Tag Archives: church v state

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Should Christians speak out in the political process?

My answer to the question posed above is “yes”… what’s yours?

Following on from my so called “open letter” about school chaplaincy funding from last week,* I’d like to address one of the comments that made its way back to me via a third party. I won’t name names, lest I betray any confidences…

“[I] wondered if he was too hasty in ruling out involvement of Christians in public discourse in an arena like education”

This isn’t what I’m trying to do at all. I’m actually trying to open a more helpful variety of engaging with the political realm, and those in opposition to Christianity, by hearing their criticisms and concerns, and weighing them up against these five starting assumptions. I’m not advocating that Christians acquiesce to any change in the law that will bring us one step closer to the lion’s den. I don’t have a martyr complex, figuratively or literally.

I don’t know if people have followed along on any of the now quite numerous debates I’ve had online regarding a Christian stance on gay marriage. There have been a few. Here, and elsewhere, and again

Much smarter people than I have disagreed with my position on the relationship between church and state in each of those threads. But because I tend to see my own position in overwhelming clarity, while at least imagining that I have a good grasp of my interlocutor’s arguments, I still haven’t budged.

I think I’d describe my approach to politics as revolving around five poles, or starting assumptions. Perhaps you don’t share them. But at least you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

1. Jesus is the true ruler of the world (Philippians 2). Governments are appointed by God (Romans 13). As Christians our job is to proclaim the gospel to people (Matthew 28), and live such lives among the pagans that our proclamation has some appeal (1 Peter 2).

2. While the earth is the Lord’s, and while he has established guidelines for living lives pleasing to him, and while what the Bible says is sin is sinful… We can not seek to impose Christian morality onto people who don’t have the Holy Spirit, nor should we necessarily try to do that, it is ultimately a bandaid solution if point 1 is not taken into account.

3. Separation of church and state is a good thing, that should be upheld by both church and state – for the sake of clarity on both sides.

4. The nature of a democracy is such that all members of society have equal say about how society is governed, and ultimately it means that the will of the majority will become the law of the land. All parties in a democracy have the right to speak out in favour of their positions, but from a government’s perspective, elected representatives are elected to represent their constituency not to be the puppet of special interest groups (including Christian special interest groups). Special interest groups, or organised lobby groups, aren’t necessarily a bad thing, unless their clout outweighs their supporter base through graft, corruption, or manipulation.

5. Liberal democracies are also focused on providing individual liberties – which are valuable for Christians, especially as they pertain to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of public assembly.

Given those points, if you want to speak out like Danny Naliah, Family First, Australian Christian Lobby, or even somebody more moderate – that’s great. You can’t necessarily claim to be speaking for God, or for Christians, though – you’re simply participating in the democratic process. And arguments starting with “The Bible says” or “God says” in a secular society aren’t going to get a long way when we’re increasingly not just secular, but non-religious. But you should feel free to do it. I’m not, in the words of No Doubt, saying “don’t speak” – it’s not my place to suggest that. I’d just love to see Christians thinking before they speak – about why we feel entitled to be able to impose our views on the majority.

I’d love more Christians to be entering into political discourse – even if they disagree with me, perhaps especially then. I don’t think that means starting our own party, or putting together an Australian Christian Lobby that acts just like any other self-interest group with a powerful supporters base. I’d love more Christians to join real parties (and even better, The Greens). That would be a great witness to our love for the world, and would help out with point 1 from above.

I’d especially love more Christians to be speaking out in favour of 3, recognising 2, and being wary of falling foul of point 4. Which is the approach I’m trying to advocate when it comes to both gay marriage and school chaplaincy, and indeed, politics in general.

I’m not saying “don’t say anything” – I don’t know where the notion that I was suggesting this in the chaplaincy post comes from. I’m not about acquiescence – I’d actually rather hear Christians speaking out against government handouts (which was the position I was trying to articulate) rather than just speaking out in favour of them. The truth, so far as I can figure it out, in the chaplaincy debate – is that we don’t really want the government’s money if it means compromising our position in the schools (where we enjoy the ability to teach children about Christianity). We also don’t want chaplains and religious education lumped together so they can be thrown out together. But even if both are, all is not lost. I haven’t really heard many people saying that in this debate – certainly not on Facebook.

Is it possible that our most positive witness is if we argue that God has given us all an amount of liberty (see point 5), but that we hope people use that liberty to live lives pleasing to him, through submitting to the lordship of Jesus? But if they don’t, we don’t want to force them. We don’t want to spoil the time they have on this earth. And we want the right to disagree with them, respectfully, in honouring our own beliefs and traditions.

Is there a danger of losing more than we’re bargaining for because of the way we’re so dogmatically trying to shoehorn everybody into Christian behaviour by organising lobby groups and political parties and not engaging with the world? Family First is never going to be a legitimate political force in Australia. They’re simply a mouthpiece for people who may not admit it but would like to legislate Christian values, or the Danny Naliah types.

The more we appear to be on the fringes, the more we appear to be relying on some sort of special pleading for our own personal point of view in an increasingly diverse nation, and the more we appear to be condemning other people’s exercising of liberties based on our “imaginary friend” and our “2000 year old book”, the less appealing Jesus is… why not let God, through the Holy Spirit, and the Bible, convict people of their sin, and then judge them accordingly – rather than trying to play judge, jury, and executioner ourselves (or at least legislature, judiciary, and executive…).

I’m going to spend the next few days reading through Andrew Cameron’s material (alongside K-Rudd and John Anderson’s material) from the 2005 New College Lectures on Church & State.

*Where, if you care to, you can read how I engage with a couple of atheist Facebook commenters from the platform I’ve outlined above…

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An open letter to my Christian Facebook Friends about School Chaplaincy

My Facebook newsfeed is jammed full of articles, cause invites and petitions suggesting that the Christian sky will fall down if I don’t voice my support for the government funding of school chaplains.

For some background – the Australian government provides some funding for schools to employ chaplains (after consultation with the P&C and support from the local community (which means churches). This funding is generous and has allowed for many chaplains to be hired around the country. In Queensland these services are generally provided through Scripture Union (SU) who are an umbrella body, and a Christian organisation. Chaplains roles are limited because they offer services to people of all faiths, beliefs, lack of faiths, etc. An atheist from Toowoomba doesn’t like that government money is going to what is arguably a religious service, that arguably enshrines Christianity as a state religion (though the legislation is all very clear that chaplains don’t have to be Christian). This is the website for the High Court Challenge. Here’s a few paragraphs from a news story from September last year:

“Mr Williams said that while the rules of the program prohibited chaplains from proselytising, the Queensland provider, the biblical literalist Scripture Union, has as its aim ”to encourage people of all ages to meet God daily through the Bible and prayer”.

”It’s absolutely, totally out of control here. You can’t prevent your children being exposed to chaplaincy,” Mr Williams said.

In Victoria, state school chaplains are employed by ACCESS Ministries, the same group that provides non-compulsory religious education. Chaplains in Victoria are better qualified than in other states, and are required to have at least one degree in teaching, theology or counselling, as well as further training in another of those fields.”

I won’t be joining said causes, signing said petitions, (though I will read the articles).

I think government funding for chaplains is actually borderline a bad thing, for a number of reasons. I wrote something along these lines back in 2006 when federal funding was first announced, and nothing I have seen since has changed my mind.

In case you’re sitting there thinking “oh no, all the chaplains I know are lovely people, and should totally keep their jobs” – I agree. Entirely. One of my best friends really is a chaplain, several other close friends are too. Chaplains, on the whole, have had an incredibly positive impact on the lives of children at school – and somebody in the school community should be doing the job they’re doing, I’m glad the people currently doing the job are Christians. I really am.

I have a couple of problems with the scaremongering going on around this issue.

1. There’s an assumption that government funding of chaplains is a good thing.
2. There’s an assumption that this money is free.
3. There’s an assumption that chaplains would disappear if the funding was pulled.
4. There’s an assumption that chaplaincy, in its present form, is good for the spread of the gospel.

I’d challenge the first three, and suggest that in the case of the third this is no axiom, but reflects the exception, not the rule (indeed, I’d say for chaplains to be spreading the gospel they’d have to be putting their federal funding and positions in danger).

It’s this kind of approach to the interaction with church and state that I think characterises much of what is wrong with the church – we assume we have some sort of entitlement to special access.

Around the same time in 2006 that I wrote that post linked above, I wrote another post, suggesting that because of Christianity’s place in Australia’s heritage we do have a place in the educational spectrum. Particularly in modern history. And I think RE is appropriate – because all students have equal access to religious instruction, and religion is a huge part of life outside of school, and I recognise that there is a spiritual aspect to one’s development as a person that is rightly addressed in an RE program.

But chaplains aren’t even allowed to teach RE. What’s the point of having a Christian voice in a school if they’re not allowed to teach Christian things?

“While exercising their roles from within a Christian framework and promoting positive Christian values, SU Qld Chaplains will be sensitive to and respectful of people who hold beliefs and values different from their own. SU Qld Chaplains will be available to all students, staff and parents within their schools, regardless of religious affiliation.” – From the SU Chaplaincy site

The Queensland Government’s position on Religious Education in schools is quite clearly articulated here.

As is their position on what chaplains can do as part of their role

Whilst personally modeling and owning their own faith positions or belief, chaplains avoid any implications that any one religion, denomination or other set of beliefs is advantageous or superior to any other denomination, religion or belief.

Chaplaincy programs are compatible with policies and practices that apply to delivery of any service in a multi-faith and multicultural state school community. A chaplaincy program is inclusive of and shows respect for all religious and non-religious beliefs and other stances represented in the school community. All activities and events provided within a chaplaincy program are non-discriminatory and equitably available to students of all beliefs who choose to participate.

That earlier link spells this out a little further when it comes to the subject of teaching RE…

Teachers and chaplains are not to teach religious instruction. It is not part of their work duties. However, if a chaplain or a teacher works part-time, they may choose to teach religious instruction in their own time, outside of work hours.

Accepting government money, in a nation where church and state are separate (which is a good thing), creates a relationship of dependency and shifts the power dynamic in this separation to the person giving the money (I suspect this will eventually become a problem with regards to the tax benefits churches enjoy).

The “Save Our Chaplains” campaign is making this a do or die issue for school chaplaincy (and if you disagree with me, go there and sign the pledge – this post then becomes “awareness raising” so everybody wins). I think we can all acknowledge some truth to this campaign, an overturning of the federal funding may well see a bunch of chaplains out of a job – which is not the outcome we want. But if the church, as a whole, believes chaplains are worth keeping – then we should be paying for them ourselves. It’s great that the government wants to recognise the role that these guys play – but as soon as we take their money, they take control. And suddenly there’s a bunch of truths we can’t speak. Can a chaplain, funded by the government, be known to believe that homosexuality is a sin? Can a chaplain explain to a troubled child that Jesus is the only way to God? Can we make any claim that offends any other taxpayer? I don’t know. I’m not a chaplain – but I’ve been to a couple of SU Supporters nights and noticed that it’s all about “having positive impacts on children’s lives” and “being there” – and there’s almost never a mention of God at these nights at all. I once offered to pay $100 per year for every mention of God at one of these dinners, and it didn’t cost me a cent. And this is when they’re preaching to the converted. It’s not even “Scripture Union” anymore. It’s SU. Which is one of those branding decisions that’s made when you’ve moved away from the core product but want to keep your history… SU’s aims and working principles document is still thoroughly Christian, and commendable.

The guy launching the court action against government funding seems to be a bit of a jerk. But he’s a jerk with principles that are actually based in reality – church and state are separate. And we want them to be. Because we can’t afford to have the government controlling our message – look what happens to state churches in European (especially Scandinavian) countries. For a perspective on the issue from the other side (the atheist side) of the equation read this article – it’s long, and it makes some sound points, and some points from a “religious teaching is child abuse” kind of perspective.

Figuring out how to maintain the distinction between being on school grounds teaching Christianity as part of a religious education program and government funded positions for religious workers who can’t teach religions is tricky. One of the other spin-offs of this court challenge against chaplaincy in schools, and the introduction of ethics classes in NSW, and a host of other campaigns being driven by opponents of the gospel who conflate the two into one issue, is this attack on the teaching of RE in schools, or CRE, or RI, or whatever “scripture lessons” are called in your states. This is a period of time allocated for volunteers to come into a school to preach. There’s a campaign on Facebook that wants to keep RE taught in Victorian schools, which is a cause I’d support (not least because the guy running the Facebook cause is a friend of mine).

I won’t be signing anything to keep chaplaincy in its current guise in schools. I love my chaplain friends dearly. And I’d love to continue financially supporting them in the future so that they can get into schools and preach the gospel to kids without the shackles of government funding tying them down.

That is all.

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England is totally gay

UPDATE: Be sure to read this thorough reading of the verdict from Peter Ould.

Wow. It’s a bad time to be a Christian in England.

A couple in England. A Christian couple. Who have fostered a bunch of kids. Have lost the right to do so in the future because the believe homosexuality is wrong and will tell the children they foster that this is the case.

This is like reverse gay-adoption. Now Christians can’t adopt. Essentially. Wow.

From the BBC:

“At the High Court, they asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and the law should protect their Christian values.

But Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation “should take precedence” over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.

They said that if children were placed with carers who objected to homosexuality and same-sex relationships, “there may well be a conflict with the local authority’s duty to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare’ of looked-after children”.”

Here’s the response from the Derby City Council. Bolding mine.

A spokesman said the authority “valued diversity and promoted equality” and “encouraged and supported children in a non judgmental way, regardless of their sexual orientation or preference”.

He added: “The court confirmed that the local authority is properly entitled to consider a prospective foster carer’s views on sexuality when considering their application to become a foster parent and in fact, failure to do so would potentially leave it in breach of its own guidance as well as the National Minimum Standards.”

This is why I think we need to move the goalposts on the debate surrounding homosexual marriage. Here’s a good post (and discussion) from Michael Jensen on SydAng. Here are some thoughts of mine on the homosexual debate from Venn Theology. Here’s a similar story coming out of the UK from a little while ago. And here is a post where Mark Baddeley and I thrashed out the question. This is really an issue we need to get our heads around for the sake of our freedom to proclaim the gospel and call sin “sin”…

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Church History 101: A short history of church history from 64 AD to 600 AD (part three)

Continuing where we left off in post one, which was somewhere towards the end of the third century, we are rapidly approaching D-Day for the Christian church. Or Armistice Day. Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, or apparent conversion to Christianity, made Christianity the official state religion, and changed the landscape of the church forever. Being a state religion meant having rigid notions of doctrine in place in order to determine who was being a good citizen, and who was inspiring political unrest through heretical rocking of the boat. Truth became a democratic process, and this period saw a number of councils making significant decisions on doctrine, and the collapse of the Empire, and continuation of the church, brought about several interesting interchanges driven largely by power struggles within the church, or seeking the aid of the church… so lets go back to the end of the third century, having just farewelled Origen and Cyprian…

The Life and Times of Constantine, and the Council of Nicea
The Third Century ends with another bout of persecution under Diocletian. Diocletian split the empire into east and west, appointing Maximian as his co-emperor. Eventually the empire is split again, and Constantinus is basically appointed as co-emperor of the West. Diocletian’s persecution of Christians was particularly mean. He tried to wipe them out to satisfy some oracles. He ordered all scriptures, churches, and Christians to be burned (or just to not meet, but to hand over any copies of the Bible they had). The Christians of the west were ok, because their emperors did not enforce the edicts of Diocletian and Galerius.

Diocletian ends up abdicating in 305 A.D, and a year later Constantinus, Constantine’s father, dies and as a result Constantine is pushed into the role of emperor of the West. Constantine basically goes about reuniting the empire, and by 313 he and one of his relatives, Licinius, issue the edict of Milan – a policy of tolerance for Christians. Licinius eventually renegs on this deal, and Constantine then ousts him and becomes emperor of both sides of the empire. He moves the capital to Constantinople, and is eventually baptised as a Christian – fusing church and state, with Christianity now the official religion of the empire. A pretty massive turnaround in 300 years – from crucifying to worshiping Jesus.

This newfound status in the empire means the church has to thrash out some issues that have been bubbling away under the surface. First cab off the rank is Donatism – the Donatists appeal to Caesar, who rejects their views and banishes them in 316 A.D.

Then Arius starts up. Launching the Arian controversy which needed the Council of Nicea to unanimously (almost, 2 said no) define the Creed for Christian belief- the Nicene Creed. The council settled a bunch of issues, and as a result Constantine sacked any Arian sympathising bishops and exiled them.

At around this time Pachomius establishes a monastic community – a communal home for hermits. Monastries become a cool place to hang out by yourself. Monasticism essentially replaces martydom as the means for Christian sacrificial living.


A brief snapshot of figures from this period

1. Constantine: Control freak, megalomaniac emperor who was shrewd and effective often employing propaganda to get what he wanted – he took control of a fractured empire and ruled it for over twenty years, went from protecting the freedoms of Christians, to becoming one and making Christianity the state religion. Unseparated church and state. Though continued to patronise Roman religions throughout his life.

2. Arius: Ascetic dude who liked pagan philosophers and sparked a massive controversy within the church because of his Stoic interpretations of doctrine. Founded Arianism. Eventually died on the toilet just before being reinstated to the church (after Constantine’s successor revealed a penchant for Arian theology. Reinstated by Constantine in in 328 A.D.

3. Athanasius: The main opponent to Arius, presented the adopted view at Nicea. Taught that since only God is to be worshiped, and the New Testament calls for Christ to be worshiped, that Christ is God. Only God can save, Christ saves, Christ is God. Only somebody who is human and divine can offer eternal life. Only God can pay the debt for sins. Son of God, Son of Man used interchangeably for the one figure. Christ came to restore us to God. Becomes bishop of Alexandria after the Council.

4. Eusebius: Submitted a creed to the council that heavily influenced the final form of the Nicene Creed, wrote a history of the church up until 300A.D.

A brief snapshot of beliefs and events from this period
1. Donatism: Sprang up out of the Diocletian persecution (but came to a head a decade later). Argued that anybody who had complied to Diocletian’s orders was permanently tainted, and anybody who had any contact with them was also permanently tainted.

2. Arianism: Taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but not eternal, that he was in fact created ex nihilo before the creation of the world, Jesus was not human, or god, but was unique – a lesser divinity, not of one substance with the father (like, but different) – Arianism saw Jesus as an event in the life of God, rather than leading the life of God all along.

3. Nicene Council : Rejected Arianism, settled on the Nicene Creed as an appropriate outline of the faith. Took two months to decide on an alternative view. 220 Bishops in attendance, recognised Origen’s three hypostasis – the father, son and spirit. Also recognised Alexandria, Antioch and Rome as important churches with authority over others. Also settled the date of Easter.

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New Testament 102: Seeking the Welfare of the City in 1 Peter

You know you’re on a good thing if you’re preparing for an exam and the lecturer’s pet topics share the title of his books… Bruce wrote a book called “Seek the Welfare of the City” where he picks up that the New Testament picks up Jeremiah 29:7 “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile, Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers you too will prosper.” No. Bruce doesn’t pull one of those eisegetical fallacies and suggest that urban ministry is the only way to go – he suggests Christians have certain responsibilities when it comes to the welfare of their fellow citizens.

For the purposes of this exam it pays to be aware of this theme as it presents in 1 Peter, and in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. There’s a chapter in his aforementioned book Seek the Welfare of the City drawn from 1 and 2 Thessalonians and a journal article called The Public Hnouring of Christian Benefactors on 1 Peter and Romans 13. It’s on Ebsco’s journal article collection.

1 Peter

1 Peter 1:1 addresses the “elect sojourners of the dispersion” – a theological, rather than social description, and an allusion to the Jeremiah passage. One of Peter’s big arguments is that Christians weren’t saved to just keep doing what they were doing. Salvation involves a change of heart, and a change of heart involves a change of action. And the change of action is a change to loving those around you… and that change will be noticed by others. Which is kind of the logic in 1 Peter 2:

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 1617 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Bruce uses evidence of the first century practice of epigraphically honouring benefactors to show that the government did indeed make a practice of recognising the good deeds of civilians, and that this result was essentially guaranteed, as Paul also suggests in Romans 13:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

I’m using the NIV here, because the ESV has a bunch of footnotes and they’re annoying to delete. But the ESV translates will be commended as “you will receive his approval” and many have commented on the certainty these two passages demonstrate in terms of the reward for being good.

We have some evidence that a Christian did indeed step up in this way – Erastus the Aedile of Corinth is mentioned in Romans 16, and an extant inscription in Corinth to such an Erastus has been a matter of some scholarly dispute. Mainly because some scholars are idiots and believe that all the Christians in Corinth were paupers (despite Paul saying “not many of you were of noble birth… etc” they read that as “none of you were…”

When we were in Corinth, Bruce said that being a benefactor, and the commands in Romans, referred to indi­vid­u­als act­ing in what­ever capac­ity they had to serve the city. He says this looked like mak­ing a finan­cial bene­fac­tion for a project, or run­ning for office.

Peo­ple who ran for office had to promise bene­fac­tions, and this foot­path inscrip­tion says that it was pro­duced under the Aedile­ship of Erastus.

Bruce asks:

Given these non-literary sources as well as the literary evidence of authorities praising benefactors, and the reference to this same activity in the New Testament passages, what conclusions can now be drawn about the New Testament meaning of the terms which promised to evoke this official response?

The Greek words used to describe good deeds in Rom. 13.3-4 and 1 Peter 2 are used in inscriptions to refer to a public benefaction.

Would the congregations, however, have understood the terms to refer to a public benefaction? Apart from the political context of both New Testament passages, which would have readily suggested the meaning of benefaction because of the praising by rulers, Paul in Rom. 5.7 refers to ‘the good’ man. His argument is that for a righteous man one would hardly be prepared to lay down his life, “although perhaps for a good man one will even dare to die’. The order is firstly διακαιος, and then αγαθος. Paul believes that the latter is a greater possibility because of obligations established through the receiving of a benefaction. This has been rightly taken to refer to one’s benefactor.

So Bruce concludes that these imperatives to act as benefactors in 1 Peter are indicative of at least the presence of some people of means within the church. Being a benefactor didn’t come cheap. His argument is also that the rulers of a city were hardly likely to notice small good deeds, so the implicit guarantee must be something bigger.

The cost of a benefaction was very considerable and would be beyond the ability of some, if not most, members of the church. However, there must have been Christians of very considerable means to warrant Paul’s imperative in v. 3 and also that of 1 Pet. 2.15.37 This further supports the view that there were some members of significant social status and wealth in the early church.

These wealthy Christians had a special role to play in earning some PR air miles for the early church:

The writer of 1 Peter, as does Paul, endorses public benefactions per se but in 1 Peter there may have been a need to press home the importance of ethical conduct expressed in high-profile good works. This could well have been because of the natural tendency to withdraw from them in the face of possible persecution… The New Testament stance is clear that their light was so to shine in this arena also that men would see their good works.

This interpretation also raises the question of “living quietly” as advocated by 1 Thessalonians 4.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Yep, Bruce is aware of the apparent contradiction.

The conclusion of this paper also runs counter to the view that Paul encouraged his converts ‘to stand aloof from public life’, an argument based on a possible parallel thought in 1 Thess. 4.11 and the Epicurean stance of withdrawal from society.

Before we get on to resolving what 1 Thessalonians 4 means, Bruce makes this point about the function of benefaction:

“It was done to bring good to the life of the citizens in terms of their physical and environmental needs. This teaching is in keeping with the highly important theme of the Christian lifestyle, expressing itself in the doing of good in all aspects of life. Verses 14-15 are set within such a context in 1 Pet. 2.11-3.17…There is no suggestion that the Christian endorsement of this socio-political convention in the city was done in order to maintain the status quo but because it brought good to the life of the city… The committing of one’s soul to a faithful Creator is accomplished by doing good and this again reflects the strong encouragement given to Christians to make positive contributions to the everyday life of others. “

These good deeds were done to the dual end of silencing unwarranted criticisms of Christians (particularly those who thought Christian conversion meant withdrawing from society).

The public acknowledgment of a generous Christian benefactor by crowning him as a noble person, and the permanent reminder of the benefaction on an inscription would be the means of refuting unfounded rumours against Christians as being men of ill-will, subversive to the peace and well-being of a city.

1 Peter 2:12 gives another reason for doing said good works:

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God”

Election day

The countdown is over. We voted this morning. Robyn told me afterwards that she’d voted for Family First. It was a funny joke. We laughed. 

Here’s why I don’t vote for Family First…

  1. While I appreciate that Family First put the family first and often that means supporting things that are good for Christians and Christianity – I think their very presence dilutes the conservative vote and is counterproductive for Christians looking to vote on their issues. 
  2. I don’t like the idea of giving politicians a mandate to turn Australia into anything other than the democratic system we have now – theocracies are great provided you’re a believer. Which I am. But they don’t do a good job of protecting minorities or other interests. I’d rather a candidate sympathetic to all than a candidate only sympathetic to me. 
  3. It’s not the state’s job to convert people to Christianity – it’s ours. Separation of church and state is a protection for the church too…
  4. Better the devil you know – I know that the LNP and the ALP will act in a predictable manner based on their convictions. The same can not be said for Family First members. There have been too many loose cannon loonies running for the party for them to have much credibility as a united voice. The idea of a united Christian voice is nice in theory – but you only have to look at the Uniting Church to see it in practice. 
  5. It’s a wasted vote. Unless we’re voting for a Federal senate spot the party will never the numbers to get candidates into seats. What’s the point of voting for Family First when you can be voting against a party you disagree with and keeping them out of power.  

I have no numbers to back this up. But I’m sure I could find them. I know that some people who are single issue voters on abortion will get angry when I say this. But voting for family first when you’re a nominally conservative voter who doesn’t like abortion is pretty much a vote for Labor – who (despite their name being similar to the act of giving birth) are the most likely party to legalise abortion in Australian states.

Obviously the preference system allows you to make this statement while still essentially voting for the LNP – but a real statement would be made by the number of people not preferentially voting at all – and ousting a government without having to rely on preferences at all. 

It may be a principled move. It may make a statement.  But it’s a phyrric victory only. So I won’t be making that move any time soon. 

This is too late to change anyone’s mind anyway. But it’s my two cents worth.

Also, I think it’s slightly ironic that the Greens print out how to vote cards. They’re such a waste of paper. Perhaps we should change the legislation to allow each nominated candidate to place a “how to vote” card in the voting booth. That’s under 10 printouts per candidate per booth – rather than thousands.