Reading Word and World Part 2

Reading Word and World Part 2

Thursday, 30 July 2015  | Gerry - Administration Manager
Last week Narelle highlighted the theme of ITEC15 – Reading Word & World, and focused on reading the Word. This week let’s take a look at reading the World.

One of the keynote speakers at ITEC15 was Dr Justine T (Centre for Public Christianity in Sydney). Through her presentation “Children of lesser gods” she uncovered three ‘lesser gods’, although I prefer to call them false gods along the lines of Psalm 4:2 where the Psalmist asks, “… How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?”

The first of these false gods is Freedom. A Jeep TV advert neatly reveals this god (see it here This god promises that that we can do whatever we like free from constraint. It tells our children that if only they threw off the shackles and did whatever they liked they would find salvation. It doesn’t matter that the doing may be bad or evil (Justine referred to sexual perversions), all is made good when it is the result of free choice.

It is the god of freedom that causes its worshippers to conclude that I hate them if I happen to disagree with what they are doing because my disagreement is seen as a fundamental challenge to the god that gives them their identity. This god is a poor copy of a great blessing in the Kingdom of God – “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1). This true freedom is about being free to choose that which is good and loving. The false god of freedom leads to enslavement – “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” (2 Peter 2:19). Can I encourage you to start spotting the messages of unbridled freedom in society? Challenge them and discuss them with your kids.

False god number two is Utility (I call it Usefulness). A common question asked to new acquaintances is, “What do you do?” I would be stunned if the answer was “nothing”. Justine reminded us that our culture cares more about career skills than character skills. I find it ironic that footy players are recruited for their career skills (kicking, marking, tackling, etc.) and then somehow society is shocked when they do not behave as a “role model” (display character skills). The holy grail for this god is being useful or valuable. This is such a powerful god that dependence or non-productivity is humiliating and undesirable. A friend of mine, who is a widow, is not working. When people ask her what she does she feels compelled to mention her Op shop volunteering and the fact that she looks after her grandkids in order to not seem unproductive or burdensome to society.

This god denies salvation to the elderly and frail, it excludes people with severe disabilities, it considers children as future workers (a particular lie evident in education) rather than valuable as created in God’s image. This god draws us into overworking, and to fail to set aside time to sit quietly with Jesus. The language of burden in the context of euthanasia is a sign of the presence of this false god.

It is a poor copy of an element of the Kingdom of God – “For we are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) Those good works are not merely employment or pious acts, they may be prayer and fasting, they may be speaking about Jesus’ love with someone who is struggling, they may be writing poetry, or they may be making things, cleaning homes, or even teaching children, loving a wife/husband, mourning with those who mourn, laughing with friends, giving generously, fighting for justice, etc.

The third false god is Therapy, the “Be Here Now Mentality”, or YOLO (you only live once). It’s the idea that the goal of life is self-realisation and self-fulfilment through wellbeing. “We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but whether they were interesting and fun.” (Lionel Schriver)
This god will supposedly set me free from the demands of community, tradition and authority so that I can find myself. It says that satisfaction and contentment can replace the faith logic of self-control and sacrifice. Oprah’s slogan “Are you living your best life?” sums up the ideology of this god well. There are other slogans that also point to this false god – “be true to yourself”, “follow your bliss”, “be authentic”. This god seduces us with the notion that if we pursue these ideas they will lead to a happier, more fulfilled life (e.g. the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”). Morality under this god is about heeding one’s own truth and living well. Perhaps so-called “bucket lists” are in a sense the sacred texts of this god.

This god is actually an inverse copy of the true gospel, for Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35 NIV).

If you have stayed with me and read this far, well done. The challenge of reading the World accurately is one that is hard work. It is one that we expect our staff to take seriously. It is because the counterfeits of the World look so similar to the Word that we strive to help our students to read the difference between Word and World.

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