A few weeks back, influential New York minister Tim Keller spoke at a forum run by the US Ethics and Public Policy Centre, during which he made some comments on the issue of gay marriage. What he said attracted a lot of discussion, but was apparently misunderstood by some, and he subsequently issued an explanation.
Christianity is changing. Of course it has always been changing – I read once that christianity owes a lot of its success to its adaptability to circumstances and culture. But like most other things, it seems to be changing faster these days.
This morning I attended the local Anzac Day dawn service, which commemorates the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who have died in battle. For many Aussies, this is the most sacred day of the year. I don’t feel that way, and I don’t usually attend, and it was a time of conflicting emotions and thoughts.
It is a circular argument, but it has been made often, from David Hume down to present day sceptics. There is no believable evidence for genuine miraculous healings, they say. But what about all the stories of people being healed? We know they can’t be true, they say, because no-one has ever shown scientifically that healing can occur.
So New Testament scholar Craig Keener decided to break the circle.
There are a number of things about our world, and about the christian faith, that seem hard to explain if God is loving – for example, the pain and suffering people experience, hell, the commands in the Old Testament to kill and even wipe out whole tribes and God’s disapproval of homosexuality.
When it’s all said and done about the Bible, sometimes more is said than done. But the purpose of the Bible is not to simply read, but to lead us to action. What does the Bible call us to do if we choose to follow Jesus?
Regular readers will know that one of my ’causes’ is ethical chocolate – chocolate that is grown by free farmers who are paid a fair wage, and not by trafficked children working more or less as slaves. (For background, see Ethical chocolate update.)
So it was with great delight that I received a weighty package in the mail recently and discovered a story of dark criminality and desperate legal actions.
Many people have commented these past few weeks on gun ownership in the US. As an Australian, I hesitate to enter into the debate, so I won’t discuss either of the key questions – whether a high level of gun ownership reduces or increases gun deaths, and whether the laws in the US should be changed.
But I think there are other questions that christians, at least, should ponder.
Jesus told a very striking story. You probably know it. A man owed a large amount of money but couldn’t pay, so he asked his banker for extra time to make the repayment. And he was given time. But then he called in a small debt he was owed, and refused the poor man’s entreaties for extra time.
When the banker heard about what had happened, he was angry that the grace he had extended was not passed on.
Jesus drew the devastating conclusion: we who have received great grace from God will be judged by whether we pass that grace on to others.
I haven’t posted on pacifism and war, but I believe Jesus teaches non-violence, which would make him very opposed to war. Until I do write on the topic, this blog by New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, The Long Journey of a Christian Pacifist, is well worth reading.
When countries are in turmoil or their people are impoverished, many choose, or are forced, to look for a better life, and so become refugees. Australia is an attractive place to seek refuge. Because we are an island nation, many refugees make the often dangerous journey by boat, and increasingly, many perish in the attempt. When they arrive, they can spend years in detention before being allowed to stay or being sent back.
Statistics (see below) show that a significant number of people, active church members and apparently believers, are leaving their churches and in many cases leaving the faith. In a sense (from an insider’s viewpoint) they are like David Bridie’s deserters.
What can people tell about us by the way we treat our deserters?
So, if the facts (as outlined in previous posts) show that the world is indeed warming faster than ever before, the weather patterns are changing, the burning of fossil fuels is a major cause, and the outcomes will be disastrous, why do so many people still oppose the idea?
Is there a conspiracy to present global warming as a fact when it is a lie?
Or is there a conspiracy to fight against a scientific truth for some devious reason?