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Date Posted:10/11/2009 1:01 AMCopy HTML

God is good, but just be sure not to take Him too literally JOE HOCKEY

November 10, 2009

One reason why Christian faith has declined in the West is because of the reliance placed on a literal reading of the testaments. Such an approach has tangled the Christian faith in a confusion of contradictions.

By encouraging literalist analysis of the Bible, many churches have inadvertently invited people to question the validity of a faith that seems to be based on questionable facts or outdated prescriptions.

I recently read the transcript of the cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan in the famous Scopes trial of 1925.

The state of Tennessee had sought to outlaw the teaching of evolution in its schools. When a teacher, John Scopes, deliberately flouted this law, he faced trial in a high-profile battle between evolutionists and the supporters of Biblical creation.

The prosecution was assisted by the serial presidential candidate and one of the giants of Democratic politics, William Jennings Bryan, who was called to give evidence.

What followed was the humiliation of Bryan and his literal interpretation of the Bible as he sought to argue the historical truth of Genesis. That Adam and Eve were really the first humans to walk the Earth just 6000 years ago; that 2300 years before Christ, all living things - apart from those saved by Noah - were wiped from the planet, and that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish.

From my perspective, Bryan's most damning words were: ''I believe in creation as there told, and if I am not able to explain it, I will accept it."

There are some who will with great conviction, even to this day, argue that all of these things were so. In fact a number of fast-growing evangelical Christian churches in Australia take a literalist approach to the scriptures.

While most leaders of the older churches have moved away from such a position, there is still an alienating literalism that pervades many faiths, and Christianity is not alone in this regard.

Those of you who are political junkies will be avid watchers of The West Wing. You may recall an episode in which President Jed Bartlet confronts a right-wing radio host who has led a crusade against homosexuality based on biblical doctrine. Bartlet wonders that if he were to form his views on homosexuality based on the prescriptions of Leviticus whether he should also be following the guidance of the Old Testament in relation to the sale of his daughter into slavery; whether he should be putting to death his chief of staff for working on the Sabbath, or what he should be doing about footballers playing with a ball made of pigskin, or his wife for wearing cloth made from different threads.

Those who seek to proclaim the prescriptions of the Bible selectively or literally provide an armoury of ammunition to those like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Laymen like myself struggle with the logic of such an approach. While debate rages about such matters, the true message of the scriptures - of compassion, justice, equality, dignity, forgiveness, charity and respect for other people - inevitably takes a back seat.

Hitchens and Dawkins go further than simply trying to pick holes in a literal or historical interpretation of the Bible and the texts and teachings of the other great religions.

They argue that not only are all religions based on falsehoods but also that religion is a malevolent force. Again, in this they are supported by those across the globe who have used their faith to justify and explain suffering, war, cruelty and calamity.

It is a debating technique as old as discourse itself - to seek to define your opponents on terms that suit your hypothesis, usually by selecting the extremes, and then send in the wrecking ball. It's an approach that anyone in the Australian Parliament would find familiar.

I don't accept that any of the great religions envisage a God or a divine force that sanctions the worst failings of humanity. Religion asks of us to become better people - to choose a life of giving and compassion. This "Golden Rule" is a thread that runs from Confucius to Christianity, from Buddhism to Islam.

For me this is the essential message of all faiths - that we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves. As Muhammad spoke in his final sermon, "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." Or as the great Jewish Rabbi Hillel put it: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow."

The God of my faith is not full of revenge, as the Old Testament would suggest with a literal interpretation. The God of my faith does not cause earthquakes or tsunamis as acts of retribution.

As the Pope identified in his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth): "Love is God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope."

It is not a loving God who wilfully inflicts pain and suffering. No God of any mainstream religion would do that if God's love is real.

The Koran does not encourage Muslims to bomb buildings. God does not march off to war supporting one nation over another or the persecution of those of different creeds and colour. My God does not discriminate against women, or favour first born children over others. Nor does God support one political party.

All of these things have been claimed as acts of God at various times in our history. They provide easy targets for those who argue that religion causes harm rather than good. However, they are not propositions that I believe have any foundation in the mainstream religions.

Many today look at the world and see one that is divided by religion. This is inflamed by fear of the unknown and views formed by the actions of fundamentalists.

There are some who wonder, for example, whether Islam and Christianity can peacefully coexist.

My father migrated to Australia from the Middle East - the son of an Armenian father and a Palestinian mother. While Dad was a Christian growing up in Jerusalem, his closest childhood friend was a Jewish girl. Dad speaks fluent Hebrew and Arabic. He taught me tolerance. He is very ecumenical for someone who lost his home to a war that was based on faith. In Australia he found a country that tolerated diversity.

Australia has embraced religious diversity. It must always remain so, and as a Member of Parliament I am a custodian of that principle of tolerance. That is why it is disturbing to hear people rail against Muslims and Jews, or Pentecostals and Catholics. Australia must continue, without fear, to embrace diversity of faith provided that those gods are loving, compassionate and just.

An extract from In Defence of God, a speech by the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, to the Sydney Institute last night.

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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 1:23 AMCopy HTML

Ralph,

Well, there's not much in the Hon. Joe Hockey, MP's, address that I find either convincing biblically, or appealing theologically.

Blessings,

Ian

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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 1:58 AMCopy HTML

Ralph,

Thanks, interesting article


By encouraging literalist analysis of the Bible, many churches have inadvertently invited people to question the validity of a faith that seems to be based on questionable facts or outdated prescriptions.

Exactly. Gone are the days when you can just pesent a person who has a working mind with a little package marked anything and not expect them to inspect the contents thoroughly before they just accept it with blind faith.

Those of you who are political junkies will be avid watchers of The West Wing. You may recall an episode in which President Jed Bartlet confronts a right-wing radio host who has led a crusade against homosexuality based on biblical doctrine. Bartlet wonders that if he were to form his views on homosexuality based on the prescriptions of Leviticus whether he should also be following the guidance of the Old Testament in relation to the sale of his daughter into slavery; whether he should be putting to death his chief of staff for working on the Sabbath, or what he should be doing about footballers playing with a ball made of pigskin, or his wife for wearing cloth made from different threads.

Sounds fair. If you want to live by one law, you have to live by them all. No picking and choosing.

Those who seek to proclaim the prescriptions of the Bible selectively or literally provide an armoury of ammunition to those like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Laymen like myself struggle with the logic of such an approach. While debate rages about such matters, the true message of the scriptures - of compassion, justice, equality, dignity, forgiveness, charity and respect for other people - inevitably takes a back seat.

Yep, yep, yep. Sad really.

I don't accept that any of the great religions envisage a God or a divine force that sanctions the worst failings of humanity. Religion asks of us to become better people - to choose a life of giving and compassion. This "Golden Rule" is a thread that runs from Confucius to Christianity, from Buddhism to Islam.

For me this is the essential message of all faiths - that we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves. As Muhammad spoke in his final sermon, "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." Or as the great Jewish Rabbi Hillel put it: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow."

What a wonderful world it would be if those who claim to belong to a religion actually lived it.

The God of my faith is not full of revenge, as the Old Testament would suggest with a literal interpretation. The God of my faith does not cause earthquakes or tsunamis as acts of retribution.

As the Pope identified in his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth): "Love is God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope."

Hmmm. When commitment to God becomes a pile of obligations and requirements, it is a practice that is about fear and legalism. God is love.

Australia must continue, without fear, to embrace diversity of faith provided that those gods are loving, compassionate and just.

Wouldn't it be great if just one faith could get that golden rule thing right, all the time, instead of wasting energy pointing out the flaws in  other faiths, and how wrong they are.

Literalists limit god to what is written between the covers of the bible. Why?

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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 2:02 AMCopy HTML


Hmmmmm I wonder who put that together for him.

Epi
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 2:19 AMCopy HTML

Epi,

I'm sure it's not Ian.:biggrin:

Ian,
 
Joe claims to be a Layman. I do not know his religious status, but I am sure he has to hold a lot back because of his political agenda. 
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 5:18 AMCopy HTML

By encouraging literalist analysis of the Bible, many churches have inadvertently invited people to question the validity of a faith that seems to be based on questionable facts or outdated prescriptions.

Exactly. Gone are the days when you can just pesent a person who has a working mind with a little package marked anything and not expect them to inspect the contents thoroughly before they just accept it with blind faith.

 

I don’t see this as a bad thing. One needs to analyze such to make sure it’s content is according to scripture

Those of you who are political junkies will be avid watchers of The West Wing. You may recall an episode in which President Jed Bartlet confronts a right-wing radio host who has led a crusade against homosexuality based on biblical doctrine. Bartlet wonders that if he were to form his views on homosexuality based on the prescriptions of Leviticus whether he should also be following the guidance of the Old Testament in relation to the sale of his daughter into slavery; whether he should be putting to death his chief of staff for working on the Sabbath, or what he should be doing about footballers playing with a ball made of pigskin, or his wife for wearing cloth made from different threads.

Sounds fair. If you want to live by one law, you have to live by them all. No picking and choosing.   

It is by the Law of the Spirit we now live.

I don't accept that any of the great religions envisage a God or a divine force that sanctions the worst failings of humanity. Religion asks of us to become better people - to choose a life of giving and compassion. This "Golden Rule" is a thread that runs from Confucius to Christianity, from Buddhism to Islam.

For me this is the essential message of all faiths - that we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves. As Muhammad spoke in his final sermon, "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." Or as the great Jewish Rabbi Hillel put it: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow."

What a wonderful world it would be if those who claim to belong to a religion actually lived it.

Every Christian needs to consider their approach to what God requires of them, what His will is; how it is acceptable in our worship of Him and to handle the Word with care and understanding.

The God of my faith is not full of revenge, as the Old Testament would suggest with a literal interpretation. The God of my faith does not cause earthquakes or tsunamis as acts of retribution.

As the Pope identified in his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth): "Love is God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope."

Hmmm. When commitment to God becomes a pile of obligations and requirements, it is a practice that is about fear and legalism. God is love.

I can’t agree with you there. If we commit to God with the obligations and requirements according to knowledge of truth and in spirit, the love of God is then “shed abroad in our hearts….”

Australia must continue, without fear, to embrace diversity of faith provided that those gods are loving, compassionate and just.

Wouldn't it be great if just one faith could get that golden rule thing right, all the time, instead of wasting energy pointing out the flaws in  other faiths, and how wrong they are.

Only Christianity can achieve that.



Literalists limit god to what is written between the covers of the bible. Why?

Why not?

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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 5:32 AMCopy HTML

Good post Ralph.
Did you put it in because you liked it?
At least Joe put together a few words from the heart about a subject that the majority of politicians wouldn't touch with a barge pole.
As he is a well educated man, I would presume that he put it together himself.
It may not convince biblically or appeal theologically, I doubt that was his intention, but at least he was willing to make an effort to try to explain his views on religion and God from a personal perspective.
I have followed his career with interest for many years now.
Glad
"Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out."
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 6:01 AMCopy HTML

Ralph

I don't accept that any of the great religions envisage a God or a divine force that sanctions the worst failings of humanity. Religion asks of us to become better people - to choose a life of giving and compassion. This "Golden Rule" is a thread that runs from Confucius to Christianity, from Buddhism to Islam.

For me this is the essential message of all faiths - that we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves. As Muhammad spoke in his final sermon, "Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." Or as the great Jewish Rabbi Hillel put it: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow."

What a wonderful world it would be if those who claim to belong to a religion actually lived it.

Every Christian needs to consider their approach to what God requires of them, what His will is; how it is acceptable in our worship of Him and to handle the Word with care and understanding.

Geez Ralph, you make it sound hard. I don't think it was ever meant to be that way. I also think christians need to consider how they are viewed both individually and collectively by the culture they live in. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is not a difficult concept, is it?

The God of my faith is not full of revenge, as the Old Testament would suggest with a literal interpretation. The God of my faith does not cause earthquakes or tsunamis as acts of retribution.

As the Pope identified in his recent encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth): "Love is God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope."

Hmmm. When commitment to God becomes a pile of obligations and requirements, it is a practice that is about fear and legalism. God is love.

I can’t agree with you there. If we commit to God with the obligations and requirements according to knowledge of truth and in spirit, the love of God is then “shed abroad in our hearts….”

But why are we committing to him in the first place? I think the reasons behind the commitment go a long way to deciding what kind of christian a person will be.

Australia
must continue, without fear, to embrace diversity of faith provided that those gods are loving, compassionate and just.

Wouldn't it be great if just one faith could get that golden rule thing right, all the time, instead of wasting energy pointing out the flaws in  other faiths, and how wrong they are.

Only Christianity can achieve that.

Hasn't yet.


Literalists limit god to what is written between the covers of the bible. Why?

Why not?

Because then people are pretty well saying god cannot do anything new.

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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 6:05 AMCopy HTML

Reply to Didaktikon

Ralph,

Well, there's not much in the Hon. Joe Hockey, MP's, address that I find either convincing biblically, or appealing theologically.

Blessings,

Ian


I concur

blessings

Eric
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 6:23 AMCopy HTML

 Have we become 'precious or what?' on the Forum.

I doubt he (Joe) was trying to convince or appeal or convert --- it was just a talk!

Blimey - still, at least it has prompted replies of gorgeous hues that are hard to follow and others.

I think I will just 'grump' off and organise dinner or something else that doesn't require any effort.

Glad
"Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out."
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 8:45 AMCopy HTML

Glad, yes,

I did put it in because I think he is a genuine bloke and would make a more honest Prime Minister. Just my opinion.
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 8:47 AMCopy HTML

All, I think if it was left to our few learned teachers there are around we wouldn't perhaps have heard there be a Gospel. Does scripture say even in pretence or truth the Gospel is preached? Phil 1:18. Can't we apply same today?
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 9:18 AMCopy HTML

Hi, Ralph.

I've not met our current PM, nor have I met Mr Hockey. I don't, and wouldn't, presume to pass comment on the honesty of either; I'd rather believe that both are men of integrity. Similarly, I don't, and wouldn't, presume to pass comment on the Christian beliefs of either man. From what I've heard and read, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt the saving faith of either.

But if you're going to bandy Phil 1.18 around, then it's best you be sure of what Gospel it was that Paul had in mind.

Blessings,

Ian
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 10:41 AMCopy HTML

Ian,

 

Having neither position nor opportunity to meet up with any politician, one only passes comment on what we see and hear in the media, howbeit true or false. One doesn’t have to be a university expert to see that election promises have not been met; one can be as a simple Pensioner.

As for their religious integrity, one has had an audience with the pope regarding Saint Hood of Mary Mackillop whilst the other directed concerns of national importance (don’t take me wrong, I’m not bigoted against Catholic teaching) it is a matter of priorities that effect me directly.

 

Now, Phil 1:18, I know the context it is written in but I was simply pointing out as an illustration that it doesn’t matter how it comes up, the subject of God is brought to light.

Both parties preach Christ but is one more dominant in there own importance, as their motive, than the other?

 

Ralph

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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 12:40 PMCopy HTML

The one size fits all, or the notion that we all worship the same god (deliberate lower case "g") ultimately, whether it be Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, Buddha, The Great Architect, Confucius, Paganism, using New Age Crystals or whatever, flies in the face of what Jesus taught. No one, least of all Christians can have their cake and eat it too, so to speak. We either believe that Jesus, was and is, the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father, except through Him (John 14:6) or we don't.

Jesus lived a life, showed an example, taught the right way to be one with the Father, suffered and died for the sins of the whole world, and was raised from the dead and taken up to glory. His ministry and strict directions did not leave options to be taken up and discarded at our whim and fancy.

Someone once said that there is an easy way to tell if a politician is not telling the truth......his or her lips are moving.

The careless way too many politicians of all kinds and genders put their stamp of approval upon easy and careless abortion is one measure of how far politics has descended. There is a lot of rhetoric in our Parliaments against violence and war and yet killing of our own kin in the womb is sanctioned and in some cases toasted with Champagne as did Lynne Alison, Leader of the Democrats 17.20.2006.

Once again I see the usual suspect is venting disapproval of God's will and timing. How can anyone say they worship God and don't trust His Word or His perfect righteousness?

John
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 12:46 PMCopy HTML

 That date was 17th February, 2006. Please excuse the typo.
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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 8:56 PMCopy HTML

Good morning, Ralph.

Politics, by dint of the business that it is, is an exercise in compromise. Anyone who believes otherwise is remarkably naive, ergo, election promises should be seen for what they are: good intentions. Further, I don't think I would go judging either man's faith based on simplistic issues such as the pending sainthood of Mary Mackillop

Blessings, dude.

Ian

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Re:GOD is good

Date Posted:10/11/2009 10:28 PMCopy HTML

Ian, good morning.

I don't pretend to know much about politics or in fact religion (save spiritual abuse of course) I really just go along with the flow and I am content to receive such for a living and trying to do my bit to put back into the community by working for the school. We's doing ok.
My intention wasn't to judge our pollies faith but pointing out what may have been their motives, but doesn't matter, the thread produced a bit of convo'. anyway.

Have a good day. Ralph

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