TRUE FOR YOU BUT NOT FOR ME!
Have you ever 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.
“When truth dies, all of its subspecies, such as ethics, perish with it. If truth can’t be known, then the concept of moral truth becomes incoherent. Ethics becomes relative, right and wrong matters of individual opinion. This may seem a moral liberty, but it ultimately rings hollow. “The freedom of our day,” lamented a graduate in a Harvard commencement address, “is the freedom to devote ourselves to any values we please, on the mere condition that we do not believe them to be true.”‘
Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Relativism – Feet Planted Firmly In Mid-Air, (1998) Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 2006, page 20
The idea that something like morals, facts, or values could be true for you but not for me, is known as relativism. It is not a new idea.
PROTAGORAS: Truth is relative, it is only a matter of opinion.
SOCRATES: You mean that truth is mere subjective opinion?
PROTAGORAS: Exactly. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Truth is subjective.
SOCRATES: Do you really mean that? That my opinion is true by virtue of it being my opinion?
PROTAGORAS: Indeed I do.
SOCRATES: My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you, Mr Protagoras, are absolutely in error. Since this is my opinion, then you must grant that it is true according to your philosophy.
PROTAGORAS: You are quite correct, Socrates.
(William and Mabel Sahakian, IDEAS OF THE GREAT PHILOSOPHERS, Barnes and Noble, NY, 1966, 28)
Socrates showed that relativism is self-defeating. If it is right, as Protagoras argued, then it must be wrong, as Socrates argued.
How do we arrive at objective truth, particularly when it comes to moral issues? The historians Will and Ariel Durant wrote the award-winning The History of Civilization (1976), from which they concluded in another book, The Lessons of History (p. 50-51), “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.” The essence of this religious contribution to formulating an objective moral code is found in The Decalogue (The 10 Commandments), which includes prohibitions against murder, adultery, bearing false testimony, and stealing, for example.
In an age that mistakenly seems to think that truth about whether certain conduct is right or wrong morally has more to do with its popularity or fashionability, the idea of objective truth seems very old fashioned. But despite how it seems, there are good reasons for thinking that the idea of objective truth is actually time-less, and worthy of our attention today.
People of all ages have lingering questions that have occupied and troubled the greatest minds of each generation. Most of the challenging philosophical conundrums are usually the exclusive domain of philosophers – but not these three questions. Both the philosophically adept and the philosophically untrained have a right to feel a vested interest in how these questions might be answered. Indeed, how we answer them has an immediate and potentially fatal bearing on how we view ourselves and those around us. And it is here we begin to question.
If, for some impossible reason, the position for “God” became vacant, what might the job description look like? Being a Judge would definitely be listed. Judging is a god-like activity, and the God of the Universe would have to be the Ultimate Judge of that Universe.
In sustaining the Universe and the required justice that this involves, it can be seen from the Bible that God appoints some human beings to serve as His deputies – as judges.
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…
Just over a hundred years ago, a group of Trinity College, Cambridge students formed a covert society called the “Midnight Society”. Many of the Society members became professors at Cambridge, while others became famous novelists, playwrights and authors. At a time when Christians generally considered fiction grossly inferior to non-fiction (and theologically devotional writings), the members of the Midnight Society were strategically using it. They understood that the values and the morals of a nation could be influenced by the fiction it consumed. And they had a radical agenda…
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?
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.
Some people find faith in God to be impossible. These people have reasons for their impossible faith. Their objections may be intellectual, moral, or emotional. There are three well-known figures who each exemplify each of these objections to faith in God. Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy and Bob Hawke each respectively held these particular objections to Christianity.
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 world is increasingly becoming a global village. We now have entire media networks dedicated to potentially delivering news as it happens from anywhere in the world. Sadly, those of us in the more affluent parts of the world usually don’t get the most important news offered to us. Instead, we often get dished a diet of celebrity appearances, entertainment updates, political scandals, media commentary and sporting match results. To quote Neil Postman, despite the potential of our News media to inform us and even call us to action, we are “amusing ourselves to death.”
If you want to increase your chances of being happy, wealthy, and healthy, get married! This is not some random wishful sentiment. The evidence is clear- people who are married are far more likely to enjoy these blessings than either single people, or co-habiting (de-facto) couples, but especially more so than divorced people.
Marriage is the formal union of a man and a woman for life. It is far more than a social contract (the result of society’s pressure to conform). Marriage exists in every culture, every era, and every religion. In this sense it can be shown that marriage is both original (from the very beginning of human existence) and natural (it has always been). Recent sociological studies into marriage have shown that it produces quite different and definite social and health outcomes to the alternatives of being single or co-habiting – and markedly different health outcomes to that of being divorced…