Rob Buckingham's Blog

The Problem of Suffering

The problem of suffering is the subject of the most frequently raised question concerning the Christian faith: “If there’s a loving God why is there so much suffering in the world?”

Suffering is something that touches everyone.  From large-scale events such as wars and natural disasters, to suffering on an individual level like bereavement, sickness, broken relationships, involuntary singleness, depression, loneliness, poverty, persecution, rejection, and disappointment.  Suffering can come in an endless variety of forms and no human being is immune from it – not even Christians.

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Judgmental Christians

Ever met a judgmental Christian?  You probably have, there are plenty around – people who are ready to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized.  It baffles me as to why some people feel that they have a right to judge others when Jesus taught on several occasions “Do not judge” (Luke 6:37; Matthew 7:1).  It doesn’t get any clearer than that does it?

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Christianity and Politics – Far from Right

In the book Unchristian, David Kinnaman states:

“Many outsiders … believe Christians have a right (even an obligation) to pursue political involvement, but they disagree with our methods and our attitudes.  They say we seem to be pursuing an agenda that benefits only ourselves; they assert that we expect too much out of politics; they question whether we are motivated by our economic status rather than faith perspectives when we support conservative politics; they claim we act and say things in an unchristian manner; they wonder whether Jesus would use political power as we do; and they are concerned that we overpower the voices of other groups.”

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The Church: Boring, Sheltered And Out Of Touch

It’s time for the church to face facts.  The fact that many people’s perception of the church is that it's too sheltered, boring, unintelligent and out of touch with reality.

This perception has come because of an unnecessary and unbiblical separation of the church from the world.  The perception is that the church is like a club that only certain people – good people – can join. How wrong this is.

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Sinners! We’re out to get ya!

Christians are accused of being too focused on getting converts and likened to telemarketers according to research conducted by David Kinnaman for the Barna Foundation.

While it horrifies me to think that Christians are seen to pester, in response to this criticism I would say, “Yes, I am out to convert people to Jesus because I believe He is the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him” (See John 14:6). 

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Hypocrisy in the Church (2)

One reason for the “hypocrite” tag is the way in which the Christian message has been promoted and taught over the years – predominantly as a religion of rules and regulations that even Christians can’t live up to.  People then measure us by our own standards – which we don’t fully keep – and then label us as hypocrites.  Jesus spoke about this: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.  So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3)

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Hypocrisy in the Church

“Why are there so many hypocrites in the church?”  This is an often-heard question and impression that people outside the church have of Christians.  So, what is a hypocrite?

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Compassion Fatigue

According to Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper (Saturday October 3) “Australians are in danger of succumbing to “compassion fatigue” with multiple disasters leaving charities in critical need.”  The paper went on to quote UNICEF Australia spokesman Martin Thomas who said “there is certainly always a great danger of compassion fatigue … when we have seen disaster after disaster.”

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Love The Sinner; Hate The Sin

If I hear someone say one more time, “Well, we’ve just got to love the sinner and hate the sin” – I’m gonna scream! Christians quote this like it’s a Bible verse – right next to “God helps those who help themselves” and “cleanliness is next to godliness!”  But where is it in the Bible?  The Book of Hezekiah?  Paul’s letter to the Deuteronomy’s? Each section of this statement is true – God does love sinners and hates sin. But here’s the problem, as a collective statement it’s not true.  
 
The real problem with “Love the sinner; hate the sin” is that it is rarely meant. It is really just a Christian-sounding platitude aimed at people whose behaviour we really struggle with; people whose sin we really hate and people that, if we were brutally honest, we don’t really love. This statement just salves our conscience and makes us feel like we’re being Christian when we are really displaying unchristian attitudes towards others.

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Media Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy.  That’s when our words and our actions don’t match up.  We’re all guilty of it and we find it in all sectors of society including the church.  Some people even use it as an excuse not to join the church but they don’t follow their faulty logic to others walks of life.  For instance, when the media show hypocrisy do we stop listening or watching?

One glaring example of media hypocrisy happened this week with Gordon Ramsey’s latest outburst against Channel Nine ACA Host Tracey Grimshaw.  Before an audience of several thousand people at the Melbourne Good Food and Wine Show, following an interview with Grimshaw the previous day, Ramsay described her as "a lesbian".

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Good Cancels Out Bad, Right?

Recently a well-known Australian passed away. He was a good man most of the time – a man who grew an amazing business to become one of Australia’s wealthiest people. A man who gave generously to many worthy causes and made an incredible difference as a result.

But this good man, like the rest of us, also did some bad things – he cheated on his wife and was embroiled in some dodgy business practices.

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April Fools

Here’s a humorous and powerful story from Florida where an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover Holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized days.

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The Weather Gods Have Been Kind!

It never ceases to amaze me how religious non-religious people get in times of crisis.  When the Black Saturday bush fires devastated lives and property many people asked the question: “Where is God in all this?”  And, “If there’s a loving God why did he let this happen?”  Even one Christian leader waded into this accusation by saying the bush fires were the result of God lifting His hand of protection off Victoria to punish our government’s evil decisions.  Only problem with that is that innocent people, including Christians, lost their lives and property.  That’s like punishing my 7 year old for something my 10 year old did wrong.  But I digress…
 

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Should The Church Always Be Pro Israel?

Last week I posted my blog on the Bayside Church website as usual but, for the first time, I also posted it as a note on my Facebook page never thinking for one minute that my comments would stir up so much emotion.
 
One person in particular – a prominent American Evangelist – misunderstood my comments as being unsupportive of Israel.  He said the Church has a Scriptural mandate to always be Pro-Israel and he cited Genesis 12:3 to support his view: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” 

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What About The Israel and Hamas Hostilities?

New Years bring new things – good and bad.  One of the not-so-good things so far in 2009 has been the escalating hostilities between Israel and Gaza; and not only has it divided the Middle East it has also divided the world. We’ve seen demonstrations in various nations – some opposing Israel with others showing their support.  And there are good arguments both ways.

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The Atheist Gospel – Is it Good News?

One of last year’s biggest selling books was The God Delusion by prominent British atheist Richard Dawkins.  In the preface Professor Dawkins states his purpose – to convert religious people to atheism.

Well, he’s now promoting his atheist gospel again by endorsing an advertising campaign on London Buses declaring the slogan: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."  The slogan started as an aside comment from a comedian in response to a church campaign that pointed people to a website that indicated they’d be going to hell if they didn’t believe in God.  The comedian suggested a response to “assure people”, which was picked up by Richard Dawkins and has ultimately generated funding from the general public for about $50,000 in donations.

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Responding to Dr Macnab

In recent weeks there has been much controversy surrounding some comments made by cleric Francis McNab of St Michaels Uniting Church in Melbourne. Macnab wanted to start a new faith for the 21st century (as if we needed another one!) declaring that "The Ten Commandments were one of the most negative documents ever written.” Dr Macnab says “Abraham is probably a concoction, Moses was a mass murderer and Jesus Christ just a Jewish peasant who certainly was not God. In fact, there is no God…” Considerable attention was given to these claims by the media, and St Michaels were embarking on a $120,000 advertising campaign to promote this new faith.

The Uniting Church has responded quickly to this controversy by asking Dr Macnab to remove the billboards and apologize for any offense he has caused to Christians as well as those of other faiths. I greatly admire the Uniting Church’s responses which can be viewed on their website…

http://victas.uca.org.au/main.php?pg=download&id=239857
http://victas.uca.org.au/main.php?pg=download&id=239854
http://blogs.victas.uca.org.au/synod2008/?p=155#more-155
 

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Mucked Up Life

Melbourne has been shocked this week by the out of control antics of students from Xavier College.  Balaclava-clad students stormed the school; a student was injured in a game of murder ball. Letterboxes were damaged, a car was jumped on and residents surrounding the school were terrified.

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Got It? Give It! Get It?

With the world’s financial crisis continuing to bite hard I found it amazing to read a number of news stories this week that highlight the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

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Bandaids On Measles Spots

It’s now official – the tax hike on alcopops drinks has had no affect whatsoever on the level of binge drinking in Australia!  How surprising!  Sure, the sale of alcopops has decreased but Mr or Ms Drinktoomuch has now switched to mix-your-own drinks buying cheap spirits and fruit juices or sodas.

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