Friday, 1 April 2011

What Is "Wrong"?

I've just returned from Hobart where I gave a short public lecture at the University of Tasmania's Stanley Burbury Theatre about why Marriage can only be between a man and woman. I was, and a couple of hundred of other people were, "greeted" by 'Gay-Rights' protestors jeering us as we entered the forum. Perhaps not surprisingly, what was supposed to be the issue seemed to soon be forgotten and the real (unstated) issue quickly came to the fore. This might simply be boiled down to this challenge- "Who are you to impose your religious beliefs upon a secular society!"
¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14
Secularists (those who promote viewing life without any reference to God) have claimed ownership over society and therefore its moral standards with a few simple maxims: (i) What's right or true for you may not be what's right or true for me; and, (ii) As long as you don't hurt anyone, do whatever you want. Both of these maxims are grounded and based in an idea called "Moral Relativism" (the idea that we individually determine what's right and wrong for us without any outside authority for determining what's right or wrong behaviour). Several protestors asked questions after my lecture which were grounded in this way of thinking.
¶ Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.
So he reasoned...
Acts 17:16-17a
As Christians I think we face two challenges when it comes to defending the Bible in the public square: firstly, we need to be faithful and loyal to what the Creator has clearly commanded for all people (not just Christians), and secondly, we need to be on guard against the 'peer' pressure of the world to 'privatise' our convictions about God and life. Thus, when a Christian says that something is wrong because the Bible says that it is wrong, this is a sufficient argument, but due to the derision in which the Bible is held by the world, this truth is scorned. But if the world is allowed to remove God and His Word from how His world is governed what kind of world would we end up with? What I have just done is used an arguing technique which exposes an opposing argument for what it really is. Immanuel Kant called this taking an argument to its extreme end. Greg Koukl calls it, Lifting the Roof. What kind of society would we have if we extremely applied what Jesus Christ taught about how we should interact with each other? Conversely, what kind of society would we have if we took the do whatever you want maxim to an extreme? History tells us that when God and His Word are removed from society, godlessness results with all of its horrors.

Still there are Christians who feel that if we get involved in our communities, cities, states and nations, we are being politicaland not spiritual. "Christians should not be involved in politics", they protest. "We are here to save lost souls", they assert, "not to be in politics." It may surprise some, but I actually agree. We are on a mission to rescue lost souls from a Christless eternity of eternal torment and to appeal to people to be reconciled to the One who knows them best and loves them most. But consider that if we are silent in the public arena about what God says, how then will people hear the Gospel?
¶ But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Romans 10:14
How will they come to a knowledge of what sin is and therefore to the realisation that they need a Saviour?
¶ What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
Romans 7:7
Historically, when the Church, the Christian community, ceased to prophetically challenge people about their idolatry, the Church waned and society became less civil. Eighteenth century Europe is a case in point. Both England and France in particular had political and royal leaders who scorned God and His Word. They treated people poorly. They acted on their sexual whims and proclivities. The result in France was a bloody revolution followed by years of war and bloodshed. The result would have surely been the same in England. Charles Dickens described this era as, "It was the worst of times. It was the best of times." (The Tale of Two Cities). But England avoided moral collapse because God did something in His Church there which resulted in all facets of society being affected. God dramatically converted John Wesley and George Whitefield in particular who thundered the Gospel across England the American colonies. These evangelists were greatly used by God to convert thousands of nominal Christians to true faith. But by the end of Wesley's life he realised that he had largely failed to make a spiritual dent in his nation. He called for a young, recently converted politician, William Wilberforce to his deathbed. "Where I have failed, you must not!" he told and later wrote to Wilberforce. He charged Wilberforce to take the Gospel into the legislature of England. And he did.

William WilberforceWilberforce was maligned by the irreligious throughout his political career as he sought to implement a foundational truth of the Gospel - that all people are created in the image of God - this includes women, children, and enslaved black Africans. His campaign lasted over 30 years of arguing that England's Parliament should amend its laws to honour God and therefore ensure the greatest welfare of its people. Toward the end of his campaign he was accused of wanting to pass laws to make everyone a Christian. Wilberforce responded by saying that he wished he could pass a law which made everyone a Christian so that their eternal bliss would be secured, but alas, one cannot be converted by compulsion, that is, everyone must accept or reject God's offer of Christ as Saviour.

During Wesley and Whitefield's 40 year preaching revival, the number of church attenders remained largely the same. This is curiously because they actually preached salvation to existing church-goers. But at the end of Wilberforce's 40 or so years in politics, the number of church goers had risen exponentially! While Wilberforce was arguing for an ending to slavery, treating women with respect, and preventing industrial cruelty to children, he grounded his arguments in God and His Word. Wilberforce then made a logical connection between God and His Word, and the truth. The connection he made was that the truth would be verifiable in real life. That is, you could demonstrate that the world really was the way the Bible described it.

The Patriot, starring Mel GibsonWhy should we as Christians today be concerned about issues like "Same-Sex" Marriage? Because it is grounded in an entirely false view of how the world actually is. If we are indifferent on this issue and come under the spell of Moral Relativists and chant the mantra that truth is only true if it's true for me then we are failing in our Great Commission to "teach all nations everything I have commanded" and doing a tremendous injury to our trying to bring people to The Saviour for forgiveness for their idolatry. In the movie, The Patriot (originally starring Jimmy Stewart, then later remade with Mel Gibson), the father of three boys refuses to be entangled in the fight of the Colonists with the oppressive Red Coats. "It's not my war" he tells one recruiter. But then the Red Coats murder one of his sons. He fell into depression as he realised that his apathy brought this on. He then realised that sometimes you have to fight in order to protect and preserve. As the story unfolds, we see him very deliberately and intentionally changing his clothes and kitting himself with various familiar weapons. While we are wondering how this gentle farmer is so familiar with the ways of war, we are allowed to listen to a conversation that two of the American military leaders have as they recount how this 'farmer' was a decorated war hero prior to settling down for a more quiet life. It is then that we realise that the original appeal to him was really an appeal to be who he really was.

In a similar way, much of the Church has retreated to a more quiet life. While the war for men's souls rages and the Devil deceptively tells the world that God has no right to tell them how to live, and many us put our fingers in our spiritual ears and dismissively tell the Recruiting Spirit, "It's not my war." And then it shockingly becomes apparent to us that one of our own children is now spiritually dead. We take a look at our tear-stained appearance in the mirror and see that our clothes are all dusty. Standing in front of the full-length mirror we dust ourselves off and slightly amazed see that we are dressed as soldiers. Having never noticed it, we see a weapon strapped to our side. We take it in our hands and it feels strangely familiar. And like the enchanted sleeping King Theoden in the Lord of the Rings, we awake from a supernatural slumber and take up our Christ-won, rightful position of being a light on a hill. To this end, it is love for (not 'of') the world that drives us. It is our deep compassion for the eternal destiny of all people and our even deeper conviction that Jesus is Lord of all that we proclaim Him as such.
Father, help us to reach out to the world with Your love and Word. Help us to be salt and light to a savourless and dark world. Give us the courage of our convictions to not be silent about Your grace and great love for all people. Help us also to live a demonstration of that truth and grace. May we see the hurting, the lost, the spiritually dead, all redeemed and added to Your church family, for Your glory, we pray, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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