Which Story of Children will our Society Esteem?

The way our society treats its children is a reflection of the gods we make and worship. The gods of Sepharvaim had an insatiable appetite in Ancient Babylon, requiring the sacrifice of the young. The Valley of Benn Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem, was a place of liberation in the Eighth Century BC. Children were offered up to the gods as a means to find personal freedoms and prosperity.  More revealing, the mistreatment of children is a sign of decaying society and failing religion.

Will we never learn the lessons from the past?

Two stunning revelations have been made over the weekend and yet neither are being reported by most Australian media. Truth and moral good ought to be relevant to our television news producers and newspaper editors but some truths are inconvenient to the prescribed narrative.

First of all, an interview went viral on social media with a BBC journalist being visibly shaken by the confessions of an abortion doctor in the United States. Not only did DR Leroy Carhart freely admit that the babies he kills are children, but he also explained how he refers to them as children in front of his patients. There is no hiding behind the disingenuous rhetoric of babies being a clump of cells or foetuses. When pressed about late term abortions, ‘does he perform abortions up until 38 weeks…39 weeks…’, he refused to answer.

Second, one of Australia’s major providers of abortion has acknowledged that they have no issue with gender-specific abortion. Phillip Goldstone, who is the Director of Marie Stopes, stated in a submission to the NSW Government’s inquiry into abortion,

“We do not support the inclusion of gender selection in the Bill and we strongly caution against amendments to the legislation as the issue of gender selection and termination of pregnancy is not grounded in evidence.

Further public debate or amendments on this issue has the potential to discriminate against multicultural and diverse communities in Australia and would unfairly target people who already face barriers in accessing abortion care.”

The narrative that our newspapers are presenting is that abortion is:

  1. The very difficult decision being made by courageous women
  2. Late term abortions are rare
  3. Gender selective abortion isn’t an issue

The problem with points 2 and 3 is that they are simply not true. What constitutes rare? 500 babies per annum? 300…200…100? Does rare constitute unimportant? I certainly hope not.

After the Bill passed the Legislative Assembly last week, Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, spoke up on the issue of gender selective abortion, suggesting,  “Everybody regards that as an abhorrent practice.”

Her words echo about the chamber that has just refused an amendment that would have prohibited gender selective abortion. The Assembly refused to protect vulnerable girls in the face of not only a moral imperative and commonsense but did so with evidence coming from Victoria that reveals gender based abortion is a fact in Australia. In Victoria, girls are more likely to be aborted than boys. And as Phillip Goldstone has made clear, this should be a viable option for women. The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed Dr Goldstone last week but failed to ask him about why he refuses to back amendments that would ban gender selective abortion. 

It is astonishing to see that as the facts surrounding abortion come to light, notable social commentators and reporters, and even politicians, simply suppress or explain away and even ignore what is true. The truth is ghastly. It is truly horrendous. It is the determined killing of children with full knowledge of what is happening. What is more telling about a society’s soul than the way it treats children?

There is one truth that the media have conveyed, and that is how for many women, abortion is a moral dilemma. Circumstances surrounding pregnancy can be extremely difficult. We can empathise and we can help write a better story that shows good coming from choosing the harder road. There are organisations whose sole purpose is to care for and support women through unplanned or difficult pregnancies. There are many local churches who already support women through such situations, and gladly so. Australia has its Ahazes but also its Boazes and Josephs.

We ought to recognise and speak of the life supporting options and good that is found in local communities. The media’s commitment to facts, or lack thereof, reflects what they believe the public wants to hear. The media’s choice of storytelling reveals something of our society’s heart. Our politicians’ decisions speak back to us our own moral inclinations. What does our behaviour toward children suggest?

As a Christian, I like to give God the last word. In the 8th Century BC when the Valley of Benn Hinnom (known in the New Testament as Gehenna) was the scene of continual fire and burning of baby’s bodies, the righteous judge offered an extraordinary word of mercy. Even as I write I’m aware that some readers are going to ridicule these words with all manner of interesting and colourful language, but there is always someone for whom the crap in popular rhetoric doesn’t sway. Imagine a God who sees our choices and understands them and is appalled by them and yet offers redemption?

“I have made you, you are my servant;

    Israel, I will not forget you.

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,

    your sins like the morning mist.

…Return to me,

    for I have redeemed you.”“This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, (Isaiah 44: 21b-22;24)

The Premier and an Archbishop and a Mediating Baptist

A war of words has broken out between the Victorian Government and the Roman Catholic Church. The Premier is bidding to outlaw the seal of the confessional while Catholic hierarchy is defending it as sacrosanct.

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First of all, I need to note an important correction to the Premier’s statement. Most ministers of most churches are required to report suspected child abuse, according to the rules of their own denomination. Indeed, mandatory reporting is practiced by Baptists across Victoria (and indeed, around the nation) and we want this to be the case. Even if it was not mandatory, we would still report suspected child abuse. It makes no sense not to do so.

The Confessional

Canon law states that”The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”

Any priest who breaks the seal is automatically excommunicated from the church. Only the Pope can overturn this.

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli has come out and said that he would prefer to go to jail than break the seal of the confessional. While saying that he would encourage an offender to go to the police, he wouldn’t break the seal if they refused to do so.

At the moment I think both Archbishop Comensoli and Premier Daniel Andrews are missing the mark.

On the one hand, I commend Daniel Andrews for taking further action on this terrible issue. And yet his rhetoric about putting ‘children first’ rings a little hollow. There are those in the community who are concerned for all children and aggrieved by the fact that vulnerable children become hay in politicking. The Premier’s record demonstrates that he often puts ideology first. For example, he ensured that an amendment to the Abortion Law Reform Act was defeated, a step which would have protected children from late-term abortion. Also, the rebirth of the birth certificate bill puts children at risk. In 2016 he introduced an amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act which would have stripped religious organisations, schools, and churches, of their freedom to insist that employees adhere to the doctrinal and ethical convictions of their religious institution.

At the same time, the issue of child sexual abuse has exposed a theological flaw in Catholic dogma, as well as a moral one. The Confessional grew out of an inflated and unbiblical notion of the priesthood. One could enter into a long discussion here about the historical and theological premises the lay behind the seal of the confessional, but in short, this is not a practice encouraged by or mandated in the Bible. Indeed, it clearly conflicts with the teaching of the New Testament Church.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5).

No priest can absolve another person’s sins, let alone their own. We can certainly confess our own sins to those whom we have offended and to ask for their forgiveness. There is a place for corporate confession to God. But no priest can represent God and absolve another’s sin. We can listen to others and offer advice, but we cannot stand as Divine judge over a person and officiate Divine forgiveness or judgment. 

As a member of the community who is not Roman Catholic, one of the things that continues to concern me is how Archdiocese’s rhetoric continues to signal the wrong message; namely that they do not truly take child sexual abuse seriously. As a father of three children, this sickens me and makes me empathise with those who no longer trust religious institutions. I wish to say that the real Jesus is safe and good, and many churches are safe and wonderful places to investigate and come to terms with the greatest realities of life. But this immense positive is often lost in the face of due public scrutiny of institutions who have failed our children.

The Conscience and the Government

As I consider the debate, there are broader questions that should not be ignored. We mustn’t overlook for example these two further considerations: the conscience, and the role of Government. The conscience of individuals is important, even when we disagree with their religious views. The conscience is, of course, not God or infallible The Bible acknowledges that the conscience can be seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). However, we should be slow to stamp our own conscience on others.

We must also be wary of Government intrusion into religious practices. Do we really want Government dictating what are and are not valid religious convictions? I am not supporting the Roman Catholic Church’s position; I find it reprehensible. But neither do I believe it is right or healthy for the Government to interfere with a church’s traditional teaching. The issue is further complexed because Daniel Andrews is right in suggesting that religious leaders are not and should not be outside the law. In my view, both Mr Andrews and the Catholic Archbishop are throwing speech bombs at each other rather than working toward a solution.

A potential solution

Perhaps the most sensible solution that I have seen thus far comes from the words of a progressive Muslim, Waleed Aly. I don’t think it’s foolproof by any measure, but at least it is an offering in the right direction In 2018, writing for the New York Times, Aly rightly notes that a law, such as the one being proposed today, will fail because the consequences facing a priest who breaks the confessional are far greater than those imposed by the State. In addition, given the nature of the confessional, it is unlikely that those sealed revelations made by abusers will be uncovered by authorities.

“the royal commission reported on testimony from several priests who said, in the words of one, that a priest hearing confessions “has always been required to have at least ‘moral certitude’ of the penitent’s contrition and purpose of amendment before granting absolution.”

Accordingly, the commission’s said that “a priest can defer granting absolution until the act of satisfaction” has been carried out. For example, the report says, a confessed abuser would not be forgiven by a priest unless he reports himself to the police. Several priests told the commission that this is exactly what priests hearing confession should do.

This approach is far more likely to curtail reoffending than any attempt to compromise the institution of the confessional. It certainly addresses the commission’s finding that the easy availability of absolution contributes to reoffending. It would increase the likelihood that abusers will go to the authorities since it is the only way they can receive forgiveness.

And since keeping the state out of the confession booth wouldn’t require priests to commit an excommunicable offense, it is far more likely to be applied than a law that extends mandatory reporting into the confessional booth.”

Waleed Aly has offered an alternative, which may work. This position will remain distasteful for many Christians because it upholds a practice that undermines the sole and sufficient mediatorial work of Jesus Christ. This is an unnecessary tradition and one that gives false assurances to those who make use of the confessional. The confessional remains a box in which a man presumes the role of God. At yet, could Aly’s proposal allow conscience to be preserved and hold back undue Governmental interference into religious doctrinal matters?

I am calling on the Melbourne Archdiocese to re-evaluate their unsound and unethical practice of confessional seal. And I call on the Government to work harder to provide a workable and important solution to protect our children. Indeed, much good has come from this evil in recent years and I pray that we continue on this road.

Growing Concerns over treatment for children

Self-identifying genderism is perhaps not so free. The Australian has published a series of articles that should concern parents across the nation, especially those living in Victoria.

Last week Cricket Australia announced that men can now play for women’s teams, so long as their testosterone levels remain below 10 nanomoles per litre continuously for 12 months or more

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Last week the NSW Legislative Assembly passed legislation that not only decriminalises abortion but will permit late-term abortion and gender-selective abortion. The latter proves the idiocy under which our society now governs the definition of sex and gender. We are being told that a penis and vagina is no indication of what constitutes male and female, and neither can xy or xx chromosomes. And yet, a woman is being given the legal right to terminate a pregnancy based on the biological assumption that the baby is a girl or boy. The Spectator last week published a telling cartoon in which a baby girl in the womb is crying out to the doctor who is about to kill her, ‘Stop, I identify as a boy’.

This week the Victorian Parliament is debating legislation which will allow boys and girls to change the gender on their birth certificates without needing sex reassignment surgery. A person does not even require a signed letter from a medical practitioner or psychologist as evidence that the person believes they are a gender that differs from their biological sex.

There is a dangerous shift taking place in our culture, one where children are victims to unscientific social engineering. As a Father with 3 children, this movement toward initiating hormonal therapy and sex reassignment surgery on children is staggering in its myopic vision and ethical bullying.

According to a report in The Australian, since 2014, 2415 children have been referred for medical gender treatment in Australia. There has been a 41% increase in cases in Victoria, which coincides with the introduction of the Safe Schools program, and with Dr Roz Ward and others encouraging gender transition inside local schools across the State.

Bernard Lane explains,

“Girls as young as nine are ­believed to be put on “puberty blocker” drugs, and boys from about 11.”

The article also notes growing concerns amongst paediatricians. Professor Whitehall said, “Who gave ethics approval for this treatment (at children’s hospitals) when it lacks any scientific basis and therefore is an experiment?…We should give the psychiatry and psychology a full run before we start castrating children.”

Of course, ideology always influences political and societal thinking, and the medical fraternity is not immune to this. Most doctors have integrity and only give advice to patients based on best knowledge and practice, but neither are they free from social pressures being applied by ideologues who are intent on cutting away all residue of the biological and traditional understanding of men and women and the social structures upon which we build communities. Bernard Lane notes that in the United Kingdom, lobbying from transgender groups is “contaminating clinical decisions”. Also, doctors in Australia are afraid to speak out on the issue because of the possibility of professional ostracisation and job loss.

The fact that there is a significant rise in gender transitioning where Safe Schools is most prevalent, raises questions. Is there a correlation?

Also writing in The Australian, Jennifer Oriel today has further justified concerns. She begins,

“castrating children” is the phrase used by pediatrics profess John Whitehall to describe unscientific experimentation on youth in the name of transgenderism.”

At the very least, these revelations should cause us to pause and investigate the claims being made.

In the normal state of affairs, the kind of psychological and physical intrusion being thrust upon these kids would amount to abuse. They are crying out for help, but not short term and potentially devastating manipulation of their bodies. This is also likely to cause long term harm to children, not least because most gender dysphoria children will want to identify with the birth sex by the time they reach adulthood.

In raising the subject we must not cast dispersions onto these children or onto transgender people. As I have said on many occasions, all people have inherent dignity and worth, and we are to love and care for them no matter their sex and gender. That does not, however, indicate that every social decision is healthy and good. This doesn’t entail that every choice made by an individual is right or beneficial. However, those responsible for pushing this new wave of gender ideology ought to be held to account. Those who have jumped on board legislations that will inevitably harm children, have a duty to pause further amendments to the law. Instead, the wellbeing of our children demands that the concerns of medical experts are heard and steps are taken to investigate what is now taking place in our schools and in some clinics.

 


Here’s one example of a recent article with a psychologist expressing concerns  – https://t.co/JDW3s4Bt8d?amp=1

NSW loses its moral impetus

It was only a few months ago that the public was shocked by words and sights coming from the United States. New York City lit up the night sky in the colour pink to celebrate the passing of abortion laws.

Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, made the suggestion that the life of a newborn child can be legitimately ended if that is the wish of the mother and attending physician.

“If a mother is in labor…the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians & mother”

Similar words and images are now home in New South Wales.

In an attempt to curb the cruellest edges of legislation that will decriminalise abortion in that State, several amendments were presented and voted down. One of these amendments asked that babies who are born alive following a botched abortion (as can happen) must be given due medical attention. The majority of MPs voted against the amendment, arguing that a living boy or girl can be killed or left to die outside the womb. This is legalised infanticide.

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Tweet by David Ould

As the extreme abortion laws were passed in the New South Wales Parliament House last night, the Sydney Morning Herald ran with the headline, “Cheers and Applause as lower house votes to decriminalise abortion in NSW”.

Assuming the Bill will also pass the Legislative Council, will the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge be lit in the colour pink? Will Macquarie street be filled celebrations? Last night’s laudable triumphs in the halls of Parliament suggests that this may indeed occur. It is one thing to vote to take innocent human life,  but it is unnecessary and gross to celebrate it.

As a Victorian, living in a State that already has such ignominious laws, I weep for my NSW friends today.

Australia in 2019 has become a strange and disturbing land in some respects. For example, logic rarely wins debates in our culture. Scientific facts are unlikely to move a person’ position. What is obvious can no longer be stated as such. The most basic observable units of reality are contested. If the acknowledged humanity of a person does not suffice for offering protection and rights, we have indeed walked off the precipice without a rope. What is true no longer matters and what is good is an unwelcome obstacle to personal choice: I have become god and there is no other. This rampant individualism comes at a cost, and the cost today will be the lives of 10,000s of young children, many who will be aborted because they are girls or because they may suffer some kind of physical or mental disability.

In many of life’s unimportant measures (food, sport, and everything else) Victoria runs ahead of NSW. But when it came to those all-important ethical subjects, NSW often stood tall when Victoria turned south. Sadly, NSW has now followed Victoria and the other Australian States in losing its moral authority. Indeed, many Churches have already overturned their moral voice because of deep-seated sins. How can a society speak of defending life and humanity when we are bent on destroying the youngest and most vulnerable of lives? Our voice has become shard, an empty and hypocritical shrill.

I am not suggesting that there are women who aren’t in heart-wrenching circumstances. Not for a second am I whitewashing real and difficult situations that face some women when falling pregnant. A loving society would gather around them and support them. In Victoria there are many churches who would open their arms to help these women; I have seen this with my own eyes. There are organisations, such as the amazing The Babes Project who assist pregnant women who are struggling to decide whether to keep their child or not. Governments could invest in such positive community agencies rather than turning to the awful alternatives.

The passing of the abortion Bill in the Lower House will create some big winners in NSW and many losers:

The big losers:

– 10,000s of young children every year

– Children with disability

– Young girls

– Mothers

– Fathers

– Society who will never see the contributions of these little ones whose lives are cut short.

The big winners:

– Men who don’t want the responsibility of caring for their children

– Abortion Providers

 

Before anyone retorts, but you’re a man, you shouldn’t have a voice on this women’s issue, let’s remember that the Bill’s chief architect is also a man, Alex Greenwich. Why hasn’t he been told to keep his nose out of women’s affairs? The reason is obvious, he supports the decriminalisation of abortion, that’s why? Men have a role to play in the making of babies, and most women believe that men have a responsibility in raising children; I agree. Of the children who are aborted, thousands are little boys. It is surely incumbent upon men to speak for women’s health and dignity as well as the health and dignity of the unborn.

In the days of Ancient Rome Christians found and took in unwanted babies who were left on hillsides to die of exposure. In 18th Century England, Christian groups opened orphanages to care for children whose parents couldn’t support them. Churches can once again open our eyes to needs in our communities and find ways to support and love women who are facing an unwanted or difficult pregnancy. How can we put away the platitudes and open up our hearts to them? Society has lost its way, but the imperative remains for us to live like the Lord Jesus. How can we sacrifice and present a better way forward, for the good of women, the life of children, and the health of our society?

As a Victorian, I pray that NSW will not follow our lead

As a Victorian, I am praying that NSW will not follow our lead.  This week NSW Parliamentarians have begun preparing to debate and pass legislation that will legalise abortion in NSW up until birth. This is a sickening idea, and it is incredibly sad to see the Premier State losing its way, even with some conservative MPs advocating for the legislation.

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I am all too aware of these debates, with my own State passing the most progressive abortion laws in the country over a decade ago. As a Pastor, I have seen the pain and guilt on women’s faces as they struggle with their past having had abortions. I have also seen women come to know the beautiful and powerful grace of a forgiving God.

In  2016, then member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, presented a Bill hoping to overturn a 2008 law which legalised late-term abortions.

The law allows women in Victoria to have an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, right up until the time of birth. All that is required is for two doctors to give approval.

The Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 stipulates that late-term abortions are permissible so long as two medical practitioners “reasonably believe that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances”. “Circumstances” is defined as the medical practitioner having regard to

“(a) all relevant medical circumstances; and

(b) the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.”

The Bill was defeated 27 votes to 11.

At the time I did not engage in the conversation. Perhaps I was busy. Maybe I was focusing on other matters of importance. I remember a debate taking place in Parliament but to my shame, it wasn’t on my radar as it ought.

If there is one thing I have learned over the past few years is that evil doesn’t slow down its agenda simply because we are paying attention or not paying attention. No one can address every act of immorality and speak to every grave issue facing the world; we need an omnipotent and loving God. However, when we can speak, should we not give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves?

Societal shift on abortion has been swift. In the space of three years, we’ve witnessed the culture move from justifying abortion to celebrating abortion, from permitting the practice during the early weeks of pregnancy to licensing third-trimester abortions, even when these very same infants could survive and live outside the womb.

Understand, these laws are not about saving the life of the mother, for, in such rare and terrifying circumstances, the life of the mother is surely and already prioritised. The aim in those rare situations is not to kill the child but to save the life of the mother. This is far from where the abortion argument now finds itself. The newly adopted law in New York State, the proposed Bill in Virginia, and the current practice in Victoria where I live do not require the mother’s life to be at risk. The grounds are,  can she persuade a doctor (in Victoria the law requires 2 Drs) that she no longer wishes to keep the pregnancy. As the harrowing video reveals, this decision can be made as late as during labor.

According to the Victorian State Government’s health website, in 2016, 14.9% of all perinatal deaths in Victoria were accounted by abortions for “maternal psychosocial indications”. 40.32% of all late-term abortions (from 20 weeks) are for “psychosocial” reasons, meaning there is nothing wrong with the baby or physical health of the mother.  Please note, my understanding is that these numbers include terminations that occurred in hospitals and does not include abortions that take place in clinics.

If the pronouncements of these lawmakers aren’t enough to turn the stomach, Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam, made the suggestion earlier this year that the life of a newborn child can be legitimately ended if that is the wish of the mother and attending physician.

“If a mother is in labor…the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians & mother”

This is not a slippery slope, this is the natural outworking of an ethic without God. This is the world of Peter Singer. 20 years ago many people sneered at some of Singer’s views and found them repugnant. Today, much of his thinking has become the norm in Western countries. His utilitarian thinking supports the killing of lesser human beings, those who are disabled and are considered less than fully functioning. Singer’s arguments supporting infanticide are now finding their way into mainstream politics and legislative agendas. Have we not learned from history? Are not past stories of the mass killing of innocence enough to steer us from ever going there again? The answer is, no. Our civilised and progressive societies are eager to venture into those dark hellish places once again.

What makes our society even more culpable than past societies is that we are committing the same sins but with greater knowledge and with greater ability. Modern knowledge reveals truths about how babies are formed in the womb, things that were once believed but could not be seen until the invention of ultrasounds. We can see the heartbeat of a baby in the earliest weeks. We can delight at a child’s fingers and toes growing at 6 weeks. We now know that babies can hear and respond to music by 16 weeks; the next Mozart is already learning to feel and marvel at the beauty of sound.

Medical advancements give us unparalleled ability to care for both mother and child, to even perform surgery on a baby while it is in the womb. When these little ones surprise us by coming into the world early we have the know-how to save the lives of these children as young as 22 weeks.

This is a grotesque reality in which we live: despite superior knowledge of human life in the womb and superior medical technology to save life, our commitment to destroying life has also increased.

I suspect some readers will respond with partial agreement; you dislike late-term abortions, but you don’t have a problem with ending a pregnancy during the first trimester. This is not an uncommon position to hold.

May I respond by asking you this question, at what point can we draw an absolute moral line? At what point can we justify the moral shift from being okay with killing the child to believing it is not okay?  Is the moral threshold when the baby begins to feel pain? Is it the moment cognitive awareness starts? Is it the week when their limbs have formed? Is it the moment the heart begins to beat? There is no ontological moment during a pregnancy at which we can argue, at this stage, it is okay to abort a child.

This needs to stop. Members of the NSW Parliament, please do not lead your State down this deadly and awful path.

I understand that this issue is very real and personal for many women in our society. I don’t want to ignore the pain and guilt thousands of women experience following an abortion. To them, I say, there is the hope of forgiveness and renewal for those who seek it.

How different is the answer that we find with the God of the Bible. The Bible insists that every human being, from the moment of conception, is precious and made in the image of God. Gender, age, health, mental faculties, physical appearance, do not detract from a person’s inestimable worth.

Jesus loved the unwanted. Throughout his three years of ministry, Jesus was known for befriending and caring for those whom society thought little and had often neglected. No one was too insignificant for him to take interest in and show love.

On one occasion we are told,

“A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” (Matthew 8:2-3)

Jesus didn’t stop there, the extent of love that God demonstrated was found on a Roman cross, where the Son of God sacrificed his life for the salvation of others.

“Surely he took up our pain

    and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,

    stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

    and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Proposed Victorian Bill is likely to harm not help women

The State of Victoria wishes to be at the vanguard of the sexual devolution. Sadly, Victoria is already becoming an unsafe place for vulnerable children who struggle with gender dysphoria. Just as with the recent passing of euthanasia laws, concerns expressed by the medical fraternity were overlooked in favour of radical political and gender theorists from institutions such as Latrobe University.

 

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It is not only children who will suffer from these radical and non-scientific agendas but also women. I know of one situation where a young woman was forced to play football (AFL) against a male who identified as a female. She feared for her safety which is understandable given the physical difference between the average male and female. As a growing number of women are now indicating if the transgender agenda continues it is likely that women’s sport may cease to exist in a few years time. 

A story emerged from the United Kingdom this week concerning a group of less than impressed boys. In an age when we are recognising how big the issue of pornography is among boys, a not so smart teacher decided to take a group of school boys on an art exhibition to see ‘feminist art’. The boys weren’t so much exposed to art as they were to bare-breasted middle-aged women! In normal circumstances, authorities would be called and the adults charged with sex offences, but apparently, this is ok.

We live in astonishing times.

In their latest effort, the Victorian Government has decided that transgender women are being discriminated against under current laws. At the moment if anyone wishes to change the gender on their birth certificate, sex reassignment surgery is required. According to the Attorney General, Jill Hennessy,

“Everyone deserves to live their life as they choose, and that includes having a birth certificate that reflects their true identity.”

 The proposed legislation will eliminate the need for women to have vaginas and so forth, and men (sorry, women) with penises can be legally recognised as women. You can imagine the social problems that will arise from such a decision.

In a piece in the Weekend Australian, Ms Rayner, a former state and federal human rights commissioner and University of Melbourne philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith, express grave concerns over the Bill and are asking for it to be rejected.

“Sex should not be a matter of belief…If progressives want to disincentivise sex-reassignment surgery, they should protect gender expression, or gender identity, or trans status, separately — rather than trying to shoehorn it into sex.” Dr Lawford-Smith said.

They have likened the Bill to last week’s story coming out of Canada where a transgender woman is taking a woman to court for refusing to wax his testicles.  That’s right. Once again, in a normal world when a man demands a woman to touch his privates she is entitled to say no and to be protected by law, but in today’s Canada, he is the victim and she the perpetrator. Indeed, should the Victorian Bill be adopted, we can expect to see all manner of confusion and also litigation against religious groups who insist upon recognising biological gender rather than one’s self-assuming gender. Indeed, it is not only religious organisations that may find themselves in trouble with the law but also sporting clubs and schools and secular organsations. It is telling that Dr. Lawford-Smith, a self-identifying lesbian, is calling for the Bill to be rejected.

This isn’t about justice, this is about redefining the fundamental nature of women and men. It is the insane devolution of humanity at its most basic form. Biology no longer determines what is a man and what is a woman. Chromosomes, hormones, reproductive parts and sexual appendages now have no bearing on what constitutes male and female. The only factor that matters is how the self defines themselves. As Ben Sharipo astutely remarked last week, is female a set of stereotypes or is it biological? We are being told that it cannot be biological because a woman can have a penis just as men can give birth to children. Therefore,  femaleness must be definable by social stereotypes, a criteria of observable non-physical differences from males. But of course, the dilemma is that we are not permitted to suggest that men and women have any differences beyond the biological. So which is it, is a woman defined by biology or by stereotypes?

I write this as a leader in the Victorian community. I also understand that because I’m a Christian, my concerns will be automatically binned by some; I appreciate why.  Churches have lost almost all their moral impetus after facing scandal after scandal. The sexual sins uncovered inside some churches and religious organisations is beyond evil, if that is at all possible. And yet, how can one stand by and be silent in the face of such unhealthy legislation.

This is profoundly sad and harmful, both for Victorians wanting to change their gender and for people around them. I have had the opportunity to speak to the issue of gender dysphoria before, not as a medical expert, but as a community leader who values all people and who is deeply concerned about the radical and unscientific approach being adopted by our political leaders. Victorians struggling with gender dysphoria deserve our care and loving support, but as most clinical psychologists will explain, the majority of people wrestling with dysphoria will return to and be content with their biological sex. Those who continue to identify with the opposite gender need our affirmation of their dignity, but not a confirmation of their self-misconceptions. We don’t tell people with other disorders that their feelings are right and true. Do we agree with teenage girls suffering from eating disorders that they are overweight? It would be cruel to do so.

The sexual revolution knows no boundaries. It is one steep descent with nothing but jagged rocks at the bottom. From time to time, the next redefinition and social regression slows down because of hairpin corners (i.e. commonsense, scientific fact, or moral integrity), and then it’s off at speed again until the next hairpin. But what is left? There are few turns left on this destructive road. 

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

I trust that common sense will prevail, but in Victoria, we have little hope of that. In the midst of growing mistakes, the good news of God offers hurting and confused Victorians are better hope than the misleading efforts of our moral deconstructionists. The years ahead are going to create such confusion about what it means to be human. We need an example to show people, we need a Saviour who is good enough and loves us enough to redeem and restore. Thank God there is one better than ourselves to whom we can point our fellow Victorians: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)

 

(I made a small edit on July 29th)


New Victorian sex law a gender headache

by Bernad Lane

A law put up by Victoria’s Andrews government could expose women offering intimate services such as pubic waxing or underwear fitting to discrimination complaints if they reject trans women customers who still have penises, veteran human rights lawyer Moira Rayner has warned.

 

The new law would allow self-declared trans women, who possess a penis and have not undergone any sex-reassignment treatment, to change the sex that appears on their birth certificate, giving them access as women to equal opportunity protection.

Ms Rayner, a former state and federal human rights commissioner, said that, if enacted, the legislation could allow a Down Under version of Canada’s Jessica Yaniv case, in which a trans woman has lodged anti-discrimination complaints against 16 beauticians who did not want to handle her penis and testicles in order to grant her wish for a brazilian wax…

An Introduction to the Trinity

“In no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.” (Augustine)

 “The study is arduous, for we are dealing with matters too great for us, which we must bow in worship, recognising, our utter inadequacy.” (Calvin) 

 

The Trinity is the most complex subject anyone can study and consider, and it is also the most trepidatious because we are talking about God.

 

Does it matter how we speak of God? *

 Does it matter how we conceive of God? Does it matter whether we think of God as Trinity or not? Can we agree to disagree?

For argument sake, let us take a snapshot of Mentone’s Associate Pastor, Mike Veith.

Mike is a particular person, with a certain appearance (although the length of hair varies considerably) and select characteristics. Mike has particular abilities, likes, and dislikes. For example, Mike is married to Camille and they have two daughters. Prior to the pastoral ministry, Mike studied to be an Engineer. He mistakingly supports the Melbourne Football Club and he also enjoys playing soccer. 

How do you think Mike would feel if we began talking about him and to him in ways that ignored what is real about him. For instance, instead of calling him Mike, we refer to him as Sigmund because we think Sigmund is a better name for him. And instead of acknowledging Mike, sorry Sigmund, to be the really nice bloke that he is, we talk about him as though he was a sadistic rugby-loving thug with the intelligence of a two-year-old infant. On his birthday we give him a container of Duplo and a plastic boat for the bathtub, alongside a DVD showing the highlights of the 1987 Rugby World Cup. Worse still, what if you decided to build a statue of Mike out of used cereal boxes and talk to it instead of the real Mike? Apart from the weirdness, if you persisted with such shenanigans for a period of years Mike, who is extraordinarily patient, would eventually respond in ways that remain to be witnessed!

 The point is, Mike Veith has a name and a personality with particular traits and strengths. I can’t call him anything I like, and I can’t attribute false characteristics to him. To misrepresent someone is one of the worst things we can do to a person. It is terrible. It is hurtful. It breaks relationships. It is slander. If we misrepresent a person’s character in a court of law you will find yourself in a great deal of trouble. Misrepresent your boss at work and you’ll be looking for a new job. Treat your wife with such insane behaviour and we’ll hold you down while your wife takes out the cricket bat!  

We are hurt when someone misrepresents us or twists the truth about us. We want to be represented fairly and with dignity. How much more, therefore, must we be careful how we think of God and speak of God. 

The doctrine of the Trinity is almost certainly the most important doctrine there is. We are speaking of matters too great to fully comprehend; to understand fully God would be to have a mind equal to God. Nonetheless, God has spoken in ways to help us know him truly, and so we turn to his word, the Bible.

tertullian.jpg

 

Does the Bible teach that God is Trinity?

 

In a search on biblegateway.com we will not find the word Trinity in any Bible translation. Trinity is not a Bible word. The word was first coined in the 2nd century AD by Tertullian, one of the early Church Fathers. Trinity means tri-unity (three in one), indicating that God is three persons in one: one God in three persons. Trinity may not be a Bible word but it is a Biblical concept. Some Christians are very wary about using words that are not found in the Bible, but we all do it – inerrancy and complementarian are two common examples. Extra-Biblical terminology can be helpful so long as the language is carefully defined and understood, and doesn’t move us beyond the logic of Scripture.

 What is the Scriptural support for God being Trinity? The weight of Biblical evidence for the Trinity is significantly greater than what I am about to outline, but what I have included should be sufficient to prove that Christians rightly believe in One God who is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Trinity in the Old Testament

Let’s begin with the Old Testament. The doctrine of the Trinity is not fully revealed and explained until the New Testament, but we need to appreciate that the God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. We are not Marcionites. Marcion was a second-century heretic who preached that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament, different not only in character but also being. The New Testament writers rejected such an idea and so did Jesus who referred to himself as the I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One implication of this is that when we read God’s name in the Old Testament, LORD (note the upper case lettering) we should refrain from thinking that it is only referring only to God the Father, as though the Son and Spirit are not included.  

The Old Testament insistently and consistently teaches that God is one:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”(Deuteronomy 6:4)

In Mark 12:29 Jesus himself quotes this verse in Mark 12:29, thus affirming that there is only one God. 

“There is no one like you, LORD, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” (1 Chronicles 17:20)

Not only is God one, there is only one God. The Scriptures don’t portray the God of Israel as one of many different gods existing in the ancient world. There were many gods, but they were all fake; human creations serving human desires.

 “This is what the LORD says— 

   Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: 

I am the first and I am the last; 

   apart from me there is no God. 

7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. 

   Let him declare and lay out before me 

what has happened since I established my ancient people, 

   and what is yet to come— 

   yes, let them foretell what will come. 

8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid. 

   Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? 

You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? 

   No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Isaiah 44:6-8)

 God being one is declared page after page in the Old Testament, but there are also hints that God is Trinitarian, by which we mean He is not a monad, but three in one.

In Isaiah 6:8 the prophet meets with God in the temple and God asks,” ‘whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ “ When asking the question, ‘who will go for us?’ God is speaking to himself. Who is the “us”, a royal we? Or is it referring to God being three persons?

 Genesis ch.1 is incredibly helpful for aiding our understanding of the Trinity. It speaks about both the singularity of God and the plurality of God:

   “ 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 27 So God created mankind in his own image, 

   in the image of God he created them; 

   male and female he created them.”

 God’s being one is clear. ‘God said’ (verse 26). and ‘God created’ (verse 27). It is not gods (plural), it is God (singular). And yet this one God says, ‘let us make mankind in our image’. The most likely explanation of the ‘us’ is the Trinity.  Men and women are made in the image of God, his own image, and yet God says, let us. What we discover here is that there is plurality in unity. Earlier parts of Genesis ch1 add weight to this view that the Trinity is being portrayed – when God makes the universe he does so through his Word and in the presence of the Spirit. When we come to the New Testament we discover that God the Son is called ‘the word’ and the Spirit is God the Holy Spirit. 

  

Trinity in the New Testament 

 As with the Old Testament, the New Testament affirms that there is one God:

 ‘since there is only one God’ (Romans 3:30)

‘there is one God’ (1 Timothy 2:5) 

What does come to the fore in the New Testament is a much greater clarity given to the tri of the tri-unity, due to the Sovereign purposes of God to reveal and establish the new covenant.

The Gospel of Matthew begins and ends his account of Jesus’ earthly ministry with a theology of the Trinity.

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”’ (Matthew 3:16-17)

At Jesus’ baptism Matthew makes the point that each member of the Godhead was present and participating: God the Father is speaking from heaven, Jesus is on earth and is identified by God as his ‘Son whom I love’, the Spirit of God is also present appearing a dove and affirming the Divinity of Christ. Each is described as being God, that is being God in their essence. There is no suggestion here, or anywhere else, of any member of the Trinity being less Divine or inferior to any of the others. The voice from heaven is God and is distinct from the Son, and the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. All three are described as God, and yet they are distinct persons.

 At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commissions his disciples saying, ‘“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’ (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

One God in three persons

Notice that we are told, ‘in the name’. Matthew did not write ‘in the names, plural, but ‘name’ singular – in other words, there is one God, and yet this one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This point is most important: Jesus understands that there is one God, and yet God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By insisting that One God is Father, Son and Spirit, Jesus has not suggested that these three are emanations of the one, as though sometimes God is Father, sometimes God is son, and sometimes God is Spirit (like an individual who dresses up in the three different ways – sometimes he has his work clothes on, sometimes he has his footy gear on, and other times we stays in his PJs). The belief that God shows himself in three different ways is called modalism, and it is a heresy. In trying to protect the oneness of God we fuse the persons of the Godhead together such that they lose their distinctiveness. 

 You may have heard some people try to explain the Trinity with the analogy of water: water is one substance, but it can appear as a solid (ice), as a liquid, and as a gas (steam) – don’t use it. It’s modalism. I know what it’s trying to do but it doesn’t work because the God of the Bible is not one God in three forms but he is simultaneously one God and three distinct persons, each person being fully and equally God. The three-leaf clover analogy is equally misleading, failing to do justice to the three persons of the Trinity, making God sound like a tri-polar God than the Triune God.

 The Father is God – eternally, fully, and distinct from the Son and Spirit. While not common, the OT does occasionally refer to God as Father. Come the New Testament, God the Father is revealed and worshiped on almost every page. For example, Jesus spoke frequently of God the Father, and most of Paul’s letters begin with the twin blessing of grace and peace from God the Father.

The Son is God – eternally and fully. One of the more common titles attributed to Jesus is Lord. This name, Lord, is used of Jesus in a way similar to the way that Lord is used in the OT and in the OT Lord is God’s most holy name. The NT attributes God’s name to Jesus.

In addition, Jesus understood himself to be God. Jesus took for himself the holy self-appointed name of God, I AM. And we know that the religious establishment in Jesus’ day got so miffed by Jesus’ insistence that they killed him. 

 Following Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas exclaimed of Jesus, ‘my Lord and my God.’ (John 20:28)

The Holy Spirit is God – eternally and fully. He is sometimes referred to as the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ, as well as some other variations. If our knowledge was limited to these references we might be forgiven for thinking that the Bible is not referring to a person distinct from the Father and the Son but simply the spiritual aspect of the Father and the Son, just like when the Bible speaks about the human spirit. But Scripture insists that the Holy Spirit is not only fully God, he is distinct from the Father and the Son.

“then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”’ (Acts 5)

 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

 The Holy Spirit is a person: he can be grieved, he convicts, he speaks, he intercedes, he explains to the Father what we are thinking. The Holy Spirit is God. 

From eternity and always God is, and God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three persons who are each fully God, equal in substance, equal in status, but distinct. They have the same being but they are different persons. They are one in purpose, but they have different roles. It is this perfect community, where each person does their role in perfect love. The Son obeys the Father, the Father glorifies the Son. The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to do their work.

 Christians are right to defend belief in one true God, but we must take care that in guarding God’s oneness we avoid negating the three persons of the Godhead. It is both, together, always. It is as though the Bible’s teaching on this topic follows a narrow path with a dangerous precipice on either side – modalism and tritheism. 

Let’s synthesize this material into four basic propositions about God, the wording which I have borrowed from the ESV Study Bible:

1. There is one and only one true and living God.

2. This one God eternally exists in three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

3. These three persons are completely equal in attributes, each with the same divine nature.

4. While each person is fully and completely God, the persons are not identical.

 

Is this hard to fully grasp? Yes, and that’s ok because we are speaking about God. We cannot expect to understand everything about God because God is greater than ourselves. There is mystery here. I am tempted to provide an analogy to help explain some of the things we’ve been talking about but the reality is, God is without analogy: he is unique, he is other, and the only way we can know him is for him to make himself known and for God on his own terms, to reveal what he chooses. As we grow as Christians, so long as we stick with Scripture, our understanding of the Trinity will grow and we will be able to put more pieces of the puzzle together, but we’ll only finish the puzzle in heaven. Again, that’s ok. 

What does believing in a Triune God mean for us today?

 

I want to finish with sharing some of the implications that come with the doctrine of the Trinity 

i. Knowing this God. The only true God is the Trinitarian God. To not believe this God, is to reject God and to believe a false God. That’s how important this is. 

 Trinity is a Christian doctrine: We are not like Muslims who believe in a monad (one God without three persons). We are not Hindu’s who believe in thousands of gods. We are not Mormons who separate the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into separate beings. We are not Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe Jesus is an inferior god to the Father and who believe the Holy Spirit is not a person. We are not Unitarians who reject that God is Trinity and we are not Oneness Pentecostals (cf TD Jakes) who are modalists, believing that the One God manifests himself in three different ways (thus rejecting that God is 3 persons). We are not religious feminist deconstructionists who call God Mother. How dare we address God in ways that he has not permitted in Holy Scripture. It matters how we address God, because he is God. The God we know and serve and love is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is not mother, or angel, or cow, or star or the tree trunk in my backyard. The Trinity is the Christian God and there is no other God. 

ii. This doctrine affects worship. By worship I mean the whole of life. True worship of God involves acknowledging God as he is. In our lives of response to the Gospel we need to acknowledge that God is Father, Son, and Spirit, and rightly acknowledge their being and work amongst us. At Mentone Baptist we do not want to reduce God-talk to God or even to Jesus. We talk about all three members of the Godhead. We teach on all three, and we desire to give to each the weighting that Scripture gives them.

iii. Atonement is made possible. For our sins to be atoned God required someone without sin to bear our sins in our place. The problem is, we are all sinners. No one is without sin, except God. God is also the offended party and the judge. Only the Trinitarian God could become both the subject of salvation and the object, to be both judge and the saviour, to receive the punishment and give it. Only God the Trinity could save us.

 “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14).

 iv. All Christian theology is shaped by the Trinity. For example, we saw that earlier that the Father, Son and Spirit were involved in creation. The Apostle Paul tells us that the world was made by Christ and for Christ. The doctrine of revelation is also Trinitarian – the Father speaks words which are about his Son who is the word become flesh, and this Scripture is breathed out by his Spirit. Also, the Spirit points us to the Son through whom we know the Father.

The doctrine of salvation. Salvation is the Father’s, he predestined us before the beginning to be adopted as his Son through Jesus, God’s Son, whom the Father sent into the world to atone for our sins, and the Spirit brings to us the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection by uniting us to him and regenerating us.

All Christian theology is shaped by the Trinity. That’s why we have 3 point sermons!

 

v. We discover the meaning of life.

The Trinity evidences that life is not about us, it is about others. That is how the Trinity works. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, the Son obeys the Father and the Spirit does the work of the Father and the Son. 

God is love. It is only a Trinitarian God who can love. If God is irreducibly mono, a monad, like he is in Islam, he cannot be inherently loving. To love there must be someone to love. I’m not a husband unless I’m married, I’m not a father unless I have a child, I’m not a friend unless I have a friend. And if God’s love is dependent on us, then he is less than self-fulfilled. God is love is only true because in eternity he is Trinity, 3 persons living in perfect loving communion.  

And we are made in God’s image, to love as he loves, what that reveals is that point of life is to love God and to love others. Life is about God and others. So we organise life around, not filling myself up, but giving to glorify God and to serve others.

vi. The existence of unity and diversity. In a class at Moore College Graeme Goldsworthy once told us, students, that the greatest quandary for philosophers is this, how can there be both unity and diversity? How can we account the oneness and plurality?

 The best explanation we have is the Trinitarian God.

Our universe consists of almost infinite diversity – different elements, different planets, temperatures, climates, continents and islands, diverse flora and fauna, different peoples, languages, cultures, families, vocations, food, hobbies, ideologies. We live in an awe-inspiring diverse cosmos. And yet there is incredible unity; it is a uni-verse. There are basic molecular building blocks that make all life possible. Human beings may live in different places and have diverse cultures and languages, and yet we share a great commonality, we are all human.

 It is the great philosophical question, diversity and unity – can there be both? How can diversity derive from oneness, and vice versa. We ought to consider the Triune God. The Bible shouts at us that the heavens and the earth declare the glory of God. Just as a painting bears the marks of its painter, so does the universe. We look at the universe and see tremendous diversity and unity. How can these two seemingly polar categories co-exist?  The Christian doctrine of God as Trinity is the most substantive philosophical answer there is.

  

‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ (2 Corinthians 13:14)

 

 

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*I owe much to Robert Letham’s volume, The Holy Trinity 

This article was first put together for my congregation at Mentone Baptist Church back in 2015