Saturday, January 25

Hollow victory

In “Australia crosses a thin blue line of credibility “(AFR 24th January 2014) Laura Tingle poses the question, “ Is our Navy so utterly incompetent that it keeps accidentally going into someone else’s sovereign waters?. “
The government when in opposition emphatically stated sovereign borders would always be respected and that any boat returns would only be carried out in full co-operation with the local authorities. The navy confirmed it would take their authority from the government to operationally implement such a policy.

In the midst of these revelations of the Australian Navies repeated unauthorised entries into someone else’s sovereign waters it must have become apparent a less obvious presence was now necessary. Hence we have the incident of captured boat people escorted back to Indonesia in a modern navy supplied and operated life craft to further exasperate relations with our neighbour.

But as we already have a Cooperation Agreement between respective country agencies in preventing trafficking in people, surely it is still not too late to engage in future cooperative joint naval exercises and repair the relationship. This will add to costs as Indonesia cannot be expected to bear the additional impost but it is justified as a more rational future long term solution.

 It is a hollow victory to achieve the result of no boat arrival in the last 30 days if this is at the expense of a further deterioration in relations with one of our most important neighbours. For Further reading

Saturday, January 4

Early Christianity remains shrouded in Pauline mystery

What I think is that the letters of St Paul ultimately provided the certainties at the time of Nicea to finally unite Christianity. But in the intervening period the detailed practices of the first early Christian communities remain sketchy, except for what can be gleaned from the history of the Bible and other less fulsome historical references from Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, The Babylonian Talmud and Lucian. I have provided a link which has a comprehensive individual history for each at the end of this post.

Within the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew & Luke ) Jesus’s brief ministry of possibly 3 years, was no doubt revolutionary, aimed at reforming the rigidity of Judaism in favour of the golden rule, to choose his12 disciple’s to further that objective and to make references to the messianic kingdom yet to come. But in the aftermath of his crucifixion, in the immediate vacuum same scholars have suggested Judaism continued on with a small sect accepting Jesus as the messiah, known as Judaic Christians whilst others would begin without any link to Jewish customs and rituals. The fact that Paul devoted so much of his letters to the freedom from the law and ritualistic practice leads one to conclude such groups continued during his ministry. Some scholars contend the two existed as equal part of the whole for the first 300 years.

But today most of our theology has its roots in St Paul whose writings came from his revelation and not from any interaction with the apostles in Jerusalem. Paul is described in Acts as a Pharisee teacher, and is acknowledged as having a role in the martyrdom of Stephen. (Acts 7:58-60; 22:20).Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, from persecutor to apostle for Christ relied exclusively on this revelation to subsequently establish his authority and a following. Paul was not successful initially in Jewish conversions to Christianity if we are to rely on biblical references.
But it was his genius to spread the word to the gentiles that one could say it was Paul, more than anyone else, who was responsible for the spreading the Christian message. But we do have some inkling over the underlying tensions in the early Christian communities as gentiles joined the Jewish church. Paul provided extensive explanations about circumcision and that ritualistic observances were no longer necessities under the Law of Moses (Acts 10:10-16.). The conflict with Peter was resolved with Paul gaining the ascendancy without which the church today no doubt would barely be recognizable. Paul’s only talks about the resurrected Jesus and not the Jesus of the gospels with references to the miracles or parables or sayings, but his letters still make up over fifty percent of the New Testament.
What is also clearly evident is that St Paul’s teaching to champion the growth of the early church was based on eschatology, to prepare the way for the followers to soon enter into the messianic kingdom.
But one could well imagine over time the doubts that arose, but Paul’s explanation for the delay was evident in his 2 letters to the Thessalonians. In these apocalyptic and Hellenistic texts he depicts the angels, trumpeting the resurrection of “the Christ” for all creation, for both the living and those dead to be raised from the dead. The delay was to ensure sufficient time for all inhabitants to be saved, by being “In Christ” so that they may be raised up with him on the last Day of Judgment.
In the letter to the Corinthians it is evident such doubts were already evident in the early community. This is because Greek rationality would have rallied against such a proposition, so that over time between Paul's writing and 320 ad (Nicea) Paul’s view would have lost creditability.
In a stroke of genius however at Nicea, through consensus and careful orchestrated theological underpinnings in selected books the power of the church was regained by the adoption of faith rules to the immense relief of Constantine, who only wanted consistency.

I think that neither St Paul nor the original disciples would have ever imagined such a complex theology would have developed to day.
PAUL'S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANSWith people, places, definitions, map  click below