchal influenced culture that I have studied that did not practice human sacrifice. This was true of the Etruscans, the pre-Roman Briton's, the Carthaginians (with their Sidonian Asherah priesthood, which came to dominate Samaria, aka ancient Israel), the people of Old Testament Samaria, and many other cultures. All of these matriarchal influenced cultures practiced human sacrifice.

That is not to say that male dominated, or patriarchal societies haven't as well, some have, but I can think of many that didn't. And they didn't just oppose it, some sought to put an end to other cultures doing it, for instance early Israel or the early and even later Roman Republic, and others.

The reason I am bringing this up today is because I was listening to a video about the ancient origins of China, and the presenter noted something very interesting. The very first recorded kingdom with a proto-Chinese script, the Shang (the Chinese trace their origins back even further into a dynasty many scholars believe mythical, because we have no solid evidence of it) was a far more egalitarian society and dynasty than any other following dynasty. Their gender roles did not follow the historical Chinese norm. The presenter provided some interesting evidence including of a noble woman's tomb, which shows she was a warrior consort to the king of her day. She was one of his many wives, but she was not just a wife, she was a leader of armies and very important in this role. British women were known to fulfil a similar role prior to Rome's conquest, and probably after in the non-Romanized parts of Gaelic Britain. So did some of the very violent Steppe tribes like some of the Scythians. 

Then he noted something else. This dynasty also practiced human sacrifice, something ended by later dynasties. Though it took some time to finally finish, it eventually became taboo in later patriarchal Chinese eras such as the Han dynasty. But it gets even more interesting. Because the video notes how prominent these sacrifices were in this "egalitarian" dynasty, but increasingly less so afterwards. And it was the next dynasty after the Shang, the Zhou, that coined the Chinese concept of the Mandate of the Sky or the Mandate of Heaven. The idea that Heaven would only allow a kingdom to rule as long as it was just. The Zhou argued that the all wise Heaven would not have allowed the previous dynasty to end if it had not been too corrupt, wicked, violent and depraved. Note he's referring to the matriarchal influenced society which practiced human sacrifice in massive and shocking numbers.

It gets even more interesting, because it was the society which coined the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, the Zhou, to which Confucius looked with nostalgia as the days of justice and as a model for Chinese society. Though his version of justice would not be exactly ours.

I just listened to this video because it said: How old is Chinese civilisation? And that's all it takes to pique this historian's interest. And in that video this same correlation can be observed. Human sacrifice didn't fully end with the next dynasty, but it began to end with the patriarchal societies that followed the more egalitarian society. And this is observed across continents and across millennia. The Colonial explorers in the Pacific observed the same correlation between the egalitarian tribal societies of the island peoples and human sacrifice.

It's here where you might say, but our modern egalitarian society breaks this trend. And I say trend, because I have not been able to study every ancient matriarchal influenced society so some might buck this trend, they might not do human sacrifice. But ours is not one of those possible societies.

Australia aborts over 70,000 children a year, and America around 900,000. And this is a direct product of a matriarchal or egalitarian feminist policy. It's considered a core tenet of feminism that women have this "right". In fact without this ability it is well known to feminists that women would not be able to function in many similar roles that men do. It is almost as if the same spirit was behind these societies, the same spirit behind Jezebel. The spirit the Bible calls Asherah. 

Anyway, it's a fascinating correlation all the same. Evil repeats itself.

Monday 27 February 2023

Don’t Begrudge Your Siblings

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The parable of the prodigal son is one of the greatest and most famous accounts in the whole Bible. I think in large part because so many people can relate to it. How often have we found ourselves in need of mercy from God or others that we did not deserve?

This is a wonderful passage for preaching against self-righteousness. For challenging hard heartedness in long practicing believers. For lifting up the importance of mercy and forgiveness and grace. And especially for showing the character of God and how he will accept the repentant.

But I think there is something in this passage just for plain old advice for family conflict. This may not be a primary reason for this parable, as Jesus does direct it at the Pharisees who are upset that he is associating with tax collectors and sinners (cf. Luke 15:1), but surely it is a valid secondary usage. Let’s read the account from Luke 15:11-32:

“11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

The heart of this account is found in verse 24 and verse 32:

“24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

“32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

With this parable Jesus is challenging a sinful hard heartedness in Pharisees who will not celebrate the lost being found, the sinners being saved. They believe they deserve all the attention, that they have earned it, and that it is theirs by right. But Jesus came to earth for those who are in need of him, not those who think he can learn from them, or that he owes them for their efforts. The heart of this parable is also written right before it where Jesus talks about how the angels celebrate at the salvation of a lost soul (v.10). As they celebrate, so too should we. We should love the idea of a sinner being redeemed.  

But, though this is the heart of it, Jesus uses a true human phenomenon to make his point: the jealousy of one sibling for what another is getting. This is all too common, and all too real. I have seen this myself in many contexts over time. I want to say just a few things about how this parable speaks to this.

Firstly, life isn’t necessarily fair. It is true that some siblings will get more attention and resources from parents than others, different or even preferential treatment at times. This is because life doesn’t deal us all the same hand. The ones in least need are often the ones most independent, and therefore the ones in least need will often observe that though they might think they deserve more they don’t get it. This can at times upset them, make them jealous, or offended.

Don’t think this way, it is dumb. Everything a parent has is theirs not yours, until it is yours. Parents have the right to give to one and not the other. Sometimes this might be genuinely unfair, and if your parent is playing favourites, then you need to speak to them. But you also need to recognize what is theirs is theirs to do with as they like, and they often have reasons you don’t understand. They also have a right to discretion. Equality is a false god.

Secondly, don’t begrudge your sibling in need getting help when they need it. Don’t begrudge them getting more help than you got. Don’t think that because one person gets something they need, you are owed something. You are not. What is your parents will come to you in time, and when that time comes you will long for your parent to be there instead of the things you get. Celebrate that you have a parent who can help someone in need. Not everyone has that, some parents are too poor, some don’t care. Celebrate that your sibling is getting help, because they need it. Celebrate your parent giving them more help than they need, that is called generosity, one or more of your kids might need this one day. It is part of what family is for.

Thirdly, everything you have is in some part yours because your parents invested in you, and they are likely planning to do more and give you more besides. Always be thankful for this, don’t become entitled. Some people have bad parents, really bad parents, and I am not talking about this. That’s a different and harder conversation. But more than likely you had good parents who were just imperfect, and you have what you have in part because of them. If one of your brothers or sisters is in need, just roll with it, if they get help you didn’t, just roll with it, if you get help they didn’t be thankful for it and don’t lord it over others. Recognize that if you have a parent willing to go above and beyond for your brother or sister in need, then you likely have a strong support for yourself as backup when you need it, so cherish it and treat it well. Otherwise you will put people offside.

Fourthly, you likely think there is more to it and I am over simplifying things. This can be true, I admit that. I bet there are many older brothers or sisters like the prodigal son’s brother who have many good reasons, in their own mind, for being upset, maybe some of them are justified. Just note that those family issues you are speaking of exist to one degree or another in every family. And in families little hurts can build over time because people tend to be less careful with those that they know really well. Familiarity breeds contempt, and this can cause lots of minor wounds that can spill over at some point.

But still, I think many of these issue stem from an unrealistic expectation of fairness. It is the adult version of the child crying out: “It’s not fair.” Just remember that, it is likely you got more from your parent than you remember, and the accounts might balance out in ways you do not expect. Also recognize that when you feel like things are unfair you are likely to weigh that far higher than you do when you are getting what you think is fair. This is human nature. Don’t ignore this trait in yourself, many people have it.   

Lastly, don’t be like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. You risk losing far more than you risk winning by attacking a parent over a situation like them helping a sibling in need. Praise God you have a parent who will do this, because not all will. Spend less time meditating on what you think you deserve and more time being grateful that we have a Lord and God who gives us far and beyond more grace and mercy than we deserve, including helpful parents.

Sunday 26 February 2023

Wisdom Beyond Political Leaders

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I found this interesting, from Watchmen, how insightful the authors were about how Russia would respond to America’s arrogance on the world stage. 

“For one thing, it is an assumption based upon the belief that American psychology and its Soviet counterpart are interchangeable. To understand the Russian attitude to the possibility of a third world war one must first understand their attitude to the second. In WW11, none of the allied powers fought so bitterly or sustained such losses as did the Russians. It was Hitler’s lack of success in his assault upon the Soviet heartland that assured his eventual defeat, and though it was paid for mostly by Soviet lives, the entire world reaped the benefits. In time, the Russian contribution to the war efforts has been downplayed and dismissed – most noticeably as our political differences became wider – as we glorified our own contribution while forgetting that of our estranged former allies. The Russians, however, have not forgotten. These are still those who remember the horror of a war fought on their soil, and almost certainly there are members of the Politiburo in that category. From my reading of various pronouncements made by the Russian high command over the years, I am convinced that they will never again permit their nation to be threatened in a similar matter, no matter what the cost.

The presence of a deterrent such as Dr. Manhattan has doubtless curbed Soviet adventurism, as there have been numerous occasions when the U.S.S.R has had to step down over some issue rather than risk escalation into a war it certainly could not win, Often, these reversals have been humiliating, and this has perhaps fostered the illusion that the Soviets will suffer such indignities endlessly. This is a misconception, for there is indeed another option available. 

That option is Mutually Assured Destruction. Stated simply, Dr. Manhattan cannot stop all the Soviet warheads from reaching American soil, even a greatly reduced percentage would still be more than enough to effectively end the organic life in the northern hemisphere. The suggestion that the presence of a superhuman has inclined the world more towards peace is refudiated by the sharper increase in both Russian and American nuclear stockpiles since the advent of Dr. Manhattan. Infinite destruction divided by two or ten or twenty is still infinite destruction. If threated with eventual domination, would the Soviets pursue this unquestionably suicidal course? Yes. Given their history and their view of the world, I believe they would.

Our current administration believes otherwise. They continually push their unearned advantage until American influence comes uncomfortably close to key areas of Soviet interest. It is as if, with a real live Deity on their side – our leaders have become intoxicated with a heady draught of Omnipotence-by-Association, without realizing just how his very existence has deformed the lives of every living creature on the face of this plant.

This is true in a domestic sense as well as a broader, international one. The technology that Dr. Manhattan has made possible has changed the way we think about our clothes, our food, our travel. We drive electric cars and travel in leisure and comfort in clean, economical airships. Our entire culture has had to contort itself to accommodate the presence of something more than human, and we have all felt the results of this. The evidence surrounds us, in our everyday lives and on the front pages of the news papers we read. One single beings have been allowed to change the entire world, pushing it closer to its eventual destruction in the process. The Gods now walk amongst us, affecting the lives of every man, woman and child on the plant in a direct way rather than through mythology and the reassurances of faith. The safety of a whole world rests in the hands of a being far beyond what we understand to be human.”* 

There is of course much fiction in this comic book reflection. It's reflecting on how America would act if they had a real Superman on their team. But the reflection is largely based on a hard reality: the different way that Russians view the world. 

Imagine how a nation that experienced the brutal invasions of the Nazis feels about the biggest military power in the world building a coalition to contain it, and force it to submit? In fact how often has the West invaded Russia seeking to subdue it? 

But the even more powerful insight in this is the consideration that the US would abuse its dominance, to lord it over its former equals. While they have not actually obtained the alliance of super beings, the US has grown very powerful and very arrogant in its unipolar dominance. Arrogance leads to haughtiness and this haughtiness leads to foolish actions, like continually stoking a war against the largest nuclear power on earth...for instance. 

These are truly remarkable times. 

We all must be praying that the war-mongerers are held back and this war does not escalate. Too much is at stake. 

But how do you convince the haughty to be humble and admit the foolishness of their actions? It is easier said than done. Most humans learn by experience not wisdom.

But it's obvious some can learn this lesson, because in the 1980s these comic books authors understood the situation better than most do today. The wisdom of these comic book writers stands head and shoulders above that of our current political leaders.

*141-142, Watchmen, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons. 

Saturday 25 February 2023

Christian School Funding

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I think Christian schools should be supported. Legislation banning them hiring who they want is unjust. But I think Christians need to come to terms with the fact that as reasonable as it is for them receive government funding, because they make the government's process of providing education easier, Christians will need to get used to saying no to government money.

1) The conditions it will come with will become too onerous for the Christian conscience.*
2) The citizenry of Australia will feel more willing to demand more of Christian schools as long as they get government money.
Therefore, in all ways, including with charity status, Christian organisations need to start considering to voluntarily removing government funding from their efforts, including schools. Maybe not right away, but soon.
The one who provides the money feels the right to make demands. Government money is coming with more and more non-Christian strings attached. It may be technically the right of Christian ministries to take their share of services funding, but it may become a right we have to reject, because it costs more than it offers.
The sooner we learn to do things without it, the more resilient Christian ministries will become anyway.
This is just something I've been thinking about, and I don't have a hardened opinion on it yet. But this is an important thing to consider. It is already evident that Christian bodies are being forced to make decisions to keep funding which conflict with their Christian principles. This will only increase. *The sad reality of this though, is that before it gets too bad for the majority of Christians, those in charge will malign and target those speaking out sooner as Pharisees and troublemakers. Making it harder for Christians to take concerted efforts to create alternative systems to fund their schools and ministries. This is just a reality of how bureaucracies seek to protect themselves, so be aware of this.

Friday 24 February 2023

Eldership, A Noble Task


You can watch the video for this sermon here.


So, for the last few weeks we have done a series on prayer. Let me encourage you to continue to pray through the Psalms. Look up the context of what they are talking about, follow the themes, see how they apply. We are actually going to come back to them later in the year. But for now, remember the prayer of a righteous person is effective, prayer is our best weapon against evil, and prayer can have great healing power if you call out to God in need. We especially need you to pray as we vote in a few weeks on some new elders and deacons.

We want to put on some new elders, and we will be advertising our candidates from next week, for a few weeks. Just before we go through this process I want to preach on the most influential passage on this topic in the whole Bible, 1 Timothy 3:1-7. We are going to examine this passage in some detail.

The Baptist way of appointing elders is to elect elders through a duly called meeting of the membership. All members get to vote, it is the Baptist belief that Christ appoints the leaders of the Church through his body, the membership, who seek his will on the matter and any member can nominate a qualified man for the eldership. So, we need to ask the question: What is a qualified man? Well our constitution outlines the guidelines, and if you look at our constitution it says that “The appointment of Elders shall take place in the following manner and have the qualifications as stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.” So, what are these qualifications?

Let’s examine them.

A Noble Task (v.1) – Paul begins by saying, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” This is an interesting way for Paul to introduce this topic. Why does he address it this way? Well, there is likely are few reasons.

To be an elder in the Church in the 1st century could be dangerous, thankless and hard work. The leaders of the Church were often targeted by officials and Jewish opponents. We know for a fact that the Church in Ephesus, where Timothy happens to be, came under serious attack from the pagan society around it.

You can read about this in Acts, the population of Ephesus is freaked out that their goddess, Artemis, is under threat by the spread of Christianity. Acts 19:27 – “27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

Artemis was served by young female priests, who danced before the congregation in their worship. How ironic that modern churches do the same thing today, when the spread of Christianity was putting a stop to this in the 1st century?

The Ephesians turned on the Christians because Christianity was putting a stop to the worship of their idol. And this made Christians, and especially their leaders, unpopular in Ephesus at this time.  

So, Paul is encouraging the men by saying to desire to be an overseer is a good thing, a noble thing. The word for “overseer” is episkopos, which is also translated bishop. In the Bible, Bishops oversaw a single church, not a collection of churches.

Bishop or overseer, biblically, is synonymous with elder, “presbyteros”. We know this for several reasons, but especially because Paul makes no distinction between them in Acts 20, or in this letter, where we read in 1 Timothy 5:17-20 –

“17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”

Those who rule, or lead, or preside over the Church are the equivalent of those who oversee or manage a church. Elders are overseers.

This is a position in the church that men should aspire to. But it is not just a position, it is a task. It is a role. It is a job. The men who become overseers, need to oversee the doctrine, the spiritual state of their people, and guard the flock from false teachings and more.

It is not an easy role still. It can be a thankless role still. But it is a noble task and men should aspire to this noble task, whilst thoroughly considering the weight of what they aspire to.

So, what should these men be like?

Above Reproach (vv.2) – “Above Reproach” – It is important for a man to be above reproach, because if he has seriously given himself over to sin, this will diminish his authority. Paul’s intention is not that an elder be perfect, but that he is noble in how he carries himself.

Above reproach means that he does not live in a way that he can easily be accused of gross sin, and especially deservedly so. Being innocent does not mean you will not be accused. Sometimes good men are accused of things they did not do. But in a lot of instances men are accused of one bad thing, because they were doing something else shady that makes it easier for them to be attacked, to be “brought into reproach”.

I like to watch cop shows from time to time, and it is remarkable how many people find themselves suspects of one crime, because they were doing something else wrong, and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This can happen to an innocent and decent person, but it is much more likely to happen to someone who lives foolishly.

We can evaluate if someone is blameless by asking questions like this:

Does he meet with women alone, often? Does he have lots of female friends, or really any female friends that he spends time with without his wife?

Note, his wife being ok with this does not make it ok. It is not ok.

Married men should focus on building friendships with men, and women with women. When you are single it is a bit different because you need to be evaluating potential spouses, but not heaps different. And when you get married, those opposite sex friendships need to be reframed through your wife or husband, or cut away completely.

Another way to put this is: does the potential elder have healthy boundaries with women?  

Does he hang out in seedy places, alone, not with the intention of evangelising. And if he is evangelising, does he take a partner?

Can he pass a background check? If he has a rough background, have you got years of a changed behaviour backed up with character witnesses?

Would the way he runs his business, manages his office, lead his employees, does his work, bring disrepute on himself or the Church?

Does his wife respect him and follow his lead?

For those already in eldership, you could ask the same questions, plus some others:

In a church context: Does he handle the money in secret, keeping the money only in the hands of his own family, and never disclosing how much has come in? Or even if he does disclose it, how can you trust him if no one else sees it?

Does he stack the eldership or leadership with his family, friends and people who will not necessarily challenge him in the right way?

Many examples could be given to evaluate this, but let me just comment on something. There is a big push in the Baptist Churches to hire women to work as pastors, etc, alongside of male pastors. This push comes from our society, not from any of the Scriptures.

Society and evangelical feminists say that men should be spending more time with their female staff, because if they don’t this makes the women feel left out of the loop.

But answer this: is a man who is alone with a women in the office for long hours of the day above reproach? Practical question. Is he?  

To those of you who work in the secular work force: how often do you see married men or women flirting with the opposite sex? How often do you see worse? It is not just about purity either. How easy would it be for that man to be accused, and how hard would it be to defend himself?

Modern Churches are asking men and women to work in a way that fails this simple principle: above reproach. Wise Church leaders don’t allow this situation to happen. Modern churches are filled with these encounters, which means they are not…wise. Most adultery happens in the workforce[i].

This sort of thinking needs to be called out. Call me old fashioned, cause “I art.”

I think a man who aspires to eldership should have already proven himself in this arena, in a reasonable way.

A Husband Of One Wife (v.2) – An elder must be “the husband of one wife…” This can also be translated, “a man of one woman”, or “a man of one wife”. In the Bible’s eyes these two statements are synonymous, a man was a husband, a woman was a wife, except in rare or special circumstances. Today’s society encourages people to delay marriage for qualifications or financial reasons, or because people are too comfortable at home, or whatever. But things were not this way for believers in most centuries. So, what does this mean?

“an overseer must be…the man…” The first thing we see that it is ok for an overseer to be a single woman with a psych degree and a heart for people? Nope, I mean it is ok to for the overseer to be a woman with a real heart for ministry and teaching? Nope, it says an overseer must be a man.

Looking at the leadership of many modern churches you would think that a lot of them can’t read, but they can, they just explain this away as “cultural.” Even though we noted before that the Ephesian church had female priests, and so was the culture in many pagan contexts. But as we know, Paul said “It is not ok for a woman to teach a man or assume authority, until about the 20th century then it is totally fine.”

But Paul says overseers being a man is a must, he says not long before this,

“11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”

We don’t need to spend much more time on this, because our Church has stayed solid on this for many years. But I do want to observe a couple of things,

Straight after forbidding women to teach, Paul then excludes most men from the role as well. It is not as though every man should be a teacher in the Church. Most men will never be qualified.

I think it is interesting that John Calvin says, “It is not right to put such a heavy burden as eldership on the shoulders of a woman.” In all my experience I have seen nothing to prove him wrong, and I would add, this is true of a lot of men as well.

But he is to not just be a man, but a husband of one woman.

A One Woman Man - “must be…the man of one woman.” What does Paul mean by this? The husband of one wife? At first this might seem pretty simple, until you see all the different ways people understand it.

Polygamy – Some people think this verse is just referring to excluding polygamy. Or primarily about this. The argument being, that a Christian elder should set the example for their congregation and not have multiple wives.

Polygamy was common in Jewish and Eastern circles in the time of Paul. A hang over from the Old Testament practice and eastern custom.

The Greeks and Romans tended to frown on polygamy in theory, but do it in practice. There was a saying at the time “that every man should have a mistress for his entertainment, a concubine for his sexual pleasure, and a wife to bear his legitimate children.”

So, this was a common issue for the early church to deal with. It still is in places like Africa and the Middle East.

To say this is simply commenting on polygamy is a valid approach, and that is John Calvin’s reading. It would be fair to say that this interpretation is a given for any Christian man, let alone an elder. No Christian man should have a wife and a mistress, and if anyone does be warned the Lord is coming for you.

Never Been Divorced/Only had one wife – Some people take it to mean you have only ever had one wife. There are some variations of this.

Some would say if you have been divorced for any reason, you are disqualified. In Paul’s day there would have been many Jewish and Greek elders who were divorced, because divorce was easy to do. In this case, he would be saying, don’t allow these men to be overseers. We need to turn this ship around.

Some would modify this and say, if you have been divorced for scriptural reasons then this is different. Which is fair, because Jesus allows for divorce and remarriage for adultery, which I would say includes spouses who deny their partner sex. This is a form of adultery, or marital unfaithfulness. Abandonment is another reason.

But the passage does not use the word divorce, and if you say no to 100% of men who have had more than one wife because you want to be fiercely literal, this will include men whose wives have passed away and who remarry.

Which Paul could not have intended, and yet the Church once did practice this, though I doubt many of us here agree with this.

I think it is important to note that Paul wrote this in a time where most divorces were initiated by men, and very easily. A man who divorced his wife was abandoning her in a world that would often not care for her. This day it is almost the opposite, most divorces are initiated by women. Many good men are taken down by bad women with the system working against them, which is something to consider.

Maybe that still disqualifies them, but I think you’d need to evaluate that on a case by case basis.

Must Be Married – Another way to take this passage is that Paul is saying elders must be family men, they must be married. Of course, they should not be polygamist, they should not be divorcing for ungodly reasons, but what Paul is looking for is primarily a head of a household. This makes the most sense, because:

The Church is the household of God, and the principles of leadership are similar. Neither the Church or the family are a business, and should not be run like one. They both need the deft and grace of a fatherly hand and a man who knows how to shepherd children and a wife.

To prove this point, Paul goes on to say, “4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?”

This cements it for me, Paul wants an overseer to be a man who has proven he can manage a church, because he can manage his home.

This kind of puts a bottom floor for the age of an overseer, they need to have been married long enough to have kids whose way of life can be observed. Elders should be men in the prime of their lives with kids, or older.

The modern world tells young men they are in their prime in their twenties, but the ancient world noted a man was not in his prime until his mid-thirties.

Aristotle taught that a man was in his prime from his mid-30’s until his 50’s. The Jews, and Paul was a Jew remember, would have had a similar view. Elders would have been selected from this group and older.   

Indeed, “teknon” means child. Children, he has kids running around the home, but they are good kids. They are old enough for you to see his stamp of authority on them.

Someone may object, but Paul was not married, Jesus was not married. To which I respond: neither of them were elders.

Paul was a missionary and the calls on a missionary’s life are very different to the planted life of an elder in a local church.

Jesus was the Lord of all. He was not going to marry.

I think it is good for single men to get involved in ministry, get some experience leading, discipling, etc. But how can you evaluate a man’s ability to manage a household if he doesn’t have one? To aspire to be an elder he needs to start a family.   

Putting this all together, I would say Paul is looking for a family man, with one wife who manages his household well, as God would intend, and if he has been divorced it needs to be for godly reasons.

Not Given To Excess (v.2-3) – He also needs to be a moral man who is not given to excess, “2 Therefore an overseer must be…sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

“Sober-minded” – is he a serious thinker?

“Self-control” – Does he control himself well, or is he given instability.

“Respectable” – Can you respect him, even if you don’t always agree with him?

Hospitable – Does he open his home to others? Share what he has with others?

“Able to teach” – Can he explain the Bible? Note, we saw before in 1 Timothy 5:17 that there are elders who teach and those who don’t, “17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”

I think the way to understand this is that all elders must be able to explain the word of God if called upon to do so, but not all need to be gifted to teach and maintain the teaching of the church.

As one of my lecturers said, every elder needs to be meditating and studying the word in such a way that if they were called upon to preach they could draw from their notes and explain a passage.

“Not a drunkard” – He’s not a hero at mixing drinks, can drink while remaining sober, and is not ruled by the drink.

“Not violent or quarrelsome, but gentle” – He knows how to be angry and control it. He does not abuse his wife or start pub fights. He controls his aggression.

“Not a lover of money” – He is not a greedy swindler given over to the god of mammon. He lives a moderate life, and this includes his finances.

To summarize all this, he is a noble man of good character, who is respectable and not just in it for the cash.

Mature In The Faith (vv.6) – He needs to be mature in the faith, “6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” Putting someone who is too new to the faith in a position of responsibility will cause them to become proud, but also will put them in danger of attacks they are not ready to withstand.

Good Reputation (vv.7) – He needs to have a good reputation in the community, “7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” This one is interesting, because if the leaders of the Church are going to be persecuted, their character will come under attack from outsiders. If the leaders are going to challenge the idols of the day, their character will come under attack.

I think what Paul means is this, though people attack the man, criticize the man, slander the man, try to say he is all sorts of bad things, they can’t find any dirt on him. They can observe he is a man of principle, even if they hate his principles.

Even a lot of Israel Folau’s haters said he was a kind and decent player, good to the men on his team, no matter their background, for example.

This characteristic in church history from time to time actually converted the persecutors of Christians. Because though people hated their views, they could not fault the sincerity with which those believers held them.

But if the outsiders can say they got drunk with the elder and saw him hitting on the barmaid, while he pretends to be Christian on Sunday, then he does not have a good reputation with outsiders, and he is in danger of being overcome by the devil’s schemes.

So, this one is not that hard to reconcile with a persecuted or opposed church as it appears.

Application – So how do we apply this? Simple, let’s meditate on this passage and consider this passage as we seek to nominate and elect elders.

Conclusion – He who desires to be an overseer desires a noble task, let’s pray that we put in place noble men. Men who know they are not perfect, but are seeking to continue to grow in the Lord. Men who are anointed with the presence of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Let’s pray.



Thursday 23 February 2023

Energy Rationing


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The capitulation of most of society during covid has had precisely the effect on the elites and government officials that many of the so-called “conspiracy-theorists” predicted it would have: it has told them just how far they can push people, if they want to and if they use enough psychological pressure to do so. As the Daily Mail reports,

“Climate change could be tackled with the help of a World War II-style rationing of petrol, meat and the energy people use in their homes, UK scientists say.

They claim that this would help countries to slash their greenhouse gas emissions 'rapidly and fairly'.

Researchers from the University of Leeds also said that governments could restrict the number of long-haul flights people make in a year or 'limit the amount of petrol one can buy in a month'.

They said that previous schemes put forward as a way to fight global warming – such as carbon taxes or carbon trading schemes – would not work because they favoured the wealthy, who would effectively be able to buy the right to pollute.

The experts also made a comparison with the need to limit certain goods as they grew scarce in the 1940s, adding that trying to achieve this by raising taxes was rejected at the time because 'the impact of tax rises would be slow and inequitable'.”

Things are unfolding precisely the direction that many people suspected they would, because human nature, in many ways, is very predictable. Those who are in power have certain agendas and the response of massive populations to their over-the-top and extreme covid policies has shown them there is a whole new tool-box of methods they can now make use of.

The perception of the imminent collapse of society must be fostered in the people, and once these seeds of fear have taken root, then you can justify any and all means of controlling the populace. They will welcome their saviours, no matter how extreme, once they are convinced that they need saving. Convince them of this, and then they will crowd like sheep around your shepherds crook.

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Mothers Are Dreaming Of Being Mothers

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I went to get my hair cut today, and something remarkable happened. My barber, a nice lady, not a Christian, but a switched on person, started talking to me about homeschooling. She knows we do it, I can't remember ever talking to her about it, but I likely mentioned it to her in the past. 

She told me a couple of things that I found incredible. 

She said she notices a definite difference in her daughter on the days that she works and those that she doesn't. She is only a part time barber. 

She said in the days that she stays home and picks up her daughter from school, that her daughter is quite happy, wants to play with her, and much happier around her. But on the days she works and comes home to her daughter already there her daughter is withdrawn, wants to stay on her screens and is much less happy. I just said, that's a remarkable observation. 

I didn't prompt this conversation as I generally do no more than ask how my barber is, then just let them work as I believe in not distracting or bringing up controversial discussions with the person with sharp instruments near your head. Just my way. 

She then noted: it must be good to have your kids not distracted by all of the other nonsense that happens in school that's not education related. Then told me she'd been reading some articles about the lifestyle of home-schooling mums, and was amazed at the flexibility. 

Then she said something I wasn't expecting. She said she wished she could stay at home and homeschool her daughter. But life is too expensive and then we talked about interest rates and cost of living etc. 

I was amazed at this conversation because I don't bring these things up with people like this. But it got me thinking: how many women are just like her? They'd like to stay home and be there to pick up their kids from school or some would like to teach their kids, but believe it's not workable.

A few things hold them back: 

Lack of income: life is too expensive, and they need to work to cover bills. This can be fixed by simplifying your life, in lots of instances. A smaller home, cheaper car, cutting out fancy holidays, expensive activities, etc. 

Perceived lack of income: many people don't realize how much money you save by not driving every day, buying uniforms, and all sorts of stuff. 

Husbands: many husbands want their wife's income on top of their own. This makes women feel pressured to work. But men should be making it easier for women to be home, not pushing their wives to work. Not necessarily to homeschool, but to manage the home as God calls for. 

Conditioning: most of modern education trains girls to pursue a career, not home-making, so they've been conditioned to suppress the home-making desires. 

Lack of self-belief: many women, or their husbands, don't believe they could do it. That an expert is needed. But home-schooling can be done by any kind of mother no matter her qualifications. And if you start early you literally become skilled at the whole curriculum across your child's life. 

Perception: Some people see private schools as a status symbol, or conversely home-schoolers as weird. As if teaching your own kids is strange, but getting strangers and state workers to raise them is the ideal? How did we become this inverted so quickly? The norm throughout history is seen as weird after only a short period of time, because it only takes a generation to enculturate a certain perspective. 

All this being said, I understand why people choose differently, I believe the Old school Christian schools that were charities to those in need were some of the best ministries in history, as opposed to the modern method of catering to elitist culture. I think schooling being free, or relatively free for all, is a good thing (in theory). And the Church should be offering free education, as it once did. But if like this woman you are considering the lifestyle, I encourage you to give it a go. The advantages are manifest. 

And I bet there are many ordinary Aussies who would love a simpler lifestyle.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Was John Calvin A Continuationist?


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When it comes to spiritual gifts like healing and prophecy or leadership gifts like prophets and apostles, there are two main schools of thought: cessationism and continuationism. The former meaning that the gifts have ceased, the latter that they are still continuing today.

So was Calvin a continuationist?

Yes, it appear he was. To a degree at least:

"Section 4. Second part of the chapter, treating of Ecclesiastical office-bearers in particular. Some of them, as Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists, temporary. Others, as Pastors and Teachers, perpetual and indispensable. Those who preside over the government of the Church, according to the institution of Christ, are named by Paul, first, Apostles; secondly, Prophets; thirdly, Evangelists; fourthly, Pastors; and, lastly, Teachers; (Eph 4: 11). Of these, only the two last have an ordinary office in the Church. The Lord raised up the other three at the beginning of his kingdom, and still occasionally raises them up when the necessity of the times requires. The nature of the apostolic function is clear from the command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," (Mar 16: 15). No fixed limits are given them, but the whole world is assigned to be reduced under the obedience of Christ, that by spreading the Gospel as widely as they could, they might every where erect his kingdom. Accordingly, Paul, when he would approve his apostleship, does not say that he had acquired some one city for Christ, but had propagated the Gospel far and wide - had not built on another man's foundation, but planted churches where the name of his Lord was unheard. The apostles, therefore, were sent forth to bring back the world from its revolt to the true obedience of God, and every where stablish his kingdom by the preaching of the Gospel; or, if you choose, they were like the first architects of the Church, to lay its foundations throughout the world. By Prophets, he means not all interpreters of the divine will, but those who excelled by special revelation; none such now exist, or they are less manifest. By Evangelists, I mean those who, while inferior in rank to the apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their substitutes. Such were Luke, Timothy, Titus, and the like; perhaps also, the seventy (disciples whom our Saviour appointed in the second place to the apostles, (Luk 10: 1). According to this interpretation, which appears to me consonant both to the words and the meaning of Paul, those three functions were not instituted in the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ; although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of Antichrist. The office I nevertheless call extraordinary, because it has no place in churches duly constituted. Next come Pastors and Teachers, with whom the Church never can dispense, and between whom, I think, there is this difference, that teachers preside not over discipline, or the administration of the sacraments, or admonitions, or exhortations, but the interpretation of Scripture only, in order that pure and sound doctrine may be maintained among believers. But all these are embraced in the pastoral office” (emphasis added).[i]

Calvin taught that the gifts of apostles, prophets and evangelists (which he overlaps with apostles) were special gifts given for the founding of the church. And also that they are gifts God uses to call the church back to faithfulness in times of great apostasy and need. This is a version of continuationism. John Calvin taught, as with the Scriptures, that these gifts could be manifest in times outside of the 1st century establishment of the church. As the Bible never says that they must cease, and to be wary of discerning false apostles and prophets, which means that there is likely to be genuine ones.

He also tells us in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 13.

“9. We know in part This passage is misinterpreted by most persons, as   if it meant that our knowledge, and in like manner our prophecy, is not   yet perfect, but that we are daily making progress in them. Paul's   meaning, however, is -- that it is owing to our imperfection that we at   present have knowledge and prophecy. Hence the phrase in part means --   "Because we are not yet perfect." Knowledge and prophecy, therefore,   have place among us so long as that imperfection cleaves to us, to   which they are helps. It is true, indeed, that we ought to make   progress during our whole life, and that everything that we have is   merely begun. Let us observe, however, what Paul designs to prove --   that the gifts in question are but temporary. Now he proves this from   the circumstance, that the advantage of them is only for a time -- so   long as we aim at the mark by making progress every day.   

10. When that which is perfect is come "When the goal has been reached,   then the helps in the race will be done away." He retains, however, the   form of expression that he had already made use of, when he contrasts   perfection with what is in part "Perfection," says he, "when it will   arrive, will put an end to everything that aids imperfection." But when   will that perfection come? It begins, indeed, at death, for then we put   off, along with the body, many infirmities; but it will not be   completely manifested until the day of judgment, as we shall hear   presently. Hence we infer, that the whole of this discussion is   ignorantly applied to the time that is intermediate” (emphasis added).[ii]

Calvin also appears to teach that the gifts will be necessary until we reach the fullness of knowing Christ in heaven, “Knowledge and prophecy, therefore, have place among us so long as that imperfection cleaves to us, to which they are helps.” Until we are perfected by Christ we need these helps. However, it is not clear whether he means here the fullness of those gifts in individual Christians, or simply the writings and teachings in the Scriptures, which carry the weight of prophecy. Still, again he appears to be a continuationist.

However, this is not always the case. In his commentary on Acts 2:38 he says,

“Ye shall receive the gift of the Spirit. Because they were touched with   wondering when they saw the apostles suddenly begin to speak with strange tongues, Peter saith that they shall be partakers of the same gift if they will pass over unto Christ. Remission of sins and newness of life were the principal things, and this was, as it were, an addition, that Christ should show forth unto them his power by some visible gift. Neither ought this place to be understood of the grace of   sanctification, which is given generally to all the godly. Therefore he promiseth them the gift of the Spirit, whereof they saw a pattern in   the diversity of tongues. Therefore this doth not properly appertain unto us. For because Christ meant to set forth the beginning of his kingdom with those miracles, they lasted but for a time; yet because the visible graces which the Lord did distribute to his did shoe, as it   were in a glass, that Christ was the giver of the Spirit, therefore,  that which Peter saith doth in some respect appertain unto all the   whole Church: ye shall receive the gift of the Spirit. For although we   do not receive it, that we may speak with tongues, that we may be   prophets, that we may cure the sick, that we may work miracles; yet is   it given us for a better use, that we may believe with the heart unto   righteousness, that our tongues may be framed unto true confession,   (Romans 10:10,) that we may pass from death to life, (John 5:24) that   we, which are poor and empty, may be made rich, that we may withstand   Satan and the world stoutly. Therefore, the grace of the Spirit shall   always be annexed unto baptism, unless the let be in ourselves” (emphasis added).[iii]

Here he seems to imply that some of the Spiritual gifts existed to manifest to the authority of the apostles, before the Jews, and are now not necessary. This is a classic teaching of cessationists.  

So, was Calvin a continuationist or cessationist? It appears to be a bit of both. I find this interesting, because I had always thought of him as just a hardcore cessationist, the most famous example. But he appears to recognize that God can raise up prophets and apostles at any time of need. I think we are in one of those times today.

If one of the roles of apostles and prophets is to call the church back to faithfulness, then we really do need this today. If part of their role is to lay or relay foundations for the Church, then this is also necessary in many parts of the West and the rest of the world. If Calvin’s view, and the view I agree with, is that God raises up such people in times of need, then start to look for more and more Christian leaders being raised up to call the church back to repentance. Also, recognize that many fakes will seek to gather attention and followings as well. Though this has always been the case.


[i] Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Fig. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Calvin, John. Calvin's Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 454176-454190). Kindle Edition.

[iii] Calvin, John. Calvin's Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 410947-410951). Kindle Edition.

Monday 20 February 2023

Ban Factions

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I find it interesting that Machiavelli, who was a big proponent of the Republican form of government, calls into question the modern Australian political practice of basing elections around parties, rather than individual members. 

He says, it is vital that you do not allow your government to be overtaken by factions. Because it is in the nature of people to, despite all reason, support one side over the other and then become partisan. The creation of factions creates a culture of blind support for the team, like in football, or soccer, or some other sport. People, voters and members, become more loyal to the team than the parliament they are first called to represent. 

Machiavelli notes that this will exacerbate over time, causing increasing dissension and eventually threaten the liberty of your people, because these factions will focus more on vying for power than ruling your nation justly. Politics will become less about the "polis", the city, and the 'Populis' the people, and more about the various factions maintaining their positions of power. 

When you understand that what we call political parties are the essentially the factions that he describes, then you can observe that the increasing polarization in our society is partly due to the way we do politics. It is an inevitable result of creating teams that people can choose, and then barrack for. When important things like living standards, foreign policy, social services, economic management and more are on the table and debated about between the "teams", people take this as a serious form of sport, and start to see the other side as inherently the bad guys. It is understandable that this happens, because important issues are at stake that can really impact people lives. This is all just a natural result of allowing factions to control the most influential parts of the parliament. 

Note, political parties are not in the constitution, they are after the fact add-ons. They are private entities that vie for their faction to be represented in parliament. Machiavelli noted that if you allow factions to flourish, they will co-opt and take over your political system. That is exactly what has happened in Australia, the United Kingdom, United States and many more places. The political parties are now almost synonymous with the electoral system in people's minds even though our systems were intended to be managed this way. 

The positions of power have been gatekept by political parties that work hard to protect each other's hold on the reigns of power. This becomes especially clear when you consider how political parties start to represent their doners and lobbyists more rather than the general population. 

This is of course true in most modern Parliamentary and Republican systems around the world. And Machiavelli told us this would happen. His Discources really should be required reading for all high-school students. It is filled with brilliant insights into the strengths and weaknesses of democratic governments, and how to manage them. 

Parliamentary officials should serve the truth first, the constitution second, the electorate third, and political factions should be low down the list. Is there a way that future democracies could limit better the influence of factions? It is worth pondering. 

As long as factions exist and are allowed unchecked influence, they will redirect the political emphasis away from the people towards their ends. It is a natural human tendency.