Rumble over Live8 and the Bible
...And in the red corner we have ... Phil Johnson ... who was singularly unimpressed with the weekend's Live8 events.
In the blue corner ... Sven ... who is singularly unimpressed with Phil's unimpressedness with the Live8 events.
Phil doubts the credibility of vacuous celebrities in their campaigning. In fact they are more than doubts - he likens them to Judas who gave the impression of caring for the poor but in reality was only concerned to get his hands on the cash.
Strong stuff, and it would not surprise me to find it is a valid comparison on the Last Day. But it remains for the Last Day, not for now. Let the Lord sort that out.
For me, I fully support the Blair and Brown initiative, and if the Live8 events help then good on them. One big issue is trade. It must be dealt with. For years now I have felt that the CAP and trade tariffs against African nations are abominations that must be ended. The US and Europe are guilty of using the strengths of their economies to subsidies the weaknesses and thereby penalise the Africans for whom our weaknesses are their strengths. Perhaps this is simplistic, but this seems to me to be what is going on.
The other is getting good governance in Africa, but frankly I have no idea how to get this. Sin runs deep in all of us.
In the other corner, Sven vents his spleen over Phil's commens he really does not engage with him. You see Phil argued that since Jesus said that the poor will always be with us (John 12:8) then "Make Poverty History" is a vacuous slogan. Sven, on the other hand, says there are hundreds of other verses and stories in the Bible where we clearly see that overturning injustice and unfairness towards to poor is one of the central issues. Well, frankly this is a daft way to approach the Bible. He seems to think that if you snip out all the verses that agree with you and then snip out all the ones that don't, then put them on a set of scales then whichever has the most verse-votes wins! He makes no attempt to account for Jesus' words, which we must.
So here's my take. Yes, there are plenty of verses that speak of justice and getting rid of oppression of the poor and defenceless in the Prophets. This is simply to be a characteristic of God's holy people. Israel was to be marked by it. Unfortunately it wasn't. Now the reason was simple. The covanantal arrangement which God established with the nation of Israel was never intended to be the God's final word. You see, though God's promises to Abraham seemed to have been fulfilled - they had reached the promised land, right? - things just did not go well. There was decline into sin and disobedience. The corruption had not been dealt with. The sins were flagged up (as Sven rightly notes) but also, more covenantal promises are given, pointing to a future day of blessing. There is to be a New Covenant (Jer. 31:33,34) and a new heavens and earth (Isa. 66:22). The New Covenant brought in with Christ. The new heavens and the new earth are yet to be fully realised.
The implications of this are that though the ethic of justice is commanded in the prophets, and should be increasingly a feature of inwardly-renewed yet outwardly-decaying Christians (2 Cor 4:16), it will not fully be seen until return of Christ, when all things will be consummated and the new heavens and earth realised. In this way we see that the words of Jesus are true - there will always be the poor, because the world is yet riddled with sin and corruption and ever will be in this age - but that the ethic of justice remains true for his people nonetheless.
Sven has a seconder, the ever-controversial John. He says that we are to see the Bible's "real values, not the ones we are told that it teaches". He thinks that Sven has shown us the real values. But how can he have if he has made such an inadequate 'argument'? He has just picked out a few verses he likes better than others.