Tag Archives: Power


How many times did David kill Goliath?

There’s a curious double killing in 1 Samuel 17:50-51.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.  51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

1 Samuel 17:50-51

At first this looks like clumsy editing (the ignorant refactor blunders again, in his obsessive need to keep sources he wrecks the narrative flow, once again – fortunately Altar and others have taught us to credit the reactor with a little more sense).

Instead, the careful reader is faced with a question – why did Goliath get killed twice?  Surely once is enough.  

There are a few theories.  The first is that the blow from the stone merely stunned Goliath, the second blow was the one that really killed him.  That seems to be the sense of verse 49.  The the first blow caused him to fall.  But verse 50 seems to stop us going down this route.  It’s there to say “no, that one stone was enough; that was all he needed to prevail, and by the way he didn’t need a sword.”  There is a whole anti-sword thing going on in this chapter – it’s most prominent in verse 38, where David refuses Saul’s sword.  The whole point of the chapter is that the world of armies, and kingly posturing, and armour isn’t going to work for Israel.  She’s already tried this with Saul and it’s not been going well.  If Israel wants to play the human power game, the game of militarism and weapon acquisition then it’s going to fail.  It will fail because it will always meet a Goliath, and it will fail because an over-reliance on technology creates an army of cowards, who don’t know how to trust in God because all they know is the power of technology.  There is a quote from a French General which I can’t source who I am sure said of the Americans during the Bosnian war (when the Americans could kill from a distance through their technology) “what kind of soldiers are these who no longer look upon the eyes of their enemy” (similar points are made here).

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Bonhoeffer Perceives The Reich

A series of speeches where Bonhoeffer seemed to understand what was happening in Germany before all around him:

“If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian” (page 88) (Martin Luther)

“In New York they preach about virtually everything, only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin, and forgiveness, death and lift.” (page 99)

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Joseph of Arimathea and the Inner Ring


Then as Jesus dies something happens – for centurion. It is s change in grabbing on to all that is essential. He goes boldly to Pilate. Joseph is now willing to risk everything to bury Jesus.

He is bold in his actions.

He is generous in what he has.

A tomb was a status symbol. A symbol of family wealth. He has brought Jesus into his family space. He is going to have to say to his family “Guess who we are going to spend eternity with?”

And he becomes humble. This buying of linen and wrapping of Jesus. It is a horrible thing to do. This is a cadaver which has been crucified. It is an awful, horrible job. It is normally the women who do this, certainly not the men and certainly not powerful men.

Joseph and Nicodemus are crossing lines all over the place here. The kind if people that the world needs.

This relates to the being born again of John 3. If you want to come in you are going to have to start from nothing. This is the reason good people hate Christians, why many Church goers refuse the gospel we are told that everything good that I do, but that everything I do counts for nothing. Can we not start as an adolescent or teenager. Can i start with a bit?  No you start as a baby, with nothing.

What is it about the death of Jesus that changes?

Joseph has a reality check. He has been trying to hold things in balance. When Jesus he sees thus world that he is clinging on to for what it is. That the works that he is investing  in is not the solution but the problem.

We are trying to keep Jesus in this radical gospel. Unless something radical changes, this is the road to hell.

Joseph took the body of Jesus – something profound in this. He is the one who first takes the body of Jesus. We have to take into ourselves to take the death of Jesus like the Eucharist.

Jesus is a member of the ultimate inner ring. The most exclusive club in everything.
From all eternity they have existed loving and adoring each other.

The doctrine of the Trinity  says at the heart if reality is not a hierarchy if service but a co-dependency of self giving love.

Jesus  left the inner ring. Mark 10:45 probably about the most important verse in Mark. If you want real power to change the world you have to do what I do.

Your job is not to be served but to serve.

Look at the quote from Lewis on the problem of pain.

“In self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being. For the Eternal Word also gives Himself in sacrifice; and that not only on Calvary. For when He was crucified He ‘did that in the wild weather of His outlying provinces which He had done at home in glory and gladness.’ From before the foundation of the world He surrenders begotten Deity back to begetting Deity in obedience. And as the Son glorifies the Father, so also the Father glorifies the Son…There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exist for us, but we for it.” (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp. 136-38)

Three things that flow from this transformation.

1. Being a Christian is not a matter of being happy. It is if you being so transformed. This us about you being so bad Jesus had to die for you. It is about you being so loved that Jesus died

2. The church will be an odd community.

3. It is not about living with others circling around you but Jesus circling around you and this is the essence if what it is to serve Jesus.

Tyrants and Martyrs

The first form of rulers in the world were the tyrants, the last will be the martyrs.  Between a tyrant and martyr there is of course an enormous difference, although they both have one thing in common: the power to compel.  The tyrant, himself ambitious to dominate, compels the people through his power; the martyr, himself unconditionally obedient to God, compels others through his suffering.  The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.

– From Soren Kierkegaard (June 4th)

Battles aren’t won by preachers

On meeting Tony Blair

On the way back, we talked about Militant.  I wanted to know what he thought about this Trotskyist sect that had infiltrated Labour.  I was representing the party in the legal case against them and, having studied them and their methods, I knew there was no dealing with them, other than by expelling them.  He didn’t agree, and I spotted the fundamental weakness in his position,: he was in love with his role as idealist, as standard-bearer, as the man of principle against the unprincipled careerist MPs.  He wouldn’t confront those who were actually preventing the idealism from ever being put into effect.  He was the preacher, not the general.  And battles aren’t won by preachers. (page 36-37)

The Price Exacted

American preacher Howard Thurman wrote, “Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak.  This is a matter of tremendous significance, for it reveals to what extent a religion that was born of a people acquainted with persecution and suffering has become the cornerstone of civilisation and of nations whose very position in modern life too often has been secured by a ruthless use of power applied to defenceless peoples.” (June 16)


Christianity is not a matter of persuasive words.  It is a matter of true greatness as long as it is hated by the world. – Ignatius of Lyon (August 17th)

14 Surprises from a History of Christianity

6. Historic reputation is enhanced by intellectual breadth (Hunayn Ibn ‘Ishaq, the Great Translator of Baghdad), kindness towards opponents (Martin of Tours’ protestations against the burning of Priscillian) yet not destroyed by personal arrogance (Jerome)

7. Christians have an uncomfortable predeliction for making things up (the Turin shroud, the donation of Constantine, the Acts of Thomas)

8. The quest for purity can in the long term destroy the integrity of the Church (the Donatists)

9. The quest for unity can be highly divisive (Chalcedon)

10. The history of Christianity is very often a history of decline, failure (Augustine and the City of God) and martyred blood which was not (yet) the seed of the Church (Japan).

11. Historians find it hard to say why people become Christians (the assuaging of personal guilt and the acquisition of power are the most often cited, but also deficient)

12. There are no easy patterns, much that suggests the blessing of God, and much that makes you pray “My God, My God, why did you forsake them?”

13. Innovation comes from the extremes, sustenance comes from holding them together.

14. So much historic Christianity looks very different from my own brand

Adam’s Return – Part 6 – Hierarchy



Ken Wilber makes a brilliant disctinction between “actualisation hierarchies” and “domination hierarchies”.  Actualisation hierarchies are parents in relationship to children, bodies in relationship to cells, hosts in relationship to parasites.  The smaller needs the larger for its existence.  Nothing in the universe survives without a protective hierarchy (page 74)


Without actualisation hierarchies you have heaps not wholes, strands but never a web… Hierarchy and wholeness in other words are two words for the same thing – quoting Ken Wilber on page 74


[Jesus] never rejected or abdicated leadership; he simply grounded it in servanthood and community rather than in domination (John 13:12-15; Luke 22:24-27). What genius.  Jesus is never out of date and always up to date. (page 75)


I never thought I would promote the importance of hierarchies and nobility, but the alternative that I have seen is a disaster (“dis-astra” = disconnected to the orientation of the stars) (page 76)


If a man has not been authored from above, he will give his authority to the crowd, as Pilate did.  (page 81)


People who have let life initiate them tend to be tend to creative individuals, grounded and solid.  You can feel it when you are in their presence.  You feel safe and you feel energised.  They do not take your energy; they give you energy.  You know they have an excess of life, and maybe some for you, so you seek them out, as the crowds did with Jesus and still do with wise men and women. (page 81)


In looking for a spiritual leader:

Being chosen and being useable are not the same as sanctity – that is absolutely clear in the Bible.  It just makes it easier for us when they do coincide.  In fact, I usually find that most great people still carry one or another significant personality flaw.  It is fairly predictable.  St. Paul himself, clearly flawed, humbly recognised his “thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me. “ (2 Corinthians 12:7) which he says was necessary to keep him from “getting too proud.”  In most wise people I know, their very authority and wisdom come from the struggle itself.  A neurotic genius is to be expected.  (page 82)


The mature person loves with both the motherly and the fatherly conscience, in spite of the fact that they seem to contradict one another.  In the failure of this development lies the basic cause for neurosis. Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (quoted on page 83)


In later years, men largely recall and remember their tough teachers and their demanding coaches, those who pushed them to their best and their limits.  In some way, a male knows that his other teachers did not take him seriously – page 83.

Murdochgate – some quotes


“He’s a big bad b****** and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad b****** too… You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength. – Australian Premier Paul Keating

Journalistic apathy towards the marginalised:

Most national journalists are embedded, immersed in the society, beliefs and culture of the people they are meant to hold to account. They are fascinated by power struggles among the elite but have little interest in the conflict between the elite and those they dominate. They celebrate those with agency and ignore those without. – George Monbiot, 11 July

The Arab Spring

It was a lightning revolt with a whiff of the Arab Spring about it, in that the anger was directed at the power of an elderly dynast and his closest associates. There is a feeling of liberation at the end of this highly charged week and we can say that our society seems better off: our political system is freer and, I would suggest, a little bit cleaner; relations between the media, politicians and the public have changed for the good. – Henry Porter, 10th July

The tabloids have emptied political discourse of radical and nuanced thinking:

Blair turned what he saw as electoral necessity into burning rhetoric. He assumed from early on that he would achieve little if he did not acquiesce to the tastes of the majority view as represented to him by pollsters and selected newspaper magnates and editors. – 13th July, John Kampfner.

On the atmosphere at Westminster

a little like an end to the dictatorship when everyone suddenly discovers they were against the dictator – Vince Cable

LIghtouse and Battleship

The captain then called out to the signal man “Signal that shiip. We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees”

Back came a signal “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees”

The captain said “Send, I am a captain, change course 20 degrees”

“I am a seamen second class” came the reply, “You had better change course 20 degrees”

By that time the captain was furious. He spat out “Send, Change course 20 degrees, I am a battleship”

Back came the flashing light “Change course 20 degrees, I am a lighthouse”