You can’t handle the truth

The death of Truth

In 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche pronounced the death of God. In 1900, God pronounced the death of Nietzsche. In the years between, this German philosopher sought to open the eyes of the masses to the sheer pointlessness of existence using his biting, nihilistic rhetoric.

In 1966, TIME Magazine’s cover echoed Nietzsche’s sentiment, albeit in question form. “Is God Dead?” in giant red letters has become an icon of 20th century history. Nietzche’s intellectual descendants were proud of their his voice now influencing on an even grander scale. Hopelessness bred hope.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of this iconic cover, TIME published some new red letters – same style, different subject. “Is Truth Dead?” was the question for 2017. As a keen cultural observer, my ears were pricked. The subject matter of this piece was the Trumpian concept of truth as a malleable tool – an important conversation, no doubt. But I can’t help but think that TIME Magazine missed an opportunity to be truthful about truth.

Good job, TIME. Bad job, TIME.

TIME’s critique of truth massaging is both warranted and hypocritical. Warranted because language of fact and truth, right and wrong should never be distorted for any form of personal gain. Plain and simple – truth is good, falsehood is wrong. The Great Truth Masseuse of Washington would do well to listen.

On the other hand, TIME has missed a contradiction. A bad one, right in their blind spot. TIME refer to “binary distinctions between truth and falsehood” in the Trump piece, yet they represent a culture that flagrantly denies these same distinctions in areas of personal preference. TIME claims the moral high ground on matters of truth and falsehood while representing the wider cultural norm of relativizing truth whenever it suits. 

I guess I would find it hard to see this if I too had a tree in my eye.

Binary – not just for nerds

Abortion and the transgender revolution are two examples of this – the suppression of self-evident truths in favour of Sovereign Self decrees.

Despite this organism inside me being a human, I will disregard its value and kill it. I make the rules.

Despite being a man, I will declare myself a woman. I have spoken.

Despite no supporting evidence, there are surveillance devices everywhere listening to every word my administration says. That is that.

How are these things different from each other? How is one worthy of critique and the others are not to be questioned? You either keep your cake or eat it. You can’t have both.

This 50 year slide from the death of God to Truth is telling – after all, if there is no God, no Ultimate Truth Giver, can things really be said to be true in any meaningful sense? Obviously, we use ‘truth’ and its derivatives daily to convey meaning but are we appealing to our own subjective sense of meaning, or are we rooting these words in something objective, something that is, regardless of who believes it – something greater than our own unstable circumstances and desires.

If TIME are receiving answers to their pointed cover question, I have one – Yes. Truth died a long time ago. But it has risen and reigns.

A mid-week meditation

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A thought to think.

The Bible, the norming norm of God, tells us that man is:

  1. Dead in his sins
  2. Filled with hatred for God
  3. Void of righteousness
  4. Destined for wrath

Even when we look deep down for the good that pop culture tells us is definitely there, we find filth all the way (if we are honest).

Our hearts are deceitful, our wills are enslaved, our affections perverted. The damage of the Fall is total – infiltrating and corrupting every part of what makes us human. But what of our minds? Yep. They are messed up too.

Dissenter (potentially played by you): Hold up. I thought this was an apologetics website? Thanks for the theological dissertation but what has this got to do with defending the faith?

Me: Everything (emphasis included).

Sin is not concerned with borders – geographical, physiological and metaphysical boundaries will not prevent it from pillaging all it touches. Our minds are no exception. Rather than unique compartments, all of our faculties are to work together. And all of these faculties have been dramatically altered by a dark descent.

When we attempt to convince non-believers of the truth claims of Christianity and stand confounded as they refuse to believe, it can become far too easy to attribute this either to a lack of consistent education on their part, or a lack of clarity on ours. Never does it cross our minds that the human mind has been mangled – in one sense, it operates as designed and on the other, joyful suppression and consistent inconsistency abound.

A thought to think – sinners hate God. They don’t know Him, nor do they want to. A thousand and one foolproof points will not change the fool.  New hearts, not new arguments, are the goal.

Is a young earth necessary?

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Earth viewed from space

Preemptive apology – Trump shall be mentioned.

In some of the circles I found myself in these days, I have found just as much contempt for newly elected Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, than for the new President himself, Donald J. Trump. One American colleague went as far as to say that a Trump assassination wouldn’t do America any good because then “a pro-life, homophobic, evolution-denying evangelical” would ascend the throne.

To avoid contributing to the countless words already spent and spilt on this latest election, I am only going to focus on the last part of this blanket statement. Are evangelicals – those who trust and share the Good News of God saving sinners through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – fairly criticised as the science-haters that so many people seem to think they are? To put the question differently – are Christians required to read the first three chapters of Genesis in a literal sense?

Some readers may be shocked that I am not “taking the Bible seriously” in rejecting a literal interpretation of this passage. Others may be relieved that I have broken the chains of orthodoxy, freeing myself from absolute meaning altogether. These are those who declare “Ask not what this text means, but what this text means to you.” Sorry to disappoint both of you.

What does literal even mean?

Literally

The word literal and its derivatives are having a rough time at the moment. Modern English speakers use the word all the time, ridding it of all meaning in the process. The word means literally nothing right now. In fact, Justin Taylor has recently called for a moratorium on the use of this word in biblical interpretation, due to the varying meanings this word can take.

My experience with literal in a biblical interpretive setting is that of the ‘plain interpretation’ of any given text. In other words, interpreting something in a basic or common sense way, without metaphor or exaggeration. A plain sense reading of Genesis 1-3 seems to suggest a six 24 hour days view with the varying genealogies of Genesis adding up to a rather youthful 6,000 years old.

We could go at it for hours over exegesis and hermeneutics and be no closer to unlocking the meaning of Genesis’ beginning. While I personally think that the text itself does provide strong arguments for particular positions, a much simpler point of view provides some much needed clarity:

What is the purpose of the Bible?

Two Books

In a previous post, I mentioned the distinction between the two books that God has written – creation (God’s general revelation) and salvation (God’s special revelation). Theological concept becomes reality when we approach the creation account with this distinction in mind. God’s intent in Genesis, as with all other parts of the Bible, is to communicate his great plan of salvation for all of those who would trust in Christ. This means that he is not primarily (or even at all) concerned with teaching his people the age of the earth or the precise processes by which it came into existence.

Any serious student of Scripture knows that the plot of the biblical drama is the salvation of sinners by a gracious God, who has cast Jesus Christ in the leading role of Saviour. This story of salvation is only found in the pages of special revelation – nothing in nature contains words this sweet. If God’s book of salvation (the Bible) has the story of salvation as its content, then what does nature contain? A whole lot of juicy content for sure, but nothing salvific, nothing of utmost importance to beggars like us.

So what about the age of the earth? God may well have had a different intent in these chapters of Genesis 1-3, but can we still discern anything concrete via exegesis? I believe so. Study. Read. Discuss. THINK. But if you miss the forest for the trees, as so many “defenders of the faith” have done in advancing a young-earth-or-go-home ideology, you will end up doing an injustice not only to yourself, but to the world at large. 

A sin-sick world doesn’t need to hear the evils of evolution. It needs the gospel.

Foundations for interpretation

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Old Antique Book

Some of mankind’s most enduring questions have been those surrounding the topic of epistemology, or the study of knowledge. What is true knowledge? Where does it come from and how do we obtain it? Are some forms of knowledge more authoritative than others? 

Throughout history, man has sought to understand reality (ontology) and how we can know this is so (epistemology). From the pre-Socratics to their namesake, from Plato to his infamous student, Aristotle, from Kant to Nietzsche – a major part of Western philosophy has been the question of, “How can we know what there is to know?” As we will see below, Christianity is no different.

A  primer in Christian epistemology

A distinctly Christian epistemology is grounded in revelation – God stopping down to our level to communicate truth to us. While modern philosophy believes that man possesses all that he needs (his autonomous reason) to scale the summit of reality, Christianity is a little more pessimistic about man’s ability to reason their way to Knowledge. Due to the noetic effects of sin, we are prone to bias and hubris in our philosophical pursuits. At risk of oversimplifying – we need a helping hand in our epistemology.

In Christian theology, there is a distinction between God’s two books –  general and special revelation. General revelation is the truth of God as revealed in creation and providence – his existence, wisdom, power, goodness, and righteousness perceived through the things around us (Horton, Pilgrim Theology, p41). All man has access to this level of truth through a logical and scientific interpretation of the world. What we choose to do with these truths – suppress or embrace – is an entirely different matter.

Special revelation, or God’s second book, is his authoritative written Word as found in the Bible. This provides particular knowledge about God, salvation and the human condition that we attain through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, correcting our systematic distortion of general revelation at the same time (Horton, Pilgrim Theology, p40).

An important question then arises – how do we, as fallible human beings, faithfully interpret what God is communicating to us through his Word? If God’s general revelation can in some ways be interpreted through reason and the scientific method, how should Christians approach his covenantal Word? To our detriment, various philosophical trends have attempted to answer this question for us and we may not have even noticed.

Philosophy check

The development of postmodern thought in the 20th century has lead to a form of linguistic reductionism where words are removed from their context and given an entirely different meaning from that of the original author. Rather than the locus of meaning being found in the author’s intent, it is now found in the interpretation of the reader. “What does this text mean to you?” becomes an all-to-frequent question at Bible studies.

Christians are naturally affronted by this turn of events and seek to reclaim the meaning of the author for interpreting texts. The reaction to this postmodern hermeneutic is often not balanced – instead of reclaiming ground via a convincing interpretive framework, the reaction to this textual twisting is to force texts through a grid of literalism that the Bible does not require. Passages containing clear figurative language are interpreted literally and much confusion abounds.

Think about your own experience – we use turns of phrase and figures of speech constantly. Do we ever interpret these with the same degree of literalism that we enforce on Scripture?. A few examples will suffice:

  • “Are you getting cold feet?”
  • “I’ve been kept in the dark on that one”
  • “Speak of the devil”
  • “She has a bubbly personality”
  • “You got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning”
  • “He let the cat out of the bag”

Why would we demand a literal interpretation of all biblical texts, regardless of form, if we don’t do this in our everyday use of language?

A more holistic approach is required – one that takes into consideration the original languages, literary features, historical context, redemptive-historical context, and theological truths to name a few. The Bible is definitely more than a text to be critically interpreted, but it is no less than this and so we should seek to interpret faithfully and in a way that does honour to author and Author alike.

The Foundation of Western Values with Dr Ravi Zacharias

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The Future of Western Values

You can view a recording of the event here:

The Foundation of Western Values

Examining Christian Values in the Public Square

with international speaker Dr Ravi Zacharias

A cultural revolution is underway across the western world – and our shared meanings and values are being shaken apart with titanic force. Yet God in His wisdom has set foundations on which our lives are to be built, shaping both our public and private values. In this presentation Ravi examines and responds to the challenges facing these foundations within modern culture.


Ravi ZachariasRavi Zacharias has spoken for 44 years in universities and in public forums all over the world – from the opening of the United Nations General Assembly to the White House, and has spoken to the seats of government in England, Canada and the U.S.  He has authored or edited over twenty books and his weekly radio program airs on 2337 outlets worldwide.

For a full bio – including a list of his books – visit RZIM here.


Mark Powell The evening will be introduced with a TED-style talk by Mark Powell, who will speak on The impact of Faith on Business and Leadership.  He will unpack how we all have a faith from which we get our values – and how such faith links to modern business and leadership in more ways than you might think.

A popular New Zealand business leader with more than 30 years executive experience, Mark is best known for his role as CEO of the Warehouse Group, an iconic New Zealand retailer.


John Peachy The evening will be MC’ed by popular Christian radio talk-back personality, motivational speaker and leadership coach John Peachy.

 

 

 

 

Ravi is a dynamic and fascinating speaker who Thinking Matters is hosting for this once-only Auckland event you won’t want to miss.  Please let others know!

WHEN: Friday 3rd March 2017
TIME: 7:30pm – 9:30pm
WHERE: Harbourside Church, 48 Esmonde Road, Takapuna
COST: $5 Individual – $10 Family (cash at door)
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: We have very limited seating for this event.  Please see details here.

SIDE NOTE: Ravi will also be conducting a series of events in Dunedin from Sunday 26th February until Thursday 2nd March. You can check out details of his Dunedin events here.

Jesus The Game Changer 10 of 10: REASON & SCIENCE

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Jesus The Game Changer

Pop quiz – Which work of ancient literature contains the following: “Come, let us reason together”?

The answer is, of course, the Bible. The Sunday school teachers or taught may have got that one right, but I highly doubt anyone else did. Reason and religion are oil and water to today’s enlightened mind.

Are religion and science really enemies?

Thanks to a bunch of influential pseudo-philosophers and historians, a vast number of people now think that religious claims lack any authority and are completely at odds with the claims of ‘objective’ science.

In order to do science, one must assume that reality is orderly, intelligible and understandable. Do the dominant narratives of today – materialistic naturalism and humanism – provide these foundations or are they borrowing capital from more capable worldviews?

Only certain subject matter is accessible via the scientific method. For example, science can tell us about the various processes at work in the baking of a cake – the combination of chemical ingredients and their reactions, the force required to mix them together, the heat of the oven and what it does to the cake – but it can’t tell us the why of reality, the deep questions that we all seek answers to. Science can explain the cake rising, but not the reason for which the cake is baked – to celebrate the birthday of a loved one and to see joy spread across their face.

My hope for the future

Pop up quiz 2 – Which religious text contains the commandment to “love God with all your mind”? Contrary to public opinion, you don’t leave your mind at the door when embracing Christianity. Quite the opposite.

These small thoughts can by no means provide a detailed analysis of the relationship between religion and science but hopefully they can start a conversation – one where both sides bring reason and tolerance to a vital topic.

Jesus the Game Changer 8 of 10: EDUCATION & HEALTH

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Jesus The Game Changer

Contrary to popular opinion, being a Christian doesn’t mean leaving your brain at the door. One of the enduring benefits of Christianity through the ages has and always will be its holistic appeal to both head and heart.

Just like the spheres of gender, equality, and politics, Jesus has equally impacted the domains of education and health.

Education

Education for all – regardless of social status, gender, race or religion is a byproduct of Christianity. A faith that holds that the universe is intelligible and rational will naturally aim to guide people into understanding the various aspects of existence.

While theology and philosophy may be the two principle disciplines that Christians have majored on, countless other arts, and sciences were by also upheld. While William Tyndale sought to translate the Bible from Latin into common English, thus addressing the spiritual needs of the illiterate (the vast majority of the population), other Reformers such as John Calvin legitimised the study of secular fields – mathematics, cosmology, and law, to name a few. By utilising this balanced and healthy approach to education, societies could be strengthened by the mutual sharing of ideas grounded in objective truth.

The formation of the university and the preservation of antiquities were both products of the Christian commitment to education and learning as much as possible about the created and Creator.

Health

Intimately connected with our previous posts on equality and care, modern healthcare has significant roots in the Christian tradition. All people are created equal and stand in equal need of salvation from the pangs of sin and death, so why wouldn’t people be treated with equality with regards to healthcare?

Grace upon grace

Education and healthcare are not parts of the salvation that Christ offers, but rather gifts of common grace – common because they are for all mankind regardless of their allegiance, and grace because no one deserves them.

Rather than gifts detached from a comprehensive worldview, both education and healthcare can be seen as reflections of greater truths:

  • As man continues to discover truth from a variety of discplines, we must acknowledge the Creator of Truth who knows all things. May this truth humble us in our pursuit of knowledge.
  • Just as sickness and ailments constantly remind us of our mortality, the revelation of God in Scripture serves as a more painful reminder of our sin-sick state which requires a different kind of Physician.

The next time you learn something true or recover from some malady, remember Jesus – the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and the countless common gifts he gives us all, and the one-of-a-kind gift that they point to.

Jesus the Game Changer 6 of 10: CARE

Jesus The Game Changer

This is the sixth post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.


The influential and the marginalised. The wealthy and the poor – all are offered the same fatherly care that Jesus offers.

Sure – modern society cares for the less fortunate. But is there a moral foundation which holds these convictions up? If naturalism is true (and most people assume it is), then there is no reason to put others’ interests ahead of your own. Any altruistic action is done to get you some action. Everything is for you, through you and to you. Amen.

There is a better way

Let’s take a step back into the New Testament’s ancient context. People were viewed from a utilitarian perspective, receiving worth in keeping with how they contribute. The weak and needy – women, children, and the disabled – could not contribute meaningfully and were ostracised, sometimes killed.

Before you get on your moral high horse about how far we have progressed – women are treated as equals with men, children are nurtured and the disabled are loved and cared for – consider these:

  • Women remain oppressed in a misogynistic culture that treats them as sexual objects
  • Children are still beaten, bruised and forgotten by parents. If not physical trauma, then emotional – trophy children strive to meet the unfulfilled goals of their aging parents. But the bar keeps moving.
  • The disabled are becoming endangered. Our aversion to mental or physical disability has grown so strong that parents-to-be can screen for certain conditions and decide whether to take a life or not. Everyone is a eugenicist.

If you were paying attention, you will have noticed that we haven’t changed at all. The symptoms may have changed, but the cause still rots within our bones. Who will save us from this body of death?

Jesus, the Care Giver

Jesus comes and creates a counter-culture where all are truly equal and equally valued. This equality is not due to vague sentimentality or political ideology, but because of our desperate sin problem. We have broken God’s infinite Law and therefore, deserve infinite punishment. As Martin Luther famously said on his deathbed – “We are beggars; this is true.”

But God…

A fountain of everlasting water pours forth from a cross and heavenly bread rises from a tomb. Those who drink and eat will never hunger nor thirst.

Christians can genuinely care for all because they know, deep within their bones, that they are beggars telling other beggars where to be fed.

Dig in.

Jesus the Game Changer 5 of 10: DEMOCRACY

Jesus The Game Changer

This is the fifth post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.


Democracy and Christianity

Democracy in America

In 1831 a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to America to undertake a study of American Society. He wanted to understand why the French democratic experiment had failed, and to identify what things America was implementing to protect democracy. He wrote a work called De La Démocratie en Amérique, otherwise known as Democracy in America.

In Democracy in America, Tocqueville identified various threats to democracy, the first of which was an excessive love for equality. The idea of equality implies that because no person has any more right to rule than another, the only just way to run society is by the will of the majority; however, this can lead to despotism or tyranny. In a purely democratic society, whatever most people consider to be right, is what is right since if you go against what the majority have said, you proclaim that your opinion is superior. People are expected to agree with the majority while at the same time, abandoning rational thought. As Tocqueville comments:

“Formerly tyranny used the clumsy weapons of chains and hangmen; nowadays even despotism, though it seemed to have nothing to learn, has been perfected by civilization…Under the absolute government of a single man, despotism, to reach the soul, clumsily struck at the body, and the soul, escaping from such glows, rose gloriously above it; but in democratic republics that is not at all how tyranny behaves; it leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul.”

A second threat he identified, was an overemphasis on individualism. As people become more equal, they begin to focus in on themselves. In an aristocratic society, people have societal bonds and duties toward each other; if all men are equal, duties beyond that to your family and friends become less important to maintain. Citizens who become too individualistic soon begin to lose the will and motivation to fulfill civic duties and exercise their freedom. A third threat he saw was a tendency of the people towards materialism. As equality grows, individuals begin to believe that they should have as much as everyone else. Further, people may willingly abandon their freedom in exchange for a benevolent despotism which will protect their own personal peace and prosperity.

However, at the same time, Tocqueville also identified elements that can combat the undesired side-effects of equality including religion, the education of women, and freedom of association and of the press. Alexis argues that religion is the most important because of the things it teaches. First of all, religion teaches citizens of the nation how to use and not abuse their freedom. Because the government provides no absolute standards, it is necessary for religion to provide moral boundaries, and as such, teach citizens how to use their freedom. He argues:

“Despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot … How could a society escape destruction if, when political ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened? And what can be done with a people master of itself if it is not subject to God?”

The second reason why religion is a true defender of democracy, is that it stands against the spirit of individualism. Because religion brings people into a community of common belief, it encourages individuals to think about the local and broader community of which they are a member. Finally, because religion draws people’s thoughts beyond the physical toward the eternal and immaterial, it leads them away from materialism. For these reasons and more, Tocqueville strongly warns the leaders of society to not disturb the faith of the people for fear that “the soul may for a moment be found empty of faith and love of physical pleasures come and spread and fill all.”

Tocqueville concludes his work with the following:

“The nations of our day cannot prevent conditions of equality from spreading in their midst. But it depends upon themselves whether equality is to lead to servitude or freedom, knowledge or barbarism, prosperity or wretchedness.” [0]

Democracy and Christianity

So, how does Christianity fit into all this? In this next section, we will look at how the Christian religion provides a sure foundation for democracy and equality.

In the first chapter of Genesis we read:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

Right in the beginning, God affirms that all humans are made in the image of God and in so doing declares the equal value and dignity of every person. Yet the dignity of man is marred, for in the third chapter of Genesis we read:

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23 ESV)

Right at the start, the Bible affirms the nobility of man, yet at the same time the wretchedness of man. From this we reason that because all men are equal, no person has the right to rule with absolute authority, yet because we are fallen, limits on the power of government are necessary. The will of the majority is not necessarily right, and the individual has the right and even a duty to go against the majority opinion when he or she believes the majority is wrong. Second, the Genesis narrative demonstrates to us that every human being is accountable before God to obey the moral law. There is a God in heaven who will judge, and as Adam and Eve were judged for their transgressions, so God will judge every person on either their own deeds, or upon the finished work of Christ as the New Testament affirms. Third, we see that the Bible does not affirm individualism :

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:28-29 ESV)

In this first chapter, God commands Adam and Eve to populate the earth and bring it under their authority and rule. As such they have a duty to each other and to the earth, a responsibility to obey God and look after that which has been entrusted to them. This is not individualism, but a focus on community and a clear picture of obedience and interdependence. Finally, Christianity clearly speaks out against materialism by teaching that every human being will one day die and spend eternity in either heaven or hell. Any possession in this life we possess for a limited time; the one who is consumed with temporal things may forfeit the next life, yet one who has an eternal perspective understands that this life is only a brief moment when compared with eternity.

In the Final Analysis

As you can see, the Christian perspective provides a sure foundation for the preservation of democracy. In fact, everything that has been said thus far can be summarized in this statement:

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV)

Each individual is to love and serve every other individual, to obey God, to think of others before the self, and to love only God and people. What does this mean for us? We need to get involved in government and pray that others may also get involved who are Christians. We need to share the gospel, and bring people into the kingdom so that they may also be governed by Christ. And finally, we need to examine our own lives, and see if we are truly loving God and people, or if we are succumbing to individualism and materialism. If we are, then we must repent and seek the forgiveness and strength of the Lord. Democracy sure has problems, but it’s the best we have, as Churchill once remarked before the House of Commons:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…” [1]


References

[0] – http://www.gradesaver.com/democracy-in-america

[1] – https://richardlangworth.com/worst-form-of-government

Jesus the Game Changer 4 of 10: WOMEN & CHILDREN

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Jesus the Game Changer - digital download

This is the fourth post in a series of posts running parallel to weekly screening of the series Jesus the Game Changer on Shine TV.


Do you know what it is like to be treated as a second-class citizen? A valuable thought experiment is to delve into the life of a woman or child in the Greco-Roman world to experience what this was truly like. Women and children were viewed as inferior citizens regardless of which social strata they found themselves in. This sentiment is found in countless writings from that period and irks the modern progressive (despite modern treatment of women and children being no less unjust).

Both yesterday and today, we witness an urge to subdue the vulnerable that is endemic to mankind. As with all injustice, Jesus Christ comes to right these wrongs.

Jesus and women

Jesus was by no means afraid to get intimate with the lesser – with those the cultural elite  controlled. Through his interactions with the bleeding woman, the thirsty Samaritan and countless prostitutes, Jesus was declaring a massively important theological truth – we are all equal in that we all stand equally in need of mercy and grace for the rebellion in our hearts.

The resurrection accounts contained in the four Gospels report that women were the first to see the shattered stone and empty tomb. This is no passing detail for the authors – this is a punch to the face of ancient female relations. If you wanted to create your own religion in first century Palestine, one of the first steps you would take is to avoid having women play an integral part in the genesis. But they did. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John must have missed that lesson.

Jesus and children

All of Jesus’ gentle interactions with children (or little ones) was not to demonstrate how good of a Sunday School teacher he would have been. As with so many of Jesus’ words and actions, we have to dig deep for the gold beneath the surface:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)

Did you catch that? We are the children. We are the helpless, vulnerable, dependants who require constant adult supervision to avoid getting lost or cracking our skulls on the coffee table. God’s gracious will was to reveal his plan of salvation to us – foolish and misunderstanding children – to give something infinite to those infinitely undeserving

Yet again we see Jesus, the great Leveler – he definitively levels the playing field by not only teaching with his words and actions that all men are equal, but by focusing every eye and shutting every mouth via the truth of sin and judgement. No matter your gender or age every person stands empty-handed before a holy God who justly demands perfection.

With unparalleled gentleness and meekness, this carpenter from Nazareth stoops down to the prostitute and the little ones, opens his arms and says, “Come to me all who labour and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

We, the prostitutes and fools of this world, are adopted as his children. Game changing.