Rob Buckingham's Blog

Discerning as Mud

One "friend" didn't agree with me quoting a "secular" source and wrote, "Rob Buckingham, you have all the discernment of a lump of mud."  Nice hey?  I'm not easily offended and I chose not to be offended by this comment.  After all, Jesus healed at least two people by making mud out of dirt and spit, so maybe it was really a compliment – but I don't think so.

You see, the quote was taken from an article that Jeff Kennett wrote called "Australians must embrace gay marriage."  My Facebook "friend" took exception to this concluding that any article condoning gay marriage must be all wrong.  But I didn't quote the whole article, I just quoted one section in which I thought Jeff Kennett was spot on – his desire for a compassionate, uplifting and exciting church – as opposed to uncaring, dull and boring churches that are a major turnoff even to Australian Christians.  That's why, in the latest census, two thirds of Aussies describe themselves as Christian but only 7% regularly attend church.  The rest have probably been to a church and decided they have enough problems in life without adding a boring hour on a Sunday morning!

But my unkind Facebook "friend" is missing an important truth and buying into the lie that there is some great divide between the sacred and the secular.  The Hebrew worldview (from which the Bible is written) saw the earth as the Lord's and everything and everyone in it.  In fact the Bible writers often quote from "secular" sources.

The apostle Paul quotes from a number of ancient Greek poets in his writings.  In Acts 17:28 Paul gives two quotations: "'For in him we live and move and have our being.”  As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.” The first quote is from the Cretan poet Epimenides (c. 600 BC), while “We are his offspring” is actually quoted by at least two different poets, Aratus (c. 315-240 BC) and Cleanthes (331-233 BC) in his Hymn to Zeus.  That's right, Paul quotes from a Hymn written to a pagan god and relates it to the worship of the One True God. 

We also find Paul quoting secular sources in two of his letters.  In 1Corinthians 15:33 he warns, "Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” This is a quote from the comedy Thais written by Greek poet Menander.  In his letter to Titus, Paul quotes the Cretan poet Epimenides a second time, "Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’” Paul goes on in the next verse to say emphatically, "This testimony is true.  Therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they will be sound in the faith …" This quote is why calling someone a "Cretan" is considered an insult even today.

Jesus used well-known sayings of his day and brought them into his teachings.  In John 4 he uses two such sayings: "You know the saying, 'Four months between planting and harvest’” (v. 35).  Then in verse 37, "You know the saying, 'One plants and another harvests.’” And it's true."

Jesus also used stories from everyday life – things that his audience would be well acquainted with – and drew spiritual truth from them, to take people on a journey from what they knew to what they needed to know.  We would do well to find modern day parables that are applicable to life in the 21st Century.  And that's what I was attempting to do by quoting from Jeff Kennett's article: not trying to be as discerning as a lump of mud but rather trying to find a point of identification with people who may be looking for a relationship with God and a church that is compassionate, uplifting and, yes, maybe even exciting.

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