E-mail to Brett Whiteley, MP re Humanitarian Intake

Hi Brett,
I write to you in regards to your suggestion to quarantine the increase of humanitarian refugees to Christians (and other persecuted minorities) from Syria and Iraq. While I do commend the increasing of the humanitarian intake, and do recommend that you continue to fight for this, I must question the limiting of it to Christians.
As a former Pastor, I am sure you are aware of Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. It has much to tell us about being hospitable, and being neighbourly. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new in how the Jews and the Samaritans weren’t exactly on the best of terms. You might even suggest that the customs around being separate could breed the fear of the different and unknown that is similarly striking around Australia at the moment. So it is striking that it was the Samaritan, not the Priest or Levite, who helped the Jew who had been attacked by bandits. And in Luke 10:37, in response to Jesus’ question of who acted like a neighbour, even the Lawyer couldn’t bring himself to say that it was the Samaritan, instead saying “The one who showed him mercy.”
This is what being a neighbour is about. This is what being a Christian is about. Even though the Samaritan may not had the same religion as the Jew, or agreed about the same things, when he was in trouble, none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was helping those who were not able to help themselves.
So with your announcement, you are suggesting that we protect our own, and not look after those who are different. You are effectively saying that as a nation, we should discriminate based on religion – that those who might be Muslim and fleeing persecution, fleeing a war zone, are less deserving of our protection than a Christian. And that goes right against what Christ taught. Christ teaches us that we are to love all, no matter of their ethnicity or religious identification.
So Brett, I ask you to keep fighting, and being Christ’s light in the parliament. But remember that Christ taught us to love all people, and it doesn’t matter who they are, what they’ve done, where they’ve come from, why they’ve come, or anything else. We are to show love to them, to be hospitable to them, and to be neighbourly to them.
With thanks,
Ben
This e-mail was sent to Brett Whiteley’s office on 7 September, 2015. He must have been waiting for responses, as this came back very quickly:

Thanks Ben for your response.

I hear your concerns and encouragement to consider widening the net so to speak.

As I have said previously the role of an MP is often one of balancing all aspects of the debate.

If we want to carry the community with us on an increased humanitarian intake we need to hear their thoughts and concerns as well.

Over the last few weeks I have held numerous community meetings. It is clear that there is not community support for a blanket intake.

I welcome your input.

Regards

Brett

Advertisements

Doctrinally Sound Songs

I was putting together my lead for this Sunday’s meeting, and a thought came into my head that the song, “In Christ Alone” might be a song worth considering. If you don’t know it, here’s a version by Owl City (of Fireflies fame)

Now, this song has come under a bit of scrutiny in the past because of its lyrics. Last year, the Presbyterian Church of the USA wanted to include this song in their new hymnal, but decided not to because they were unable to change one of the lines of the song in verse 2. The original verse reads

’Til on that cross as Jesus died
the wrath of God was satisfied

Where as the altered version they wanted to use read

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
the love of God was magnified

And to be honest – the change isn’t a bad one. I think it fits doctrinally, biblically and personally I’m more than happy to focus in on the Love of God (which is very evident in the New Testament) as opposed to the Wrath of  God (which is very evident in the Old Testament). However, the original lyrics also work, they are sound, and they also have powerful meaning. When the Getty’s decided not to allow the change, they were well within their right to do so, and for me this issue isn’t a deal breaker.

However, I’m uncertain as to whether to use this song or not. My doctrinal issue with the song comes in the last verse.

No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man
can ever pluck me from His hand

Now the issue here comes with the ninth Doctrine of The Salvation Army:

We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.

Commonly known as the doctrine of backsliding, this means that as Salvationists, we believe that in order for you to remain in a state of salvation – that is saved by Jesus Christ – you need to continue to have obedient faith in Christ – that is, faith that follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. The flipside of this is that if you stop having obedient faith in Christ, then you lose your state of salvation. There’s no “once saved, always saved” here in the Army. Once saved, you need to keep being faithful to God.

And that’s where the issue lies. For Salvationists, if you stop having faith, then you are effectively plucked from his hand, to use the imagery from the song. Where the song states that there is nothing on the earth or below it that can remove our state of salvation, our Doctrines state that there is in fact a situation where we can lose our salvation.

That being said, there is a different way of reading those lyrics. You could argue that in fact, the line is stating that because my faith is so strong, because I have my continued obedient faith, that there is now nothing that can remove my state of salvation. But it’s a bit ambiguous.

And my problem is that I love the song – the melody is fantastic, the rest of the lyrics are so incredibly powerful, and such a grand statement. But can I, as an officer who is to proclaim The Salvation Army doctrines as the defining articles of our faith, use a song that has one single line that speaks against one of our doctrines?

This is the beauty of our Songbook. When we choose songs from there, we are guaranteed that the lyrics are doctrinally sound to The Salvation Army Doctrines. There have been people – far smarter than myself – who have gone through and analysed, and worked out whether the song can be used or not. I’m certainly looking forward to the release of the new songbook, hoping that it might have a few more recent worship songs which will make planning a meeting easier. When we move away from the songbook – as many corps are doing in order to stay relevant – we need to give at least a bit of a thought as to whether the songs we choose meet the standards set by our doctrines. If not, we have an obligation not to use them in our meetings, because as officers we are to proclaim the Gospel and uphold our doctrines.

So until I am suitably convinced otherwise, unfortunately, I cannot use this hymn, as much as I love singing it. Now I best get back to choosing that final song for Sunday’s service.

What do you think? Does one line mean that we shouldn’t sing this song? Is there a strong argument that means that it can be used in a Salvation Army context? or am I just overthinking things?