By Spencer D Gear PhD
Max Wallace wrote the article, ‘Israel Folau: indoctrination and the Tongan Fakaleiti’ (On Line Opinion, 9 May 2019). To me, it read like a diatribe against evangelical Christianity and vulnerability to ‘indoctrination’ because of illiteracy among the Pacific Islanders.
The chastisement of Folau by Rugby Australia (RA) for his Instagram post was used by Wallace to denigrate Folau’s brand of Christianity.
(image courtesy RUCK.co.uk)
For an expose of the Folau vs RA saga see: Israel Folau: When diversity means censorship.
1. “The Pacific has been the target of a conversion campaign that started in the nineteenth century and continues to this day”.
Is this the truth?
(image courtesy maplets)
‘Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and an archipelago comprising 176 islands with a surface area of about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. Fifty-two of these islands are inhabited with its 103,000 people. Situated east of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific’.
When did Christianity reach Tonga? According to Prepare to Serve: Tonga’s Christian History,
Mainstream Christianity arrived to Tonga in 1797 when ten London missionaries traveled to Tonga’s main island –Tongatapu. At first the missionaries had little success; however, with time Christianity began to take root in Tonga.
John Thomas and Christianity’s spread in 1826
In 1826, missionary John Thomas arrived to the islands of Tonga. Throughout his 25-year stay, John Thomas converted many Tongans to Christianity. After John Thomas’ stay in Tonga, Christianity continued to spread. In 1882 a group of Wesleyan missionaries arrived in Tonga and helped convert the majority of Tongans to Christianity.
Here are a few reasons Christianity spread so quickly in Tonga:
- Some Tongans believed old gods prophesied the coming of Christianity.
- Some Tongans believed old gods prophesied the destruction of the ‘old order.’
- Many Tongans already valued Christian ideals. Before Christian missionaries arrived, Tongans supported Sabbath observance, scripture study, honesty, and purity.
Any person, no matter the nation, who is a faithful Christian, will follow Jesus’ command:
“You must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end” (Matt 28:19-20).
You may not like it, but evangelising The Pacific is part of God’s mandate to proclaim the Good News of salvation through Christ across the world.
2. Wallace makes this observation: “Islanders were persuaded to abandon their own religions and convert. Lacking literacy, with no formal education, they were vulnerable”.
The church of the first century lacked literacy skills and formal education. Oral tradition was its means of communication. Lack of literacy does not make one a non-thinker about eternal issues.
This is the context from which Israel Folau came to his views. Like so many of his colleagues, I suggest, he was indoctrinated when a child. His father is a pastor in his church. The family’s history is one of devotion.
Wallace seems to think a Christian family that raises its family in the teachings of Christ is engaged in indoctrination. To the contrary, such a family is being faithful to the Lord’s instruction: “Fathers, don’t make your children angry. Instead, instruct them and teach them the ways of the Lord as you raise them” (Eph 6:4 ERV).
So a Christian father who is pastor of a church or not a pastor is being faithful to Scripture in raising his children with instruction in the ways of the Lord. That happens in Tongan and Australian Christian families. However, your post repudiates this Scripture.
Wallace considers Folau “is one of the hundreds of thousands of targets of an indoctrination program that started two hundred years ago”.
3. No, Max! It started 2,000 years ago and has led to approximately 2.3 billion followers of Christ around the world (Hackett & McClendon 2019). It’s not indoctrination but being obedient to the teachings of the New Testament. Evangelism is the Master’s call to all true believers.
Folau has stated that his relationship with Jesus is far more important than material reward. “First and foremost I live for God now“.
(image courtesy ChristArt)
4. Now Wallace drifts into a free speech discussion. The down side for Folau, he says, is that were there no contract involved, should Folau be free to parrot the ultra-conservative, centuries’ old, homophobic views of the Christianity that has brought him to this point? Yes, but the Biblical quote that Folau used was promising violent retribution, albeit indirectly, for gays, atheists and others in the future when they arrive in Hell for torture till eternity”.
His comment is a put down of Folau who is espousing Christian values, based on Scripture, supported by people around the world.
5. Wallace wrote: “It has been said in his defence that Folau was merely citing the words of the Bible, as if that lets him off the hook. Surely that is disingenuous”.
It is not disingenuous but factual and truthful. Isn’t it amazing that other wrongdoers in the list from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 have not gone public like the homosexuals. Where are the liars, idolaters and adulterers?
I have not heard Wallace or the mass media sprouting the absence of these other sinners. Homosexuals are the exclusive choice by Australian sinners, especially those in the mass media.
6. As of 5 February 2020, Folau had signed with a Super Rugby League Club, the Catalans Dragons in France. It took only 6 minutes for Folau to score his first try with the Dragons on 16 February 2020.
1. Folau’s unorthodox Christianity
Folau’s Christianity is not that of traditional, Trinitarian orthodoxy. Instead, it belongs to a cult that promotes anti-trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal theology that was deemed a heresy in the church of the third century as Modalism, Monarchianism and Sabellianism.
See my article: Israel Folau teaches false doctrine.
(photo courtesy PHOTOSPORT)
(image courtesy dragons Catalans)
2. Works consulted
Hackett, C & McClendon, D 2019. Pew Research Center (online). ‘Christians remain world’s largest religious group, but they are declining in Europe’, 5 April. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/ (Accessed 17 October 2020).
 Available at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20291 (Accessed 23 May 2019).
 Alex 2014. Prepare to Serve (online), 2 July. Available at: http://preparetoserve.com/blog/tongas-christian-history/ (Accessed 14 May 2019).
Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 October 2020.