Thursday, January 27, 2011

Salvation Army High Council 2011 - Predestination or Foreknowledge?

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The Salvation Army is close to deciding who will be the 19th General of The Salvation Army. As leaders gather together at the High Council one question races through my mind.

Firstly, though, if you want all the information on The Salvation Army High Council 2011, you're best to go to for the updates.

Now, stay with me. The question is, does God predestine, or preplan someone to be THE next General of The Salvation Army, or does God allow humanity the privelege, guided by the Holy Spirit, to choose this person, even though God already knows the outcome (foreknowledge). Clearly, The Salvation Army's theology sits on the later of the two. We believe that God has not simply foreordained leaders to fulfil particular positions, but that we as a people are responsible to seek the heart of God, and respond accordingly.

We no longer should delve into discussions (as fun as they are) on this person smells better, and this person uses the Internet better or worse, or this person is married or female or almost retired, etc, etc. We need to pray and ask God to guide (which we believe he will), the decision of the next General - but not based on superficiality. I DO agree though that we must ask the difficult questions of nominees, nine of which are nominated so far. Here are some questions I would ask (helped along from blogs like Mjr. Stephen Courts (Army Barmy - on the right) and Commissioner Joe Noland (

* What strategies do you have for the turn around of the decline of The Salvation Army in the Western World?
* In what ways will you inspire the world wide Salvation Army for future ministry?
* What is your greatest passion?
* What is your vision for The Salvation Army?
* Will you promote male and female equality, and if yes, then how?
* What are your strategies for equipping the local corps' soldiery?

Many more questions could be asked. Join the discussion at the Disciples in Training Page on facebook.

God bless. May God guide the High Council 2011, to decide who should be The Salvation Army's 19th General!

Lt. Pete.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Richard Dawkins and Alister McGrath - The Delusions!


A couple of books I have been reading parts of recently are both the popular atheist Richard Dawkins' book, 'The God Delusion' and theologian Alister McGrath's book, 'The Dawkins Delusion', which is really a rebuttal to the atheistic, anti-religious rants of Dawkins.
Dawkins goes off track often from the title and purpose of his book. The book seeks to show/prove to people that the belief in a God is a delusion - an intellectual absurdity that has no scientific evidential proof. What frustrates me about this book, is not so much the intent on presenting intellectual arguments regarding the nonexistence of God, but rather the tactics/strategies that Dawkins uses to present his material. I'm left with the feeling that Dawkins is deep-down more concerned with selling books than presenting logical, rational atheistic arguments. He often relays stories of religious people who have either abused people, or made damning comments to others, or about others, etc. Now, if the book is really about showing people that there is no such thing as a 'God' who is supernatural, the stories are seemingly irrelevant. I mean, is the purpose of the book merely to denegrade religion? Or is it actually about having an intellectual discussion about theism and antitheism? If it is the latter, then why all the stories about the abuse of religion? If we are presenting balanced arguments, then why not present some stories about groups that are atheists that have murdered and abused others? The proving or disproving a deities existence is mutually exclusive to the way people have or have not represented that religion's belief. The truth of a religion is not necessarily based on how people have represented it. Of course, in a simplistic world, if Christianity believes that God is a God of love, and people should love their neighbour as they love themselves, then every believer of that religion would express this in their life. Though, we don't live in this simplistic world, so to use dramatic, emotionally laden rhetoric of people hurting others in the name of 'religion' neithers disproves or proves the existence of God, and so falls short of what seems to be the purpose of Richard Dawkins, 'The God Delusion'.
Alister McGrath's book, 'The Dawkins Delusion' seeks to present his arguments in a more concise manner, and remove himself from unnecessary emotional language, that takes away from his primary objective of discussing and critically working through Dawkin's writings.

There's so much more to write. But, all the best as you critically engage with the search for truth.

For a Book Review on Dawkin's, The God Delusion, 'A contagious boil on the face of Religion' click here.

To continue the discussion on facebook, go to:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Salvation Army High Council 2011 - Predictions?


The Salvation Army is in the process of deciding who will be the next General. Commissioners have gathered together from right around the world to join together as the 'High Council' and to pray and seek God's guidance on who should lead this movement forward. The Salvation Army will soon install its 19th General, and some are asking, "Who will be the next General of The Salvation Army?"

You can check out some of the Commissioners as they comment briefly on the process of the High Council:
Commissioner Raymond Finger (Australia Southern Territory) - TC Today
Commissioner James Knaggs (USA Western Territory) - TCSpeak
The Salvation Army International Website: will keep things up to date.

Should we be concerned with WHO will be the General? I think we are called at this point to pray and believe God for his guidance. To set up some betting system, with predictions on who will be the next Salvation Army General is ridiculous and not in the spirit of the occasion. Can I challenge some of us, to spend more time on our knees seeking the direction of God, than to be gossiping about the future leader of The Salvation Army??! Just a thought.

Also read: More on the High Council HERE.

May God guide his people. These are exciting days for The Salvation Army, as we embark on a new journey, into new leadership and into a new year, filled with opportunities for Kingdom impact.

Pete's Ponderings - Vision, Natural Disasters, The Salvation Army and Spiritual Ministry

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Vision must find itself connected to strategy, all else its just happy thoughts.
Lord, we pray for The Salvation Army as it decides a new international leader (the General) to lead this movement forward in the days ahead. Jesus allow your Spirit to give wisdom to all involved in making this decision.
If you aim for 50, you might end up with 20, but it would most likely be more than if you aimed at nothing.
Social welfare and support without the spiritual dimensions robs people of the opportunity to understand that they were created by a loving God. Spiritual support without the practical assistance is undermining the character of a God who cares for us - our whole being.
I facebooked recently about whether the current disasters that are happening in Australia (Queensland Floods, Victorian floods etc), where of God, the Devil, were just natural disasters or whether they were the outworking of environmental neglect. The responses were varied. Some were adamant it was simply a natural disaster. Some were mentioning that they believe that humans have made bad environmental decisions over the years, and floods like these are merely an outworking of those bad decisions. No one attributed the floods to God, but one person attributed it to the Devil.

I'm still considering my response. Though, lets discuss a line of thought... If we believe that the floods are purely a natural disaster, is this then presupposing that God is no longer involved in our creation? The thought is that God created the laws of nature back at creation, and so everything just runs like a machine until the end days. Though if we believe God IS involved in the ongoing work of creation, then we have the challenging theological thought of whether God instigated such terrible disasters. This doesn't fit into a theology of a loving God, who promised would never flood the earth again (following the story of Noah). So, if we believed that God still blesses his people, and his creation, and that God has his hand of protection over us, and so forth, could we then believe, that if we didn't follow God, and we turned our lives away from him, that his hand of protection may no longer be upon us. If this was the case, then we could believe that the Devil who seeks to kill, steal and destroy might have the ability to cause such a disaster. That would possibly be the line of thought, that one such person was courageous enough to suggest.

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Your thoughts?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Edinburgh 2010 Missionary Conference Part 1

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Here is the intro and first two points given at the Edinburgh 2010 missionary conference. My brief comments are in italics.

As we gather for the centenary of the World Missionary Conference
of Edinburgh 1910, we believe the church, as a sign and
symbol of the reign of God, is called to witness to Christ today
by sharing in God’s mission of love through the transforming
power of the Holy Spirit.

1. Trusting in the Triune God and with a renewed sense of urgency,
we are called to incarnate and proclaim the good news of salvation,
of forgiveness of sin, of life in abundance, and of liberation
for all poor and oppressed. We are challenged to witness and
evangelism in such a way that we are a living demonstration
of the love, righteousness and justice that God intends for the
whole world.

(I like the comment of a renewed sense of urgency. Urgency drives us into action. Urgency gets up off our comfortable arm chairs in order to change the world. Secondly, to incarnate the good news of salvation means to embody the gospel, that is, to live out an authentic expression of the grace of Jesus in your life. Thirdly, God intends salvation to be for the whole world. Amen!)

2. Remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and his resurrection
for the world’s salvation, and empowered by the Holy Spirit,
we are called to authentic dialogue, respectful engagement and
humble witness among people of other faiths—and no faith—to
the uniqueness of Christ. Our approach is marked with bold
confidence in the gospel message; it builds friendship, seeks
reconciliation and practises hospitality. (cited in IBMR, January 2011)

(We are called to dialogue with others about our faith, and respectfully witness to salvation found in Christ. For this to happen well, we must, as mentioned, be empowered by the Holy Spirit).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Organised Religion and The Salvation Army in Australia

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When leading a Children’s Church years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with parents during the week, who were connected to specific programs within the local corps. I asked one lady whether her children might want to come along to ‘Kid’s Church’ one week. She replied, “Oh, sorry, I’m not in to organised religion’. I quipped, ‘Well, if you come half an hour early, you’ll realize, we’re not really that organised.’ Seriously though, I think she was unpacking something relevant to the mindset of many un-churched Aussies.

Australians are open to expressions of spirituality, and sympathetic at times to the stories and themes found around the person of Jesus. Though, we know categorically that most Australians would much prefer their own choice of spirituality/philosophy, than any religion that attempts to place boundaries and expectations around their life.

So how does the local Salvation Army corps reconcile the idea of committed discipleship in a culture that disregards organised religion?

Firstly, I believe that we must not lower the bar of discipleship. Jesus seemed to be fine with sharing a controversial theological thought, then watching a whole heap of followers turn away from him. The point being, that Jesus was not concerned with numbers per se, but with committed followership. (We could say, that in the future, committed followership brought on a great number of converts to the Christian faith). Jesus was not insecure and did not merely pamper to everyone’s wants. In our local corps, when someone cries out that they don’t like tithing or generous giving, for example, we don’t then alter the expectations clearly highlighted in the Old and New Testaments respectively. When someone attempts to justify their erratic behavior as a new Christian, we don’t lower the expectation of a Christian, rather we, in love, challenge the person to continue to change and become more like Christ.

As followers of Christ connect with unbelieving Aussies we must ensure we don’t complicate the gospel with ‘churchy’ communication or foreign church practices that continue to foster any hatred of organised religion.

When it comes to communication, how often do we present a gospel to people that is laden with theological language that is almost impossible to understand? ‘Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb’ would be a phrase that made sense to new Jewish followers of Jesus in the first and second century, but requires much explanation today. ‘Come to the mercy seat’ makes sense to many of us, but needs clarifying for an un-churched Australian. ‘Fire-a-volley…’ – I don’t think I even remember what this actually means! But Hallelujah anyway. While the message of the gospel remains the same, let’s not complicate the message to Australians who are already wary of any scent of religiosity. The challenge is to really decode our Christianised ways of presenting the good news of God, to ways that impact upon the lives of un-churched Australians.

Speaking of foreign church practices is a difficult one. We cannot throw out everything that makes us unique as a Salvation Army simply because they don’t connect with the average Australian. Or can we? It’s a controversial topic. If something we hold dear to, like our pseudo-military emphasis empowers us to be effective as a Salvation Army, though some Australians, interpret it to be anti-pacifist ideals, we are left hung out to dry. We must be willing to continue to have the internal debate about methodology, so as to discern a leading from God as to the future of our ministry in an Australian context. I could imagine it to be no different to William and Catherine Booth debating about how they would deal with the issue of the many converts in England who were unwilling to attend the established churches of their time. We need to embrace a methodology that balances three outlooks; one that is clearly in line with biblical teachings, one that is true to the essence of The Salvation Army, and one that connects well with a post-Christian Australian culture. It will only be through the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we could ever balance those three notions!

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