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Martyn Iles and the Opportunity of the Tweets of Prejudice -AP

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)

Martyn Iles, Q and A, and What it Tells us About Australia Today – AP

28 comments

  1. I hear you David – I suppose a big challenge for all of us is how to communicate as Paul did in Athens being “all things to all men” so nothing be a hindrance of the gospel. And from our discussions at other times, we may have different ideas about that. Which is OK. The important thing in not being a hindrance is that the only offence is the Gospel, as it was to circumcisers about circumcision not being necessary but circumcision of the heart. But then to not be offensive at appropriate times is of course is consistent with syncretism.

    And to never be offensive is to never have an opinion. For speaking a view risks someone being offended somewhere. And there are many who don’t think anything of saying something offensive to many Christians.

    Everyone has their cross to bear!

  2. The bulk of your responses identify exactly why there is hostility towards Christianity.
    Its’ bible based doctrine is so very much ”Our way or Else”, demonstrated by unsubstantiated assertions such as these two:

    Sadly, the questioner will get what they want – unless they turn to Christ.

    A thinly veiled threat if ever there was one! And of course this would also apply to the billions of individuals who follow other religions Muslims, Hindus and those Christians who don’t fit the mould of ‘True Christian’ – Mormons, Christadelphians etc … and to some, even Catholics!

    We should be glad that the tweeter recognises the authority and importance of the Bible.

    And if one is to take this with any degree of seriousness that includesthe whole bible , then one can understand why some may consider Yahweh/Jesus an immoral monster and how vile the bible is.

    You really should try to appreciate that, as an evangelical Christian while you may feel compelled to ”spread the word”, the fact , in the main, you have not managed to find an effective or welcoming method to do this is illustrated by your need to put up posts like your recent ”Pastors Heart”.
    Episodes such as the Zacharias scandal and many others don’t help your cause either, neither do your regular asinine barbs to all and sundry – including, at times, to fellow Christians, and a few corkers here I note!

    Furthermore, if people such as Iles want to put themselves in the firing line then they must be prepared for the vitriol that ensues.

    And it is no good coming back and saying something along the lines of Jesus went through similar in his day, because all this does is widen the divide and further cement the persecuted victim mentality.

    Faith has never cut it with non-believers, as I am sure you are well aware.
    So, unless you are dealing with emotionally broken individuals or indoctrinating children then evidence is the key, as it always has been.

    Maybe it’s time you asked yourself , once and for all, just how much of what you personally believe is based on faith rather than evidence? This way you might have a clearer understanding of why people not only reject your ”message” but are also at times openly hostile towards it.

    Just a thought …

    Best

    Ark

    1. Sure Ark…when you can see past your sneering superiority I am happy to answer!

      It’s not a threat. If someone says – if you put your hand in the fire you will get burnt – thats not a threat. It’s a fact.

      You are so mistaken about the effectiveness of the Gospel as well. Of course there is opposition (because there is sin, ignorance and prejudice) but all over the world the Gospel is producing much fruit. EG I was at a church today which has grown from 100 to over 1500 as we work together to tell people about Christ.

      Faith always cuts it with non-believers. Your posts are full of faith. The question is who the faith is in …

      And my faith is based entirely on evidence…yours seem to be somewhat blind…

      All the best…

      1. And my faith is based entirely on evidence …
        Sorry, I missed this. What evidence are you referring to, David?

    2. Hey Ark,

      You say ‘Faith has never cut it with non-believers, as I am sure you are well aware.’ Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that all believers were once unbelievers! Many Christians would have held the same beliefs and position as yourself at one point in their life, and would never have dreamed that one day they would become ‘one of those Christians!’ It may yet happen to you buddy … just a thought.
      Jon

      1. Hi, Jon!

        Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that all believers were once unbelievers!

        Would you include children who were indoctrinated at the knee in this category?

        And what would you regard as the reason for those believers who deconvert and become unbelievers?

    3. Hi Arkenaten,

      I hear your claim “its’ bible based doctrine is so very much ”Our way or Else””. And I see how David has responded with “It’s not a threat… It’s a fact” and how things can get polemical with discussions such as this.

      I can appreciate where you are coming from as this would have been my position for most of my life. But I found frustration in not having answers to why in many way I have what some would consider to be a privileged life, but it left me always wanting more and never satisfied. Like Mick Jagger I could get no satisfaction. I’ve found that if I think and act as if the “bible based doctrine” is true then I am more likely to be at peace and open to diversity, inclusivity and tolerance than if I am to be suspicious of it.

      I may be wrong but why would I give up on something that inclines me towards such peace, and gives me meaning and purpose to guard me against bitterness and resentment in adversity (which inevitably happens in life) to go back to being frustrated, always wanting more and never being satisfied? So unless something better comes along then that’s what I’m going with.

      I hope that helps?

  3. Very well presented article and the tweets explains the thinking of today’s culture. David, you have laid the answers out plainly and as always, straight to the point. As you said, God can soften the hardest heart.

  4. I have always had a rather naive trust in the general impartiality of “Aunty” BBC – that although they could get it wrong the motivation to get it right was genuine. That is until this last year of Covid.

    Other than one Panorama which demonstrated the utter chaos and incompetence of one of the “Lighthouse” PCR labs, and the odd short interview with the likes of Prof. Carl Heneghan, the BBC has offered total unquestioning support for the Government’s policy of lockdown.

    After having presented the vaccine as the doorway to a bright Covid free future, this week Boris announced that vaccines had only a small role in suppressing the virus, and that lockdown was the major factor.

    But this utter nonsense has not, to my knowledge, been seriously questioned or discussed by anyone in the BBC. All we have had is, “shock, horror, fear – there have been 45 (yes, 45) cases of the South Africa variant found in South London.” Panic, panic, mentioned at length in every news broadcast.

    There was an excellent article in The Spectator by statistician Simon Wood demonstrating that Boris’s statement was just wrong, and that there is no statistical evidence that lockdown controls the virus. Yet have the BBC reported it? No way!

    Hundreds of Christian pastors and ministers from all denominations have sent a letter to Boris demanding that he should not introduce vaccine passports, and that they would refuse to implement such a proposal in churches. Yet again, no mention by the British Bias Corporation.

    “Truth has fallen in the public square” Isaiah.

  5. I am old enough to remember when the ABC radio program use to have reading from the Bible about 7:10AM each morning. It ceased about 1973 during the Whitlam government and after the late 60’s social revolution

  6. Just an observation that, while ABC may or may not be filtering their displayed Tweets, Twitter most definitely *does* use algorithms to curate people’s feeds. I have to go look for some people I do follow but whose Tweets aren’t necessarily fed to me automatically, or prioritised. Others I could spend all day reading if I didn’t scan very fast and choose not to.

    It’s not conspiracy one way or the other: the algorithms are mindless and self-reinforcing for amoral commercial reasons. Eventually a user will believe, on what appears irrefutable evidence, that “everybody thinks like me” – whether they are on the left or right.

    Always something to bear in mind when using it oneself -as I try to. (Though it doesn’t help when 99% of articles on the right are paywalled, and too many MPs are block-happy or, worse still, disable comments altogether. Thank you for keeping your channels “free at point of use” – how else do they think they can change opponents’ opinions, rather than just reinforcing the existing base?)

  7. Setting all aside about Christianity itself, what people think etc, the fact is, the very opportunity for people to not only think what they like about Christianity, be they correct, or mislead, the point is they CAN not only think it, they are free to say it too! On live TV!

    But this fact is only possible in nations with a Christian heritage.

    In such said nations, the very secularists who are granted this freedom, do not afford the same rights to those with opposing views! The Liberty Christianity affords them, they deny to those who grant it them.
    It is not secularism that has brought the freedom. They deny freedom, outside their worldview.

    Other nations based on other religions do not allow people to think or speak what they like. Try the Middle East.

    Secular nations do not allow dissent against the state. Try China or North Korea.

    There is the hypocrisy. They bite the hand that feeds them. Despise the very worldview that grants them their liberty to dissent.

  8. Whereas Christianity says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, secularism, which has no value system of its own other than survival of the fittest, will always devolve to “Do unto others before they can do unto you”.

  9. Many years ago , as a young evangelist in Scotland’s mainline Presbyterian Church we were asked to submit a script for the tv programme “Late Call” . I submitted mine containing the gospel and enlarging on a problem I found within the denomination. I was asked to alter the text and re-submit buy the church , and sadly , in youthful ignorance I obliged. Today that denomination is in disarray and has long since forgotten “The One” whose blood gave her life . And the programme ? It was handed over to a comedian to became the butt of a joke for anyone seen to be prepared to earnestly content for the gospel on mainstream media.

    I listened and watched the reaction to the Martyn Isles interview , giving thanks that he was able to clearly say what he wished to say , despite being out of season . In the UK our clergy will remain the “joke of the day” as they continue to be rolled out, mincing in game shows , providing “Celebrity” personnel for third rate quiz panels and living up to their personality rather than what the call of the gospel requires. My prayer is that that passion we once had as a nation ( myself included ) would return and Truth(Christ) given a hearing in our media because once you bow to editing the script everything collapses.

  10. Thank you David for communicating succinctly and clearly the truth from the bible which addresses the misconceptions inherent in the tweets which are indeed representative of many of today’s common misconceptions about God and reality.

  11. Re Prejudice : For many thinking people , “prejudice” is simply received wisdom gained from experience.

    Imagine that you are a teenaged girl who walks home from school and has an even journey time choice between strolling through a White middle class suburb or hurrying apprehensively through a Black ghetto .

    Is it “prejudice” or commonsense to choose the former?

    1. Alastair,
      This morning I came across a post by Valerie Hobbs in Scot McKnight’s newsletter page, Tov. One of the things she said was:
      ‘The power, potential and pervasiveness of religious language means it’s vital that we reflect on our language choices and the language choices we encounter. We must consider carefully what ideas about God, about other human beings and about the world we so often unconsciously absorb and perpetuate through language. Where we have learned to speak in ways that contradict the Gospel by which we have been saved, our religious language must be a language of resistance. A language of love and peace.’
      So I would push back a bit against what you have written in your comment here and ask what assumptions are you implying in the language you have used?

      1. I think that , like the two quarrelsome women in the Punch cartoon who are leaning out of their respective windows and giving their opinions across a narrow alley , we are arguing from different premises.

        What I am implying is that the balance of probability rather than the Supernatural should be our guide in examples such as the one I provided .

    2. Alastair. I’m thinking about language and how we use it, not about anything ‘supernatural’. So as a linguist (and as a fellow human) I am interested in why you did not identify the ‘teenaged girl’ in your example as ‘black’ or ‘white’? If it was to get the reader to think about his/her ‘prejudice’/’commosense’, then well done!

  12. You say that Christians don’t forcing their beliefs on anyone, but isn’t that the whole point of the ACL and groups like it – to lobby government to legislate for everyone based on particular religious views?

    For example ACL oppose euthanasia (as do I) because of their religious beliefs. If government does not permit euthanasia because of lobbying from the ACL or removes legal recognition of same sex relationships because of ACL lobbying is that not forcing beliefs on people who do not necessarily hold them?

    1. You can’t force belief. But ethics, morality and law have to be based on something. Racism is wrong, so is theft, so is murder. It’s because we believe that – that we think the law should be against these things. Is that ‘forcing beliefs’?

      1. I completely agree we need to have a legal structure based on some form of shared morality and I think that every shade of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist etc should be a part of that discussion in a democracy.

        It just seems to me that the whole point of the ACL is to try to get legislation reflecting their beliefs, but covering everyone. And that’s probably why this man got so many backs up because people feel he is trying to force them to comply with his religious beliefs.

        I’ve just read an article by an American Christian denouncing Bidens attempt to end assault rifle ownership. This article seems to view the right to bear arms as a fundamental religious freedom (only in America!), but I see taking action against violence as fundamental to protecting the right to life. Neither of us is a political lobbyist, but both of us are seeking to impose the our view on the other because the country has to choose – do we want restrictions on gun ownership or not. We cannot have both.

        It’s the same with all these other issues – same sex marriage, euthanasia etc. If you legislate something it applies to everyone.

      2. Yes – thats the point of laws – they apply to everyone! NOt sure what your issue is…which group is actually advocating laws that don’t apply to everyone?

  13. David, I have some questions about your tweet from yesterday:
    ·
    ‘Apr 18
    Once again ABC news radio doing their political propaganda anti Scott hate fest. No balance, few facts. Just pure speculation and prejudice. Unbelievable that the Aussie taxpayer pays for this rubbish’
    I am guessing from the time of your tweet and the reference to ABC News Radio that you may be talking about the sound track broadcast of the ABC TV programme Insiders. (1) Is that the case?
    (2) If it is, shouldn’t the ‘blame’ for the ‘no balance’, the ‘prejudice’ and the ‘speculation’ be shared by the journalists involved? From Guardian Australia, Australian Financial Review, and The Australian.

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