In an article, ‘Faith’s Implacable Enemies’, in The Weekend Australian (November 4-5, 2017), Dyson Heydon, a former justice of the High Court of Australia, writes of the significant shift by society’s elites today away from the humble dependence on the blessing of Almighty God expressed in the ‘Imperial Act’ that brought ‘the Australian Constitution into being’.
Heydon comments that ‘the public voices of the modern elites are not humble. They conceive themselves to have entitlements and rights, not blessings. And they do not feel any gratitude to Almighty God for their entitlements and rights. Instead, they desire to exclude any role for religion in Australian public discussion, and perhaps any role for religion in any sphere, public or private. They instantly demand an apology for any statement they dislike.’
Furthermore, Heydon observes, ‘Indifference (towards religion) based on rising wealth can be insidiously damaging to religion… Religion inquires into the nature of humanity and the destiny of humanity… To those satisfied with the pleasures of this world, now so freely available, inquiry and search of these kinds is of no interest… But members of modern elites are moving away from mere indifference. They are embracing a fanatical anti-clericalism. Some want to destroy faith itself…’
‘Modern elites do not desire tolerance,’ Heydon notes. ‘They demand unconditional surrender’.
How will we respond? We need to keep before us the evidence of God in the existence of the universe. We also need to remember the evidence of God’s powerful work in history – especially in the life, death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Too often we forget and are silenced.
In 2 Peter 1 the Apostle Peter insists that his readers always remember what they had been taught about the faith. I intend to keep on reminding you …, he says (verse 12); I will always make every effort to refresh your memory (verse 13); and, After my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things (verse 15).
His words, reminder and memory point to the fact that Christianity is a received truth. There is a body of information that can be learned and recalled – God’s good news.
Peter wants us to understand that all Jesus said and did was true: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,…. (verse 16).
We often forget that Christianity was born at a time of hundreds of religions and philosophies — Paganism, Epicureanism with its rationalism, Stoicism with its moralism and ‘stiff upper-lip’; occultism, spiritism, mysticism, dualism, pantheism, animism, and a host of other ‘–isms’. Indeed the elites of the 1st century Roman Empire were hostile towards the followers of Jesus Christ.
How important is it that we remember the reality and trustworthiness of Jesus – God in the flesh, who lived amongst us, died for us, and was raised to life.
We need to keep front and center in our lives his words: “You are the salt of the earth,” he says. “You are the light of the world…” he continues. “In the same way, let your light so shine before others that they see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 5:13-14, 16).
Furthermore, Jesus expects us to play our part in his wider mission to ‘the lost’ in a hostile world. His words to the Seventy, sent out in the course of his ministry, identify principles for us: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep amongst wolves, so be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Not all the seventy were preachers, but they were still sent. They were part of the witness to Jesus. In Colossians 4:5, Paul picks up the theme of wisdom: Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders… He calls his readers (including you and me) to speak graciously, looking for ways to introduce questions and comments that open up the larger issues of life. Our speech is to be seasoned with salt – not insipid, gossip (Colossians 4:6).
Dyson Heydon comments that the elites today, ‘By preventing any public expression of religious thought through ridicule and bullying, they tend to cause religion to wither away even in the private sphere. What can have no public expression will eventually cease to have any private existence…’
What we often overlook is that the followers of Jesus overturned the ancient Roman world, not by armed revolution, but through bold and confident prayer to the God ‘whose nature is always to have mercy’, and by the example of their lives and the testimony of their lips. Let’s pray for the grace, wisdom, and strength we need to serve Christ Jesus, the Lord.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com