FREE church or
Number 56, March 2015 ISSN 1837-8447
Brought to you by the Bible Society
Change the Constitution John Anderson’s passion for reconciliation
Muslims are people too
John Azumah on the 5 faces of Islam
When atheists Fashion claim to be ‘free’ breaks CPX’s Simon Smart rules answers back
Infographic: What Christians believe about climate change Climate change attitudes by denomination Source: NCLS Research Fact Sheet 14020 (c) 2014
Climate change is not happening
5% 8% 37% 50%
9% 13% 39% 40%
8% 10% 39% 42%
9% 10% 43% 38%
12% 9% 34% 45%
4% 7% 44% 45%
9% 11% 26% 54%
Baptist / Churches of Christ
I have no idea about climate change It’s all just natural ﬂuctuation Climate change is all human caused
NCLS Research, “Church attenders’ Climate Change Attitudes” Source: 2011 NCLS Attender Sample Survey P v2 sample size, 1286 ncls.org.au
A big day of cricket Catholics v Anglicans scott free This year’s Cricket season is building towards a climax. Eternity readers who are avid cricket followers may guess that we mean the World Cup final, but they are wrong. There is a new fixture, a ten-over competition between the Anglicans, Catholics and a Bible Society team that we confidently predict will come last. Names familiar to Eternity readers will be padding up, including Rev Dr Michael Jensen for the Anglicans and Dr Greg Clarke for the Bible Society, but the make-up of the squads is still shrouded in denominational secrecy. The full teams will be announced shortly on the Bible Society website. Gear supplier to the stars, Harry Solomons from the famous Kingsgrove Sports Centre, is providing equipment and trophies for the day. This match marks the launch
of a new Bible Society fundraising initiative which encourages local churches and community groups to run their own events in support of Bible Society. A dedicated website will shortly be launched. For full details, visit www.eventsforbibles.com in early March. The matches will take place on Sunday 15th March from 1pm and the last match will finish at 6pm. The venue is University of Sydney Oval One (parking at the ground and nearby on campus). Bible Society hopes more events will be run in other states. All equipment and uniforms will be provided, along with food and entertainment throughout the afternoon. The event will be covered by radio and other media. Encouraging Christians to take up the willow, Bible Society CEO Greg Clarke say “As well as being a fun day we want ‘Cricket for Bibles’ to highlight the interdenominational work of the
News page 2-3 In Depth 5-8 Bible Society 9-10 Books Liftout Opinion 15-20
Bible Society, helping individuals, churches and communities around the world engage with the Bible, • in a language they understand • if necessary, by being taught to
read (literacy classes also improve work prospects) • in a format they can use • and at a price they can afford (or for free).”
Research indicates that older Australians, with memories of 1967, are more open to the idea of recognition than younger Australians John Anders0n – page 15
Vision College’s 1.6m students JOHN sandeman
Monday 16 March 2015 All welcome! Join us to thank God that our graduating diploma, bachelor and postgraduate students have completed their training, and now head out around the world to minister Jesus’ love and saving grace.
City Recital Hall Angel Place Sydney
7.30 – 9.30pm Doors open 7.00pm Seated by 7.20pm
Dr Ashley Null
02 9577 9999 email@example.com moore.edu.au
Vision Colleges, which started in Tasmania 40 years ago has graduated 1.6 million students from around the world in the last 15 years. The college now ministers to over 150,000 students through ministry arms in over 145 nations around the world. Minto, in outer suburban Sydney is the unlikely place from which key parts of the Vision Colleges network is run: Internet Bible College, Vision Ministry College and Vision International College. The Minto operation has “several thousand students at any one time,” according to Dennis Plant, a returned missionary from PNG who runs the colleges. The Vision model is church-based Bible colleges in the main, although it also includes a university in the US. However Africa and China have the greatest number of Vision students. “We just graduated 547 students from China about a month ago through Vision International College,” said Plant. The vision started in Launceston in 1974 under the guidance of Dr Ken Chant, the first Pentecostal pastor to get a doctorate. He is the brother of Barry Chant who started Tabor College. “Ken’s ministry was the only one of its kind: distance education, Pentecostal and affordable. Within a few years he had 5000 students in Australia alone,” said Plant. While Australian Christian Churches tend to prefer their own colleges (including AC), some ACC churches use Vision along with independent, C3, CRC, Foursquare and smaller Pentecostal networks. The 1.6 million figure only came to light at the 40-year celebrations in 2014. “It came out of idle curiosity,” says Plant. “We had no idea of our reach.”
The Economist is a religious magazine – it worships the free market. And it often mocks Christianity, especially of the US sort. But recently it gave a fair run to church planting which it points out is causing the Church of England to grow in parts. It tells the story of St Peter’s in Brighton, where a team from (charismatic) Holy Trinity Brompton which arrived in 2009 to a congregation of 50, now draws 1000. Alongside Holy Trinity, the article points out the church planting efforts of St Helen’s Bishopsgate (which is similar to the Sydney Anglicans). Obadiah is gobsmacked to read it in the bankers’ weekly. We’d run the Economist report in Eternity, except we’ve already told you a bigger story: Christianity is growing in Britain. You may not have believed us. But it is true. Out there in Geek land there are people who have made fortunes in trading in domain names. Insurance.com fetched $35.6 million for some lucky person who traded it. In Christian geek land there is a rush for .ch sites because you can form addresses such as mychur.ch from it. Normally .ch is the domain address for Switzerland. Obadiah does not normally read MX, the free paper handed out in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and often he scurries home too late to get one. But he managed to get one the other week and was rather glad he did. In the “Here’s looking at you” section where commuters (MX’s main readers) comment on other travellers they would, ahem, like to have coffee with, was one young lady’s appreciation of the guy with the cute smile reading Mere Christianity. Obadiah understands that C. S. Lewis, who wrote it, did like trains. “We no longer build buildings that delight” said architectural critic Elizabeth Farrelly discussing “Beauty, Aesthetics and the Future of Christianity” with Michael Jensen last month. She meant buildings generally. But let’s talk churches. Please tell Obadiah of a new church building that is delightful rather than just glossy and functional. I like Parramatta’s Catholic Cathedral but that is on the basis of some fantastic sculpture rather than the building. So are there any examples out there?
Coming to your TV from 7.30 SOPHIE TIMOTHY Advertisements for alcohol, and TV content related to sex, violence, nudity and swearing could be on our TV screens an hour earlier at night than currently allowed, under proposed new guidelines. Free TV, the free-to-air television industry body is proposing changes to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice to allow M-rated material from 7.30pm and MArated material from 8.30pm. A final decision on the changes will come in the next few months from the ACMA. Until then, members of the public are invited to make submissions. Free TV Australia claims the
changes are in line with ACMA’s own research, which indicates time zones were not one of the top three methods used by parents and carers to manage their children’s viewing. They also argue there are other ways parents can control what their children watch. Family Voice Australia, a Christian lobby group interested in family, faith and freedom is unhappy with the proposed changes, saying an hour might not seem like much but it hits prime time family viewing. “Among families I know, 8pm is the typical bedtime for children. So to say we’ll start having M-rated programmes at 7.30, there’s no justification for that at all,” said spokesperson Ros Phillips.
Tonight’s viewing contains extreme violence, sexual scenes, alcohol use and coarse language. A high level of viewer discretion is advised. The Australian Christian Lobby agrees, saying the proposed time is during highest rating shows like The Block and Masterchef, both of which have a high child and adolescent audience. “The connection between alcohol
advertising and underage drinking has been clearly demonstrated,” says ACL. “Allowing these ads to air during extremely popular family timeslots is not a constructive message to send to our future generations.”
Scripture freeze hits Victoria ANNE LIM There has been no Special Religious Instruction (SRI) offered in any Victorian public schools during the first term of this year as a government-directed reaccreditation process has led to an exodus of SRI teachers. When SRI does resume next term, there will be fewer than half the number of teachers than there were last year. The Department of Education and Training advised authorised
provider Access Ministries last November that all SRI volunteers would need to submit to a reaccreditation process involving two full days of training, an interview, a pastor’s reference and a working with children check. “For many of these volunteers with many years of experience behind them, this has proved a bridge too far,” said Richard Kolega, who oversees administrative support for SRI at Access Ministries. Applications for reaccreditation must be submitted
by March 6 and the department is due to issue approvals on March 21 – the last week of term. “So effectively there’ll be no SRI in Victoria in term 1,” Mr Kolega said. “And we won’t have an idea of how many volunteers we will have until that approval list is complete.” It is known, though, that instructor numbers have already fallen dramatically from about 2,500 last year to as few as 1,000 this year. While these teachers will be well-trained and well-equipped, they will not be able to cover the
700-plus Victorian public schools that offered SRI last year. Mr Kolega said it was certain that some schools would drop SRI while others would continue at a reduced capacity, offering it only across some year levels. Meanwhile in NSW, the independent review of Special Religious Education (SRE) and Special Education in Ethics (SEE) has begun. It will focus on the quality of the curriculum and assess whether teachers are teaching the set curriculum.
NO TO ALLAH After a seven-year legal battle, Malaysia’s courts finally ruled against Rev. Lawrence Andrew who can no longer call God by the name “Allah” in his Catholic weekly newspaper, The Herald. The word, which predates Islam, has been used by Christians for hundreds of years, but the courts decided “Allah” belongs to Muslims only. Andrew says that the court struggle was worth it, to draw attention to the issue. DEVIL GONE Satan has been banished … from the Church of England baptism service. If you don’t wish to denounce Satan, you can choose to “reject evil, and all its many forms, and all its empty promises.” DIDN’T COME BACK The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, a book published by Tyndale House has been withdrawn because the boy in question, Alex Malarkey, now denies the story. When he was six years old, Alex was in a car accident and a coma for two months. He woke telling his parents angels had taken him to heaven. PRAY FOR THEM In the aftermath of the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by ISIS, Egypt’s Christian leaders called on followers to pray for their enemies. General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Bishop Angaelos reminded Christians that life is fleeting and the church must witness to the world.
E MORLING SPONSORED PAGE 4
Local press for local authors Did you know that Morling College has a publishing arm? Morling Press was formed 15 years ago when a generous and visionary benefactor donated the funds needed to start a publishing house. The original vision of Morling Press was to provide Australian Christian authors with an avenue for publishing without having to look overseas. Opportunities for publishing within Australia were few and far between, and with the current decline in Australian literary publishing, this still holds true. The creation of Morling Press, in the year 2000, was also an extension of Morling’s outreach to churches and pastors. Our goal
was, and remains today, to publish Christian literature that shares the joy of Christianity, explores questions Christians may face, and addresses the problems of evangelising in the 21st century. Morling Press achieves this goal through publishing the academic writings of Morling College lecturers and offering the works of other noted Christian scholars. Morling Press is dedicated to regularly publishing popular academic works covering a variety of subjects related to ministry and the principles of a life devoted to following Christ.The available literature covers such topics as apologetics, mission work and evangelism, devotionals, and
Since its inception, Morling Press has had two of its titles shortlisted for Australian Christian Book of the Year
aspects of practical Christian life. Since its inception, Morling Press has had two of its titles shortlisted for Australian Christian Book of the Year. Ken R. Manley’s book, On the Way to Faith: Personal Encounters with Jesus in John’s Gospel, was shortlisted in 2014, and Morling College Principal Ross Clifford’s book, Apologetic Preaching and Teaching for the Church and the Marketplace: a ‘How to…’, was shortlisted in 2012. Morling Press is thrilled to be strongly contributing to the Australian Christian book market. Many Australian Christian scholars have come to depend on Morling Press for inspirational works which help them further their own research and expand
their ministry. Morling Press publishes signiﬁcant works as they apply to the Christian life as well as re-publishing Baptist classics. It is our hope that Morling Press will continue to help and encourage people to explore theology and mission by providing accessible academic and religious literature based on sound biblical teaching and wisdom. If you are interested in browsing or purchasing any Morling Press titles, and other publications by Morling faculty, you can visit our online book store: http://morlingcollege.com/ morlingpress
TESS HOLGATE “Muslims are people too” – John Azumah
What’s fair to wear
ANNE LIM on the Bible and the Gallipoli story
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk (The National Gallery of Victoria) | Photo: Brooke Holm
Women wear pants, men wear skirts TESS HOLGATE For the last four months, a collection of the garments of fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier has graced the rooms of the National Gallery of Victoria. The exhibition, entitled The Fashion World of JeanPaul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk catalogues his designs, from his first dress, created in 1971, to his latest haute couture and ready-to-wear collections. I accompanied my cousin to the exhibition, and while I was a
complete novice in the presence of his garments, she – a fashion student – walked through the exhibition marvelling at his creations. She did not bat an eyelid when faced with corsets and skirts for men, or scantily clad mannequins in cone bras. I, on the other hand, felt an urge to look away, as if what I was looking at should not be on display for the world to see. Jean Paul Gaultier is famous for rocking the fashion world with unconventional designs that blur
gender lines. He has earned a reputation as the enfant terrible of French fashion. Coming out as gay in the 1970s, Gaultier’s battle with his own sexuality led him to create a wide range of looks, encompassing even the hypersexualised and transgendered. He wanted to give all people the “freedom to choose their own, whether ‘butch’, ‘boy toy’ or anything in between.” In his designs he challenged the idea that there were particular types of clothing that only men or
only women could wear. Gaultier wanted man to be able to express his fragility and sensitivity, and woman to be able to assert the masculine side of her personality. In the mid-1980s, Gaultier wrote a new page into the fashion history books with his collection A Wardrobe for Two, which, according to exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot, “reflected his investigation of masculine, feminine, androgynous and alternative conventions. He proposed a post-macho look with
the skirt for men.” Around the same time, in his Dada collection, he also gave men the opportunity to don the corset – harking back to the 19th century English militia who would wear them to improve strength and endurance in battle. My urge to look away taps into the fact that in the West we are, on the whole, unused to seeing men in skirts or skirt-like garments – with the limited exception of kilts and cassocks. We are even less accustomed to seeing men (or Continued on page 6
4/02/15 2:36 PM
Fred Nile faces his last election JOHN SANDEMAN In March NSW voters will have their last chance to support Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party. “I turned 80 last year. I felt it was time for me to step down. So I have had discussions with Dr Ross Clifford to be my successor, when he is available,” Nile tells Eternity. “When I retire, he will take my place in the legislative council.” Depending on the exact timing of that baton change, Nile will have been in the NSW upper house longer than half the Australian population has been alive – he has been in parliament for 34 years. The timing of the changeover is up to Clifford. “He is involved with a very large college development programme, so it probably won’t be for two or three years,” says Nile. Clifford is principal of Morling College, the Baptist seminary in NSW. Nile’s statement to Eternity refutes a prediction by Sydney Morning Herald state political editor, Sean Nicholls, that “it is highly likely [Nile] will hand over his seat to his younger wife, Silvana Nero, sometime during the next four years.” Fred was a Christian leader well before he entered parliament in 1981. “When I was first converted I took as a slogan, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.’ (Proverbs 3:6 KJV) I have never really applied for a job, instead God has led me into many challenging roles.” These included being national director of Christian Endeavour (a youth training movement with
1968: Fred Nile (R) with Billy Graham (L) 50,000 members in Australia at its peak), and running the 1968 Billy Graham crusade which produced 20,000 decisions. Nile says that the decision of the Uniting Church to withdraw from CE at union, to set up its own youth ministries, badly affected the movement. Nile then became an accidental MP. “The church where I was converted was very conservative and we were taught never to get involved in politics. That was the devil’s territory.” But in 1974 during the Whitlam era, when Nile was critical of some of the government policies, he had a conversation with his wife Elaine. “I said we should do something about this, so I rang up John Howard’s electorate office
and offered to help. They said ‘great’, and put us in charge of one of their polling booths. That was my baptism of fire. I was director of the Festival of Light and that was involved with the moral issues, and I had to go on deputations and meet with the state attorneys general, and with Lionel Murphy at the federal level. I found not much sympathy for Christian values from the major parties, Labor or Liberal. It was like banging my head against a brick wall. “And that put into my mind – and I believe God put it there – maybe we need to have a sort of a Christian spearhead in the political area, to force the major parties to pay attention.” Nile began asking people to
stand for parliament and got no takers. Finally in 1981 an ad hoc committee suggested Nile stand. “No one was more surprised than me when I was elected. “I had said that night to my wife – we had been campaigning – ‘that is the last time we’ll do that. We will pray for what God’s will is for the next stage in my life.’” Nile won his seat with 225,000 votes, almost enough to get two people up. He was elected for a 12 year term. “Quite a few of my friends rang me and said, ‘You have been led astray by the devil. He’s led you out of the evangelistic work you have been doing so well.’” When Nile stood, there were only a few political parties; the protest or micro parties had not arrived. “That’s divided the vote up into smaller and smaller packages. There have been other pro-life, pro-Christian parties started: the DLP, Family First – they did have discussion with me and I said that by starting you are going to divide the vote. Which is what happened.” “Danny Nalliah – who started Rise Up Australia – he came and saw me and I strongly advised him not to start his party, but he went away and two weeks later he announced it. You can’t control people’s lives; they have to do what they think is God’s will for them.” Nile believes one of his major contributions has been running inquiries. “To my surprise the upper house became finely balanced between Labor/Greens and Liberal/Nationals and it put me right in the centre and my wife got elected as well. The two of us had the balance of power in the NSW parliament. It put a lot of pressure on me: I had to
negotiate with ministers over all the legislation. “I saw that balance of power as a ‘balance of prayer and responsibility’. One of my deductions was that I had to respect the mandate of the elected government. I did not think I had a right to be obstructive. I had great success in achieving amendments but I never boasted about that. I never got up and said ‘I forced you to do that.’” Nile got his own bills passed – a great achievement for a minor party representative. “The one I am really proud of is putting up the bill to ban tobacco advertising. And after an intense battle to get all the political parties to vote for it, I followed that up with a bill to prohibit smoking in public places. “My last bill was to ban tobacco smoking in cars. The government thought that was a bit too radical so they amended it to make it smoking in cars where there are children. I was happy to accept that as an amendment. In due course I am sure there will be a ban on smoking in cars.” Asked if the conservative policies of his party caused difficulties with younger Christians, Nile responded, “Yes, that is often raised at meetings and I run into these issues as I go along.” Nile defended his record on refugees pointing to his advocacy of letting Vietnamese refugees come to Australia (when the left opposed it). “I am not against refugees, but I am concerned about Islamic refugees who may be coming with a motive to change Australia.”
What’s fair to wear women) in corsets. The idea of a corset for anyone seems antiquated. Though it is tempting, wholesale dismissal of Gaultier’s designs on the basis that gender lines in clothing ought not be blurred actually fails to recognise that the distinctions have already been messed with, and the outcomes haven’t been all bad. Over the last 100 years the spectrum of women’s clothing has slowly expanded to include trousers and shirts, while the spectrum of men’s clothing has remained suspiciously monochrome. The cyclical nature of Western fashion (note the return of wedges, high waisted skinny jeans and bold prints on women’s trousers or men’s shirts) actually serves to reinforce our particularly one-sided fashion rules for men and women. When many women entered the work force for the first time during World War I, it was common for the women to alter their husbands’ pants and wear them to work. Their popularity remained muted until World War II when women once again filled the jobs left vacant by men going to war. It wasn’t until the 1970s that trousers for women really gained traction in society. On the other hand, men’s fashion has relaxed, but not substantially changed. Men are no longer required to wear three-piece suits, but on the whole, trousers are still traditional masculine fare in the West. No matter how many times the wheel of fashion turns, it never really turns in the direction of allowing men to dress in skirts.
Joined house of Pierre Cardin as an assistant
Released first individual collection
Turned underwear into outerwear
Pioneered the man-skirt
Designed Madonna’s conical bra
First couture collection released
Joined Hermes as creative director
Created costumes for Kylie Minogue’s X Tour
It is an illogical social convention that allows women to wear pants while passing judgment on men who choose to “cross dress”. While our understanding of elemental female gender identity has shifted to the point where women are afforded a great degree of latitude in their fashion aesthetic, conventional male gender identity remains solidly based in particular modes of dress. There are, of course, plenty of examples of gay and avant-garde men who challenge these conventions, but for most men the fashion limits of male gender identity begin and end with the wearing of trousers. Gaultier’s designs cannot be dismissed on the basis that gender lines in clothing ought not be
blurred, without also advocating for a return to the time when women were not allowed to wear pants. If, as Christians, we want to say that there is something essentially important in men wearing pants (or not wearing skirts), then the question Gaultier asks us is “Why?” Modern gender theory separates biological sex difference from gender constructs. That is, there is a male body and a female body, but our understanding of what it means to be male or female is up for discussion. Gender is a construct overlaid onto basic sex difference. Christians, on the other hand, have tended to weave these two things together. It is not enough to note that God created male and female (Gen 1:27); these male and
female bodies are then infused with meaning. There are ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman, and these exist because of biblical passages. Women should not focus on outer, but inner beauty (1 Pet 3:3-4). Men ought to pray, instead of disputing (1 Tim 2:8). And women should not wear men’s clothes, nor men wear women’s clothes (Deut 22:5). Christians uphold cultural expressions of gender difference out of respect for the sex difference God created. However, when we ourselves have intertwined sex difference and gender constructs, fashion designers who question gender constructs appear to threaten our belief in the essential sex difference between man and woman. To us it feels like
Gaultier is suggesting that there is no such thing as man and woman. In fact, he is not questioning sex difference, but specific gender constructs. He is suggesting that what it means to be a man or a woman is more fluid than what we are used to in the Christian community. It is easy for Christians to place a lot of stock in the importance of gender distinctions. We have well-entrenched ideas about what it means to dress as a man or a woman in 21st century Australia. But these norms can be challenged and even changed. They are not as static as they seem. Gaultier has invited us to ask of our culture, “What does it mean to dress as a man in 21st century Australia?” The answer is up to us.
This Easter, help nurture new life opportunities for people living in poverty.
Easter Appeal 2015 Call 1800 244 986 or donate online at www.tear.org.au/give/easter
Around the world, TEAR Australia and our partners are blessed to see new life nurtured. Through the work of our Christian partners, some of the poorest and most marginalised people are seeing their lives made new. As the resurrection of Jesus teaches us, life can be made new. This Easter, we rejoice in the miraculous transformation whereby Jesus on the cross is lifted to new life. It is at Easter that we first see fully the hope of new life that Christ brings. In southern Bangladesh, TEAR’s partner BASD* is working with communities that have battled poor soil quality and crop loss for years. Situated on the banks of frequently-flooding rivers, they needed guidance and support to transform the way they grew food.
Usa’s garden Usa Mundur’s wood and thatch home, on the banks of the river, has a small nursery with neat rows of fruit trees. This kind-hearted mother of four has grown them from seed to bring hope to her community. Several years ago, Usa joined a women’s group, which enabled her to save money and learn different agricultural methods. Shy, at first she covered her face when people spoke to her. Gradually, she grew in confidence. Despite having no formal education, BASD’s program manager, Adourd, remembers Usa being selected for agricultural training because of her leadership skills, extra initiative and interest.
Usa has gone on to establish her nursery, selling the plants in the local area. To her fellow group members, she gives the plants for free, and offers invaluable advice, encouragement and practical skills so they can also improve their gardens. “Before, she wasn’t like this” says Adourd. “Now she is speaking up loudly and become more active in her community.” In learning how to nurture her own garden and begin her nursery, Usa has used her success to help her neighbours – and bring the hope of a new life to them all.
*BASD is the Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development. They’re passionate about combating human suffering, alleviating poverty and development justice, while following Jesus’ teachings and values.
Muslims are people too TESS HOLGATE
Photography by Josh Castle
Even a cursory look at the news headlines from the last few months makes us sad, angry and fearful. From the Charlie Hebdo massacre, to Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, to the Sydney siege, to the heinous acts of Islamic State across the Middle East, it feels like the world is burning and that we are helpless in the face of it. It has been easy for people in the West to develop a deep-seated hatred of Islam and all it stands for. Dr John Azumah is Professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary in the US. He spent a few weeks in Australia in January, speaking at the Church Missionary Society’s annual conferences around the country about the five faces of Islam, responding to Islam, and witnessing to Muslims. According to Azumah these five faces are: 1. The missional face – the face that seeks to convert the world to Islam. 2. The mystical face – the face that focuses more on spiritual things. 3. The ideological (political) face – the face that seeks to occupy the public sphere, by implementing Islamic law (Sharia). 4. The militant face – this is the face of Islam that seeks to achieve its ends by the use of violence. 5. The progressive face – this face is usually self-critical, and seeks to
John Azumah addresses the crowd at the CMS NSW summer school. reread the Qur’an in light of present realities. These faces don’t stand in isolation from one another. Instead, they are more like concentric circles, randomly overlapping at various points. Each Muslim person is likely to be a unique combination of different aspects of some of these five faces. So Muslims also cannot be lumped together under one big
heading of “Islam”. To speak of Islam as a single monolithic entity is to miss the point entirely. Azumah grew up as a Muslim in a Muslim family and converted to Christianity during his school years. As he tells it, he became a Christian because someone called Thomas “lived the gospel before him.” Speaking to Dominic Steele on Sydney’s 2CH, he said, “The Christians [in my school] really
impacted and challenged me with the Christian lifestyle. I began to go to the Bible studies and Bible school. I started reading the Bible like I would have read the Qur’an. I tried to memorise as much of the Bible as I could. That is how my love, deep affection and commitment to Jesus grew in the Christian faith.” This is one of the big themes of his message: “You can’t argue people into a relationship with God, you’ve got to win them. More people have been brought into the Church by the kindness of Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world.” “One of our greatest omissions from the Great Commission is the Muslim world. This is a mission field. This is a gospel-poor people. These 1.6 billion people we are talking about – they are a face of Islam. The most important face. They are people. They are human beings. They have names. They have fears. They have anxieties. But above all, they are created in the image of God.” When we lose sight of the Great Commission, Azumah says, we let ourselves “get distracted from the one mandate Christ left with the Church: to be his witnesses. Whatever we do in this [modern] context we should not lose sight of the fact that we have been called to witness.” “When we look around, it is scary. We are right to be angry. But we cannot allow the fear and the
prejudices to hold us back from the command Jesus gave us.” In this moment Azumah is urging us – his fellow Christians – to remember the Great Commission. As a witness to Jesus, Azumah confesses that too often he feels like he is “forced to choose between hating Islam and loving Jesus.” But, he says, “hating Islam is not part of my confession. It’s not part of my creed.” Azumah identified radical Islam as the branch that wants to build walls to separate people. It seeks to sow hate and fear. He says, “if we fall into the trap of thinking it’s us versus them, then we are doing their work for them. We are helping them build their walls and sow their hatred and fear. I don’t want to help them do that.” It is the responsibility of Christians to be very wise in reacting. Azumah says, “we must not react in fear. Not in hatred. Not militantly. We need to be careful that radical Islam does not radicalise us.” “During difficult times foolish people build walls and wise people build bridges. My hope is that we have many more people who’ll be willing to build bridges.” John Azumah is Associate Professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary in the United States. He specialises in Islam and ChristianMuslim relations. He grew up in a Muslim family and converted to Christianity at age 17.
Compare the pair TESS HOLGATE There is not simply one Christian take on Islam and Islamic State. On his blog, the Australian priest and theologian Mark Durie argues that the video showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians, entitled A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross was indisputably religious. “The video’s obvious purpose is to humiliate and terrorise Christians,” says Durie. “The final film shots show the Mediterranean washing red with their blood, and it is packed with references to the Qur’an and the Hadiths of Muhammad.” Durie argues that “the fundamental problem is not peculiar variants of extreme religious worldviews, it is a deeply engrained religious worldview that is not acknowledged by many who hold it. Those who, like King Abdullah, allow it room to breathe by claiming that it is something other than what it really is are as much a part of the problem as the violent jihadis who are proud to own the worldview. “As long as the highest legal authorities of the Islamic mainstream continue to assert the right of Muslims to kill those who leave Islam, bursts of extreme religious hatred such as we have just seen in Libya can only continue,” says Durie. In an article in First Things, a US-based Catholic magazine, John Azumah agrees: “Contrary to repeated Muslim denials, key aspects of the ideology of radical violent Muslim groups are indeed rooted in Islamic texts and history. “Jihadists quote from Islamic scripture, prophetic traditions, and legal opinions to support their claims and activities. Jihad against non-Muslims and the ultimatum to
On this page we examine the differences in approach of two Christian experts on Islam, John Azumah and Mark Durie. We don’t want to set them up as opponents. Rather, they are two experts helping us think through these issues. This is a good time for us at Eternity to point out what we regard as good Christian debate. Not the setting up of two diametrically opposed viewpoints, but the showcasing of a range of ideas which may only differ in degree. This won’t appeal to those who like the normal media “conflict paradigm”, which can be entertaining. It will also disappoint those who look for a strict line in Eternity. We are too eclectic for that. We believe that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Prv 27:17) In this issue we also report the views of two politicians who both happen to be conservatives. This does not mean Eternity wants to take a conservative line, but simply that these two had something interesting to say this month. John Sandeman, Editor convert to Islam, pay a special tax, or be killed are in fact based on Islamic law. It is therefore simplistic if not misleading to argue that groups like IS and Boko Haram have nothing to do with Islam.” But Azumah also disagrees: “Nevertheless, it is equally misleading to argue that the jihadi groups represent the true face of Islam. While the legal and doctrinal edicts that the jihadists cite are integral parts of Islamic law, the jihadists without question violate that law by taking it into their own hands. “Neither perspective is helpful. Both distort the nature of Islam and its relation to terrorism and violence.”
See our Book Liftout for a selection of books on the church and Islam.
We exist to see the continent of Africa saved by the love of Jesus
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR As the Australian partner of a global alliance, African Enterprise (AE) is an established interdenominational Christian ministry, committed to the transformation of lives through the Word of God. AE’s core and primary ministry is evangelism. Integrated with evangelism are 3 key support ministries namely peace building, aid and development, and leadership development. The Australian oﬃce based in Sydney’s North West, is respected worldwide as a major contributor in raising ﬁnances and resources for our African partners. Reporting to the Chair of the Australian Board, the Executive Director has total oversight of a dedicated team that includes Marketing, Church Partnerships, Database and Systems Administration and Finance. Critical to the success of this role is the ability to manage and evaluate the eﬀectiveness of key programs that will engage and grow a demographically diverse donor base. As Executive Director you will be required to participate in strategic meetings held in Africa and bring to this role, exposure to Africa and this vast continent’s opportunities and challenges in sharing the Gospel. A pivotal leadership role that combines ministry and the rigor of robust contemporary business practices, your experience should include strong operational ability to be across the functional units of a small-medium sized organisation. You should also be recognised as a mature Christian professional active in the life of an evangelical church.
We welcome your enquiries Judy Wong-See on +61 (0) 412 032 296 or email firstname.lastname@example.org www.africanenterprise.com.au
BIBLE @ WORK
Bible Society’s Their Sacrifice campaign features stories about men of faith who’ve defended our nation, and the legacy they’ve left for generations of Australians
Ten Bibles that tell stories of the brave On March 9, Bible Society launches Their Sacrifice, a major campaign in honour of those who’ve defended our nation, and the book that sustained them through it all: the Bible. The campaign website (theirsacrifice.com) is now live with ten stories of the brave heroes who treasured God’s word, as well as with downloadable resources to help children understand the significance of Anzac Day. The children’s resources are meant for use in Sunday schools, Sabbath Schools and for public school religious education. They focus on the sacrifice made by Anzac chaplain Andrew Gillison, and how this hero had a hero of his own – Christ his Saviour. By his bravery under fire and his indomitable cheer, Chaplain
Gillison earned the love of the Gallipoli soldiers for whom he gave his life at Anzac Cove. With injury and death everywhere, he conducted funerals in the dark of night. One evening as he began to read a burial service, he heard groaning in the scrub above. The men crawled up to a ridge where they could see a wounded soldier. They dragged him back over the ridge, but a Turkish sniper’s bullet hit Gillison in the shoulder and exited through his chest. He died in agony three hours later, aged 47. One soldier wrote in his diary that Gillison was the bravest man he ever knew. This message of unwavering service and sacrifice is at the heart of the children’s resources. There’s a three-minute video, lesson plan and worksheet, and all can be found
under the “Resources” section of the campaign website. People of all ages will learn a lot from the campaign – primarily, about a God who stays with us through our worst conflicts. This truth is at the core of all ten featured stories. They’re collated in a book called Their Sacrifice, which is now at the press and which will be available for purchase from Bible Society. Two stories have been placed in a special edition of the “camo Bible” which Bible Society – thanks to its supporters – gives to Australian Defence Force (ADF) chaplains for use in their frontline ministry. 7000 of these camo Bibles will reach ADF members in the coming weeks, at a very special time when Australia observes
the centenary of Gallipoli. A limited number of a special Centenary Bible has been produced, and if you’re keen on buying a copy please email email@example.com. Their Sacrifice will also take to the road, with a national touring exhibition starting April 20. Visitors to the exhibition will get a sense of what it was like for our brave, with a simulated world of the horrors of war. Bible Society has animated the life-or-death struggles in an immersive video that thrusts the viewer into a world of darkness and peril where the only protection comes from mateship and the precious promises of God. The exhibition will also be a chance for visitors to see the actual ten Bibles, taken to conflicts from the
Boer War through to Afghanistan. One of these Bibles – which still has a bullet lodged in its pages – is the subject of a documentary now in the final stages of production. A film crew travelled from Australia to Turkey and France tracing the story of Gallipoli digger Elvas Jenkins. Finally, in April, Bible Society’s regular Daily Bible service, which sends a short Bible verse and reflection each day via email, will begin a special ‘Gallipoli’ Bible study series. It looks at some of the Bible verses that inspired and sustained our heroes through hardship and conflict. Please sign up at biblesociety.org.au/dailybible if you’d like to receive the emails. For details on the campaign please visit theirsacrifice.com
A major campaign to honour our brave and the Book that sustained them. * Uncover the full stories of the brave and their Bibles on theirsacrifice.com * For Sunday school and public school ministry, download kid’s resources from the website * Read all ten stories in the Their Sacrifice book * Visit the national exhibition touring Westfield Shopping Centres from 20 April to 1 November
BIBLE @ WORK
Aussie chaplains ministering to foreign seafarers offer a warm welcome, a listening ear and the comforting Scriptures to ease the pain of separation from loved ones.
All at sea until he got a Bible ANNE LIM When Nailuis Marcel’s luggage was stolen in Paris, what he felt most keenly was the loss of his Bible. The Polish seafarer didn’t have time to replace it before joining the crew of bulk carrier MV Star Aurora. He had no access to God’s word in his own language on the long trip from Paris to Western Australia. So when the cargo ship docked at Dampier in northwest WA, he walked into the Seafarers Centre on the Dampier Esplanade. As well as finding hospitality, Marcel was surprised and delighted to be given a Polish Bible to replace his lost one. In a letter of thanks, he praised the chaplains and volunteers for their warmth and love, saying they “always made us feel at home.” He also thanked them for their prayers for his family based in Odessa, Ukraine.
Marcel is one of more than 7000 foreign seafarers who were welcomed at the Dampier Seafarers Centre last year. They were assisted in practical ways, and were happy to accept hundreds of Bibles, John’s Gospel and Christian DVDs, largely provided by Bible Society. Thanks to faithful supporters, Bible Society distributes scripture materials free to chaplains working in frontline ministries, in areas like hospitals, prisons, juvenile justice centres, emergency services and the defence force. While these organisations are very diverse, the patients, inmates and others ministered to share one thing in common: the stress of isolation and dislocation from normal family supports and family life. In the face of this, they find the best form of comfort in God’s love, as expressed in the Bible.
Thanks for the Bible and for always making us feel at home. Leading a ministry to seafarers called the Flying Angel Club, Rev. Ian McGilvray visits every ship that comes to port in Dampier and shares the gospel with crew members wherever appropriate. “Many of these ships are on a regular route between eastern Asia and Dampier, so on many of them we’ve been able to establish good
relationships,” he says. “I always leave several gospels and tracts. This frequently leads to a request for a full Bible or New Testament. We now have about 20 ships visiting Dampier that are doing a regular Bible study.” One grateful crew member, Peter Arturu of the MV Spring Bright, wrote to thank McGilvray “for the Bibles and the Bible study material (which) help us in our walk with God. In our last meeting before arriving in Dampier we had nine members of the crew at the study. Thank you also for supporting us in prayer while we are at sea.” McGilvray estimates that last year about 24,000 people were reached through the ministry of the Dampier Seafarers Centre. “The Bibles we give out encourage seafarers to be part of the studies and to grow in their faith and knowledge of God,” he says.
“Most, if not all, are delighted to receive a Bible and I know that those ships that have Bible studies enjoy the fellowship as they search the Scriptures together.” McGilvray says it would be very helpful to have gospels in more languages, like Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian and Tagalog. Another seafarer, Captain Ramos Jabain, says that thanks to all the donated Bibles and studies, “we’re now able to have a service every Sunday at 1900. As we meet we remember your service in the (Dampier) chapel at the same time. May God bless you and those who work with you.”
+ To help Bible Society provide Scriptures to chaplains in frontline ministry just like Ian McGilvray, call 1300 BIBLES (1300 242 537) or donate online at biblesociety.org.au/grantsep
Books Queen of Persia Who was the woman Esther, who became Queen of Persia? Jewish communities across the world will celebrate the annual festival of Purim this month, commemorating the actions of this Jewish woman whose story is recorded in the Bible. What can we know about this remarkable young woman, whose actions have been celebrated for thousands of years? Angela Hunt has written a moving and enthralling historical narrative based on the Biblical account of Esther’s life, enriched with historical details of the Ancient Persian Empire. Hunt paints the picture of a Jewish girl, raised in her faith by her cousin Mordecai, but identifying more with the fascinating Persian culture than her Jewish heritage. Protected and nurtured, she nonetheless ends up at the palace in Susa, and is selected from amongst many beautiful young women to be the wife of Xerxes and becomes Queen. Hunt has carefully considered the character of Esther, and what her background, thoughts, emotions and feelings might have been as she lived her extraordinary life, growing from a naive new bride into a humble and regal woman who takes hold of the faith of her forefathers and courageously acts to save her people. The book is engaging, colourful and, although many readers will be familiar with the basic plot, the novel holds your attention through to the end. Hunt descends only once or twice into descriptive paragraphs which sound as if they are lifted from her pages of historical research – a risk for all historical fiction. Instead, her research gives her the background to enrich the basic story of Esther and inform the reader of the world her story is set in: from the magnificent palace and gardens of Susa, to the politics and military exploits of the Persian Empire. This book firmly grounds the biblical account of Esther in history, reminding the reader that these events are not only amazing, but they are also true! The book also reflects on the lives of the vulnerable in Persian society. Throughout history – and still in many parts of the world today – a woman’s life is not hers to control. Esther’s helplessness to control her own destiny only makes what she achieved for the Jewish people all the more remarkable. This book is well worth a read, both for those who enjoy historical fiction, and even for those who don’t usually read it. It brings alive the story of how God worked in a pagan empire and culture to preserve his people, through the faithful actions of Mordecai and his young cousin, the girl Esther.
Your special lift out supplied with Eternity MARCH 2015
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Queen Esther Helps God’s People
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Stories of courage, camaraderie and faith in times of conﬂict. Uncover the Bibles that took bullets and saved the lives of soldiers at Gallipoli and the Western Front of WWI, or the Bible that travelled to Afghanistan and across some of the world’s most dangerous terrain. Through the darkest times of war, nothing can compare to the peace and hope that ﬂow from the pages of the Bible. Their Sacriﬁce is a collection of stories, prayers, hymns, poetry and psalms to help you reﬂect on the tragedy of war, the spirit of those who have served our country and the Book of books that went with them.
“The Bible’s own stories of sacriﬁce, courage and faith have provided inspiration to those who have carried it with them in times of conﬂict and in times of peace. These are gripping, real stories that deserve to be retold and read to each generation.” His Excellency, Governor of NSW David Hurley
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This book tells the story of Nabeel’s search for truth as his strong faith in the Muslim way of life was challenged. He was raised in a Pakistani Muslim family with a Muslim missionary history. He belonged to a peace-seeking division of Islam and found confident satisfaction in being able to refute some of the Christian arguments that came to him as he worked through his university studies. But when he himself was questioned about some more basic issues, such as the historicity of Islam, he found the evidence unconvincing. Over many years he diligently studied and became convinced of the truth of Christianity, but willingness to bear the cost of commitment to Jesus was a much bigger hurdle to get over. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus introduced a number of ideas that I found very helpful: 1) The mercy of God responding to a genuine seeker, as God spoke to Nabeel Qureshi from an early age through visions; 2) The importance of genuine ongoing friendships in Christian evangelism; 3) That deep and crucial issues can be understood even before one makes a commitment to Jesus, purely because of the logic of the Christian faith; 4) That apologetics and reasoned debate is important for arriving at the reality of faith. These are some of the themes of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus explored in this story of Nabeel’s conversion from Islam to the Christian faith. This book shows us that Islam is not just a set of points of belief but is about the Muslim’s identity and Nabeel says this must be respected. This book will help you form a compassionate attitude to Muslims and challenge the strength of your own faith.
Footprints Gift book
For over thirty years, the words from the poem Footprints have brought assurance and inspiration to millions worldwide
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A Doubt Guide to Bible
What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James White 9780764209765 $19.95
Reviewed by Samuel Green
Christians are to be people who contend with the ideas of this world for the sake of the Gospel. This is not alway easy as the ideas of our world are vast and require careful study. Islam is one such idea. James White’s book, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an, does an excellent job of gathering together the many issues around the Qur’an, the compass of Islam, and presenting them in a systematic way that a Christians can understand and engage with. James White provides the necessary history, the life of Muhammad, so that a Christian can understand the context of the Qur’an. He gives a helpful introduction to its structure, and considers several of its main themes that are of interest to Christians – themes like the Trinity, the person of Jesus, the death of Jesus, and salvation in Islam. The book also covers many of the claims that the Qur’an and Muslims make about Christianity and the Bible, claims like, Muhammad is foretold in the Bible, the Bible has been corrupted, and there is only one perfectly preserved Qur’an. In all of these areas James White gives up-to-date information which have come out of his many years of apologetic experience. This book is a great resource for those who want to understand how the Qur’an intersects with Christianity and who want to be prepared for the challenge that Islam brings.
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Easter has begun The Tent and the Elephant
Hours One Day
by Colin Reed 9780994194121
with Max Lucado
el futile? Doesn’t have to. Do some of your failures seem aren’t. And your death. Does the grave appear to be the According to Christ, your death is just the start of something is a truth greater than all the losses and sorrows of life. And covered in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. urs One Friday, Max Lucado delves into the meaning of hours on the cross. Through his death, your life has purpose g. You are forgiven and loved by a Saviour who died for you. ty tomb proclaims that death does not have the final word. re there should be pain. Confidence in the midst of crisis. g despair. Does death have the last word? I can see Jesus gives the answer, Not on your life”!
ter’s o the e
Reviewed by Karl Grice
Fixing My Eyes on Jesus
Anne Graham Lotz
Why Men Hate Going to Church
David Murrow Softcover
The Tent and the Elephant is a taste of African life. Reading Colin Reed’s memoirs, it is clear that Africa is more his home than anywhere else in the world. Colin conveys a wonderful sense of place in these stories. Nights sitting with the elephant, mornings with the sun rising over the plains or gazing out into the lush Rift Valley. Yet, this is a collection of stories about people. Stories of many different African people and different cultures engaging with the gospel of Jesus in a time of transition from colonialism to African independence. Colin was born and raised in the Congo as a child of missionaries. His stories begin with memories of his parents and his African childhood. Colin studied teaching and theology in the UK, but always returned to Africa, spending most of his life as a teacher and missionary in Kenya. The conflict and the politics in Africa are not the focus of the stories but provide anchor points placing events in the timeline of 20th century African history – including the Congo attaining independence from the Belgians in the 1960s, and the presidency of Idi Amin in Uganda sending refugees fleeing to Kenya. Colin introduces us to people and families very much affected by the conflicts, ordinary people enduring significant pain and yet finding ways to look forward with hope. There are stories of people bringing hope in immediate tangible ways: welcoming refugees, starting schools, running leper hospitals, creating refuges for old women accused of witchcraft, and teachers caring for children whose parents had gone missing. However, Colin says the greater hope continues to be “the vital hope of eternal life and joy with God through Jesus.” After a lifetime in Africa, Colin spent almost a decade working with the CMS staff team here in Australia. Reflecting on that time, Colin writes: “The greatest satisfaction was from spending time with the missionaries and hearing about their struggles and joys. Missionaries are just ordinary Christian people, of course, but many have done great things in God’s service.” Reading The Tent and the Elephant is our chance to hear such stories. I can imagine sitting with Colin sipping tea and listening as he tells stories, recalling moments from his vast life experience – some in vivid detail and others just fleeting memories. This book is like being invited into Colin’s family gatherings and hearing stories that should be passed on from generation to generation.
Born This Way
Making Sense of Science, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction by Steve Morrison 9781922206664 Paperback $16.95
NIV Quilted Collection Compact Bibles The NIV Quilted Collection Bible features a stylish, stitched binding. The cover, made with colourful Italian Duo-Tone material, has been stitched with a quilted pattern giving it a fresh and unique look. (Kiwi) 9780310443025 (Blueberry) 9780310443049 (Black Floral) 9780310411505
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Today, few topics arouse as much passion, conflict and confusion as homosexuality. For some, any rational discussion on such an emotive, personal topic feels impossible. Many Christians feel torn, uncertain about whether to abandon or revise the Bible’s teaching, or perhaps just quietly withdraw from the conversation altogether. Born This Way dares to tackle some of the taboo questions: What does modern science really say about homosexuality? What does God say to the homosexual, and to the homophobe? Is genuine discussion possible, and how can people relate to one another with tolerance and grace? Born This Way offers clarity and compassion on the key issues around same-sex attraction.
The Story for Children A Storybook Bible
with Max Lucado, Kandy Frazee & Karen Davis Hill 9780310719755 Reviewed by Ella Zaitsev
Ever picked up a book and loved the cover straight away, and then without doubt discovered the book was as good as the cover? Well here is one such treasure for children. The Story for Children is beautifully drawn with such vibrant colours and great detail that it brings you wonder and delight as the story unfolds. It has so much more to offer, and not just for children but grown-ups too. If a child falls in love with something they will always be touched by it. Children will always come back to this storybook Bible. They will remember beautiful moments with their parents opening this majestic book as their imagination bonded in a whole new way with the characters of the Bible. There is a feature section throughout the book called “God’s message” where simplified thoughts from the Bible speak to the reader to encourage and build us up in our daily walk.
The Case for the Resurrection with Lee Strobel 9780310949893
with Max Lucado, Randy Frazee & Karen Davis Hill 9780310735946
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Lily’s Easter Party
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This Easter, Lily’s mum and dad plan an egg 9780310725 hunt that goes beyond chocolate bunnies, 954 and you can, too! Based on the bestselling teaching tool from FamilyLife, this special neighbourhood egg hunt leads Lily, her friends, and young readers on a search for the greatest prize of all: the miraculous story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as discovered through symbols presented in the twelve eggs from the Resurrection Eggs.
An Easter Gift for Me
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Order online at specials.biblesociety.org.au mail to Locked Bag 7003 Minto NSW 2566 call 1300 139 179 For mail order, please include the item numbers and titles of products requested, as well as your contact and payment details. Also add postage costs to your total order (Orders $0-$30 Postage $6.95; Orders $31-$60 Postage $7.95; Orders $61-$250 Postage $9.95). This book promotion is valid until March 31st, 2015 or while stocks last. All items in this catalogue are included in good faith from our suppliers. Any delays in supplier delivery may result in product being delayed or unavailable. While we endeavour to use correct illustrations in this catalogue, final product delivered may have changed design without our notice. All prices quoted are in Australian dollars and include GST.
THE BIG PICTURE
The sexual evolution, cinema style MARK HADLEY Hollywood and sex are inseparable. You might think that is obvious, but it bears repeating because it’s not just a commercial relationship. Hollywood helps to manage our sexual expectations. In the 1980s and ‘90s it created protracted love scenes of Olympic complexity and ubiquity that reflected the sexual freedom of a pre-AIDS world. Present day portrayals are more modest and cautious by comparison, with mainstream films regularly implying couplings rather than delivering lurid detail. In particular, Hollywood plays a role in changing what’s considered to be acceptable, even desirable sex. Cinema’s first same-sex kiss appeared in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1922 portrayal of a depraved Roman orgy; by the time Friends recreated the moment in 1996 we were celebrating a lesbian wedding. Behaviour that was once considered to be risqué or even depraved can be rehabilitated by sympathetic or engaging storylines until it finds itself surfacing in mainstream characters. The release of two films this past month highlights just how dangerous this cinematic cure can be when it’s combined with Christian ignorance. Take anal sex for example and The Kingsmen as our starting point. On the surface, last month’s 20th Century Fox release was a reboot of the sort of James Bond films that revelled in gentleman spies and improbable plots for global catastrophe. Colin Firth’s upper class character is paired with the
more street-wise Taron Egerton. Though Firth redeems his protégé through the studious application of manners and self-respect, the plot turns on how much its older members stand to benefit from the insights of a younger generation. As the film concludes with its predictable “Bond” love scene we realise that the rescued princess is keen to reward her rescuer in an unsettling way, and this is something our Gen Y hero is particularly looking forward to. But is it that surprising? In the same month Focus Features released the erotic thriller Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the worldwide bestseller of the same name. In it, Dakota Johnson stars as Anastasia Steele, the young journalist who falls for billionaire businessman Christopher Grey (Jamie Dornan). Grey slowly introduces Steele to the world of bondage, discipline and sadomasochism. The billionaire playboy’s unusual tastes are balanced by his romantic character and Anastasia’s discovery that she not only loves this man but can appreciate at least some of the practices that arouse him. Both The Kingsmen and Fifty Shades of Grey might be written off as cinematic aberrations were it not for their mainstream heroes and heroines, and the way they echo the attitudes of a younger generation of viewers. In Great Britain, the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (2013) revealed a growing acceptance of same-sex relationships and related sexual practices. In 1990 only 22%
of men considered homosexual relationships to be “not wrong at all”, compared to 48% in 2010. Similar figures were found for women. The University of Sydney’s second Australian Study of Health and Relationships found similar results. We’re seeing increased sexual experimentation with what used to be peripheral activities among adults – from 79% to 88% among men and from 67% to 86% among women. These practices are no longer peripheral, and the study’s authors believe the perspectives of film and TV are playing a role: “The reasons for these increases are unclear, but they may be due to increased experimenting associated with liberal societies and the ‘sexualisation’ of popular media and advertising.” Anecdotally, attitudes are also shifting amongst believers. Recently two different heterosexual Christian men told me how mystified they were over opposition to anal sex, raised as they had been on a steady diet of mantras like, “The bedroom is private…” and “What goes on between consenting adults is their business alone…” I explained that God and the media have two very different ways of looking at sex. Hollywood sees it as a source of pleasure, and the Bible wouldn’t disagree. However, now more than ever, we have to be reminded of Paul’s guidelines for the morallychallenged church at Corinth. The apostle goes beyond pleasure, beyond even confining sexual relations to a marriage partner, and includes sex as an expression of the Christian’s servant heart:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Cor 10:23-24) Applied to sex, younger Christians need to be reminded that they make love for the sake of their husband or wife first. Dr Juli Slattery is a Christian clinical psychologist and the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making? She believes Paul’s various warnings to the early church break down into four questions partners have to ask in the face of an increasingly deviant media: 1. Is this beneficial? Is it good for me? For my husband/wife? Is it good for our marriage? 2. Does it master me? Can it be habit-forming or addictive? 3. Is it constructive? Does it help me grow and mature? Does it build our marriage? 4. Is it loving? Does this action show love towards my husband/ wife, or is it selfish? The Christian might appear hopelessly prudish to emancipated fans of films like The Kingsmen and Fifty Shades of Grey. But this goes further than finding a verse to ban or permit a particular sexual practice. Beyond the potential pain and physical damage some acts might cause, a Christian has to ask themselves what sort of emotional impact they might have, what temptations they could expose us to, what trusts they undermine. Believers must pause and consider their partner before their pleasure.
FOCUS When Apollo Robbins steals from you, he’ll return what he nicked. That’s because he is a professional pickpocket and con artist, specialising in what he calls “proximity manipulation, diversion techniques and attention control”. He’s a sought-after entertainer in the USA. Focus is a crime caper boasting Will Smith and rising Australian star Margot Robbie. Apollo Robbins was hired as a consultant on Focus, to teach new tricks to this con-artist movie. Audiences are due for fresh ways to scam, and Robbins’ moves have the added bonus of being about bigger things than fleecing onlookers. “My goal isn’t to hurt them or to bewilder them with a puzzle, but to challenge their maps of reality,” he told The New Yorker. Con-artist movies might seem to be a harmless challenge to our reality map. The maps of reality we chart can be tough to honestly navigate. Playing it straight can cause constant strain. Taking advantage of others often appears profitable, fast. But if almighty God and his son Jesus set our moral compass, our map of reality never should venture into such terrain. THE BIG PICTURE ON YOUR SMALL SCREEN Mark Hadley and Ben McEachen, the intrepid movie reviewers on this page are going “multimedia” from this month. The Big Picture (which is what we’ll be calling this page from now on) is now a podcast (meaning you can listen to it online), and Vodcast (which means you can watch it as well). To listen or watch go to biblesociety.org.au/bigpicture Eternity understands that the recent retirement of Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton from the ABC’s Movie Show had nothing to do with the decision to launch a Christian take on movies on the web. Hadley brings experience ranging from his days as a TV news reporter, and in production of The Christ Files for CPX. He has just finished working on the Bible Society’s Gallipoli documentary. Ben McEachen was editor of Empire magazine before attending theological college. The Big Picture will also be a radio show on at least one of the main Christian radio stations. Perhaps the ABC will still have a Margaret and David-style vacancy.
+ For the full reviews of these new release films, visit biblesociety.org.au/film-reviews
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Bible baff lers to bust (or blow) your brain!
How do we respond to God’s Gift to us
The first four books of the New Testament are known as ‘The Gospels’. The word comes from the Greek euangelion, or “good news”. The gospel was considered the “good news” of the fulfilment and coming of the Promised One. The books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Bible’s account of the life of Jesus here on earth. God’s gift to humanity.
Can you match the disciple with their book?
TEACHING Jesus came to teach us about God’s Kingdom and how God’s people should live.
BIRTH Finish the sentences using these kind of letters.
Can you draw this picture without taking your pencil off the page, without crossing lines and without tracing over any lines?
We read of the birth of Jesus in the books of
and The Name given to Jesus
THE SON OF GOD Jesus showed that he was the son of God by performing miracles. Match the pictures with the miracles mentioned in Matthew 11:1-6 (CEV)
was which means "
DEATH Jesus came to save the world and did this by dying on the cross. John 19:28-30
Unscramble the words to complete the sentence.
o G d o
y F r a
On _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Christians remember when Jesus died.
Everything seems back to front – but God had a plan!
Rewrite this the correct way.
Death was not the winner. Read Mark 16:1-7
dnes ton did doG eht otni noS sih nmednoc ot dlrow tnes eH .elpoep sti !meht evas ot mih 71:3 nhoJ
Every child needs God’s Word. Help children learn about Jesus!
Unscramble the words to complete the sentence. t r e E s a
ACROSS 1 The _ _ _ _ and the waves became still after Jesus spoke. (LUKE 8:24) 2. Jesus found the sick people near the _ _ _ _ . (JOHN 5:3-4) 4 4. On the third day the _ _ _ _ _ was rolled away. (MATTHEW 28:2) 6. The lame man started _ _ _ _ _ _ _ around. (JOHN 5:9) 8. The church leaders started making _ _ _ _ _ _ _ for Jesus. (JOHN 5:16) 10. The stone was rolled in front of the _ _ _ _ . 1.
Looking for Bible-based, relevant, engaging lessons for kids aged 4-12 years?
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www.wildbible.org.au for the answers & more about the Bible!
Who’s son died? _ _ _ _ _ (LUKE 7:12) The crowd _ _ _ _ _ _ _ God for what Jesus did. (LUKE 7:16) 3. The _ _ _ _ _ said that Jesus had been raised to life. (MATTHEW 28:7) 5. The time of year we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection is _ _ _ _ _ _. 7. Jesus died on the _ _ _ _ _. (MATTHEW 27:31) 9. The disciples were in a _ _ _ _ on the lake. (LUKE 8:22) 11. The man was told to pick up his _ _ _ . (JOHN 5:8) All references from CEV
Make sure you check out
S y d n u a
On _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Christians celebrate when God brought Jesus back to life.
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Solar-Powered Gospel Outreach Throughout 2015 Leading The Way is continuing an ambitious project distributing 100,000 Navigators around the world to spread the Gospel and equip the church. The Navigator is a solar powered MP3 player that comes pre-loaded with the Bible and Leading The Way messages in many languages. Feedback from the field reveals that each Navigator may be listened to by up to ten people. That’s potentially one million people who will hear the Gospel as a result of this project. Together with their mini -stry partners Leading The Way is spreading hope and life in Christ to some of the most unique and hard to reach places on earth. In an Iraqi refugee camp in Jordan, Canon Andrew White, accompanied by his team and a small envoy of security, begin to make their way around the camp. They have come here to meet the very practical and physical needs of the people. They have also come to meet their spiritual needs. Leading The Way has been partnering with Canon Andrew White by supplying Navigator audio bibles pre-loaded with the Arabic New Testament as well as dual language Arabic and English Leading The Way sermons. He writes “It is impossible to explain the effects these Navigators have had on people’s lives. Navigators tell them that the
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Good News to Muslim people. With the help of the Navigator, our team led 47 Muslims to Christ”. The Navigators have been particularly helpful as a tool used in “peace keeping” initiatives between war torn “cattle camp” communities in South Sudan. We recently received a testimony from Across after they distributed their first batch of Navigators - “I can assure you, the Navigators will have an important influence…they could lift the country out of war into peace and love for Christ, transcending tribal differences.”
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Michael Jensen on communion Simon Smart on escaping religion
John Anderson, the former deputy Prime Minister of Australia: “There were two significant moments in my own life journey which made me conscious of discrimination.”
Why we need to change the constitution Eternity interviews John Anderson, former deputy PM Why do we need to recognise the Aboriginal peoples of Australia in our constitution? The key reason, as I see it, is that we expect Australians to see the constitution as a rulebook that ensures that we will all play fairly and that everyone will be treated equally. But we have actually offended the values of the constitution, the inherent values of the constitution, because we often haven’t treated Aboriginals fairly. So, highly symbolic but carefully worded changes, which will
not open up disputes and court challenges and possible negative reactions from Australians feeling that one group is now being given favourable treatment, seem to me to be a really useful step along the road to reconciliation. John, I think you are wearing two hats, one of which is as a Christian, and the other is as a person who has served as a conservative politician. Starting with the Christian aspect: are you drawn towards this work as a Christian? I am, and I am aware that many other Christians are as well. I think it is important that we recognise the dignity and worth of all individuals. For me personally, I don’t believe the constitution has been the cause of the problem. I
think our denial of its core values in the way that we have sometimes treated Aboriginals is the problem. This symbolic step would signal that we recognise there has been a problem and that we are determined that it should never happen again. There were two significant moments in my own life journey which made me conscious of discrimination of a technical sort that I think certainly fails any test against the constitution’s
He was told to lose the final round to a white boxer
commitment to equality for all. Firstly, I discovered that an Aboriginal stockman who worked for my own family during the Second World War on the family property, had three sons who served, as did my father and his two brothers. So that one property had at least six men fighting. Three of them were Aboriginal; two of them were killed in the Malaysian campaign, and their family received only one third of the death benefit that a white soldier would have received. That, I think, is horrendous. The second was when I met an old boxer at La Perouse in Sydney. He told me that despite being the most gifted boxer in his weight category in the country, he was told in no uncertain terms to lose the
final qualifying round to a white boxer as he would not be allowed to represent Australia at the 1956 Olympics because of the colour of his skin. Those two things seem to me to be a serious offence to the inherent values and principles of a constitution, which, in the end, is a very dry and dusty document. It’s not the problem so much as our denying of its principles. The other hat you wear is as a well-regarded conservative politician. It’s said that the people who need to be won over to this constitutional change are conservatives. Particularly rural conservatives. Do you agree, and do you see yourself as a leader in that field? Continued on page 16
Why we need to change the constitution I don’t entirely agree. It needs to be remembered that John Howard was the first prime minister who proffered the recognition. Secondly, the research shows, very surprisingly, that the division turns out not to be between conservative and non-conservative Australians but between young and old. In something that really surprised me, the research actually indicates that older Australians, with memories of 1967, are more open to the idea of recognition than younger Australians. I find that quite challenging because I thought Aboriginal studies were supposed to have been a core part of the curriculum in recent years. The research shows that not many young Australians know much about the issues or what has happened at all. Do you think Australians are making progress in coming together as a nation or is it still a struggle for us? I think it is patchy. I do hear a lot of pontificating from the people who live in places where there are no Aboriginals. Just as I do on things like refugee issues. Very often it is the people who live at the coalface where you will find the very best and the very worst of relationship patterns. I frankly think that there are many Aboriginal people who are feeling much more at home in the Australian community. But there are far too many who still feel unable to fully join in. And then there are some Aboriginals to whom I would say with the best
John Anderson at Katoomba Men’s Convention, 2014 and deepest of respect, perhaps you need to think a little yourselves about your responsibility to reach out as well. And I stress – only some. But I do meet them from time to time. We all have to do this together. It is one thing to offer the olive branch, and it is important that we do, but as a Christian I know it is important that we accept the olive branch and move on together. What are the challenges for Christians in the current of racial
reconciliation? Reconciliation is a Christian term anyway. I think the challenge is to be prepared to be sacrificial and actually be engaged when we have the opportunity. I think it’s far too comfortable for most of us to pontificate from a distance. We desperately need Christians who will make the sacrifice in areas like education and medicine. I have met teachers and I have met doctors who have given up in despair because of some local situation
they have been involved in for many years and it has all become too much. I think we need to remember that our Lord has never given up on us, although I know how much he must want to give up on me at times. Well, I am hoping and praying he doesn’t. And somehow we need to keep at it. Not seven times, but seven times seventy. John made a final comment on how to make sure the constitutional change gets up. One thing our research shows
very clearly is that Australians are well-disposed, on the whole, to recognising Aboriginal people. What they would not pass at a referendum is any proposal that is likely to be legally contentious or which singles out any group as being somehow superior. They see the objective more than anything else is to see that everybody is treated equally. Anything that can be painted as creating a special class, our research showed very clearly, wouldn’t get up.
Last Supper who’s who (left to right): Bartholomew, James Minor, Andrew, Peter, Judas Iscariot, John, Jesus, Thomas, James Major, Philip, Matthew, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot.
A meal to remember Jesus Michael Jensen Communion is meant to bring us together. But Christians have a habit of arguing about it.
It is one of the saddest ironies of Christian history that a meal designed to symbolise the unity and fellowship of Christians in the death of their saviour, Jesus Christ, has been one of the points of greatest contention and division. Even in what I have just written, I have probably described the Supper in such a way as to annoy someone. We need only recall the Marburg Colloquy of 1529, in the middle of the Protestant Reformation. It started with so much promise: if the leaders of the Reformation, Ulrich Zwingli from Zurich and Martin Luther from Wittenberg, could come to an agreement on their core convictions, then who would be able to stop them? Who would be able to contend against the gospel of justification by faith alone, and the authority of Scripture over the Church, with these two massive figures standing side by side? A central part of the “protest” against the Roman Catholic Church was on the very issue of the Lord’s Supper (or the mass). Saying masses was seen as a way of accruing
merits with God. You could even have a mass said by a priest for a dead person, to reduce their time in purgatory. The Reformers agreed that this was unbiblical. They both agreed that you didn’t receive justifying grace in the communion service. In fact, they agreed on most things. At issue between them was the idea of the “Real Presence”: was the bread and the wine used in the meal united to the real body and blood of Christ (Luther’s position), or were the bread and wine simply symbols (as Zwingli argued)? But in the end, Luther would not move on the Real Presence. He pointed to Jesus’ words, “This is my body,” recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25. Surely, if you interpret the Bible in the literal sense, he said, you are committed to taking Jesus at his word here. The bread and wine are his body. He didn’t say “This symbolises my body.” And thus, the young Reformation movement was divided. From that moment on, Protestant Christians
have differed from one another on the Lord’s Supper in every conceivable way. How often should we celebrate it? Is it purely symbolic, or does it do more than that? Should it accompany an ordinary meal? Should church members come forward to receive it, or stay in their seats and pass it to one another? Should an authorised person say the words that explain and enact the Supper? Should we guard the table from unrepentant sinners, or should we allow people to exercise their own consciences? There are even some Protestants who argue that we shouldn’t celebrate it at all – that Jesus was in no way setting up a ceremonial meal of any kind. Why is there such heat in the issue? First, evangelical Christians are united in wanting to preserve the “alone”-ness in the gospel of justification by faith alone. What that means is that it is Christ’s death on the cross that saves a sinner, once for all, and that salvation is applied to us by the Holy Spirit by the means of faith and no other thing. No ritual action or good work does that – not even the meal that Jesus showed his disciples. The potential for people to misconstrue the Lord’s Supper as some kind of alternative to justification by faith is amply illustrated by the whole history of the medieval church. Second, the Lord’s Supper is one of those issues where theology and practice overlap. It concerns what we actually do when we meet together, which involves not only
theological convictions, but habits, and traditions, and aesthetics. Changing what happens at the Lord’s Supper is a bit like moving the furniture around in your home. We become irrationally attached to the familiar. So, where does that leave us as Christians wanting to be faithful to Christ and to the Scriptures? It is to these we need to turn in order to gain a bit of clarity. We can say six things with confidence (though I am sure someone will disagree somewhere!) First, when the early Christians met, they recalled and to some degree reenacted the meal that Jesus ate with his disciples on the night before he was betrayed. That’s the scene that Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 11:17–33. Of course, he’s complaining about how it is badly done, so that we get a sideways glance at what early Christians did through Paul’s criticism. Secondly, the Lord’s Supper is an occasion for giving thanks to God for his gifts of food and drink, but also for his gift of his son. Paul is quite particular about recalling Jesus giving thanks to God before he breaks the bread and passes the cup around. Thirdly, at that original meal Jesus had taken bread and wine and had spoken of them as symbols of his own body and blood, which would be given in death. This happened at a Passover meal, in which the idea of the death of the lamb in the place of the first-born sons of Israel is remembered. Jesus’ death was to be “for you” in the sense of
“in place of”. Fourthly, the meal that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians was clearly also meant to symbolise the togetherness and unity of Christians. We know that because the selfishness, gluttony and divisiveness of Christians at the table was so appalling to him. It was a perversion of the meaning of the Supper itself. In 10:16–17, Paul speaks of Christians “sharing” in the blood and the body of Christ. Fifthly, though the meal looks back to the events of Golgotha, it is not simply a piece of nostalgia. It also looks forward. Paul includes the words: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) The eating of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the gospel not only of the Lord who died, but also of the Lord who rose from the dead, and who will return. Sixthly, the Lord’s Supper is a very serious thing. The misbehaviour of the Corinthians had brought them illness and even death. If you do not “discern the body” (11:29), then you bring judgment on yourself. Paul says that we should “examine” ourselves, and only then eat and drink. So what does that mean for Christians today? If I am part of a denominational tradition with an inherited practice, must I make it look more like 1 Corinthians? If I am part of a new church plant, what are we to do about celebrating the Lord’s Supper? Continued page 18
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We must report child abuse to the authorities The article on the Royal Commission in February’s Eternity by Mark Fowler was comprehensive, thoughtful and enlightened. He discussed Christian thinking, particularly regarding the principles related to “forgiveness” very comprehensively. I agree that the principle of “forgiveness” is central to any discussion of wrong-doing, or alleged wrong-doing, related to the abused and the abusers. Forgiveness is essential in Christian concepts and behaviour. Certainly, anyone who testifies before the Royal Commission is obligated, under law and by conscience, to be truthful and honest. Certainly, the end result should be “forgiveness” – but that end result must also involve the law, specifically the laws of Australia. I might have missed it, but the article needed to emphasise that it is the law in Australia to report suspected and/or alleged or known instances of child abuse to the police and other state authorities for initial investigation. So-called “internal investigations” of such possible crimes related to minors in particular should not and legally cannot be left to church organisations and/or their affiliates, charities, etc. Forgiveness cannot happen without honesty, but that does not mean that church authorities therefore attempt to deal with serious reported/alleged crimes through “internal processes” which may result in attempts to silence the alleged victims and also, obscure “truth” in favour of preserving/forgiving the alleged and/or documented perpetrators of such criminal offenses. And if that means that some abusers go to jail, then so be it. Remorse may occur, or maybe not. Forgiveness may happen ... but law is law. Beverly Walton, Spring Hill, QLD
The church has enough difficulty teaching the word in spirit and in truth to believers. Jesus said that if anyone will not listen to your word, shake the dust off your feet and move on (Mat 10:14). It is much more important to speak to people who want to listen and learn than to people who will not listen. Sid Eavis, via email
“Tower of Babble”
Thanks Thank you for February’s Eternity. I liked Michael Jensen’s “What should being a Christian feel like”, and Greg Clarke’s “Love letter from a perfect stranger”. Karl Faase’s “A seat at the big table” was really important. The general population of Australia pays no attention to the fact that many Christians are in high public office like our Governor and the Premier (of NSW). Marilyn Wilkin, Huntleys Cove, NSW
Sabbath and law Concerning John Standish’s article about the Sabbath; I would like to point out that Eric Liddell refused to run on Sunday because he considered it was the Sabbath as was the Presbyterian custom. He changed for a race on Saturday and won. Does this validate Sunday as the Sabbath? No, but it shows that he honoured God according to his understanding, therefore God honoured him. Val Pym, North Mackay, QLD
associations than ‘sabbath’) as a day of rest, worship and doing good, not as legalists but as the liberated children of God. Rev Dr Rowland Ward, Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia, Wantirna, VIC PS John Sandeman – with a surname like yours, surely you have some ancestral connection with the Glassites or Sandemanians founded in Scotland in the 18th century? Guilty as charged. Ed.
I question the Eternity article (online) that suggests the church should respond to atheists. I have nothing in particular against Stephen Fry, he has the same freedom of choice as anybody else in response to the Christian message. However any media response of this nature provides gratification to both critic and apologetic; neither brings glory to God. The agnostic will never be converted by debate.
May I make a contribution to the debate on the Sabbath that is a little different from Michael Jensen’s argument and might be helpful to some readers? I’d like to stress that, as the law of Moses is abolished so far as Christians are concerned, only that which was of a moral nature in it is binding on us. Of course we can learn from all of it, the sacrificial system and the institutions of Israel, but only that which has a moral and permanent character is binding now. The moral part is the Ten Commandments. They were unique within the Mosaic law, written by “the finger of God” on enduring stone tablets and embodying principles that are universal in a form suited to Israel. However, Christians do not receive these commandments from Moses but from Christ who
deepens our understanding of these pre-Mosaic principles and shows how they are fulfilled. The Jewish Sabbath does not bind Christians today, even if we remove from it the petty legalisms the Pharisees laid upon it. It is the pre-Mosaic creation sabbath of Genesis 2:2-3 that speaks to Christians today. That day of holy rest is not so much a memorial of creation looking backwards, but a pointer to the goal and purpose of creation looking forwards, hence the redemptive reason in Deuteronomy 5:5 is to the point. Entering God’s rest is an impossible goal for humanity because of sin, but Jesus, “the Lord even of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28) brings about the reality of which it speaks for all believers. Jesus inaugurated a new creation at his resurrection, the first day of the week, which is why we worship on that day where possible. The example of the early church in this worship on “the first day” is significant, even if the underlying principle is one day in seven rather than a particular day. Hebrews 4 reminds us that there remains an eternal sabbath for the people of God when their works done in faith are completed. So we keep the Lord’s Day (a name with better
COMMUNION from page 17 I think we need to keep a couple of things in mind here. The first of these is that recreating the New Testament practice exactly is neither possible nor even desirable. For a start, the picture that we have is one that is being critiqued quite savagely! What we have to do is not replicate a first-century meal, but put into practice the principles we have learnt. For example, most church traditions have made the Lord’s Supper into a token meal, where you get a tiny bit of wine and a small piece of bread. Is that directed in Scripture? No. But it is a wise response to the problem of
gluttony exposed in 1 Cor 11, and it helps to remind us of the unity and fellowship at the heart of the meal. It helps to remind us that we are being spiritually, not physically, fed at this table. Likewise, do we have to recite a formula of words? There is no indication that we have to, but it is certainly the case that various churches have found it helpful to agree on a pattern of words, usually based on the words that Paul quoted from Jesus himself. If there is a problem with people misconstruing the meaning of the meal, then it seems like a good idea to provide some guidance. Paul asks
us to examine ourselves before we eat; it is a good idea then, to provide a prayer or a moment for prayer, which helps us to do just this. Many of the variations in practice amongst Christians come because people have felt that one part or other of the rich meaning of the Supper was being obscured. Of course, correcting imbalances often falls over into an imbalance on the other side! We need to recognise that custom, history and habit have led to many of these variations in practice more than real theological difference, and exercise a bit of tolerance for one another. But most of all, we need to
recognise that the Lord’s Supper is an extraordinary gift from Christ to his people – and enjoy it. Symbols are never “mere” symbols. A wedding is a symbol of a marriage, but it is indispensable to that marriage, because it is a visible enactment of the love and trust that makes the marriage. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper does not save us. But it is an instrument by which God may move us to trust him even more deeply.
The other side Readers of Eternity should be wary of the campaign to enable constitutional recognition of the Aboriginal people. It is ethically wrong, at this stage in our history, for any ethnically-based sub-group of the Australian people to receive special mention and consequent favouritism in the Constitution. Such a move would involve unjust racial discrimination. It could also lead to serious national division and even the eventual political partition of our continent. It is to be hoped that Eternity will publish articles by opponents of constitutional recognition as well as advocates for it. Nigel Jackson, Belgrave, VIC
Michael Jensen is the rector of St Mark’s church in Darling Point, Sydney and the author of several books.
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Tim Costello Memory healing On Boxing Day 2004 I was at the cricket when my phone started going off. Terrible news from Thailand, then Sri Lanka, then Indonesia – a massive tsunami had struck, sweeping away whole towns in its wake. Within hours I was on a plane. In my first year at World Vision, nothing could have prepared me for what awaited in Sri Lanka, or days later in Aceh. I have carried those images of death, of destruction, of utter loss and confusion with me ever since. So returning ten years later, I felt conflicting emotions. Overwhelmingly though, it has been exhilarating to return and see amazing healing and recovery. How wonderful to see profound and positive change for those left behind, much of it the result of Australians’ generosity and compassion. In Sri Lanka, I still couldn’t escape the remembered images of mass graves, including many children. But now the beautiful town of Galle had a totally different feel. After the tsunami Galle was heavy with grief and shock and apocalyptic darkness. I am still haunted by the silence of the people, shuffling along the streets, traumatised, grieving and totally confused. Now in its place there is bustle, noise, play and laughter. And it was exhilarating to see how World Vision’s relief and recovery work, followed by sustainable development projects, is still contributing to better lives – everything from fishing boats to ongoing psychosocial support. Again and again people told me they were thankful for the help, but especially because it meant they knew they weren’t alone. Banda Aceh I hardly recognised. The city I saw in 2004 was shattered and people were moving like ghosts, not knowing what to do. Today it is transformed – roads and buildings restored, streets full of children’s play and infectious laughter. Houses we built have stood the test of time. The many small businesses, focusing on women’s skills and livelihoods, continue to grow. The coast where some 14,000 people were buried is now full of life – a new bridge, people fishing, traders selling their wares. Perhaps most impressive are the efforts to avoid a future tragedy – kids learning evacuation procedures, mangroves being planted to protect the coast, early warning systems and so on. This has been a healing time for me. My memories from 2004 could not be darker. Yet without trivialising the loss and pain and suffering, what I saw ten years on couldn’t be more inspiring and hopeful.
Can you believe this billboard? Simon Smart on losing my religion
Billboard advertisers understand the potency of a message promising escape when you are stuck in traffic on a big-city motorway. Usually it’s a seductive image of an idyllic island on offer, or the promise of a cruise to, well, pretty much anywhere beyond the soul-sapping grey wastelands of the daily commute. But last month the Sydney Atheists teamed up with the Atheist Foundation of Australia to place a billboard on the M4 motorway in Sydney’s inner west promising a different kind of getaway. “Have you escaped religion?” it read. “We have.” President of Sydney Atheists, Steve Marton said that “being religious you are trapped … but we offer a way to escape the bonds and strictures of religion to gain freedom of thought, deed and a better life, governed by morals that are determined through rational, humane and sceptical thinking.” Those responsible for the sign on the M4 are not alone in thinking that religion of all types, but perhaps especially Christianity, is a joyless, dreary expression of outdated beliefs and practices that would be best left behind. Sadly that may reflect their experience in a church or a Christian school, or perhaps in their interaction with Christians generally. They clearly feel solidarity in joining with those who have similarly rejected a God they have come to associate with life-sapping, restrictive ritual and thought. In light of this, it is no small irony that Jesus claimed to be about bringing life to the full and reserved some of his harshest words for those he held responsible for oppressive religion that added to people’s burdens. A number of Christians have pointed out that the exact text
Big promises on Sydney’s M4 motorway of the atheist billboard adorning the M4 could find a place on any church noticeboard where believers understand their faith to be a pathway, not to stifling “religious” practice, but to the most meaningful life on offer. What is the shape of that life? In the opening of Mark’s gospel, the first words we hear from Jesus are, “the time has come, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.” Luke’s gospel adds Jesus’ announcement: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:18–19) Here Jesus is quoting Isaiah 61:1, which continues, “to bind up the broken hearted, to comfort all who mourn, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
Simon Smart is Director of the Centre for Public Christianity. For more print, audio and video material from CPX go to publicchristianity. org … a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Anyone would find that an attractive vision, and in Jesus’ life we see him living that out – the works of what he called the new “kingdom”. The gospels record him healing the sick, offering forgiveness, introducing truth, bestowing mercy, driving out evil and raising the dead. This is what he meant when he talked about the kingdom of God, saying that in him, it had arrived. He claimed to be offering a life-giving message: living water in a desert. It’s a far cry from what’s being suggested on the atheist billboard. What Jesus seems to be saying,
offers American writer Frederick Buechner, is that the kingdom of God is the time when it will no longer be humans with all their failings who are in charge of the world, but God in his mercy who will be in charge. “It’s the time above all else for wild rejoicing – like getting out of jail, like being cured of cancer, like finally, at long last, coming home,” writes Buechner. In other words, it’s a life marked by joy – not endless cheerfulness but a sense that the present has been infused with the promise of a glorious future such that every aspect of life finds its place within the warm light of that future. But there is another layer to the fabric of the Christian life that is as inspiring as it is challenging. Jesus talked about losing your life in order to find it – the pathway to true living is found, he said, in service of others, and then went about showing us what that looked like. The call to the selfless life is counterintuitive wisdom that is increasingly picked up in the happiness movement and other
secular spaces. In his book The Good Life social researcher Hugh Mackay summarises what he has learned about a life worth living: “No one can promise you that a life lived for others will bring you a deep sense of satisfaction, but it’s certain that nothing else will.” This from a man who has observed Australians up close for a lifetime. True and lasting satisfaction is to be found only in the service of others; this is ancient wisdom, the sharpest expression of which comes in the person of Jesus. Christians do not always live like this, but when they do, the contribution to the common good is both undeniable and beautiful. Today, when fewer people attend church, and faith is routinely mocked, resented and dismissed, there’s an urgent need for Christians to be active participants in the communities around them, offering a radical and sacrificial love for others. This is and always has been the best antidote to a perception of Christianity as something best avoided or escaped.
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The noisy voices and ringing ears of a civil society Greg Clarke on how to live with noisy neighbours today’s Australia. But this won’t do. Religion must have a voice, and a place to stand, in a truly civil society. Religion must also have ears to listen to the rest of society. Silence and deafness are not viable options. So, how can we get there in today’s Australia? There are roughly four options. First, we could aim for a barely religious society. In this option, religion is barely present, only raising its head in matters related to how it conducts itself in private: rules around its gatherings, communications, rituals and behaviours. This way, no one outside of Islam has to think much about what Islam brings to Australian life; no one outside of Christianity has to think about Christianity. Frankly, this doesn’t do justice to the pervasive impact that religion has on the lives of individuals, families and communities. It can’t be kept behind closed doors. And we all know now, thanks to tragic events, that it won’t stay hidden anyway. Second, we could aim for a commonly sacred society, where one set of religious laws and customs becomes the “Australian Way”. This might be a blend of religious views, perhaps according to the proportion of Aussies who hold them; it would be a synthesis of religions based on majority principles. In the past, a version of this occurred, where Christian thinking was a default for Australian culture. But those
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The challenge of religious pluralism is the most pressing social issue of the 21st century. But this is nothing new; it has been the most pressing social issue of most centuries. From ancient Egypt to contemporary Australia, human history is the story of the conflicts of the gods. How can people with profoundly different basic beliefs about the nature of the universe, God, humanity, right and wrong, and the afterlife live with each other, side by side? At most stages of our history thus far, the answer has been that we can’t. Burmese Buddhists attack their Muslim minorities. Hindus target Christians in modern India (and vice versa). Christians hunted down Muslims across Europe and the Middle East during the medieval Crusades. And last month, the extremist Islamic group known as ISIS beheaded Coptic Christians in Libya because they came from “the Nation of the Cross”. The 20th century tried to answer the problem of how we religious human beings might live together by eliminating God from the discussion. Let’s pretend we aren’t religious, and see how that goes. But it too conducted the experiment with violence, led by Pol Pot in Cambodia, Mao Zedong in China, and Joseph Stalin in Russia. For many, the 21st century answer hasn’t changed: they want God out, or at least out of sight. But such thinking is, well, so last century. A vibrant, less bloody 21st century requires something different, something other than the failed experiments of secularism that we have seen across the past 150 years. These days, we are living closer to the “Other” than ever before. Cheap transport, global media and shifting labour markets have meant that your neighbour is likely to believe something quite different to you. Vastly different worldviews live side by side, awkwardly, tentatively, often not voicing those differences lest someone capsize the precariously balanced boat that is
Greg Clarke: “My preferred option for religious pluralism in Australia is a noisily religious society.” days have gone, and we are in a vastly different environment when it comes to public attitudes to family life, sexuality, religious expression and social standards. If it were possible in the past to “live out Christ’s lordship” in the form of legislation and culture, it is not today. Christians would do well to realise this and think afresh about how to express their faith in a much more complex and varied Australian culture. At the same time, this kind of civic religion doesn’t really keep religious adherents of any kind happy; it only works for the “all religions are really the same” types. A third option is to have a secretly religious society, where people act according to their religious convictions but without naming them. People keep their ultimate motivations to themselves and get
on with things. This is close to how leaders behave today, where expressions of faith commitments are ruled inappropriate most of the time. If one’s views on, say, gay marriage are informed or grounded in a religious commitment, that is unlikely to form part of the public conversation of the issue; other, more commonly accepted authorities – such as science, medicine, sociology or opinion polls – are considered more acceptable than religious reasons. But this just leaves people to be duplicitous and dishonest. It can’t be the way forward. My preferred option for religious pluralism in Australia is a noisily religious society. I don’t just mean Hillsong on a Sunday morning, I mean a public square where we expect to hear the robust, outspoken, argumentative and
complicated voices of religious people, whether in agreement or disagreement. Where people don’t get pigeon-holed or blacklisted for talking about their theology, and where it is just openly accepted that human beings are often motivated by profound religious commitments, which can differ radically from one’s neighbour’s. This noise will be hard to take, rough on the ears and tough on the emotions. It will leave people angry, baffled, shaking their heads at what others believe. But it is a better way. The babble of the Areopagus (Acts 17) led to sneering and confusion, but it also gave the apostle Paul a bloodless hearing. That’s a good outcome. Greg Clarke is CEO of Bible Society Australia and author of the 2014 Australian Christian Book of the Year, The Great Bible Swindle.
Bible Stat 2014 was a record year for Bible translation. 15 first full Bibles, 10 first New Testaments, plus many revisions in 11 languages with more than 1 million speakers.
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