Thursday, 30 August 2012

Irony of marriage issues

Marriage has been in the media a lot lately.
Here are some articles related to marriage from SMH: (Not in a particular order)

Men, women, and leadership

Marriage and law of Australia

Why new marriage vows

People taking new marriage vows

More on marriage vows

Not only the same-sex marriage is in the news (and regrettably in the Parliament as well), but most recently, the new (optional) marriage vows from Sydney Anglican church have stirred some people's emotions. It was to do with the bride's vow, which included the "S"-word: Submit. To love and submit to her husband.

The issue of male leadership often brings deep emotions and I tend to think it is a good thing. At least it shows that there's something that we aren't apathetic about in this relativistic, post-modern society. But, if what I've seen and read are anything to go by, the people in our society is angry and hateful of biblical teaching about the male leadership. The article by the Archbishop Peter Jensen attracted nearly 1000 comments in just a day, mostly unhelpful, but loudly evidencing the misunderstandings and anger of many readers.

I won't go into explaining all this myself here. I don't think I can do better than Peter Jensen anyway. But I just wanted to note that all these uproar against the biblical teachings on wife's submission and husband's leadership is quite ironic in our society. They all seem to view this husband's leadership and wife's submission as an attack against women's value and dignity, and hence an evil we need to get rid of from our society. But do we, as a society, really value and respect women? The biblical notion of male leadership is never oppressive to women nor is it degrading for women to submit to the male leadership. But how is it so much of an issue in OUR society? How are women treated in OUR society today? On a surface level, women in our society are well dignified; they have the same voting rights as men, no education is kept from women, they are not barred from work or fair pay (some still argue they are, but it is marginal and our law provides way to continue improve it where appropriate), etc. But just below the surface, our society is engaged in activities that terribly degrade women. Pornography, prostitution, overtly revealing images of female models on magazines and ads. Sexualised objectification of women is rampant in our society. Just a few months ago, promotional games for Lingerie Football League was a big success, I heard. Right near my work place, literally just outside the train station ticket gates, there's a bar where women serve in lingeries. And then there is the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which set the record as the fastest selling paperback of all time, even surpassing the Harry Potter series (according to the wikipedia).

So, why is our society up in arms about the new marriage vows? As I perceive it, our society is not against the new vows because it is so concerned about the dignity of women, nor is it trying to protect women. Our society as a whole is simply refusing God's authority over His creation, us. At the core of all the recent marriage issues is the society's refusal to recognise God's goodness in the way He created us, men and women, and rejection of His loving rule over us. Even still, the most ironic and tragic of all is that this confusion and refusal of God's design for marriage has crept into many churches in Australia.

It's not a new thing that the world rejected and hated God. That's precisely the reason why Jesus came and died on the cross, in order to create a people who will love and submit to God. We, Christians are the ones who confess that God has rescued us through Jesus' sacrifice, and now as a result, we respond by loving and submitting to God. But this marriage issue seems to be not only a debate between the Church and the World, but also a debate within the Church, amongst Christians! It is terribly sad and most ironic scene to behold, that Christians would reject God's good design.

I must admit though that I have to keep on reminding and challenging myself too. Pornography is just a click away. Women in revealing clothes are on huge billboards and also sitting just few seats away on the train. Undignified comments about women, men, and the relationship between them are too common, and my ears itch to hear the jokes and my mouth eager to tell. God warned us through Paul, "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Timothy 4:16)
It won't do to simply assent to the biblical teaching of male leadership. It isn't enough to just agree with Peter Jensen. It must be accompanied by everyday life that acts towards women with respect, dignity, and holy love.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Yearning for something definite

From the book, Australian Christian Life from 1788 by Iain Murray, Alexander Edgar said:
'One of the most striking features of the present day - so the press is reiterating - is the drifting away from dogmatic preaching. It is argued that if you preach dogmatic theology the people will turn from you. I assure you that I do not believe this, for I am convinced that the heart of humanity wants something definite. We must not misunderstand the boldness and directness of that firm declaration of Christ, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36)'.
This is not my first time hearing something along this line, but what was different this time was that Edgar was saying this in 1901. The drift towards pragmatism and watering down of doctrinal stance seems to have been going on for a long time. But then the warnings against it also have been given for a long time. We, Christians, need to take heed of this warning today.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Marks of true revivals

Once or twice, I heard some friends saying that there had been no revivals in Australia. I didn't know how to respond to that when I heard it because I had no idea whether that was true or not, and also because my understanding of revival seemed to be somewhat different to what those friends emphasised.

Recently I have been reading Australian Christian Life from 1788: An introduction and and anthology. In this fascinating book (which I will be posting about later on), John Watsford is introduced. According to the author, Iain Murray, John Watsford was the first outstanding preacher to be born in Australia.

What John Watsford says about true revivals is instructive. Referring to the revivals that occurred in areas around Parramatta, Liverpool, and Windsor in 1840 - 1841, which he himself witnessed, he wrote:
These were true revivals. The fruit soon appeared in changed lives, in earnest work for Jesus, and in cheerful giving to His cause. What collections we used to have! At one of our missionary meetings at Castlereagh, Mrs. G---- brought in her missionary gold. When the box was at last opened, sovereign after sovereign rolled out, until we counted forty. At one of our meetings Mr. Lewis and I had to stop the people in their giving. We positively refused to take any more.

-- p.155, from Australian Christian Life from 1788: An Introduction and an Anthology

Sunday, 5 August 2012

God serves men, but He's not a servant to men.

Guido: (learning how to be a waiter) How far do I bow? I suppose I can even go 180 degrees.
Eliseo: Think of a sunflower, they bow to the sun. But if you see some that are bowed too far down, it means they're dead. You're here serving, you're not a servant. Serving is the supreme art. God is the first of servants. God serves men, but he's not a servant to men.
-- from the movie, Life is Beautiful

God serves men, but He is not a servant to men. I reckon John Piper would agree with it. What do you think? Do you know how this is so?