Debating the truth fairly


Is there truth in the loudest shouts?

On April 25, 2013, you would be considered not Australian to treat the day as just a holiday without any attention to the reason for it. It is at the core of our nation’s values that we remember our fallen heroes who defended our freedom and statehood.

So why do we have Easter, a holiday most Australians enjoy without any attention to the reason for it? I would argue that the celebration of Easter must not be lost to a culture of personalities that want to bully God out of the market place of thought.

Recently, I heard a man who once held a high position in our nation lament the state of debate in politics, in media and just generally across our society.

The “victim” he admitted had been truth, while the “victors” in debate win not by appeal to evidence but by their capacity to make the most noise. Sometimes they yell louder, other times the comedian makes you laugh at their opposition such that you forget the issue.

I wonder if we might call this culture of bullying “an educated society”.

A good friend once said to me “I always know I have lost the debate when I start playing the man.” We all do that, but intelligent debate demands we rise above such behaviour.

I want to consider with you, the reader, what is at the heart of Easter. Is there any truth in the Christian story? Does it have value anymore?

Let me start with Good Friday. If you are a secular humanist or atheist you might actually celebrate Good Friday because it’s the day humanity crucified God. It was a carefully designed moment to silence God in the market place.

Interestingly, on that first Easter the loudest voices wanted Jesus gone because they were losing power, playing the man as they questioned Pilate’s loyalty to Caesar to get what they wanted. That had nothing to do with the innocence or guilt of Jesus. Truth became the victim of self-promotion and fear.

This same group of loud speakers, not truth speakers, spoke over Jesus’ miracles, over the lives He had blessed, over every truth He established in debate, stirring people up until mob mentality overcame rational discussion.

But here the question for the intelligent debater is, “Have you won the debate when you kill the one you are debating?” You may have silenced debate but it doesn’t mean you have won. The resurrection of Jesus will make that obvious and the evidence, if heard, will make the point.

Of course, if you are a Christian you celebrate Good Friday for the opposite reason from the secular humanist or atheist. Easter allows us to hear God in the market place. The Christian knows that at the heart of any Easter debate is the condition of the heart.

The fundamental flaw in the argument against God is our incapacity to be autonomous gods over ourselves. We lock up our homes, we lock up our kids and we lock up our treasures and even our chook houses. What human doesn’t struggle with the dark side of pride, jealousy, lust and more? We all do. And if I am right (something you will need to debate without playing the man), is that a good foundation for getting rid of God and trying to be gods ourselves?

Heaven help us in this debate. That of course brings me back to Easter because it is all about help from heaven.

Good Friday is good because God sees the problem with the human heart. God sees the damage caused by pushing Him out of the debate — the reckless nature of unrestrained behaviour in all areas of life, the fragility of broken people suffering at the hands of those who pay no account to their accountability before God, and the guilt of those who recognise the shame brought on by their own foolishness.

Easter is a moment in every year when we are reminded that without God we are in trouble, that godless action will certainly meet justice, and that those who turn to God can find forgiveness.

That first Easter, the debate was at its loudest. They yelled, they played the man, they stirred up mob protest and they silenced debate by killing the opposition. Of course, when He did speak this is what He said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Did He win the argument? Well, you will have to wait for Easter Sunday to get the answer.

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