Category Archives: Apologetics

The path Australia treads to ruin

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(The bushfire in Bunyip State Park, Victoria, Australia. Picture: Ionee Reid. Source: Supplied, courtesy news.com.au)[1]

If we want to deal with the devastation of Australia’s drought and other catastrophes, we need to start with a clean up of the churches and a call to repentance by the nation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s voice has been silent about this core issue that associates Australia’s spiritual condition with the drought, floods, fires and other crises.

1. A core issue

Why hasn’t the PM called the nation to HUMILITY, PRAYER AND REPENTANCE for our sins and for God to send rain to break the drought?

We need leadership from the Prime Minister to call for a Day of Repentance and Prayer for rain. Step up to the mark Mr Morrison and lead the way! What an example it would be to see a Christian Prime Minister, ScoMo, and many MPs in local churches praying as they repent and ask God to heal the land and send rain.

This also means reversing the ungodly legislation that is a ‘disgrace’ to the people and the nation.

Other nations have called their people to repent in times of disaster.

1.1 Great Britain did it during World War 2

King George VI had called the people of Great Britain to National Days of Prayer and Repentance four times [during World War 2].  Yet, his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, in [66][2] years as the Queen of England, has not once called for [a] National Day of Prayer. The last time Britain had a National Day of Prayer was during the Second World War (Newman 2012).

1.2 South Africans called to prayer during drought

South Africa’s Colin Newman related what happened in South Africa after his conversion to Christ in 1977. The President called for a National Day of Repentance and Humiliation before God. As a new Christian he was impressed with the masses of people in central Cape Town who filled the churches to overflowing. It was a time of intense, earnest heart searching prayers of repentance.

The rains came a couple days later and he was awe struck Newman 2012).

1.3 Zambia’s national day of prayer

clip_image004(map of southern Africa courtesy Biofocuscommunicatie)

Since Zambia officially was declared a Christian nation in 1991,[3] its President has called the nation to days of prayer during drought, and the nation has also celebrated National Days of Thanksgiving when God graciously answered their prayers with rain (Newman 2012).

Could you imagine this kind of statement appearing in any mass media outlet in Australia in a capital city or elsewhere?

“Our [Zambian] identity is established in the Lord Jesus Christ. The values, principles and ethics which we embrace as a people reflect the person of Jesus Christ.

“Love, dignity, integrity, honest, hard work, patriotism among others are the hallmark of who we are as a people,” she said.

That’s from the Lusaka Times 2016. Zambia commemorated its 25th anniversary of the declaration as a Christian Nation (online), 29 December.[4] Lusaka is the capital and largest city in Zambia, with a population of about 1.7 million people.[5]

1.4 Alabama, USA

With parts of Alabama [USA] suffering an exceptional drought, Gov. Bob Riley [was] turning to God for help and asking other Alabamians to join him in praying for rain.

Riley issued a proclamation Thursday declaring June 30 [2007] through July 7 as “Days of Prayer for Rain” and asked citizens to pray individually and in their houses of worship.

“Throughout our history, Alabamians have turned in prayer to God to humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty. This drought is without question a time of great difficulty for our farmers and for communities across our state,” Riley said in a statement.[6]

I know I’ll be criticised, especially by the media, for reminding you and our communities that droughts provide us with a reminder that human beings and government cannot control the creation of when rain comes or when the heavens are closed. Surely this drought reminds us we depend on a Higher Power – the Lord God – who sends the rain and stops the rain.

3. Call to action

clip_image006(James Edmund Allen 1938, prayer for rain, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Australia’s Brian Pickering explained:

It was back in 2006 when Australia experienced a severe drought. God called for Australia to repent following national prayer to end a severe drought. God is still waiting according to the leader of the Australian Prayer Network, Brian Pickering.

God Is Still Waiting for Australia to Repent.[7]

I add: God is still waiting for Australian legislation to be determined by God’s standards. Quit this human morality and practise God’s justice in ALL legislation.

How could my headline be changed to reflect what Australia can do about the BIG drought?

The big dry: ‘See us, hear us, help us Lord God Almighty. We repent of our sins against You. Lord, encourage Aussies please, please to dig deep and send material help to the farmers’.

Prime Minster, Scott Morrison, and church leaders: Australia needs your leadership to call all God-fearing people to pray for an end to the drought.

Why should God break the drought when ‘righteousness exalts a nation’ and Australia legislates laws that are a disgrace, i.e. promoting wicked, immoral behaviour?

We can take action as a nation by repenting of our sins, returning to God, and legislating God’s righteousness. That will mean cancelling legislation that violates God’s commands of righteousness.

3.1 Expect mass media attacks

3.1.1 The ABC

There was an opinion piece in ABC Religion & Ethics by Bryon Smith. It was titled: ‘Faith without works: Why the Prime Minister’s call to pray for rain is offensive’ (Smith 2018).

It was a response to Morrison’s speech in Albury: ‘It’s great to see it raining here in Albury today. I pray for that rain everywhere else around the country. And I do pray for that rain. And I’d encourage others who believe in the power of prayer to pray for that rain and to pray for our farmers. Please do that’.

Byron Smith found fault with this statement:

For many Christians, this was a small but encouraging gesture: the nation’s most prominent public official acknowledging that rain is a blessing we receive as gift, an expression of our dependence upon a whole network of creaturely relationships overseen by a Creator.

BUT …

for many atheists, it was a small but offensive gesture: the national leader talking to a sky fairy, embracing and promoting irrational superstition. Some responded on social media with angry mockery, warning of theocracy or taking the opportunity to criticise Morrison’s particular brand of Christianity.

As a Christian, I found Morrison’s comment to be offensive. But not because a Prime Minister speaks publicly of prayer or is open about his Christian beliefs.

Rather, what I find truly offensive is the profound disconnect between his professed prayers and the pro-coal – and thus anti-farmer – agenda of his government. To pray when facing a crisis like widespread drought is not the problem. But when the government Morrison leads has spent many years doing little or nothing about the root causes of the warming that is worsening such extreme weather, then inviting the nation to pray in response is somewhat galling (Smith 2018).

So, according to Smith, prayer is unacceptable until the government gets its act together over global warming.

Byron, who sends the rain and who withholds it? You’ve left the Lord God out of your equation, even though you say you speak ‘as a Christian’. Is God’s intervention that far down your priority list?

3.1.2 Pray for Rain

On 22 April 2007, The Sydney Morning Herald had this headline:[8]

Pray for rain, urges [John] Howard’

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(photograph John Howard courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The report stated:

Prime Minister John Howard has urged Australians to pray for rain as hard-hit agricultural regions face zero water allocations due to drought.

Mr Howard warned last week that farmers in the Murray-Darling Basin faced having no water for the coming irrigation year unless heavy rain fell in the next six to eight weeks.

On Sunday he said he intended to meet irrigators over coming weeks to discuss the grim situation.

Meanwhile, he encouraged people to seek divine intervention.

“It’s very serious, it’s unprecedented in my lifetime and I really feel very deeply for the people affected,” Mr Howard told ABC Television.

“So we should all, literally and without any irony, pray for rain over the next six to eight weeks”

What was the result?

3.1.3 It rained

God held off the drought-breaking rains until 2010-11. The headline in ABC News, 14 April 2010, was:

Flood rain reaches Murray-Darling Basin

Chrissy Arthur, ABC News, Brisbane, Qld: Posted 14 Apr 2010, 7:47am:[9]

A river expert says water from the Paroo River in south-west Queensland is flowing into the Darling River in New South Wales for the first time in 20 years.

There were record floods in the Paroo River last month (March 2010) and authorities say that is providing a boost for the Murray-Darling Basin.

clip_image010(No way through to Glenorchy, where the Wimmera River has flooded houses, sheds and farm properties. At Ashens, just north of Glenorchy, in the Wimmera region of NW Victoria, crops are under water. Photo courtesy Laura Poole)’[10]

Former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, got it right on one point I’ve stressed in this series of articles:

‘“We can’t make it rain. But we can ensure that farming families and their communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet” the government said in a statement’.[11]

He didn’t give any hint as to whom or what can cause it to rain. God Almighty has his reasons for delaying the rain, sending cyclones, allowing fires. Some of these include:

  • The link between a nation’s morality and God’s judgment.
  • ‘‘Righteousness raises a people to greatness; to pursue wrong degrades a nation’ (Prov 14:34 REB).
  • Ungodly legislation and practices in Australia are a disgrace to the nation and lead to Australia’s doom.
  • Only God sends the rain and withholds it.
  • Godless, secular Australia refuses to bow the knee to the Lord God Almighty.
  • We want his blessings of rain without the commitment to Him. We deserve what we get.
  • When will local, State and national leaders call the nation to prayer to break the drought and stop other disasters?

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

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(photo courtesy North Queensland Register)[12]

4.  Note

[1] Available at: https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/heatwave-prompts-serious-health-alert-and-fire-bans/news-story/45600fce2e3251bf4838a19c0b9e4578 (Accessed 25 May 2019).

[2] She began her reign in 1952 and the coronation was in 1953. As of 2018 she has reigned 66 years and was aged 92 in 2018.

[3] Lusakatimes.com 2016. Zambia commemorates 25th anniversary of the declaration as a Christian Nation (online), 29 December. Available at: https://www.lusakatimes.com/2016/12/29/zambia-commemorates-25th-anniversary-declaration-christian-nation/ (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[4] Available at: https://www.lusakatimes.com/2016/12/29/zambia-commemorates-25th-anniversary-declaration-christian-nation/ (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[5] Wikipedia (2018. s.v. Lusaka).

[6] Phillip Rawls 2007 (Associated Press writer). Riley calling for statewide prayer for rain. The Decatur Daily (online), 29 June. Available at: http://archive.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/news/070629/rain.shtml (Accessed 6 November 2018).

[7] Vision Christian Radio 2018. God is still waiting for Australia to repent (online). Available at: https://vision.org.au/radio/2016/09/15/god-still-waiting-australia-repent/ (Accessed 18 August 2018).

[8] Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/pray-for-rain-urges-howard-20070422-gdpyx1.html (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[9] Chrissy Arthur 2010. Flood rain reaches Murray-Darling Basin. ABC News Brisbane, Qld. (online), 14 April. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-04-14/flood-rain-reaches-murray-darling-basin/395022 (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[10] ABC Rural and News reporters 2010. Drought breaks at last, as Victoria floods (online), 5 September. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/site-archive/rural/news/content/201009/s3002960.htm (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[11] Stephanie Bedo 2018. Australia’s crippling drought crisis: Overcoming past mistakes to save ourselves for the future. news.com.au (online), 6 August. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/australias-crippling-drought-crisis-overcoming-past-mistakes-to-save-ourselves-for-the-future/news-story/136436de96fee5f33809de8d607f413c (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[12] North Queensland Register is based in Townsville City, Qld, Australia. Available at: https://www.northqueenslandregister.com.au/contact-us/ (Accessed 4 April 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2019.

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Israel Folau: When diversity means censorship

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(photo Israel Folau, courtesy France 24)

A blogger stated: ‘Folau is not being persecuted for his beliefs but for using his position within Rugby Union and Rugby Union owned and operated venues for propagating hate speach (sic)’.[1]

Where did he get the idea that Folau used his position in Rugby Australia’s (RA) ‘owned and operated venues for propagating hate speech’? Can he prove this statement? Folau made the post in his personal Instagram account and not from an RA venue?

ASICS, one of Folau’s sponsors, dropped his sponsorship, stating (according to The Age): ‘While Israel Folau is entitled to his personal views, some of those expressed in recent social media posts are not aligned with those of ASICS. As such, our partnership with Israel has become untenable and he will no longer represent ASICS as a brand ambassador’.[2]

Only a few days before the 2019 Australian federal election, the Folau issue and what he said led to a ‘spat’ between PM Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, according to the Fairfax Canberra Times:

Mr Morrison accused Mr Shorten of a “cheap shot” over the question on Tuesday and made it clear he did not believe that gay people would go to hell, one day after giving a less direct answer to the question….

“No, I do not believe that,” Mr Morrison said in a statement….

The matter of personal belief arose on Monday when a journalist put the following question to Mr Morrison: “What’s your belief, do gay people go to hell?”

Mr Morrison replied: “I support the law of the country and I always don’t mix my religion with politics and my faith with politics”….

[Mr Shorten said], “I cannot believe that the Prime Minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell.

When Mr Shorten was asked if he believed gay people would go to hell, he said: “No, I don’t believe gay people, because they’re gay, will go to hell. I don’t need a law to tell me that. I don’t believe it”.[3]

1. They were religious statements

clip_image004Photo: The image Folau posted on Instagram was accompanied by direct scripture quotes. (Supplied: @izzyfolau)[4]

That is an image of the Instagram statement made by champion Rugby Union player, Israel Folau, that has gotten him into the hullabaloo with RA, some rugby players, and especially the mass media.

Folau is an evangelical Christian born in Minto, NSW to Tongan parents. Minto is 38 km south-west of the Sydney CBD, in the local government area of the City of Campbelltown.

It is claimed the Wallabies fullback ‘refused to delete his controversial Instagram post to save his rugby career during his code-of-conduct hearing with Rugby Australia’[5]. He recently signed a contract that was worth $4 million over four years.

The Anglican bishop of Grafton, the Rt Rev Dr Murray Harvey disagrees with Pogi: He “branded the religious statements of Australian rugby union player Israel Folau as hate speech”.

1.1 Folau’s quote from Scripture

What Folau said was essentially straight from the Bible:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV).

He did not state it on the rugby field but in a public post on his personal Instagram account, a public medium outside of rugby. Why have the media taken ONE sin from the list – homosexuality – and excluded all of the others mentioned in Folau’s post and in the Christian Scriptures?

1.2 Where have the other sinners gone?

I haven’t read of the sexually immoral or idolaters kicking a stink about what Folau wrote. The adulterers, thieves, and greedy have been strangely silent. As for the drunks and swindlers, they have zipped their lips.

clip_image006 (image courtesy Clipart Library)

Thieves, atheists and idolaters, from my observation, have gone hush-hush in this chain of events.

1.2.1 Verbal abusers and profane language

What about revilers? That’s not a common word today. In English, synonyms include abuser, knocker [informal], rubbisher, slanderer, bad-mouth, curse and swear at.[6]

A reviler is a person who uses words to damage, control, or insult someone’s character or reputation. Today we would call a reviler a verbal abuser. Reviler is a multi-purpose word that is used in the Bible to describe all manner of verbal sin, such as slander, angry outbursts, and foul language.[7]

The NIV translates ‘revilers’ as ‘slanderers’ and the NLT provides the meaning of ‘abusive’.

To swear, slander, verbally abuse, have angry outbursts, and use blankety blank language is such a normal part of Aussie conversation that the folks who commit these sins laugh them off as, ‘She’ll be right mate. You’re a fuddy-duddy old square who needs to lighten up if you object’.[8]

In the NT Greek, a ‘reviler’ is loidoros (singular), ‘reviler, abusive person’, as in 1 Cor 5:11 and 6:10.[9] First Peter 3:9 (ERV) uses a variation of this word that gets to the heart of the meaning,

‘Don’t do wrong to anyone to pay them back for doing wrong to you. Or don’t insult[10] anyone to pay them back for insulting you.[11] But ask God to bless them. Do this because you yourselves were chosen to receive a blessing.

However, FindLaw Australia confirmed:

In a day and age where swearing has become so commonplace, that most people wouldn’t even flinch when someone drops a swear word, it’s remarkable to think that Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria all have laws regulating offensive language. The issue has received some prominence lately when a football player fronted court for offensive language. So if someone is about to go on a verbal blue streak in public, be careful, you may be in breach of the law….

Not only are the penalties for offensive language similar in Queensland and Victoria, but the definitions as well. Generally speaking, offensive language is considered as:

• disorderly
• offensive
• threatening
• indecent, and
• violent.[12]

While Folau has been crushed by RA, the mass and social media in raising the issue of homosexuals going to hell, why have all these other sins been overlooked and only one sin has been reefed out of the list?

1.3 Able to express offensive opinions

In his assessment of the Folau situation, Akos Balogh[13] has raised the issue of how all people ought to be able to express offensive opinions. He drew attention to some comments from the homosexual community’s gay activist, Dawn Grace-Cohen, who wrote for Fairfax:

We all need to skill up to create a new world where everyone gets a fair go. When we are not demanding compliance with our own view, many Australians habitually attack a person with an alternative view, rather than countering with a reasoned argument….

We mock rather than debate. We use slut-shaming or racist, ageist and sexist slurs. We don’t listen for the grain of truth in the opposition’s perspective because we cannot bear the discomfort of there being no easy answer….

Then let him [Folau] keep his job, with considerable support laid on to help him explore what inclusion means.[14]

clip_image008(Photograph Israel Folau, courtesy familyvoice.com.au)

It is Balogh’s view that Australia needs a new conversation about real ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘tolerance’ in the workplace, especially. This call is urgent because it is not long since RA could have argued that its actions regarding Folau would have been easy to argue as RA “didn’t show enough ‘tolerance’ or ‘inclusiveness’ towards Folau’s ‘diverse’ religious viewpoint”.

Instead, “‘inclusivity’ has now come to mean ‘anyone who doesn’t agree with us is excluded’, and ‘tolerance’ means ‘you must not criticise certain people or practices’. ‘Diversity’ refers to anything except viewpoint diversity”.[15]

What type of public square[16] do Australians want? (1) The ‘sacred public square’ where one religion is preferred over all others; (2) The ‘naked public square’ which removes all religion; and (3) the ‘civil public square

where people of all faiths and none, are free to enter into public life on the basis of their faith (or lack of it). The crucial qualifier in this model is that they do so within an agreed framework of what is just and fair for everybody else too. A good understanding of rights, responsibilities and respect are essential qualities for such a model to work. The Israel Folau case would test such a framework.[17]

With the Folau case, it is Balogh’s observation that Australia is moving to ‘the naked public square’.

2. Media promotion of homosexuality: Liberalising attitudes

Take a read of these headlines and the content of the articles:

clip_image010Gay rugby union club Sydney Convicts condemns ‘offensive’ Folau social media post” (ABC News, Brisbane Qld, 7 May 2019).

clip_image011NRL rule out Folau return over ‘disrespectful’ anti-gay posts’ (SBS News, 12 April 2019).

clip_image011[1]Israel Folau launches another anti-gay social media blitz’ (ESPN, 11 April 2019).

clip_image011[2]Australian rugby star Israel Folau shares more vile anti-LGBT social media posts’ (Attitude Newsletter, 10 April 2019).

It is politically correct to promote homosexuality in the current Australian political, mass media, social media and everyday environment. To declare homosexuality a sin calls for an immediate labelling of the person as homophobic, which many times is an Ad Hominem (Circumstantial) logical fallacy.

It is erroneous reasoning because it suggests Folau’s argument is biased by his predisposition that unforgiven homosexuals and other sinners go to hell. This is an invalid argument as it does not logically argue the case for homosexuality making a person homophobic.

The consequence of homophobic accusations is that there is a ‘coming out’ by prominent people such as Senator Penny Wong, retired Senator Bob Brown, rising Australian tennis star Casey Dellacqua, and Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce.

Phillip Ayoub and Jeremiah Garretson in their research reached the conclusion that

researchers, advocates, and policymakers, and producers should take into account how cultural contact through media can shape opinions and values, even across national borders. Television, film, radio and the Internet remain powerful socializing mechanisms through which younger generations come into contact with previously invisible minorities.[18]

This confirms the power of the mass media in promoting social change. I see it regularly when I view TV news and current affairs.

Homosexuals and gay supporters were outed when Australia voted for homosexual marriage. According to the Australian Government, Attorney-General’s Department (2017), ‘From 9 December 2017, sex or gender no longer affects the right to marry under Australian law and same-sex marriage became legal in Australia’.[19]

This is how the House of Representatives looked after the ‘marriage equality’ (homosexual marriage) vote:

clip_image013Photo: Nationals MPs David Littleproud and Keith Pitt (left) were among just four MPs to vote no on the same-sex marriage bill. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)[20]

It became evident this was not an issue of diversity or tolerance but of censorship. The other sins in Folau’s post have been censored by the media to highlight Folau’s alleged homophobia.

The ‘progressive’ and trendy left of politics and media have bulldozed this pro-homosexual agenda into the public square. People like this writer will be regarded – falsely – as homophobic because of my support for biblical Christianity’s views on who will enter God’s kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-11).

2.1 Support for Folau

Eternal destinies as articulated in the Bible are not ‘hate speech’ but God-breathed truthfulness (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Some of Folau’s teammates from Polynesia have come out in support of him. News.com.au reported on how his supporters have responded:

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(Rebels and Reds players unite in prayer.Source:FOX SPORTS)

Australian Super Rugby players from the Melbourne Rebels and the Queensland Reds have huddled for a post-match prayer amid reports of anger among the game’s Christians over the handling of the Israel Folau social media furore.

Wallabies fullback Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, moved a step closer to being sacked by Rugby Australia this week after he was found to have committed a “high-level” code of conduct breach for a post that said hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and others.

The case has upset a number of Folau’s Wallabies teammates who share his religious beliefs, with Reds prop Taniela Tupou writing that RA “might as well sack…all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world.”[21]

2.2 Negative language about Folau’s beliefs

Notice the uncomplimentary language used in the news.com.au story when it described Folau as ‘a fundamentalist Christian’. A century ago, that would have been a compliment, describing those who adhered to the fundamentals of the Christian faith – its core values – like those articulated in The Nicene Creed:

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life.
He proceeds from the Father and the Son,
and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
He spoke through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and to life in the world to come. Amen.

In the twenty-first century, it’s a negative term designed to denigrate a certain group of Evangelical Christians. Matt Thompson in writing for The Atlantic stated that ‘today, “fundamentalism” is often applied as a pejorative, used almost interchangeably with words such as “extremism”’.[22]

Thompson cited Larry Eskridge, a scholar of American religion at Wheaton College: “Casually invoked to describe anyone who seems to hold some sort of vaguely-perceived traditional religious belief—be they a Bible Baptist TV preacher, a Hasidic rabbi, a Mormon housewife, or a soldier of the Islamic Jihad—the word [fundamentalism] has become so overused as to be nearly useless”.[23]

2.3 Satire on Izzy and Rugby Australia

Satire is ‘the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues’ (Oxford Living Dictionaries 2019. s.v. satire) [OLD].

Synonyms include mockery, ridicule, derision, scorn, caricature, irony, and sarcasm (OLD).

One of the finest pieces of satire I’ve read in recent years is in this article by Akos Balogh, ‘Dear Izzy, If Only You Had Behaved Like An Elite Athlete’ (See your world through a Christian lens, 20 May 2019).

I’ve sent a link to this article to Rugby Australia.

2.4 Disappointment with PM Scott Morrison’s pussyfooting on homosexuals and hell.

This point is worth an article in itself. How is it possible for a declared Pentecostal Christian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to say what is reported in The Guardian?[24]

Scott Morrison has claimed he now supports same-sex marriage because it has allowed people to “get on with their lives” and he “always supports the law of the country”.

Morrison made the claim at a press conference in Perth, brushing off questions about whether his personal views have changed since his vocal opposition to marriage equality during the marriage law postal survey in 2017.

Morrison, a Pentecostal Christian who attends the Horizons’ church, said he doesn’t “mix [his] religion with politics” and evaded a question about whether gay people go to hell, an apparent reference to the controversy surrounding rugby player Israel Folau….

Asked on Monday if he still opposes same-sex marriage, Morrison replied: “It’s law and I am glad that the change has now been made and we and people can get on with their lives, that’s what I am happy about. I always support the law of the country.”

How is it that a Christian who opposed homosexual marriage now supports it because it is law and he ‘always supports the law of the country’?

That was conveyed in the AAP report in The Canberra Times:

Scott Morrison says he supports the law of the country but wouldn’t say if his personal opposition to same-sex marriage has changed since it was legalised….

Mr Morrison abstained from voting for marriage equality when it passed the House of Representatives in 2018, and he voted “no” in the national survey.

When asked if he is still personally opposed to same-sex marriage, the prime minister replied: “It’s law. And I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives. That’s what I’m happy about.”

When pressed on whether his opinions have changed, he told reporters in Perth: “I always support the law of the country.”[25]

It’s not surprising that this is Bill Shorten’s view: ‘I don’t think if you’re gay you’re going to go to hell. I don’t know if hell exists actually. But I don’t think, if it does, that being gay is what sends you there’.[26] That’s in light of the ALP’s policy #319 (p. 191). See also, ‘Labor Party agrees to maintain conscience vote on same-sex marriage for next two terms of government’ (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, 2015).

This is Bill Shorten’s and the ALP’s ideology and not biblical theology speaking.

2.4.1 When laws of God conflict with laws of the nation

ScoMo, how can you support the ungodly law supporting homosexuality in Australia when God opposes such sinners (along with other unrighteous people) entering the kingdom of God (Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11)? There is contradiction by you in your beliefs. You have violated the law of non-contradiction:

clip_image016(image courtesy YouTube)

In your work as Prime Minister, do you ever face a situation where the laws of God clash with the laws of the country? In that circumstance, the law of non-contradiction can be violated. Something cannot be both A (a law of God) and non-A (a law of the country) at the same time and in the same sense for the people of God and not become contradictory.

Here’s the clash of values you don’t seem to have comprehended, Mr Morrison:

A: God’s law is that those who practise homosexuality and other sins are ‘abandoned’ by God ‘to their shameful desires’ (Rom 1:24-32) and sinners, including homosexuals, ‘will not inherit the Kingdom of God’ (1 Cor 6:9-11).

But you now support, not A, but

Non-A: Now you agree with Australian law that conflicts with God’s law when you ‘now support same-sex marriage because it has allowed people to “get on with their lives” and [you] “always support the law of the country”’.

(a) Let Acts 5:29 guide you

According to Acts 5:17-32, the Christian apostles were thrown into a public prison by the Jewish authorities because the apostles performed ‘many miraculous signs and wonders among the people’ (v. 12). During the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison and let the apostles out to go to the Temple to ‘give the people this message of life’ (v. 20).

Not surprisingly, the captain of the Temple guard was sent by the Jewish leaders to arrest the apostles, but non-violently (v. 26). The high priest said to the apostles:

“We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s [Jesus’] name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!” (v. 29)

What was the response? ‘Sorry for the horrible mistakes we made. Will you please forgive us for violating your Jewish laws? We are ashamed of what we did’. That is NOT what they retorted.

‘But Peter and the apostles replied,

“We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).

(b) My disappointment with ScoMo’s compromise

I consider this is compromise by ScoMo from what he said when he was federal treasurer. Before the same-sex marriage plebiscite, he supported traditional marriage and voted ‘no’ in his personal approach to homosexual marriage. ‘It is OK to say “no”. It is OK to say “yes”, but make sure you have your say’ was what he said.[27]

ScoMo could have shown political and Christian leadership in maintaining consistency (even though it may cost him votes) in his world view. His views are not integrated and holistic. He did not view sexuality through God’s lens.

He could have done it without reference to the Scriptures by demonstrating the consequences of homosexual behaviour. One of the most viewed articles on my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge’, on a daily basis is:

clip_image017 The dangers of anal sex and fisting, see also

clip_image017[1] A Christian discussion of homosexuality & sexuality

clip_image017[2] Queen Elizabeth II and Jesus silent on homosexuality

clip_image017[3] Tolerance, homosexuality and not inheriting the Kingdom of God

clip_image017[4] Genetic cause of homosexuality?

clip_image017[5]Please do not support same-sex marriage

clip_image017[6]Why politicians should not support ‘marriage equality’

3. Other assessments

One of the finest assessment’s I’ve heard of this Folau vs Rugby Australia saga is by Sydney talk-back host and top-rating radio king, 2GB’s Alan Jones, who stated that Rugby Australia is on ‘the wrong side of common sense”.

The new One Nation politician (former Labor Leader), Mark Latham, supported Folau in Latham’s inaugural speech to the NSW Upper House:

“I stand with Israel Folau,” the NSW One National leader told parliament.

“In his own private time away from his job playing football, he’s a preacher at his community church and naturally, he quotes the Bible.

“How did our state and our nation ever come to this? Those claiming outrage have fabricated their position solely for the purpose of censorship. This is not an argument about diversity.”

Australians shouldn’t have to fear being sacked for stating their religious beliefs, Mr Latham said.

“No Australian should be fearful of proclaiming four of the most glorious words of our civilisation: I am a Christian.”[28]

Latham added that Folau ‘believes, as millions of people have believed for thousands of years that sinners go to hell…. Yet for his beliefs, his Christianity, he is not allowed to play rugby, to chase the pigskin around the park’.

“How did our State and our nation ever come to this?” [29]

The Spiked website considers Folau is “the Aussie rugby player … being punished for his Christian beliefs”.

ABC News, Brisbane Qld, 15 April 2019 reported Folau

‘would be prepared to walk away from rugby union. “I live for God now,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it.

“In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first”’.

3.1 Temptation to accept peace offering

Channel 9’s Wide World of Sports reported on 13 May 2019 that Folau considered the ‘peace offering’ from Rugby Australia (RA) ‘to resurrect his playing career’ as ‘the work of Satan’. Folau indicated being tempted by the ‘opportunity’ but considered it ‘the work of Satan’. He gave these details in a Sydney church talk.

Wide World of Sports joined in the chorus of labelling him ‘the fundamentalist Christian’ who ‘committed a high-level code of conduct breach for an Instagram post that said hell was the destiny for ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers’ and others.

Folau’s language about the work of Satan and the RA offer was:

“Potentially I could get terminated, which means that there’s no more playing contract and therefore no more finances or money coming in,” he said from the lectern.

“It would be the first time it has happened to me in my life.

“All the materialistic things I have been able to have over the last number of years are slowly being taken away from me.

It’s understood Super Rugby’s all-time leading try-scorer would have been allowed to resume playing again had he agreed to take down his latest controversial post.

“There have been many opportunities to potentially make the situation a little bit easier. I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way it used to be,” Folau said.

“The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you follow that path all the worries and troubles will go away.

“[But] it is always the will of God that comes first.” [30]

4. Threat to freedom of religion?

Several religious leaders have been so concerned over what happened to Folau that the ABC News reported:

Israel Folau’s clash with RA ‘over his fundamentalist religious social media posts’ motivated ‘nine prominent Christians to send letters about the protection of religious freedom to Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten’. These people included leaders from Presbyterian, Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist and Apostolic churches, as well as a number of religious school leaders.

clip_image019 (image courtesy YA-webdesign)

The letters were worded differently for each political leader but both letters ‘flagged a range of issues, with protection of religious belief and free speech at the forefront’.

Each letter began:

“In recent years the protections to be accorded to religious freedom, and the related freedoms of conscience, speech and association, have come under increasing focus within Australia.”

“We write to invite you to provide clarification on a range of key issues that are important to the preservation of these freedoms in our country”.

Reverend Dr Hedley Fihaki, a Uniting Church minister and the national chair of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, said he was worried the Wallaby’s case could set “a dangerous precedent”.

“Scripture is the book the whole church is based on, so if we are not free to teach from that, not just in the private but particularly in the public domain, it is a dangerous precedent,” Dr Fihaki told the ABC.

“From the Bible, from the holy scriptures, that’s the Old and New Testament”.[31]

Anna Patty, in writing for The Age, pointed out some of the apprehension of religious leaders:

The letter to Mr Shorten details concerns that Labor Party policies do not go far enough to protect religious freedom and have the potential to impact on the free expression of traditional views of sexuality and marriage. It asks Labor for an assurance that religious institutions will continue to be able to hold such views and defend them in public….

The Liberal Party has committed to introducing a Commonwealth Religious Discrimination Act, but the religious leaders asked the Prime Minister to go further by protecting believers in associations including churches, mosques, charities, schools and corporations.[32]

4.1 Folau case points to destruction of Western culture?

Peter FitzSimons (Peter F), writing for The Age, challenges ‘Six of the worst fallacies surrounding the Israel Folau case. One of these is: ‘This is the end of Western civilisation as we know it. Uh, no. This is Western civilisation evolving, and saying that while publicly marginalising a group used to be acceptable, and even a part of the law of the land, it is no longer acceptable’.[33]

What is the truth? Is Peter F on target or is he promoting a view that minimises the sins of Australia.

Jude 1:7 (NRSV) reminds us of what awaits those who practise immorality, including ‘unnatural lust’:

‘Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire’.

4.1.1 Morality according to secularism

Peter F is taking off on the wrong runway. He wants morality to be decided by the evolution of acceptance of a previously ‘marginalised’ group (of homosexuals).

This is secular thinking that is not in harmony with the Lord God’s plan for the universe. Peter F’s world and life view causes him to be blind to the moral degradation happening in Australia.

What is God’s way of thinking regarding sinful behaviour and eternal issues? It is straight out of the Israel Folau handbook, Scripture:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NET).

Not only does sinful behaviour have eternal consequences, but sinful thinking has the same destiny. See Matt 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (NET).

Remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? Billy Graham made this pointed observation:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).[34]

4.1.2 The immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah

Surely this also can be applied to Australia.

clip_image021 See my article: Can Australia be turned around?

What does it mean ‘they were haughty and did detestable things’? Other dynamic equivalence translations help clear up the meaning:

  • ‘Sodom and her daughters became too proud and began to do terrible things in front of me. So I punished them’ (ERV);
  • ‘They thought they were better than everyone else, and they did things I hate. And so I destroyed them’ (CEV);
  • ‘They were very proud. They did many things that were evil in my eyes. I hated those things. So I got rid of Sodom and her daughters, just as you have seen’ (NIRV);
  • ‘She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen’ (NLT);

What was the detestable, terrible, evil sin committed in Sodom & Gomorrah?

Genesis 19 reveals it.

Before they [the two angels] retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. 5 They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”[35] [36]

6 So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. 7 “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection” (Gen 19:4-8 NLT).

Therefore, the men of Sodom, both young and old, wanted to have sexual relations with other men (the two angels). That’s what the text states.

However, some scholars want to make this encounter of the men of Sodom with the male angels as an example of selfishness or being inhospitable when compared with Ezek 16:48-50 (NLT):

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters. 49 Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. 50 She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.

One scholar who takes the hospitality view is homosexual clergyman, Rev Dr Patrick S Cheng:

The true sin of the Sodomites as described in the Bible has nothing to do with same-sex acts per se. Rather, the ancient Sodomites were punished by God for far greater sins: for attempted gang rape, for mob violence, and for turning their backs on strangers and the needy who were in their midst. In other words, the real sin of Sodom was radical inhospitality. And, ironically, it is often anti-gay Christians who are most guilty of this sin today….

So, who are the real Sodomites today? Who are the people who turn their backs on the strangers and the least among us? Ironically, I believe that anti-gay Christians are often the ones who are most guilty of committing the true sin of Sodom….

The bottom line is that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus Christ ever condemn LGBT people. However, Jesus does expressly condemn people who turn their backs on strangers and on those who are the neediest among us [Matt 25:43].[37]

For Dr Cheng, ‘the true sin of Sodom: radical inhospitality’.

Dr Cheng supports his lifestyle this way but he’s not promoting a biblical view of the sin of Sodom according to Genesis 19 and other portions of Scripture:

Yale University historian, John Boswell, concluded that Sodom was destroyed because:

(1) The Sodomites were destroyed for the general wickedness which had prompted the Lord to send angels to the city to investigate in the first place; (2) the city was destroyed because the people of Sodom had tried to rape the angels; (3) the city was destroyed because the men of Sodom had tried to engage in homosexual intercourse with the angels…; (4) the city was destroyed for inhospitable treatment of visitors sent from the Lord.[38]

(a) Ezekiel drew attention to Sodom’s problem[39]

‘She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen’ (Ezek 16:50 NLT). So, she was proud, which infers she did selfish things, thus making it an inhospitable city.

However, the bigger picture is that Sodom’s sin also was homosexuality. We know this from a few biblical facts:

clip_image023 Examine the context of Genesis 19 and we find that 19:8 reveals the perversion was sexual sin of men with men.

clip_image023[1] Since there was ‘pride’ or selfishness in Sodom, according to Ezek 16:50, the sin of homosexuality can be included as ‘sexual sins are a form of selfishness, since they are the satisfaction of fleshly passions’.[40] Ezekiel 16 confronts Jerusalem and ‘her daughters’ with their detestable sins.

clip_image023[2] Sodom ‘committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen’ (Ezek 16:50). By calling Sodom’s sins ‘detestable’ this is an indication it was sexual. The same Hebrew word is used in Leviticus 18:22 (NLT) where it describes homosexual sins, ‘Do not practice homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman. It is a detestable sin’.

clip_image023[3] According to the Collins Dictionary, sodomy in English ‘is anal sexual intercourse’ (2019. s.v. sodomy). This is a homosexual act. Its origin is from an Old Testament ‘city destroyed by God for its wickedness that, with Gomorrah, traditionally typifies depravity (Genesis 19:24)…. this city [was seen as] representing homosexuality’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. Sodom).

clip_image023[4] Jude verse 7 in the NT states: ‘Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example[41] by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire’ (NRSV).

Jude 7 associates the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with ‘sexual immorality’ and pursuing ‘unnatural lust’. The Greek states, apelthousai hopisw sarkos heteras (transliterated) and is translated as ‘went after other flesh’ (unnatural lust) which Thayer is careful to note ‘is used of those who are on a search for persons with whom they can gratify their lust’.[42]

Therefore, we have every biblical reason to understand the sin of homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah led to

(b) Sodom and Gomorrah’s punishment

This was God’s punishment for these two cities:

Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. 25 He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt (Gen 19:24-26 NLT).

Why did God wipe out Sodom & Gomorrah?

‘So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard”’ (Gen 18:20-21).

‘And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake” (Gen 18:26).

‘For we (the angels) are about to destroy this city completely. The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it’ (Gen 19:13).

Therefore, Greg Koukl concludes:

Piecing together the biblical evidence gives us a picture of Sodom’s offense. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was some kind of activity—a grave, ongoing, lawless, sensuous activity—that Lot saw and heard and that tormented him as he witnessed it day after day. It was an activity in which the inhabitants indulged the flesh in corrupt desires by going after strange flesh, ultimately bringing upon them the most extensive judgment anywhere in the Bible outside of the book of Revelation.[43]

There is enough contextual information and biblical data elsewhere to indicate Sodom & Gomorrah’s sins were homosexuality and other sensual sins. Further insight is gained from 2 Peter 2:6-8 (NLT):

God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. 8 Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day.

It was not God turning these cities into ashes as punishment for occasional sin, but for wickedness ‘day after day’.

I say it again, based on Ruth Graham’s words: “If God doesn’t punish Australia, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

5. Folau’s punishment

A three-person independent panel’s decision in the RA vs Folau controversy decided Folau’s $4 million, 4-year contract should be terminated because of his anti-gay social media post on 10 April 2019.

Folau’s response was:

“It has been a privilege and an honour to represent Australia and my home state of New South Wales, playing the game I love.

“I am deeply saddened by today’s decision to terminate my employment and I am considering my options.

“As Australians, we are born with certain rights, including the right to freedom of religion and the right to freedom of expression. The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word. Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.

“I would like to thank my wife Maria for her love and encouragement to stay true to our beliefs. We have been humbled by the support we have received from family, friends, players, fans and the wider community.

“Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defence, some of whom do not share my beliefs but have defended my right to express them”.[44]

What are Folau’s next moves? After the announcement of this punishment, Folau had 72 hours to challenge the decision, which he did not take up.

He also could take the decision to court to stop RA from terminating his contract. It could eventually be heard in the NSW Supreme Court or the Federal Court.[45]

At the time of concluding this article, Fairfax newspapers reported that Folau had had discussions with a leading Melbourne workplace relations’ lawyer, Stuart Wood QC, but it was too early to say Wood had been ‘engaged’ as a lawyer to represent Folau in this contractual controversy.[46]

Another option for him is to appeal his case with the Fair Work Commission, for unlawful dismissal on religious grounds. He has until 10 June to commence that process.[47]

6. Conclusion

While RA has found Folau guilty of committing a “high-level” code of conduct breach for his personal Instagram post, he had his 4-year contract terminated and is deliberating over future options.

My own views are that Folau has not been included in the actual understanding of diversity and tolerance by Rugby Australia.

clip_image025 Diversity means:

  • ‘a range of things which are very different from each other’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. diversity).
  • ‘the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something’ (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. diversity).

Therefore, diversity means that Folau’s Christian values need to be accepted among the range of different ideas, values and opinions in Australia. Instead, Folau has been censored from expressing his values (one of the diverse views) of the destiny of a whole range of sinners, from God’s perspective. Any country accepting diversity will agree with Folau’s right to express his Christian views.

clip_image025[1] As for tolerance, it means:

  • ‘the quality of allowing other people to say and do as they like, even if you do not agree or approve of it’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. tolerance).
  • a ‘willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them’ (Cambridge Dictionary 2019. s.v. tolerance).

Based on these two definitions, Folau has not been afforded tolerance towards his Christian views. RA has failed the tolerance test.

Therefore, what has happened by the RA actions in relation to Folau? It has closed down any opportunity for RA to implement fully the values of diversity and tolerance in the Rugby Union fraternity.

So Folau has been the victim of censorship of his values and an attack on free speech which affects his freedom of religion.

clip_image027

(courtesy Clipart Library)

7.   Notes


[1] On Line Opinion 2019. Fairies at the bottom of the garden : Comments (online).

Posted by Pogi, Friday, 10 May 2019 3:37:48 PM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20266&page=0 (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[2] Tom Decent 2019. Sponsor abandons Folau as Farr-Jones claims star has not breached deal. The Age (online), 8 May. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/sport/rugby-union/folau-dumped-by-sponsor-asics-20190508-p51lcy.html (Accessed 17 May 2019).

[3] David Crowe 2019. Morrison accuses Shorten of taking a ‘cheap shot’ over gays going to hell. The Canberra Times (online), 14 May. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6123617/morrison-accuses-shorten-of-taking-a-cheap-shot-over-gays-going-to-hell/?cs=14350 (Accessed 17 May 2017).

[4] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Israel Folau’s case prompts Australian religious leaders to pen letters to Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-11/israel-folau-religious-leaders-send-letter-to-shorten-morrison/11104094 (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[5] Ben Francis 2019. Rugby: Israel Folau refused to delete controversial Instagram post to save Wallabies career – report. Newshub (online), 10 May. Available at: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/sport/2019/05/rugby-israel-folau-refused-to-delete-controversial-instagram-post-to-save-wallabies-career-report.html (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[6] Collins Dictionary (2019 s.v. revile).

[7] Got Questions Ministries 2019. What is a reviler in the Bible? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/reviler-in-the-Bible.html (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[8] Suggested by Urban Dictionary (1999-2019. s.v. fuddy duddy).

[9] Bauer, W; Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House), p. 480.

[10] The Greek noun in this verse is loidoria.

[11] The ESV translates ‘insult’ as ‘reviling’; the NASB, NET and NIV as ‘insult’; and the NRSV as ‘abuse’.

[12] FindLaw 2019. Swearing in Public is Against the Law (Really) [online]. Available at: https://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/4251/swearing-in-public-is-against-the-law-really.aspx (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[13] Akos Balogh 2019. 4 Urgent Conversations Australians Need To Have After Folau. See Your World through a Christian Lens (online). Available at: http://akosbalogh.com/2019/05/15/4-urgent-conversations-australians-need-to-have-after-folau/ (Accessed 16 May 2019).

[14] Dawn Grace-Cohen 2019. Silencing Folau with queer fascism betrays our gay marriage victory. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 4 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/silencing-folau-with-queer-fascism-betrays-our-gay-marriage-victory-20190503-p51jsk.html (Accessed 16 May 2019).

[15] Balogh 2019, with help from Simon Smart of the Centre for Public Christianity and Christian author and social commentator, Os Guinness.

[16] ‘Public square’ means ‘the sphere of public opinion’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2019. s.v. public square).

[17] In Balogh 2019.

[18] Phillip Ayoub and Jeremiah Garretson 2018. How the Media Has Helped Change Public Views about Lesbian and Gay People. Scholars’ Strategy Network (online), 24 May. Available at: https://scholars.org/brief/how-media-has-helped-change-public-views-about-lesbian-and-gay-people (Accessed 14 May 2019).

[19] Marriage equality in Australia 2017. Available at: https://www.ag.gov.au/marriageequality (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[20] David Lipson 2017. Same-sex marriage and the defining image that almost wasn’t. ABC News, Brisbane Qld (online), 11 December. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-11/same-sex-marriage-the-lone-voice-of-david-littleproud/9246370 (Accessed 11 May 2019). According to this ABC News report, ‘Just four MPs voted against same-sex marriage in the chamber: Mr Littleproud and Mr Pitt, along with Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and crossbencher Bob Katter’.

[21] News.com.au 2019. Super Rugby players in huge public show of support for Israel Folau (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/sport/rugby/super-rugby-players-in-huge-public-show-of-support-for-israel-folau/news-story/f13197aa1688febc7d3d8246500869f2 (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[22] Matt Thompson 2015. The Origins of ‘Fundamentalism’, The Atlantic, 30 June. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/06/the-origins-of-fundamentalism/397238/ (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[23] Ibid.

[24] Paul Karp 2019. Scott Morrison claims he now backs same-sex marriage – but dodges question on hell. The Guardian Australia (online), 13 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/may/13/scott-morrison-claims-he-now-backs-same-sex-marriage-but-dodges-question-on-hell (Accessed 18 May 2019).

[25] AAP 2019. Gay marriage is the law: PM Morrison. The Canberra Times (online), 13 May. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6122212/gay-marriage-is-the-law-pm-morrison/?cs=14231 (Accessed 18 May 2019).

[26] Paul Karp 2019.

[27] Staff writers 2017. Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison reveals he is voting ‘no’ in same-sex marriage plebiscite. News.com.au [from 7.30], 31 August. Available at: https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/federal-treasurer-scott-morrison-reveals-he-is-voting-no-in-samesex-marriage-plebiscite/news-story/d7be152a9ef873e777dcb653af478a20 (Accessed 18 May 2019).

[28] Tom Rabe 2019. I stand with Israel Folau: Mark Latham. Mandurah Mail (online), 8 May. Available at: https://www.mandurahmail.com.au/story/6114327/i-stand-with-israel-folau-mark-latham/?cs=9397 (Accessed 11 May 2019).

[29] Ibid.

[30] AAP 2019. Israel Folau reveals RA settlement rejection, saying ‘temptation’ is ‘Satan’s work’, Channel 9 Wide World of Sports, 13 May. Available at: https://wwos.nine.com.au/rugby/folau-stands-firm-after-ra-peace-offering/6f3f392f-ecf2-4375-a998-85ac54e5b1c8 (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[31] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Israel Folau’s case prompts Australian religious leaders to pen letters to Scott Morrison, Bill Shorten (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-11/israel-folau-religious-leaders-send-letter-to-shorten-morrison/11104094 (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[32] Anna Patty 2019. Christian leaders challenge major parties on commitment to religious freedom. The Age (online), 11 May. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/federal-election-2019/christian-leaders-challenge-major-parties-on-commitment-to-religious-freedom-20190508-p51lgo.html (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[33] Peter FitzSimons 2019. Six of the worst fallacies surrounding the Israel Folau case. The Age, 8 May. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/sport/six-of-the-worst-fallacies-surrounding-the-israel-folau-case-20190508-p51let.html (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[34] Billy Graham 2012. Billy Graham: ‘My Heart Aches for America’, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (online), 12 July. Available at: https://billygraham.org/story/billy-graham-my-heart-aches-for-america/ (Accessed 13 May 2019).

[35] Other translations such as the KJV, LEB (the LEB has the footnote, ‘Hebrew idiom for sexual intercourse’, cf Gen 4:1), NKJV, NRSV, ESV and RSV translate ‘have sex with them’ as ‘we may know them’.

[36] The NIV translates also as ‘have sex with them’, as does the ERV, NET, CEV, CSB, GNB, ISV, NABRE, and NASB (‘may have relations with them’).

[37] Rev Patrick S Cheng PhD 2011. What Was the Real Sin of Sodom? HuffPost (online), 25 May. Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-was-the-real-sin-of_b_543996?guccounter=1 (Accessed 17 May 2019).

[38] John Boswell 1980. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 93, cited in Greg Koukl 2013. What Was the Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Stand to Reason (online), 8 March. Available at: https://www.str.org/articles/what-was-the-sin-of-sodom-and-gomorrah (Accessed 17 May 2019).

[39] The following points are from Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 285.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Lenski considers ‘example’ should be translated as ‘indication or sign’ (R C H Lenski 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, vol 11. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, p. 625).

[42] Joseph Henry Thayer 1886/1962. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, pp. 569-570. This is a Lexicon prepared by Carl Ludwig Wilibald Grimm, Joseph Henry Thayer, and Christian Gottlob Wilke.

[43] Koukl op cit.

[44] Georgina Robinson 2019. Folau ‘saddened’ by sacking, considering his options. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 17 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/folau-set-to-be-sacked-by-rugby-australia-20190514-p51n2g.html (Accessed 23 May 2019).

[45] Ibid.

[46] Samantha Hutchinson, Tom Decent & Adrian Proszenko 2019. Folau turns to top silk as Rugby Australia case heads for legal stoush. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 21 May. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/folau-turns-to-top-silk-as-rugby-australia-case-heads-for-legal-stoush-20190521-p51psc.html (Accessed 23 May 2019).

[47] Ibid.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 May 2019.

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Sleeper cells and Australian election victory

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published as ‘Sleeper cells and Australian election victory’ in On Line Opinion (21 May 2019).


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(Photo Scott Morrison family, courtesy frasercoastchronicle.com.au)

The Prime Minister gave credit to ‘quiet Australians‘ for his shock election victory on 18 May 2019. Pollsters predicted a Labor win. They got it wrong – very wrong.

Who could the ‘quiet Australians’ be? I’m not thinking of the ones mentioned by Morrison: Those with hopes of getting jobs, apprenticeships, and starting businesses. There are those with personal aspirations to form a family, buy a house, labour to provide for kids, and to save for retirement.

They sure were ones who spoke at the ballot box, after viewing the policies of the two major parties.

The forgotten quiet ones

Remember Morrison’s statements about dealing with the drought? He was in Albury, the birth place of the Liberal Party in September 2018, addressing the Liberal Party: ‘I do pray for that rain. And I’d encourage others who believe in the power of prayer to pray for that rain and to pray for our farmers. Please do that’. Were these among the quiet ones?

Was it a ‘miracle’?

Morrison said he ‘always believed in miracles‘ as he gave his victory speech at Liberal HQ on the evening of 18 May 2019. He added: ‘I would like to wish [Bill Shorten] and Chloe, and his family all the best, and God’s blessing’, concluding with, ‘We are an amazing country of amazing people. God bless Australia’.

Was it a ‘miracle‘ win, as ScoMo labelled it?

Yes it was in this sense: ‘A remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences’ for the Coalition government (Oxford English Dictionary). However, I don’t see it as ‘an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency’ (OED) like Jesus’ resurrection.

The God factor was included in ScoMo’s blessing on the Shorten couple and exhorting God to bless Australia? Do we deserve blessing or his chastisement?

The sleeper cells I’m thinking of were not highlighted in the mass media coverage. They weren’t mentioned in what I heard and read after the voting.

God’s people, some of them elderly, distributed leaflets house-to-house about Labor’s extreme abortion agenda in public hospitals. I know of a couple in their 70s who did this and thought it might be a waste of time. It wasn’t.

The call to prayer

One not-so-quiet Australian was tennis great and pastor of Victory Life Centre, Perth, Margaret Court. In addition to praying through the election campaign period, Margaret and other Christian leaders called Australians to:

Image result for photograph Margaret Court public domain (photo courtesy Blue Mountains Gazette)

gather in praise and worship on the evening of Friday 17 May, on the eve of our election day. Encourage the people in your networks to get together and hold a combined church praise and worship night to declare that God is on the throne in our nation. ‘Your Kingdom Come! Your will be done by us in Australia, as in heaven’.

She previously wrote to ScoMo:

God impressed on my heart – that once the election date was announced, we should stand together and call 21 days of Pray[er] & Fasting. Through the Bible, Prayer and Fasting has (sic) impacted the course of history and adjusted the spiritual course of Nations. I’m reminded of – ‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Let our united prayer be: ‘Thank you Father that the righteous rule in our Nation of Australia, in Jesus Name. Amen’.

On 15 April 2019, the Australian Prayer Network began 30 days of prayer for the nation and the 2019 election. This prayer included ‘asking God’s forgiveness for where we have in the past failed to collectively pray for our national leaders and Government’.

These are some of the ‘quiet Australians’ who were praying and acting behind the scene, seeking God’s action for his intervention in the government of the nation.

Freedom of religion

The agenda of the ALP and the Greens threatened freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Only 5 days out from the election, The Catholic Weekly, warned: ‘ALP-Greens win would be a disaster for Catholics‘. Why?

The ALP policy pamphlet A Fair Go for LGBTIQ Australianssigned by Bill Shorten does not equivocate when it states ‘A Shorten Labor Government will amend the Sex Discrimination Act to remove the exemptions that permit religious schools to discriminate against students and staff on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity’….

There is also no doubt what the Greens Party intends to do if it forms an alliance with an incoming ALP Government. Its policy also denies religious freedom when it states, ‘The Greens will protect LGBTIQ+ rights in law, through a Charter of Rights and by legislating to remove religious exemptions in federal and state anti-discrimination laws’.

After the election, this led The Age (20 May 2019) to report that ‘Christian leaders say religious freedom was among factors that influenced voters‘.

Before the election (8 May), Martyn Isles, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) confirmed the:

Image result for images religious freedom(image courtesy Eternity News)

…ALP’s legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus [stated] a Shorten government would remove important legal protections for religious schools.

‘This is out of step with what Tanya Plibersek said last week when she seemed to show a willingness to support religious schools’ right to teach their values, and employ staff that faithfully represent those values,’ commented Mr Iles. Religious freedom for schools remains a critical issue for millions of Australians, and so far, it has been sidelined from the election campaign’, he stated.

Labor and the Greens should have seen this coming. They were warned before the election, ‘Parents of Christian school students urged to vote for religious freedom‘. SBS reported 329 Christian schools had sent a pamphlet to parents whose children attended those schools. Mark Spencer, Christian Schools Australia national executive officer, told SBS News, ‘We have to be very careful, we’ve provided the policy information and it’s really up to parents to work out which parties are going to protect their values’.

Mr Spencer said this was an unprecedented move and ‘we have certainly ramped it up a lot because this issue is so important to us’.

SBS reported on the alarm by Christian schools last year of proposed change ‘to the Sex Discrimination Act to prevent religious schools being able to expel students or sack staff on the basis of their sexuality’.

If ‘millions of Australians’ were concerned about this, the ALP and the Greens should have seen it coming and so deserve to lose because of policies that discriminated against religious values.

Who brings a government to power?

In the New Testament, Romans 13:1 states ‘Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God’.

It is God who raises governments and tears others down. If the values of governments clash with God’s law, Christians need to pursue what Peter and the apostles did: ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority’ (Acts 5:29).

These could be some of the sleeper cell issues that led to defeat in Labor’s unlosable election.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 May 2019.

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Intolerant Intolerance

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(Wintour photograph courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published (without the graphics and subject headings) in On Line Opinion, 21 Febrary 2019.

During the January 2019 Australian Open Tennis Grand Slam, Anna Wintour, long time fashion editor with Vogue, spoke publicly about her disagreement with champion tennis player, Margaret Court, over homosexual marriage.

Dame Anna Wintour DBE dived into the ‘intolerance’ issue against homosexuals. Her target was tennis champion, Margaret Court.

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The Age reported that Wintour ‘has thrown her support behind the push to rename Margaret Court Arena over the tennis champion’s opposition to same-sex marriage’.

Wintour stated, ‘I find that it is inconsistent with the sport for Margaret Court’s name to be on a stadium that does so much to bring all people together across their differences”‘, in a speech delivered at the Australian Open Inspirational Series in Melbourne on Thursday [24 January 2019] , to applause.

She continued: ‘This much I think is clear to anyone who understands the spirit and the joy of the game.Intolerance has no place in tennis” emphasis added).

Wintour continued her broadside against those who support traditional family values:

“I have been alarmed by your prime minister’s record on LGBTQ rights, which seems backward in all senses,” she said.

“That no one can be expelled from school for their orientation, should not require clarification. A government should protect its people, not make it unclear whether they will be accepted.”

Not once in that article did the journalist mention Anna Wintour’s intolerance towards Margaret Court and Scott Morrison.

I find it disconcerting when a person opposes the ‘intolerance’ of Margaret Court on the subject of homosexuality and doesn’t see her own intolerance towards Margaret Court’s values.

It is a self-contradictory statement to accuse another person of intolerance while perpetrating the same oneself.

Other media joined the Wintour refrain

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(image courtesy longfordpc.com)

There were a considerable number of mass media examples that promoted the Wintour homosexual chorus. Three instances were from:

ABC News:

ABC News Brisbane, Qld reported that ‘Wintour said when Australia passed same-sex marriage in 2017, “the world sang in celebration” with it’. Wintour continued:

“Intolerance has no place in tennis. What we love [is] watching these remarkable men and women exceed themselves while being themselves in many different forms.

“Margaret Court was a champion on the court but a meeting point for players of all nations, preferences, and backgrounds should celebrate somebody who was a champion off the court as well.”

Do you hear Wintour’s ‘off the court’ intolerance towards Margaret Court’s sexual values as a Christian?

This article quoted Margaret Court’s views about the approach of her opponents who call for the renaming of the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park. Court called this ‘another example of freedom of religion under threat…. I should be able to have my say as a minister of the Gospel…. I believe I shouldn’t be bullied for what I did in my past’.

Not a word was stated in this article about Wintour’s intolerance towards Margaret Court’s views.

Channel 9:

MSN Channel 9 explained the Wintour event with similar quotes to those by The Age and ABC News Brisbane about Primer Minister Scott Morrison and tennis champion and now Christian minister, Margaret Court.

Wintour didn’t hold back about her views on the proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act:

“That no-one can be expelled from school for their orientation should not require clarification,” Wintour added, referring to previous proposals for the Sex Discrimination Act to be amended in a way to allow religious schools to do so.

“A government should protect its people, not make it unclear whether they will be accepted and we are struggling with these issues in the United States as well.”

This article failed to expose Wintour’s own intolerance in her speech.

News.com.au

News.com.au provided similar details on the Wintour speech, with a sub-heading, ‘Fashion legend Anna Wintour has taken a swipe at Australia’s Prime Minister and one of our greatest tennis stars in a scathing speech’.

This news report and others were pleased to use Wintour’s statement in her speech: ‘This much I think is clear to anyone who understands the spirit and the joy of the game. Intolerance has no place in tennis’.

Again there was no effort to demonstrate Wintour’s own intolerance.

In this article I point to an apparent lack of discernment by journalists into the nature of intolerance that Wintour actively perpetrated. She practised the very thing she complained about with Margaret Court and Scott Morrison.

This is one of the main issues:

Intolerant intolerance

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Dr Jeremy Sherman exposed the nature of Wintour’s intolerant intolerance with examples from other situations that can be applied specifically to Wintour’s proclamation at the speech delivered at the Australian Open Inspirational Series in Melbourne on 24 January 2019.

  • “It’s true. We shouldn’t tolerate intolerance. We should nip it in the bud, set clear boundaries.”
  • “If we tolerate intolerance it spreads: Racism, sexism, prejudices of all sorts, judgmentalism, negativity, bigotry, factions squaring off and fighting: right vs. left, this fundamentalism vs. that.”
  • “An eye for an eye just leaves the whole world blind.”
  • “To bring about greater harmony we must all of us be tolerant. No exceptions. Loving, listening, caring for each other, respecting each other’s opinions whatever they may be.”

Sherman exposed our hypocrisy when we try to tolerate certain behaviours yet name others as being intolerant. He said the ‘truest practical question’ is ‘not whether to be tolerant or intolerant but when to be which’.

So far, I have not noticed the mass media I read expose Wintour’s intolerance of her own views – against Margaret Court’s and Scott Morrison’s views.

Sherman rightly exposed the dilemma:

‘Folks who don’t notice the hypocrisy don’t appreciate the bind we’re all in and they cut themselves unconscionable slack. They manage the bind ineptly at best, self-servingly at worst, telling people not to be judgmental when they’re being criticized, and not noticing they’re being judgmental when criticizing others’.

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(image courtesy Pinterest)

In applying this to Wintour’s speech content, Wintour didn’t seem to be aware that she herself was intolerant towards Margaret Court’s and Scott Morrison’s values. It would been startling to hear Wintour admit: ‘I oppose Court’s views on homosexuality, but in saying that, I’m making an admission this is an intolerant statement I’m making’.

It would have been even more remarkable to hear Wintour admit: ‘We live in a free society where freedom of religion and thought are allowed. It shouldn’t be surprising that a modern society like ours accepts homosexual behaviour, but I should not lambast Margaret Court’s worldview as that would demonstrate my intolerance’.

Michael Mendis calls it ‘the paradox of tolerance‘ because tolerance is a ‘self-contradictory principle’ as it is reflexive. The phrase is not original with him:

He stated that the principle of tolerance ‘dictates that we must be tolerant of everything. We cannot pick and choose what we will tolerate and what we will not. If this is so, then tolerance requires us to tolerate even intolerance‘.

Thus, if somebody is proclaiming or practising intolerance, Mendis rightly observes that ‘the tolerant person cannot, in principle, speak out against what the intolerant person is doing, since speaking out against intolerance would itself be an act of intolerance”.

Therefore, his assessment was that ‘tolerance as a principle, then, is clearly illogical, and therefore irrational. It is much more logical and rational to espouse intolerance, for then one does not get entangled in any contradictions-self or otherwise.

Intolerance as a principle does not require us to be consistently and universally intolerant’.

Who raised this paradox?

Enter Sir Karl Popper, Austrian-British philosopher of science and political philosopher:

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them”.

In my view, it shows the lack of logical precision by the Australian mass media that they don’t expose the intolerant intolerance by Dame Anna Wintour’s statements against Margaret Court’s Christian beliefs about homosexuality and the Prime Minister’s views on amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act.

Intolerant tolerance of Court’s & Morrison’s values

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The Collins’ Dictionary (online) defines ‘intolerance’ as an ‘unwillingness to let other people act in a different way or hold different opinions from you’ (2019. s.v. intolerance).

Therefore, for Wintour to accuse Margaret Court of intolerance because she didn’t support same-sex marriage is to engage in an act of intolerance towards Court’s values. When will the supporters of certain values wake up to the fact that to accuse opponents of being intolerant is to engage in an act of intolerance perpetrated by themselves?

Other media join the Wintour spin

1. Sporting News, Australian Open: Anna Wintour slams Margaret Court over gay marriage stance (24 January 2019).

2. Perth Now, Wintour of discontent gets a serve from WA tennis legend Margaret Court (25 January 2019).

3. Daily Mail Australia, Fashion icon Anna Wintour slams Scott Morrison’s gay rights record and calls for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed in a fiery speech – but she’s not Snow White when it comes to the #MeToo era (24 January 2019).

4. Women’s Agenda, Thank you Anna Wintour for highlighting what should be key to sport: ‘Intolerance has no place’ (February 2019).

5. Vogue Australia, Anna Wintour on inclusivity and the power of tennis (24 January 2019).

6. Fox Sports, Australian Open 2019: Anna Wintour calls for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed (24 January 2019).

7. SBS News, Vogue editor Anna Wintour slams Scott Morrison on LGBTQ rights (24 January 2019).

8. WWD, Anna Wintour Slams Margaret Court and Australian PM Over LGBT Issues (24 January 2019).

9. 3AW News Talk, Tom Elliott takes “hypocritical” Anna Wintour to task over Margaret Court comments (24 January 2019).

10. CNN, Anna Wintour slams Margaret Court, Scott Morrison over LGBTQ rights (25 January 2019).

Intolerant intolerance

See: Be Intolerant Of Intolerance! At: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/ambigamy/201501/be-intolerant-intolerance

Also, The Paradox of Tolerance: https://bigthink.com/the-paradox-of-tolerance

Enter Karl Popper: Paradox of tolerance, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

Works consulted

Singer, M 2019. ‘Intolerance has no place in tennis’: Wintour criticises Margaret Court. The Age (online), 24 January 2019. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/intolerance-has-no-place-in-tennis-wintour-criticises-margaret-court-20190124-p50tcs.html (Accessed 8 February 2019).

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(image courtesy Brotherhood News:

Facebook censors biblical posts against homosexuality)

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 March 2019.

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Commercial celebrations contaminate Christmas

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A Child is Born, courtesy GodTube
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(courtesy Clker)

By Spencer Gear PhD

Some of these details were published in my article, Make-believe and celebrations: Christmas message ignored, (On Line Opinion, 24 December 2018).

This is a delightful season for summer fruit from the tropics and temperate climes. I purchased a pawpaw that looked just right. I struck a problem when I cut it open.

It wasn’t seen from the outside, but around the stem, there was a small bad spot that had developed mould on some of the seeds inside. Once the bad section had been removed, the remainder of the pawpaw was delicious. I would never have written off the entire pawpaw because of some contaminated seeds.

But that’s what some people want to do with Christmas. The season has been commercialised with festivities that disguise the true message of Christmas.

1.   Paddling in the Christmas shallows

Let’s clear away some debris. December 25 is not the birth date for Jesus’ birth. There is no biblical mention of the exact day of Jesus’ birth. A few hints in the text indicate it was not in the middle of the northern winter. Shepherds were in the fields overnight guarding their flock (Luke 2:8). This suggests a time of more temperate weather.

There were early discussions about the date of Jesus’ birth in early church leader in northern Africa, Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215). He wrote: ‘There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, and in the twenty-fifth day of [the Egyptian month of] Pachon. This is 20 May according to our calendar (The Stromata 1.21).

For the first 300 years of the church’s existence, it did not celebrate Christmas. December 25 was adopted in AD 336 when Constantine was emperor. In 354 a list of Roman bishops was compiled. The words that appeared in 336 were, ’25 Dec: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae, i.e. 25 December, Christ born in Bethlehem Judea.

Around that time there were pagan festivals honouring the Roman god of agriculture, liberation and time – Saturn. Mithra (Mithras) was worshipped by the Persians (Iran, Iraq and vicinity) as the god of light. Could this have been a tactical decision by a christianised Emperor, Constantine, to encourage people to consider the new faith of Christianity?

2.  The Santa sham

I well remember the deceitful fun my parents had with us kids at Christmas with the gifts under the tree. The jolly old Santa was part of my family’s tradition. We children knew no other way to celebrate Christmas. Now we know its pretense, but who wants to spoil the fun for kids?

This legend has been traced back to the monk, St. Nicholas, born around AD 280 in Patara, modern Turkey. He was esteemed for his godliness and kindness. Many legends have sprung up around his story.

As for the name, Santa Claus, it emerged from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas. As for the chubby, bearded fellow in the red suit, those features originated in 1822 when Clement Clarke Moore, a USA Episcopal minister, wrote a lengthy poem for his three daughters, ‘An account of a visit from St. Nicholas’.

He was cautious about publishing it because of its petty subject. However, that poem seems to have been responsible for the contemporary image of Santa – the tubby old man in red who could climb up a chimney (history.com).

This year, I visited a major department store in the Brisbane region to purchase a nativity scene for my house. When I asked the person at the front door to direct me to where I might find such a scene, she naively responded: ‘What do you mean?’ She had no idea of the true meaning of Christmas and where a nativity scene fits into the picture. To her knowledge there were none in this very large store. She was correct.

However, she knew lots about Santa, tinsel, lights and Christmas trees.

3.  The contaminating myths

At this time of the year, the doubters, protagonists and atheists are out in force in the mass media. They try to show that the decline and contamination of Christmas indicate that the celebration is phoney. It demonstrates the ‘Christ-myth’ (Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews). It’s really not a celebration of the Son of God but is a festivity for the god of sun.

Some focus on the supposed connection between the Egyptian religion and Christianity, particularly the Horus-Jesus relationship. Horus was the Sun of God.

4.  How are myths created?

Jane Yolen, in her Myth Writing Workshop defines myth as ‘a made-up story that explains the existence of a natural phenomenon – such as where thunder comes from or why snow falls from the sky. Myths – which often include gods and goddesses and other supernatural characters who have the power to make extraordinary things happen — are popular even when people know the actual reasons for natural phenomena’.

This agrees with the Collins’ Dictionary definition that a myth is ‘a story about superhuman beings of an earlier age, usually of how natural phenomena or social customs came into existence’. It is fiction, an invention and promotes historical, mystical and supernatural falsehoods – for creative reading, film and performance.

5.  Jesus’ birth as truth or fiction

How do we know Jesus birth and life are rooted in history and not fiction? His forerunner, John the Baptist, was born at the time when Herod was king of Judea (Luke 1:5-7). Herod the Great lived 73-4 BC and was appointed King of Judea by the Romans from 37-4 BC. Jesus was born ca. 6-4 BC under Herod’s late reign (see Matt 2:16).

Image result for clipart 25 December Christian Christmas(image courtesy Clipart Library)

The awful details of Herod’s death are recorded in graphic detail by the Jewish historian, Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.5). Josephus regarded this kind of death as ‘God’s judgment upon him for his sins’. He was brutal in his treatment of opponents.

6.  Is Herod’s massacre of young children a myth?

Matthew 2:16 records, ‘When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi’.

A writer on historical topics, Michael Grant, considered these details not to be historical but myth or folk-lore. The massacre of the children was invented, although he conceded it was likely related to the historical fact that Jesus probably was born in one of the last years of Herod’s reign (in Gordon Franz 2009).

In my research, I found no record of this massacre in secular literature outside the Bible. However, it is consistent with the brutality of Herod. He slaughtered friends, enemies and relatives (see Josephus Antiquities, 15:5-10). He even killed his second wife, Mariamme I, out of jealousy (Antiquities, 15.3.5). He had some of his sons killed (Josephus War 1.27.6).

Archaeology and other research have discovered much evidence to support the trustworthiness of Bible records.

‘Now for the first time, one hundred and ten 2,500 year old Babylonian tablets have been discovered in Iraq which provide a glimpse of Jewish life in Babylonian exile’. It corroborates the biblical story mentioned in Ezekiel 1:1. The Huffington Post, Australia (6 December 2017), hardly a Christian publication, concluded: ‘This discovery is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text’.

7.  Embarrassment

Something that may have caused embarrassment or created difficulty for the early church is more likely to be authentic. Why? Because it is improbable that the writers of the Gospels would deliberately set out to write false, embarrassing or contradictory material that would weaken the position of the church.

Josephus stated: ‘But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex’ (Antiquities, 4.8.15).

What happened on resurrection morning? ‘The Sabbath day was now over. It was dawn on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb’ (Matt 28:1). Imagine it! Women who weren’t worthy to be witnesses in that Jewish culture were the first to the tomb to find it empty.

Image result for picture embarrassment public domain(image courtesy Medical Xpress)

This is, therefore, more likely to be a credible witness to what happened historically because of the embarrassment factor.

Similarly with Herod! It would be embarrassing for the Gospel writer to record something as history if it did not happen. That record has been here for people to consult for 2,000 years and the Christian church worldwide has grown to be the largest religious group in 2015, ‘making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis’. That’s about 2.26 billion followers. Surely a myth wouldn’t engineer such a following!

Herod was a brutal king. As indicated, one of the leading criteria ancient historians use to determine the authenticity of an historical document is embarrassment. This applies to the investigation of what happened in 1770 when Captain James Cook sailed along the eastern coast of Australia, the terrorism on September 11 2001 in New York City, or whether Herod massacred the boys under 2 years’ of age in Bethlehem and its vicinity (Matt 2:16-18).

For a further discussion of these criteria, see Robert H Stein, The “Criteria” of Authenticity.

8.  That questionable census

The incarnation at the first Christmas when the pre-existent Son of God became a human being was accompanied by historical events and a human being with attributes of a person.

Jesus’ birth was at the time when emperor Caesar Augustus issued a decree for ‘all the world’ to ‘be registered’ (Luke 2:1). This was ‘the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria’ (Luke 2:2). Augustus was the greatest Roman emperor who reigned from 27 BC until his assassination in AD 14 (Ancient History Encyclopedia). Thus, Jesus’ birth was rooted in history and not myth.

(image courtesy Wikipedia: The Virgin and Saint Joseph register for the census before Governor Quirinius. Byzantine mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople 1315–20).

This historical information has some protagonists up in arms:

(1) ‘There is no record of Caesar Augustus’ decree that “all the world should be enrolled” (Lk. 2:1).  The Romans kept extremely detailed records of such events’ (N F Gier 1987).

(2) No records exist that Quirinius was governor of Syria when Luke wrote his Gospel. John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar stated, ‘The journey to and from Nazareth for census and tax registration is a pure fiction, a creation of Luke’s own imagination’ (Crossan 1994:20).

Even though there are questions about the accuracy of the biblical record, observe the association of Jesus’ birth with secular rulers – Herod, Caesar Augustus, and Quirinius. God’s purposes were worked out through unbelievers.

Herod died in 4 BC and Quirinius didn’t begin to rule in Syria until AD 6. Jesus was born in 5-4 BC. Is Luke telling a whopper? How can we answer this apparent historical discrepancy (suggested by J. Hampton Keathley, III)?

Flower10  An ancient census form from an official government order in Egypt, dated to AD 104, spoke of a house-to-house census for those who returned to their own homes. Archaeologist John McRay spoke of another papyrus from AD 48 indicating ‘the entire family was involved in the census’.

Flower10 External evidence to the Bible states census registrations happened about every 14 years and that Quirinius could have been twice in charge of these registrations. Luke records in Acts 5:37 that he was aware of the later registration or census of Quirinius, the one reported by Josephus. Luke shows from Luke 2:1-2 and Acts 5:37 that there may have been two census’ registrations by Quirinius. Or, there could have been two Quiriniuses,

Flower10  A distinguished archaeologist, Jerry Vardaman, found a coin with the name of Quirinius on it in very small writing, or what we call ‘micrographic’ letters. This places him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until after the death of Herod. ‘The census would have taken place under the reign of the earlier Quirinius. Given the cycle of a census every fourteen years, that would work out quite well’.

Sir William Ramsay, the late archaeologist and professor at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities gave a similar theory of one Quirinius who ruled Syria on two occasions. ‘He concluded from various inscriptions that while there was only one Quirinius, he ruled Syria on two separate occasions, which would cover the time period of the earlier census’.

9.  Manipulation of evidence

Have I stage-managed the evidence to arrive at a conclusion that conforms to Christian orthodoxy? That’s not my motivation. I want to honestly examine the evidence since Luke has a reputation of being a reliable historian. All readers of this article can choose to close down further examination of the evidence and claim that Luke got it wrong because of presuppositional resistance to the birth of Jesus happening as described in the Gospels.

The other option is to pursue the evidence where it leads. That’s what I’ve attempted to do. As a researcher of the historical Jesus, like all historical evidence (that cannot be examined in the laboratory by repeatability), the conclusions reached can be only probable and not 100% certain.

I have found reasonable answers to the Christmas questions posed about the biblical text.

10.  Conclusion

The season has become infected with profiteering and extra effects such as Santa, reindeers, tinsel, lights and Christmas trees.

Commercialisation of the Christian message or a bad experience should never testify against the real person and events surrounding Jesus’ birth.

Mouldy pawpaw seeds did not deter me from enjoying a special piece of summer fruit. Neither should a contaminated Christmas season stop us from remembering the Person who began this celebration ca. 4 BC, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world.

The intrusion into the Christmas season of foreign symbols and signs detracts from the meaning of Christmas.

The history of the Western world turns on this event. The Christ child was prophesied in Micah 5:1-2 to be born in Bethlehem, 700 years before his birth. And it happened as predicted.

In the same era, Isaiah prophesied that he would be more than a baby in the manger. This child would be God the Son who would ultimately govern God’s kingdom. The baby of Bethlehem is the wonderful counsellor, mighty God, everlasting Father and prince of peace.

He’s the One whom we celebrate every Christmas. The extravagance of the season should never blind us to the fact that Jesus is the reason for the season.

Image result for image For unto us a King is born and the government shall be on his shoulder

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 December 2018.

Can human beings know good from bad?

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

Is it possible for human beings to discern good versus evil moral actions? What is the standard by which a person or nation decides if behaviour is pleasing or evil?

The Christian is clear as to what is evil because Scripture declares it:

‘If there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character”’ (I Cor 15:32-33 NLT).

They know the deeper problem: ‘

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

“I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds (Jer 17:9-10 NLT).

As for the godless, secularist, I’d like you to meet Allan. This is my online interchange with him. He pursued a few different topics.

Allan: He agreed with Dan: ‘We [human beings] are indeed fallen angels’.[1]

Spencer: Instead of believing Dan, why don’t you obtain your understanding from Scripture? We are human beings, created in the image of God. Adam corrupted that and we would have done the same (Gen 1-3; Rom 5).[2]

See: What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)? [Got Questions Ministries]

Allan: ‘Personally, I believe it [heaven] is some sort of reunification with a larger whole that is one unified field of energy, but still many individual conscious self-aware personalities. Experiencing unbelievable all consuming euphoria and overwhelming pure love’.

Spencer: When you invent ‘I believe’ personally, you are off into presupposition land.

Allan: ‘Heaven, therefore, is probably not a place, but rather a state of being?’

Spencer:

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Even though your statement ends with a question mark, there is no need to hypothesise like this. Jesus was clear: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NIV). Heaven is definitely a place, so says the Messiah.

Allan: ‘But instead, quote chapter and verse to justify any position however awful, inherently evil, depraved indefensible or untenable?’

Spencer: I agree Allan that some horrible things have been done with a label of Christianity or Christ. I do not endorse any of these. I’m thinking of the slaughter during the Crusades, and sexual abuse in churches and church institutions.

The apostle Paul could call himself ‘the worst of sinners’. In spite of the sinful actions of many within the church, this I know; ‘”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I (the apostle Paul) am the worst of them all’ (1 Tim 1:15). I apply Paul’s description to me, the chief of sinners, but God’s grace reaches beyond our sin through repentance, forgiveness and faith.

Allan: ‘Even as Herr Goebbels and co turned up at their church each Sunday morning and sang Christian hymns and recited Christian prayers from a Christian prayer book.
‘Without question, they were hypocrites pure and simple as are those who protect, forgive and succour paedophilia and paedophiles’.
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(photo Joseph Goebbels, Chancellor of Germany, propaganda minister, World War 2, courtesy Wikipedia)

Spencer: We can point fingers at Hitler, Goebbels, church child abuse, etc (and we should), but when God examines me, His conclusion is, ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve’ (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
We are all not fallen angels but wicked human beings, from the inside out. That’s God’s assessment, not my invention.

Allan: ‘I think we know good from evil if never ever having read a bible or holy scripture’.

Spencer: Without God’s moral absolutes in Scripture (e.g. 10 commandments, the Sermon on the Mount – Matt 5-7), each person does what he/she believes is right. Lenin chose the Gulag, Hitler’s Holocaust wiped out about 6 million Jews – 1 million being children – some men rape women and children, others commit terrorist acts, while some in the banking industry cheat customers.

Allan: ‘Good as we know and understand it has its foundations on love’.

Spencer: Yep, sexual love of children, erotic love of porn and prostitution, promiscuous love of many leading to HIV (AIDS), syphilis, gonorrhoea and other STDs. ‘Love’, however it has been defined, has led to much damage and illness children and adults.

Allan: ‘The Christian Bible and the lessons as espoused by the Rabbi Jesus, was very-very different from the one reinvented, revised and massively edited by the cronies of Constantine … at the first synod, around 350 AD?’

Spencer: Are you an historical theologian and professor of Bibliology (the doctrine of the written Word) who knows the development of the Bible to write that kind of postmodern deconstruction?

Allan: ‘And relied on mainly four, non-eyewitness, plagiarised and systematically embellished gospels, for its Alleged authority?’

Spencer: Are you talking about the 4 Gospels? Luke’s Gospel differs from your deconstruction where he obtained his information from those who handed down eye-witness accounts (Luke 1:1-4).

You don’t like the idea of the sacramental confessional. Neither do I. However, Jesus’ exhorted us to seek Him for forgiveness: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us’ (Matt 6:11). This is not an appeal to father confessor but to Jesus himself.

Allan: ‘Then do something real inside your political organisations to clean out the evil at its very heart. The time for covering it up/excusing/justifying it? Is well and truly over!’

Spencer: Do you really mean that? It was you who stated: ‘Evil produced at all levels by similar if converse levels of hate?’

What is your cure for getting rid of the evil in the human person, political establishment and terrorists?

Notes

[1] The following quotes by Allan B are from his comments to the article by Peter Sellick, ‘The knowledge of good and evil’, On Line Opinion (online), 13 November 2018. Posted by Alan B., Tuesday, 13 November 2018 10:42:41 AM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20027&page=1 (Accessed 14 November 2018).

[2] The following is from ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 2:12:51 PM.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 November 2018.

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Fourteen Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

A Note to Dr Robyn J Whitaker

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Rev. Dr. Margaret Court (photo courtesy| Dr Robyn J Whitaker (photo

Victory Life International, Perth, WA) | courtesy University of Divinity)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A shorter edition of this article was published in On Line Opinion, 7 November 2018, Holey Bible arguments against Margaret Court

What would cause many in the tennis community, mass media and social media to get up in arms about world champion tennis player, Margaret Court’s, support for heterosexuality. She has boycotted flying with Qantas because it supports homosexual marriage. Some in the Christian community oppose Dr Court’s stand against homosexual marriage.

This is one example of a Christian who took Dr Margaret Court AO MBE to task. It is my response to ‘Note to Margaret Court: the Bible isn’t meant to be read that literally’, by Robyn J Whitaker, Trinity College, 2 June 2017 (ABC News, Brisbane, Qld)

What are the holes in Whitaker’s arguments against Court and Court’s support for heterosexual marriage over Whitaker’s backing of modern Christian families that include gay couples? Here is what I found (In some places, I’ll address Dr Whitaker as ‘you’ and ‘your’).

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 1: It starts with Whitaker’s title that the Bible is not meant to be understood as literally as Margaret Court reads it.

Then she does exactly what she told Margaret not to do. She literally accept the fact that there are 66 books in the Bible; Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife.

Her literal interpretation continued: She accepted that David and Solomon had entire palaces full of wives and concubines and that polygamy was common.  Slaves were used for concubines. There was no hint in her article that these were supposed to be interpreted metaphorically or symbolically.

Whitaker made self-defeating statements with her examples. She failed to meet her own standard of the Bible being read too literally. The article cannot live up to the criteria she set in the title.

So her self-refuting statements are of necessity false. She violated the law of non-contradiction. This states that A and non-A cannot be true at the same time and in the same sense. This promoted a contradiction when she accused Margaret Court of reading the Bible “that literally” when she did exactly the same with your reading of the Bible.

Image result for clipart single numbers Hole 2: What is literal interpretation? She assumed we knew. When I was in high school in Qld, I learned that to understand a document literally meant to accept the plain meaning of the text. This includes the use of figures of speech and symbols.

My seminary text for biblical interpretation was Berkeley Mickelsen’s , Interpreting the Bible. He wrote that “literal” means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this evident meaning is included in the literal interpretation.

Therefore, “by literal meaning the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions” (Mickelsen 1963:17). So when I read Whitaker’s article online, I assumed that figures of speech were included in the literal meaning. That’s how I understood her  statement that David’s and Solomon’s wives and concubines “served as symbols of their power and status”.

The Cambridge Dictionary (2018. s.v. literal) states the adjectival meaning of literal is, ‘having exactly the same meaning as the basic or original meaning of a word or expression’. e.g. a literal interpretation of the Australian Constitution.

Iain Provan summarised his view of ‘literal’. It harmonises with The Cambridge Dictionary definition: Literally means that Scripture is read with “its apparent communicative intentions as a collection of texts from the past, whether in respect to smaller or larger sections of text”.

This means readers “take full account of the nature of the language in which these intentions are embedded and revealed as components of Scripture’s unfolding covenantal Story – doing justice to such realities as literary convention, idiom, metaphor, and typology or figuration”.

To read Scripture (or any literature) literally is to try to understand “what Scripture is saying to us in just the ways in which we seek to understand what other people are saying to us – taking into account … their age, culture, customs, and language, as well as the verbal context within which individuals words and sentences are located. This is what it means to read “literally,” in pursuit of the communicative intent of God – in search of what to believe, how to live, and what to hope for” (Provan 2017:105).

I would be in strife if I didn’t read Whitaker’s “Note to Margaret Court” literally. Or, should I put a postmodern or allegorical spin on it and make it mean whatever I, the reader, determine?

Related image Hole 3: You claim that Margaret Court was wrong in her open letter to Qantas and on Channel Ten’s “The Project” because she stated that the Bible confirms that marriage is a union of a man and a woman.

Which standard did you use to judge that Mrs Court’s analysis was wrong and yours was correct? Your article concluded that the Bible describes family life that is ancient, different, reflecting patriarchal structures or arranged marriages in early Christianity and is not for today.

In addition, you seem to have brought into your new concept of marriage something that you oppose – “culturally bound ideology”. For you, it includes gay couples and “Christian values of love, justice and inclusion found throughout the Bible and is why so many Christians support marriage equality”.

It is you who has promoted that last statement in your politically correct support of homosexual marriage. Again you make a self-defeating statement. You oppose the “culturally bound ideology” of the Bible’s structure of family life, but you promote your own culturally bound contemporary ideology of marriage equality and modern Christian families including gay couples.

If you were to agree with the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, you would have the same opinion as he had regarding marriage: “’A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Matthew 19:5-6).

Jesus was an enthusiastic supporter of heterosexual marriage. He did not state that a man should leave his parents and be joined with his male partner and become one flesh with him.

Margaret Court’s conclusion agrees with that of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t harmonise with your belief that progressives do not offend contemporary political sensibilities, including sexual orientation.

Therefore, your view is contrary to that of Jesus. Margaret Court’s stance on marriage agrees with that of the Saviour and yours is the one at odds with the Bible and the Master.

Related imageHole 4: You have committed an historian’s fallacy in your claims against Margaret Court. This is how you promoted this fallacy:

1. Mrs Court claimed that in the Bible in the past, marriage was a union between a man and a woman.

2. Mrs Court, who makes this claim, did not take into consideration marriage equality that was not taught in biblical times.

3. Therefore, Margaret Court is wrong to claim that the Bible supports heterosexual marriage.

One of the problems with this erroneous reasoning is that it does not deal with the issues at hand, issues such as these:

  • The foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview is based on Old and New Testament Scriptures.
  • God decided who should be joined together in the beginning of time: ‘A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Heterosexuality was God’s design.
  • Jesus Christ confirmed this position (Matthew 19:5),
  • As did the apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:31).

Your support of marriage equality over heterosexual marriage is a politically correct line of reasoning and is fallacious because it doesn’t deal with a range of issues biblically, including the Scripture’s perspective on homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) and the Bible’s support of heterosexual marriage in both Old and New Testaments. It also has been called a political correctness fallacy.

Related image Hole 5: Margaret Court “is even more wrong” to suggest she is being persecuted for her views, you stated. The situation is more serious. She has been bullied. To bully is to “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something” (Oxford Dictionary online 2017. s v bully). Mrs Court has been bullied and intimidated by the threat of tennis players to boycott Margaret Court Arena at the 2018 Australian Open Grand Slam tournament.

Girls Being Mean ClipartShe has been bullied by the threat that the arena named in her honour at Melbourne Park should be changed for the 2018 Australian Open.

(image courtesy clipartxtras)

Then there was the ridicule by tennis super-brat and now commentator, John McEnroe, after Mrs Court’s statement that “tennis is full of lesbians”. McEnroe fired back, “This is true and who gives a f***? This is not true and who should give a f***? This is half true and should we really give a f***?” (AAP 2017)

Open lesbian and tennis great, Martina Navratilova, engaged in emotional abuse of Mrs Court in her “open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena” when she stated:

“It is now clear exactly who Court is: an amazing tennis player, and a racist and a homophobe. Her vitriol is not just an opinion. She is actively trying to keep LGBT people from getting equal rights (note to Court: we are human beings, too). She is demonising trans kids and trans adults everywhere.

“And now, linking LGBT to Nazis, communists, the devil? This is not OK. This is in fact sick and it is dangerous. Kids will suffer more because of this continuous bashing and stigmatising of our LGBT community” (Navratilova 2017).

Navratilova supported the change of name of Margaret Court Arena: “I think the Evonne Goolagong Arena has a great ring to it”. Would you endorse this?

Etihad Stadium crop.jpg(photo Etihad Stadium, courtesy Wikipedia)

Does Whitaker consider the former Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, should have had a name change between 2009-2018? It was sponsored by Etihad Airways, the national airline of the Islamic country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is now known as Docklands’ Stadium.

Was she an advocate to change name of Etihad Stadium during its sponsorship of the stadium?

What is the Islamic view on homosexuality? The Muslim commentary on the Quran, Hadith, states in al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152: [Muhammad said] “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver”. Another statement from the Hadith is: “Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done’ (Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4447).

Thus, Islam requires capital punishment for both the perpetrator and recipient of what the people of Sodom did.

What did the “people of Lot” do? Lot’s (Lut in Arabic) life is explained in Genesis, chapters 11-14, and 19. He lived in Sodom, a city of open homosexuality (see Genesis 19:4-9). What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Greg Koukl examined the options in depth and concluded:

We know the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were homosexual, “both young and old, all the people from every quarter” (19:4), to the point of disregarding available women (19:5-8). After they were struck sightless they still persisted (19:11). These men were totally given over to an overwhelming passion that did not abate even when they were supernaturally blinded by angels.

Homosexuality fits the biblical details. It was the sin that epitomized the gross wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah—the “grave,” “ungodly,” “lawless,” “sensual conduct of unprincipled men” that tormented Lot as he “saw and heard” it “day after day,” the “corrupt desire” of those that went after “strange flesh.”

Islam’s punishment for homosexuality is an extreme treatment compared with what Margaret Court advocated.

Homosexuality may be punishable by imprisonment or death in the UAE. Why didn’t Dr Whitaker support the cancellation of the sponsorship of Etihad Stadium for the sake of the LGBTIQ+ community when Islam is opposed to homosexuality?

It seems inconsistent to me that she wanted to downgrade Mrs Court’s persecution and abuse for her statements on homosexuality but avoid dealing with a Muslim country’s airline’s sponsorship of Etihad Stadium in Australia.

Margaret Court has put up with persecution, abuse and ridicule from the tennis community, mass media, and now pro-LGBTIQ+ bias from Dr Whitaker, a woman representing the Christian community.

Related image Hole 6: You cherry pick a Bible verse without bringing contextual understanding to try to oppose Mrs Court’s teaching ministry as a woman at Victory Life Centre, Perth.

You claim that if the literalism that Mrs Court applied to Genesis on marriage were applied to 1 Timothy 2:12, she would be in hot water because it forbids women to teach or have authority over men.

The facts are that “I am not permitting a woman to teach” focussed especially on the church where Timothy was located at Ephesus. However, in other churches women could prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5), give a teaching on occasions (1 Corinthians 14:26). Women were not excluded from teaching in Colossians 3:16, ‘Let the message about Christ live among you like a rich treasure. Teach and correct one another wisely’ (NIRV), and the older women were to be good teachers of the younger women (Titus 2:3-4). One of the spiritual gifts is that of teachers (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Nothing in these verses indicates the teaching gift is exclusively for men to minister to a mixed gathering.

As a female teacher of males in a church college and university at which you work, and your affiliation with the Uniting Church, you should know that literal interpretation includes examining the use of plain language, figures of speech, literary context, and the cultural context. It is hypocritical, in my view, for you to challenge Margaret Court’s teaching as a minister while you are involved in a related kind of ministry as a female teacher.

Therefore, Margaret Court is not out of order by being a Christian teacher. Interpreting the Bible literally and in context does not lead to your conclusion of Mrs Court being in “hot water” as a female teacher. Rather, she is in the hot seat of being one of God’s gifts to the church and stating publicly exactly what Jesus taught in support of heterosexual marriage and thus rejecting homosexual relationships.

God’s grace as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection extends to all sinners as Paul illustrated, “Some of you used to do those things. But your sins were washed away. You were made holy. You were made right with God. All of this was done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was also done by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:12). What they “used to do” included those who “practised homosexuality” and other sins.

Through Christ’s salvation there is hope for change among those who used to practise homosexuality and other sins.

Please be consistent with your biblical interpretation. You were the one who quoted Galatians 3:28 to affirm that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female because “all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. That teaching is profoundly troublesome for your statement against Mrs Court as a Christian teacher.

Related image Hole 7: There are holey Bible arguments in what you excluded as much as what you included. Your claim is that polygamy was common in the Old Testament (which is true) and that you don’t hear anyone advocating this as a “biblical view” of marriage.

That is only partially true. A cult group such as the Mormons historically practised polygamy. You fail to mention that this polygamy in the Old Testament was between a man and women and not male to male. It was heterosexual polygamy.

However, are you not aware of a website such as, http://www.christianpolygamy.com/? Polygamy is not only advocated by the Mormons but also, “Idaho evangelical Christian polygamists use the Internet to meet potential spouses”. Christian polygamy also is promoted in: http://www.truthbearer.org/polygamy/.

It is a significant issue in African churches where polygamists are converted to Christ.

Related image Hole 8: What was God’s view of polygamy? His original plan was one man for one woman from the beginning with Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27; 2:21-25).

That changed when sin entered the human race (Genesis 3) and Lamech had wives (Genesis 4:23). The Law of Moses was clear for the Israelites: “He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Deuteronomy 17:17).

Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). In that same chapter, there is a warning of the consequences of polygamy:

The Lord had warned Israel about women from other nations. He had said, ‘You must not marry them. If you do, you can be sure they will turn your hearts toward their gods.’ But Solomon continued to love them anyway. He wouldn’t give them up (1 Kings 11:2).

Related image Hole 9: You declare the traditional nuclear family can be found in the Bible if we look for it, but it’s not the dominant model. The information given above makes it clear that the nuclear family (with aberrations such as polygamy) was found in the Bible in both New and Old Testaments.

You stated that the Bible doesn’t condemn “what we understand to be loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”. This is an imposition on the biblical text which states,

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, emphasis added).

Another translation of “men who have sex with men” is “male prostitutes, sodomites”.

Those who practise homosexuality are prevented from entering the kingdom of God – along with wrongdoers, deceivers, the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.

The New Testament does not allow or stress homosexual relationships. Its statement is clear nonetheless: “Since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). It’s a serious violation of Scripture when you want to harmonise a verse like this with ”loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today”.

clip_image024 Hole 10: You make a case for faith being what makes a person a Christian and not family structures or sexuality. That is not what Jesus taught: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). By the fruit of homosexual relationships, will you recognize Christians? The biblical evidence says, “No”.

Yes, faith in Christ alone for salvation is the primary requisite. However, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 declares the people with certain kinds of behaviour will not enter God’s kingdom. Homosexuality is one such activity. Faith needs to be demonstrated through God’s kind of works, not works defined by political correctness (see James 2).

clip_image026 Hole 11: You stated that Mrs Court’s “culturally bound ideology” is rejected by “biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches”. Here you have committed the Appeal to Common Belief fallacy.

When you claim that a particular group of people – biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches – accept the anti-literal interpretation as true, you have not presented evidence for the claim. It is erroneous reasoning.

This is careless thinking and is a dangerous way to accept information.

This is your faulty reasoning:

  • Many people (scholars and mainstream Church people) believe in a non-literal interpretation of what Margaret Court accepts literally.
  • Therefore, the non-literal interpretation is correct.

clip_image028 Hole 12: Your statement that “in the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships or marriage, except that people should not divorce” is a diversion.

There was no need for Jesus to affirm same-sex relationships because his definition of marriage excluded them. He was not silent but defined the marriage union as between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:5).

clip_image030 Hole 13: Your assertion that many Christians are not represented by the views of Margaret Court or the “so-called Australian Christian Lobby”. This commits a Hasty Generalisation fallacy, also known as argument from small numbers. Ask  Australian rugby union star, Israel Folau, about that!

You have drawn a conclusion from a small sample size (your estimate of “many Christians”), rather than examining statistics that are in line with the average situation. Your debunking of Mrs Court’s view and that of the Australian Christian Lobby because they do not line up with your “many Christians” of another view is deceptive reasoning.

AustralianChristianLobbyLogo2011a.jpg(image courtesy wikipedia)

A better solution would be to examine the statistics for the mainline churches versus the evangelical churches, including Pentecostal churches.

USA church growth expert, Ed Stetzer, has a particular interest in what is happening in the Australian church. He has analysed the Australian church scene and reported in the Bible Society Live Light, (12 May 2015) that too many churches are stagnant.

His observation of the Western world, including the Australian outlook, is that “mainline Protestantism” in the USA and its counterparts in the rest of the English speaking world are “rapidly declining”. He used the Uniting Church of Australia as a representative example, but this could be applied to other members of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCC). He expects this trend of progressive Protestant decline to continue.

By contrast, evangelicalism (represented by Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby) is growing in Australia. His view is that some of this may be partly related to those moving from NCC churches.

Stetzer said that the majority of Protestant Australians who attend church go to a conservative church. It may not call itself evangelical but is influenced by that movement.

A survey of 1,015 adults at Easter 2015 found that “just over half (52%) of Australian’s believe that God exists as the creator of the universe and Supreme Being. These findings have yielded similar results to the same question asked of the Australian public 6 years ago” (McCrindle Research).

According to the 2016 National Church Life Survey, the Pentecostals have overtaken Anglicans as Australia’s second largest religious group by attendance, behind the Catholic Church (https://wwrn.org/articles/46227/).

This should account for Stetzer’s comment that the large numbers of Protestant Australians attending church are conservative. He considered this represented the majority of Australian Protestants. I consider that a better assessment would be to state that a significant number of Protestant Australians attend conservative churches.

Therefore, Dr Whitaker, to dumb down the views of Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby on homosexuality as “not representative” of “many Christians” is to commit the Appeal to Popularity fallacy. This fallacy invokes the popularity of a proposition to provide evidence of its truthfulness.

Here you have committed this fallacy:

  • Many Christians promote modern Christian families that include gay couples and are not represented by Mrs Court’s or the Australian Christian Lobby’s views.
  • Therefore, the truth is that the modern Christian family includes gay couples.

This is invalid reasoning because it does not engage with a contextual interpretation of the biblical texts and the statistical divide between mainline Protestants and evangelical churches.

clip_image032 Hole 14: It is acceptable to send a player of rugby league, rugby union, ice hockey and basketball to the “sin bin” for certain offences against the rules of the games.

One of the largest holes in your agenda, Dr Whitaker, is your avoidance of the key factor – yes, the key factor – that has screwed up our worldviews. This is the problem of sin that has infiltrated every human being and our culture. “God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

Image result for christart Sin(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Sin entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12) but this sin not only screwed up human beings and their relationships, it also contaminated the universe.

God told Adam that because he listened to his wife (not his male partner) and ate from the tree from which God commanded him not to eat, then, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Genesis 3:17).

However, you have been negligent in eliminating the problem of sin and its influence in Old Testament polygamy and other aberrations of marriage, including homosexual marriage, heterosexual adultery, and promiscuity (sleeping around).

The teaching on sin is central to Christianity. Sin consists of acts of offence against God and breaking his laws. “There is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12).

However, the contamination of sin in relationships was missing from your article. There is no point in Jesus’ death and resurrection for redemption if there is no need to be liberated from the guilt of sin. Jesus Christ “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

There was no need to be freed from the sin of homosexuality or polygamy in your presentation. The sin problem left a big hole in your argument.

Conclusion

There’s a huge gap between Dr Margaret Court’s holy Bible and Dr Robyn Whitaker’s holey Bible on the authority of Scripture that contains teaching on homosexuality, gay couples, marriage equality, polygamy, heterosexuality and sexual purity..

I found 14 holes in Dr Whitaker’s case against Dr Court. There are possibly more. It is a serious situation when Whitaker castigates Court’s views when heterosexual and not homosexual relationships are supported by Jesus Himself.

You have bought into the contemporary, pro-homosexual, politically correct agenda that receives vast mass media coverage. Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby have promoted the biblical mandate of heterosexual marriage, which was supported by Jesus, the apostle Paul and has been the norm since the beginning of time.

I recommend that you make an apology to Margaret Court and the Australian Christian Lobby for promoting your own views over those endorsed by Scripture – all in the name of your being a representative of Christianity.

Works consulted

AAP 2017. John McEnroe makes light of Margaret Court same-sex marriage saga. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 5 June. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/john-mcenroe-makes-light-of-margaret-court-samesex-marriage-saga-20170604-gwjyxa.html (Accessed 25 October 2018).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Navratilova, M 2017. An open letter from Martina Navratilova to Margaret Court Arena. The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/an-open-letter-from-martina-navratilova-to-margaret-court-arena-20170601-gwhuyx.html (Accessed 25 October 2018).

Provan, I 2017. The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press.

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2018.

Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

Child And Book

(courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In searching the Internet for more information on reader-response ways to deconstruct any text, I was attracted to Dr Jeremy Koay’s1 brief article, ‘What is reader-response theory?‘ (2017) This is an exceptional overview of a method that is overwhelming the reading of documents of any kind, whether narrative, poetry or interpretation of art.

Even though the article was published in December 2017, no comments had been made to it, so I forwarded my response.

1. Problems with reader-response: From the article

I find that a major problem with read-response theory is that it cannot consistently interpret literature. You stated, ‘The idea of pure literal meaning is contestable because our culture, experiences and worldview shape our understanding of words’. Is that how you want me to read your article? Or do you want a literal reading (which includes figures of speech)? Can I engage in postmodern, deconstruction, reader-response techniques with your article to make it mean what I decide it means?

Could you imagine the recorded history of Emperor Nero, George Washington, Hitler and the Nazi concentration camps, Captain James Cook circumnavigating NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia being interpreted by reader-responses?

Did Emperor Nero, George Washington, Hitler and James Cook say and do what is recorded in their journals and history about them or is that open to the readers’ interactive deconstruction with our reader-responses from our century and cultures?

That’s what we are dealing with in examining any writing from the past or present. I wouldn’t interpret the articles in the Brisbane Times (BT) that way.

Imagine my reading your writings with that view? Surely you want me to read this article so that I understand the content of what you mean, within the bounds of English grammar and syntax, rather than imposing 21st century Brisbane environment and my reader-response on your text.

If I read the BT like that and passed on my postmodern, reader-response, interactive, contemporary interpretation of today’s BT stories to the people in my community, they would think I was going over the edge mentally.

EduMaxi chose not to publish my reply, so I sent this inquiry: ‘I submitted a comment on 28 August 2018. It has not been published. Are there reasons  for this delay or non-acceptance of the comment?’

2. Email rather than online reply

Dr Koay chose to reply by email rather than publishing my letter on the EduMaxi website’s target readers are primarily language teachers (not philosophers)’. So he considered my reply was philosophical.

I won’t publish his email because he has not given me permission to do that. However, you’ll pick up some of his content in my response, sent by email on 13 September 2018. I use ‘you’ and ‘your’ in referring to Dr Koay.

From your content, I raise five concerns:

2.1 ‘Pure literal meaning is contestable’

You say that this is because culture, experiences and worldview shape our understand of words. I don’t disagree with that perspective. However, I contend that my current worldview cannot be used to deconstruct the meaning of, say, John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Stanley E. Fish tried to do it in Surprised by Sin and came to an understanding that, I think, would cause John Milton to turn over in his grave).

OF Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast

Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,…. (Paradise Lost, Bk 1)

I consider that I would be cheating Milton to use my culture, experience and worldview to place my meaning on Milton’s poetry written in the seventeenth century. I need to understand the language and concepts he used and the biblical worldview to which he referred. Uncovering the intent of the author is my primary task as an interpreter of any document from your article, to the Brisbane Courier-Mail, or to the Bible. This is done by listening to the ‘plain meaning’ of a text.

I don’t use the language of ‘pure literal meaning’, so I don’t know how that differs from taking a text – narrative or poetry – at face value. I obtain the meaning from the text and not from my creative invention (reader-response, pesher method, allegorisation) of the text.

I have great difficulty in refusing ‘pure literal meaning’ when I investigate Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770:

A three-masted wooden ship cresting an ocean swell beneath a cloudy sky. Two small boats tow the ship forward.

HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland, by Samuel Atkins c. 1794

How is it possible to use a reader-response interpretation dealing with the Endeavour when Captain James Cook’s name is associated with an ocean-going ship, The Endeavour? Pure literal meaning applies as much to Jacinda Ardern’s being Prime Minister of NZ and Scott Morrison’s recent ascension to the PM of Australia. Is plain reading of a text the same as ‘pure literal meaning’ to you?

You stated ‘ This theory rejects the structuralist view that meaning resides solely in the text’. Do you consider that structuralism (meaning because of the language system) has been superseded by postmodern reader-response methodology?

I can’t walk into a local fish and chips shop and give a reader-response interpretation to the menu and expect to get what I ordered. I had to ask for clarification when some friends and I had lunch at a local tavern. My friend ordered whiting for the fish dish. He discovered his fish was NZ whiting and not Australian whiting. Questions for clarification are not equivalent to reader-response hermeneutics whether in the supermarket, at Centrelink (social security), reading The Sydney Morning Herald or the Bible.

I endorse the perspective that readers engage with a text to question concepts raised, discover etymology of words, cultural divergence from contemporary culture, etc. However, that is not the position you advocate as a theory: ‘Readers, as much as the text, play an active role in a reading experience (Rosenblatt, 1994)’.

It is my understanding that readers do not create content of a writing; authors do that. Readers may disagree with the content and provide reasons for such, but creating meaning is not their roles. Readers may develop personal or group applications from the text, but this is not part of the author’s intended meaning.

2.2 ‘I regard the theory as a theory – nothing more and nothing less’

I commend you for treating this reader-response literary device as ‘a theory’, which means it has yet to be proven.

However, that is not the view of many promoters of the reader-response approach. They use it as a method of hermeneutics. Take these eminent promoters of reader-response views:

According to Wolfgang Iser, ‘the meaning of a text … is not inherent in it but must be produced or actualized by the reader’ (Iser in Culpepper 1983:40, 209).

Iser explained the supposed ‘vacant pages’ and ‘gaps’ in a text that a reader uses in active and creative ways. His perspective was that ‘the gaps, indeed, are those very points where the reader can enter into the text, forming his own connections and conceptions and so creating the configurative meaning of what he is reading…. From the given material [the reader] must construct his own conception of the reality and hence the meaning of the text (Iser 1972:40, 276, emphasis added).

‘While the meaning of the literary work remains related to what the printed text says,… it requires the creative imagination of the reader to put it all together’ (Iser 1980:142).

‘More recent research (Eco 1985 and 1994; Iser 1980; Ricoeur 1992) has accentuated the creative role of the reader in interaction with the text. Intertextuality is a component of this dialectical process’ (Zumstein 2008:135 n. 17).

John Dominic Crossan: ‘‘This, then, is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse’ (Crossan 1998:20; 1999:3 emphasis in original).

That aborts my research as an historian and historical Jesus’ scholar. It would cause my examination of the historical HMS Endeavour, Captain James Cook, and the historical Jesus, to be a contemporary mish-mash of historical evidence and personal, contemporary, public deconstruction. Historians should hang up their historical credentials and become innovative writers of historical fiction if they pursue reader-response methodology.

While you state reader-response is a theory for you, it is not so for many other postmodern writers.

2.3 ‘My father drove me to school’

In using this example, I consider you have confused the ‘gaps’ in reader-response theory with committing An Argument from Silence logical fallacy.

The logical form to your argument is:

Person 1: The boy claims his father drove him to school (a truthful statement) and then remains silent;

Person 2: Then, it is true his father drove him to school (but the boy leaves out a lot of evidence that Person 2 creates about the vehicle).

You state that you ‘do not equate this to a “pure literal meaning”’. Is ‘my father drove me to school’ literally true? If so, then it conforms to a ‘pure literal meaning’.

However, what you have called an example of reader-response theory in action is really fallacious reasoning:

The reason this technique works so well, is because imagined reasons are often more persuasive than real reasons.  If someone wants to be convinced, this technique works like a charm. However, to the critical thinker, this will not fly.  Silence is not a valid substitute for reason or evidence (Bennett 2018).

You also use an Argument from Silence fallacy in your statement: ‘For me, the fact that you (not other readers) commented on my blog suggests that you and other readers may have ‘read’ it differently’. Do you have evidence to prove this statement?

2.4 ‘… I do not and cannot expect that to happen’

Image result for clipart Literal Interpretation

(image courtesy Exegetical Tools)

You don’t expect readers to understand the intended content of what you wrote because of their different worldviews?

I find this to be ambiguous. Because I may have a different worldview to yours, that does not mean I cannot objectively (but imperfectly) examine the words, grammar, syntax and content you wrote so that I could respond online to your article. That is what I did originally and is what I’m doing now to your email reply.

I observe that you were able to deal with the content of what I wrote – without any difficulty – so you could email me your response. I did not observe any creative, reader-response of filling in the ‘gaps’ in your reply. You did clarify what you wrote in response to my ‘comment’ to your article.

2.5 Ultimate truth

You gave statements about those who do and do not agree with ultimate truth because of their differing worldviews. One was: ‘ Others believe that since we can’t objectively assess an ultimate truth, they subscribe to the idea of versions of realities’.

Because you dealt with the generic ‘some’ and ‘others’, it makes it difficult to respond when there is a lack of specifics. However, in my research (480pp dissertation in New Testament, University of Pretoria, South Africa) I noted that some deconstructionist, reader-response promoters reject any examples of absolute truth (e.g. Iser, Crossan, Derrida, etc.).

Your statements included those who believed, ‘Since we can’t objectively assess an ultimate truth, they subscribe to the idea of versions of realities’. Are they absolutely sure of this belief?

That should be shattered on the absolute truth that driving rules in New Zealand and Australia require that we drive vehicles on the left-hand side of the road. Any other side is an aberration by those breaking the law or for legitimate reasons (e.g. road works). With this denial of absolute truth in Aust and NZ, does it include a denial of the moral view that it is wrong to murder and steal?

3. Works consulted

Bennett, B 2018. Logically fallacious (online). Available at: https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies (Accessed 13 September 2018).

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Culpepper, R A 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press.

Fish, S E 1980. Is there a text in this class? London and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Fish, S 1987. Surprised by sin: The reader in Paradise Lost. New York: Macmillan.

Iser, W 1980. The act of reading: A theory of aesthetic response. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Koay, J 2017. What is reader-response theory? EduMaxi, 5 December. Available at: http://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 13 September 2018).

Zumstein, J 2008. Intratextuality and intertextuality in the Gospel of John. In T Thatcher & S D Moore (eds), Anatomies of narrative criticism, 121-136. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

4. Endnotes

  1. 1Dr Jeremy Koay is a New Zealand-based Independent Researcher and a Research & Development Consultant at EduMaxi. He obtained his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. His research interests include Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis and TESOL (Koay 2017).

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 January 2019.

Can you be neutral on any topic?

Do unbiased people exist?

Image result for clipart No Bias public domain

(courtesy dreamtime.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Can you read any document and be neutral about the topic? Do all of us have biases, or can we lay aside those biases to be able to read a document, including the newspaper, or view a video or TV programme objectively?

I was blogging with JayB on Online Opinion when he raised this topic:

I read the first few pages [of my PhD dissertation] & so far it seems to be a rebuttal of Crossant. Whoever he is. That’s all. Nothing new or any ground breaking revelations so far.

I will read the whole thing, make some notes & draft a reply as I see it from a neutral point. It maybe some time, but I will report back.

Should I agree with Crossant, Spencer, or disagree depends on if they are taking the Testaments as being absolute truths or can have mistakes in them.

Posted by Jayb, Tuesday, 10 July 2018 4:54:31 PM[1]

The dissertation can be found at: Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus : rethinking presuppositions, methods and models ?(University of Pretoria, South Africa 2015)

How should I respond?[2]

1. No neutral person or writer exists

This blogger considers he can examine my 480pp dissertation without bias:

“I will read the whole thing, make some notes & draft a reply as I see it from a neutral point”.[3]

There is no such person as one who can respond “from a neutral point [of view]”. How do I know you, I, and anyone else have biases that cannot be neutral?

He has lots of things he cannot neutral about. Whenever you give us your opinion in Online Opinion, you demonstrate your bias and that you are unable to see things “from a neutral point”.
You have a bias (cannot remain neutral) about which brand of coffee you prefer, what is REAL football, and your favourite sports’ team. Your economic, religious and political philosophies are not neutral – you have biases. When it comes to God and his action in the universe, you have no “neutral” point of view. Neither do I.

We all have a world and life view about God, everything in the world, humanity and ourselves. Not one of us is exempt.

1.1 Eric Metaxas: “Everything I do is affected by my faith.”

Eric Metaxas February 2012.jpgMetaxas in 2012 (courtesy Wikipedia)

Eric Metaxas is a #1 New York Times bestseller author, speaker, host of radio programme the Eric Metaxas Show, and a vocal defender of Christianity in the public sphere. He was interviewed for the Bible Society newspaper Eternity.

He confirmed how his bias affects all that he does and there is no such thing as neutrality in his life. He cannot be neutral. Neither can anyone else! He explained:

Everything I do, I hope, is affected by my faith. But that’s really a joy, because I think that’s the whole point, that belief in the God of the Bible gives your life meaning.

It’s not just a private thing, or this little thing that I put in a corner, but it affects everything. So it affects how I see the world, I hope it affects how I treat other people, how I see myself. And certainly in terms of what I do – writing, broadcasting, speeches – it all really comes directly out of my faith.

[My faith] is all consuming, but I really think that’s the nature of Christian faith. God wants us to give him every part of our lives, so that it affects everything about us, all the decisions we make. And it’s a freeing thing as opposed to a constricting thing….

If you don’t know who you are, that the God who created the universe created you and loves you, it will really be impossible to ever be satisfied, because you were created by someone who created you to want to be satisfied by him and by his will for your life, which as I say is a freeing thing (Holgate 2016).

2. Dumping presuppositions on us without owning up

Back to JayB and his post.

These are his presuppositions about issues. It’s not wrong to have presuppositions, but they need to be tested to discover evidence to support or reject them. Presuppositions relate to what we assume to be true. I have them. So does he. We cannot be neutral about anything from trivial things such as which breed of dog we enjoy the most to who created the grand design in the universe.

Atheists, Christians, Buddhists, agnostics, Muslims and sceptics cannot be “neutral” on anything.

Let’s check a couple of his presuppositions in his short post that demonstrate he cannot be “neutral” when examining my dissertation:

“I read the first few pages & so far it seems to be a rebuttal of Crossant. Whoever he is. That’s all. Nothing new or any ground breaking revelations so far”.[4]

2.1 Reading a few pages to assess 480 pages

In a few pages out of 480 pages, he claimed he read nothing new or ground breaking. That’s because he had a bias (can’t be neutral) about a Christian assessment.

His “neutrality” extends to the point of not knowing who John Dominic Crossan is and his bias is such that he doesn’t bother to spell Crossan’s name correctly. He is NOT “Crossant”. In 6 lines of the post, he spelt Crossan’s name incorrectly twice.

Therefore, he didn’t read the early pages of the dissertation with care. I’m left to guess what “neutral” perspective he will give to the rest of the thesis, if this is an example. His post demonstrated he could not be neutral.

3. The Bible: No absolute truths and can have mistakes in  it

He wrote:

Should I agree with Crossant, Spencer, or disagree depends on if they are taking the Testaments as being absolute truths or can have mistakes in them.[5]

This demonstrates a WHOPPING lack of neutrality. I have to take the OT and NT according to his presupposition that these 2 testaments CANNOT teach “absolute truths or can have mistakes in them”.

There he established his own presuppositional absolute that both OT and NT must NOT teach absolute truths and they “can have mistakes in them”. He is not “neutral” about the nature of Scripture. He came to this discussion with a bias against God’s absolutes in Scripture.

Colson with President George W. Bush after receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal, December 20, 2008 (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Chuck Colson (d. 2012), special counsel to President Richard Nixon and imprisoned because of the Watergate scandal, had a mid-life crisis encounter with Jesus Christ and became an evangelical Christian. It was after that he started Prison Ministries International.

In one of his BreakPoint radio programmes (Colson 2003), he explained the impact of cultural voices on our children – “There is no ultimate truth, no moral code by which to live our lives”.

Added to this is the message that God is “totally irrelevant”, if he exists. We make our lives for ourselves and we are accountable to nobody.

This message is bombarding our kids from all angles.

The most dangerous thing kids can do is to handle this by “compartmentalizing” the sacred and the secular in their minds. This is a split-level faith. God lives on the top floor; I live in the basement with no connecting staircase. Instead, we have to help them understand that the Christian faith is relevant to everything in their lives. Jesus knocks on the door of our life and wants to occupy all of our life.

And so one of the most important things we can teach our kids is how to see all of life, not just their home life or the time they spend at church, from a Christian point of view. No matter how hard we try to guard them, they’ll hear conflicting messages. We must help them put intellectual muscle behind their faith.

In the Old Testament, God provided the Israelites with a model for passing down His truths to their children. In Deuteronomy 6, He tells them—and, I believe, us—to “impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In other words, no matter what the culture tells us, it’s our responsibility in the routine of life to teach our kids that truth exists, that we can know it, that we can live it, and that, in the final analysis, it’s all about God. In my next commentary, I’ll talk about practical ways to do this.

3.1 Defend the integrity of Scripture.

Open Bible 2

(image courtesy ChristArt)

 

I don’t have the space to do that here, but some pointers for defending the reliability of the Bible are:

clip_image002Can you trust the Bible? Part 1 (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image002[1]Can you trust the Bible? Part 2 (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image002[2]Can you trust the Bible? Part 3 (Spencer D Gear)

clip_image002[3]Can you trust the Bible? Part 4 (Spencer D Gear)

I recommend you check the material in Norman L Geisler & Frank Turek’s book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Crossway Books 2004). In the Index, check out ‘New Testament’ where Geisler & Turek provide a list of reasons why we can trust the reliability of the NT:

clip_image004 Accepted as legal evidence,

clip_image004[1] Accuracy of reconstruction,

clip_image004[2] As 27 individual documents,

clip_image004[3] As having more manuscripts,

clip_image004[4] As having more supported manuscripts,

clip_image004[5] As historical novel,

clip_image004[6] As inerrant,

clip_image004[7] As meeting tests of historicity,

clip_image004[8] As received from Holy Spirit,

clip_image004[9] Figures, historically confirmed,

clip_image004[10] Historical reliability,

clip_image004[11] Reconstruction of the original,

clip_image004[12] Sources of,

clip_image004[13] Storyline of (Geisler & Turek 2004:439).

4. Dishonesty about neutrality

Scale, Weigh, Judge, Books, Equial, Balance, Justice

(courtesy pixabay)

I found JayB’s reply to be dishonest because:

1.    Up front, he refused to acknowledge his presuppositional biases and that he cannot be neutral on any topic – including assessment of my dissertation.

2.    Then, he has the audacity to judge my 480pp dissertation after reading only a few pages. He concludes, “Nothing new or any ground breaking revelations so far”.

If I made a judgment on an extensive writing by him after reading only a few pages, the academic community would have every reason to send me off to training in logic and assessment of any document. His “neutrality” is shattered on the rocks of his bias against my writing – after reading only a few pages.

3.    He created a new absolute: “depends on if they are taking the Testaments as being absolute truths or can have mistakes in them”.

So the NT must not contain absolute truths and it must be admitted that the NT has mistakes in it. That’s his own created absolute to challenge what he considers are wrong absolutes. It is contradictory that an anti-God enthusiast wants to rid the Christian NT of absolutes while creating his own absolute.

See also: Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic (Spencer D Gear).

5.  Works consulted

Colson, C 2003. At Cross Purposes: Christian Parents and the Postmodern Culture. Breakpoint, 19 August. Available at: http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/12263 (Accessed 25 January 2014).

Geisler, N L & Turek, F 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Holgate, T 2016. Everything I do is affected by my faith,” says #1 NY Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas. Bible Society Eternity (online), 14 April. Available at: http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/everything-i-do-is-affected-by-my-faith-says-1-ny-times-bestselling-author-eric-metaxas (Accessed 11 May 2016).

6.  Endnotes


[1] Online Opinion 2018. What is your view for one to worship humans? (online). Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=8313&page=28 (Accessed 23 July 2018).

[2] My first response was in ibid., posted by OzSpen, Monday, 23 July 2018 8:44:49 AM

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., Jayb, Tuesday, 10 July 2018 4:54:31 PM.

[5] Ibid., posted by OzSpen, Monday, 23 July 2018 8:50:24 AM.

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 July 2018.

Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter ‘treat’

 
Image result for clipart easter bunny and eggs public domain   Image result for clipart Jesus woman at tomb public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article is published in On Line Opinion, ‘Cynicism about Jesus as an Easter “treat”’, 4 April 2018.

Please note in the ‘Comments’ section at the end of the article the number of posters who don’t deal with the content of the article. Instead, they pour out their vitriol against Christianity with a string of logical fallacies.

I responded as OzSpen. However, when people are engaged in the use of erroneous reasoning, it’s impossible to have a logical conversation with them.

What are logical fallacies?

Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others (Purdue Online Writing Lab: Logical Fallacies, 1996-2018).

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 May 2018.

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