Thursday, February 26, 2009

A little learning...

We know how the proverb goes: a little learning is a dangerous thing. That statement needs to be qualified. Learning is a very valuable thing. The difficulty arises when someone who learns a certain amount starts to think they know more than they do. (This includes me, I realize). What can be sad is when someone who learns a certain amount gets to think that they no longer need to show respect for what they once did.
It seems that the human race having learnt much about life and the world, and how to make it safer for them, has lost respect for the Creator. Having found technical understanding of things that once mystified and terrified them, they now think they can set themselves up as the masters of the universe. The analogy might be something like this: you learn to fly when the conditions are good, think you can fly safely at all times and then when you find yourself up in the air during a storm suddenly the shock realization comes that you knew less than you realized.
It gets more complicated than that. A doctor once told me something not everyone realizes. Back in the 1940s, human scientists discovered the use of antibiotics. They're a gift from God. Millions of people are alive today who could not have been without antibiotic cures for diseases. So far, great. The side effect wast this: when those medicines were developed, they greatly reduced the number of bacteria that existed in other life forms - and made room for virus to move into the cleared space. In the way that secondary growth moves when a forest is cleared, viruses moved in when bacteria were reduced in numbers. So now we have illnesses caused by viruses which did not attack so frequently when bacteria tended to stop viruses from being able to occupy a living host. Not that anyone should be blamed for that. What does deserve some reproach is this. Before they realized that, people began to think that they were safe doing things that were once dangerous. Instead of appreciating the blessing, people took the view that they could get away with things they once could not. Indulgent sexual behaviour was supposed to be safe because a cure was available for the diseases it sometimes spread. Then resistant strains began to appear, and we weren't so clever after all. It is too easy to think that science has the answer to everything. It can lead to disaster, thinking we can do whatever we want now that ways have been found to get away with it. In the environment, instead of treating the land and water with care, people exploit them and expect some expert to repair the damage afterwards.
From a slightly different angle, a secular society began to think human intelligence could achieve things that it never has before. A secular society tries to do with secular means what is only possible by spiritual means. My angle on this is education. Schools in Australia, and elsewhere also, are called on to 'process' the students in a certain way and shape them into good citizens, (whatever that means) and something their parents are pleased with (whatever that is supposed to be!). And here is the problem. A secular education can NOT transform and inspire a person in the way that only something spiritual can do.
From a Christian angle, I believe that the Holy Spirit is needed to lift a human above the limits of their fallible human nature. Nothing merely human can do that. In much of the world people demand that teachers take on the responsibility of influencing kids to become what they are supposed to be. They try to devise educational programmes and stragegies to make people brilliant, make them creative, change bad attitudes and behaviour issues - and find it all turns to ashes because nothing merely of this world can do what only things of the Spirit can do. It is a huge folly! Because we've found out so much about how to control the world and alter things for our own use, some people now think we can make ourselves a race of perfect citizens if we apply that knowledge through educational philosophies. They keep thinking this despite seeing some people who went to the 'best' (most expensive?) schools still becoming criminals or drop-outs with issues they're struggling with. Then the bitter complaint is made that 'schools are failing our children'. Schools and teachers should not have been expected to turn out some sort of a perfect product without the parents having to take on their responsibility; and what matter far more is, merely intellectual things should not be expected to achieve what only things of the spirit can.
Secular educationist want schools to evangelize and edify students, but in a secular way. They will not admit or cannot see that their is a spiritual part of a human which needs a spiritual approach. Human nature has become highly corrupted and unreliable. Humans need their second birth, in the Spirit, to become the best they can. That is why we need God. When agnostic or atheist thinkers try to re-invent people by other means, it is like trying to make a glider do what only a powered machine can. This was where the Leninists failed with their attempt to make the 'New Soviet Man'. They claimed that their society and its education would shape people into something better than greedy self-seekers, using Marx's writings as its inspiration. It failed - badly. To a lesser extent though the same thing happens in the West. A secular body of knowledge that does not include God tries to make people into something inspired and alive. It may achieve something in the short term. But ultimately the best that humans can do is like a robot compared to a living person. There is some similarity in appearance and behaviour, but no way can a robot do what a living breathing human can. Human brilliance cannot match the work of God. It is a modern tragedy that so many people have tried to replace God with the things of this world, and find it simply crashes and burns when the conditions become too severe.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The hand of God?

News of the bushfires in Australia has reached the U.S. and Britain, we're told. It's good to know that Christians in those countries are praying for the people affected. The situation in parts of southern Australia is pure horror. The death toll could rise to 300, so that it's worse than the Bali bombing in 2002. In fact doctors who work in casualty hospitals, treating people injured in the fires, have said just that: they remember Bali, and this is worse.
Predictably, some people are going to say the usual things about 'How could God allow this to happen?'On that subject, one Christian dropped a controversial bombshell, reported in today's newspapers. Danny Nalliah sounds like a fearless Christian who says: "I must tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to
hear." That is the pure truth, but some people are not going to like it.
Specifically, what he said was this. The bushfires in the state of Victoria have been allowed to happen because the Victorian state government has decriminalised abortion. In Danny Nalliah's words, this has made Australians "an open target for the devil to destroy."
Danny Nalliah has suffered for his faith. About a year ago, he and another pastor from Catch The Fire Ministries were taken to court by a Muslim group who claimed that these Christians had insulted Islam. It turns out that what the Christians had done was explain some differences between Islam and Christianity, with the aim of showing Christianity to be better. Members of any faith group will do that so as to explain why they follow one faith and not another. It is not inciting hatred, and after a lower court found them guilty and awarded damages a higher court overturned the decision. A good thing too, I personally think. But Pastor Nalliah has upset quite a lot of people with his comment. He is also reported as saying that he dreamt of raging fires some weeks before these bushfires broke out, and woke up with what he called 'a flash from the spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia.'
God deals individually with Christians. The Bible is clear on that. Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego were kept safe in a fire hot enough to kill other people who even went near that fire to throw the three believers into it. (Divine retribution?) The judgement of God does not fall clumsily on everyone just because some of people in a community have brought it down. But then the Word also warns of a whole land suffering because its people have turned away from Him.
This is something I should say with care, because my own sin is enough for me to worry about before I point out other peoples'. But I'm wondering if my brother Danny Nalliah might be doing just what he says: telling people what they need to hear, even when it is not what they want to hear.
Australia overall is not a Godly country. There is a great deal of self-satisfaction and arrogance in people, and contempt for what they call 'holy rollers' Thousands of Australians only use the words "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation of some sort. The attitude is 'Nobody can tell me what to do'. Abortion can be a classic example of serving your own convenience without caring about the rights of another human, who exists even though they are not yet born. Could it be that this has gone way too far? And as one columnist pointed out, here as in America, people from every other religion can speak their mind but Christians should just keep quiet. I hear something like that is happening in the U.S. now, with attempts to prevent Christians praying in public although a similar ban has not been proposed for others.
I can see why God could become utterly exasperated with the attitude of the human creatures He made and blessed. Without claiming to know His mind on all issues, I can see how He might allow disaster so as to show people what happens when they ignore Him. He is not an insurance policy that you buy, put in a drawer and do not think about unless you need it. God should be remembered every day, and thanked ever day. A Salvation Army officer ministering to the bushfire survivors talked quite openly about praying. Hopefully what he says might make people think: did they care about God before the calamity came down on them? I pray for them as well. Natural or human-made disasters can fall anywhere without us forseeing it. I too am a sinner. But if anyone wants to challenge me with 'How could your God allow this to happen?', my answer is 'Did you ever bother talking to God before this happened?'
Danny Nalliah might be telling people what they need to hear.