I’d never heard of Reuben Kaye until yesterday, but the shock value of Kaye’s ‘joke’ clearly fell flat across the country. The comment was more like a drunken Uncle misbehaving at a wedding reception: unpleasant, not funny, and kind of embarrassing.
I missed the great offence as I’m not a viewer of Channel 10’s The Project. I’ve since gone back and watched the 15 seconds of stinging jocularity. Yes, it was pretty offensive and yes, it was pretty unoriginal.
I’ve grown in an Australia where snide remarks and jokes at the expense of Christians are a common pastime. A lot of the comments may lack the deliberate bite that Kaye offered, but our political representatives regularly deride Christian beliefs, and so do teachers and university lecturers, and our mates on the sporting grounds. Christians have long been easy pickings for public insult. After all, what does it cost someone to crack a joke about Jesus or the church? Nothing If anything, you’re likely to win more adulation than less.
Let’s admit, there are some Christians whose behaviour probably deserves a few words of humour.
And yet, on this occasion, it seems as though people realised that there exists a line and Reuben Kaye had crossed it. I’m sure that the same joke will garner claps and cheers in the local comedy clubs, but there was something about adding sexual innuendo to Jesus’ death on a national television program that didn’t sit well.
Are we experiencing a conflict of conscience? Australians want to mock Christianity and yet we’re also taught to respect alternate views. After all, the media steers well away from mocking certain religions, so why should targeting Christians be allowed?
I’ve gone back and watched the clip in question, and yes, Reuben Kaye’s attempt to put down Christianity yet again, fell flat. I wonder why?
Insulting Christians is as original as crucifixion and as old as the Bible. That’s the sad irony about mocking the death of Jesus. Far from standing over the Christian faith with comedic judgment, you’re simply following the crowd who were present that day and jeering Jesus as he died. It wasn’t comedy, it was spite.
Luke’s Gospel records the so-called comedic hour at the crucifixion of Jesus,
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Attacking the cross is little more than a pale copy of what the Romans did. The first Christian knew it was a symbol of shame and disgust. The Greek intellectuals happily pointed out how absurd it was to consider the cross as an act of Divine love and redemption. But this foolishness turned out to be the answer that the world so desperately needs.
The attempted humour was offensive but that’s par of the course. It is important for the 6 Christians who watch The Project, and for the rest of us, to respond in a manner that matches how Jesus turned insult into grace. Don’t get fired up. Don’t write angry emails to Channel 10. Avoid spitting on your iPhone as you send that tweet.
“Blessed are meek…Blessed are the merciful…Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
The Apostle Paul writes,
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
The Project co-presenters, Waleed Aly and Sarah Harris, have since offered a public apology. While never watching The Project I often read Waleed’s opinion pieces in the newspaper. His writing is thoughtful and worth consideration. I have no reason to doubt the genuineness of their apology. Thank you. We accept.
So if anyone is thinking about protesting outside Channel 10 today, maybe give it a miss and instead take a few minutes to share with someone why this cross of jokes is in fact more remarkable than they realise.
Australian of the year 2023, Taryn Brumfitt, is a worthy winner who is fighting an issue that is literally aimed at saving the lives of children. Brumfitt came to prominence through her relentless work to fight for children who grow up hating their bodies.
“”We really need to help our kids across Australia and the world because the rates of suicide, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, steroid use, all on the increase related to body dissatisfaction.”
She argues that this relationship with our bodies results from ‘learned behaviour’. Key to her message is that “we weren’t born into the world hating our body”. In other words, our society is teaching and influencing our children to have negative thoughts about their bodies, which of course can lead to serious consequences.
Brumfitt’s mission is to influence and encourage children to embrace their physicality, and not be defined by social influencers and so called culturally perfect images.
Any parent with a daughter (and sons for that matter) is committed to the well-being of our children. Sadly, this isn’t always the case but it is true 98% of the time. I imagine millions of parents, and Aussies more generally, resonate with and applaud the message from our new Australian of the year. We may or may not have first hand experience with body image disorders, but it is clear to most of us that Brumfitt is alerting us to a real problem that is capturing our young people. As Brumfitt testifies, it’s not only teenage girls who experience harmful views of their physical selves, but boys as well, and it is also present among young children,
“It’s getting younger and younger I have to say, I only spoke to a six-year-old recently who was dieting”.
There is something right and beautiful about Taryn Brumfitt affirming the goodness of the human body.
Australia has an uncomfortable relationship with the human body. As I heard the news of our new Australian of the year, it’s hard not to notice a massive disconnect, not in what Brumfitt said in her Australia Day speech but in the broader narrative in our society. You see, there exists a sizeable disjunction between the message Brumfitt is advocating and what is now mainstream thinking about the human body.
I don’t know Brumfitt’s views about transgenderism and how she makes sense of this new and sudden wave of bodily denial, but one thing is for certain, her calls to embrace our physical body is at odds with the ideology that is now sweeping our society and being forcibly taught and embraced from GP rooms to school classrooms and TikTok ‘programs’.
Our culture has adopted a modern day Gnosticism, where the ‘truest’ self is divorced from the physical. We are taught that the real you isn’t the physical body you inhabit but the immaterial desire and feelings that one experiences in the mind. Gender has been divorced from sex and personal identity cut away from physicality. We can’t of course reduce our humanness to physicality for we are spiritual and social beings and thinking and feeling beings. We are more than flesh and blood and DNA but we are not less than those things.
We are witnessing a generation of young people who no longer feel comfortable in their own skin, but are now taught from school to TikTok that their physical bodies betray them, and they may well be living in denial of their true selves.
The result is that 34% of 18-24 now no longer believe they are heterosexual, embodied beings attracted to the opposite sex, but rather they are spread across an imprecise and growing spectrum of self-defining and often bodily denying sexuality and gender.
Many girls and boys now undertake psychological and medical pathways to transition away from their physical sex. The number of young people beginning hormonal medications, psychological treatments, and eventual surgical mutilation of the body, is skyrocketing. We are talking about an increase in gender dysphoria by 1000% in just the space of a few years. Call me, Wiliam of Ockham but this drastic and sudden increase cannot be explained by natural selection. There is something else in the water. Indeed, the iceberg that looms beneath the surface is rightly scary and we’re ill equipped to do little more than chip away at it.
While gender related rejection of the body is deeply personal and impacts the individual, the worldview attached is fast becoming compulsory across all spheres of life. For instance, in the United Kingdom, women are having to fight the government to prevent male rapists from being sent to women’s prisons because the man wishes to identify as female. The World Athletics body has agreed to let transgender women compete against women. The next women’s soccer world cup will be open to men competing (those who say they are women). And when women speak up, they are ridiculed, ostracised and at times threatened. Take note of how the disgusting treatment toward JK Rowling.
Do we see the confusion? Here I say confusion because one wants to think the best of people‘s intentions. Parents who see their children in torment will do anything to find relief. And so if a doctor or counsellor says transition, then I understand them trusting the advice of the professionals. But surely there is also an ear of hypocrisy as well. How can we preach on the one hand, be comfortable in your body, and then insist on the other, reject your body and have it mutilated and permanently damaged in the name of this Gnosticism?
In her book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, journalist Abigail Shreier explores the transgender phenomenon. She blames an ideology that has captured the heart of western cultures. It’s what Carl Truman refers to as ‘expressive individualism. Gender expression has become the trend, and because it’s now described in terms of human rights, no one is allowed to question, doubt or help adjust a child’s sense of identity.
In today’s Australia even questioning a child’s ‘felt’ gender is paramount to the worse kind of blasphemy. In Victoria, parents, teachers, pastors, and pretty much anyone can find themselves charged by the police and imprisoned should they not fully affirm and support a person’s preferred gender identity. We are now forcibly required to ignore the physical body and appearance.
Leaving aside the elephant in the room, it is a good thing when our Australians of the year highlight important social issues that impact the lives of real people. It’s one of the gains in recent years that has been awarded to us through this prestigious accolade.
Those living with discomfort and disconnect with their bodies need our care, not hatred, our kindness not our complicity with a dehumanising project. As much as awareness of these issues helps and as much as positive thinking and imaging may benefit youth as they learn to live in their body, I think Christianity has something to add. The Bible gives us what I believe is an even better message, one that is more secure. The ultimate resolution doesn’t lay in the self, for the self is existentially unstable. If the best of me can fail and disappoint, what about the rest of me? If this was not the case, we wouldn’t have a generation of Australians journeying down this dangerous and harmful pathway to physical destruction and mental anx. The Bible gives us a better story and greater hope.
Psalm 139 exclaims,
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Grounding our personhood in the knowledge that we are wonderfully made by God, is liberating and securing. The Bible’s story doesn’t end there. The Scriptures also acknowledge ways we often hide from ourselves (and from God). The Bible points out the realities of the darkness in the world and in our own hearts. The story however doesn’t end with darkness and despair, for the Scriptures move us to the culmination of the story,
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason, he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18)
There is a constancy in our world of body image flaws and troubles. There is an anchor for all the spiritual and material wants and sins. This Jesus, the eternal Son of God, didn’t abandon the body; he became human for us. He entered the physical and spiritual turmoil that fills the world, taking its sins and shame in order to bring redemption and life. He understands. He makes atonement. He helps. That is a good news message for Australians today.
Carols by Candle Light at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne is an annual pilgrimage for thousands of Melbournians. For many more, the 3-hour Christmas extravaganza provides background Christmas mood music on tv and radio for families madly wrapping Christmas and preparing food for the big day.
Perhaps it’s my grinch-like tendencies, but my enthusiasm for watching what is essentially a pentecostal styled pop concert (or Wiggles for grown-ups!) doesn’t appeal to my musical sensibilities. It’s hard not to notice the jarring vibrato of Australian artists singing the most sublime truths known to the world while disbelieving them in their hearts and lives.
Half of my readers are probably letting out a quiet nod of agreement (and the other half now have confirmation that Murray is the grinch). With that confession (or rather a criticism) out of the way, I want to share something that did strike me even as the show played on in the background of my home.
One of our nephews was performing and so we had instructions from the family to keep an eye (and ear) open for him. The band played on through our television when two quite wonderful performances came on stage, one after the other, both causing me to pause eating Christmas lunch ahead of schedule.
Silvie Paladino sang the not so Christmas carol, ‘How great thou art’, and then the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir sang an old German carol in their own native tongue, Western Arrernte and Pitjantjatjara language. This 19th century carol arrived in central Australia when Lutheran missionaries came to share the good news of Jesus. Generations later, these songs about Jesus have formed part of the local culture and are now been sung beautifully in aboriginal languages. The choral performance was indeed a special moment.
Anyone who watches Candles by Candlelight will know that the music is mishmash of secular and sacred songs. Rudolph with his red nose and Santa Claus coming are intermingled with ‘The First Noel’, and without any sense of distinguishing between fiction and fact. The entire evening is a jumble of feel good old time tradition.
Silvie Paladino’s song choice, at least for me, interrupted the show in the same way a lit candle intrudes on a darkened room.
“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art”.
These words reflect the heart of the Christian message. Christmas is about preparing for and pointing to that cross.
I don’t know about you, but when I heard those words, something good stirred inside. We’ve done a fine job sanitising the birth of Jesus, washing over many of the particulars that make the incarnation so extraordinary and thwart with danger and awe. However, it’s not so easy to give a PG rating to that bloodstained cross. 2,000 years on and that cross remains the most ignominious moment in history. We like the Christmas part of the story, but the death part? No one has lived as pure and innocent a life as Jesus, and yet he willingly walked the road to crucifixion and experienced the worst of evil. The cross is both the world’s greatest horror and the world’s greatest hope. The cross stupefies human power trips and intellectual exercises. The cross exposes human hubris, the reality of evil, the holiness of God, and the nature of true Divine love.
It’s hard enough convincing Aussies today of the reality of Jesus’ birth, let alone the death absorbing and life giving hope through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And yet, as Silvie Paladino sang, ‘That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin’.
As I read my Bible, I read something about the death of Jesus every week. Each Sunday as I have the privilege and responsibility to preach at church, I have the opportunity to explain this ancient story that continues and will forever define every generation and part of the world. At Christmas, I want to hear about the cross. The Bible tells us, that Jesus’ birth is designed to prepare for that cross and to miss it is to keep wonders from peoples’ minds and hearts.
Stan Grant wrote a moving piece on ABC about the Nick Cave concert he recently attended.
“But I sensed a space between the religion that Nick Cave speaks of and the desire of many in the audience for some connection.
They wanted the personal touch of Nick Cave the rock star. But did they want the touch of God?
Some, perhaps many, just like me, no doubt would have. But I could not help but think that many – if not most – in the audience would have been more comfortable with a spiritual experience.
This was a secular audience. How many of those with their hands outreaching would likely be found in the pews of church?”
Stan Grant points out, as does Nick Cave, the expressive individualism that dominates our current cultural sensibilities isn’t producing the freedom and life that we are looking for. Rather, it agitates and further debilitates the human longing. Stan Grant reflects on his indigenous heritage and points us to the same saviour whom the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir sang about and whom Silvie Paladino sought to highlight on Christmas Eve
“In times of grief, catastrophe or tragedy, do the secular shibboleths of reason or science or law or rights fill the God-shaped hole?
Cave says the modern faiths of politics or identity don’t answer those questions for him.
Religion matters, church matters to Nick Cave. It is where he draws closer to the crucified Christ.”
If this is the real thing, then the hymn writer is right to exclaim,
“Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art”
How much better is the story that God is there and he is greater and better than we ever imagined. It is more satisfying and exciting to consider this Jesus story than to carry around the baggage of self-hope and self fulfilment and self defining reality.
The Apostle Paul explains it this way,
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
Here’s my final word for 2022, don’t dismiss the songs we sang on Christmas day. Don’t disregard the message we heard as we visited Church over Christmas. Instead, consider, that maybe, just perhaps we ought to take another look at this message of the Christ.
Religious freedom received an early Christmas present this year with Essendon Football Club today issuing an apology to Andrew Thorburn.
The forced resignation of Andrew Thorburn in October, following less than 24 hours in the job as Essendon’s new CEO, was one of the biggest stories in Victoria for 2022. After journalists dug into his church’s website, they found sermons where both homosexual practices and abortion were referred to as sinful.
It was a classic case of cut and paste; find something controversial and ignore the rest. There was one insensitive analogy contained in one of the quoted sermons, but otherwise, the views expressed by Thorburn’s church are what you will find in any Christian Church across Australia. City on a Hill, is a mainstream Anglican Church that preaches the sermon Gospel that is common around Australia and which is deeply embedded in historic Christianity. In today’s age of tolerance and diversity, classical Christian views are considered today’s heresy and worthy of public humiliation and even loss of employment. Thorburn’s sin was that he attends COAH and until recently served as Chair of the Council.
The Essendon board clearly thought that were acting with the backing of the new moral majority. Certainly, there was plenty of outrage found in printed media and Premier Daniel Andrews was quick to grab the footy and run with it. Perhaps the more accurate metaphor was that Andrews tackled the man without the ball! He said,
“those views are absolutely appalling.”
“I don’t support those views, that kind of intolerance, that kind of hatred, bigotry, is just wrong.
“Those sort of attitudes are simply wrong and to dress that up as anything other than bigotry is just obviously false.”
Business columnist for The Age, Elizabeth Knight, argued that the Thorburn case is proof that religion and business don’t mix and Christians holding to, you know, Christian things, should be excluded from the business world.
“Business doesn’t mix with religion in the same way it doesn’t mix with pleasure. Some would argue that AFL is a religion among its legion of fans, but first and foremost it’s a business. Andrew Thorburn and Essendon’s management that stupidly appointed him as the chief executive should have understood this.”
“A decade or two ago, corporations and their stakeholders may have tolerated Thorburn’s association with a church with strong views on the homosexuality and abortion. But not today.
Whether Thorburn personally holds those extreme opinions is irrelevant, Essendon is a valuable and highly recognised brand, and it cannot afford to be tarnished by any proximity to views that are deemed offensive by a big chunk of its fan base and the broader community.”
At the time, Andrew Thorburn released a statement in which he fairly summed up the situation,
“ today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square.”
While Essendon FC initially responded in tune with the public cheer squad, they almost certainly acted outside the law. Legal experts have for months suggested that Thorburn has a case against the football club for unlawful religious discrimination.
Andrew Thorburn engaged with lawyers and has now engaged with Essendon. Today, the football club has formally apologised to him and donated an undisclosed sum to an ethics institute. Thorburn has agreed to drop all legal action against the club.
Will others follow suit and apologise for their role in this unnecessary saga?
This is a welcome outcome. One, it communicates to the business world that you can’t push out Christians (and people of other faiths) from the workforce on account of their religious associations or beliefs. More importantly, as someone who has been watching at some distance, I am thankful for the way Andrew Thorburn has responded throughout. I didn’t read or hear any vindictive words or slanderous retorts, as did fill much of the discourse surrounding the story. Rather, he approached the club and offered to help on a volunteer basis. He didn’t demand financial recompense as he might have done, instead, the agreed sum is going to a charity.
The Bible verse that comes to mind as I learn of how Andrew Thorburn has behaved is 1 Peter 3:9.
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
While the law may have come to Thorburn’s defence in this instance, Victorians are very much aware of how religious freedoms have diminished somewhat in recent years. And given the Government and current cultural preferences, these freedoms are likely to further narrow in times ahead. So while we were shocked by the appalling treatment Thorburn received by Essendon, our Premier and others, I’m grateful for the gracious way Thorburn has responded, and it’s one that we may do well to consider for ourselves when that day arrives.
You see, Christians can hold to Jesus’ teaching about marriage and about life, and treat others with kindness and grace. Accepting the Bible’s vision for human life and human sexuality doesn’t breed bigotry, but a profound desires for the best for others. Holding these things together may be anathema to our zealous culture, but they can and do belong. Christians don’t choose between truth and love, or between grace and goodness. Indeed, this is one of the wonders of the Christmas message.
When it comes to Christmas, once we’ve unwrapped all the pageantry, presents, and tinsel, we find the message of God come to earth. The infant born in Bethlehem was the universe’s maker, true God from true God. God didn’t leave heaven to experience the most ordinary of beginnings because his view of the human condition is one of a premiership winning footy team. God saw helpless, hopeless, sinful people breaking all the rules of the game and thumbing their noses at the umpire. Knowing this, God determined, in love I want to redeem them.
The Bible text for my Christmas Day sermon puts it this way,
“ we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)
Today is a good day for Victoria. Christmas Day points us to an even better day that can be known every day regardless of how the wind is blowing in old Melbourne town.
Who am I? Who are we? How can we even begin to navigate these questions?
I don’t know who needs to read these words, but I pray that they will reach many who are finding life distressing, overwhelming, and as though they are fighting a hopeless battle against despair.
This week I’ve been meditating on a prayer, Psalm 139. It is both poetry and prayer, communicating extraordinary truths about both God and us. It will be my privilege to teach Psalm 139 at Mentone Baptist Church on the first Sunday of 2023. But I thought I would preempt this upcoming sermon and share some reflections on this Psalm of David here on the blog.
I am hearing so many stories of people struggling with mental health issues, men and women trying to understand questions about personal identity and worth, and families trying to keep everything together in the midst of financial hardship.
Today, The Age headlined this story, ‘Mental health disorders increase among children as young as 18 months’. Yesterday, the media reported the dire situation facing families trying to access mental health care for their children.
There is also much anger and distrust being vented in society; much of it is justified, while some is misplaced. Far from communities becoming closer together, we are becoming more fractious.
Just as lurking behind the excitement and successes of the Football World Cup are terrible injustices and abuses, underneath the veneer of Australia’s prosperity are millions of Aussies feeling lost and searching for meaning and hope.
This is where Psalm 139 offers us insights into God and ourselves that are wonderful and necessary, poignant and so refreshing. My aim here isn’t to offer a detailed explanation of every word or sentence, but hopefully to say something of use that will encourage you the reader to ponder the words of Psalm 139 yourself, and even to share it with others.
The author of this prayer is David, the famous King of Israel. Despite his position ruling over a nation, he addresses God in a personal way. For David, God isn’t a remote or abstract Divine Being who is somewhere responsible for everything. He calls God, ‘Lord’, which is God’s special name given to his covenant people for them to address Him. To know God as Lord is to enjoy a personal connection and relationship with Him.
The Psalm consists of 4 stanzas. I’ll quote each stanza in turn, and offer a brief comment about each one.
1. God knows us intimately
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
This is a message that’s worth us getting our heads around: We are not unknown to God. In fact, David recognises how the Lord knows him better than David knows himself. We all have someone idea about our deepest convictions, desires, fears, and joys. We have some ability to hide aspects of our personality and ambitions from others. We might even successfully block out aspects of hearts from our own consciousness.
God however sees everything. He wouldn’t be much of a God if he doesn’t. David talks about how God peers into our minds and knows our thoughts. He knows what I’m going say before the words leave my tongue. This isn’t some spooky kind of trolling, but a picture of God who both understands us and who cares for us. For example, the metaphor in verse 5 of, ‘you lay your hand upon me, speaks of a gentleness and love that is active in God toward us.
I love David’s reaction in verse 6.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
He isn’t just saying that this is an intellectual absurdity and therefore cannot be true. David’s point is, ‘God, you blow my mind’. God is above him in wisdom and comprehension. Einstein and Mozart are like simpletons, compared to the mind of God. This knowledge is formidable but not scary because this personal knowing is from the God who cares for us. This knowledge brings David comfort and assurance; God understands me.
2. We can’t hide from God.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Jonah famously tried to do a runner and escape God, as though we can outstride or out-think God. As David exclaims, where can we hide from the God who made the universe? In our bedroom? In the desert? Under the ocean? What if I close my mind to God and eat the key?
Running away from God is futile and David knows it. As he considers the God of the Bible, he doesn’t want to remove God but instead rest in Him. Because God is truly God, we are safe in Him.
3. You made me
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
These verses are replete with exquisite images that fill life with meaning and awe. Take for example, the stunning metaphor in verse 13, ‘God knitted us together in the womb.’
No wonder, David’s mind is again blown away,
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.
These words are true not only for David but also for every human being. This testimony has profound meaning and implications for how we view other people and also ourselves.
As the artist is devoted to his/her work and as a composer imprints their own glory in the music, so each and every human being has intrinsic value, glory and worth. Monet’s Water Lilies were no mistake and Schumann’s Piano Concerto was no misstep or blunder. You are not a gaffe or error. You are not a waste. You are not insignificant. We are profoundly known and loved by our creator God.
4. God, change me
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
I appreciate how these verses may make some of us cringe or feel a little uncomfortable. Aren’t we meant to forgive everyone? Should we not look for the best in people?
There are a number of threads appearing in this final stanza, which are each true and somehow need to be held together despite apparent tensions or even contradictions with other parts of the Bible.
David is expressing to God how he is feeling as he reacts to enemies who are seeing his demise.
It’s okay to long for justice and for God to punish evil. We don’t want evil to win out in the end, but for wrongdoing to be punished, whether the perpetrators are individuals or corporations or institutions. Asking God to bring justice and to judge wickedness is an entirely right and good prayer. Christians may not stop at that point, for we also long for mercy and forgiveness, but we also believe in and trust in God who is righteous and who will hold the world account.
David’s enemies were often political, whether rebels attempting to usurp his throne or competing nations who waged war against Israel. David’s prayer reflects the system of government that existed and set the boundaries of God’s people at that particular time. This isn’t our situation today. The Church isn’t a nation-state or system of government. As we discover in the New Testament, our King is the true David, Jesus Christ. When churches are oppressed, our answer isn’t to go to war or to hunt down assassins, but “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14) and “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” Luke 6:27).
It is important to continue reading as the Psalm doesn’t end at verse 22, but with verses 23-24. David doesn’t end on a note of vengeance but with a plea for God to examine his (my) own heart.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
It seems as though David’s aware that strong emotions can be misleading, and mixed up, and that he himself might have sin lurking about in his own life. David is praying, Lord is, sift through my prayer because you know what’s true and what’s not true, and where I’m right and where I’m wrong. You are able to do this because you know me well. Where and if there’s anything offensive in me, lead away from it and to the way everlasting.
David isn’t self-righteous or strident or judgmental. His prayer is, Lord, change me. This is of course a far cry from our cultural sermons which defines change as heterodox. Our prayers today are less, ‘Lord, change me, they are more often, ‘God affirm everything about me’. Our 21st Century prayers often finish at verse 22, judge my oppressors and justify me.
No wonder our streets and suburbs are filling with growing vexation, anxiety, and melancholy. The burden we are placing on ourselves is too great.
This Psalm can speak both of wonderment and of wrong. Wonderment in God who made us and wrong in what others do and even what I have done. Our culture can’t sustain this tension. The Bible is able to both speak of immense value and worth of every human being and also remind us of profound sinfulness. Any time when we hold onto one of these truths and not the other, we are only a short journey away from an identity crisis and social catastrophe. David was conscious of both and he found resolution and peace in the fact that hope isn’t found in himself, but in a God who can be trusted.
The ultimate and final fulfilment of this Psalm is found in that little child born in Bethlehem whom millions around Australia will soon be singing about as Christmas approaches.
The book of Hebrews reminds us,
“we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:9-11)
Last night in Melbourne, Christopher Watkin’s new book, Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense, was launched. There will be further launch events in Sydney, UK and the USA over the coming days.
The room at RTC (Reformed Theological College) was filled with many uni students, academics, pastors in attendance, and many others from various works of life. The food, wine, and conversations kept flowing late into the night (in the end I had to ask people to go home!). Each one of the 4 speeches last night was impressive and interesting, reflecting on the content of Chris’ writing (of course!) and the value this book may bring to the world of thought, university, church, and society.
The only downside of the evening was that we couldn’t get our hands on enough copies of the book. The first print was sold out even prior to its formal release date. People took a number and we swirled those little pieces of paper in a large bowl and then picked out numbers. 12 very excited persons (think of the atmosphere for a winning auction bid), then purchased a signed copy of Biblical Critical Theory.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As a reviewer recently said of Biblical Critical Theory, all the hype really isn’t exaggerated, and each of the addresses last night, given by Dr Sarah Irving-Stonebroker, Mr Barney Zwartz, and Dr Andrew Moody, testified to this. I am hoping that these talks may become available on The Gospel Coalition Australia website in days to come.
Allow me to share what I said at the beginning of the evening and the prayer in which I closed the event.
“Good evening and welcome. On behalf of The Gospel Coalition Australia, it is wonderful to see you all this evening for this special event.
My name is Murray Campbell. I serve on the National Council and State committee for The Gospel Coalition and I serve as the Senior Pastor at Mentone Baptist church. It is a joy to call Chris a friend and brother. I’ve had the privilege to know Chris and Ali for the past 9 years and have followed his work and writing with great eagerness and interest and benefit.
We are here to launch Christopher Watkin’s new book, Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense
The author of the monumental work the City of God, Augustine, lived during the turbulent times of the Roman Empire crumbling.
Augustine wasn’t from the City of Rome, although he would visit during the course of his life. He was born in the small provincial North African town of Thagaste. He would later live in Carthage. Yet, Augustine’s influence reached Rome and throughout the Empire, and indeed even throughout the world today.
Perhaps Yorkshire is a bit like Thagaste, and Melbourne is a modern-day Carthage.
Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense offers readers a comprehensive view of the world through the lens of the Bible.
Chris’ writing is clear, irenic, and profound. Chris understands the complexity of both the Bible and our culture. The work is deeply biblical and culturally masterful.
Time will tell how important this work will become, but I suggest that this is a significant body of thought that we will do well to read slowly and carefully and consider with seriousness.
Tonight we have 3 guest speakers with us who are each going to give a short address speaking to the book.
Dr Sarah Irving Stonebraker is a Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Western Sydney.
Barney Zwartz is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity and was the Religions Editor at the The Age for many years
Dr Andrew Moody is a Melbourne-based theologian and Editorial Director for The Gospel Coalition Australia.
I’d like to invite Dr Christopher Watkin forward and hand over to him.”
“Our Father in heaven, we thank you for the mind and understanding you have given Chris. We thank you for this book written to help us understand your world and life in it. We pray that you will use Chris’ writing to give people confidence in the Bible, to see that it is a fountain of knowledge and wisdom and goodness, and a lens through which we can understand the world.
May it be read widely and deeply and be part of that chain of Christian thought that echoes through the generations, to point people to your Son.
New South Wales and ACT Baptists are meeting tomorrow to discuss and decide an issue that denominations across the world are facing. There are a set of motions requiring churches and accredited pastors to affirm “Marriage is a covenant relationship ordained by God as a lifelong faithful union of one man and one woman. Sexual intimacy outside such a marriage relationship is incompatible with God’s intention for us as his people”.
The topic is broader than sexuality. In 2021 the NSW & ACT Assembly affirmed that both churches and accredited pastors be required to affirm the “basic doctrines, objects and values of the Association”
Depending on the outcome of the Assembly meeting, Baptist Churches that don’t affirm these positions may be required to leave the association and pastors lose their accreditation. This is of course a significant subject and one where we pray Christians will speak and listen graciously and especially listen to and believe what God has spoken in the Bible. Affirming marriage should not be a controversial issue among churches, and it is a sad indictment on churches that there is any dispute or disagreement here. To believe that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman and that all other sexual relationships are sinful is doing nothing more than believing what Jesus taught and what the Apostles affirmed.
Sydney Baptist and Morling College lecturer, Mike Frost, has expressed disagreement with the move. He has written an article to presumably dissuade delegates from supporting the motions. While he is not saying that he supports same-sex marriage (I suspect he doesn’t), he argues that baptists can and should remain together even when we disagree over this issue. Frost’s position is problematic for several reasons.
First, he makes an important category error. He puts same-sex marriage under the umbrella of ‘non-core issues’. He uses the phrase repeatedly throughout his piece and he concludes with this sentence,
“But instead of rallying to fulfill these bold visions for Christian mission, we’re debating the ins and outs of how to expel a tiny number of churches that don’t agree with the majority on yet another non-core issue.”
Contrary to what Frost asserts, our understanding of sexual relations is a gospel issue. Our understanding of sexuality and marriage is connected to our view of Jesus, the Bible, the nature of sin and salvation, and more. Jesus was clear when he described sexual relations outside marriage between a man and a woman is porneia.
The Apostle Paul is also clear,
“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Jesus and Paul define homosexual relations as sinful and keeping people outside the Kingdom of God. I don’t see how Frost can declare that this is ‘yet another non-core issue’ when the Bible is pretty clear that it is.
In 1 Timothy Paul spells out as unambiguously as anywhere in the Bible how any sexual relations outside marriage contradict sound doctrine and the gospel,
“We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”
Mike Frost telling his readers that this is a non-core issue, doesn’t stack up according to the Scriptures. These are not matters on which Christians can agree to disagree. This is a gospel matter. Where people cannot agree on the gospel, how can there be partnership and association?
Second, Mike Frost makes another category error. His heading proposes that requiring common assent to Baptist doctrine is, ‘Breaking up the family in pursuit of uniformity’.
The suggestion of uniformity is misleading. This isn’t about uniformity, it is about standing together on clear and gospel issues.
No Baptist is asking for agreement on every dot and flick and iota. No Baptist is demanding a uniform position on eschatology or the gifts of the Spirit. No one is asking for uniformity in the style of church service. Frost’s own article provides several examples of where Baptists have agreed to disagree. In suggesting that same-sex marriage is on par with these other issues is a serious mistake. Again, if Jesus calls an activity sin and if Paul says an activity keeps a person outside the Kingdom of God, how can we partner with churches who teach this harmful idea?
Genuine Christian unity is both theological and spiritual, and the two belong together. Paul writes to the Ephesians,
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ”
Unity requires speaking truth in love and standing against teaching that is false and dangerous. It is because Christian unity is so precious, that remaining in that which unites is of such importance
I have argued elsewhere that baptists historically have written and affirmed doctrinal statements and positions when the need arose. There is a popular view today among Baptists that we are anti-creedal and that we don’t want or need statements of faith in order to join together. The saying, ‘no creed but Christ’ may sound appealing, but it’s neither historically true nor wise.
Throughout 400 years of Baptist history, various baptist fellowships have written confessions and statements of doctrine and required assent to them. One of the little-known facts about baptists is that we have more doctrinal statements than probably every other protestant denomination! The desire among NSW baptist churches to stand on the Christian view of marriage (and more) isn’t less than baptist, it is in keeping with many baptists historically (including those in Australia).
Third, Frost speaks of a bold vision for mission, but how can there be a shared mission when churches (or pastors) don’t share the same message?
Mission is about telling people the good news of Jesus Christ, but if two churches believe two different gospels, how we can partner together?
For instance, Baptist pastors and churches who support same-sex marriage do not accept that repentance is required, rather these relationships should be celebrated by churches. How can two churches go on mission together when one says repentance is necessary and the other says it is not?
Our neighbours and communities don’t need churches that play the lyrebird and mimic back to them their own moral and spiritual proclivities. The gospel of Jesus Christ is far more compelling, subverting and beautiful.
I recall an observation made last year by British historian Tom Holland,
“I see no point in bishops or preachers or Christian evangelists just recycling the kind of stuff you can get from any kind of soft left liberal because everyone is giving that…if they’ve got views on original sin I would be very interested to hear that”.
Affirming basic Christian beliefs will serve both our churches well, and our local communities. Anything else is a pathway to a brittle skeletal institutionalism and an irrelevance to the Kingdom God is building.
While it’s great to hear Mike Frost advocating mission, he’s sticking a cork in the breech here. How can shared mission take place when there isn’t agreement on the gospel and what it means to repent and what it means to be saved? Indeed how can there be partnership in any meaningful way when the very thing that unites Christians is disputed and even denied by some?
While Frost wants everyone to keep singing together, the reality is those baptists who advocate same-sex marriage are singing a different song, with different lyrics and melody. Their position not only contradicts the formal position on marriage, some are actively seeking to change this established position. The point is, these Baptists are unlikely to be satisfied until such time the denomination has changed to Australia’s latest views on sexuality and gender. After all, if they are serious about this being a justice and gospel issue, as I have often heard, how can they rest until the baptist view accepts same-sex weddings and marriages?
The notion that we can and will all live together in a joyful forward movement mission is somewhat disingenuous, given the ambition of some baptists is to change core baptist convictions.
I’m praying for tomorrow’s meeting. Of course, it is difficult. If our churches are not able to have these important conversations and if we are not prepared to affirm the very things for which Christ died, then what are we about? God honours the faithfulness of his people. It may not win us popularity votes or praise in ecclesial halls, but there is something remarkably simple and attractive and good about faithfulness and sticking with what God says.
The people who often suffer most through these conversations are same-sex attracted Christians who believe in Jesus and are living faithful and celibate lives for the sake of the Kingdom. To have churches teaching that they need not repent and should instead live out their desires is a great and terrible disservice to these brothers and sisters. Should we not support and encourage them in godliness by affirming the same Gospel together?
I trust other State Unions may look on at what is transpiring in NSW and take courage to also stand and make these clear affirmations and positions for the sake of the Gospel around Australia.
One of the important topics today is understanding church and state. I gave this sermon recently at my home church, Mentone Baptist Church.
The sermon explains why hardline secularism is problematic and so is Christian nationalism. The Bible doesn’t lead us in either direction but provides a better and dynamic relationship between church and state whether the two don’t fuse together and neither do they ignore each other.
is the death of his faithful servants.” (Psalm 116:15)
The Queen is dead. God save the King
I went to sleep last night having heard the breaking news that the Queen’s family were rushing to Balmoral and with Doctors concerned for her. I woke at 3:35am and checked my Twitter feed, and I watched the world hear the announcement that the Queen has died. This is one of those rare moments in life that one doesn’t forget. I spoke with my children this morning and told them, this is a history defining day.
With her death, there is a tangible sense of loss and grief. I am sad today. I never had the privilege of knowing her or meeting her. I once saw her for a few seconds in Australia as she drove by, and yet like many millions around the world, we sense that the world is a poorer place today with her passing.
Like most people, I have known only one monarch during my life and so it is hard to fathom a world without Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. She was our head of State. Her image is printed on all Australian currency. Her name was never far from the news. The Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth became a grandmother figure to leaders across the globe, giving stability and assurance to a rapidly changing and uncertain world.
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne during the post-war years, and she reigned through the revolutionary 60s, the rise of pop culture, man on the moon, the fall of the Soviet Union, the creation of the internet, 9/11, the smartphone, Brexit, and countless crises and peaks. Her Majesty served her country and the Commonwealth with unparalleled grace, repose, sincerity and love. The Queen had the remarkable fortitude to stand above the heat of political maneuverings and culture wars. Even through family tragedies and sadness, our Queen did not flinch from her promise to love and serve her people.
In part due to her long reign, and much because of her dignity and servant nature, Queen Elizabeth stands as perhaps the most important world figure of the last 70 years. Her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, arguably the most important man of the first half of the 20th Century. It does not require much argument to see Her Majesty as the most emblematic and esteemed leader of the second half of the 20th Century and over these first decades of the 21st Century.
It is right to pause today and give thanks to God for her life. It is appropriate to take time to consider her passing and to mourn. The reason is not that her life has more value than any other. Thousands of people have died across the world today and Queen Elizabeth is but one of those lives. However, her position as our monarch, and the integrity and honour in which she has conducted her role, leaves not only an impression on the pages of history but perhaps brings a close to one of the final chapters of history.
Her reign oversaw the greatest momentum in human technological and economic advancement that history has ever witnessed, and the world through globalisation became much smaller. In recent times, especially over the last 5 years, we have begun to watch a disintegration of global homogeny and there is an infection eating our culture and splintering communities and families alike. While we have never been closer in proximity, waves of ideology is attacking the very notion of human identity and defying the imago dei, and nationalist ideals are rekindling and creating a world that is less safe for our children. The pieces are moving quickly and any notion of Francis Fukuyama’s vision is proven to be little more than hubris and misplaced self-belief.
I will pray for the Queen’s family today, and pray for King Charles III. The Scriptures command Christians, “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”, and so that is what I will do.
The greatest contribution offered to the world by Queen Elizabeth was her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom she believed and placed her ultimate hope. At Easter 2020, Her Majesty spoke of the resurrection of Jesus,
“The discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose… As dark as death can be – particularly for those suffering with grief – light and life are greater.”
Last year in her annual Christmas speech, the Queen shared her trust in the Lord Jesus. She said,
“Jesus teachings have been the bedrock of my faith”.
And she concluded by pointing us to her hope,
“His birth marked a new beginning. As the carol says: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight”
A monarch who bows the knee to Jesus as Lord encapsulates the posture and foresight to rule and be an example for people to follow.
The Queen is dead. Elizabeth lives.
“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thess 4:14)
Queen Elizabeth ascended to the throne during a time of dawning hope and mounting optimism following half a century of global bloodshed. She leaves the earth with the light of hope in human determination growing dim over the world, but the light she saw in God’s gospel of grace remains bright and clear and now our Queen is meeting the King of Kings and enjoying his presence forevemore.
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
A game of AFL is taking place on a local oval when a small group jump the fence and start kicking a round ball along the ground. The game stops. Players approach the group and ask them to desist.
They retort, ‘we’re also playing football.
The players answer, ‘no, you’re playing a different game. Different ball, different shaped ground, different goals….if you’re interested, you can join us but first of all, get rid of the soccer ball’.
The group insist, ‘no, we are playing football. We can all play together at the same time.”
In trying to point out the obvious, someone again speaks up, ‘hang on, look…the balls are a different shape. The goals are different. You’re wanting a completely different sport.’
Ignoring the self-evident, the group gaslight the footy plays and again insist,
“We’re going to use this ground. Let’s talk about it. Let’s arrange a series of meetings to sort it out. After all, what we share in common is far greater than our differences.”
In the meantime, the match has been severely disrupted, the umpires feel bullied, and with each new sentence uttered by the small group of soccer players, they encroach further onto the oval and begin handing out Man U jumpers to everyone.
A significant announcement was made this week, one which may change the Church landscape in Australia. The decision is not so much about changing the game but is confirming that we will not change the game. GAFCON is responding to what is a tireless intrusion onto Christian Churches by certain bishops and leaders who are trying to change the Gospel beyond recognition. They are not playing the same game as Christians Churches, but something quite different.
Bishop Richard Condie, has explained the situation well,
“You know as well as I do that there is an emergency…When some of our bishops have failed to affirm basic biblical teachings [on marriage and sexual ethics] at the recent General Synod – when 12 of our bishops failed to uphold what Christians have taught for millennia – you know there is an emergency.”
“The issue for us is the authority of the Bible.”
He’s right. And let’s not fall for the red herring, “GAFCON are obsessed with sex and sexuality”, as one person put it yesterday. Not at all. It is the errant bishops who keep pushing and insisting churches allow and change their doctrines and practices on sex and marriage. GAFCON is rightly observing how these aberrant views impact and are ultimately shaped by a distorted theology of the Bible and the Gospel.
Marriage may be the presenting issue, but it is about so much more. There is an irreconcilable view of the Bible, of the cross, of the nature of sin and salvation, and the list continues. It shouldn’t surprise us to learn that ecclesial leaders who reject the Bible’s teaching on sexuality often don’t believe in other crucial doctrines including the atonement and the resurrection.
As we turn to Jesus, we find the superlative includer. Jesus shows kindness and mercy toward those who for 100 reasons sit outside the Kingdom of God. The very definition of a Christian is someone who did not belong and now by grace alone is welcomed by God. The same Jesus insisted on the biblical teaching on marriage and human sexuality. Jesus describes any sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman as ‘immoral. Today’s faithless bishops are pretty much saying, Jesus is wrong.
The Bible is clear, our moral practitioning is connected to other essential Christian beliefs about God and about sin and salvation and more.
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
“ We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:9-11)
Churches that adopt the anthropological positions of popular culture are not serving their community well or God. They are giving people a message without hope and without grace. They are like an old English General sipping his brandy from a grand chateau while sending a carrier pigeon to the front line and telling the soldiers in the trenches, ‘there is peace. You are safe. All is well’.
Even as hundreds of Australian Anglicans meet in Canberra this week, I’ve heard some Anglican voices crying out, ‘peace, peace…what we need to do is keep dialoguing and living together’.
This reminds me of Bishop Curry and his famed sermon of ‘love’ at Meghan and Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018. Behind the scenes, this preacher of love was seizing church properties and dragging leaders before disciplinary hearings. For what crime of the church? These pastors and churches continued to teach the orthodox position on marriage rather than capitulating to the culture.
Conversations and meetings and forums and synods have met for years, and sadly little progress made. What are Christian Churches meant to do when bishops and coaches insist on changing the very game?
GAFCON is choosing faithfulness to God over allegiance to broken institutions.
The Sydney Morning Herald has published a fair report on the story, although there was this one unfortunate line,
“The Diocese of the Southern Cross was formally launched in Canberra on Sunday. The first service was led by a rebel minister who resigned from the liberal Brisbane Archdiocese because he “cannot go along with same-sex blessings”.
Rebel isn’t the right word to describe Rev Peter Palmer. He has given up a steady stipend and is now driving a bus to put bread on the table. His congregation has lost their church’s property. Far from being a ‘rebel minister’, Palmer is a Christian minister who has chosen to remain faithful to Jesus while his Diocesan bishops have chosen faithlessness to both the Gospel and the churches under their care.
As news of this week’s GAFCON announcement circulates, I am not hearing cheers and laughter over the decision to introduce a new Anglican Diocese in Australia, but tears and lament at seeing ecclesial leaders persisting with errant teachings and destroying churches under their care. And there is love for God and the deep desire for the Gospel to go out to Australians.
Christ’s Church is holy to God. The Gospel is too vital for Christians to play ball with those who are maligning it. People (both inside and outside churches) are too important and misleading them with errant teachings doesn’t help anyone.
This issue isn’t limited to the Anglican Communion. There are other Christian denominations in Australia facing similar trouble. Eventually, we must decide, who will we follow. Will we obey the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, or will we play the role of the chameleon and keep changing the gospel according to the whims of the culture?