Monday, June 30, 2008


Last night's news mentioned the risk of a split in the Anglican Church (Apostolic in the U.S.) over the issue of homosexual clergy and blessing homosexual unions, or 'gay marriage' as they call them. The commentator talked of division between the conservative faction and 'those who think the church should move with the times to avoid becoming irrelevant'. That way of putting it shows the commentator's bias. It implies that those who stand on what the Bible has always taught are obstinate anachronisms who are holding back the church and society.
This seems like a classic case of 'thinking themselves wise they became foolish'.
One of the most essential things about the Christian Gospel is that it is eternal. It does not change. That is one reason why we can trust and rely on it. God is the same yesterday, the same tomorrow. His teachings do not change, so that people can find themselves confused or caught on the wrong foot because they weren't there when the change was announced.
The Gospel does not change to suit society. Society needs to change to live by the teacings of the Gospel, which the Church should be teaching if it is truly Christian. God is not subject to social or political fashion. Or, if someone does not want to live by the Gospel, why insist on calling themselves Christian?
I covered this before in a post called "If you're going to do it, do it." No one has to be a Christian, in the free Western world. But if you want to be, then listen to what THE CHRIST said. The word itself means, follower of Christ. True vegans do not eat meat. True Christians do not set aside parts of the Lord's Word.
One friend said that she believed all children were born basically good, only a bad environment makes them behave badly. That is not what the Word says. True enough,
being badly treated can bring bad reaction out of people; but we are all told that human nature is prone to selfishness and bad actions. The belief above is humanist, not Christian. But the person saying that insisted that they were a Christian.
People have been trying to make up their own 'Christianity with a difference' since the time the Book of Revelations was written. I've caught myself trying to have it my own way, not God's. It doesn't work. After as much forbearance as a loving God sees as enough, the ones trying to have it their way find out that it's not going to work.
I must remember to seek God myself, and not get self-righteous. If I'm going to talk the talk, I'd better walk the walk.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Who says?

Back a while now, there was a furore in Germany because women claimed they were being forced into prostitution. How it happened was this. If a woman was unemployed, before she claimed benefit payments she must take any job available to her. And there were 'vacant positions' for 'sex workers', meaning the people who ran the industry were trying to recruit women to work in it. So the logic went, that a woman who could find no other work would have to do that.
This sounds like a mad mixture of political correctness and beauracracy. Political correctness says that you must not value judge an occupation or the people who do it, as long as it is legal. Therefore you can't condemn prostitution or those who work as prostitutes, because it is legal in that nation, and you shouldn't condemn it. Then beauracracy says, there is a form of employment you can go into so you cannot claim unemployment benefits.
Could this be the sort of outrageous stupidity that arises when we are not allowed to claim Christian morality? We can only judge by what the law says, and who says the law has got it right? A person is not allowed to insist that prostitution is degrading, and refuse to do it; that would be 'value-judging'. This is what can happen when a nation becomes so secularized that Christian teaching is considered inappropriate.
There are reasons accepted for declining a given job, such as being claustrophic and not suited to coal-mining. But personal morality is more complicated. Those opposed to a moral position call it 'value judging', or 'bigotry', or whatever they think will intimidate. And this is the problem a secular society has when it tries to frame its laws without admitting such things as spiritual belief. Come to that, not only Christian people might be horrified at the idea of prostitution. So we need to get back the right to say, a thing is wrong if it offends the Laws of God. We need to stand on our faith and not let our Christian stance be argued away by 'clever' commentators deriding it as 'personal' or 'bigotry' And law-makers must never be allowed to override that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


This is what I meant to include in my last post. One of the ways that some people think they know better than the past is in the choice of single parenthood. That doesn't mean people who have to be single parents because of loss of partner. If they're widowed or deserted that's one thing. But it seems some individuals set out to be single parents intentionally. They do not want a partner. And they might be forgetting the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." Girls need a father, boys a mother, I believe. I had no sister, and was glad when we had a daughter so that our sons have one. I do realize it's not for me to tell others how to live, but we can all have opinions. Mine is that there is enough work for two in raising a child, and the need for both a male and female to bond with. It's all part of the two genders valuing and respecting each other.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Confusing issues.

I'm wondering: are people today smarter than those in the past just because modern society is more scientifically advanced? Are we intellectually superior to our great-great-grand parents just because we possess more knowledge? I've got my doubts. People living today can know more about certain things because more has been discovered, figured out and it's taught to us instead of us having to find it out ourselves. But that is not the same as our brains actually being better. Michael Crichton had a shrewd way of putting it: "Inherited knowledge is like inherited wealth. We can spend it without having to earn it" (paraphrase, not exact quote.) What Newton, Einstein and others found out in a lifetime can now be taught to students before they're 25 years old. All good! The human race now knows how to prevent diseases that used to kill millions, heal injuries that used to be fatal, and do things like set up the internet so that we can e-mail or blog and be read all over the planet. It beats snail mail hands down. Great! I love driving or flying in a few hours to a place that might take months to reach on foot, sail boat, horse-back or whatever other means existed before 1800.
Does that actually mean we've got better brains, though? Or just that we have the chance to inform them with more?
The reason I ask is this. So many people seem to think that they can trash the wisdom of ages. The attitude is, now that we're so clever we don't need to respect some of the things our ancestors regarded as warnings about life. In fact the classic attitude is to laugh at people who do. It's a case of "What century are you in? Ha, ha." And then having thought they knew better, they make blunders that they could have avoided.
Feriliser was invented, to make land artificially more productive. So people got to think they didn't need to take proper care of the land and respect nature, the way farmers and shepherds in the past did. Mistake! No-one needs to be told about damage to the land.
When penicillin was discovered, it was a remedy for certain S.T.Ds that were incurable before. So people no longer had to be careful to avoid certain infections. Or so they thought.
Throughout much of history, societies and people have been aware of the consequences of jealousy, and ways of preventing it from arising. Avoid breaking certain rules, such as the commandment about adultery, or envy.
Then came the 60s, and various social movements, and suddenly all that old stuff was supposed to belong in museums with the fossils. People were too clever to worry about that now.
Following that 'revolution', we have some shocking problems in the world, with too many people alienated, angry and hostile. Some of that grows from broken families, bad connection with others, and all else that follows when 'free thinking' and 'enlightened' individuals scorn the guidelines laid down by God. Or in some cases they were never taught them.
Did you ever notice how some things go around in circles? There is a wild 'liberated' age then a swing back to being conservative and controlled. It's as if once in a while people realize that the past wasn't all bad. And they want the good things back. What they need to see is, where the good things really came from.

Facing facts.

The French philosopher, Voltaire, said that if God did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him. He was probably being cynical, but it sounds quite true to me. Human beings do NOT have control over many things around them. There are times when there is nothing they can do to help themselves, or should I say we can do to help ourselves. And when those times arrive it is impossible not to wish there was some higher being to yell out to for help. It gets said, some people treat God like the fire brigade: they only call Him when they need help. But that's another issue.
For centuries, human minds could not understand a lot of the natural events and forces around them. They could not know what caused some diseases, or the changing seasons. When you can't understand something, your may be helpless in the face of it. It can also leave people thinking there must be some awesome power behind it that you might need to make peace with. But then as scientific understanding grew, the human race understood the world and the universe better, from a rational point of view, and some of them said, well, we don't need God. We can explain and control it ourselves.
Remember what they said about the Titanic: "Even God cannot sink this ship" or words to that effect. Well, guess what! So even if the human race can do awesome things, we still can't control the world the way we might wish. The unfortunate victims earthquake in China, storm surge in Burma, floods in the U.S. and drought in Australia can tell you that.
Humans can do a great deal more than they once could to help themselves, but they can't guarantee much at all. Once in a while we find that out the hard way.
The saying goes, there are no atheists on a battle field, or a sinking ship, or even a ship in trouble in a bad storm. I can't confirm that from personal experience but I can remember people who call themselves atheists saying "Oh God!" in moments of panic, and sounding as if they meant it.
We need God. Some people just won't admit it. And if God wasn't there, and we were at the mercy of whatever can happen in the world...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wishful thinking.

An arts commentator said once that society has now become secular, arts are the new spirituality and art galleries are the new cathedrals, where people go to take in what this society has to teach. That could be a bit over the top, but it's an interesting comment. Another angle on society's outlook is this: once, the extended family and the church helped raise children. In fact it was said 'It takes a village to raise a child'. Now, education has replaced spiritual instruction. Instead of the church and extended family helping raise a child, the school and its staff have to do so. Many people have rejected or drifted away from the church. And there is less contact with extended family, for some; and less community involvement Parents keep their children closer. So schools have to do the job instead.
Not only that, but teachers should do so painlessly. They should raise their students to be perfect without causing them any discomfort.In New South Wales the Education Department gave out guidelines for student protection, which forbade a teacher to raise their voice or speak sharply to a kid. Teachers who did could have a complaint made and investigators came to the school to check them out. Right now there is controversy about it in the press. Teachers are saying that it is impossible to control a class without being able to speak sharply and rebuke bad behaviour where necessary. Where that gets really ugly is, they cannot properly stop some kids bullying others. The bully getting a telling off complains that they are the victim.
The result is, many teachers want to change jobs. I was terribly glad to get out of teaching (in the public system) myself. But there's more to it than that.
For the convenience of others, it is assumed that teachers have complete power to make kids do some things and stop them doing others. People who say that may not realize quite what they are implying.
If teachers actually could exert complete control over their students, make them do and not do exactly what they wanted, they would be quite dangerous people. A teacher could be a real life Pied Piper, who took total power over the children of the village and led them away with him, never to be seen again. It could be quite scary and dangerous.
Power tends to corrupt, the saying goes; and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. If all the self-serving commentators actually thought about it, they should realize that they really do not want ANYONE being able to control kids that way. A teacher, or anyone, who could exert that sort of absolute power over someone's mind is able to manipulate them.
Do they actually want that? Do they want anyone else controlling their children at all?
Would it be better if children, teenagers, young persons, learnt to control themselves? And should that start with the parents, before the young ones even get to school?
On this subject, you can also see how public education is based on a faulty premise, from a Christian perspective. Secular humanism teaches that people are all born basically 'good' and well intentioned. Only a bad environment makes them behave badly. This sounds nice because we want to see ourselves and others in a positive way. But Christianity teaches that human beings are born sinful and need to be taught to repent and accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God loves us but does NOT flatter us. He commands us to love one another, but NOT flatter one another.
So secular school authorities assume that if teachers are always set the right example and are 'nice' to kids they will always follow the example and be 'nice' back. IF ONLY. Were it was that simple then schools and families and the whole of society would have learnt to live in complete peace decades ago -make that centuries ago.
There will be no joy in schools until it is seen that correction may be needed. That does not mean bringing back the whip and being cruel. I hate cruelty just like everybody else except sick sadists. But it does mean a student behaving badly should be told so, and penalised if need be so they get the message. Teachers have to have a means of upholding their own control if they are going to do their job. And for their own good, before it's too late, parents need to accept that their children are NOT perfect; and the responsibility for guiding them rests with the family.
Even that is not enough if people try leaving God out of the equation. Human creatures can't do it on their own. History is full of pitiful examples of people who 'blew it' because they lacked the wisdom or goodness to avoid their own ruin. That is why Shakepeare's tragedies are still relevant. They show how it happens.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So what is it?

In Sydney, Australia there has been a big controversy recently about an exhibition of photos by a renowned artist photographer, Bill Henson. Several of the pictures showed a naked fourteen year old girl. Members of an anti-paedophile group complained, and the police closed down the exhibition. You can already imagine the huge argument that followed, with some saying that it was art and should not be censored, others saying that the pictures had the effect of sexualising children. In the end, no charges were laid against the photographer. Members of the child protection lobby still insisted that the pictures were objectionable, art enthusiasts insisted that they were art.
I won't claim that I can say whether a thing is art or not. One question does occur to me, though: if art is concerned with the human form, why are so many images of the young female version of it? The human shape includes both sexes and all age groups. I'm not being critical about young girls here, just saying: why only young girls, instead of older women and male people as well. Come to that, why has a person got to be undressed before they can make an interesting picture? Being seen naked can feel like an invasion of privacy. And some brilliant pictures show people wearing clothes.
If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'm ready to hear them. But it's been this way for as long as I can recall. Artists with an interest in human nudes seem rather restricted to young women, not the whole range of possibilities. And does the naked body show a person in an intimate, potentially sexualised way?

If you're going to do it, do it.

News from England is that two clergymen had a marriage-style ceremony in a church, conducted by a third clergyman. There is a major uproar about it, because it shows approval of homosexual, or they call it 'same-sex' marriages.
I'm not going to attack homosexuals. That is not my place. What I will do is recall what the Bible says. It precludes homosexual unions. And if someone wants to say that 'times are changing', the answer to that is: God's word is eternal and unchanging. That is one of the things that makes it so reliable and trustworthy. You know where God stands on any issue by what His Word says. There is no risk of being caught out because it changed when you weren't looking, and you didn't get told in time. So the Scripture does not change to suit social fashion. Society needs to change to honour God's word. Or, if someone does not want to follow God's word, then don't call yourself a Christian. No-one is forced to practice Christianity in western countries today. There is no legal penalty for saying straight out that you do not accept Christian teaching.
So why is it that people want to call themselves Christians, belong to a church, or start what they call a Christian church, and then set aside parts of what the Christian Gospel says? It's senseless. People who do that must want to wear the label 'Christian', and go through some of the observances that go with Christianity, but not stay true to parts of the overall Christian teaching. It's cheating, in other words. Trying to have it all their own way.
Here is an analogy.If I was going to call myself a vegetarian but still eat hamburgers because I wanted to, then I'd be playing silly games with the truth. Vegetarians do NOT eat meat at all.
I'm thankful that whatever makes people feel homosexual did not happen to me. I can't say whether it's a choice or an involuntary thing. I'm just as glad that whatever causes someone to have paedophile impulses did not happen to me. It must be horrific to want to do something your conscience tells you that you should never do. I'm deeply glad that I do NOT have the impulse to force myself on a girl or woman. The idea is vile. I can't tell whether humans are sometimes overcome by their urges or whether they let their impulses go that way. I'm just glad there are SOME evil deeds I never wanted to commit.God will heal people and give them strength to overcome, I trust in that. In any case I don't want to be caught getting self righteous in condemning others, because their is plenty of impurity and imperfection in me. BUT - that is not the same as wanting the church to approve of something I do in order to save me from having to admit I'm wrong. And that's the point here. If you call yourself a Christian, accept what the Christian Gospel teaches. No-one is forced to take up the Word of God, but trying to alter it to suit themselves is utterly dishonest.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Classic tragedy.

In Australia this month we've had a senior criminal investigator caught attempting to smuggle narcotics into the country. It's a major betrayal of trust - and you see cases like it everywhere. It's also a real life example of the classic Greek or Shakepearian tragedy.
The officer involved was a highly accomplished crime fighter who had reached a very high-ranking position. He's a person of talent and achievement, who has earned respect and standing. And it was all ruined by one major flaw. That officer was an addicted gambler. Some reports say he owed a million dollars to bookmakers for money lost betting on horse races.
I'm not going to run the man down. I could, because we've all got the right to believe that people do the job they're paid to and honour the trust placed in them. But if I'm quite honest with myself, I'd have to admit: in the wrong circumstances, that could have been me. That doesn't mean I'm seriously dishonest, or that I've got a gambling problem. I do not. But like any other human, I've got character flaws.
Self-understanding includes knowing your own weaknesses. It's easy to forget that when we live in a society that encourages the individual to be 'self-actualising,' which can actually mean self centred: you put yourself first. But that man could have saved himself huge embarrassment - and his family, likewise - if he'd just kept an act together. I can't explain all his behaviour because I'm not his analyst. But anyone can see that he made a bad mistake and kept on compounding it. Could it be that the power and standing of his position went to his head? He got carried away by his own sense of grandness?
Shakespeare wrote tragic plays, showing the same miserable scenario working it's way out. Macbeth was a gallant nobleman seduced by his dreams of kingship. Othello was a warrior and man of standing who failed to control his jealousy and lapsed in understanding the way people sometimes behave. And they went down - tragedy, the great character ruined by their critical flaw.
So what is a Christian to say about this, without getting self-righteous?
All I can think of is, seek God and follow His leading. I'd better be careful myself, after I undertook to write this little lecture. If anyone reads this, I admit to you, I've failed to live up to my own principles enough times. It can be HUMBLING, you might say. I know this, too. If I'd been given any great amount of power, it might have corrupted me the way it corrupts so many others.
Good literature can show the reader or viewer how life works, that way, and give a timely warning. That's one reason, probably, why Shakespeare's work is classic, and stays in print and in production.
The Holy Scripture warns anyone who reads it: beware pride, greed, self-spoiling.
It can be irritating if one person takes it on themself to critisize another. But it can be disastrous if we lose sight of the fact that mere humans all have flaws. Don't let them destroy you.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Our own way.

June 2nd - our third son is 21 today! So there's another milestone. Liz and I pray for our children each day, never mind that one is 27, the next 25 and the others 21, 17 and 14. It's what you do. They've each got their own 'pilgrimage' to make in life.
I read the story of Joni Erikson, now Joni Erikson Tada (I think that's right). She was paralysed after a dive into shallow water. It used to make me uneasy. She's a radiant Christian. She lives out her Christian commitment, and trusts God; and takes the view that what happened to her was a part of God's plan for her. "In all things God works for good for those who love Him, for those called according to His purpose." But reading about the experience of being left quadraplegic,I hated to think of that happening to me - or to anyone who I cared about. It is a scary thought. It was getting me down. Someone, our church pastor at the time, pointed out that this was HER individual experience, her life journey and was not everybody else's. We each have our own.
That's a very helpful comment, and it should have been obvious, but I still needed to hear it. There are several billion people on Earth, there have been several billion more who lived in the past. They (we) each have our own path in God's plan. And God's plan must have several contingencies built in, to cope with the different ways we cause things to turn out. Some people live to be incredibly old, some die young. It's hard to get your head around, sometimes. The possibilities are endless. It might be brilliant to leave this world the way Elijah the Prophet did, in a fiery chariot. But that was for him, not for everyone.
The plan for each person must include when and where we are born. People sometimes say they wish they had been born in a different time, or place. Apart from the old saying about the grass looking greener over the fence, there would be other problems if we actually were. I'm glad I was born in this age - I like television, movies and having thousands of books. Living in the 'pioneer' age, log cabins and bark huts and all that, might seem quaint but it would have been a bit basic, too. The thing is, some people were meant to be born in that era. There were those who came to know Jesus and lived out faithful Christian lives, under those times and conditions. It would not have been as good if that identical individuals were born into another different age. The same goes for the place we're each born, I'm guessing. Living in England and Australia (and Malta, although I can't remember it because we left when I was two) must be what was right for my brother and myself - and numerous other people who've migrated.
There are some people who's place in life I do NOT envy. That's probably meant to show - we each have the life situation best for us. I could wish I was born into royalty, then remember being constantly subject to public scrutiny would drive me nuts. So the way we've each got it must be for a purpose. That's not to say all problems are easy to cope with. Nor is it to say that we should not interfere, if we can and should help others with their hardships. We're called to help others. It is not the Christian way to ignore suffering and say, that's the person's fate sent by God. What we do need to know, if I've got it right, is that where we are is a God-given thing and part of His purpose. Now having said all that, I'd better pray I can remember it myself and not start grumbling about the life I've been born into.