Next year will mark the 110th anniversary of Anzac Day when thousands of brave young men went ashore on a foreign beach in a distant land.

In a display of courage, determination, and mateship, these Australians and New Zealanders created a legend that, when retold today, evokes pride and passion in a new generation of Australians.


In 1915, Australian & New Zealand Soldiers scaled the heights as they were met by merciless fire from Turkish guns, but they hung on, dug their trenches, and prepared to attack.

From April to December of that year, the Allied forces held on till the order came from London for the withdrawal. By then, 7,600 Australians and nearly 2,500 New Zealanders had been killed, and 19,000 Australians and almost 5,000 New Zealanders had been wounded. French casualties were as high as the ANZACS, and Britain lost three times as many. Turkey lost 86,000 troops.


From 1916 onwards, ANZAC Day was established on 25 April—the day the ANZACS landed at Gallipoli—as a memorial to honour and remember those servicemen who lost their lives serving their respective countries. Since then, ANZAC Day has been extended as a memorial to all people who sacrificed to preserve the freedom we enjoy today.

The battles at Gallipoli forged the Anzac spirit of courage under fire, selflessness, unwavering loyalty, tenacity, and mateship. The legend of the Anzacs has transcended time to become a symbol of what we value as Australians.

The Man with the Donkey

On Anzac Day, we stop to remember and reflect on the sacrifices of people who served our nation in times of war and peace. One such person is John Simpson Kirkpatrick, a swaggie, cane cutter, miner and sailor from Australia, who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915 at a place now known as ANZAC Cove. With his donkey Duffy, he became the best-loved figure at Gallipoli as he carried the wounded to the dressing station.

Known as “the man with the donkey,” he transported the wounded day after day amid fierce shrapnel fire. He was shot dead on 19 May that year. Kirkpatrick served in this way for just three weeks, and we remember his heroism, courage, and sacrifice over 100 years later.

One thousand nine hundred years earlier, another man with a donkey rode into Jerusalem, also on his way to sacrifice his life for others.

Lest we Forget

ANZAC Day is a Memorial Day lest we forget those who gave their lives to purchase our freedom in this world. We Christians also recall and reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus to buy our freedom not only in this life but also in the one to come.

The last few years have been a momentous time around the world. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, worldwide floods and fires, plus wars in Ukraine, Gaza, and other places. International tensions are at their highest for some time. Add to that the dire economic challenges many people face because of high inflation, and you might be tempted to think that this is the most challenging time to be alive.

My purpose in this blog is NOT to minimise the genuine hardships and suffering being experienced by many people today. But it may be helpful for our sense of perspective to revisit a time in history that is often described as the worst time to be alive.

When it Wasn’t

When you read “the worst time to be alive,” what comes to mind? Maybe it was the 1300s when the Black Death, a bubonic plague pandemic, wiped out half of Europe’s population. Or was it 1918 when one of history’s bloodiest conflicts ended, only for a global pandemic to begin? The Spanish flu killed more than 50 million people, primarily young adults.

Was it a few decades later when the world was once again plunged into a global war? 1943 was the worst year of World War Two, witnessing some of the largest and bloodiest battles as well as the climax of the Nazi’s genocide of the Jews. At the same time, around 3 million people in the Bengal province (modern-day Bangladesh) died due to famine and disease.

When it Was

But, as bad as they were, none of those were the worst times to be alive. The very worst time in recorded human history was the year 536. That year, a shadowy fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months.

Sixth-century historian Procopius wrote, “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year.” Summer temperatures dropped by over two degrees, ushering in the coldest decade in the past 2000 years. China experienced summer snow, crops failed, and people starved. One Irish text from the period describes “a failure of bread” that year. Local conflicts raged under such stressed conditions.

It was the worst time to be alive, with some conditions very similar to those we’re experiencing today because of climate change—drought, less rain in some places, and flash flooding in others.

Just When you Thought …

I’m sure you’ll agree that all that sounds like an awful time. But it got worse. Five years later, in 541, the bubonic plague struck the Roman port city of Pelusium on Egypt’s Nile Delta. Known as the Justinian Plague, it quickly spread and killed up to 50% of the population of the Eastern Roman Empire. These cataclysmic events plunged Europe into economic stagnation for a century.

I find this fascinating and strangely comforting. It’s easy for us to look around the world today and despair. But people in the past have faced far worse than we do today. The human race is incredibly resilient.

What Caused it?

The cause of the dark clouds in the Dark Ages has, until recently, been a mystery. According to the website, “an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier…has fingered a culprit—a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536.” Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547, plunging much of the world into a Volcanic Winter.

When a volcano erupts, it emits sulphur, bismuth metal dust, and other substances high into the atmosphere, forming an aerosol veil that reflects the sun’s light into space, cooling the planet.

The discovery is intriguing and current because, as I write this blog, Iceland’s volcanos are once again threatening to erupt. Yesterday’s news from the Icelandic Met Office warned that an eruption could start with very little warning time. The hazard level was raised to indicate an impending eruption.

Our Response

I am not suggesting that any imminent eruption may be as destructive as the one in 536. But what if it was? What if the world was plunged into semi-darkness for a year or two? How would we respond and cope with this?

Would some of our Christian friends dive into bizarre conspiracies as they did during the recent pandemic? Would futuristic interpretations of Revelation zoom around the internet? Or would Christians follow Jesus and humbly seek to serve those most impacted by the disaster? I hope it’s the latter.

The last few years have shown us that modern people are not exempt from natural or human-made disasters. We must prepare for future catastrophes and pandemics that may affect this planet. Today’s world is not somehow exempt from these things. Please choose now to act in a way that reflects our faith in the one who came to serve and give his life to others.

The apostle Peter encourages us to “stand firm in the faith because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of suffering. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is a stunning book. Christians should remember that Genesis was part of the Jewish Scriptures well before completing the Christian Bible. And so, to fully understand it, we need to listen to our Jewish friends.

Hard-line Jewish Theologians believe that God wrote Genesis by dictating it to Moses, and Moses chiselled away on the first tablet that didn’t have autocorrect! Most Jewish scholars believe a series of scribes wrote Genesis (as we know it today) after the Babylonian captivity.

In the ancient world, people told stories around campfires. That was the Netflix of the day, the people’s entertainment. This resulted in a lot of variances in the stories. And some of these differences are recorded in Genesis. Consider, there are two entirely different creation stories (Genesis 1 & 2), Abraham passes his wife off as his sister twice, and there are two accounts of how Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. Genesis reflects people’s memories rather than accurate history. My Rabbi friend put it this way, “Our people don’t have history; we have memory.” Genesis then unfolds people’s memories and stories and their interactions with God and one another.

It wasn’t until the 12th century BCE that people said, “We should write this stuff down.” And so, Scribes who are unknown to us today wrote all the stories down. Moses, regarded as the traditional author of the Bible’s first five books, lived a century before.

These Scribes attempted to capture the nation’s oral history—campfire stories with all their variances and disagreements. Codifying a written record of oral stories was a very long process. Many authors took a shot at it over 1000 years between 1200 and 200 BCE.

In 135 CE, the written Tanakh (Old Testament) was sealed. In other words, those who made decisions about sacred text decided the holy text was now complete. The Tanakh was considered the seed of Jewish (and Christian) tradition. And, of course, seeds naturally germinate and grow. Thus, Jews and Christians still enjoy its fruit today.

“Genesis” is the English name for the first book of the Bible. The Greek translation of the Hebrew word, toledoth (to-led-aw), is found 13 times in Genesis. Toledoth is a Story, record, account, or generation. Toledoth marks off the various sections of the book:

Genesis 2:4, “Such is the story of heaven and earth….”

Genesis 5:1, “This is the record of Adam’s line….”

Genesis 6:9, “These are the generations of Noah.”

The Hebrew name for Genesis is Bere’shit (beray sheet), the first word of the book translated as “in the beginning.” In the beginning, a time when time didn’t exist, God created time. Wow. Genesis deals with beginnings, particularly the beginning of the cosmos and Israel. Genesis ends with the death of Joseph (1445 BCE).

The book easily falls into two parts:

Genesis 1-11 (story / parable)

Genesis 12-50 (memory / history)

It is primarily not a history or science book but rather tells of Israel’s self-identity as a nation.

For example, the story of Adam is a parable, a condensed version of Israel’s story. Adam was created by God out of dust and placed in the garden. He was free to eat from EVERY tree except one. God said, if you disobey, you’ll die. Of course, Adam didn’t literally die. Instead, he and Eve were exiled from Eden. Consider the parallel with Israel, a nation created out of the dust (slavery) and placed in Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey (very garden of Edenish). God gave them clear commands to obey and warnings against disobedience. Rebellion would lead to death. Consider Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life so that you and your children may live.”

Like Adam, Israel disobeyed and faced exile. And so, Genesis is telling us something about a struggling nation as they return home from being refugees in a foreign land. They are rebuilding and reconnecting with their roots as they embrace a brand-new future. They remind themselves of their stories, who they are, and who their God is to them. The apostle Paul told the church, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). From the parables, stories, and memories of Genesis, followers of Jesus today can find great encouragement in who we are in Christ and who our God is to us.

It may surprise you to learn that Christian fundamentalism is a relatively modern branch of the Christian faith. It started in the USA at the turn of the last century.

A Little History

In the early 1900s, a whole lot was going on, all at once. The world had experienced its first world war in which over 40 million soldiers were killed or wounded. In the final year of the war, the Spanish Flu pandemic broke out. The pandemic infected almost a third of the world’s 1.8 billion people. Fifty million died.

Add to this the growing prominence of Darwinian evolution, declining moral values, and well, people were having just too much fun. As the war and pandemic faded, the world bound into the roaring 20s. New forms of music, like jazz, were driving people to dance. Cars were rolling off the assembly lines. Women were ready to claim the vote, and African-Americans were eager to enjoy full citizenship, at long last. People were exploring new ideas and beliefs. Life was magnificently modern. And some Christians saw red!

Fundamentalism Begins

And so, a powerful counterrevolution began in some of America’s largest churches and Bible institutions.

On 25 May 1919, 6,000 ministers, theologians and evangelists came together in Philadelphia for a weeklong series of meetings. The men and women assembled there believed that God had chosen them to call Christians back to the “fundamentals” of the faith and prepare the world for one final revival before Jesus returned to earth. They called their group the World Christian Fundamentals Association.

Their leader? A Baptist pastor, William Bell Riley, said, “The hour has struck for the rise of a new Protestantism.” He described the inauguration of his organisation and the rise of fundamentalism as more significant than Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, 400 years earlier. No pride there, brother Bill! He was wrong, though.

White Privilege

The men and women at the conference were all white. African-American and Latino Christians were excluded entirely from fundamentalists churches and organisations. They taught that the Holy Spirit would soon turn the world over to the antichrist. This diabolical world leader would preside over an awful holocaust in which those true believers who had not already been raptured to heaven would suffer interminable tribulations.

They were kinda right and kinda wrong. A decade later, the Great Depression began. Ten years after that saw the start of World War 2. A diabolical world leader did arise who directed the wholesale slaughter of 11 million people (Jews, Gypsies, and gay men, amongst others).

Fundamentalism’s Appeal

Their appeal bore out of the fact that they matched up biblical prophecy with world events. Fundamentalists believed that the return of Jews to the Holy Land must precede the second coming of Christ. The British had captured Jerusalem in 1917 and declared Palestine a homeland for Jews. A fact that became a reality in 1948.

This attracted me to Christianity in the late 70s (along with God’s supernatural power). I felt like all of history had waited for Rob Buckingham to “get saved”. The planets would align in 1982, causing cataclysmic events on earth, the rapture, and the Great Tribulation. Antichrist would arise from the Common Market (EU) and take control of the world. Jesus would come back in 1988, a generation (40 years) after Israel became a nation. What happened? Nothing! I’ve reconstructed a much healthier (and more Biblical) approach to eschatology since.

Back to 1919

Fundamentalists associated evolution with last-day atheism, and they made it their mission to purge it from the schoolroom. They criticized how the fight for women’s right to vote was driving women out of the home. Shock horror! They worried that birth control was undermining the family. They were concerned about modern theological ideas.

The fundamentalist message resonated with hundreds of thousands of white Americans. The 1919 meeting in Philadelphia was just the beginning. Soon, fundamentalist magazines, Independent Bible institutes, annual conferences, and church-run radio stations sprung up to spread the Christian faith’s new design (the proper interpretation, of course).

Good qualities of fundamentalism

There are three things I appreciate about Christian fundamentalism:

  1. It presents a relevant and up-to-date faith – the very thing I found attractive in my early 20s. I’m very grateful to God for this and today strive to apply the Bible in a way readily received by people.
  2. It communicates a sense of urgency (the imminence of Christ’s return). The message stirs people out of spiritual lethargy with constant calls for action.
  3. It provides something solid that offers comfort and safety in tumultuous times. To fundamentalists, the Bible is simple, black and white, and straightforward.

The dangers of Christian fundamentalism

Although I was attracted to Jesus initially by the fundamentalist’s message, it also caused much damage in my life. Since my early days as a Christian, I’ve needed to deconstruct the negatives I’ll list below. It’s been a process that continues some four decades later. So, what are its main dangers:

  1. It is too simplistic. Everything doesn’t happen instantly by ‘decreeing and declaring.’ The Bible is not always simplistic (2 Peter 3:16) and easy to understand.
  2. It’s Gnostic (Gk. gnosis, “to know”). You’ll get the message from fundamentalists that “we know something you don’t know.” We see this at present with all the COVID Conspiracies. “Trust the Plan.” “We’re in; you’re out.” I’ve had close Christian friends tell me, in all seriousness, they believe the world is run by a cabal of reptilians. These satanic paedophiles drink blood and scheme to set up a one-world government with the antichrist. One friend talked at me for hours about this, totally unaware that he was boring me to tears. This is all gnostic rubbish!
  3. It’s Exclusionist. A century ago, people of colour were barred from their churches. Today, fundamentalists are opposed to anything to do with LGBTIQ people. It’s the same package with a different label.
  4. It’s always “against”. Christian fundamentalists actively worked against women’s right to vote. They were against alcohol (think the temperance movement of the 1920s). They’ve opposed evolution and some science (like climate change). Christian fundamentalists are against abortion, marriage equality, voluntary assisted dying, “boat people”, you name it. This blog is not a commentary on any of these issues. My point here is there’s a danger in being known only for what you’re against. What about the things Christians are to stand and speak for? Justice, mercy and faith (Matt. 23:23). Christian fundamentalism can obscure pure religion (James 1:27).
  5. It’s too political. Christian fundamentalists fight and lobby to preserve “our rights and freedoms”. While Christians have as much right (in some countries) to speak out like anyone else, we need to be careful that our main message – the gospel – doesn’t get drowned out in the process. In any case, fighting for “our rights and freedoms” is missing the point of the gospel. The Christian’s motivation should be the same as God’s, that of love: “for God so loved …” Love should be our impetus – love for God, one another, neighbour, and enemy. People will know we’re Jesus’ followers by our love, not our lobbying. Christian fundamentalists invariably miss this in their fight to preserve “our rights, our culture, our traditions.” They can appear prideful and self-interested rather than caring “for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).
  6. It’s isolationist and nationalistic. Recently, we’ve witnessed this in the USA with Donald Trump and “Make America Great Again (MAGA)”. There’s no doubt that Christian fundamentalists had a massive influence over Trump. 81% of White Evangelicals voted for him in 2016 (75% in 2020). At the expense of other nations and needs, the focus on America created a vacuum that could have led to war as nationalism usually does. But that’s not a problem; Christian fundamentalists don’t mind “a good war”. They also like their guns and gas chambers. But they are pro-life. Don’t forget that!
  7. It’s fixated on the “end times.” They’re preoccupied with current events and live with a newspaper in one hand and Bible in the other. Some of them like to pick dates for the rapture or Christ’s return. They haven’t been right once! In the past 100 years, they’ve predicted the antichrist would arise out of the League of Nations, United Nations, and Common Market (EU). All wrong. Fundamentalists believed that in the end times oppressive governments will clamp down on Christians’ rights and freedoms.
  8. It’s captivated by conspiracies. Consider this quote: “The demand of the State will leave no room for freedom of thought, or independence of action in any direction whatsoever. The circumstances of the war have already furnished the machinery for this. Practically everything and everybody” would soon be under government control. Those words could have been about any bizarre conspiracy doing the rounds due to the COVID Pandemic. It was written by Evangelist W.W. Fereday a century ago. Christian fundamentalists are mesmerised by conspiracies about The Great reset, one-world government, antichrist, QAnon, Illuminati, microchips in the COVID vaccines, 5G, the long, boring list goes on and on.

In 1947, William Bell Riley lay on his deathbed. An aspiring young evangelist sat at his side. The veteran fundamentalist told the rookie preacher that God had destined him to lead the fundamentalist movement forward, to take the mantle from Riley. The young evangelist was Billy Graham. After World War II, Graham and his fundamentalist allies began calling themselves “evangelicals”. Today, some Evangelicals are also fundamentalist, but certainly not all.

I have massive respect for Billy Graham and his clear call to millions who responded to the gospel. But when it comes to fundamentalism, I have grave concerns. Many people have walked away from the church (and Jesus) because of its legalism and condemnation. Others have simply not joined a church or been attracted to its message. Ultimately, fundamentalism is a “different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Gal. 1:6-7)

Amongst the various resources I’ve used for this blog, I’d like to particularly acknowledge Matthew Avery Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University. He has written extensively on this subject.

Tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians have flared up again.

The world waits for the illusive Two-State solution. Nothing happens. And neither can it. The endgame for Palestinian extremist organisations like Hamas is the destruction of Israel. There isn’t any real compromise. To them, a Palestinian state is “from the river to the sea.”

So, what is happening, and why? Let’s dive into some history to find out:

The end of Israel

War ravaged Israel for decades. The Roman armies destroyed the Temple and much of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Tensions and attacks on Jews around the Roman Empire led to a massive Jewish uprising against Rome from 115 to 117. In 131, Emperor Hadrian renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina and constructed a Temple of Jupiter on the site of the former Jewish Temple. Hadrian banned Jews from living in Jerusalem itself (a ban that persisted until the Arab conquest).

In 136 CE, the Roman Empire finally crushed any rebellion from the Jews. The Roman province, until then known as Judaea, was renamed Palaestina (Palestine in English). There was no country called Palestine.

No Palestine. No Israel

From 136 to 1945, there were no indigenous nations in that region. There was no Palestinian state. There was no Israel. The land was controlled by:

Roman Empire (64 BCE – 390 CE)

Christians (Byzantine period, 390 – 634)

Muslims (634 – 1099)

Crusades and Mongols (1099 – 1291)

Mamluks (1291 – 1517)

Ottoman Empire (1517 – 1917)

There were always Jews present in this region along with other indigenous peoples. The Mosque that exists in Jerusalem now was a church when the Christians held the territory.

The Zionists

In the first half of the 20th century, the Zionists who came to Palestine invested a lot of money in creating schools and infrastructure. If a Jewish state did eventuate, it would survive. At least that was the hope.

The Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the first world war. British foreign minister, Arthur Balfour, sent a public letter to the British Lord Rothschild, a leading member of his party and leader of the Jewish community. The letter subsequently became known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It stated that the British Government “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The declaration provided the British government with a pretext for claiming and governing the country. An agreement decided new Middle Eastern boundaries between British and French bureaucrats. From then on, Diaspora Jews began migrating to Palestine from many nations.


In 1947, The United Nations approved a Partition Plan for Palestine. The Partition Plan recognised an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem to be under “an International Trusteeship System”.  Jewish people received this with joy, but the Arab community did not agree. Civil war broke out in the region. More than 250,000 Arabs fled the area.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews and Palestinians have significantly suffered for centuries. People have lost their lives, their homes and possessions, and their loved ones.

Hala’s story

Hala is a longstanding member of Bayside Church. She is Palestinian and was born in 1949. The previous year her family fled from the Holy lands in an event called Al-Nakba (Palestine Devastation).

Hala’s father, Abdo, was a soldier in the British Army Palestine corps. The household comprised his parents, wife, three sisters, and three brothers. Like so many others, they reached Jordan, where they stopped and set up a home.

The advice was for the Palestinian public to vacate their homes and lands until the problem passed. They would then be able to return. Weeks, months, and years passed, and there was no opportunity to return. The majority of Palestinians settled in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan.

With his dying breath, Hala’s grandfather asked to be buried in Palestine. A request that could never be honoured as Israeli law forbade any right of return – dead or alive.

In 1949 a United Nations Commission (UNRWA) was created to deal with the Palestinian ‘problem’.

Hala writes, “What is most touching with today’s people of Gaza, is that for many up to seven times they have had to move on, as increasingly more of Palestinians’ land was taken. The horror of today is that they have never known respite, and this last stance may well be their last! The call to return has never come. And every time, thousands more Palestinians died. In Jordan (1970) Lebanon (1982) and now Gaza.”

After leaving the army, Hala’s father befriended an Australian soldier. Later, working with Shell Aden, he met another Australian, an owner of a bus company and a Shell client. That was his and his family’s good fortune, and they were to come to Australia. Hala remains very thankful to God that she and her family were given the privilege of resettling here.

A Nation is Born

On May 14, 1948, the last British forces left from Haifa, the Jewish People’s Council gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum on the day. It proclaimed establishing a Jewish State in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel. The USA (Truman) and Russia (Stalin) recognised the new State but not the Arab nations, who marched their forces into Israel to “drive it into the sea’. Thus, began the first Arab-Israeli war.

Many Jewish immigrants, who were World War II veterans and Holocaust survivors, now began arriving in the new State of Israel. Many joined the IDF. War ended early in 1949 when Israel signed armistices with its neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria). Israel’s new borders were internationally recognised, except by the Arab States. Land that had been granted to Israel remained under the control of various Arab nations.

Most importantly, Egypt had control of the Gaza strip and Jordan the West Bank. There was little or no outcry from the international community about this. But when in 1967 Israel took those areas back again, the International community WAS outraged.

Over the next several years, Israel grew as Jewish people returned from the nations to which they had been scattered. The new country developed its land; desert reclaimed, infrastructure built.

The Six-Day War

In the 1967 six-day war, Israel captured territories that it had lost in 1949 ~ the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights (from Syria), the Gaza Strip (from Egypt), and the West Bank (from Jordan). Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. The war created what we know as modern Israel.

Much has happened since 1967. There is still no end in sight to the tensions between Israel, the Palestinians, and much of the Arab world. The Two-State Solution is no closer to being realised. It cannot happen until all parties are willing to compromise.

Arab countries want a pan-Arabic Empire as in days of old. But the Jewish State is in the way. Their agenda is to keep Palestinians in displaced persons’ camps in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon as pawns for a larger agenda.

The PLO and Hamas

The Intifada of the late 80s and early 90s led to Israel transferring governmental authority in the Gaza Strip to the Palestine Authority (1994). Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian government struggled with a stagnant economy, divided popular support, stalled negotiations with Israel, and threatened terrorism from militant Muslim groups like Hamas. Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007. (Visit Britannica Online for a more detailed history).

By 2005, Israel had withdrawn all troops and citizens from Gaza. Israeli settlers had to leave their homes in the same way Palestinians did in 1948. Homes were left intact, as was infrastructure. The hope was the Palestinians would create a healthy state. Instead, Hamas destroyed houses and infrastructure. Much of the money donated by nations to help the Palestinians was (is) used to buy rockets and build tunnels to commit terrorist acts in Israel.

The Difference

The Covenant of the Hamas makes for fascinating (and terrifying) reading “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” Hamas rejects any negotiated peace settlement and views every Israeli citizen as a combatant. So, in their mind, it’s acceptable to bomb civilian targets because there is no such thing as an Israeli civilian. Hence the firing of approximately 2000 rockets indiscriminately from Gaza into Israel since Monday.

Compare that recklessness with the conduct of the IDF:

  • First, they make phone calls to anyone in (or near) a targeted building to warn them of an impending attack.
  • Next, they drop leaflets on the area, giving the same warning.
  • Thirdly, small unarmed (dummy) missiles are aimed at the roof of the building to be destroyed in a warning dubbed “Knock, Knock.”

Even with the greatest care, some civilians get killed because Hamas operatives don’t let them leave. Dead civilians get mileage with the media and create international outrage against Israel.

I was speaking with a Jewish friend about the conflict this week, and here’s what he said: “We live in the hope of a free Palestine that is free from Hamas and Hezbollah and corrupt leadership.” Both Jews and Palestinians have a right to their homeland. But if things continue as they are, it’s only a distant aspiration.

One of the phenomena related to the race protests is the toppling of statues, removal of certain movies and TV programs, and suggestions for name changes. Some people have suggested this is wrong because it’s erasing history. But is that the case?


I wonder how much the average person knows about the history represented by statues. Next time you see a statute, stop for a moment to observe. How many people actually slow down to look at it or read the plaque? Probably no one. Statues are, by and large, resting places for birds. They are monuments to history and a testament to what life was like at the time.

I understand that this is a divisive issue. Maybe some statues do need to be removed and placed in a museum. Others may benefit from an information board, or a more artistic approach, giving acknowledgment to historical facts. The statue of Captain James Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park is inscribed with “Discovered this territory 1770.” From a British colonial standpoint, this is true. Still, it completely ignores the fact that Australia’s Indigenous people lived here for thousands of years before Cook arrived.

For too long, history has been white-washed. As a Christian man, I stand for truth, so let’s have it, the good, the bad, and the ugly! In this regard, the Bible is an incredibly honest book. Its pages contain historical accounts of the best and worst of humanity. People’s mistakes aren’t left out. Everything is there in glorious colour: Noah getting drunk, Abraham lying, and King David’s adultery and coverup.

Scripture & History

Just like history, the Bible is not a static book. In its pages, you’ll find human progress and advancement, and God engaging with and nudging people along every step of the way. For example, in Genesis 22, we see the story of God directing Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Understanding that in Abraham’s culture, one appeased the gods through child sacrifice, helps us understand why Abraham didn’t question this command. God let Abraham follow through up to the point of taking the knife to slay his son. Abraham was told, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him.” A ram was provided as an alternative to child sacrifice, and ancient humanity was prodded into a less barbaric practice.

It’s not that God desired or required animals to be sacrificed either. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God frequently tells people he doesn’t want sacrifices. People start to get the message, “You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, you will not despise a broken and humbled heart” (Psalm 51:16-17). Finally, Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross to end all blood sacrifices once and for all (Hebrews 10:4-9). Today, the thought of sacrificing children or animals is abhorrent. We’ve come a long way. The Bible, history books, documentaries, and the like are a testament to this truth.

Embrace History Lessons

The Bible doesn’t erase history, it embraces it and then moves it forward. We can look back at some of the Bible’s writings from 3,000 years ago and be horrified. But, at the time, many of the statements, laws, and practices were incredibly progressive. Consider that Leviticus was one of the first times any sort of justice was prescribed for women, slaves, and non-Jews. Today, these same statements appear archaic and barbaric, and they are because humanity has progressed.

In the first century, the apostle Paul gave instructions on the proper care of slaves. He also told Christian slaves and slave-masters how to behave. In the Roman Empire of the first century, there were between 70 and 100 million people. About 50% of these were slaves. The economy of the entire Empire was dependent on slavery. The world wasn’t ready to abolish slavery. If William Wilberforce had been alive, he would not have led an abolition movement.

Fast-forward eighteen hundred years and the world was ready – or at least some were ready – to agree to abolish slavery. Thanks to Wilberforce and many others, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. Of course, that doesn’t mean there is no slavery in the modern world. People trafficking, especially sex trafficking of women and children, is still rife. India, China, and Russia are the most-offending nations. It’s estimated there are currently 15,000 people in slavery in Australia.

How Far We’ve Come

If we look back one hundred or two hundred years, we can see how far we’ve come. Acceptable practices then are abhorrent now. We must not erase history, we need to know, and acknowledge it, and vow not to repeat it. Let’s look back and be encouraged by how the world has improved. Let’s also realise there is still much work to be done. While poverty, discrimination, and inequality exist, our job is incomplete. And it invariably takes a crisis to force the world forward. That’s what we’re witnessing now. And yes, some will be opportunistic, and others will be violent. Like the suffragettes whose motto was, “deeds not words!” Today, women have the right to vote because of the work of the Suffragettes!

Deeds are what we need now. One hundred years from now, people will look back and wonder at some of the things we say, believe, or agree with. History will record how the pandemic of 2020 moved the world forward. How racial protests brought lasting change and equality for people of colour. How names were changed, and statues removed, and laws introduced to make the world a fairer place.

No doubt, we will zigzag down this path. Somethings will work others won’t. But let’s not erase history. Let’s learn from it.


I’ve always held the greatest respect for Imran Khan.  He was a fantastic cricketer and cricket captain, and well known for his philanthropic work especially building and developing the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre; to make cancer treatment accessible to every citizen of Pakistan.

Since August this year, Imran Khan has been Prime Minister of Pakistan, with a focus on making the country a humanitarian state that seeks to elevate the standards of living of the less fortunate and where everyone is equal under the law.  His Party aims to create a welfare state that gives attention to education, health, and employment. It promotes freedom of thought and works against religious discrimination – and that’s why what Imran Khan said last week is confusing.

While addressing a conference in Islamabad on the birthday anniversary of Prophet Muhammad on Tuesday, he said, “Moses got some mention, but Jesus Christ has no mention in human history.” [1] Khan’s statement is concerning for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it works against his party’s platform of working against religious discrimination and secondly, it’s completely false.

Inconsistent With Reality

Pakistan’s strict Blasphemy Laws have recently been in the news again highlighted by the case of Asia Bibi, “a Christian woman from a Punjab village who in 2010 got into an altercation with some Muslim women and was later accused by them of having blasphemed.”[2]  She’s now been acquitted but is in hiding for fear of her life.

Pakistan is the fifth worst persecuting nation in the world and is “the most violent country for Christians. Islamic extremists attack churches.  Christians are abducted, forced to marry Muslims and even killed for their faith. Many are forced into hiding. The government doesn’t usually intervene.”[3]  Surely Imran Khan’s statement about Jesus will do nothing to help the already desperate challenges faced by Christians in Pakistan.

Jesus in History

Imran Khan’s assertion that Jesus Christ has no mention in human history is completely false.  First Century historian, Josephus, wrote of Jesus in his Jewish Antiquities in AD 93, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.”[4]

The Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ, “Christus [Christ], the founder of the name [Christian], was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius” (Annals XV: 44).

Suetonius, the Roman historian and court official during the reign of Emperor Hadrian wrote in his Life of Claudius: “As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Christ], he expelled them from Rome” (Life of Claudius 25.4).

Tallus was a secular historian who, in AD52, wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Trojan War to his own time. The document no longer exists but other writers like Julius Africanus, who wrote around AD221, quoted it. He cites Tallus’ comments about the darkness that enveloped the land during the late afternoon hours when Jesus died on the cross. Julius wrote: “Tallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun unreasonably, as it seems to me (unreasonably of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died)” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18.1).

Mara Bar-Serapion was a stoic Syrian philosopher who wrote a letter from prison to his son about AD70. He compares Jesus to the philosophers Socrates and Pythagoras.

Lucian, the Greek satirist in the latter half of the 2nd century, spoke scornfully of Christ and the Christians but never argued that Jesus didn’t exist. “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account …” (The Death of Peregrine, 11-13).

The Babylonian Talmud states: “It has been taught: On the eve of Passover they hanged Yeshu [Jesus]…they hanged him on the eve of Passover.”  Hanged is another way of referring to a crucifixion (Luke 23:39 and Galatians 3:13).

Add to all this the recent discovery of hand-struck coins minted sometime between 33-47AD which have images and depictions of Jesus Christ – many which correlates to popular Biblical events including Jesus healing the blind man, Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and Jesus being bound and dragged on His way to Pontius Pilate.

There are plenty of mentions of Jesus Christ in human history.  Imran Khan could not have been more wrong.  Islam’s Holy Scriptures also attest to the existence of Jesus,

“in the 114 chapters of the Quran … Jesus (Isa) is mentioned directly and indirectly 187 times in 93 verses.”[5]

I hope that Imran Khan will correct his false statement, but I won’t be holding my breath. In the meantime, please remember the precious Christians of Pakistan, pray for them and pray for their persecutors too.









History reveals that Christianity rarely flourishes when it has the power.  Consider the first few hundred years of the church’s existence.  The Book of Acts tells of a church that exploded in growth especially when persecution scattered the believers.  “The spread of the Christian church in its earliest centuries is one of the most amazing phenomena in all of human history.” [1] The church was on the edges of society and took up Jesus’ mandate to love and serve those who were also marginalised.

Justin Martyr, an early Christian theologian, wrote to Emperor Antoninus Pius describing Christians as follows: “We formerly rejoiced in uncleanness of life, but now love only chastity; before we used the magic arts, but now dedicate ourselves to the true and unbegotten God; before we loved money and possessions more than anything, but now we share what we have and to everyone who is in need; before we hated one another and killed one another and would not eat with those of another race, but now since the manifestation of Christ, we have come to a common life and pray for our enemies and try to win over those who hate us without just cause.”

Christians met together in close-knit communities and lived out their faith in their daily lives.  They were known for their honesty and integrity in business dealings, care & prayer for the sick, and for looking after widows and orphans.  By the year 250 A.D., Christians were feeding more than 1,500 of the hungry and destitute in Rome every day.

Emperor Julian (“the Apostate”), who was no friend of the Christian faith, said that Christianity “has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers and through their care of the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the [Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render them.”

The early Christians were often scorned and ridiculed.  They had no government approval, political power or official support but they lived out the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ and, by the end of the First Century, there were an estimated one million believers in the Roman Empire.  Christianity continued to grow throughout the next two centuries as it started to get more organised; something that became necessary once Christians realised the Second Coming of Christ was not as imminent as the apostles believed it would be.

But everything started to change for the church in 312 A.D. when Constantine and his troops marched towards Rome to do battle with Maxentius.  Constantine’s army was smaller than that of his opponent, and so he sought divine help.  The historian Eusebius wrote, “So, he sought his father’s God in prayer, pleading for him to tell him who he was and to stretch forth his hand to help him. As he prayed (it was a little after noon), Constantine had an absorbing vision. He saw the sign of the cross emblazoned across the sky and the words “In hoc signo vinces,” “In this sign, you will win.”  Constantine was struck with amazement, along with his whole army (which also witnessed the miracle). That night in his sleep it was confirmed: this was the Christ of God he was dealing with.  Constantine accepted the vision. He adopted the sign. He had the cross inscribed on his soldiers’ armour. He went into battle. Even though his forces were outnumbered, he won.” [2]

The irony of this was that a pacifist Christian Church would receive its right to exist through a political and military conquest; and it would never be the same again.  Constantine eventually made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Unbelievers flooded into the church, but many did not convert, choosing instead to bring their pagan practices into the Church. Being a Christian was now the fashionable thing to do.  The church became diluted in spiritual power as its prestige increased and, with political power, the church became the oppressor as much as it had been the oppressed.  For the next one thousand years, the world entered the Dark Ages which included the Crusades and the Inquisitions (the latter not entirely ending until the 20th century).

In the 1930s Germany was a “Christian” country, and what a disaster that turned out to be. Two-thirds were protestant and one-third Catholic, and the church, by and large, supported Hitler.  We often wonder how a Holocaust can happen; one way is when the church finds itself in bed with politics and demonising groups of people.  Jesus told His first followers that all power was given to Him, and He was empowering them to “go and make disciples of all the nations.” [3] He didn’t tell them to Christianise countries, nor to lobby governments to enforce morality. Jesus’ way is subtler; the inward transformation of individuals who desire to work together in a community and manifest heaven on earth in their everyday lives.

The one thing we learn from history is that we rarely learn from history.  Some churches, church leaders, and Christians are still hell-bent on political power mongering and the Gospel is always the loser.  Consider the recent survey in the USA showing 14% of Christians have left their churches since the last election because of their clergy being too political, especially by endorsing Donald Trump. [4] In the United States, almost a billion dollars is spent every year by so-called Christian organisations on lobbying politicians.  The same takes places in Australia albeit on a much smaller budget.  One can only wonder at the impact that money would have if it were used to help the poor, to spread the true gospel of Jesus, and to speak out for those who have no voice as the Bible asks us to: “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.  Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.” [5]

Whenever the church tries to get its way through political power, the Gospel message always gets drowned out.  In fact, the only countries where Christianity is still growing is where the church and Christians work humbly, and sometimes secretly, on the margins of society; like Nepal, China, and the UAE. [6] Most of these countries are in Asia and Africa and many in Muslim majority nations.  In 2015, mission organisation Operation World named Iran as having the fastest growing evangelical population in the world, with an estimated annual growth of 19.6 percent. [7] In North America, Europe, and Australia the church is shrinking.  In these countries, the church’s position on ethical and moral issues is well known, but people don’t understand the gospel message because it’s been drowned out by all the other things they hear from us.  This needs to change!  People need to discover the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ.

Richard Rohr sums all this up so well, “Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control, power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We’re often given a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of “Christian” countries that tend to be as consumer-oriented, proud, warlike, racist, class-conscious, and addictive as everybody else-and often more so, I’m afraid.” [8] Confronting words and sadly true.




[3] Matthew 28:19


[5] Proverbs 31:8-9



[8] Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater


In this blog, I’m continuing from last week’s discussion on the issues that are most important to you.  A survey of my Facebook friends revealed that matters of justice, particularly for asylum seekers and the homeless, ranked at the very top of their concerns. [i]

The third concern was equality – or at least the lack of justice we often see in the world around us.  Inequality features highly for asylum seekers and the homeless, but it also ranks as a big issue for Australia’s indigenous people, along with victims of abuse, trafficking and domestic violence.  There is high inequality between those who have access to clean water and those who don’t; and the poor and weak are frequently oppressed by the rich and powerful.

Right now 844 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water. 2.3 billion people in the world – one in three – do not have a decent toilet. There are 289,000 children under 5 die each year due to diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. [ii]   Inequality for Australia’s indigenous people is massive compared to the rest of Australians,[iii] and there are over 30 million trafficked people in the world; half are children, and 80% are female.

Equality, or the lack thereof, is a constant theme throughout the Bible even though some of the earlier comments made in books like Leviticus look like anything but equality.  It’s of vital importance that we understand the progressive and changing nature of God’s revelation through Scripture. Reading through the book of Leviticus from a 2017 western perspective can be quite daunting. There are instructions on how much to pay for slaves and how to treat women. Some of these commands boggle our minds and we can easily wonder at the inequality reflected in what we read.

But when you understand that these things were written 3,500 years ago to an ancient Middle Eastern culture that had very few, if any, written rules, we get a different perspective.  In some instances, this was the first time written regulations gave slaves and women any sense of equal treatment. Until then, they were considered a man’s goods and chattel.  Leviticus was quite revolutionary in its day. It upheld human rights for disabled people (19:14), refugees (19:33-34) and the elderly (19:32).

Many of the prophets spoke out with a great condemnation against the wealthy and powerful that oppressed the poor and weak.  Consider Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed (correct the oppressor). Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”  The prophet Micah summarised the importance of equality and justice like this: “what does the Lord require of you except to be just, and to love and to diligently practice kindness and compassion” (6:8).

Jesus’ teaching and actions continued this revelation.  He reached out to people that others (particularly the religious) would have nothing to do with –  such as lepers, the unclean, the sexually immoral and the mentally ill. The New Testament Scriptures also break down walls that divided people and communities – racial, gender and economic barriers are non-existent in Christ, says Paul (Galatians 3:28).

There is no place in the Christian faith for expressions of inequality because of differences in gender, race, creed or money.

On one occasion the Apostle Paul met with the other apostles in Jerusalem.  The outcome of the discussion was agreement that Paul and his team would continue to reach out to non-Jews with the gospel message.  Paul writes, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.”  The apostle took this seriously and, everywhere he went, he received offerings to relieve poverty.  His stated goal was equality (see 2 Corinthians 8:13-14).

It’s interesting that amongst all the things the Jerusalem church leaders could have highlighted as the one most important thing that should accompany the gospel message, it was equality for the poor.

And equality for all people should still accompany the gospel of Jesus.  It saddens me when I hear a non-equal message preached by people who identify as Christian.  Their lack of equality contradicts all that Jesus stands for and, in the process, repels people from Him.  Justice and fairness for all must always be part of the real gospel of Jesus.  That’s why it’s such good news!

”Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” – Amos 5:24.


[i] Blog: Is justice an optional extra



There is no doubt in my mind that “in the beginning” God had a very definite view of marriage.  In Genesis 2 the woman is taken out of the man’s side (as his equal).  There is no mention of a marriage between Adam and Eve because, according to Adam, she was already “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” but, when Moses collated the patriarchal oral and written records into the book of Genesis around 1440 BC, he added the explanation, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Almost 1,500 years later, when asked about divorce, Jesus reaffirmed God’s original plan for marriage, that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?”

That being said, it’s important to realise that throughout the Bible marriage is not viewed as an unchanging institution but rather as different arrangements that changed over the centuries.  For example, primitive peoples like Abraham (2000 BC or older) were endogamous.  That is, they married within their own specific ethnic group.  Abraham married his half-sister and together became the parents of an entire nation that eventually gave the Messiah to the world.

Other families were polygamous like King David who had at least eight wives.  When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, God spoke to David through Nathan the prophet saying, I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! (2 Samuel 12:8) – by implication, more stuff and more wives!

Pastor Ken Wilson in his book, A Letter To My Congregation, writes For the entire biblical period, family elders, often for economic reasons, selected marriage partners for their children. Today, this might be viewed as inconsistent with the consent necessary for legitimate marriage.  The practice of “child marriage” was allowed in the biblical era.  It was common for older men to marry younger women, including minors by today’s standards  (Joseph and Mary may have been such a couple). Today, this would be regarded as criminal abuse.  During and after the biblical era women were regarded as property.  This perspective is reflected in some biblical texts.  Today, this would be considered slavery rather than marriage.”

The word “marriage” is found only 47 times in the entire Bible although it’s clear from Luke 17:27 that marriage was widespread even before the times of Noah’s flood.

The first reference to marriage is in Genesis 29:26 where Laban tells Jacob, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.”  David’s prize for killing Goliath was for Saul to give him great wealth and “also give him his daughter in marriage and [to] exempt his family from taxes.”  2 Chronicles 18:1 records how “Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage.”  Among the many nations there was no king like Solomon: “He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women” of whom he married at least 300 (Nehemiah 13:26).

Weddings are only mentioned 19 times in the Bible – the first time in 1 Kings 9:15-19 (and it wasn’t a pleasant wedding ceremony either).  Jesus’ first miracle was performed at a wedding celebration where He turned water into wine.  Weddings featured frequently in His teachings as a symbol of the celebration of being united with our Lord in the eternal ages where “those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.”  In other words, marriage will have served its purpose and no longer exist.

While “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4), it’s interesting to note that the two most prevalent characters in the New Testament – Jesus and Paul – did not view marriage as the most important thing.  Both men were single and highlighted the single and celibate life as the best way to live even though marriage was expected of rabbis.  When he was teaching about marriage and divorce Jesus’ disciples observed, “it is better not to marry” and Jesus didn’t disagree.

I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians chapter 7 and gain insight into some of Paul’s teaching on singleness and marriage.  He writes, “I wish that all of you were as I am” (i.e. single) but then gives concession to those who can’t handle that way of living: “if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”  How different this is to much of the teaching and attitudes amongst today’s Christians and churches, where marriage is viewed as the highest goal to attain while single people often feel second-class and incomplete.

When Christie and I announced our engagement in 1994 someone said to me, “that’s so good, now you will be compete.”  I quickly reminded them that I “have been made complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10).  A lasting marriage is not two incomplete people coming together trying to fulfill their needs in another person but rather two complete people complimenting each other.  It’s not ½ + ½ = 1 but rather 1 x 1 = 1 (one flesh and one in Christ).  I used to get so tired of people (older ladies were the worst) saying to me at weddings, “you’ll be next!”  I used to get them back at funerals!

Marriage has had to be handled differently in diverse situations and cultures over the centuries.  Consider that in the first century slaves weren’t allowed to marry, but they would often enter relationships in which children were born.  We know from Scripture that some of these slaves became Christians and joined church communities.  The New Testament doesn’t address these de facto relationships at all so it appears not to have been a big deal.

Polygamy has also been a big issue over the years as Christian missionaries spread the gospel amongst polygamous peoples.  Attempts to break up these families have had many harmful consequences.  Consider the cases in PNG in the fifties and sixties where a directive was given to men with many wives that they could only have one.  Some of the men then killed the wives they liked the least so they could obey the missionaries and have just one wife.  I think a higher law comes into play in situations like this.

Christians and churches need great wisdom in this day and age too.  Families come into our churches and sometime later we find out the couple are not married.  We should not be guilty of breaking up such families but rather allow the Holy Spirit time to do His work whatever that may be.  The Lord is incredibly gracious and patient in His dealings with us all and I am so grateful.  We need to show great grace to all people in any type of relationship as they journey towards Jesus.  People who are hard and fast on the letter of the law only serve to repel people from a God who loves them.  The letter kills but the Spirit gives life!

I created a bit of a stir on social media this week (unusual, I know) by making the following statement: “People who think the world is getting worse have very little understanding of history.”  What ensued was a healthy and somewhat robust discussion that included a number of comments and Bible verses to suggest that my statement is wrong.  Some “strongly disagreed”.  Others proposed that we learn nothing from history, morality is at an all-time low, today there is potential for more horrendous actions to take place such as nuclear war and, the Bible talks about everything getting worse before Jesus returns.

I don’t disagree that the world of today is far from perfect.  As Swedish doctor and world-renowned statistician Hans Rosling said, “You have to be able to hold two ideas in your head at once: the world is getting better and it’s not good enough!”  Nonetheless, I still hold to my original statement: “People who think the world is getting worse have very little understanding of history.”  People who think the world is getting worse view the world through the isolated lenses of the present and a misunderstanding of Bible prophecy.

When we look at the world in 2015 – especially if we simply rely on mass media – we get fed all the bad news and it’s easy to think that everything is awful and getting worse.  When you listen to some preachers or read certain books on Bible prophecy, you buy into a relatively modern understanding of end-time events.

This relatively new approach to the interpretation of Bible prophecy is called dispensationalism.  It was developed in 1827 by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren and spread widely with the 1909 publication of the Scofield Reference Bible.  Darby went on to be the founder of the Exclusive Brethren cult after George Mueller (and other Brethren) challenged him about some of his unbiblical doctrines.  Charles Spurgeon also claimed these teachings were false.

These days much of the church has gained its understanding of Bible prophecy from novels and movies such as the Left Behind series.  While these books make their authors a lot of money they do little to educate Christians about the historical understanding of the Book of Revelation and other prophetic Scriptures.  As a result of this, much of the church is watching – and sometimes taking a rather gleeful longing – for an increase in war, natural disasters and signs in the sky like the blood moon that passed uneventfully this week.

So back to my statement, “People who think the world is getting worse have very little understanding of history.”  It’s true.  Let me give you some facts to back it up:

Since the late 1800s, life expectancy for Australians has increased by over 30 years. Today Australia ranks number 9 in the world.  While many African countries still have a much lower life expectancy than Western nations things are still improving dramatically thanks to AID agencies many of which are Christian.  Life expectancy across the world is over 30% higher today than it was in the 1960s.

In Jesus’ time, most people were poor but over the centuries this has changed dramatically.  Since the economic growth of industrialisation, the number of people living in poverty has decreased – and has kept on falling ever since.  The number of people living in poverty has decreased massively in the last twenty years.  While there is still much to do we are winning the war on poverty; the world is getting better!

Fewer people are dying because of war.  The number of people per million who have died in armed conflict dropped from 235 in 1950 to 2.5 in 2007, despite an increase in the number of smaller conflicts.  Since WWII international conflict has decreased dramatically.  Compared to prehistoric, pre-state and even medieval man, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker argues, the world has become incredibly peaceful.  “Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.” (Wall Street Journal)

There has also been a decrease in disease especially due to effective immunisation programs.  Cancer rates are declining, the number of people with access to improved sanitation has increased by 50% since 1990; HIV and AIDS are in a slow retreat throughout the world.  Africa has cut AIDS-related deaths by one third in the past six years.

Literacy rates have doubled in the last 100 years.  Since the mid-19th century, global adult literacy rates have greatly improved, from an estimated 10% in 1850 to 84% today.  Teen pregnancies are at an all-time low; IQ scores have risen 24 points since 1914; renewables now produce 22% of the world’s electricity; the ozone layer is making a recovery and worldwide gender inequality has reduced by 20% since 1995.

Studying history shows how much better the world has become and that is what we would expect as Jesus came to make the world a better place (Luke 4:18-19).  The Kingdom of God is succeeding.  I’m not saying the world is problem-free, it’s not.  However a study of history shows that the world is so much better today than it was when Jesus first stepped onto it and when He steps onto it again, He will make it perfect!

I love history! It fascinates me – not just because it’s a study of past events but rather because of its insights into human nature. As German author Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel put it back in the 1800s, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” I get his point, but one of the things that I’ve learned from history is that you can only oppress a people group for so long. Eventually a champion will arise to be a voice that says, “Enough is enough.” And so the struggle begins. History is littered with examples:

Think of the abolitionist movement in Britain educating the public and rallying against slavery. Champions like William Wilberforce MP, an evangelical Christian with a passion for social reform, and Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave who campaigned for abolition and settled in England. Plus the many slave revolts on the plantations themselves.

Jesus was the ultimate champion who spoke up for the poor, the oppressed, and the outcasts who are often referred to in the Bible as “tax collectors and sinners.” And He got into a lot of trouble for it. He spoke up for lepers, for Samaritans, for prostitutes, for the poor and for women. But it would be many centuries later when women would gradually begin to be emancipated from patriarchal oppression.

Enter Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK to push for the right to vote, run for public office and work for equal civil rights for women. Britain’s Daily Mail called them the “Suffragettes” – a derogatory term but one the women adopted and wore with pride (much like the word “Christian”). From these humble beginnings in 1903 the Suffrage (or feminist) movement spread all around the world. This was not an issue in Australia which was the first country to give women the right to vote and run for public office in 1895. Women are still not allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia or Vatican City.

The feminist movement has largely been a reaction to male chauvinism – the belittling of women and discriminating against them based on the belief that men are superior. Women then are deserving of less than equal treatment, value or advantage. History gives us many examples of this:

 Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, regarded females as “imperfect males”

 Josephus, the Jewish-Roman historian, believed “the woman is inferior to the man in every way.”

 A Jewish male in morning prayer would thank God that he was not made “a gentile, a slave or a woman”.

 The Islamic Koran states (Quran 4:34): “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme.”

 According to Gandhi, “A Hindu husband regards himself as Lord and master of his wife, who must ever dance attendance upon him.”

 John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement, wrote this in a letter to his wife on July 15, 1774: “Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person, known and loved by God and me … of what importance is your character to mankind, if you were buried just now or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God?” I bet it was a quiet night in the Wesley Household after that .

 As far as Christians go, Martin Luther would have to be the greatest chauvinist of all time: “Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for.” 
(Works 20.84). “God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God’s will. ‘Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error.” He goes on to say “We may well lie with what seems to be a woman of flesh and blood, and yet all the time it is only a devil in the shape of a woman.”

History shows us that an extreme is usually corrected by an extreme. There’s no doubt that this is the case with the feminist movement, but it’s an understandable reaction to male chauvinism in an attempt to bring equality between the sexes. There’s obviously still a long way to go, even in Australia, where women are often paid less than men for doing the same job, under represented in politics, business and on boards – and in church leadership.

The Bible teaches that God created men and women equal. Theologian Matthew Henry put it this way, “Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” This is neither chauvinism nor feminism but rather a mutual love and respect for one another that leads to the emancipation of both to be all that we were created to be.