This weeks AP article…
I think this is an opportunity to think through how we might answer some of the myths that our culture has about Christianity….
Last week’s article on Martyn Iles was already too long before we started dealing with one of the most fascinating aspects of the whole programme – the tweets that the ABC flashed up on the screen. In that unique definition of impartiality that the ABC has, all of them were hostile or mocking to Martyn and Christianity. In the extremely unlikely event that no tweets were received that supported what he was saying (perhaps mine didn’t get through?!), this only serves as further evidence of the bias within the ‘balanced, diverse and equal’ ABC.
The tweets themselves betray an ignorance of Christianity which is quite shocking. But it is the kind of ignorance that we have to deal with in Australia today. There is nothing new under the sun. The early Christians were accused of eating children, because of the ‘eating and drinking’ language in communion. I will list the tweets and then add a short comment on each. Perhaps this would be a useful exercise for a small group. How would you answer each of these? What do they tell us about the presuppositions and misunderstandings of those who make them?
1. “ACL needs to follow more of Jesus’ style”
What was Jesus’ ‘style’? What does the question mean? It seems to be based on someone’s ‘own personal Jesus’, a Jesus who would never challenge anyone, speak of sin or do anything other than affirm people in whatever they want. The questioner probably did not have in mind the Jesus whose ‘style was to call people ‘white washed tombs’ (Matthew 23:27); warn others about hell (Matthew 25:46); affirm that adultery is a sin (John 8:1-11); and tell a potential follower ‘let the dead go bury their dead’ (Luke 9:60) . The trouble with the questioner is not that it is comparing Jesus with Martyn Isles – it is comparing Iles with a fantasy, Disneyesque view of Jesus.
2. “Who decides which souls need to be saved, Martyn?”
God. He says that all people, without discrimination need to be saved. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30). We are all dead in sins and trespasses, deserving of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).
3. “I don’t want my soul to be saved Martyn. Please keep your beliefs to yourself and stop forcing them on to all of us?”
Sadly, the questioner will get what they want – unless they turn to Christ. But we do not despair because we know of many others, including most of us, who did not think we needed to be saved. Like a man called Saul who hated Christians so much that he was prepared to hunt them down, imprison and kill them. Look what happened to him! But the Spirit comes to convict the world of sin, righteousness and the judgement to come (John 16:8).
Christians do not force our beliefs on anyone because that is not the way of Christ. But we do tell people about Him. The trouble with the question is that such questioners are so insecure in their own faith, that they think that anyone who dares to disagree with them, and express that, is ‘forcing belief’.
However, in a sense the questioner is right to be afraid. This is not just us making an argument or trying to teach a personal belief. This is the living and powerful Word of God, applied by the Holy Spirit. His irresistible grace can reach even the hardest heart. People fear what they do not understand or cannot control. When God is at work, the attacks will become even fiercer.
4. “We need a law giving us freedom FROM religion in this country. “
The old ones are always the best. This is a constant atheist meme, which is retweeted every week as though it were original to the tweeter and was of stunning brilliance. It is factual nonsense (which doesn’t stop atheistic fundamentalists believing it – most of their beliefs fall into that category). People already have freedom from religion. No one is forced to go to church, mosque or any other place of worship. Although the way that things are going there will soon be an exception to that. As we move towards a more ‘progressive totalitarianism’ increasingly students, workers and politicians will be required to bow down to the progressive gods and affirm their doctrines – or your career will be over. But otherwise we don’t compel people.
The person who made the statement really wants to be free of any sight or possibility of ever coming across religion. Imagine if the tweet read ‘we need a law giving us freedom from Judaism in the country’? We have been here before and it does not end well. These are the kind of people who insist on crosses being taken down, oppose church buildings in their area, close Christian schools, and insist Christ be taken out of Christmas.
5. “Actually the Bible says we should ‘love one another as I have loved you’ so let’s not judge”.
We should be glad that the tweeter recognises the authority and importance of the Bible. But we don’t get to make up our own Bible – nor does it mean whatever we want it to mean. .Jesus spoke those words to his disciples (John 13:34-35). ‘Love one another’ was spoken to his followers – not as a hallmark truism for the whole world . That is how people would know that they were his followers. The Tweeter has a poor definition of love, reducing it to an emotion which just ‘affirms’ others. The standard for Christians is the love of the Cross.
‘Do not judge or you will be judged’ (Matthew 7:1) was said on a different occasion. But it cannot mean ‘never have an opinion or say anything is wrong’. Why? Because a few verses later Jesus says, ‘do not give dogs what is sacred, and don’t throw your pearls before pigs”. He then talks about entering through the narrow gate; warns that few find the road to life; calls false prophets ‘ferocious wolves’; and speaks about those who are thrust away from him as evildoers! That hardly fits the category of ‘non-judgemental’.
He also warned that those who did not accept his words are condemned already. After saying that we are to love one another he went on to say that he was the way, the truth and the life. It’s the ultimate claim of exclusivity. He went on in that same speech to warn “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”.
‘Do not judge’ means that we do not sit in ultimate judgement upon anyone or write anyone off, as we leave that to God. Ironically this is so unlike our contemporary culture which, in the name of non-judgementalism, is unforgiving, harsh, angry and bitter.
6. “God loves everyone, made in his image. Straight, gay, bi, trans”
All human beings are made in God’s image including murderers, thieves, adulterers. That does not mean that God wants us to stay as we are. It is because he loves us that so that he wants us to change, and he offers us new life. God loves us too much to leave us to wallow in our own sin.
Christians do not believe that our humanity is determined by our sexuality – most of us don’t share our society’s obsession with sex and sexuality. But although we are all made in the image of God, that image is tainted, distorted, perverted and fallen. We all need to be restored, renewed, reborn. And then we will realise that following the Maker’s instructions on sex and sexuality is essential for our own good and for the well-being of society. It is love that compels us to speak as we do.
We must take every opportunity for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16), even those provided by ignorant tweets and prejudiced broadcaster. We must be prepared to challenge, not just ignore. But we must do so in a way which is not just about winning an argument, showing how clever we are, or seeking to destroy others. Our aim is always to communicate the Word of God. As Paul told Timothy; “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:25-26)