Dark Brightness

Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science

Ignore the smoke and mirrors.

Ah the tactics of the left. From the herald

This is shaping up to be a very Queensland election.

On March 24 the state’s voters will go to the polls dazzled by a campaign that has featured an Opposition leader who may never make it to Parliament, a bruising row over gay marriage, candidates dumped or stained by tawdry connections, and a Labor Government fighting a quixotic battle for survival.

But amid the scandals and portraits of naked gay men there seems one certainty: nothing bar a miracle will save Premier Anna Bligh’s stricken Administration.

Now, this is fairly standard. The Australian Party put out an advt. against the current civil union laws. The Gay lobby is offended. People on the right have their pasts ripped apart and are asked to resign — but it does not matter. Bligh (the Labour Premier) is despised. She’s Toast. She’s gone. And it does not matter how much you scream about the tide coming in or going out, it is happening.

Paul continually argued with people suggesting that we think of others and not ourselves. He did not get distracted by controversy. For him, it all returned to Christ. And today he continues onto what clearly is a series of replies to questions. The unspoken question was “Is it OK to eat food that is sold that we know comes from the pagan temple sacrifice?’

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him.

4Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as in fact there are many gods and many lords – 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8“Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

This is a place where those who, like me, have a hard reformed theology must be gentle. We can very easily wax sarcastic about liturgy, forgetting we have our own. We can say that we should not celebrate days and seasons — and thus stop people from keeping their vows of dedication in seasons. We need to remember that Paul supported his Jewish Christian brothers in completing vows of dedication (The Nazirite Vow) which was part of the Torah.

So, among ourselves, we have to be gentle. Yet we need to be able to correct each other as well. This is a balance.

The old divines had a rule: Nihil Ad Hominem. Do not argue against the person, or use the person as an example, or use your experience as normal or generalizable. It does not matter if the person lives as an ascetic saint or a gross sinner — their statements must be seen as correct or incorrect. (Besides we are all sinners).

However, if you decide that your experience will be public — do not be offended when people say they think you are wrong, evil or damned. You are letting them obscure your message with extraneous facts.

If we stick to this rule we regain some dignity in our debate (not too much, it is still heated), and we keep those whom we love — our children, our spouses — out of the limelight.

Instead they are in the private realm, where intimacy and it’s cousin honesty flourish.