Calls for Macquarie University to distance themselves from Christian Academic

And gladly teche   (motto of Macquarie University)

In the latest case in a growing line of stories, Dr Steve Chavura, a Senior Research Associate at Macquarie University, has been the subject of calls for his dismissal from the university.

What is Dr Chavura’s sin? Dr Chavura is on the board of the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, a Christian organisation which serves  to foster critical thinking and robust Christian contributions to public policy.

Mr Michael Barnett, who is questioning the university’s integrity by employing Dr Chavura, admitted in an interview that he did not know whether Dr Chavura (or even the Lachlan Macquarie Institute) had ever ‘issued any anti-gay material’. Apparently it is suffice that a university should employ an individual who belongs to a Christian organisation.

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It should be noted that Dr Chavura is not the first LMI board member to receive attention in recent days, indeed these stories a fast becoming common place around the country.

For example:

  • The Australian Labor Party currently prohibits any person (Christian or otherwise), to stand for preselection should they hold to the classic definition of marriage.
  • An Australian business that associates with a Christian organisation will not only suffer a tirade of abuse, but have other businesses pull their product off their shelf in protest. In the mean time, Australian businesses that associate with the case for gay marriage are praised.
  • Federal Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, has indicated that  Labor is considering expanding section 18C, to include banning speech that same-sex marriage advocates find offensive.

According to The Australian editor, Chris Merritt,

“Under Labor’s proposal, advocates of same-sex marriage would be empowered, for example, to take legal action under 18C-style laws if they felt offended or ­insulted by those who publicly ­defended the traditional definition of marriage. Those at risk would include priests, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders who publicly oppose same-sex marriage.”

I wonder if Labor are prepared to provide similar protections for those who believe in the classical definition of marriage?

The issue at hand is same-sex marriage, but as Michael Barnett has elsewhere explained, the agenda is not limited to same-sex marriage, but includes a whole range of matters pertaining to sexual ethics and expression.  It is important for us to understand that it doesn’t matter if a person’s work has no bearing on the ethics of marriage, or if they have never publicly stated a position on marriage, the sin is one of association. 

For too long we have lived in the haze of relativism, and have wrongly trust this murkiness to protect us, but truer and deeper cultural realities have become clearer. In his excellent volume, Political Church: The local Church as embassy of Christ’s rule, Jonathan Leeman writes, ‘secular liberalism isn’t neutral, it steps into the public space with a ‘covert religion’, perhaps as liberal authoritarianism…the public realm is nothing less than the battle ground of gods, each vying to push the levers of power in its favour’.

Accordingly, Michael Barnett has helpfully signalled the sentiment of our age when he says, “No one is stopping him going to church, being a member of a faith,” he said. “Being a member of a board is not religion.” Granted, Michael is but one voice, but it is not a lone voice, the example of Coopers Beer bears testimony to that fact.

In other words, it’s okay to be a Christian at home or in Church, but not at work and in public. Of course, this call will result in potential outcomes for Christians in this country, none are enviable:

  1. Cultural capitulation, with Christians abandoning Christian teachings in order to keep their jobs and reputations.
  2. Hypocrisy, Christians believing one thing in private and another in public.
  3. Gospel fidelity, being prepared to suffer loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.

Free speech (as popularly conceived) is not only a thing of the past, but so is philosophical pluralism. The ‘God is dead’ movement has skilfully used classical liberalism to stamp out God talk in the public conscience. This authoritarian secularism now finds itself in a dominant position in our culture, even though in all likelihood the majority of Australians do not subscribe to its radical theories. We are witnessing the beginning of a social purge, removing from  public office and space those who do not bow before this self-defining imago sexualitatis.

Within our Australian universities are many Christian academics (and students). They are members of different Christian organisations and they attend local Bible believing Churches. Do Australian universities wish to be bereft of some our finest minds? Do our companies wish to rid our boards of some of the nation’s most creative businesspeople? I suspect the answer for most is, no. It nonetheless requires a new courage to not only say we believe in free speech, but to practice it.

Our society once taught us to tolerate those who disagree with us. Today, we are told to shut up and fall into line. The Christian ideal is so much higher and costlier: Jesus teaches us to love those who disagree with us, and to seek their good. Listen to their concerns and fears, so that we rightly understand them.

I should point out that Michael Barnett is a casual interlocutor on this blog, for which I am grateful. His comments and those of other gay advocates are helpful to me in understanding their own fears and dreams.

So what should Christians do? As Jesus once said to the Church in Thyatira, ‘hold on to what you have until I come’.

Tim Keller, Princeton Seminary, and a Christian example

‘We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!’ (1 Corinthians 4:10)

Friend of the Gospel Coalition Australia and City to City Australia, Tim Keller, was due to receive the Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness, on April 6. It is an annual prize awarded by Princeton Seminary.

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Princeton is one of America’s oldest and most prestigious theological training institutions, and Abraham Kuyper was one of the 20th Century’s leading practitioners of Calvinism.

Anyone who has met, listened to, or read Tim Keller will know he is gracious and perspicacious, winsome and biblically rigorous. It is this God given combination that has enabled his books and preaching to reach such a wide audience, even here in Australia.

In a scene replicating this year’s Acadamy awards, ‘the academy award for best picture…’, Princeton Seminary has changed its mind.

After numerous complaints, the Princeton leadership has taken the unprecedented step of withdrawing this year’s prize. When Abraham Kuyper said, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’, I don’t think he meant the square inch that is Princeton was exempt.

President of Princeton Seminary, Rev. Craig Barnes, has written an open letter in which he says, giving Keller this annual price might be seen as an endorsement of his views on women’s ordination and LGBTQ people.

Rev Barnes adds that he remains committed to academic freedom and “the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community.” Hmmm. To be fair, while they have rescinded the award, Princeton has kept their invitation for Keller to give a lecture at the Seminary, which he has graciously accepted.

In the case of Princeton Seminary, we are not talking about a secular education institution, or a brewery (Aussies readers will understand), but a Bible College. One critic wrote, ‘we are honoring and celebrating a man who has championed toxic theology for decades.’  I am saddened by those words, that the Bible’s teaching on marriage, church, and gender should be viewed as toxic, and calling it toxic should be described as Christian.

Barnes admitted this had been “a hard conversation” but one “that a theologically diverse community can handle.” Clearly, they couldn’t handle it. No one is suggesting Princeton or any theologically egalitarian institution ought to invite complementarians to speak, teach, or be given awards. I’m pretty sure Tim Keller wasn’t petitioning for this or any prize. The lesson for institutions is simple, don’t stuff up by saying you’ll do something and then not doing it. I’m pretty sure there’s a Christian principle behind that one: “let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’” (Matt 5:37).

Sadly, this is not a first. Several years another respected American Christian thinker was in Australia for a series of missiology lectures, and one denomination (who were also sponsors) withdrew their support and invitation to speak, on account of his complementarian theology.

My Australian Christian friends who still believe avoiding these topics is the best policy, are living a fools paradise. We don’t make sexuality the issue, but society has, and it has determined that sexuality is the plumb line of moral truth in the Western world. Silence is not going to cut it, and defensive and angry responses miss the mark. Tim Keller has given us a wonderful model for responding; he has agreed to address a community who have publicly shunned him; that’s an example to us all.

‘when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.’ (1 Cor 4:13)

We live in this world, seeking to serve Christ and to imitate him in order to show the world his glory, truth and grace, and we do so with a sure and certain hope. As the Apostle Paul expressed to Timothy, ‘Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’ If God has secured this ‘prize’ for us, we can afford to show grace to those who might identify us with toxicity. 

Two quick words about egalitarians:

It is important to distinguish between evangelical egalitarians and the kind of egalitarianism being proffered by Princeton and the PCUSA which includes affirming GLBT lifestyles and same-sex marriage. I disagree with the former, but the latter lies outside Christian orthodoxy.

This post is not a criticism of ‘evangelical’ egalitarian theology. I love my egalitarian friends and joyfully work alongside them for the advance of the Gospel. Obviously, we disagree on some matters, and we agree that these subjects matter and for that reason we don’t partner on some projects. I suspect though that even they would be disappointed by Princeton’s actions.


photo from The Gospel Coalition

Two Misnomers about Free Speech, Coopers, Qantas, and Gay Marriage

After a day or two, most news items have disappeared into Google’s search engine, which is telling, because the furore over the Bible Society and Coopers Brewery is still being reported, 1 week on. For anyone still thinking this story is a bit of froth, think again.

As with any contentious issue, emotions are high, misinformation is blended with facts, and various sides argue against caricatures, create straw men, and second guess peoples’ motives.

I have already offered an analysis of these events, and how Christians can respond, but two misnomers abound and need correcting. The first concerns the way some Christians are reading the situation, and the second relate to society more generally.

The first mistake concerns conflating a shift in the nature of public speech with progress of the Gospel or the future of Christianity. The two are not the same, and latter does not depend on the former, although they can work well together.

If Australians wish to be a pluralist society, which we are, then it is important that Australians pursue keeping this space open and available. Sadly, the events of the past week have demonstrated that this is no longer the case. There is free speech for some, but if you don’t fall into line with particular secularist agendas, watch out, because speaking up comes with a cost. The cost is nothing like it is for citizens in many other nations (think North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc), but neither is it diminutive, and this week have shown that the stakes are increasing. How many people feel comfortable to share their belief in heterosexual only marriage in the workplace? How many Australian companies will sense the liberty next week to publicly align with classical marriage? The pressure to say nothing or to conform with the self-determined moral elite has increased several degrees over the past 7 days.

Let’s be clear, a pluralist society is not the be all and end all, and neither is free speech. It does however offer a societal paradigm for respecting not only those with whom you agree but also those with whom you disagree. Christians have an interest in upholding this privilege, in part because we have somethin to say, but also because one cannot force a person to become of follower of Jesus Christ. We persuade and urge people by articulating, teaching, and reasoning with the words of God. Freedom of speech makes sense to us because honest conversation matters, truth matters, life matters, and we want people to believe for themselves, not because of compulsion.

History however demonstrates that the Gospel can advance regardless of the contemporary socio-politico milieu. Did not the Gospel grow rapidly in the first centuries when Christianity was held with suspicion and even banned for seasons? And where does the Bible ever promise that Christianity will be perennially embraced by a society? The hope of the world is not liberal democracy and our own Areopaguses, but Jesus Christ.

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A second misnomer has appeared over the last 48 hours, and while it is not immediately connected to the Bible Society video, its relevance is clear enough.

The Australian newspaper has detailed a letter that is being prepared for the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. 20 CEOs of some of Australia’s largest businesses have written a letter to the Prime Minister. They are trying to pressure the Prime Minister into breaking his election promise, which is to hold a plebiscite on marriage.

The issue is not that these 20 CEOs have expressed a view, or that they have written this letter to Mr Turnbull. Should they not be free to do so, despite the protestations of some? Indeed, it could be seen as hypocritical for one to defend the Bible Society and Coopers, and not these corporate leaders.

There are two qualifications worth considering first of all:

First, the CEOs letter is trying to accomplish a different goal to that  set out in the Bible Society video. The videoed dialogue between Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie was demonstrating how Australians can speak civilly about same sex marriage while disagreeing, whereas this letter is pushing a specific position on marriage, namely advocating for the law to change.

The Australian reports, “The same-sex marriage lobby hit back, saying all Australians should be free to voice their views and lobby politicians, including business leaders.

National campaigner for just.equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh said many CEOs recognised the importance of equality for their employees and customers and had a right to represent that to law-makers.

“It’s not appropriate for a government minister to attempt to shut down views he doesn’t agree with,” he said.

In other words, it would be immoral for anyone to shut down these business people as they agitate for same-sex marriage.

Second, notice the irony. Unintended I’m sure, but these words drip with more irony than an upside down jar of honey oozing all over the floor, “Australians should be free to voice their views and lobby politicians, including business leaders”? Clearly someone has been flying in transit all week, because one Australian company, Coopers Brewery, were subject to a torrent of abuse, and so was the Bible Society, not because they were arguing the classic definition of marriage but because they were seen to sponsor a conversation where two politicians civilly disagreed with each other about marriage. Where were these executives defending Coopers Brewery? Did any speak up for them?

It was soon clarified that the brewery was not sponsoring the video, but that was not enough to end the abuse. Only when they completely distanced themselves from the Bible Society and break their agreement with them,  and signed on the dotted line to the same sex-marriage campaign, was all forgiven and people once again happy to drink Coopers beer.

I haven’t heard anyone calling to boycott Qantas, CBA, or ANZ, nor have I read any bitter herbs being tossed around on social media. There is a Government minister making some unusual comments (it appears as though there is politics at play between the Government and these organisations which I am not across. Nonetheless, I did find Mr Dutton’s comments odd).

There is an ethical question relating to the role of a company CEO speaking to moral issues when their name is attached to a company. For each of the signatories, does the coinciding Board affirm their view? Do their shareholders share and support the position with which the company name is now attached? Are employees permitted to dissent with this view? The same questions can of course be asked of Coopers.

These are questions, not answers, and none points to these CEOs keeping their views on marriage quiet; Except in the case where speaking directly contradicts the values of the company, I  would have thought executives can speak publicly as with any citizen of the country. The trouble is, one company did speak out (well, everyone thought that had for a few hours) and they were condemned in the strongest language, obscene language, and with smashed bottles and pubs boycotting.  Before the dust has settled 20 corporate executives have publicly aligned themselves with same-sex marriage, and the same vitriolic public are now applauding with tremendous approval.

Let’s be clear, I am not criticising these executives for speaking out, but our social hypocrisy reeks.

A Qantas spokesman today said on the ABC,

“The freedom to discuss issues of public concern is a freedom we all hold dear.”

This is true…so long as one doesn’t subscribe to the heresy of believing marriage is only between a man and woman. So yes, the nature of public speech has changed in Australia. It’s ok to be saddened by this, because our nation is losing a cherished ideal, but we do not despair for as the Apostle Paul wrote,

‘We do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.’ (2 Corinthians 4:1-12)

In the Coopers wash up, let’s revisit the Beatitudes

In the sticky wash up that has come about from the flood of broken beer bottles, I wish to offer one more comment. In some ways it is to clarify and build on where I wish to take Christian conversation in the public square.

Two days ago I said that with a new morning we’ll see that not everything has changed,  although in the public realm something has altered.  The outrage over the Bible Society’s video is not entirely new, but it does signal with with its greatest yet clarity, that public speech in our society won’t come without a cost.

My purpose is not to repeat things from the previous post, rather, I would like to explore in a little more detail the portion of Scripture to which I turned in my conclusion: the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Beatitudes don’t detail how may enters the Kingdom of heaven, but the life of those who belong to this Kingdom, and are in some ways pre-empting the final manifestation of the Kingdom by exhibiting its qualities in the here and now; to use Jonathan Leeman’s analogy, it’s much like an embassy in a foreign country.

Some Christians hold to some of the Beatitudes, and play loose with others. Some of us focus on peace-making while sacrifice righteousness in order to achieve this goal. Some grab hold of righteousness with clenched fists, while ignoring how Jesus begins, with confession and contrition of our own sins. It is important to see how the Lord Jesus ties them together in an unbreakable bond.  All 8 Beatitudes belong together and work together to build godly character and a life that imitates, albeit imperfectly, the Lord Jesus.

Jesus leads us to begin with confession and contrition, acknowledging our complete dependence on God’s grace, which is his loving gift to us through the atoning death of Christ. The more we grasp the astonishing nature of God’s grace we can no longer look at other Aussies with any disdain or wanting anything other than their good.  In light of the last few days, we can be asking ourselves, how can be better love and serve our gay and lesbian friends. If we don’t have any gay and lesbians, why not?

I suspect some of my Christian friends believe that if we follow the first 7 Beatitudes, the outcome will be peace and happy relationships with everyone, but that’s not where Jesus lead us. He says, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

It is true, we can be shouted down because we’ve said stupid things, hurtful things, and saying the right things wrongly; I know I’m guilty of all the above.  Nonetheless, Jesus indicates that living the Beatitudes and being concerned for God’s righteousness may still result in people being offended and not liking us and attempting to silence us. For Christians to think we can escape verses 10-12 is understandable but somewhat naive.

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Bible Society

The steady but sure retreat by Cooper’s Brewery was disappointing to see. Whatever the connection between Cooper’s and the video (which appears to be an informal one at most), there was nonetheless a real partnership on a different stage, and for them to cut ties feels announcing on Facebook that you’re getting a divorce. Instead of throwing out our Cooper’s beer, which would make us somewhat hypocritical, we ought to pray for them and be gentle. One can only imagine that the pressure they were submitted to would have sunk the heaviest of beers.

The way of Jesus is not capitulation or watery compromise. Our posture should not be silent defeat or angry defensiveness, but always truth in love, clarity and conviction. Expressing our Gospel convictions is longer an easy option, but we should not give up speaking truth with grace because that is how God has treated us, and his love and joy is too good not to share with others. We won’t persuade everyone, but you’ll discover that someone is intrigued and away from cacophony of public noise, they will ask about this Jesus of whom we speak so passionately.

Remember how Paul’s sermon in Athens ended,

“When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.”

If we want to speak in public, or anywhere anytime, more than ever we must not only believe the Beatitudes, but with the help of the Holy Spirit,  practice them. I love this Ernest Hemmingway quote that one Facebook friend quote this morning,

“Courage is grace under pressure.” Ministers will face inordinate pressure. The challenge is to fight this stress with God’s grace and not by our own strength, coercion, manipulation, or self-medicating manners. We walk in grace by keeping the gospel’s story of a suffering Savior at the center of our thoughts.

The Phoney War is Over

The days of free speech in Australia have come to an end. From today, public speech comes with a cost.

For several decades Australia has experienced a pseudo-peace. Since the 1960s the sexual revolution has been gaining momentum and slowly dynamiting deeply held views about God, humanity, sex, and family. We have noted these changes, and sometimes with protest, but mostly we just get on with life and pretend that things are not so bad. The last 3 years has seen an acceleration in social and moral change, and just maybe we are rubbing the sleep from our eyes and beginning to wonder, what’s going on? Gender is fluid, and it’s compulsory for my kids to be taught this in school? Marriage can be for 2 people of the same gender?

For several years I have tried to speak to all kind of issues in the public square, with a measure of success and also with some mistakes. Today, I’m calling it, the days of free speech have come to an end. The end though won’t be the end because the appetite of the sexual revolution is insatiable, and we are fools if we think that the conquest will end should Australia adopt same-sex marriage. Changing the law will simply escalate the efforts of those who would love to see Christianity pushed into Southern Ocean.

The catalyst for this cultural epitaph was a video produced by the Bible Society. Understand what people are so angrily protesting about:

The video does not present a hate filled preacher spitting out vitriol.

The video does not present a Christian leader carefully and winsomely articulating the Bible’s view on marriage.

The video shows a gay man who supports same-sex marriage and a heterosexual man who does not, and they are engaging in a respectful conversation about marriage while enjoying a beer.

What is so reprehensible about this video? Nothing, of course, but in the eyes of the self-determined moral judges of our age, this video debunks the myth they have spun, that civil speech and questioning same sex marriage cannot go together. From Canberra to Spring St, from SBS to The Age, we have been told that unless we support same sex marriage without qualification, we are bigots and homophobes. The problem is, this video dismantles that myth. But instead of engaging with it, there has been outrage because there is no forgiveness for those who dare denude the same-sex marriage narrative. 

The Hastie/Wilson conversation (and there are many other examples that could be mentioned) reminds us that there are still people of good will, Australians of different persuasions who believe in giving everyone a say on these important topics. What we are seeing however, are vocal and powerful people overreaching and drowning out these discussions.

To be fair, some people have also argued that the same-sex marriage is a human right, and to even question marriage change is therefore undermining their rights. I can see the point of view, but this is also a myth and needs challenging: marriage is not a human right…for anyone. It is a gift and a privilege but not a right. More than that, the onus lays with marriage change advocates to demonstrate the logic of their definition for marriage. How can any reasonable society redefine its societal foundation without first having reasoned, rigorous, and respectful discourse?

Let the reader understand, anyone, any organisation or person who allies themselves with civil discourse will not be immune for public shaming. Add God or the Bible to the mix, and the response will be even stronger.

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It’s also important for us to realise from today that opponents to free speech are not prepared to end with name calling. Despite not being a sponsor of the video, Cooper’s Brewery has been branded homophobic and could well suffer financial loss as a result. The lesson is, if you associate too closely with Christians and they happen to say anything about marriage, be prepared to take a financial hit.

It is somewhat ironic, and indeed Biblical, that this watershed day centres on an organisation that exists to bring the word of God to Australians. It’s not totally unlike when Hamlet mistakingly kills Polonius with his sword.

Waving his sword around, Hamlet shouts, ‘How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!’ He then plunges his sword into a wall carpet and kills Polonius who is hiding behind.His mother cries, ‘what hast thou done?’ , to which Hamlet responds, ‘dunno’.

I wonder, have we understood our actions and the consequences that will flow from them?

I’ve had Christian friends suggest to me today, if only the Bible Society had stayed away from same-sex marriage, as though that would keep everybody happy. Respectfully, do we not realise that that is in itself a concession, and is simply buying into the rhetoric of those who wish to outlaw dissenting speech and belief from society?

In some formal sense, free speech will exist tomorrow morning, but  in practice, a cacophonous minority have succeeded in shouting down reasoned and respectful speech. I remember one year ago referring to freedom of speech as the gordian knot of our time; well, today the sword has been taken out of its sheath and cut right through the ropes.

Free speech is gone and what we have left is costly speech. To speak truth will cost. To suggest an alternative narrative, will have you branded as bigot, and more.

Again understand, this is not about what is right and fair, or about what is reasonable and respectful, it is about conforming to the program of what Stephen McAlpine has termed, the sexual fundamentalists.

What now?

For many Australians life will go on as usual, until the shrapnel finally crashes through their own lounge-room window.

The self-determined moral elite will celebrate with a pint  of anything-but-Coopers-Beer. 

Today may well mark the end of cost-free speech in this country, but it doesn’t mark the end of the Gospel and the relevance of the Church. The reality is, we could lose all our political and civic freedoms, and yet we will not cease to love Christ and to love and serve our neighbours.

What I am praying is that sleepy Christians will wake up, alert Christians will be humble, and compromising Christians will repent.

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:2-3)

Christians in this country have to often and wrongly believed that we can have our Christianity and  it won’t cost us anything. Sure, we recite those verses that talk about talking up our cross, and we nod in agreement, but our lives betray this flimsy assent to Jesus. We have believed the prophets of our time who calmly reassure us that there is peace, when in fact there is no peace. We work and play and make love, and believe the world is ok. We have turned to our false prophets who keep scratching where we itch and assuring us that all is well. But the phoney war has ended, and too many of us have been caught unprepared. We love our hedonistic lifestyle, and I fear many will be unable to let it go in order to follow Christ into this new Australia.

We need to wake up.

This is no time to leave behind Biblical convictions and godly character. We must resist any temptation to run away or to change teams. The one thing we can no longer afford to do is keep pretending everything is ok: I’ve got my family, and my job, and Church is there when I need it. She’ll be right, ain’t right!

If we (I’m speaking to Christians here) are serious about staying true to that which we have become persuaded of, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we can no longer afford to live in isolation from other Christians. Christians without a Church don’t survive. We need one another for encouragement, support, care, correction, and courage. Roll out of bed and commit to a local church. Forget about the materialist and ultimately self-centred Aussie dream, drop the beach days every other weekend, and instead commit  to learning from and supporting your brothers and sisters in Christ.

We also need to listen to the Bible more closely than we have ever done before. Take for example, the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes have been misrepresented a fair bit lately. They are not cushy and likeable sentiments, they are vital words teaching us how to live in a fallen world.

Indeed the Beatitudes give us perhaps the greatest template for speaking and living in an environment that is eager for us to disappear. It is worth every moment to read and consider the Beatitudes. Be encouraged, be challenged, be rebuked, be changed:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


If you have read this article, I’d also encourage you to read this follow up piece (published March 15th) – https://murraycampbell.net/2017/03/15/in-the-coopers-wash-up-lets-revisit-the-beatitudes/

Beer, Bible, and a Baptist?

Ok, let me clear my glass from the outset, I don’t drink beer. And no, it has nothing to do with being a Baptist. To my episcopalian skeptics I will retort by pointing out that for some years we had a group of  ‘underground’ beer brewers at our Church!

Leaving my personal drinking preferences aside, connecting the Bible and beer isn’t that novel an approach. After all, according to Martin Luther the Reformers held a Bible in one hand and a beer in the other,

“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip and my Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing.  The Word did it all.”

In what is possibly a first though, the Bible Society has joined arms with Coopers Brewery, with Coopers tagging 10,000 cartons of their light beer with a Bible verse, and with links to the Bible Society’s 200th anniversary. While Coopers may or may not benefit financially from this partnership is, I suspect, beside the point. One Aussie company is celebrating our nation’s oldest continuing organisation. There is nothing new about this; Aussie companies have noted and branded all kinds of Australian symbols and celebrations over the years, and this is just another…until one checks their twitter feed!

As part of the Bible Society’s anniversary, they have produced a series of short videos featuring Aussies discussing current topics. The first video was released this week with Federal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie talking about same-sex marriage. Unlike the Bible versed cartons, Coopers Brewery has not sponsored the videos.

Yes, the video is light hearted

Yes, it’s promoting the Bible. Is that so wrong?

Yes, it is staged, but that doesn’t make the two politicians any less genuine with their comments. I don’t know Andrew Hastie, but I have met Tim Wilson, and I found him to be a decent Aussie bloke, who is clear about what he believes and who is also willing to let others express their views.

I’m sure a lot of Aussies will appreciate the video for what it is, a nonchalant signal that Australians can still sit down and talk about real issues, without name calling and speaking down to the other. However, it was clear from my Sunday afternoon twitter feed that not everyone is so happy.

One Melbourne politician and LBGTI advocate tweeted, ‘Nothing ‘civil’ about homophobia, and that’s what opposition to LGBTI equality is. Boycott @coopersbrewery’

Christine Milne is calling for Aussies to boycott Coopers! It’s okay Christine, I never have.

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Apparently we should never buy Coopers beer again, and the video reeks of homophobia. I’m not quite sure how that works given that Tim is openly gay and an advocate changing the marriage act.

It is sad to see how our society has reached the point where notable public figures have self-determined that civil discourse is no longer permissible unless it conforms with their particular brand of secular humanism.

I am not sure whether peoples grievance is over the fact that the Bible Society is behind the campaign or because two politicians have dared demonstrate a courteous disagreement about marriage. Either way, this short video breaks the narrative that social progressives would have the public believe, and for them, this is unforgivable. 

When society no longer permits the dissenting voice, as reasonable and gracious as that voice may be, we have abandoned any true sense of the phrase ‘liberal democracy’, and we have entered a very dark and dangerous pathway to authoritarianism. I do hope that we can see the light and steer away from such a direction.

I am reminded of when Christianity first arose in Jerusalem and then spread to neighbouring regions, and eventually throughout the Roman Empire. The Acts of the Apostles records how the apostles and first Christians won over people with persuasion and reason, with impassioned argument and kindness. There may or may not have been a beer in hand, but there was often a Bible, and that is ok. Should we hide the reasons for our beliefs and values? Is not owning up to them a more honest and ultimately more productive approach to public discourse and dialogue? And who knows, maybe next time we’ll drink coffee instead!

STOP the Inequality: Melbourne’s Traffic Light problem

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from ABC news

The great feminist battle of March 2017 is the pedestrian signal. I know it sounds small…and pedestrian, but how wrong was I! Thousands of people have participated in straw polls and thousands more have made comments on social media. In fact, the issue has become so contentious, not only are articles appearing on the ABC, The Age, and Herald Sun, from across the globe even the BBC are reporting the story.

According to ABC news, ‘Ten female pedestrian figures will be installed on traffic lights at the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets as part of a VicRoads-approved 12-month trial.’

The Committee for Melbourne — a non-profit organisation comprising more than 120 Melbourne business and community groups — is behind the move.

Chief executive Martine Letts said having only green or red silhouettes of men discriminated against women.

“The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias,” she said.”

I didn’t realise men only pedestrian lights were an expression of inequality and oppression. I mean, does anyone really look up and think, ‘see that green man, I wish I was like him’? Apparently we do, but none of us were aware of this unconscious bias, until now. To help me out, I asked my wife what she thought of the saga, only to have a pair of eyes roll past me as though I must be stupid for ever thinking this must be matter for women’s equality.

Victoria’s Minister for Woman said, “There are many small — but symbolically significant — ways that women are excluded from public space.”

I am not denying there are real issues between the genders, but am I the only one who is asking, are we being a little too precious about our traffic lights? I can think of 742 better ways of spending  funds than altering the gender of pedestrian lights, but if it such a pressing issue, then as a Melbournian I say, go ahead; it’s a green light from me.

As we wrestle with this unacceptable prejudice, I can’t help but wonder, what if all traffic light action figures had always been female? I can imagine today’s fight being very different, we would have feminists being outraged as they discover some secret derogatory messaging in our women only traffic lights. Maybe these lights are subconscious signals that make women into inanimate objects!

Let’s be clear, I’m totally cool with changing pants to dresses, but I do have one quick question though, in representing women with a figure wearing a dress, are they not stereotyping women?

One one cheeky friend posted on social media,

“Not far enough Melbourne!

Still stuck in the fixed binary red/green paradigm.

We need lights on a spectrum from red to green”.

Leaving aside that mischievous (although not entirely aberrant) comment, and the perennial problem of our traffic lights discriminating against colour-blind Melbournians, let’s stop for a moment, or at least slow down to amber: the fact that we are even having this tiny squabble over pedestrian lights ought to tell us how far society has moved on women’s issues. If the sex of pedestrian signals is where the fight now lays, then I don’t think we have too much to be worried about.

I was walking through the city today, and when crossing the street I didn’t realise that the traffic light’s gender had changed, but as I can see with this photograph from ABC news, it has (or should that be, she has?). I had just come from speaking to a group of people about some slightly bigger issues, such as God, life and death, and hope. I guess I am a little ambivalent about the messaging in our traffic lights, but I do wish and pray that we Melbournians would stop and think about these biggest issues that we all are facing, which no small social or council alteration can solve.

Contrary to current feminism, which may turn to smaller things because the larger battles are won, the propensity of Melbournians is to focus on miniature and what are often trivialities, at the expense of facing the eternal questions that we must all one day address. And it’s not as though we are lost in the dark, with no direction given. God has given a definitive signal, his only son, Jesus Christ, and yet we walk through life as though he is an irrelevance, and then we wonder why there are so many traffic accidents in life.

Once a crowd asked Jesus, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

He answered, albeit with a somewhat cryptic message, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in 3 days.’

John (the author) then explained Jesus’ meaning,

“the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”

Let’s not ignore CBD traffic lights, and please let us stop ignoring God’s signal to us.

Australia’s Oldest Organisation Turning 200 years old

This weekend, Australia’s longest continuing organisation is celebrating it’s 200th anniversary. Few institutions survive 200 years, let alone continue to flourish after such time. The organisation which is reaching this rare milestone is not a bank or a theatre company, nor a business or school; it is the Bible Society of Australia.

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I suspect that if this were any other type of organisation, the coverage would be wide across our news and television. Let’s admit it, a 200 year anniversary doesn’t happen very often in Australian history.

The Bible Society had started in England some years earlier, with the purpose of distributing copies of the Bible to military servicemen, and later to Welsh speaking Britains who could not read an English translation of the Scriptures.

It was Governor Macquarie who in March 1817 encouraged the birth of the Bible Society of Australia.

The aims of the Bible Society have changed little in its 200 years. They exist to bring the Bible to Australians, whether in English or  by translating the Scriptures into many other languages so that people can read the word of God for themselves. They also support many translations projects across the world.

According to McCrindle research, approximately 45% of Australians now own a Bible (and that percentage shrinks to 32% for Gen Y), although Bible websites are visited by Australians in huge numbers, one site alone has over 50 million visits a year by Aussies. 

The Bible remains the most read book throughout the world, and has been translated into more languages than any other book. Despite a smaller number of Australians owning and reading the Bible, it remains enormously influential across our culture, including in politics, law, and the arts. And while some Australians have put is aside, many thousands of new Australians are keen to read this most astonishing book. Like the foundations of a building, or the innumerable kms of pipes that traverse underneath our streets, both are unseen and yet we depend on them every day, so to  the Bible has provided a bedrock with out which our society would be considerably weaker and less certain.

Think about it…the Bible is, to use its own description, the words of God, the very breathed out words of the living God for us. The Bible is the words of God, about God, and for us so that we might know him, and understand the world and even ourselves.

“The law of the Lord is perfect,

    refreshing the soul.

The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,

    making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,

    giving joy to the heart.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,

    giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure,

    enduring forever.

The decrees of the Lord are firm,

    and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,

    than much pure gold;

they are sweeter than honey,

    than honey from the honeycomb.

By them your servant is warned;

    in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)

The Bible is without parallel in human thinking in regards to its view of God and design for humanity. It portraits God in ways that make the Sistine Chapel appear like a cistern, it penetrates the human psyche more deeply than a hydraulic drill piercing deep into ancient bedrock. It is more glorious than the music of J.S Bach and more comforting than the closest friend. It is more honest, more confounding, more rational, more mysterious than any other text we will read in our short lives. And yes, it chiefly tells us the story of redemption, of the God-man Jesus Christ, who has accomplished the impossible for us.

In a season when many Aussies are less inclined to consider God, I love the Bible Society’s anniversary slogan, Here for Good. Perhaps it sounds a little presumptuous, but 200 years isn’t a bad beginning, and for a book that has been changing the world for centuries longer, might I suggest that the presumption lies with those skeptics who would wish us to close the Bible once and for all, or to lock it up in a Museum’s glass case with the nation’s relics. The problem is, the Bible is a living book and it will continue to transform future generations of Australians, long after every other book has been forgotten.

This weekend there are formal celebrations taking place around the nation, but people are welcome to drop in to a church near them. If you live around Mentone/ Cheltenham, we’d love you to join us this Sunday at 10am, as we open the Bible together and hear of wonderful thing from God.

Also, the Bible Society is giving away free Bibles to anyone interested. If you’re visiting Mentone we are also very happy to give you a free Bible.