"We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice." (1st Doctrine of The Salvation Army)
Yesterday, social media was flooded by posts and news reports celebrating the historic passing of the Gay Marriage Bill in New Zealand, becoming the 13th country to legalise gay marriage. What is a significant win for the voices of those advocating for the rights of the LGBT community is also a significant challenge for the Church seeking to reconcile biblical truth with popular opinion. We live in a time when there are conflicting voices about truth, morality and ethics, not only challenging the tenets of faith, but long held social values. As demonstrated yesterday, when enough conflicting voices find unity, truth is redefined and laws are changed.
The democracy that has been defended in our nation provides the platform for minority voices to be heard and to significantly influence the majority. In recent years we saw the rise of a small minority party in Australia called "One Nation" that gave voice to racist and other prejudiced views that attracted enough votes to win a seat in parliament. The rise of multiculturalism and increase in the prominance of world religions in Australia evoked the introduction of the "Racial and Religious Tolerance Act" in Victoria that landed two Christian leaders in court for speaking out against opposing religious views. Euthanasia advocates are gaining increasing public support for the legalisation of voluntary Euthanasia with a private member's bill only two votes away from victory in the South Australian parliament last year.
At what point does a society not allow popular opinion or majority rule to alter foundational or traditional values? What are the checks and balances to protect against loud and opposing minorities? Does a popular view make it right? Who determines what is right? Is the democratic system of government that we celebrate in Australia as secure as we think? What happens when enough people in a democracy agree on an idealogy that violates basic human rights or long held biblical beliefs? Are we on a slippery slope of self destruction by abandoning absolute truth?
In the absence of absolute truth, relative morality and popular opinion provide a very unstable foundation for social, political and religious values. Since the early church councils of the first few centuries, Christians have embraced the Bible as God's revelation and the foundation for truth. It has acted as a measuring stick for life and the law, shaping much of the western world's values. It reveals God's pattern for humanity and His plan to restore relationship between the Creator and His creation. Everytime we abandon God's ideals for ours we step out of alignment with His pattern and plan for humankind. It seems to me that the brokenness we see in our world is proportional to the shift of social values away from biblical values.
We may defend our right to choose and pursue whatever lifestyle seems right to us, but when what is right for me clashes with what is right for you, we have an impasse that compromises the very essence of community. While a return to the Scriptures as the "divine rule of Christian faith and practice" may seem archaic in a modern secular society, it does provide a solid foundation to reestablish a society centred around a common set of values that are aligned with God's pattern and plan for humankind. When ancient Israel "did what was right in their own eyes" an entire kingdom fell, but when they submitted to God's laws the nation prospered. I wonder what it will take for this nation to recognise the vulnerability of our society as we shift further away from the foundation of God's Word? How many marriage break-downs, financial collapses, corrupt politicians, acts of violence and terrorism, environmental disasters, armed conflicts, abused children, trafficked human beings will it take to admit that as a human race we have got it wrong and are incapable of making our own rules?
There is so much talk about our rights - the right to love who we want, to say what we want, do what we want, have want we want and be what we want. But when what we want for our lives misaligns with what God wants for our lives, the happiness we think we feel is temporal and incomparable to the abundance of life that is ours when we abandon our rights for a relationship with our Creator and live according to His pattern and purpose.