Why Israel Folau was right and wrong

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 12.08.18 pmFor many months now, a good friend and I have been slowly working our way through the book of Proverbs together. One of the many things that has struck us is the book’s obsession with our words and our speech. But we aren’t just urged to say things that are true; we’re urged to say the right things at the right time and in the right way. “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” (Prov 15:23) “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Prov 25:11)

Perhaps building on Solomon’s wisdom, the apostle Paul wrote that one mark of a mature Christian is not just speaking the truth, but “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). Hopefully, your experience of life has already shown you that this is true. It’s simply not enough to go around saying true things; we also have to develop both the wisdom and the love to know how and when to say them—and, therefore, when not to say them. Continue reading

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A grieving nation seeks answers – where can we find them?

How do we process the tragic events of March 15th? Will we find not just the common grace we know so well, but the saving grace we need?

JA
Photo: Mark Baker/AP

New Zealand is a country saturated in God’s common grace. I sometimes feel that these islands are about as close to heaven on earth as you’ll find. We have our problems, but we’re served by stable and accountable government that has ensured religious freedom, prosperous without being ostentatious in our wealth, filled with astounding natural beauty, a place that people from all over the world choose as their home (48 cultures are represented at my son’s school alone). Christchurch, my home, is as friendly and tranquil as any small city on Earth, and New Zealanders are a people of quiet strength—not brash and self-seeking, but resolute and generous. Continue reading

A Time To Mourn

I really don’t expect that there will be anything profound in this post. It’s just an attempt to process what happened in our city yesterday. I don’t even know what I’m going to say yet. I’m just going to start writing.

Based on how we’re feeling as a family, and on those I’ve been able to contact so far, we’re all feeling shell-shocked and angry. We’re shell-shocked in the way that anyone would be after their city experiences a terror attack (let alone in Christchurch, a peaceful and friendly place if ever there was one), but perhaps even a tiny bit more shocked because we know what it is for sudden trauma to come upon our whole city and to make us feel like our lives have changed in an instant. It’s been eight years since the earthquake, and now this. What the heck? Continue reading

Richard, do you really understand Christianity? A response to Richard Dawkins

Introduction
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I had a strange experience a couple of weeks ago.

On May 9, stuff.co.nz and several of the nation’s major daily newspapers published an opinion piece that I wrote about Richard Dawkins’ visit to New Zealand. It was a rare chance to provide a Christian voice in the secular press, attempting to show that Christians aren’t content to believe things in the absence of evidence. Rather, I argued, our beliefs are based on solid historical evidence to support the claim that Jesus Christ rose bodily from death – verifying his outlandish claims to be the Son of God, and assuring us that he offers unique knowledge of and access to our Creator.

But while it was a special opportunity, that wasn’t the strange part. The strange part was what happened next.

Apparently, Richard Dawkins himself read my article and saw fit to comment on it publicly. Continue reading

Am I really wrong about Dawkins? A response to Sara Passmore

DawkinsWarning: This is long – probably a longer response than the original piece really deserves. But sometimes we Christians have to push back with some careful, strong and detailed thought – lest we be accused of being illogical, stupid, fearful, or unable to stand our ground in the marketplace of ideas.

On Wednesday, Stuff (and several of New Zealand’s major daily newspapers) published an opinion piece that I wrote about Richard Dawkins and his visit to New Zealand. They gave it the headline: “Why Richard Dawkins is wrong about Christianity” – which is a pretty fair summary of what I claimed. Yesterday, Stuff published a response to my article by Sara Passmore, President of the Humanist Society of New Zealand. It was headlined: “Geoff Robson is wrong about Richard Dawkins, the man and his work”. Continue reading

Life and Ministry with Richard Chin

A wide-ranging interview with Richard Chin, National Director of AFES, about life and ministry – including why he’s on a crusade to promote extended Bible memorisation, why he refuses to give up his role in local campus ministry, the challenges and opportunities of ministry to Millennials, coping with the death of his first wife, and what it’s been like to remarry and become a ‘twicer’.

Richard Chin

GR: Richard, you were born in Malaysia and you moved to Australia when you were eight 8 years old. What are your earliest memories of Australia?

RC: Meat pies, hearing people say ‘G’day mate’ but not realising what they were saying, and going to a primary school which was co-ed. The only schools I had attended were not co-ed, so it was strange seeing girls next to me in Year 3.

Did you grow up in a Christian family?

No, I grew up in a non-Christian family, although my mother had a belief in God and she was from a Roman-Catholic background – she went to a Roman-Catholic convent school in Malaysia. My father came from a synchretistic Buddhist family, but he would describe his own life or pilgrimage as an agnostic of sorts, or a free thinker. Continue reading

‘Hate speech’ or ‘free speech’? A plea for open, respectful debate on campus

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Photo credit: Sam Graham/Flickr (www.thecollegefix.com/post/25086/)

Having lived my whole life in safe, open, democratic societies, I’m profoundly grateful for democracy. I find myself in thorough agreement with the comment attributed to Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.” But democracy doesn’t always get it right, nor is it guaranteed to produce the best and fairest outcome. After all, two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner is democracy. Sometimes ‘the wisdom of the people’ proves to be anything but wise.

That mini-rant about democracy was inspired by a referendum that’s just been conducted by the Auckland University Students’ Association. Very sadly, students have voted in favour of demanding that the AUSA disaffiliate ProLife Auckland.[1] Continue reading

Stop following your heart, start leading your heart

 

Red-Broken-Heart-IllustrationAs the parents of young children, my wife and I are always on the lookout for ‘safe’ entertainment options: movies, books or music that the kids can enjoy without being hit by F-bombs, explosions or sexual innuendo. With a little research, and a little faith in the Netflix ‘Kids’ option, we can keep them fairly well protected. But we’ve come to realise that parental supervision needs to go deeper than online filters and G-ratings. In fact, the real danger might not be the stuff that hits you over the head. It might be the subtle messages that are embedded in our ‘safe’ entertainment options, the worldview that lies underneath everything and shapes how we think. And there’s one phrase that sums up the gospel according to Hollywood and captures our culture’s prevailing worldview: Follow Your Heart.

It seems like everywhere you look, someone is urging you to “follow your heart”. Film, TV, music, literature—you name it. “Go with your gut.” “Trust your intuition.” “Do what’s right for you.” “Pursue your dreams.” “Believe in yourself.” It all amounts to pretty much the same thing: “Follow your heart.” Anyone who faces an important decision can’t possibly go wrong, it seems, if only they’d just follow their heart. Continue reading

Why I (almost completely) quit Facebook, and why you probably should too

FacebookTrashHaving recently hit the big 4-0, I’m starting to have more and more days where I embrace my inner grouchy old curmudgeon. Picture me with arms flailing wildly as I yell at pesky kids to get offa my lawn. Moaning about the noisy students next door, wondering whether 9.30 is too early to call the Council to complain about the music, and wishing at least they’d play some Springsteen or U2 instead of the endless doof-doof. But every now and then I catch myself thinking that way and wonder, ‘When did this happen? How did this happen?’ I’d rather hoped to stave off being a cantankerous middle-aged git for a few more years yet. And I’d rather hoped to avoid slightly stuffy old man expressions like ‘I’d rather hoped’.

In the fight to stay young, one effective strategy to assure yourself that you’re still hip, still with it (whatever the heck ‘it’ is these days), is to embrace the newest technology. Today, that obviously means embracing social media. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, the Twitter, Snapcrap – being relevant seems to require being plugged into it all. Shouldn’t a Christian be leveraging these technologies to spread the gospel just a little bit further? Shouldn’t a normal, caring citizen of the world in 2017 be keeping up with people via his ‘socials’ in as many ways as possible? At the very least, don’t go posting something on your blog where you rail about the evils of technology. That’s the surest way to cement your reputation as an out-of-touch killjoy. Continue reading

The pain and glory of unanswered prayer

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me…”

alluaudia-procera-spice-plant-branch-38282Few things can be more confusing or frustrating for Christians than unanswered prayer, especially when we’re sure there are good, obvious reasons for God to grant our requests.

Recently I spoke to a good friend, a young man in (what should be) the prime of his life. Sadly, he’s afflicted with mysterious and chronic back pain. He’s tried every kind of medical treatment under the sun, and has persistently and faithfully prayed for relief. Yet his debilitating pain persists—unseen by most people, yet severe enough to prevent any real exercise and make everything in life difficult and uncomfortable.

My friend told me that he recently accepted an invitation to attend a large healing service. As the meeting went on and as many people appeared to be miraculously healed right before his eyes, my friend started to hope for a miracle of his own. “Maybe tonight’s the night,” he thought. “Maybe my suffering comes to an end—right here, right now.” Continue reading