Search This Blog

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stand in the ways and see and ask for the old paths

I had two rather interesting tales passed to me the other day. The concluding remark in one of these, if it weren’t true, might have quite easily served as a joke’s entertaining punchline. It concerned Moore College and its final spiritual and philosophical decrepitude. From without, and put simply, it clearly tips Moore over to the liberal side of the theological divide. More of both these stories later, but first a revisit to ancient Israel.

‘Thus says the LORD:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths,
where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

“And they have caused themselves to
stumble in their ways,
From the ancient paths,
To walk in pathways
And not on a highway.”
(Jeremiah 6:16;18:15)

From the present’s obvious vantage point of being able to peer backwards to the distant past, I’ve often wondered why Israel found it so difficult to appropriately respond to God. Israel did believe in a “God”, of sorts. They understood that the world was created. The people understood that it wasn’t eternal or that it hadn’t just popped into existence from and because of nothing. That much is clear. But why did Israel, time and time again, take the wrong paths?

“How can you say, ‘We are wise,
And the law of the Lord is with us’?
Look, the false pen of the scribe
Certainly works falsehood.”
(Jeremiah 8:8)

The prophets, repeatedly, spelled out the solution. It was clearly a product of leadership and these “God-appointed” men giving the wrong information. This specious knowledge didn’t suddenly appear one day, causeless, whole, a take-it-or-leave-it package, but incrementally worked its way into the general consciousness of the people through, and what was generally regarded as innocuous, alterations in revelation. I can almost hear the priests discussing it to the lay person: “Look, trust us. Aren’t we Kohenim, God’s elect. What’s it matter if you believe this? After all, isn’t the main focus of our nation to be on the fact that Moses rescued us from the yoke of the Egyptians? As long as you believe that God saved us, then the rest is secondary. Be reassured that the writers of sacred Scripture never meant that it should be taken so dogmatically as you suggest it should. A little bit of give between the text and reader is to be expected in our enlightened age. I wouldn’t have spent all those years studying at Jerusalem to be wrong on this.” Yes, I can very well imagine such self-serving justification.

Their fundamental error was to replace God and His revelation with themselves as the epistemological nub of their spirituality:

“For my people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns – broken
cisterns that can hold no water.”
(Jeremiah 2:13)

Once you substitute God as foundational for knowledge, anything and everything is up for grabs. We should be entirely faithful to God when His Spirit has spoken and we should intellectually honestly deal with that information. Too often people obstinately ignore God’s revelation and turn to another in order to form their understanding of the world.

“Why then has this people slidden back,
Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding?
They hold fast to deceit,
They refuse to return.
I listened and heard,
But they do not speak aright.
No man repented of his wickedness,
Saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turned to his own course,
As the horse rushes into the battle.”
(Jeremiah 8:5,6)

The other morning an acquaintance visited a local Anglican church. The minister and he had previously spoken by phone about Disconnect ’09 and conversation had immediately turned to the great miracle of creation. Some time later he had walked into the church to pass on an article about the genre of Genesis 1. The minister wasn’t there but his assistant was. Again, rather quickly, they began discussing Genesis 1. My friend pointed out to the young and recently graduated Moorite that he had misidentified historical prose as ahistorical poetry. The young man believed, among other things, that if a piece of writing contains repetition then necessarily it can’t be historical narrative. It was pointed out that on the contrary there is plenty of well-known ancient “secular” historiography containing this literary device. His reply was perhaps the most astounding my friend, or indeed I, have ever heard from a Moorite: “You are arrogant because you ignore the findings of postmodernism’s critique of modernism.”

There you have it: the words of wisdom from 4 years of what I can only label ‘brainwashing’ from an institution that is supposedly serving as Australia’s theological flagship. That this represents the zenith of critical thinking is hardly reassuring. Apparently, the best they can offer is to argue that my friend should throw away his personal relationship with God, in which he attentively allows God, the author of Scripture, to speak to his mind, and instead substitute his own intellect to be the basis for and interpreter of truth. The postmodern project says that the author is dead, allowing the reader to puts his meaning - or any other sinner’s or fool’s for that matter - into the text because the author can no longer speak.

And this is why these Moore graduates can look you in the face and tell you that 6 days does not mean 6 days because God’s intended meaning, if indeed He ever had one, has a shelf-life that has long expired. God, in as much as He is the author of His Word, is silent. If He is silent, then it follows that it is up to us to “discover” what happened at the very beginning.

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose mind departs from the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 17:5)

What in fact is happening is that these people are replacing God at the epistemological centre of the search for truth with an ersatz, with an idol of the mind. These people – and first-hand experience bears this out - are no longer approachable by reason because they have forsaken reason and committed adultery with another nation’s gods. Gods do not have to be a physical representation but are more likely to be, and considerably more harmful if they are, the way we think and whom we intellectually rely on.

“For it is the land of carved images,
And they are insane with their idols.”
(Jeremiah 50:38)

The other story occurred at a University of NSW New College function. The speaker, a neo-natal expert from Britain and ostensibly a conservative, presented a lecture on ethics, abortion and biogenetic manipulation. In conversation afterwards he explained how he had complete faith in the scientific project, God’s revelation wasn’t perspicuous and that he was free to hold to a long age view of origins. It was pointed out to him that all of the miracles of the Bible were done in no time and perfectly, yet the biggest miracle, creation, according to his own view, was exceedingly slow and error-ridden. Ignoring all reason that instantaneity and perfection are how our minds recognise God’s miraculous working in nature, he shrugged his shoulders, smiled politely, and excused himself.

Clearly, all his mind’s thoughts had not been made captive to Christ and is a perfect example of a Christian’s outlook being directed by a foreign idol, in this case, the secular Enlightenment project. This philosophical approach splits up the things of faith and the things of science, thereby, in the case of the latter, promoting an independent, God-free epistemology in which the Lord is not all in all.

In August’s Southern Cross Moore College’s principal John Woodhouse makes an extraordinary sales pitch for the college. His first supporting argument is the “godliness” of its teachers. Until I read John’s comments I’d never realised in my nearly 30 years of being Christian that it was another man’s “godliness” that we are to set our sights upon, particularly upon those same men, whom John held up as paradigms of virtue, who would also read John’s article. I’d always thought that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” and that it was Christ’s holiness that we are to be subject to. Maybe I’ve missed something from these teachers of God’s law.

But even more alarming (is that possible?!) is John’s outrageous hypocrisy. Quite incredibly he delusionally argues that Moore has a “worldwide reputation for teaching how the whole Bible and all of its parts bear witness to Christ.” John’s italics here serve as a comedic self-parody. If John actually believed that, he would understand the Gospel and Christ’s first office of Creator; but he doesn’t. Christ clearly tells us in Exodus 31 that He “made the heavens and the earth in 6 days”, and John just doesn’t believe this. John believes that the world is old, very old, and that, quite obviously, Jesus didn’t really mean this when he said this 3,500 years ago to Moses. No, despite the disciple John’s and the apostle Paul’s unequivocal statements that in Christ “all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made”, despite Christ Himself revealing exactly how long he took to bring the earth into existence, the principal of Moore College, on the contrary, believes that this is just not true. John’s training is in geology and I can only guess that that is where he finds his “intellectual” crutch in order to theologically reinterpret Jesus’ own words to Moses.

I shouldn’t be too severe on John. He does manage, however, to take Jesus’ words seriously, somewhat. At the end of his emphatic statement that the whole Bible serves to witness to Christ, he inserts the textual support for this claim. Bizarrely it’s John 5:39, augmented with an even more emphatic exclamation mark. This verse, as you recall, is Jesus’ own supporting argument to His claim He is from God, namely, that the Old Testament does indeed testify to this. But what is conveniently, and ironically, missing from John Woodhouse’s argument is that Jesus goes on to claim that it was Moses who wrote about Him. Furthermore, Jesus claims that if you don’t believe Moses’ words about Jesus, you won’t believe Jesus’ words about Himself. So, Moses said, after speaking with, in all likelihood, the Creator Jesus, that Jesus took 6 days to create the earth. Moore College argues that this is not what Moses meant. It then goes out into the world (weren’t they spotted standing almost inside St Andrew’s the other week trying to “evangelise”?) and argues with non-believers that it doesn’t really matter what you believe about Moses’ meaning here because you should just believe Jesus died for you.

It’s a very simple formula Jesus put forward: If you don’t believe Moses, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to believe that Jesus said, and meant, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Teach people a pagan, atheistic philosophy that God incomprehensibly used chance, death and time to create, and then expect them to believe that out of His complete love for us, He died for us, they’ll think you’re fools. And rightly so!

God’s judgement is now upon the Sydney Anglican Diocese. Not only has its leaders committed adultery, but it even has allowed itself to follow the vilest principles of secularism by borrowing money to play the stock exchange. It has lost millions. But it doesn’t end there. Taking its lead from the cold brutality of the corporate business world, it sacks people while its clergy continue on the same salary. Yet it expects to “Connect” with the lost!

“This says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring on this city and on all her towns all the doom that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their necks that they might not hear my words.” (Jeremiah 19:15)


neil moore said...

John quoted: “For it is the land of carved images,
And they are insane with their idols.” (Jeremiah 50:38)

As emphasised in Baker's Dictionary of Theology, the offence is not so much the worship of the carved image but the deity it symbolized.

These people we are vying with are presenting a false deity to the world - not the One True God.


Critias said...

It amazes me that you guys always seem to be able to base your arguments in Scripture, but the SADs just bluster about some vague importation of science (naturalism) in to the debate. I don't read them resting their argument on the Bible...maybe because they can't, in 'not a leg to stand on' sense!

Critias said...

Oh, I also forgot to mention. I went past St Andrew's cathedral the other day; not a soul in sight. Half of Sydney walks past this celebration of stone, but no one out there, day in day out, talking to passers by, offering prayer and comfort, or just a listening one! Evangelism by doing nothing about it!

gwen said...

It seems, St Andrews Cathedral just doesn't have anyone to do 'child face painting' otherwise the congregation would be out there evangelising!


John said...

Yes, Gwen, it is so unsurprising to see the majority of Christian "evangelicals" at fairs etc, have face painting. It's an indicator of liberalism. As I recall, all Uniting Churches have it in their "outreach" and then it's a decline from there. You can excuse the Uniting because they're so far away from biblical Christianity that they're beyond reason, but when you see the supposedly straight down the line churches have the activity, it's weird. I don't get it: What it's purpose? To say Christians are fun guys with kids? I thought outreach was about God's message of redemption, so why all the paint? Can anyone enlighten me?

gwen said...

The face painting has been done in my church.From what the evangelistic team says "it is too difficult to get adults anywhere near our church stall so we have to provide something which gets the kids in. The parents have to hang around waiting for the kids to have their face painted so that is the opportunity for a church member to connect."

From what I hear, we haven't had much success in getting the people into church but the tactic is persevered with because we have nothing else.


Eric said...

I think the idea of face painting to connect is not a bad one; trouble is, no connection occurs. This is a dumb marketing failure of the first order. The Anglican church must have a zillion smart marketing and advertising people in its membership, but they can't use them to get something like building a market-contact channel that really works. All their evangelistic stuff misses the point IMO. They never make a connection with people that makes sense to the people (I purposely exagerate...maybe sometimes) with whom they want to connect.
So what would useful face painting look like?
Maybe this:
Face-painting for chln...give a pack that contains biblical stuff, invite to sunday club, scripture class at local school (script. teacher in attendance to make connection). People there to chat to parents about various chln's activities, other media to make a connection, talk of programs (e.g. a forthcoming dinner for parents on chln's education, raising kids, child psyc, helping special needs families...a million topics are there for the taking).

If you want to really connect with people, you find their interests and make the connection work in their terms. And you've got to do it in the long run, not a one hit wonder. Its the year in year out commitment to connecting, serving, being there for people that works!

gwen said...

Oh Eric, You are such a wag! There's nothing like a good chin-wag. What would your tactic be for the cheeks?


neil moore said...


I think Eric abbreviated the word "children" and was not saying to start with painting the chin of children.


gwen said...

Oh, I'm sorry Eric and others. I'm not used to abbreviations such as that.

Just the same, there is nothing like a good chin-wag and Hey, why not do child face painting with certain parts of the face representing some gospel message. I remember as a lass being taught with different coloured bits of cloth or paper - a sort of 2 Ways to Live by colours.


John said...

How about having sets of drums and drummers beating out the Gospel in Morse Code? The noise would surely bring them in and maybe,just maybe, fill the pews as well.

Eric said...

One thing I think that most evangelicals forget is that there's more to Christian life than just speaking the gospel; there's growing in Christian life and service, conforming one's ways to the gospel (its fruit, I meam, and worldlessness, peacableness, kindness, really listening to people and wanting to serve them...). In most churches I've known there's little of this; just more socio-cultural conventionalism.

neil moore said...

Drums & drummers??? Don't you think the guitarists in the church music group will get a little envious of the attention the drummers would get and try to muscle in on the action by backmasking the gospel message?


John said...


I'm ready to try anything. We have to invent new methodologies because the old ways just won't cut the mustard in today's world. There is no purpose in going down to the market place daily and discussing things. At most, maybe, once a year, or even better, having something like a program called Disconnect 2009: have a few days outside the main church, a few snags on a barbie, a sprinkling of combative,know-it-alls who try and tell people that it doesn't matter how God created or that the first page of the Bible and part of the 10 Commandments are poetry and who couldn't distinguish an aleph from a bet yet argue endlessly that they know what constitutes Hebrew poetry. Yep, that's what we should do!

neil moore said...


Funny isn't it? Fifty two weeks of the year the public makes a point of avoiding the church property and the church. Then the thinking of the church is that a one off event (or a sprinkling of events) associated with Connect 09 (or as you say disConnect 09) will turn all that around. A sizzling sausage just doesn't have that much power!

God has such power but is God likely to act for a people who purport to have faith in Him but reject His Word out of hand when He sets Himself up against the wisdom of man on the matter of origins?

Testing the Lord has never been known to have a happy ending.


Mike W said...

I'm quite sympathetic to you, but I don't know that you are entirely fair. I was at that New College lecture, and it didn't play out that way to me. Rather, it seemed the question was an off topic ambush.
Your picture of Moore college is a little one eyed too. There is quite a bit more variety there than you think. Sure, there are some whose opinion on Genesis you will disagree with, but there are others that you wouldn't. What isn't accepted is off topic ambushing. Mostly I would say that the college lecturers share your opinions on epistemology, even if they haven't worked it out on this issue. I dare say they have thought through some other elements of biblical theology that you haven't, but I wouldn't let them write you off for that, so I'm disturbed when you write them off for this. So, keep arguing, keep decrying, but don't use dodgy tactics of false listening to rile up your friends, rather, entrust yourself to the one who judges justly.

John said...


I see you're a Moore student.

Three questions:

1. You say that "I'm quite sympathetic to you". Exactly what are you sympathetic with in our stand?

2. You state that what I've mentioned above about the New College lecture was "an off topic ambush". I can't see how that is possible given that the question, I am reliably told, was asked in private AFTER the lecture. Can you explain?

3. In your time at Moore, have you heard one lecture setting out the orthodox, historical understanding of Genesis one? That is, according to the historico-grammatical method of understanding the text, have you heard why the days of Genesis 1 should be taken as normal 24 hour days?

Mike W said...

Thanks John

1. I'm sympathetic in that I don't think the prevailing clergy culture is automatically right. I get the feeling that there is sometimes more talk about being 'bible-based' than actually listening to the scriptures. (pretty peeved about the money lending too)

2. Sorry, I must have got it mixed up with a question that was asked at the public question time that was almost verbatim with your first story.

3. Yep, I have. Must admit that is a minority position amongst the lecturers, but not unholdable. One thing I've found at college is that various lecturers have various positions on all sorts of things.

What is far scarier than labelling them (us?) liberals, is that this position is held within a generally evangelical epistemological framework.
It's quite easy to label people heretics or idolaters when they are in error, but generally I don't think it is a very good idea. It casts you in the role of the righteous prophet, against the terribly corrupt establishment. Now, quite a number of the guys you criticise do exactly the same thing to other groups of people. On the whole, I think taking this path leads you to blindness about your own weakness, blindspots and sin.
I don't know, maybe you are above all that, but I'm not, so I have to be careful how I listen to and speak about those who profess faith in Christ.

So, I where am I going. Keep saying what is right. Keep pointing out error. Just remember that you don't need to win to win. Jesus is risen and the truth will out. You don't need to take cheap shots, you don't need to protect your back, or gain extra momentum from criticizing facepainting.
You don't need to demonize those you disagree with to be correct.

John said...


1. You state that "Yep, I have."

I didn't say anything about lecturers' belief or if the traditional view was briefly mentioned (i.e. listed as one of many possibilities), but if the biblical basis for the young earth argument was itself explained i.e. grammar, number + day, in correspondence with Exodus 20 etc.

BTW, exactly how many Moore lecturers hold to a young earth?

2. "What is far scarier than labelling them (us?) liberals, is that this position is held within a generally evangelical epistemological framework.
It's quite easy to label people heretics or idolaters when they are in error, but generally I don't think it is a very good idea. It casts you in the role of the righteous prophet, against the terribly corrupt establishment. Now, quite a number of the guys you criticise do exactly the same thing to other groups of people. On the whole, I think taking this path leads you to blindness about your own weakness, blindspots and sin."

Not really, Mike. I do just about fully realise how much of a sinner I am, but your point is a red herring. If it were valid we should never criticise anyone's wrong theology because..why?... because we're all sinners? It seems like it doesn't follow. If a person has a wrong concept of God, then he has a wrong concept of God. We here believe that this particular wrong concept of God which Jensen and his crowd push (i.e. evolution and/or long ages) strikes at the very heart of Christianity. It tells a lie about the Creator, it lies about Jesus, it lies about who God is, and it ultimately makes the Trinity nonsense.

The theology which almost every Moore-trained minister favours is NOT a Christian one. It never was, but now is being pushed as though it always was. This is a lie. These men are leaders and speak lies about the Lord.

We here cannot take it so lightly as you. People actually lose their faith because of this very same lie that Jensen has pushed as being the ONLY way to understand Genesis. That so many Moorites believe that Genesis 1-11 isn't history is a liberal notion. Jesus and the NT writers quoted from these chapters more times than any other passage in the Bible, and quoted them as though they WERE history, and for a college which has only been around for a little more than a century to say that they aren't, isn't a high view of scripture.

Logically, Genesis 1 is history or it isn't. If it is, and people in positions teach it isn't, then they are clearly undermining the word of God.

Your mention of epistemology raises an interesting point. The real basis for so-called evangelicals to not take Genesis 1 as recording a young earth history is that they believe that science has "proved" the earth old. Well, leaving aside the fact that it has done no such thing, if it had, then Jesus hasn't risen because science proves dead men don't rise.

sam drucker said...

Note the comment of an atheist on:

who, unlike many lecturers and graduates of Moore College, grasps the issue:

"I have of course read creationist publications, and I am familiar with the major creationists websites. While I reject their claims, they do raise an important point. If the Adam and Eve story is myth, how can the story of Jesus and Redemption be rationalised? What is the nature of the Fall and “original sin” in the context of our modern understanding of human evolution? And more to the point, if God were directing evolution, or even the creation story were true, why would God endow humans with a sinful nature in the first place, knowing that we would therefore sin, and then require us to be redeemed for that sin?

I can accept that the story is a little more coherent if one takes the Bible literally, i.e. recent creation and direct creation of man. However, how can The Fall and Redemption be accommodated in a modern scientific view of earth history, with death and violence preceding human existence?

I know the creationists will say the answer is to reject evolution. But how is it possible to be a Christian while accepting evolution? And where is the role for a personal God as opposed to a remote deistic entity?"

Sam Drucker

John said...

Excellent! How can the heathen understand the truth better than the saved!!

Yes, Sam, the guy would make a complete Christian...if only he would come to believe that our God died for him.

neil moore said...

Thank you, Sam.

Reality can be so stark at times.

That Atheist will cut the legs out from Theistic Evolutionists every time. They have no witness to offer him.

In effect, our very own Archbishop is muted before that gentleman.