CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Another Gospel, Again

May 27, 2007

I really should stop being surprised. But I guess hope springs, and clings, eternal. Every time I see an article in the mainstream media about Christianity, I foolishly hope that perhaps at least one of them might actually represent something of historic Christianity. Thus when I noticed another article in the Melbourne Age, this time claiming to be about Christianity versus atheism, a flicker of hope welled up within me.

But of course it was extinguished in an instant when I opened up the article online. Here was yet another “Christian” article in the MSM, except that it looked nothing like what biblical Christianity is all about. Indeed, neither Jesus, nor the disciples, nor defenders of the faith throughout the ages would have recognised their faith in this piece.

I guess I should have checked out the author by-line first. That usually gives the game away real fast. Sure enough: the author works with the Uniting Church, arguably the most liberal and theologically reckless denomination in Australia.

The author, Cheryl Lawrie, is said to work “with an alternative worship project for the Uniting Church”, whatever that means. Her Sunday article (May 27, 2007) started off with the promising sub-title, “Atheism might be all the rage, but Christianity is about more than fashion,” but it was all downhill from there on.

It was just another article newspapers like the Age love to run: a so-called religious piece that simply reflects the spirit of the age. Sure, there is a puff of faith here, a whiff of Christianity there, and a smattering of religious buzz words. But the article simply reflects the position of one who clearly has little time for the historic understanding of the Christian faith.

She begins by saying that while atheism may seem to be the flavour of the month, faith still has a place. But then she comes out with a whopper like this: “At its essence, Christianity is not about doctrine: it’s about a lifestyle, and a commitment at one’s very core to the notion that all people should have life, rich and full beyond measure.” There are two major problems with this statement: the first half and the second half.

Christianity has nothing to do with doctrine? So all those historic creeds and councils have just been a waste of time? And there is no doctrinal difference between Christianity and say, Rosicrucianism, or shamanism? And when Paul speaks about false teachings as being – in some cases – doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1), or when he says those who preach another gospel should be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9), was he just hyperventilating, or being a bit melodramatic?

And is Christianity really just about “a lifestyle, and … life rich and full beyond measure”? If that is the end, then New Age teaching, get-rich schemes and/or peyote religions would all suffice. In which case, Jesus need not have bothered in coming to planet earth, let alone dying for our sins. Indeed, it seems that in the gospel according to Ms Lawrie, the concept of sin doesn’t even rate a mention. In which case, neither would salvation.

And you know the Christian faith is not going to come off well in an article like this when the author spends a good part of her time arguing that atheist Richard Dawkins is right on so many things. For example, she says, “Dawkins is right, of course — there’s nothing rational about a life of faith”. Nothing?

So what is she suggesting? That Christianity is irrational? That it has nothing to do with evidence and reason? If so, she is acting as a disciple of Richard Dawkins, but not Jesus Christ. Biblical faith may at times go beyond reason, but never against reason. An ‘informed faith’ may best describe the biblical view on the matter.

She also makes this bizarre claim: “Yes, the case for God is pretty flimsy. It’s based on beliefs and experiences that can’t be measured or proven or validated.” But the heart of Christianity is Christ, and the evidence for the reliability of the gospels and the historicity of Jesus is a major component of the Christian apologetic.

She also claims, “These are not things that can be measured empirically but every time we see them happen we have an encounter with God.” Let me see if I have that straight: When I take an LSD trip, the experience is not too readily open to empirical testing, but it is a clear indication that I have met with God. When a Whirling Dervish or hallucinating madman undergoes a “spiritual” experience, they are one with God? Sorry, but this may sound good to the humanist and New Age crowd, but it has nothing at all to do with the truth claims of biblical Christianity.

Consider another wild claim: “Instead of focusing on what or who God is, faith is primarily about reorienting ourselves so that we look at the world through the eyes of God, and respond to it with the heart of God. We continue to do so even when it doesn’t seem rational, sensible, or as though it will make the slightest bit of difference.”

“What or who God is”! She is falling for every trick in the atheist handbook. She is giving people like Dawkins everything they want. Belief in God is just like belief in a floating teapot, says Dawkins. And our Uniting Church friend comes along and agrees wholeheartedly. Just whose side are you on, Ms Lawrie? And how can one see through God’s eyes and respond with his heart, if the who and what of God is unknown and unimportant?

Just in case doubt still remains as to the writer’s Christian orthodoxy, get a load of this: “I have a very uneasy relationship with traditional Christian doctrines. I’m not convinced in the slightest that there will be life after death; the creeds don’t speak of the truths at the heart of my faith.” You can say that again Cheryl. Without question the absolute centrality of the Christian story is the resurrection of Christ, and the hope of resurrection for the believer. But to this enlightened author, it doesn’t even appear on the radar. Just how much of the Christian story can one jettison and still call oneself a Christian?

The whole article continues in this vein. It is one of the more anti-Christian pieces on Christianity one will find. No surprise therefore that the Age was so happy to run with it. Any religious mumbo-jumbo is just fine for the MSM. Just don’t try running with biblical Christianity.

www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/with-god-on-side/2007/05/26/1179601730254.html?page=fullpage#

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18 Responses to Another Gospel, Again

  • We need to pray that things will change. It’s a real problem that so-called Christians are portrayed to represent Christians in the media. It is ironic that the so-called ‘Uniting’ Church is so divisive. They really have gone too far. I like the statement that goes something like if you try to please everyone you end up standing for nothing. That is truly what has happened in the Uniting Church. It picks and chooses what it agrees with from the Bible. One can ask if Cheryl is in fact a Christian. If you deny that Christ is God and/or that he was crucified and rose from the dead then you cannot be a Christian. I agree The Age has an appalling track record when it comes to talking about Christianity. The fact that these kinds of articles are getting published indicates that The Age doesn’t have a good religious editor. Anyone with some common sense would realise how un-Christian this woman’s views are.
    Matthew Mulvaney

  • Matthew Mulvaney 27.5.07 / 3pm wrote
    “The fact that these kinds of articles are getting published indicates that The Age doesn’t have a good religious editor. Anyone with some common sense would realise how un-Christian this woman’s views are.”

    I agree that good, solid Presbyterian David Syme must be horrified at what has become of his newspaper, but taking pot-shots at individuals is still a risky business.

    The Age may have a horrid religious affairs editorial policy, but it may still have some decent, hard-working and faithful people on the staff.

    John Angelico

  • The pot-shot is to challenge the religious editor of the Age to run articles on true Christianity and not just stuff to tickle the ears. Let’s see, they could start with quoting Tim Costello and any of the pastors who are sought after internationally as relevant speakers to this day and age. That’s why I go to my church, because they speak relevance there, not arcahaisms and not mumbo-jumbo.
    Rebecca Field

  • Rebecca,
    I would hope that we could find someone more orthodox than Tim Costello to represent Christianity!
    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Cheryl has more of a point than you are willing to allow. Talk (rules, docrtines, church policies and regulations DO take a back seat to life style of justice, equality and peace-making…if doctrine helps you to get ehere well and good. for many doctrine and regulation, parlticualrly Catholic, have simply impeded people from following natural insitinct and loving..
    Rev. Gregory Comella

  • “I agree,” “I think,” “I’m similarly appalled,” “My beliefs,” “I think,” “my reasons,” “I’m a person of faith,” “I’m convinced,” ” I wish.” Those two little words, “I” and “my”, of Cheryl’s, betray the very core of self-centred humanism; Satan in many guises – sometimes as a Christian – is always trying to deceive by getting our attention off God and onto ourselves.

    David skinner UK

  • It’s has always intrigued me that there are so many different branches, sects and denominations in Christianity, each with its own interpretation and points of theological difference.

    How can anyone legitimately claim that their particular interpretation is true Christianity while other interpretations are false? Anyone who makes such a claim is by definition biased and therefore unreliable.

    Alan Simpson, Qld

  • Thanks Alan

    It’s has always intrigued me that there are so many different branches, sects and denominations in secular humanism, each with its own interpretation and points of philosophical difference.

    How can anyone legitimately claim that their particular interpretation is true humanist theory while other interpretations are false? Anyone who makes such a claim is by definition biased and therefore unreliable.

    (PS, as but one clear example, consider the inter-tribal warfare between Dawkins and Gould.)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Alan, Just because an assertion is biased, tolerant, progressive 21st century or bigoted has no bearing on whether it is relaible or unreliable; the question is whether it is true or not. Both parties in the following exchange were biased but it didn’t disqualify at least one them from being extremely reliable!

    ACTUAL transcript of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10-10-95.

    Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”
    Canadians: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”
    Americans: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.”
    Canadians: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”
    Americans: “THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT’S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.”
    Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

    David Skinner UK

  • Bill,
    Science only progresses through argument, debate, evidence and hypothesis. Dawkins is a biologist and Gould is a paleontologist, and they basically differ about the importance of gene-level selection in evolution. Eventually the argument will be resolved through research, but maybe both are partly correct. Dawkins has never said paleontology is not a real science, or vice versa.

    Christianity has only the scriptures to go by, and differing opinions come down to a purely intellectual argument about interpretation of words and their literal importance. There is no expectation of new information coming to hand which will resolve these differences. Yet we hear constant claims, particularly from conservative Christians, that X and Y are not “real Christians”. How can anyone be confident about making such judgments, or ever really know if their judgment is correct?

    Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that, despite the lack of evidence, there really is a God. Would such God look more kindly on a judgmental Christian, or on an agnostic or even an atheist who says “sorry God, but all the evidence suggested that you don’t exist”? Can you even answer that question with surety?

    I guess this Pascal’s Wager in reverse.

    Alan Simpson, Qld

  • The evolutionary camp is also divided over the theory that dinosaurs evolved into birds, and there exist many camps within paleoanthropology.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  • Thanks Alan

    Re your last para, a few points. I have said numerous times that Christianity is an evidence-based faith, so please no more broken records here. You are really not adding anything new to the debate.

    And who or what is a judgmental Christian? What does he look like?

    Romans 1 makes it perfectly clear that all men are without excuse. There is more than enough evidence for God’s existence, but we refuse to believe it. The created universe and our moral nature, both point to a moral creator God. But we would rather “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. When we stand before our maker, all special pleading and flimsy excuses will melt away real fast. But as I have said before, those who seek the truth will find it. Those who have closed their minds will not, and will have to give account for it.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Alan, When we stand before God, it is he who sits on the throne of judgement – not us. You wont find a judgemental Christian anywhere within a billion light years and you won’t find Hitler standing there either, before God, saying “O Jee shucks, if only I had known you really existed I would not have done all those nasty things. Sorreee God. I’m so relieved to discover that you are real!” Our attitude to God, either one of acceptance or rebellion, is fixed once and for all time when we die and that is how we appear before Him . If you really want to know if God exists, waiting till you get to the other side is not a good wager; it will be too late and you could be in his presence within the next five minutes! Ask God in humility to reveal himself to you personally; he has promised to do this if we are really sincere. Rev. 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” We can say that with certainty because we have found God’s word trustworthy – every inch the way. The difference between you and us is that we have tried it and you haven‘t . God takes us where we are; don’t ask him to reveal himself in some spectacular way, just something you can handle. When Jesus first met Peter, he didn’t straightway ask Peter to walk on water in the middle of raging storm; instead he simply told him to chuck his net in one place rather than other. He takes us one step at time. But you have to do the asking.
    David Skinner UK

  • David,

    On what basis do you claim to know any of this? All you have to go on are old superstitions of anonymous persons who claim to know the mind of God. All of Christianity is built on faith that the ancient stories and myths are true. If you want to believe all that it’s fine with me, but please don’t quote something as controversial as Revelations as if it were authoritative. You might just as well quote the daily horoscope.

    Bill,
    A judgmental Christian is one who claims only his interpretation of Christianity is true, and all others are not “real Christians”.

    And while you often claim that Christianity is evidence-based, you don’t substantiate this claim by pointing to the actual evidence. Where is it?

    Alan Simpson, Qld

  • Thanks Alan

    A judgmental secularist is one who claims only his interpretation of secularism is true, and all others are not “real secularists”. Your comment is rather empty, Alan. It simply demonstrates you are so overcome by relativism, that anyone who claims to know something with certainty is being judgmental. Why don’t you be consistent here are start chewing out people like Harris or Dawkins for being so judgmental, because they claim to be so certain about their beliefs?

    And I have told you and others on this site before about some good starting places to examine the evidence. It is obvious you have not followed this up, because it is obvious that you are not really interested in following the evidence. You simply want to push your agenda with a mind shut to truth. In which case, no one is able to help you at this point.

    If you do decide to peruse some of the books I have recommended, then you are welcome to get back to me and we can discuss the issues. But in the meantime, I am afraid we are at a bit of an impasse here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Alan. I was not quoting Revelation but Matthew 25:31ff. And again whether something is controversial, old hat, or whatever has no bearing on whether it is true or false. Something is true or false irrespective of how one might want to view it. One could also say that all you have to go on are the fanciful writings of Mr Darwin, the credibility of which would make a witch doctor green with envy. But where would that get us? The real question is, If one were to give you evidence – not proof – that the Bible is reliable, would you believe? If the answer is no, then maybe the problem does not lie with your mind but with your will. It suits you not to believe it. Have you read it from cover to cover, without pre- udging it, or are you simply repeating popular, secand hand opinons – “nowadays no one believes that stuff?” Adding to something that I think Bill said, if North Korea, China, Stalin and Hitler with all their unimaginable, human suffering are realities consequent on Darwin’s theories you are welcome to them. On the other hand, if the Bible is delusion, thank God for it, for it has resulted in western european civilisation with its great scientific discoveries, musical, artistic and literary achievements, hospitals, schools, social and ecomonic reforms, its great instituions and the family. If this is delusion, may God send it all those who are burdened with the futility and fatalism of evolutionary humanism for their hopelessness and despair is an awful reality.
    David Skinner

  • Sorry Alan, one last thing. May I recommend that if you are serious about finding out about the Christian faith, why not sign up to one of those courses like Alpha or Christianity Explored? Although the Bible on one level can be understood by a half wit, it is also a very profound book and it is useful to have someone help guide you through it. Also, “Evidence that demands a Verdict,” compiled by Josh McDowell would answer – not all – but a great many of your intellectual problems.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks for that article Bill, sadly it rings true that people love darkness rather than the light because the light would show up their dark and wicked hearts that so too the media will deliberately use false scales to weigh ‘christianity’ to secular humanism.
    Would us suprise us if they use this type of ‘christian’ to defend the faith?
    1 Corinthtians 11:13
    For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

    2Cr 11:14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

    2Cr 11:15Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

    If Satan has confused the world with false religion and mystical experience, which so much of the world has no problem accepting or even accomodating, why would they rely on a Christian to offer a Biblical defence of the gospel.

    God bless Bill

    Andrew Lacey, Australia

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