finding truth matters

 

The Global Environmental Movement has undoubtedly done some great good. Visit cities such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, Shanghai, and you’ll soon realise that water and air pollution is a very serious matter. Anyone who has seen the devastation of massive unregenerated deforestation will readily acknowledge that managing trees in the ground is more critical than many must have realised. Yet, undergirding the Environmental Movement, and its ensuing social policies, is that: natural is best. Many people justly concerned about our ecology have started to notice a large wooden horse on wheels has been pushed into the town square by Environmentalists. And just like the fabled Trojan Horse, this neo-Trojan horse has smuggled something more powerful than an army into our culture: If It’s Natural – It’s Morally Right.

KONY YouTube Clip

The recent “Stop Kony” campaign YouTube video opens with the profound notion that the most powerful thing in the world is not actually a “thing” it is an idea. This was also the premise for the blockbuster movie: INCEPTION.

INCEPTION The Movie

IDEAS SHAPE SOCIETY

Ideas shape people, societies, and civilisations. Jesus Christ used an astounding term to describe the place where human thinking takes place: the heart (such as Matthew 9:4). To the ancient Hebrew, the heart was the core of a person. Jesus said that this was where ideas were processed- in the very core of a person. The heart is the place where we most naturally think of as being the engine room of our feelings. The is link between what we think and what we feel. Jesus said that some ideas in human hearts might be evil and that the result would be spiritual defiling (which is why God offers to cleanse the defiled but repentant sinner because of Jesus’ death and resurrection).

For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person.”
Matthew 15:19-20

The Bible continues to place tremendous value on the importance of getting our ideas right. In a world that often celebrates different thinking, it sounds almost out of step with culture for someone to say an idea can be “wrong”. While it’s true that all people are equal, it is not true that all the ideas are equal. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about people who refuse to acknowledge their Creator (Who has the right to command His creation) as having become darkened in their thinking.

¶ Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused.
Romans 1:21

AN IDEA HAS BEEN SMUGGLED INTO WESTERN THINKING

smogBut in an almost Inception-like implanting, Western Society has had an idea smuggled in via the neo-Trojan Horse of Environmentalism where “natural” is no longer simply about trees, water, forests, soil, farming – it’s now about moral choices: If it feels ‘natural’, it must be morally right. This is an idea that needs to be challenged.

My wife and I enjoy the natural beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness. For the past few years we have hiked much of Tasmania’s wilderness and forests. We deeply appreciate natural beauty. We recognise the high value of conservation efforts in these World Heritage areas.

The Port Davey Track, Tasmania

THE MISUSE OF NATURAL

But even the natural beauty of the bush can sometimes benefit from being tamed. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it is perfect. We all have certain natural desires, urges, and motivations. Just because they feel natural – or even if they can be shown to actually be natural – is hardly the grounds for any moral justification of the resultant behaviour of these natural desires, urges or motivations. This is an important point. We are not denying that we actually have natural orientations. Some well meaning Christians have erred by suggesting that people with same-gender attraction can simply choose not to feel this way. Sexual attraction is rarely that simplistic. Yet, similarly, advocates for same-gender sexual attraction have equally erred by adamantly claiming that such attraction is an irreversible orientation. This is simply not the case. Thousands of men, once convinced that they were irreversibly orientated toward same-gender attraction, have found this not to be the case. Two very public examples of this are Joe Dallas (www.genesiscounseling.org), and Sy Rogers (www.syrogers.com).

Port Davey Track, South West Tasmanian Wilderness

This unfounded idea is now used repeatedly by those seeking to justify their varied sexual proclivities (which have always been regarded by civil society as immoral). Despite the unchallenged promotion of the idea that homosexuality is “hard-wired” in some – there is no chromosomal, genetic, bio-chemical, brain-wave pattern, cause for same-gender attraction. Without this scientific support for same-gender attraction it is difficult for them to morally justify it. This is where they borrow a largely unchallenged idea from the Environmentalist Movement: natural is right … it feels natural to me, therefore I must be hard-wired this way and that means I can’t help it – thus, it must be morally acceptable.

This type of reasoning is hardly tolerated for other kinds of moral justifications made by murderers, rapists, and thieves. After all, they could similarly claim that they too had overwhelming naturalinclinations to behave how they do. But any such claim would be instantly and reasonably dismissed.

 

NOT ALL NATURAL URGES ARE GOOD

The idea that because a person claims to have a natural, and therefore a pre-determined, sexual attraction orientation, whether it be for an animal, a child, a person of the same gender, or even another man’s wife, that this natural orientation then justifies them acting out this desire is an extremely illogical one and not morally justifiable. This illogical claim (that if someone has a natural urge it must be moral for them to act it out) can be highlighted as such by posing other, obviously immoral acts, such as “Gay-bashing”, as being the natural urge of a homophobe. Simply because a homophobe might have a natural urge to act out his desire to “Gay-bash”, does not make this natural urge morally justifiable.

At the outset of this article I asserted that the idea of “natural” equating to “moral” has largely been advanced by those usually identified with the Environmental Movement. I believe this assertion is easily sustained. Tasmania, where I live, is the birthplace of the “Greens” Political movement. Elected on a platform of protecting native forests, once elected though, Greens Party members have consistently promoted “non-life” policies such as abortion, euthanasia, and same-gender marriage. Perhaps the electorate concerned about the environmental issues of air and water pollution, sustainable forestry, yet not in favour of these non-life policies, should not settle merely for environmental sustainability at the expense of arguably even more important life sustaining issues.

 

HOW CAN WE DETERMINE ‘MORAL’

While it is unreasonable to argue that what is natural must automatically be regarded as moral, it is not unreasonable to argue that there is a “Natural Law”. Professor J. Budziszewski (pronounced: ‘Boo-joo-shev-ski’), from the University of Texas (Government & Philosophy) has done a masterful job in showing that there must be a Natural Law, and then proceeds to identify this Law, in his book- What We Can’t Not Know (Ignatius Press, 2011). He contrasts the arguments that what is natural must be considered moral with the Natural Law (which reveals what constitutes morality). I recommend this book for a fuller treatment of this subject. Suffice to say that those who advocate that what comes naturally must be moral, such as Professor Peter Singer, undergird their definitions of morality on the foundation of pleasure. Professor Budziszewski points out that this hardly the basis for identifying a universal moral code (the “Natural Law”) because ‘pleasure’ is so subjective.

 

AN OFFER

But what about those who genuinely feel orientated toward desires that have generally been considered immoral? What we might request is: that “naturalism” no longer be used as a moral justification. But what we might offer is loving support and compassion. This requires greater understanding on the part of those extending such an offer. Perhaps this often unnatural response, by those who understand the Natural Law, toward those who feel compelled to break it, might go a long way to helping those battling with their sexual attraction proclivities to feel the respect they so desperately crave and ache for.

Dr. Andrew Corbett
23rd March 2012

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Leadership Lessons From Shackleton

Sometimes when the going gets tough, you just have to keep going. In fact, success in life – no matter how you define it – can only be achieved with endurance. Surely one of the greatest examples of endurance (if not the greatest) is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic on the ship: The Endurance. While we ordinary mortals may never have a death defying adventure like Shackleton and his 28 men, we are already in the midst of our own great adventure called life!

Some people want to live their lives by seeking their maximum comfort and avoiding all risks. But this is not the Believer’s lot. We are called to follow Christ- who even though He is entirely consistent in character, is somewhat unpredictable in his plans for His followers. The New Testament calls this “walking by faith” (2Corinthians 5:7). This is why for the Believer, Life is the Greatest Adventure.

When was the last time you did something for Christ that required “great faith” (Matthew 15:28)?

How Pagan Is Christianity? A response to Barna and Viola

It’s rare that a Publisher commences book with a disclaimer by virtually saying we are publishing this even though we don’t agree with it. This type of disclaimer is especially rare for a publisher such as Tyndale. After reading this book I understood why Tyndale were so apprehensive in publishing it. While this was puzzling, what I found most puzzling was that George Barna put his name to it! One can only wonder at the damage this book has done to his reputation.
A “Pagan” is someone who is either ignorant or has wilfully rejected the truth and as a result is an idolater (worships idols). This is the word that the authors have chosen to use to describe modern Christianity. It is, as they admit, an outrageous claim.

Religion and Politics Don’t Mix

This is an introduction to the theology that leads to political engagement by Christians. It explores the notion of the separation of Church and State, how this has been misapplied and re-thought of by significant Christian leaders in the 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I conclude with a personal experience of what I consider positive political engagement looks like. 

They say art is the thermometer of culture. In this sense, politics might be seen as the barometer of culture. And we might add that Christians should be the thermostat of culture (not the thermometer of culture). By this we mean that art in its various forms – literature, music, visual art, movies, poetry, photography, and fashion, reflect what culture finds acceptable, disturbing, desirable, praiseworthy, and even beautiful. And politics is the popular affirmation (the essence of democracy) of a set of legislative policy agendas that give direction to a culture.

The Leadership Key of King David

Success often results from being able to get along with others. Real leadership success can only be achieved by working with others. And this type of spiritual leadership is prescribed in the Bible as “partnering” with others. This is why we regard Partnering as the ‘art of leadership’.

We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.
First Corinthians 3:9

Churches need leaders. Jesus called His original disciples to “shepherd” (not “sheep-herd”) His sheep. In John 10 Christ labors this point that his servants will lead His people as ‘shepherds’. This is not the type of leadership that domineers and exploits for personal gain. This is called despotic leadership. Rather, the type of leadership that Jesus calls for is ‘God-Partnering’ leadership: the kind of leadership heart that God has toward His people. This is why First Corinthians 3:9 says that church leaders work together with God (“labourers together with God” KJV). As leaders with God we are to treat people as if they were God’s (“God’s field/building”). If you are called to lead people within a church, whether as a senior pastor or someone helping their pastor to lead, it is important to realise that we lead with God as well as for God, and that it is His Church.

What Do Christians Really Believe? (You might be surprised!)

What is the popular perception of what Christians believe? If we are to believe what the popular media reports, Christians are known far better for what they are against than what they actually believe. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most people think that Christians are essentially homophobic, misogynists, who seek to control people through the medieval superstitious beliefs. This new uninformed perception of Christianity is perpetuated by politicians who, while claiming to be Christians, actually espouse views and values antithetical to Christianity. This was seen dramatically in both the US Presidential elections of 2008/12 and the Australian Federal election of 2013. In both campaigns major candidates claimed to be adherents of Christianity yet they ridiculed the Bible and asserted that it endorsed their particular views on issues such as marriage and sexuality, and what constituted ‘Christian’ social justice. Most recently in Australia, the Opposition Leader, Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby National Conference, claimed to be a Christian yet asserted positions foreign to classic Christianity. So just what do Christians really believe?

Examining The Prosperity Gospel

“Give to my ministry” announced the Televangelist, “and Lord will cancel all your debts!” These and other claims by ‘Prosperity Preachers’ are also suspiciously linked to the size of the “seed” someone “sows” into their ministry. In more recent times this prosperity teaching has even been linked to the collapse in the sub-prime mortgage market and the eventual global economic melt-down! But if the Prosperity Gospel was only about money, we could perhaps tolerate it. But it encompasses much, much more dangerous dogma than that!

In a recent Time Magazine Online article, it questions the influence of Word of Faith preaching on the Sub-Prime Mortgage collapse. Before this article appeared though, many pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians were screaming from the roof-tops about some of the dangers of the “Prosperity Gospel”. But such roof-top screaming fades into a whimper compared to the massive media resources available to the super-preachers of the Prosperity Gospel. This “Gospel” not only baptises materialism and avarice but it denies some of the most essential Christian doctrines and replaces them with what can only be described as cultic teaching and practice. The Prosperity Gospel is also known as “Word of Faith” theology, or the “Health, Wealth, Happiness Gospel”. Its most public proponents are all televangelists who appeal to their audiences for donations- with promises of God’s miraculous financial blessing according to the amount donated. All of these preachers have testimonials from people who have given to their ministry and allegedly miraculously prospered as a result. There are some televangelists who are probably charlatans because they have discovered that Christians are gullible cash-cows. But many of these Prosperity Preachers are sincere, genuine, and nice people- its just that their theology is fatally flawed with dangerous errors!

Mordecai, The Model Dad

The Book of Esther is controversial Biblical book. Why is it in the Bible? There is not even a direct mention of “God” in it. This has led some to question whether it even belongs in the Bible. But what these critics have missed is one of the most profound messages from God in all of Scripture.

While the book of Esther is obviously about Esther, it is also rich in Biblical allegory about God and His relationship with His people. But what is not immediately obvious is that this book is very prophetic. It describes how God was to end His Old Covenant and establish a new one. All the while, the characters in this pivotal story unwittingly reveal some amazing truths about God, family, and the relationship between religion and politics.

True For You But Not True For Me

Have you even heard someone say, “That may be true for you but it’s not true for me!” It’s the kind of sentiment which might be appropriately limited to our experiences and our emotional responses to them, but it can not be true about those issues which effect us all, known as universals. These include what we consider to be morally right or wrong, whether a fact is true or false,  or whether we should regard something as either good or bad. For example, one of the universal laws that is not subject to personal opinion is gravity. Someone may disagree with it, but their disagreement doesn’t change its reality.

The kind of judgment needed to distinguish right from wrong, true from false, or good from bad, must allow for those things which are universal and thus common to all. This kind of truth, what Francis Schaeffer called ‘true truth’ is also not subject to context, circumstances, popularity, or fashion (Beckworth & Koukl 1998, 20). Neither is it restricted to a time or place. Thus, what can be known as true has generally been acknowledged as such down through the ages by various peoples located in different parts of the world. Philosophers refer to this kind of truth as objective truth.

Moral Naturalism

The Global Environmental Movement has undoubtedly done some great good. Visit cities such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, Shanghai, and you’ll soon realise that water and air pollution is a very serious matter. Anyone who has seen the devastation of massive unregenerated deforestation will readily acknowledge that managing trees in the ground is more critical than many must have realised. Yet, undergirding the Environmental Movement, and its ensuing social policies, is that: natural is best. Many people justly concerned about our ecology have started to notice a large wooden horse on wheels has been pushed into the town square by Environmentalists. And just like the fabled Trojan Horse, this neo-Trojan horse has smuggled something more powerful than an army into our culture: If It’s Natural – It’s Morally Right.

Introducing Jeremiah The Prophet

Jeremiah is the second of the ‘major’ Prophets after Isaiah. Like Isaiah, he prophesied events which were fulfilled within his lifetime and beyond. Most significantly, Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied about the coming Messiah and the new covenant this Messiah would usher in. From the opening three verses, which may have been written by Jeremiah, or may have been the result of Ezra’s later editing. These verses help us to date when Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry. His ministry would have begun when he was aged between 15 to 20. He would have begun around the time of the discovery of the Law during the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign which was around 629BC. This helps us to reckon his birth year as sometime around 649BC or so. We know that the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem as Jeremiah had prophesied they would, in 586 BC. This means that Jeremiah ministered around 45 to 50 years. He is particular significant for several reasons…

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