Category Archives: Sin

Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(photo of Cameron Bancroft’s cricket ball-tampering, courtesy thesportsrush.com)

This article first appeared in Australia’s e-journal, On Line Opinion, on 13 April 2018, Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us.

Steve Smith, Dave Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been banned from first-class cricket for ball-tampering in the fourth test in South Africa, 22-26 March 2018. Smith and Warner were banned from all forms of professional cricket for a year while the penalty was a ban of 9 months for Bancroft.

They could play local grade cricket and engage in coaching around the world but could not engage in professional cricket at any level.

Why did they do it? Smith admitted, “We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage … poor choice and, yeah, we’re deeply regrettable”. Bancroft admitted, ‘I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape and get some granules from the rough patches of the wicket and try to change the ball condition’.

It is easy to pass this off as a violation of cricket’s rules and not being in ‘the spirit of the game’. Also, there have been other ball-tampering incidents with less punishment than for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

1.  The bigger problem

I have not read the mainstream media’s diagnosis of what I consider is the greater infection. It runs through many sports. Rugby league uses the sin bin, as do rugby union, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and other sports. A player is sent off the playing field for a time, after breaking rules of the game that are not serious enough to deserve expulsion.

There’s a bigger problem that many journalists will avoid describing because it comes from a Christian worldview. Could you imagine this headline?

2.  ‘We are all infected with the ball-tampering virus.’

This would not be a theme in the mass media’s diagnosis of the cricket crisis as it is an analysis from a Judeo-Christian worldview – and that’s too religious for worldly-wise readers.

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The prophet Jeremiah blamed the inside of all individuals for the problems we see in society: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) So, the headline should be: ‘A deceitful heart is real problem for Australian cricketers’. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) nails the reason for the crisis not only for cricket, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’.

It is a major problem for the whole human race. Not one person is exempt from the ball-tampering ‘virus’.

We saw it openly in the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin and Mao’s genocides, terrorism and mass shootings around the world, lies, bullying, theft and adultery. It runs through every human being from infancy to old age.

3.  The cricketers need consequences BUT….

I urge you not to single out the banned Australian cricketers for their deceitful actions. The core problem is devastating for all human beings. The Aussie cricketers provide one more visible example of this evil heart.

This predicament of what is behind ball-tampering runs through us and it springs from the heart. The prophet Jeremiah and the wise man of Proverbs dealt with.…

4.  The heart of the matter

The source of all human difficulties is the total inner being of a person, including reasoning and the will. It’s a comprehensive internal wickedness (depravity) that is the root problem. The heart is more corrupt and incurable – from a human perspective.

You’ll see it with classroom cheats, lies to cover up, bullying, speeding on streets, drugs, crime, violence, terrorism, adultery and sexual abuse. The list goes on and on. Some sports get close to the cause when a severe infraction of rules causes a player to be sin-binned.

(photo of rugby league player sent to the sin bin, courtesy Wikipedia)

Cameron Smith, captain of the Melbourne Storm, experienced it in a Good Friday 2018 match against the Sharks. It was his first sin-binning in a 362 game NRL career for some backchat towards referee Matt Cecchi.

This is a problem that a secular society doesn’t want to diagnose in this way. There are examples on the sporting field and in the law courts. It is a sin problem.

What is sin? According to the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is breaking God’s standards (1 John 3:4-5; Isaiah 64:6).

It runs through all of us – not only criminals, murderers and terrorists.

I, the writer, am infected with the same ‘disease’. I’ve lied to get my own way, had outbursts of anger, and times of withholding certain information. Even though my heart has been changed through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, to my dying day I have to battle this sinful nature within that wants to follow the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘I did it my way’. But I do have added strength to deal with my sin through God’s power.

5.  Cricketers sought forgiveness

Why would banned cricketers seek forgiveness – a very Christian action – from the cricketing public? There is a solution for those who want to experience radical inner change. It has brought change to Queens and no-hopers, sports people, music superstars, and ordinary folks on the streets or in the country.
Who wants to quit cheating (ball tampering, on exams, work pilfering), lying, deceit and adultery through this radical commitment to Jesus Christ?

It’s for all who seek God’s forgiveness.

When former captain, Steve Smith, arrived back in Australia on 29 March 2018, he said: ‘I am sorry…. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness. I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s been my life and I hope it can be again.’

Bancroft explained: ‘It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. All I can do in the short term is ask for forgiveness‘.

Warner: ‘I’m here to take full responsibility for the part I played in this. It’s extremely regrettable. I’m very sorry‘ (31 March 2018).

When Darren Lehmann quit as coach of the Australian cricket team, on 29 March 2018 at Johannesburg, a day prior to the start of the fourth and last test against South Africa, he echoed similar repentant sentiments: ‘I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public finds it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the XI who are going to take the field tomorrow’.

6.  What is forgiveness?

It was a coincidence that these announcements came the day before Good Friday which celebrates the greatest act of sacrifice for sins committed – Jesus’ crucifixion – to provide forgiveness for sin.

To forgive, is to surrender my right to get even with or hurt someone who has hurt me. It means to wipe the slate clean after some sin against me. I am pardoned and the debt is cancelled when I am forgiven. We don’t forgive because the other person deserves forgiveness. We do it out of grace love and mercy.

The Christian worldview maintains we forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:5 confirms that if God’s unconditional love has changed a person, ‘it keeps no record of being wronged’.

Wouldn’t it be a game changer if Australians so understood the need for loving forgiveness towards the three Australian cricketers that they will return to first-class cricket and no record of their wrong-doing will be kept, to be repeated.

The issue is the sin nature running through all of us and the cricket ball-tampering is one public example that has exploded in coverage through the mass and social media.

7.  Hang on! There are serious objections to your indoctrination.

I anticipate some harsh opposition:

  • That’s only your opinion;
  • You’re forcing your religious view on people;
  • It’s propaganda and you are using the Aussie cricket cheating fiasco to promote your religious fairy tale;
  • How dare you push religion like this!

This originally was an On Line Opinion piece. Such writings uphold the writer’s views. I could address these protests, but that is for another time. For objections to the content of my article seee the ‘Comments’ section. Note some of the logical fallacies used by commentors rather than dealing with the issues I raised.

8.  Telling the truth

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(image courtesy YouTube)

One of the New Testament Greek words for truth or truthfulness is aletheia, which sometimes means true to reality as opposed to mere appearance. As this article has attempted to show, not only the ball-tampering scandal, but all of humanity is contaminated by the sinful nature. That’s the truth, the reality.

A secular society needs to face the music of consequences of a non-religious worldview.

The cricket scandal was played out for most of us to see via the media. What about that stolen exercise book from school, slipping a Mars Bar into your pocket as you pass through the check-out, self-service check-out fraud at supermarkets, lies of convenience, and sexual immorality? Turn on the TV or read newspapers to see examples of crime and violence, killing by speedsters on the roads, mass killings of students in schools or on the streets.

These examples are not exceptions. They are the norm and should be expected because all people have problems with deceitful hearts.

9. The solution

There is a permanent fix for the problem but the solution is very Christian. We need to follow the advice of the newly released persecuted prisoners, Paul and Silas, to the Philippian jailer: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved’.

Some NRL players are unashamed to display and promote the solution through Jesus Christ’s salvation. Kevin Naiqama of NRL team, Wests Tigers, has tattoos of the Last Supper across his lower back and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on his upper back. The Bible verses John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 are on his chest.

What is his purpose in doing this? His words were, ‘I want them to identify me with my faith and know that I am a follower of Jesus and not ashamed. It’s my identity‘.

There is a permanent solution to the ‘cricket cheating’ disease infecting all of us. It offers a worldview of a difference.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 April 2018.

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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:

clip_image015

(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.

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(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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Can Christians become absolutely sinless?

Comments Off on Can Christians become absolutely sinless?

April 9th, 2018 Salvation, Sanctification, Sin

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

How would you, as a Christian,[1] respond to this provocative question?

Why did God / Christ call us to be Holy and Perfect when he knew we are sinners? What was He exhorting us to do / be?[2]

The Scriptures used for support were:

  • 1 Peter 1:16, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’, and
  • Matt 5:48, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.

Be perfect

This article will pursue the meaning of ‘perfect’ (Matt 5:48).

  • The KJV states, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’’
  • The NRSV translation, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.
  • International Standard Version (ISV): ‘So be perfect [or mature],[3]as your heavenly Father is perfect [or mature]’[4].
  • Revised English Bible (REB):[5] ‘There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds’.

These four translations demonstrate how ‘perfect’ as an English meaning may not be the best understanding of the koine Greek for that word. Let’s seek some further information.

If not perfection, what is it?

The problem we have[6] is with the English meaning of ‘perfect’ that communicates the idea of complete or absolute sinlessness. Even with Jesus living in me, I’m incapable of that standard – because I have a sinful nature that God does not have.

What are the alternatives?

(1) Either God is requiring something I cannot attain (perfection) – which makes God a liar (which He is not – Heb 6:18), or

(2) In the original languages, ‘perfection’ has a meaning that is different from our English understanding.

Teleios exposes the meaning

Related imageThe word for ‘perfect’ in Matt 5:48 is teleios. It refers to a goal and I don’t know one single word in English to convey its meaning. It doesn’t mean absolute sinlessness, just like God cannot sin, because if we go back to Matt 5:6, the disciples are blessed if they ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’. Verse 7 states, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’ (NIV). They are not yet completely merciful but will be shown mercy by God if they engage in merciful acts.

Therefore, I conclude that ‘perfect’ is not the meaning of teleios. In fact, it’s a misleading interpretation of the original. The statement of Matt 5:48 comes from Deut 18:13, ‘Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God’ (KJV), which modern translations render as, ‘You shall be blameless before the Lord your God’ (NKJV). Here, ‘perfect’ is the Hebrew, tham, which means ‘complete’, like a whole number (Lenski).

Westminster vs Wesley

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35, asked: What is sanctification? ‘Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness’.

By contrast, John Wesley in ‘A Plain Account of Christian Perfection’ wrote:

“To explain myself a little farther on this head: (1.) Not only sin, properly so called, (that is, a voluntary transgression of a known law,) but sin, improperly so called, (that is, an involuntary transgression of a divine law, known or unknown,) needs the atoning blood. (2.) I believe there is no such perfection in this life as excludes these involuntary transgressions which I apprehend to be naturally consequent on the ignorance and mistakes inseparable from mortality. (3.) Therefore sinless perfection is a phrase I never use, lest I should seem to contradict myself. (4.) I believe, a person filled with the love of God is still liable to these involuntary transgressions. (5.) Such transgressions you may call sins, if you please: I do not, for the reasons above-mentioned”.

So the Westminster Calvinistic divines maintained that the Christian is renewed in the whole person and is enabled to die to sin and live for righteousness – which is progressive sanctification.

By contrast, Wesley considered that when a person voluntarily committed sins, it was possible to stop these as the person grew to Christian maturity.

However, the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia, as an example of a Wesleyan approach to sanctification, states that ‘our mission’ is to …

spread scriptural holiness throughout every land…. [This involves] guiding believers to experience entire sanctification so that they are enabled to live whole and holy lives (Wesleyan Methodist Church Australia, Our Mission).

The Church of the Nazarene adopts a similar perspective on entire sanctification.

Conclusion

We are called to reach the goal of maturity in Christ, to become blameless, complete, and people of integrity in his sight.

There is a divergence of interpretation among certain denominations on this topic. Some believe in progressive sanctification / holiness while others pursue cessation of deliberate voluntary sin, calling the effect entire sanctification.

Notes

[1] When I refer to a Christian, I mean an evangelical Christian who believes and proclaims the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

[2] Christian Forums.net 2018. ‘Are Christians called to be holy and perfect?’ Rajesh Sahu#1, 6 April. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/are-christians-called-to-be-holy-and-perfect.75394/ (Accessed 8 April 2018).

[3] This was given as a footnote in the ISV text.

[4] Ibid. CFnet.

[5] This is a revised edition of The New English Bible.

[6] The following is my response as OzSpen#18 on CFnet.

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

Why does God allow floods to devastate Australia?

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Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia at peak intensity on 19 February, 2015 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Why does God allow such devastation as we are seeing in Queensland with Cyclone Marcia through central Queensland (ABC News, 23 February 2015) and the floods of December 2010 – January 2011? Here are some photos of the flood devastation in Queensland from the Bundaberg News-Mail.

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Bundaberg, Qld. floods, December 2010

The secular media blame it on “mother nature”. The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 8 January 2011 (NSW’s towns bracing for floods), stated:

MOTHER nature has unleashed its fury in the state’s north with 18 rivers expected to break their banks by tomorrow night as the Queensland floodwaters run south.

ABC News, Australia, 5 January 2011, “Qld floods damage Australia’s economic performance”, reported:

The Queensland floods are hurting the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by wiping as much as $9 billion off export revenues.

Operations at at least 40 coal mines in central Queensland’s Bowen Basin have been disrupted because of the floods, crops have been damaged and grazing lands are under water.

The state is responsible for more than half of Australia’s coal exports, 45 per cent of meat and a quarter of fresh food exports.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) senior strategist Sue Trinh says the economic impact of the floods could be the biggest of all the natural disasters Australia has experienced.

But who’s to blame for this? Federal politician, Joe Hockey, opposition treasury spokesman, told  ABC news that

“Australia is a rich-enough nation to be able to handle the worst of mother nature – floods, droughts, you name it, all the horrible events that occur on a regular basis at this time of year.”

Some pointed things have been stated about “mother nature” and disasters around the world, but especially amidst the Queensland floods of early 2011:

Who sends the rains? Is it “mother nature” or God Himself? God is very clear about telling us in the Christian Scriptures.

This raises the theological issue of theodicy – a defence of the goodness and omnipotence of God in the midst of evil.

Here are some of my thoughts to point towards a conclusion:

  1. God sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
  2. There is the problem of evil and disaster that originated in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve and the fall into sin. All of creation is suffering from this disobedience. Are flood disasters the outcome of evil in our world? Does God send the cyclones, tornadoes and typhoons to remind us of judgment to come?
  3. God sends the rain, but human beings in their desire for prosperity (or greed), cluster around rivers and build houses in low-lying areas. Could it be that God sends the rain and human beings create the human conditions  so that floods devastate?

I posted comment #3 on Christian Fellowship Forum and Richard W. responded (#37):

Though not theologically satisfying, I think this is a huge part of the problem.

When you build on a flood plain you can expect to be flooded out from time to time. Smart people don’t build in flood plains. Smart insurance companies charge a mighty premium to insure anything in a flood plain. Smart governments do not zone flood plains for residential or commercial industrial purposes. But people still build there, and insurance is cheap backed by the government, and the snow melts and the rain comes.

Floods are often classified as hundred year floods, or five hundred year floods, or thousand year floods. Somehow the hundred year floods are now commonplace and I’ve seen some five hundred year floods and a thousand year flood. Pretty good for being only a little over half a century old myself.

I’m pretty sure the cause of these ‘rare’ floods is that marshes have been drained, farms have been turned into malls with massive parking lots, and every house has a paved driveway and a sidewalk. The water has to go somewhere. The marsh that once held the surplus is no longer there. The water flows downstream. Each upstream city or town or hamlet puts up a levee to protect itself from the flood, pushing the water downstream faster. Who’s to blame? Farmers want higher yield on more acres, so they install drainage ditches. Not so much now as this unsustainable practice now has legal roadblocks that restrict drainage a bit. But almost everything built in the past 100 years has been done at the expense of natural habitat that would soak up considerable water. We have inadvertently engineered floods to be worse than ever.

A flood from 100 years ago could still be quite an event. But now it’s a human made problem. New Orleans was an inevitability. Big floods down the Mississippi this spring are another inevitability. Fargo, on the Red River (which runs North into Canada) looks like it will also an inevitability. At least Fargo is looking at a solution of diverting the river into areas where it has more space to spread out. And they have forbidden rebuilding in many parts of the city. Fargo downtown flooded out a few years back and most of it burned when electrical fires started and spread uncontrollably. Crazy city, but at least they are looking for higher ground AND looking to let the river expand as it wants to, and the government is trying to force the reversal of many old drainage ditches. This are is vital because it is prime wheat growing land that feeds hundreds of millions of people.

The wake up calls have been given. Some people are actually waking up. Rain needs to soak in, and the little bits of excess need to go downstream. We screwed that up and it’s time to fix that before we see too many more thousand year floods. Theologically, God makes the rain to fall on the good and the evil, but the evil have not been good stewards of the land, causing misery and pain and death. Had we been good, we would have farmed with nature, not against nature, and we would not be blaming God for terrible floods.

Another respondent to Christian Fellowship Forum, Jim Parker (#50) also made some interesting, but similar, points to Richard. Jim was responding to my question, “Why does God allow such devastation as we are seeing in Queensland with the floods of December 2010 – January 2011?”

Perhaps it would be more to the point to ask why people insist on building cities on flood plains.

San Francisco was destroyed by a massive earthquake because it is built on a major earthquake fault. So they rebuilt it on the major earthquake fault.

People build homes along the Russian River north of San Francisco. About every 5-7 years their homes are destroyed by floods. They rebuild.

I have a friend who lives in the Florida Keys. The houses there have no ground floor because when huricanes come through they would be flooded. The first floor is 12 feet in the air resting on stilts.

People know the dangers of the places where they build cities and they choose to rebuild them after they are destroyed by “natural disasters” which, having happened once, should be sufficient data to decide to move somewhere else.

But when they don’t and another flood or earthquake just like the last one happened they ask, “Why did God allow this?”

“Watermark” in New Farm Park is red steel sculpture commemorating the 1974 Brisbane flood (courtesy Wikipedia)

I remember when my wife and I lost all that we owned in the Brisbane flood of 1974. I was in theological college and we were living in our caravan (called a trailer in North American lingo), 20 feet long on the banks of the Brisbane River at Graceville, a western Brisbane suburb, where the College was located. The entire college was located in a very low-lying area on the river bank and was devastated. As a result, we lost car and caravan which were parked alongside the College. But it was because of our stupidity of having a caravan and car in a flood-prone zone that we lost it. Never again have we built or located near a flood zone.

4.  We do know that there will be an increase in disasters as we approach the second coming of Christ (we don’t know when that will be). Luke 21:23-30 (NLT) states:

“How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.

“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near” (New Living Translation).

5.  Does God send judgment to people and nations in this life because of the sinfulness of humanity in those nations?

What happened in Noah’s day? The description was that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11 ESV). When God saw this corruption, he told Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13).

God’s judgment happened in this life because of the corruption of humanity in Noah’s time. Why should God think any differently of Haiti’s earthquake or Australia’s floods? What have these countries done to promote sinfulness and corruption?
I think there is enough biblical evidence to support God’s judgment of people and nations.

6.  Tragedy may cause us to re-evaluate priorities.

Tragedy, whether through cyclones, floods, earthquakes or other devastation, may jolt us to rethink and change priorities. If we build in flood-prone zones near a river, losing many possessions may cause us to see the damage that a materialistic philosophy can do. I’m reminded of that Jesus said about wealth on earth:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21 NIV).

7.  There are reasons why God allows Christians to suffer.

To understand this biblical teaching, I recommend the article, “Ten reasons for suffering in the Christian life”. I’m not convinced that all suffering is caused by sin or disobedience. The Christians who have suffered persecution, whether in the southern Sudan, under Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc., did not commit sin but suffered for being Christian believers. What happened to them is what Jesus predicted:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19 NIV).

As a personal example, when I was a child at age 6, 10 and 12, I suffered 3 bouts of rheumatic fever that left me with a leaking mitral heart valve. Since 1983 I have had five open-heart surgeries (1983, 1987, 1988, 2003, 2013) to insert mechanical valves to correct this abnormality. To my knowledge, the rheumatic fever was not caused by my personal sin, but is a consequence for my being born in sin as a result of Adam & Eve’s fall into sin (Genesis 3).

8. Does the Book of Job shed some light?

On Christian Fellowship Forum, I shared some information about the Queensland floods of 2010-11 and received this reply on the topic, “Why does God allow floods to devastate?” from lrschrs (Chris) at #5 (I have corrected his spelling errors):

I think that the book of Job gives us the best answer to the question, that is, We Do Not Know, but God does know what He is going on about, and we should be silent before Him in worship, wonder, and praise.

That God has ordained the weather to be what it is is true, there are no things outside His loving providence and thus we can be confident even when all around us fails, as Habakkuk noted, no mad molecule, no runaway nature, He does have the whole world in His hands, and He holds us, and holds us dear. [Hab. 3:17-19].

That sin has entered the world is true, though how it effects such things I think is more indirect, for while all nature groans in an effect of sin how this is so is not revealed to us, Rom. 8:18-22.

One aspect of sin in the world is the lack of wisdom that builds things on flood plains or in denial of the common droughts of an area, and then wonders why we have wet or dry weather as usual. We build below sea level and wonder why things get wet at times.

Another reason can be divine judgment and blessing on a society, though here we are told not to be hasty and judge by appearances, for we don’t know all in any case, Luke 13:4. Here we need to avoid the twin errors or naturalism, an impersonal cosmos, on one hand, and moralism, or a world of simplistic this for that, on the other. The world is not a mechanical system but a system of mechanisms that is open to the personal providence of God and directed toward the ends He has appointed for all things.

I think all talk of ‘mother nature’ is foolish, for nature does not do anything, that is, act on choices it makes, but it only happens in accord with its construction and direction.

But in the end I think we have to rest in God and in what can be called the ‘mystery of providence’, we simply do not know why some things go as they do and others as they do, Maybe we can see some hints at times, like buildings in foolish places leave us good grounds to consider human folly at work, but in the end we must be silent before His works, adore the Lord even in hard times, for He knows what He is doing, and get on with our calling to comfort the afflicted and help the neighbor

I responded to Chris (I’m ozspen #12):

I agree that the Book of Job causes us who believe in the sovereign Lord to say that we do not know the answers for the Haiti earthquake, the Pike River mine disaster in New Zealand and the floods in Australia.

You and I can understand this as believers and accept this from the sovereign hand of the Lord. However, unbelievers see this as a God who is an evil so-and-so who would bring such devastation.

How do you respond to unbelievers? To say, “We do not know the answers”, could be cause for them to not believe in this kind of God – become agnostic or atheistic towards him.

What is your response to Aussies who say, “Your God doesn’t give a damn about ordinary people. Look what he has done with the floods at Chinchilla, Dalby, Theodore, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Maryborough and Gympie. He’s a monster”.

To say, “Go to the Book of Job and you will see that we do not know”, is hardly a satisfactory answer to questioning Aussies who want to know the nature of this horrific God who would do this to people.

How would you reply?

 

Trapped woman on a car roof during flash flooding in Toowoomba 2.jpg

A woman trapped on the roof of her car awaits rescue during the Toowoomba flash flood (Dec 2010-Jan 2011, courtesy Wikipedia)

What if Mother Nature’s fury is the curse?

If there is no God and the devastating floods that are happening in Queensland are due to the inanimate Mother Nature, why are we bad-mouthing Mother Nature? Qld premier, Anna Bligh, has stated that “Mother Nature is unleashing something shocking” in the Toowoomba disaster.

If this devastation is to be blamed on Mother Nature, whatever he, she or it might be, if there is no God then why is she and others griping about these things? If God is not in charge of these things, then he must be just as frustrated as we are.

Surely, the floods in Qld should be pointing us to a higher purpose in life than what we are acknowledging. I haven’t heard or read this kind of response: “We have been ignoring God, kicking Him out of our lives for so long. It’s about time He got our attention to focus on ultimate issues in life”.

God has promised that he will not strike the earth again like he did in Noah’s day (see Genesis 8:21). Jesus Christ warned us that before Christ’s second coming  there would be strange signs in the sun, moon and stars, along with roaring seas and strange tides. People would be terrified by what they see on the earth (see Luke 21:25-28).

If there is no God who sends the rain on the just and the unjust, why are we kicking up such a stink about the actions of Mother Nature?

These  floods should be a wake-up call about ultimate issues for all, not just Queenslanders. This kind of a response to a “Mother Nature” cause, will not be appreciated by those who interpret life emotionally.

Disasters and God’s judgment

I received an email with the content of this blog (below) under the heading, “Japan denounced Israel exactly 1 year before earthquake and tsunami”. This blog appeared at Armageddononline.com #257:

Ron Reese from 5 Doves has discovered that ON MARCH 11TH, EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO, JAPAN DENOUNCES ISRAEL!!! http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/annou…3/0311_01.html

Exactly 1 year ago March 11, 2010…The exact day of the 9.0 earthquake in Japan hit a year later in 2011.
Genesis 12:3 “I will Bless those who Bless (Israel), and Curse Those Who Curse you.”

Remember, America forced Israel to remove 8,000 Israeli’s from their homes in Gaza, then came Katrina where America lost 800,000 houses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama.

Japan demanded that Israel not build 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem. After the 9.0 earthquake Japan may have to rebuild 1.6 million homes.

God is not mocked! Pay attention America!

A more detailed comment by Ron Reese is in, ‘Ron Reese (15 March 2011) “On March 11th, exactly one year ago, Japan denounces Israel!!!

What are we to make of those who want to link Japan’s actions (sins?) against Israel with the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11th March 2011?

Jesus will not allow us to draw the conclusion that the Japanese, because of their response to Israel, are any more sinful than we are. This is clearly stated in Luke 13:1-5:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,  “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (ESV).

To paraphrase Jesus for Aussies today, based on Luke 13:1-5: There are people present today who speak about the Japanese who denounced Israel one year before the tsunami. Jesus answers these who see this as judgment against Japan: “Do you think that these Japanese are worse sinners than all Australians because they acted in this way? No, says Jesus. I tell you: but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.

We do not have the right to pronounce that the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear meltdown are God’s judgment on Japan – based on Luke 13:1-5. Providing judgment is God’s job and he will do it in our time. God has told us (Luke 14) that we all are sinners who need to repent and the Japanese crisis should be a reminder that all sinners need to repent.

One of the ways of responding to doubters of the biblical text and its teaching is to use …

The Judo Technique

I learned this when I was studying Jim Kennedy’s gospel presentation in Evangelism Explosion.

Often as you begin presenting the gospel, the person will say something like, “I don’t believe the Bible.  You’ll have to convince me some other way than referring to the Scriptures.”  Many people are devastated by this objection.  What happens to them?  Their attempt to share Christ fizzles.

This need not be the case.  I want to encourage you to use this objection as a springboard into the gospel itself.  The Apostle Paul, when he preached in Greek cities that had no background in the Bible, appealed to the Scriptures even though the people who listened to him did not believe the Bible.

He proclaimed to them and the Holy Spirit used the proclamation to save some who then came to believe the Bible to be true.  When we witness, our primary function is to proclaim the gospel, not defence of the Bible.  BUT when people object to the Bible, we DO NEED good answers to respond.  And there ARE EXCELLENT answers.

The judo technique works like this.  The objection, “I don’t believe the Bible,” is quite an easy one to deal with.  Don’t use the approach of a boxer who meets the blow head on and tries to overwhelm the opponent with counter punches.  Instead use the technique of the judo expert. The force of the opponent’s blow is used to throw the opponent.

Here’s how it works in presenting the gospel.  The person who objects, “I don’t believe the Bible,” usually has some university education, or has been exposed to some course in the Bible, or biblical criticism or something like that.

There is often some intellectual pride that says or infers something like this: “I used to believe those fairy tales when I was in kindy, but now I am an educated person and am far above believing those things.”  It is this intellectual pride that can be used to turn this objection into an opportunity for presenting the gospel.  I suggest this kind of dialogue with the person who objects.

“You don’t believe the Bible, John?  That’s very interesting and it certainly is your privilege not to believe it, and I would fight for that right on your part.  However, if the Bible is true then obviously you must accept the consequences.

“But I would like to ask you a question.  The main message of the Bible, which has been unquestionably the most important literary work in human history, is how a person may have eternal life.  So what I would like to know is: What do you understand that the Bible teaches about how a person may have eternal life and go to heaven?”

He may say that he does not believe in eternal life.  To this you might say, “I’m not asking you what you believe, but I am asking you what you understand.  It would be a rather unintellectual approach to reject the world’s most important book without understanding even its main message, would it not?  What do you understand that the Bible teaches as to how a person may have eternal life?  What is your understanding about what the Bible teaches on this subject?”

My experience is that over 90% will respond by saying that it is by keeping the Ten Commandments or following the Golden Rule or imitating the example of Christ, doing good, or something like that.

You might respond something like this: “That is just what I was afraid of, John.  You have rejected the Bible without even understanding its main message, for your answer is not only incorrect, but it is diametrically opposite to what the Bible teaches.  Now, don’t you think that the more intellectual approach would be to let me share with you what the Scriptures teach on this subject and then you can make an intelligent decision whether to reject or accept it?”

Now the tables have been completely turned.  Instead of being superior to the Scripture and even above listening to it, he now finds himself ignorant of even its basic message.  Now he must decide whether to listen to the message of the Scriptures or be found to be not only ignorant but also some obscure person who opposes intellectual advancement — and wants to remain in his ignorance.

This is the last thing in the world that his intellectual pride will allow him to be.  So, very often he will give you permission to tell him the gospel.  It is at this point that you pray with vigour that the Holy Spirit will take the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, and use it to awaken him from the deadness because of sin.

Bundaberg, Qld. floods, December 2010

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God is sovereign. As the Creator of all things visible and invisible, He is the owner of all, has an absolute right to rule over all, and He exercises this authority in the universe (Henry C. Thiessen 1949:173).

See: 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 45:9; Ezekiel 18:4; Daniel 4:35;  Matthew 20:15; Romans 9:14-24; 11:36; Ephesians 1;11; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 4:11.

Works consulted

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 June 2016.
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When will the world be convicted of sin?

Iraq (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

We live in a world where incredible wickedness is displayed. We know of the atrocities under Emperor Nero, Adolph Hitler & the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Boko Haram kidnapping of girls in Nigeria, and the ISIL slaughter in Iraq and Syria.

But what about the lying and deceit that is part of everyday life, work and business? When will it be exposed? When will the world be convicted of its sin and when will judgment be declared on a rebellious sinful world?

Now that question assumes that such will happen. I didn’t invent this one out of thin air. I read it in John 16:7-9, Jesus Christ speaking,

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me (ESV).

A fellow raised it on a Christian forum:

(image courtesy clker)

Convict the World?


John 16:8-9
“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me”
When does the Holy Spirit convict the world of it’s (sic) unbelief, before or after regeneration?[1]

I asked him,[2]

There is a bigger issue than what you are raising IMO. We need to know what we are talking about with the meaning of ‘convict’ or otherwise.
John 16:8-9 reads in these various translations:

  • ‘And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me’ (ESV);
  • ‘And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:9 Of sin, because they believe not on me’ (KJV);
  • ‘When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me’ (NIV);
  • ‘And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me’ (RSV).

So what does the future tense, active voice, indicative mood of elegchw mean in this verse: convict, reprove, prove to be wrong, or convince?

Another replied:

The conviction Jesus talks of here is a condemnation because they do not believe in Him.
So nothing to do with being saved.
Nothing to do with any kind of born again regeneration. Do we agree?[3]

While I agreed with his sentiments, he still had not clarified enough, so I pursued the topic: ‘But you haven’t provided an exegesis of the verb, elegchw. We won’t know to what it refers if we don’t know the meaning of the word’.[4] His comeback was:

This? KJV uses ‘reprove’
Greek Lexicon :: G1651 (KJV)

to convict, refute, confute
generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted
by conviction to bring to the light, to expose
to find fault with, correct
by word
to reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove
to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation
by deed
to chasten, to punish

BLB – Jhn 16: Gospel of John 16 (Blue Letter Bible: KJV – King James Version).[5]

That dished up a mish-mash [6]

That fellow amalgamated headings and sub-headings here to make the meaning rather confusing.

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol 2 (Eerdmans 1964) gives the meaning of elegchw in the NT with the active voice as:

to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance’. This may be a private matter between 2 people (Mt 18:15; Eph 5:11); a congregational matter under the leader as seen in the pastoral epistles (1 Tm 5:20; 2 Tm 4:2; Tit 1:9, 13; 2:15). It is also the work of the Holy Spirit in the world as we see here in John 16:8, the exalted Christ in the community (Rev 3:19) and of the Lord in judgment at the parousia (Jude 15) [Kittel 1964:474].

This exegesis of the term in Kittel concluded that

the word does not mean only “to blame” or “to reprove,” nor “to convince” in the sense of proof, nor “to reveal” or “expose,” but “to set right,” namely “to point away from sin to repentance”…. The noteworthy and impressive battle against sin which is part of NT Christianity is reflected in the rich use of elegchw and related words (Kittel 1964:474).

A. T. Robertson, one of the greatest Greek scholars of the 20th century stated that elegchw is an ‘old word for confuting, convicting by proof’ [already in John 3:29; 8:46] (Robertson 1932:266).

One of the best non-technical explanations I have read is in William Hendriksen’s commentary on the Gospel of John 16:8 in which he states of ‘will convict’:

But just what does the term convict mean? Convince and convict are not always nor necessarily identical in sense. A man is convinced of a doctrine or of a duty; he is convicted of a crime. Nevertheless, when the context or universe of discourse is human guilt, the two verbs may approach each other very closely in meaning. However, the English verb to convict is rather ambiguous because it may mean either: a. to prove guilty, without implying that the person whose guilt is proved is ready to admit and confess his guilt; and b. to awaken to consciousness of guilt. Surely, when the Holy Spirit convicts the world through the preaching of the Gospel, both of these results are achieved, but not in each individual to whom the Word is proclaimed. The Gospel immediately proves the whole world to be guilty. In the case of many this guilt is brought home to the conscience, so that they feel it. And among these, again, there are some (God’s elect) who not only are convinced of it in their soul, but also admit it openly, truly repent, and, confessing the wrong which they have committed, cast themselves upon the mercy of God in Christ. Hence, the verb to convict does not have the same meaning for all. By and large the wicked world continues in open hostility to God, his Christ, and his people (see Vol. I, p. 79, footnote 26, meaning 6). Though its guilt has been exposed or proved (hence, though in that sense it has been convicted), it does not repent.

The term employed in the original (elegchw) is at least just as elastic in meaning as is the English word to convict. That it means more than merely to rebuke has been shown by R. C. Trench, op. cit., pp. 13–15. However, as his summary is not complete and as he seems to build his case on some (and not on all) the uses of the term, the value of his discussion is somewhat limited. In the passages which he mentions the verb implies to rebuke with good effect, that is, to bring sin home to the conscience.

The divergence of views with respect to the proper translation of the term is evident from the following Table, which lists all the seventeen instances of its use in the New Testament. (In this summary no mention is made of John 8:9 and of Jude 22, where the textual support is weak.)

 

A.V. A.R.V. R.S.V.
Matt. 18:15 tell him his fault show him his fault tell him his fault
Luke 3:19 reprove reprove reprove
John 3:20 reprove reprove expose
John 8:46 convince convict convict
John 16:8 reprove convict convince
I Cor. 14:24 convince reprove convict
Eph. 5:11 reprove reprove expose
Eph. 5:13 reprove reprove expose
I Tim. 5:20 rebuke reprove rebuke
II Tim. 4:2 reprove reprove convince
Tit. 1:9 convince convict confute
Tit. 1:13 rebuke reprove rebuke
Tit. 2:15 rebuke reprove reprove
Heb. 12:5 rebuke reprove punish
James 2:9 convince convict convict
Jude 1:15 convince convict convict
Rev. 3:19 rebuke reprove reprove

 

Moulton and Milligan, op. cit., on this verb, prefers the translation convict (in the sense of “bring to light the true character of a man and his conduct”) for all three instances of its use in the Fourth Gospel; and renders it expose, set forth in I Cor. 14:24; Eph. 5:11, giving papyri support for both uses (Hendriksen 1953:324-325).

Conclusion

My overall conclusion is in line with that of Hendriksen that the world is convicted (about the true character of human beings and their conduct) by the proclamation of the Gospel and that will be exposed in judgment at the parousia (i.e. Christ’s second coming).

I know that this has been long and quite technical, but I find it is too easy to throw around the meaning of ‘convict’ in John 16:8 without doing the exegesis. I also realise a lot of folks won’t have the interest in and tools to do this kind of exegesis.

Works consulted

Hendriksen, W 1953. New Testament commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, also available at: Biblicalwritings.com.

Kittel, G (ed) 1964. Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. The article cited was on elegchw by Friedrich Büchsel, 473-476.

Robertson, A T 1932. Word pictures in the New Testament: The fourth Gospel, the epistle to the Hebrews, vol 5. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Notes


[1] gmm4Jesus#1, 10 May 2014, Christian Forums, General Theology, Salvation (Soteriology), ‘Convict the world’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7821375/ (Accessed 12 May 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#9.

[3] Ibid., sdowney#10.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#12.

[5] Ibid., sdowney#13.

[6] The following is my response at ibid., OzSpen#15.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.

Shouldn’t we be punished for our own sins?

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ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

It is not uncommon to get this kind of interaction in person or on a Christian forum on the Internet:

Question is simple and I will use the Amalekite infants as an example [1 Sam 15:1-35 ESV]. Did they truely (sic) deserve to die considering they were only guilty by association? Granted some of the Amalekites deserved to die, but it seems rather cruel to kill off even the infants who were not responsible for anything. With that in mind, if infants are born with a sinful nature like all humans are, do they deserve to be thrown into hell like the rest of us according to the bible?[1]

Another replied:

The bible is not consistent. Ezekiel 18 indicates we are not responsible for our father’s sin or anyone’s sin but our own. No. Infants are not born guilty of anything and no body is thown (sic) into a place of torture by a loving God. The wages or consequences of sin is death–not life everlasting being tortured.[2]

My response was as follows:[3]

This is nothing more than your opinion. The Bible is very consistent, but our interpretations represent our major problems and your statement here is representative.
Yours is a rather short-sighted view.

Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F. F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch address this matter in Hard Sayings of the Bible (1996. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, pp. 177-179). I highly recommend this source as one of the finest in dealing with tough verses in Scripture. They address this issue when responding to,

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InterVarsity Press

Deuteronomy 24:16: Should Children Be Punished for Their Parents’ Sins?

The principle governing Israelite courts was that human governments must not impute to children or grandchildren the guilt that their fathers or forebears accumulated. In Scripture each person stands before God as accountable for his or her own sin.

While this principle is acknowledged in Deuteronomy 24:16, there seem to be cases where it was not put in practice. For example, the child born to David and Bathsheba died because of their sin (2 Sam 12:14-18). And Saul’s seven grandchildren were put to death because of Saul’s sin (2 Sam 21:5-9). How are we to reconcile these contradictory sets of facts?

Some will also bring up the fact that the sins of the fathers have an ill effect on the children to the third and fourth generations (Ex 20:5; Deut 5:9). Surely this is a direct contradiction of the principle in Deuteronomy 24:16.

But Deuteronomy 24:16 is dealing with normal criminal law. It explicitly forbids blaming the children for the sin and guilt earned by the parent. If the son deserves the death penalty, the father must not be put to death in his place, or vice versa. This point is repeated in a number of texts, such as 2 Kings 14:6, 2 Chronicles 25:4, Jeremiah 31:30 and Ezekiel 18:20.

The legal principle of dealing with each individual according to individual guilt is one side of the equation. The other side is that God has reserved for himself the right to render all final decisions. Not all situations can, or are, resolved in human courts. Some must await the verdict that God will give.

There is a third element that must be accounted for as well. This notion is difficult for Westerners to appreciate, since we place such a high premium on the individual. But Scripture warns us that there is such a thing as corporate responsibility. None of us functions in complete isolation from the society and neighborhood to which we are attached. Lines of affinity reach beyond our home and church groups to whole communities and eventually to our nation and the world in which we live.

There are three factors involved in communal responsibility in the Old Testament. First is unity. Often the whole group is treated as a single unit. In 1 Samuel 5:10-11, for example, the ark of God came to Ekron of the Philistines. Because the bubonic plague had broken out in the previous Philistine cities where the ark had been taken, the Ekronites cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” The whole group sensed that they would share in the guilt of what their leaders had done in capturing the ark of God.

Second, sometimes a single figure represents the whole group. Rather than someone who embodies the psychology of the group, this is a case of one, such as the suffering Servant of the Lord, standing in for many others.

The third factor is oscillation from the individual to the group, and vice versa. The classic example appears in Joshua 7:11, where the Lord affirms, “Israel has sinned,” even though Achan confesses, “I have sinned” (Josh 7:20).

Each situation must be evaluated to see whether it is a principle of a human court that is involved, a divine prerogative of final judgment or a case of corporate solidarity. We in the West still understand that one traitor can imperil a whole army, but we do not always understand how individual actions carry over into the divine arena or have widespread implications. Scripture works with all three simultaneously.

In the case of David and Bathsheba, it is clear that the loss of the baby was linked to the fact that David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, though Uriah remained determined to serve David faithfully in battle. This did not involve a human court but was a matter of divine prerogative.

The story about Saul’s seven grandchildren takes us into the area of national guilt. Saul violated a treaty made with the Gibeonites in the name of the Lord (Josh 9:3-15). The whole nation was bound by this treaty made in Joshua’s day. Thus when Saul, as head of the nation, committed this atrocity against the Gibeonites, it was an act against God and an act that involved the whole nation. A divinely initiated famine devastated the land until the demands of justice were met. When David inquired into the reason for the famine, God answered, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death” (2 Sam 21:1).

Saul and his sons had already fallen in the battle at Mount Gilboa, but his household shared in the stigma. Only God knew why the seven grandchildren shared in the guilt; it is not spelled out in the text. Apparently they had had some degree of complicity in the matter. Because only God knew, it was up to God, not a human court, to settle such cases.

As for the commandment that has the sins of the fathers visiting the children to the third and fourth generations, we can only observe that the text clearly teaches that this happens when the children repeat the motivating cause of their parents’ sin—that is, they too hate God. But when the children love God, the effect is lovingkindness for thousands of generations!

Both individual responsibility and group or communal responsibility are taught in Scripture. We must carefully define and distinguish these types of responsibility. But in no case should the principle of courts be to blame children for the wrongful deeds of their forebears. And if God demanded that principle as a basis for fairness in human governments, should we think he would do any less in the running of his own government?

No one will ever be denied eternal life because of what his or her forebears did or did not do. Each will live eternally or suffer everlasting judgment for his or her own actions (Ezek 18). Our standard of what constitutes fairness and justice, after all, is rooted in the character of God himself.

The graciousness of God and his swift move to forgive and to forget every sin that we call upon him to cleanse is seen in Exodus 34:6?7. The theme of these verses is essentially repeated in Numbers 14:18, 2 Chronicles 30:9, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 111:4, 116:5, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2 and Nahum 1:3.

But God’s grace is balanced by the last part of Exodus 34:7, which warns that “[God] does not leave the guilty unpunished.” The reverse side of the same coin that declares God’s mercy and his love speaks of his justice and righteousness. For the wicked persons who by their actions tend to second their father’s previous motions by continuing to sin boldly against God as their fathers did, with no repentance, this text again warns that the chastisement of God will be felt down to the “third and fourth generation.” However, note carefully that the full formula includes the important qualifier “of those who hate me.” But wherever there is love, the effect is extended to thousands of generations!

In this connection, it is important to note that 2 Samuel 12:14 likewise declares about David’s sin with Bathsheba, “But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” While it true that David was thoroughly forgiven of his sin of adultery and complicity in murder (see Psalms 32 and 51), there were consequences to his sin that could not be halted, for they followed as inexorably as day follows night. To put it in another way, just because God knows that a mugger will accept him as Savior a number of years after a mugging, God does not, thereby, turn the molecular structure of the bat used in the mugging, and which is now descending on the head of an innocent victim, into limp spaghetti; it leaves permanent damage on the skull of its poor unsuspecting target. The case of David and Bathsheba is similar: the consequences of sin are as real as the creation of a new life that comes out of a sexual affair. This in turn gave occasion for the enemies of God to vaunt themselves and demonstrate even further contempt for God, his people, and their alleged different style of life. It was for this reason that God brought immediate judgment on David: “the son born to [him would] die.”

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Do infants deserve hell since they are born in a sinful nature?’ Ultima4257 #1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7689287/ (accessed 22 September 2012).

[2] Ibid., Elman #2.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen #14.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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