Friday, 28 September 2012

The Duty of Legislators


By Dr Andrew Corbett, September 28th 2012

Legislators are charged with an office to formulate and review public policy as it potentially becomes legislation. They must consider arguments for and against each piece of potential legislation in order to discharge their office. Classically, there are six filters that must be passed in order for an idea to be considered 'logical'. These are listed and briefly described below and followed by the three general categories of all legislation which should be used to determine public policy.

1. Distinguish the rhetoric from the reason.
"Rhetoric" sounds good. It employs emotive language designed to move a listener. It connects the speaker with their audience by using experiences common to us all.
"It is my firm conviction that…"
"I find this proposal to be the most offensive and dangerous idea that I have ever heard…"
"To go ahead with this would hurt the feelings of a good many people…"
"We must do this!"
"The time for change is now! … The time for this idea has now come."
"Even the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of England support this…"
None of the above examples convey a reason though. Distinguishing rhetoric from reason involves answering the why question. A reason may not be good, strong, or popular, but it may still be right.

2. Ground a moral decision.
Moral decisions determine what is right ("moral") and what is wrong ("immoral"). As such, every legislative decision is a moral decision. The question isn't whether legislators can legislate morality, the question is whose morality will they legislate? Natural Law Theory is the idea that just as there are certain physical laws which govern the universe (Gravity, Decay Rates, Newtonian, Speed of Light) there are also certain appreciable moral laws which govern human conduct. Professor J. Budziszewski (Professor of Government & Philosophy, University of Austen Texas) points out in his book, What We Can't Not Know, that these Natural Laws are readily identifiable, widely acknowledged, and timeless. The Natural Law is frequently encoded by most religions into their ethical frameworks and is often confused with "religion". Metaphorically, it serves as the 'horizon' for an aircraft pilot. Remove sight of the 'horizon' and a pilot can not always be certain which way is up and which way is down. For those who claim that morality is relative, we are left wondering, relative to what? Morality needs to grounded beyond the whims of public opinion, fashion, or a legislator's personal preference.

3. Establish the connection between an idea, a premise, and a conclusion.
A logical reason is grounded in an idea which has a premise that leads to a conclusion which follows. Some ideas masquerade as logical reasons but have a faulty or an unrelated conclusion. An example of faulty logical reasoning-
IDEA: This group of people should be granted this privilege.
PREMISE: Not giving everyone the same privilege is discrimination.
CONCLUSION: Therefore, everyone should be given this privilege.
The idea, "This group of people should be granted this privilege" does not answer the why question. Why should this people be granted this privilege? Apart from being inadequate, this idea is also faulty because it confuses a "privilege" with a "right". A privilege is by its very nature only granted to some. It is a privilege for someone from outside of Australia to be granted entrance to Australia. It is a privilege for any immigrant to be granted Australian citizenship - not a right.

The premise, "Not giving everyone the same privilege is discrimination" is a faulty premise for two immediate reasons. Firstly, a privilege is only a privilege if it discriminates. It is a privilege to be awarded a Knighthood from the Queen - but it necessarily results in most people not being granted a Knighthood. Secondly, the term discrimination is misapplied in this instance. Discrimination may be reasonable and fair. When it is, it is generally referred to as differentiating, or, distinguishing. Discrimination is only unreasonable and unfair when it can be demonstrated that a Natural or deserved right has been violated. This might be the case when one suitably qualified employee among several is not considered for a promotion because of their colour of their skin.

The Conclusion, does not follow on from either the idea or the premise. Many policy agendas have an unreasoned idea, a faulty premise, and a conclusion that is without logical support.
IDEA: Not giving coloured people or women the vote was wrong.
PREMISE: Not allowing Same-Sex Marriage for homosexuals is like not giving coloured people or women the vote.
CONCLUSION: Coloured people and women now have the vote, therefore same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
This syllogism is quite illogical because it confuses something that is intrinsic to something, with something that is not intrinsic with something. Voting is intrinsic to democracy.

4. Distinguish the who from the what.
Some ideas are rejected not because of the idea, but because of who proposed the idea. Rejection of a person's idea is often done in the form of ridicule. Name-calling and labelling are tell-tale signs that there has been a failure to distinguish between what an argument is, and who is making the argument. Rather than dismissing an argument as "the rantings of an extreme right-wing / left-wing fool", the idea's logical validity should itself be what's considered. Rejecting an idea because of its genesis rather than its merits is referred to as the Genetic Fallacy.

5. Discern fact from opinion.
A fact is verifiable and usually demonstrable. A "fact" is the appropriate response to the question- How do you know this? When a person's response does not adequately answer this question it may be that they have stated their opinion about a matter rather than given a fact to substantiate their idea.
"Our society is ready for this social change."
"One day we will colonise Mars."
"I believe people are born homosexual."
"If two people really love each other their relationship is equal to any other."
"The unborn are not fully human."
"You cannot impose your views on another."
The above statements could all be factual if they have a supporting set of facts to undergird them. Facts must be verifiable, non-contradictory, and demonstrable.

6. Avoid identifying motive.
Some people reject an idea because they feel that the motive behind the idea is disagreeable. The problem here is that it is next to impossible to fully know another person's motive for their idea. To assume knowledge of another person's motive is often considered arrogant and reveals a shallow ability to respond to the idea itself.

"You think this because…"
"I know why you want this…"
"You are hateful…"
"You promote this idea because…"
But these six filters are not the exclusive responsibility of legislators. Whenever we hear a politician or an activist promoting an idea, we should filter our response to this idea at least through these six filters. By doing this we may more readily recognise an illogical idea and treat it appropriately. For example, when a politician says, "This is the right thing to do", he rarely demonstrates why it is the right thing to do - other than with a cliché that satisfies those not acquainted with thinking more deeply. This contrasts with, "This is the right thing to do because we can demonstrate that it will save lives" was the reasoning behind the legislation to make seat-belts in cars compulsory, and this simple reasoning was validated and the legislation passed. "They did not vote for this legislation because these politicians are out-of-touch with the rest of society" is not a logical idea. It violates the principle of Avoid Identifying Motive. "Because of a small group of white, middle-aged men, this legislation did not get up!" is not a logical idea because it commits the Genetic Fallacy of confusing the who with the what.


If a public policy idea passes through these six filters of reasonableness, it then must be determined into of these three general categories it falls.

1. Promotion
That which can be demonstrated is in the public benefit should be promoted and invoke certain privileges. For example, it can be easily demonstrated that children always fair best when raised by their married biological parents in a low-conflict loving home. There is great benefit to a society in having well-reared children. Therefore, biological married parents should be granted certain privileges in legislation to promote this.

2. Permission
Some legislation will permit some things which although not in a society's beneficial welfare would be too cumbersome to either regulate or prevent. Various levels of legislative deterrents may be used instead, such as Taxation laws. For example, smoking. It is clearly not in the public benefit. Prohibiting it now would be extremely costly and impractical to enforce. Thus, most Australian States have legislated for smoking to be permitted but highly regulated.
Some relationships are not morally acceptable but do not warrant legislative prohibition - but neither should they be privileged.

3. Prohibition
It is necessary for legislators to enact some laws which prohibit certain activities. This is necessary even when enforcement of these laws is (at times) impractical. For example, murder. Murder is clearly not in the public benefit. Laws prohibiting murder serve to restrain this immoral behaviour to some extent and constrain civility within a society. Yet, laws prohibiting murder do not prevent some immoral people from still committing murder. But murder is so heinous that despite the difficulties with enforcing the laws against it, it is still enforced. There are some relationships that are so immoral that the State legislates to prohibit them because the welfare of those involved is harmed. One example of this would be a paedophiliac relationship where young children were being sexually abused. The State has legislated to intervene in such instances and remove the child involved and charge the perpetrator with criminal charges.

After legislators have evaluated the reasonableness of a policy idea for its logical rigour and found it worthing of enacting, they must determine it should be promote, permit, or prohibit certain behaviour.

Dr. Andrew Corbett
28th September 2012

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Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Tower


The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
Proverbs 18:10
Old TowerWe all live in a tower. Unfortunately for many it's the wrong tower. Their tower is self-made. Its windows can not be curtained or even shut to prevent the uninvited. Its roof leaks. Its foundations have crumbled and cooperate with the forces against it. But there is another tower in which to live - a "strong" tower. It is sealed from hazards. It shelters in all conditions. Its foundations are unshakeable and immovable. It resists all threats. Believers are invited to take up residence in it however too few take up the offer and as a result end up feeling beaten and constantly attacked.
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

Psalms 61:3
Tower in fieldWe all live in a tower. But whose? To my great shame, I have lived for too many periods outside of the Tower. One of the towers I built was founded on self-confidence. At the time I justified it because I had been put-down so many times throughout my life that I felt it reasonable to be my own cheer-squad. But it was a pretty ugly and a most unsafe tower. I thought it would protect me against my insecurities. I discovered that it was never going to. It had a paint job that Gary Larsen would be proud of (if you're familiar with his Far Side comics and the poor deer born with a bulls-eye birth-mark).

Bummer of a birthmark HalOther towers I have built have been built far away from people - because people had hurt me. But no sooner had I finished them when they too crumbled. I could go on and bore you with a catalogue of my failed tower constructions over the years - such as My Work Gives Me IdentityMy Toys Make Me HappyI Want To Be Popular And Liked By All, and so on. These towers don't provide security. They don't guard. They actually attract the very things you're trying to hide from.
The Psalmist reminds me that God is The Tower. A Tower was a place of safety and refuge. It was built to withstand assaults. But it was also the place that gave a vantage point over a situation. Living the Tower gives you a different vision of your circumstances. For the Christian to live in the Tower means that we take refuge in what God says - not our enemies who rail against outside our Tower. They hurl doubt, insult, ridicule, attempts to divide and all manner of other distractions. Against the backdrop of all this clamour we can only the Lord speak to us through His Word and Spirit - "Lo, I am with you always...", "No weapon formed against you can prosper...", "Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world..." 
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people."Acts 18:9-10
Outside the Tower confusion reigns. Inside the Tower Christ reigns. Where Christ reigns there is peace (this is how you can tell that you are in the Tower). When you enjoy the peace of God your trust in the Lord is quiet. You don't need the Spirit of God continually speaking to you when you live in the Tower. God's peace often like quietness not constant reassurance.
"In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength..."
Isaiah 30:15
What's knocking at the door of your tower? Worry? Distractions? Busyness? Past hurts? These all take their turn to try and lure you out of the Tower. When this happens, turn up the quietness within the Tower and enjoy the Lord's peace and rest in His confidence (Isa. 30:15).
Living in the Lord as your Tower is different to living in any other tower. Firstly, it's not a tower you've constructed. God as your Tower is a place that He provides. Be careful as you enter in It. It has a very low front door. You have to bow down to come in. Entering requires humility. Once you enter you must refer continually to the Lord through prayer and His Word.
Me: "Lord, what do you want to change in my life?"
The Lord: "Present your body as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2)
Me: "Lord, I want to hear You."
The Lord: "I have given you My Word - it is my Word that cleans, washes and sanctifies you." (Eph. 5:26; Phl. 2:16)
And finally, the Lord as your Tower is different to all other towers because rather than removing you from life, this Tower becomes your life and the strength you need to live in a world of frustrations, misunderstandings, disappointments, hurts, heart-aches, futility and pain. It doesn't hide you from it, the Tower enables you to be kept through it. We don't leave the Tower to enter the world for we live in the Tower with our soul.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope
Rom. 8:20
Living in the Tower makes you stand out. Your confidence in God's ability to keep you, guard you, strengthen you, direct you, deliver you, causes you to look different to those in the self-made towers of doubt, confusion, worry, and selfishness. Don't be surprised if those around you ask how they too can enter into the Lord as the Strong Tower.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Martin Luther, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"

Psa. 34:8 ¶ Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
Ps. Andrew

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A Theology of Sexuality

by Dr Andrew Corbett, 17th September 2012Printable Version of this Article
I'm not the first one to point out that the discussion regarding sexuality from the Biblical perspective has often been an exchange of vitriolic name-calling. The adage, "Ridicule is not an argument" seems to be pertinent. There are people on both sides of this debate who seem more interested in shouting than listening - let alone giving reasoned cases. This article in no way seeks to vilify anyone and does not endorse any acts of hatred.

microphoneFor those who take a rather low view of Scripture, the Biblical statements on sexuality are, to them, outdated and therefore irrelevant. Not surprisingly, these folk also dismiss other statements by Scripture about the creation of Adam and Eve, the Fall of mankind into sin, the virgin birth/deity/physical resurrection of Christ and the absolute necessity of turning to Him in faith and repentance for salvation, as also out-dated and written by fallible men from a perspective of scientific ignorance.

There are others who also claim to be Christian and rather than take this liberal theological view of Scripture, they interpret Scripture through a Post-Modern lens and claim that homosexuality and Christianity are perfectly compatible. I will examine both sets of arguments and compare it to what the Bible teaches.

As a pastor, I am aware that there are many for this topic is not merely theoretical. For you it may be very personal. Perhaps you are torn. On the one hand you are battling with desires which on the other hand you find Scripture not condoning. You may be "battling" precisely because you feel the tension. This exposition may hopefully strengthen you in your battle.


Context determines meaningThe Scripture declares that it is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2Tim. 3:16) as He moved upon men to write down His revelation (1Peter 1:10-12; 2Peter 1:21). Jesus affirmed the Scriptures as the Word of God (eg. Luke 22:37). Because of this, we affirm the inerrancy of Scripture since it's Divine Author can not be mistaken. Most of the objections raised against Biblical Inerrancy come from interpretations of Scripture, not the Scriptures themselves. The classic case, still cited by some as an objection to Biblical Inerrancy, is "Geo-centrism" (that the Universe revolves around the earth), which at one point, was declared by the Roman Catholic Church as "what the Bible taught." Copernicus and Galileo observed that the Sun was actually the centre of our solar system ("Heliocentrism") and this caused some to doubt the Bible's inerrancy. But what really was at stake was not the inerrancy of Scripture, but the interpretation of it by the Papacy. There are expressions in Scripture that are perspective metaphors (such as, "the rising of the sun") which have mistakenly been interpretted by some as wooden-literal statements. ... [Read full article]

Friday, 14 September 2012


Prayers That Care & Grow

If you ever have any doubts about the effectiveness of prayer, just have a large group of believers praying for you and your doubts will be dispelled. Serveral times throughout my ministry I have done into potentially dangerous situations and had our church praying for me. It is in those nearly impossibly difficult situations that almost physically feel the prayers of others. Last Sunday as I spoke with one of our precious couples who had just gone through a fairly tough time, the husband said to me, "We knew the church was praying for us. We could literally feel it!" It is one of the highest privileges that leaders in churches and homes have: to pray for those they care for. Here's some tips on how to do it.
Colossians 1:9-11¶ And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,.
1. Don't cease - be persistent.

2. Pray them to be filled with the knowledge of God's will.

3. Pray for them to be spiritually wise.

4. Pray for them to have wisdom.
5. Pray for them to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. 
6. Pray that they may be fully pleasing to the Lord. 
7. Pray that they will bear the fruit of good works. 
8. Pray that they will grow in their knowledge of God. 
9. Pray that they may be strengthened by God.
10. Pray that they will endure hardship, trial, temptation and even success and remain faithful to Christ.

11. Pray that their walk with Jesus would be joyful.

Parents should pray this way for their children. Home Bible Study Group leaders should pray this way for those in their Home Groups. Department Leaders should pray this for their team members.
Pastors almost intuitively pastorally pray this for those that God has entrusted to him. I do for you. Consider these prayer lessons of Colossians 1:9-11. Notice what the prayer does not include. It doesn't focus on any immediate problems or needs. I find myself almost drowning in problems and needs at time. The prayer of Colossians 1:9-11 doesn't preclude praying for my problems to be solved or for my needs to be met - but it reminds me that life isn't about me. Life consists of giving glory to Christ and helping others. The prayer of Colossians 1:9-11 reminds me of that. This is one reason why I rarely (if ever) pray about our finances as a church. At times it's a problem and the needs are great. But these problems and needs pale in significance to the magnificence of 9-11 prayer points and their relationship to the eternal destinies of those we care about.

If you are struggling to know how to pray for those you care for, remember Colossians 1:9-11.
Psa. 34:8 ¶ Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 6 September 2012


The Art of Minute-Sparing
Legana Christian ChurchThe other day I created a spare minute and went for a little stroll through my front garden. I admired the Spring daffodils. But I noticed the spent rose buds. "I should prune those", I said to myself, "when I get a spare minute." Then I recalled my inordinate good fortune - I had just created a spare minute! Realising this extraordinary coincidence, I went to my garage (where I have my gardening things in the corner) and grabbed my pruners. Returning to my rose bushes I attended to their dishevelment. As I was reshaping my rose bushes, I saw some unwanted oxalis (Latin for "pesky weed that annoys Andrew"). I was forced to create yet another spare minute to deal with this intruder. Something then occured to me.
James 5:11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
We live in a busy world. Some people love to let others know how busy they are. I don't. I find it almost shameful that I'm so busy at times. Busyness is not a statement of how important I am, as it seems to be for some. Busyness, to me, is a reminder that I need to make some adjustments to how I do life.

Life is not made richer by my busyness. Life is made richer when it is wonderful. It's too easy to see mundane and routine chores, such as pruning rose bushes, as an unwelcomed intrusion into a busy schedule. But there is wonder in a flower that comes from the mundane act of pruning. My life is made a little richer when create a spare minute and wonder about such (so called) simple things.
"Wondrous truths, and manifold as
God hath written in those stars above ;
But not less in the bright flowerets
under us
Stands the revelation of his love.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Flowers"
This shy intruder into our busyness, wonder, rarely demands our attention. It gently calls to us by inviting us into some activity of micro-maintenance. I didn't have the time to pull all of my pesky oxalis out (I had only created a spare minute). But I did manage to weed a few out. I was micro-mantaining.

As my responsibilities have mounted along life's journey, I have developed the art of micro-maintaining in more areas than just weeding my garden. Spiritually I have come to value those micro-maintenance prayer times, where like Nehemiah (Neh. 2:4) you maintain your sweet fellowship with God in "moments" of prayer - not just seasons. I treasure the micro-maintenance of reading a verse of Scripture and savouring it like the Psalmists so often did (Psalm 119:15).
Second Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
There's a great illustration of micro-maintenance in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption. Little by little. Day by day. Here some, there some. And progress is made. Micro-maintenance involves creating as well as maintaining. It can 'create' a spare minute. It can give permission to step out of the HMS Busyness and repair awhile. Micro-maintenance is a slight steering wheel correction that helps us to keep our real priorities in order.
1Cor. 9:24 ¶ Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
If you're daunted by how much there is on your To-Do List, and feel that the only way you can possibly get through it is to neglect those things that should be important - such as prayer, worship, Bible-reading - try some micro-maintenance. You may discover that as you pull weed some oxalis from your life that there is rose bud right in front of you opening up its wonderful blossom. Sometimes all it takes is the creation of a wonder-filled spare minute.
Psa. 34:8 ¶ Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
Ps. Andrew