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?