Is it a donkey? Is it a lion? What has happened to freedom of speech?

“You think freedom means doing what you like. Well, you’re wrong. That isn’t true freedom. True freedom means doing what I tell you.” (Shift, in The Last Battle)

I can’t remember many times when I have found myself agreeing with Germaine Greer, but on this occasion I am at least sympathetic with her situation. A petition with over 800 signatories is pushing to ban Germaine Greer from giving a lecture at Cardiff University, on account of her views about sexuality. That’s right, one the world’s most outspoken voices on women’s rights and sexual liberties is apparently too orthodox for these students.

1445718397585The author of the petition commented, ”Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether.”

“While debate in a university should be encouraged, hosting a speaker with such problematic and hateful views towards marginalised and vulnerable groups is dangerous. Allowing Greer a platform endorses her views, and by extension, the transmisogyny which she continues to perpetuate.” (quoted in The Age October 25, Petition calls for university to ban Germaine Greer from event over ‘hateful’ transgender views)

Based on this explanation it sounds as though Germaine Greer must hold some very distasteful views about transgender people. However, when I listened to Greer’s views, it appears that the accusations are false. The point that so riled these Welsh students is that Greer believes that surgical and hormonal treatment does not make a man into a woman. In fact, Greer does little more than state a biological fact. Listen to this interview by the BBC (language warning):

The allegations are so ridiculous; I feel like I need to rub my eyes to make sure that I’m not living in some fantasy land. But no, this isn’t Narnia or Animal Farm.

The allegation of transmisogyny maybe unfounded, but that doesn’t matter because the accusation itself is an effective way to silence opposing views.  It may not have worked in the case of Germain Greer, not but not everyone is boisterous and thick skinned.

These students from Cardiff University have used a tool of debate that is becoming all to common:

  • Silence your opponents by accusing them of hate.
  • Silence your opponents by insisting that their views will lead to abuses.

No one is doubting that homosexual and transgender people have suffered abuses, and speaking out about such treatment is only right. The issue here, however, is not about protecting transgender people from hate and abuse, it is about denying people the freedom to discuss and disagree with the current sexual milieu. What makes this whole approach particularly ugly is that it is using people’s vulnerabilities and fears as a smoke screen for social engineering.

Germaine Greer is not the first victim of these Calormene-like speech police, this is the growing experience for many groups in the UK, Canada, Germany and the USA; especially Christian groups.

Sadly, this change of climate is also moving over Australian society, and a cold winter is gradually freezing out free speech. Take for example, Bill Shorten’s op-ed piece for Fairfax on the issue of the plebiscite for same-sex marriage:

“But I don’t think enough attention has been paid to the biggest risk a plebiscite brings – the danger and the damage of unleashing a divisive, drawn-­out debate.

A plebiscite could act as a lightning rod for the very worst of the prejudice so many LGBTI Australians endure. A platform for people to attack, abuse and demean Australians on the basis of who they love.”

In other words, we should by-pass public opinion because public views may not necessarily conform to the progressive agenda.

“You thought! As if anyone could call what goes on in your head thinking.” Just as Shift challenged the Bear who dared question him, we seem to be  moving toward a democratic totalitarianism, where society permits us to support same-sex marriage and sexual fluidity, but we are no longer free to offer a dissenting voice. Nowhere is this more evident than perhaps in Victoria where the Daniel Andrews’ Government is introducing policies that deliberately target the removal of Christian ideas and values from the public arena.

Deitrich Bonheoffer observed how the Reichstag Fire Decree of 1933 changed the public space in Germany. He wrote,

“Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the rights of the assembly and association, and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.”

We have begun down this insane path, and if the media and certain political parties are anything to go by, the journey is just beginning.

In light of this, I offer these 3 suggestions:

1. Don’t accept the premise behind the case for marriage change. Disagreement and disapproval does not equal hate. The Bill Shorten’s and Cardiff students of this world would have us believe that there are only two roads to travel, either total acceptance or hate and fear. Both options are untenable. Christians know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us a third way, that of loving and reasonable disagreement.

2. Don’t yield to the pressure and remain silent. It is important for the plurality of Australian voices to be heard in the public space.

3. Speaking up is no longer free; it will come at a cost. Our situation is unusual in light of world history; we have enjoyed social freedoms that people in many other parts of the world have never experienced. It has been possible to speak openly without any genuine sacrifice, perhaps a few crude comments thrown our way but nothing more. We need to wake up to the fact that Australia has changed, and for Christians, Jesus’ words about taking up our cross may become more than just words.

A donkey dressed up as a lion is still a donkey, no matter how much a monkey tells you otherwise. That old Narnian like Bear, Germaine Greer, has spotted a fraud in public discourse and we Aussies’ would be wise to also question the course that national conversation is now taking.

Puzzleaslan

Why we send our people to Ridley College

I am often asked what I think of different Theological Colleges in Australia, and where we send our people to study. There are certainly many colleges across the country; Melbourne alone has no fewer than 9 Protestant Bible Colleges.

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I thought I would take an opportunity to talk about where we have been encouraging our people to study.

For sometime our preference has been to send students to Ridley College. This does not mean that there are not other suitable colleges, and this doesn’t mean that we agree with everything that takes place at Ridley, but it does mean that we have a confidence in the college to help equip our people for Gospel ministry.

Here are 8 reasons why we choose Ridley College (I appreciate that some of these points are true for others college as well):

  1. Ridley is an Evangelical College in the Reformed tradition. Sending people to liberal colleges is a poor investment and will likely cause them spiritual harm.  Sending students to colleges where theology and Bible subjects are not core is also a poor choice. It is exciting to hear students wanting to learn about ministry, but without proper theological foundations they’ll practice poor ministry.
  2. Ridley is located in Melbourne (we want to encourage local training, and we are conscious of the fact that students need to develop local networks with other like-minded Gospel workers).
  3. I need to trust the Principal. Principals have the unenviable job of leading the college through all manner of changes and challenges. The Principal needs to be a godly man with deep evangelical convictions and Gospel vision. I have a high regard for the Principal, Dr Brian Rosner, as I have for his predecessor, Peter Adam, who worked tirelessly in growing the college.
  4. Baptists are welcomed. Ridley College has trained baptist pastors for many years and will continue to do so in the future.
  5. Not only are baptists welcome, but students of a reformed and complementarian persuasion are also made welcome and respected.
  6. They exercise Gospel generosity. Several faculty have given their time and skills to help us at Mentone in different ways and times.
  7. Ridley has an excellent online Correspondence Course that can serve local churches well in training lay people.
  8. Ridley offers useful academic and pastoral courses for pastors seeking to continue their education beyond their basic degree.

There is no perfect institution for theological training, and any college doing its job  is one working closely with the local churches. We value the relationship we have with Ridley College, and we commend the college to others who are considering training for Gospel ministry.

Bronwyn Chin’s letter

In light of the vitriol being aimed toward Michael Jensen’s book, You: An Introduction, and its reference to a letter penned by Bronwyn Chin, I thought it helpful to publish Bronwyn’s letter in full (which I’ve taken from the AFES website). That way, people can read for themselves.

In Australia we rarely talk about death, other than a few words of praise for the deceased person and a few wishful words such as, ‘we’ll see you again’ or ‘they are now with the angels’. In the face of death Bronwyn writes about the awfulness of her condition and of the hope that Jesus promises. For Christians these words can bring great comfort, and to non Christians they are a challenge; what is your answer to sickness and death?

 

Article written by Bronwyn Chin: June 2012 for the ‘Equal But Different’ journal

I thank God for the gift of Cancer!

I don’t like being in pain and I don’t like having terminal pancreatic cancer. I would like to grow old with my husband and see my kids grow up. But God appears to have a better plan. I know that he is faithful. His plans are the best and do not revolve around me. Acts 13:36 says: “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation he fell asleep …”. When God has done what he wants through me, I will die in his perfect timing.

Why has God given me cancer? Maybe it is to make me repent of my wrongs and turn to Jesus – it has certainly done this. Maybe it is to make me talk more to my friends and family about Jesus – it has certainly done this. Maybe it is for reasons way beyond my understanding – it is certainly at least this. All I know is that God has given me this gift of cancer to use for his glory. We pray daily for the cancer to miraculously go away. But if God chooses to say no, we can trust him nonetheless.

It is still hard to really grasp that I am only here for a very little while. But as the bible teaches:

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” 1 Peter 1:24

When I was suddenly diagnosed in Dec 2009, it was a total shock. I had no idea that I was sick. My life at that time involved being a busy wife, a mother of four active children (aged 9,12,14,15), and a part time General Practitioner.

Widespread pancreatic cancer has a very bad reputation and my oncologist originally gave me a prognosis of 3 to 6 months to live. However God has had other ideas and my cancer has partially responded to chemotherapy. For the last two and a half years I have received chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, and lived with ill health, knowing I have a time bomb inside. My family have become experts at coping with me regularly vomiting, and being bed bound at times from the different treatments.

As the cancer keeps spreading throughout my body I am very aware that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour in whom I can depend, and that all other ground is sinking sand.

I am so grateful to God for everything. I am thankful for who God is, his majesty, his splendour, and his promises. I am thankful for my family, friends and life.

I am so thankful to God for the resurrection of Jesus which means I will have victory over death and don’t need to fear pain or the dying process. It is such a comfort to read:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

‘The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

As I get sicker and spend a lot of time lying down in pain, I sometimes wonder what use I am to God and what he wants me to do … now. I miss being able to do things. I actually miss physically being able to tidy up! And I miss the joy of serving my husband and kids more.

What is hard is coping with chronic pain and deteriorating health while still navigating the physical and emotional challenges involved with 4 children and a busy husband.

Another challenge is “not knowing”. It is impossible to plan. Last year I had 5 hospital admissions. I have no idea what condition I will be in 6 weeks, let alone whether I will even be alive.

However, I am just so thankful for God’s guidance in the bible. The bible is so clear about what God wants me to do now, even as I get sicker.

‘Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ 1 Thessalonians 5:16

God is so clear. This is what God wants me to do now. Thank him. As I write, I have just returned from a visit to my oncologist. He is urging us not to receive any more chemotherapy (or other treatment) out of compassion because (in his view) it only has a 10% chance of treating the cancer and will greatly erode the quality of life that I currently enjoy. It is hard to stop and have no treatment. It feels like giving up. But I still know I can thank God.

Leaving my husband and 4 gorgeous children grieves me greatly (and makes me cry every time I think about it, even as I write now). However, I know God will take care of them. Please pray that each of them will continue to trust God into eternity.

So I thank God for this gift of cancer because he is good and he is using it for his purposes. The plans of the Lord are perfect even if I don’t know the reasons for everything. All I know is that soon I will be with the Lord forever because Jesus alone has saved me through his death and resurrection.

I hope to see you all there!

‘be prepared to die for God’: Misleading headline of the year award

In my opinion, The Australian newspaper has resorted to the worse kind of sensationalised journalism in the piece, ‘Be prepared to die for God’, kids told in state school classes (October 17th).

It is worth mentioning that the story pursued by The Australian was discussed in the media several months ago, and the issues raised were then adequately dealt with by the NSW Government and the providers of SRE.

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And by issues, it should be noted that there was no fire (perhaps a really small candle), just a lot of smoke being blown north by a group of angry Victorians (FIRIS). Unfortunately, while reasonable minds did address the expressed concerns, FIRIS have continued to blow smoke into NSW. Having scorched Victoria of rational and gracious discourse, I guess they need a new land to conquer. But my question here is, why did The Australian choose to regurgitate a non-story from months ago?

Following the dreadful murder of Curtis Cheng by schoolboy Farhad Jabar, the media has been right to report issues relating to the radicalisation of young Muslims. These are genuine concerns for Australia, but sadly there are Australians who are distastefully seizing upon this issue and using it to try and remove Christian teaching and presence from schools in NSW (disappointingly, the Victorian Government has already succumbed to this obtuse fear mongering). And it seems as though The Australian correspondent, Natasha Bita, has jumped onto this bandwagon. Look at the headline, ‘be prepared to die for God’, kids told in state school classes. Obviously, these Christians are training young children to commit murder in our streets and schools. There must be hate filled speeches and promises of virgins in heaven for any willing martyrs! But of course, the headline is misleading, and the article itself falls flat in its attempt to make SRE appear dangerous, “harmful” and “damaging”.

All of the extreme ideas cited by Natasha Bita, are of course nothing of the sort. Michael Jensen’s book, You: An Introduction, is designed to start a conversation. It certainly holds a view of God who is holy and love, and of a world that is simultaneously amazing and broken, joy giving and painful, but all this fit perfectly within orthodox Christianity. Yes, it uses the word sin to explain what has gone wrong in the world, but only a fool would argue that there is no evil in the world. In fact, the concept of sin is one of the most self-evident ideas of the Bible.

And far from being dangerous, read further and you’ll find that is no inciting to anger and hate, but there is much encouragement to love and respect, and to think deeply about life and biggest questions of the cosmos.

And in response to the criticism given to a letter that was written by Bronwyn Chin, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2013, is it not appropriate to share stories of hope in the midst of suffering, or should our teenage children only have access to stories where the narrative is hopeless and meaning allusive?

It is pretty shabby that The Australian decided to run this piece. Not just Christians, but Australians in general understand that aligning Christianity with Islamic extremism is absurd and bordering on slander.

It is fine to not like SRE, and it is also fine to not like the fact that it remains in NSW State schools, and it is fine to argue for its removal, but it is not fine to harness public fears about real issues and to suggest that SRE is somehow akin to or might lead to the kinds of evil ISIS are perpetrating around the globe.

Finally, it is important for readers to understand these two basic points that Natasha Bita fails to mention in her article:

1. Along with John Dickson’s book, ‘A Sneaking Suspicion’, You: An Introduction, was temporarily banned from NSW schools earlier in the year, but they were quickly re-introduced once the Education Minister was made aware of the situation and no issue found with them.

2. These SRE classes are not compulsory. No parent is forced to have their children attend the classes. These classes are for families who want their children participating, and clearly there are significant numbers of families who do want these classes.

Are Sydney Anglicans really so dangerous? FIRIS believe so, but really? No one is forced to believe the views they present or to even attend the classes, and yet these are ideas that have profoundly aided our nation for two centuries, and even if we disagree with them, is it not valuable for our children to have the opportunity to at least read and engage with these ideas for themselves?

Music and Abortion

Scientists have discovered that babies in the womb, as young as 16 weeks, respond to music by ‘dancing’.

“The foetuses responded to the music by moving their mouths or their tongues as if they wanted to wanted to speak or sing,” said one of the researchers, Marisa Lopez-Teijon. The research has been published in journal of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, Ultrasound.

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What this means is that babies’ cognitive faculties, creative faculties, and listening and communication skills are more highly developed at 16 weeks than previously thought.

The more scientists study human beings in the womb, the more wonder, beauty and complexity we discover. As scientific research advances, the findings increasingly demonstrate that embryos are not less human but fully human, and from the very earliest stages.

I am reminded of the words spoken by one excited mum, ‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy’ (Luke 1:44).

It was interesting to note that the article in The Australian, while sometimes referring to embryos, also addresses them as babies. The days when scientists and proabortionists justified abortion by claiming embryos were not human has long gone.

This latest research makes the reality of abortions even more appalling. It is a dreadful paradox of our society, that a child who enjoys listening to music in the womb can, on the same day, be killed in the womb.

How can we justify killing a child who in their first weeks of life is being moved by the sounds of Mozart and Bach? Not that responding to music defines their humanity but it further proves their humanity. He or she is not potential life, but is life with a mind and body that is active and alert.

Science is showing us the ignominy of our attitudes toward the unborn, but will we listen? We have longed turned deaf to the Bible’s pleas about the sanctity of life, and I suspect that we will also turn a blind eye to these amazing revelations that are being proven through empirical research.

Through music, science is affirming an ancient theological truth, embryos are people like us. But will we listen?

If you are reading this as a pregnant mum and you are questioning whether you should keep your baby, please talk to someone. We have a trained female counsellor at Mentone Baptist who is available to listen and help faye.Ludik@mentonebaptist.com.au

If you are reading this post as someone who struggles with a past decision to undergo an abortion, I want you to know that the good news of Jesus Christ means that real forgiveness and healing is promised through him. Abortion is wrong, but it is not the unforgivable sin. Again, please contact our church counsellor. If you don’t live near Mentone but are keen to find out more, please contact us and we’ll try to find a suitable church near where you live. 

Grand Final hype and Christian passion

Only once have I missed the Grand Final, and that was in 1999. I was living in London at the time, but even then, I woke up at 4 in the morning to read the then minute by minute updates that were being published on the internet (yes, this was before the days of live-streaming).

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It doesn’t matter whether my team is playing on Grand Final day or not, it’s un-Melbourne like to not watch the game.

Tomorrow there will be 100,00 people filling the MCG and living out their love for football, with millions more watching on television at home or at the pub.

We took our children into the city yesterday and had fun at the Foxtel Footy Festival next to the MCG. Everywhere you looked there were men, women and children wearing footy jumpers and scarves (more West Coast colours than anything!). Football fans are not hard to spot: they are committed to supporting their team, they’re enthusiastic, they attend matches and if they can’t they will watch it on tv, they talk about footy at work, there are footballs lying around the house to hold and caress.

Grand Final day is so important to Melbourne that we now celebrate a public holiday on the day before Grand Final!

For the three Melbournians who doesn’t love footy, there will be something else that you’re passionate about – art, music, gardening, cooking, technology,  spending time with friends, travel.

To prove that I’m not just another nodular barely-civilised football fan (can’t think why Freemantle comes to mind!), remember that famous balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet where Juliet is standing outside in the night sky and Romeo sees her, and is smitten and starts talking to himself, 

‘See how she leans her cheek upon her hand. O that I were a glove upon that hand, That I might touch that cheek.’

Romeo would be satisfied to be a glove on her hand so that he could touch her cheek. It’s all very romantic, but that’s what happens with passions and desires. Whatever the heart most desires, we think and talk and dream about it.

Football, music and poetry are among the many good things we enjoy under a good God, but Grand Final week makes me wonder why Christians don’t exhibit similar enthusiasm for the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I think of Paul who wrote,

“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race”.

I think of Jesus who as he approached Jerusalem, wept, and said,

‘“If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace’

Where is this Gospel driven passion today? Where is the deep-heart-convinced desire to tell Melbournians the Gospel? We are passionate about many things and yet the purposes of God in Christ is rarely one of them.

Imagine if Christians preferenced time with Church over lazy weekends and sporting events?

Imagine if Christians gave just a portion of their football fanaticism to the Great Commission instead?

Charles Spurgeon once remarked, ‘‘Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

The thing is, while we may give intellectual assent to Surgeon’s question, what we truly desire is evident by what we give our energies too and the decisions we make in life.

Imagine, if Christians put first in their lives, God’s mission into the world?

Like everyone, I have limited time and energy, and so I need be wise and ensure that how I live is being driven by the reality that I am persuaded is of greatest value. Friends, make it the Gospel.

FYI Hawks by 48 points!