Our response to the world needs to embrace more than lament, but a deep malaise has descended upon contemporary Western society. There is a hardness of heart, but a softness in the head; a trivialisation of life, yet a lack of humour; and a coarsened culture but a distorted sensitivity concerning giving offence. Any example would do as an illustration, but the recent moral outrage at the sexual misbehaviour of parliamentary staffers in Canberra is clear enough.
The wrong paradigm was embraced long ago. There is no way that the chattering classes would admit that the basic problem was that God’s commandments were being trampled upon. For decades, the received wisdom has been that sexual morality does not count as morality at all. Provided all was consensual – or near enough, given the flow of alcohol – anything was allowed. Sexual chastity just did not rank with more vital issues, such as not mixing up one’s landfill bin with one’s recycle bin on garbage night. Given this paradigm, the media could maintain their moral outrage at parliamentary staffers while continuing to excuse sleazy advertisements and shows like Married at First Sight and Game of Thrones.
With the wrong paradigm comes the wrong diagnosis. If the problem is sexism and misogyny, then it is clear that increased doses of equality are what is needed. Actually, Peta Credlin has made the accusation that the lewd acts in Canberra included many that were homosexual or solitary, which muddies the misogynist waters somewhat. In contrast, the Bible treats men and women as different, and teaches that the Fall has affected us in differing ways. When it comes to lust, both genders are capable of it, but Jesus directs His words especially at men: ‘I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matt.5:28). When it comes to clothing, both genders need to take heed, but the apostle especially directs women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety (1 Tim.2:9).
If misogyny is the culprit, then the solution might be found in another commission of inquiry, another lengthy report, further recommendations, and finally gender quotas for parliamentarians. But if your paradigm is wrong, your diagnosis will be wrong, and your proposed solution will be wrong. Greg Sheridan, who voted in favour of same-sex marriage in 2017, is disturbed by what has taken place, and has had the temerity to suggest that ‘Men could do much worse than look to Jesus.’ It is not exactly John the Baptist in full cry, but an improvement on the fashionable mantra about gender quotas.
The world has created its own problems – it has taken morality out of sexual relationships; it sees uniformity as the answer to all ills; and it calls on the law to achieve these goals. The result is more of the same, and a blindness as to what is going wrong. People get their hopes up that progress is being made when actually the boat is just being rowed around in circles. It is God who declares what is wrong: it is the human heart, for it is corrupt (Matt.15:19). This is something we must try to curb, but the believer comes to acknowledge the truth of Jesus’ words, that ‘apart from Me, you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
Benjamin Franklin was not known as an ardent evangelical Christian, and his friend George Whitefield would often urge the claims of the gospel upon him. Yet during a deadlock at the American Constitutional Convention he called for prayer:
I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men; and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.
So much for an appearance on Q&A.
Yet as in all things, the paradigm is that we are creatures answerable to our Creator; the diagnosis is that we are all fallen and rebellious sinners; and the solution is that we need to repent and trust in the Lord Christ as Saviour. How simple and how hard!
With warm regards in Christ,
Rev. Dr Peter Barnes,
Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia