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More Fuzzy Thinking From Our Church Leaders

Sep 29, 2009

Two and a half millennia ago the prophet Isaiah uttered these powerful words: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Sadly, he was speaking to the people of God, not a bunch of pagans.

Things have not changed much. While we expect the secularists and radical activists to push an upside down morality, and pervert biblical values, we don’t expect those who claim to speak for God to do such things. Sure, these folk may be well-intentioned, but when they in effect end up calling black white, and white black, then we are in bad shape indeed.

There was yet another example of this, and in the usual place: the Melbourne Age. An Anglican Bishop wrote a piece in which he blithely promoted an agenda which he thought was fully biblical. But a closer look reveals plenty of fuzzy thinking and mushy morality – and very little of biblical truth.

He argued that Christians should support equal opportunity legislation (which would grant special rights to homosexuals, while taking rights away from the majority), and also should get on the Bill of Rights bandwagon. Thus he has fully endorsed some major campaigns of the secular left.

Now if a Christian wants to do that, well, we can perhaps agree to disagree. But when a Christian leader manages to completely mangle the Gospel as he seeks to push what is really a trendy lefty agenda, then it is a real concern. Indeed, his article could have been written by any secularist. It contains not one passage of Scripture, but plenty of vague and twisted platitudes and rhetoric about what Jesus would do.

Consider these incredible claims. He actually says that those who support the retention of religious exemptions to our equal opportunity laws are “arguably at odds with the essence of what the founder of the Christian faith lived, taught and died for.” Oh really? Jesus lived and died so that homosexual activists could get special rights, and so that Christian organisations should be forced to employ atheists, witches and unbelievers?

So Jesus spent his life campaigning for the right of homosexual activists to teach in our Sunday Schools, and for committed atheists to work in our Christian charities? But wait, there’s more. He goes on to again tell us what he sees is the essence of Christianity:

“At the heart of what Christians proclaim as the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this radical affirmation of universal human dignity as the basis of universal human rights.” It is? There I thought the core message was that God loves us, but that sin has ruined our relationship with God, and that Jesus came to take our place, suffering the punishment we deserve, so that we might be reconciled to God.

Sadly this befuddled Bishop has things all confused. (He does say several times, “I am perplexed”. That’s for sure.) He is simply putting the cart before the horse here. He is grossly mixing various biblical themes, and getting them out of their biblical order of priority.

Are human rights important? Yes, but they can only be achieved on God’s terms, not ours. An activist judiciary and radical social engineering are not the means by which real human dignity is achieved. In fact, it is only because we are all made in God’s image, and are all the objects of the love of Christ, that real talk about human rights even becomes possible.

But the fact that we are all one because we are created in God’s image and the object of his redemptive love has nothing at all to do with quite modern notions of egalitarianism. That is what the Bishop is really pushing here. He has mistaken the notion of biblical equality (we are all God’s creatures, but we are all equally sinful, and only some of us will respond to what Christ has done for us) with trendy lefty notions of egalitarianism.

Certain types of equality are compatible with Biblical ethics (equality before the law, equality of opportunity) while others are not (equality of outcome, eg.). The modern concept of levelling outcomes does not find clear biblical support.

Consider how this works out in contemporary society. Modern socialism for example demands equality of outcome. Regardless of who you are or what you do, all must end up with the same outcome (although it never quite worked that way in our Marxist utopias). But the Bible speaks of the deserving and undeserving poor. Those who don’t work shouldn’t eat. It is that simple. In other words, our choices, our behaviour, our beliefs and our practices all have an impact on outcomes.

The same in other areas. Heterosexual marriage has always held a privileged position in society because of its unique and important role. Heterosexual married couples have received certain benefits because of the great benefits they give to society.

Not all other types of relationships deserve that same sort of recognition or support. For the Bishop to imply that Jesus would somehow approve of state recognition of, and special rights for, homosexual relationships beggars belief. True, Jesus could hang around with tax collectors and prostitutes. But that was for entirely different purposes.

He did so in order for them to find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. He did not do so in order for them to get special favours from the government of the day. Jesus was not into enforcing some levelling egalitarian society. He was into creating a new redeemed people out of an old fallen people.

In fact, the ultimate proof that Jesus was not into some mindless equality of outcome is the biblical truth of our eternal destinies. If our Bishop were calling the shots, there would likely be no hell, and everyone would simply end up in heaven, whether they like it or not.

But Jesus, more than any other biblical individual, spoke about hell time and time again. We as sinners all have equality of opportunity: we can all choose to repent of our sins, and turn in faith to Christ for a new life, or we can refuse that free offer of grace.

There surely will not be a final equality of outcome. Hell and heaven are two completely different outcomes, and each is fully commensurate with the choices we have made. The same is true in this life. We are all different, and so to demand equal outcomes is in fact to treat people unequally.

The Bishop’s article is simply a reflection of trendy secular thought: long on mushy morality and rhetoric, but short on biblical content. The truth is, as I have argued elsewhere, Christians have every right not to be forced to employ those who hold an opposite faith to theirs, or no faith at all.

That is what religious freedom is all about. But the Bishop wants to take these freedoms away, and in their place force the egalitarian and socialist agenda on all of us – and all in the name of ‘what would Jesus do?’ Yikes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/a-betrayal-of-the-faith-20090928-g95o.html

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20 Responses to More Fuzzy Thinking From Our Church Leaders

  • Well said, Bill.

    I doubt that I could respond to the article in any less space.

    His abuse of the “good samaritan story (no, sorry – ‘narrative’ is the trendy term these days) would be just risible if it wasn’t employed towards such an impossible objective.

    Vanity, vanity – all is vanity and striving after wind! – The Preacher.

    John Angelico

  • CS Lewis says, ‘Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience’.

    Michael D. O’Brien says, ‘How long will it take for our people to understand that when humanist sentiments replace moral absolutes, it is not long before very idealistic people begin to invade human families in the name of the family, and destroy human lives in the name of humanity? This is the idealist’s greatest temptation, the temptation by which nations and cultures so often fall. The wielder of power is deluded into thinking he can remould reality into a less unkind condition. If he succeeds in convincing his people of the delusion and posits for them an enemy of the collective good, then unspeakable evils can be released in society. Those who share a mass-delusion rarely recognise it as such, and can pursue the most heinous acts in a spirit of self-righteousness.’

    It is all very well for the superior intellects of Bishops to expound utopia and human rights from the comfort of their leather couches and nice clean offices but the reality is altogether something entirely different. Paedophiles exploited Islington Council’s well-intentioned commitment to EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES and soon most of Islington’s 12 children’s homes had child molesters on the staff who cynically pretended to be ordinary homosexuals. Numerous children and other staff made allegations of abuse, but were branded homophobes and ignored: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23383308-details/A+foster+mother+pays+tribute+to+the+Archbishop+of+Canterbury%2527+compassion/article.do

    NSPCC child protection director Neil Hunt said: “The tragic and disturbing facts about past abuse in North Wales children’s homes were that the children had no one to turn to for help and, when they tried to speak out, they were ignored :http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/641819.stm

    The mother of twins who were filmed naked by gay foster pervert Craig Faunch has spoken of her disbelief at the failings of Wakefield Council’s social services department: http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/I-told-social-services-about.1519740.jp

    Two predatory paedophiles abused boys together after their release from prison because HUMAN RIGHTS LAWS meant that authorities were unable to stop them living together: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/4325047/Paedophiles-couldnt-be-split-because-of-human-rights.html

    A Spanish university professor who said gays and bisexuals are “ill” and “unworthy” needs mental help, gay groups have said. The COLEGAS gay and lesbian confederation has called for “urgent psychological treatment” for the professor, saying she is suffering from the serious illnesses of intolerance and homophobia.

    Unspeakable evil: http://www.onenewsnow.com/Perspectives/Default.aspx?id=163504
    Unspeakable evil: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/4365171/Social-services-remove-young-children-from-grandparents-and-arrange-adoption-by-gay-couple.html
    Unspeakable evil: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1167209/Family-11th-hour-legal-battle-halt-brothers-adoption-gay-couple.html
    Unspeakable evil of Tony Blair’s goverment: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/columnists/article-229953/If-iota-shame-Mrs-Hodge-youd-resign-now.html

    As for the bishop, Jesus Christ was that Good Samaritan who came to save us from ARTICLE 1 of THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF REBELLION AGAINST GOD. ARTICLE 29, THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: “In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to….. The just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.” http://www.christian.org.uk/pdfpublications/The%20Case%20Against%20Change.pdf

    David Skinner, UK

  • And remember, Bill, the bishop you describe is not only short on Biblical truths, but also the entire teaching of the Church, its creeds and doctines, from its very beginnings; authentic Christianity is unbroken tradition. These revisionsts represent a fundamental break with real Christianity.
    John Thomas, UK

  • Thanks guys

    Fortunately the Age today ran a good article by Kevin Donnelly countering the Bishop’s nonsense: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/why-the-bishop-is-wrong-on-faith-and-rights-20090930-gbfe.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I submit that it is of the highest likelihood that the Anglican Bishop in question is not a true Christian. So the opening statement regarding who we expect and who we do not expect such backwards messages to come from is rather easy to understand if you consider that not everybody “who claims to speak for God” is a real blood-redeemed, Christian.

    This bishop is clearly so clueless when it comes to what the essence of Jesus Christ is; can it be said that a true regenerate member of the body of Christ can have absolutely no comprehension of what the Gospel is really about? I somehow doubt it.

    Nathan Schellinger

  • Thanks Nathan

    As I mentioned, he may have good intentions, and he probably thinks he is doing Jesus a favour here. But sadly, the Bishop is basically just pushing a tired secular social gospel. He has managed to turn Jesus into a social engineering bureaucrat at the UN. Of course ultimately only God knows who are truly his, but passages like Matthew 7:15 certainly come to mind here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Jesus repeatedly taught (& demonstrated) equal opportunity, which is quite distinct from the enforcement of equal rights we see here, now.

    “You’re going to have equal rights whether you want them or not.”

    Finding the flaw in that reasoning is not too difficult.

    Leon Brooks

  • Thankyou David Skinner for your links, relevant and useful as usual.
    John Snowden

  • Bill,

    Don’t be too hard on the bishop. I imagine it’s difficult for him to see the problem.

    After all, the introduction of such laws would make no difference to the makeup, thinking and practice of large sectors of his denomination.

    We probably wouldn’t be fighting the battle against state enforce apostasy if the church hadn’t already embraced it voluntarily.

    Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

    Michael Hutton, Ariah Park, NSW

  • That’s exactly right Michael. Such laws pose absolutely no threat to liberal churches. Neither do laws which would label and ban preaching against homosexuality as ‘hate speech’ since liberal churches would never dream of doing that either.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Bill, I had a read of Kevin Donnelly’s article in reply.

    It’s very good, succint and thorough.

    But have a look at the ranting comments of the correspondent called “zebba”, it takes only his second posting to draw out his anti-Catholic-paedophilia bias.

    Another miso-theist to bandy words with.

    John Angelico

  • Hi Bill,

    An illuminating article. I too think that the Bishop has diluted the significance and content of the gospel to such an extent that it has been reduced to a secular social program with a “barely-there” Christian veneer. Indeed, he seems to be looking at things the wrong way: rather than engaging with and critiquing contemporary society from a Christian perspective, he is doing the reverse, with the object of his critique being Christianity, and his argument deriving ultimate legitimacy from a western (small ‘l’) liberal worldview.

    Just one point: I’m not sure how much weight the Bible actually gives to any distinction between “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. To be sure, some of the passages in Proverbs do speak of the inevitable consequences of laziness and sloth. Quite so. But Scripture is also filled with passages that simply speak of the poor and the vulnerable, without interrogating the reasons for their penury. From parts of Deuteronomy to passages such as Isaiah 58, (not to mention the whole of books such as Micah), the Bible simply and clearly defends the cause of the poor. To say, then, “that the those who don’t work eat,” seems to be an over-simplification of the often complex and difficult circumstances in which the poor – during both Biblical times and today – find themselves.

    Sorry to go on. A good article nonetheless.

    Scott Buchanan

  • Thanks Scott

    Yes I only devoted a line or two to what is indeed a complex and nuanced discussion. Yes, some people are poor because of injustice, oppression, and so on. They certainly get much attention in Scripture.

    And of course it is not just in Proverbs where we find the many warnings about sloth, laziness, and the like. Indeed, the phrase I used comes straight out of Paul (2 Thess. 3:10).

    But my point remains. The Bible frequently speaks about the poor, but it usually makes various distinctions about them, including that of the deserving/undeserving poor. But I am basically with you in your remarks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I had a look through the comments on Kevin Donnelly’s article. There are people sneering at his education but they aren’t so hot themselves. Why aren’t they vigorously questioning the common assumption that discrimination is inherently bad? It is question-begging to conceptualise it that way. Discrimination in some cases is warranted. If we tell all the twelve year old Romeo and Juliet couples that they can’t get married, then we are right to discriminate against them. And even if we did allow them to marry, we would discriminate against them by denying them a car to drive on their honeymoon. If a Christian school does not want an atheist paedophile from NAMBLA teaching Christian ethics to its students then they should discriminate against the creep and send him packing. Similarly a Jewish school should discriminate against neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers when hiring history teachers. Civilised societies engage in discrimination all the time. For example, Australia barred the historian David Irving from entering the country. We couldn’t allow a deluded rightwing historian near our kids but a leftwing gay propagandist with the integrity of Goebbels would be ok.

    The secular leftwing push for non-discrimination and “egalitarianism” is a disguised attempt to promote certain beliefs and subvert others.

    John Snowden

  • Thanks John

    Exactly right.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • About 21 years ago I was on a camp where the room of people was divided into smaller groups and each group given a section of Proverbs to go through. The object was to find verses that dealt with the subject of poor people. When we got back together to quote the verses, they were divided into two sections – first, about those who were poor due to injustice or circumstances outside of their control – or secondly, about those who were poor because they were lazy, evil, or even avoidably stupid. Not only were the numbers about even, that was almost inconsequential to the simple fact that the Bible recognizes both, and therefore I think Christians should be careful about either rashly demonizing or automatically pitying the poor.

    It takes a fair level of wisdom and reliance on God to recognize how to respond personally – I have certainly encountered people in either category and have wrestled with that response. But I certainly think that Scripture teaches personal responsibility to grow in this capacity. When Jesus judges the sheep and the goats, it’s not government welfare programs or community organizations he is singling out. I think it was Keith Green the Christian singer (who died in 1982) who said something along the lines that it is a bit too easy to send money rather than going and doing something ourselves. Likewise, it’s probably a bit too easy to just support a certain political ethos and leaving it there as if God would be impressed.

    I know that’s a bit off-topic, I just thought I’d add my two cents to Scott’s comment. One more thing – I find it a little disconcerting to be convicted by my own words!

    Mark Rabich

  • “Non-discrimination” and other secularist dogmas such as ToleranceDiversityRespect(TM) are a sham, as they do not apply to Christians.
    Louise Le Mottee

  • Hi,
    The Anglican Bishop, myself and a couple of others took part in an ABC talk show on the issue, see
    http://blogs.abc.net.au/localradio/2009/10/religious-discrimination.html

    Best wishes,
    Kevin Donnelly

  • Thanks for fighting the good fight Kevin.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,

    Keep up the good fight as well – this is an excellent and very informative blog. For your information, I’ve just launched my own webpage at http://www.edstandards.com.au

    Best wishes,
    Kevin Donnelly

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