Flat White

Israel Folau vs the amateur theologians

10 April 2018

7:29 PM

10 April 2018

7:29 PM

Is Peter van Onselen becoming to The Australian what Emma Alberici is to the ABC, a journalistic liability? It could be argued that either/or pose more of a risk to their respective employer’s reputation and ‘brand’ than Israel Folau poses to whoever sponsors the Wallabies.

Alberici’s reputation has been ripped apart of late, with The Australian reporting in the latest update that her now thoroughly disgraced “news story on corporate tax rates contained nine errors of fact and omissions.” In fact, the piece was so bad that ABC concluded:

It was assessed that the story was not consistent with the ABC’s editorial standards as it contained factual errors and omissions of fact. As rewriting the story would take an indefinite amount of time, it was decided that it should be removed.

However, van Onselen’s errors may be even worse. Because not only is van Onselen a Contributing Editor at The Australian and has recently left SKY News for regular slots on the ABC—quite appropriate really—but he is also a professor of politics and a foundation professor of journalism at the University of Western Australia. And yet this acclaimed academic has the same grasp of theology as Alberici does of corporate taxation. Take, for instance, these statements that he made regarding the situation involving Folau:

I’m pretty certain that Jesus’s more important message in the New Testament was about inclusion and tolerance of others, rather than fostering the concept of the other. In fact, there is no direct mention of “hell” in the bible.

It is difficult to see how such egregious errors and flights of fancy could get past even a basic editorial scrutiny. A quick word search of a Bible concordance reveals that the term “hell” is in fact used fourteen separate times in the New Testament, with twelve of them coming directly from the lips of Jesus. (See Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; 16:23; Jas. 3:6; 2 Pe. 2:4). So much for Jesus championing the Leftist values of “inclusion” and “tolerance”.

Van Onselen quickly tried to cover his tracks by amending the article so that the paragraph now reads:

In fact, there is no direct mention of “hell” in the bible. At least not the claim that people go to hell. That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses – as bible literalists – don’t believe in hell.

But this demonstrates that van Onselen is not only ignorant regarding the contents of the Bible, but he knows next to nothing about theology. You see, the Jehovah Witnesses—whom most mainline Christians regard as being a cult, not a fellow denomination — do believe in hell, they just don’t believe that it will last forever. Instead, they hold to a view called “annihilation” where the soul is destroyed after a period of time.

But more significantly, the Bible repeatedly speaks of a place of eternal torment and suffering, even when the term ‘hell’ is not employed. (such as Rev. 21:6-8) However, unrestrained by the hubris of his own ignorance, van Onselen goes even further:

And to the extent some Christians interpret the Bible as suggesting being gay will result in damnation, most Bible scholars have a more nuanced take on the meanings conveyed. Not that you’d expect nuance from someone who, as Liberal MP Tim Wilson put it, is better known for his brawn than his brains.

As I pointed out in a previous article, Folau was actually stating the classic Christian position on the issue. But when van Onselen says that “most Bible scholars have a more nuanced take on the meanings conveyed” there is a reason why he doesn’t list any by name – and that’s because most Biblical scholars agree that homosexual practice is incompatible with being a Christian. But don’t just take my word for it. Read what the apostle Paul says and make up your own mind as to the level of ‘nuance’:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

It’s worth noting that Folau was answering a question that was posed to him. Somebody actually contacted him via his social media account and sought an answer to this particular question. So, he didn’t go out of his way to make a statement or condemn anyone. In fact, as the above verse states, he talked about there being forgiveness for anyone who repents.

Unlike the Liberal MP Tim Wilson, Folau might not be skilled in the dark arts of political spin. But for Wilson to cast a slur on Folau’s intellectual ability ironically reeks of might be called ‘white privilege’, since Folau is better read than either van Onselen or Wilson in the New Testament. Clearly, Folau has both brawn and brains. However, what is becoming more and more obvious is that van Onselen has nothing but shamelessness. In spades.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.

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