Mortification of Sin – Chapter 4

Great Quote: “Strength and comfort and power and peace, in our walking with God, are the things of our desires”

The impression we get from the title and subject of this book is that it’s full of doom and gloom. However, Owen is wanting his readers to experience ever deepening Joy. All those who want to know peace and joy – read on!

Principle 3 (final):            Life, vigour and comfort in our Spiritual life depend much on our mortification of sin.

The essence of all our desire (strength, power, vigour and life in our walking with God, along with peace comfort and consolation) is very much dependant on this work of mortification.

Introductory Qualification

Owen then carefully qualifies the relationship of mortification and attaining power and peace:

  1. We must be careful to understand that these objects of our desire (power and peace) aren’t a guaranteed result of our work in mortification. He quotes Psalm 88 by Heman who was diligent and Godly, yet God chose a pathway, in this life, by which he knew little comfort so that he (Heman) could be an example to others. Therefore, peace etc are not a mechanical result of our diligence – they are directly granted as a gift from God.
  2. Also, we understand that mortification can’t be classed as a direct cause of such consolation. (these things come as a direct result of our being adopted and are brought to us by the Holy Spirit)
  3. However, in the ordinary Christian life, our vigour, life, power and peace depend much on mortification.

 

Reasons why these blessings depend much on mortification

  1. Mortification is the only thing to stop sin from sapping our strength and robbing our comfort and peace

1.1.    Sin weakens the soul. In Psalm 60 David says that he is feeble and broken because of sin. Because:

1.1.1. Sin untunes the heart, unframes it and entangles it. Sin draws our affection away from God so that we cannot get that robust communion with God that we get when the conscience is clear.

1.1.2. Sin captures our thoughts. Our thoughts are like great cables which supply power to our affections. If those thoughts are taken by sin then they are unplugged from feeding affection toward God and are plugged in to feeding and adorning affection for sin/ idols.

1.1.3. Sin also hinders duty so we find ourselves putting our energy into vain pursuit.

1.2.    Sin not only saps the strength of the soul it also darkens the soul

Owen describes the effect of sin as a dark cloud, blocking out the rays of God’s sunlight. He says that mortification is the only remedy for those experiencing such darkness. He astutely recognises the type of believer who is suffering, hating the darkness and even calling out to God in prayer to remove the darkness. Yet God will never answer until they recognise their sin and bring it to God (Hosea 5 V 13-15.

2. Mortification cleans out the heart and makes room for the graces of God to Grow. He uses a lengthy illustration of a herb garden overgrown by weeds – the good herbs are chocked and dying. But once the garden is cleared the herbs grow with vigour.

3. Mortification is the greatest evidence of heart that is sincere. “Mortification is the soul’s vigorous opposition to self

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Mortification of Sin – Chapter 3

Note: The Banner of Truth Edition splits up the book into chapters – however, Owen is giving three big principles: chapter 2 = principle 1. Chapter 3 = principle 2.

 

Principle 2:  It is the Holy Spirit who is the only efficient cause (the one who actually does the work) of this mortification; it is only the Holy Spirit who is sufficient for the work. The Holy Spirit works in us as he pleases.

  1. One of Owen’s major concerns was Roman Catholicism (as it was with all the Reformers and Puritans). If the Holy Spirit is really the cause underneath the killing off of sin in the Christian then it is a waste of time to try any other means to mortify sin and grow in grace. Here the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church are exposed as without any power. He gives a couple of reasons: a. because the means prescribed are empty – wearing of hair shirts, beating of the body etc. b. The people who are called to do this are spiritually dead and need life first before any attempts at mortification will be of any worth.

1.1.    He goes on to outline why these various methods of mortification proposed by the Roman Catholic Church are ineffective

1.1.1. God has not prescribed many of these methods as a way to mortification: rough clothing, vows, penances, monastic life etc. This is just not biblical methodology.

1.1.2. The things that God does prescribe are looked on, by the RC church, as fountains rather than streams or channels of Grace. Ie, the source of help is God himself, the power is all his – the means we use are mere streams. So they (the Roman Catholic Church) puts great stock in the more they fast, pray etc the more power garnered. Ie, their eyes are on the means rather than Christ himself. This is the fundamental mistake: they attack the physical body (as if this was the source of the problem) rather than the “old man” which is the sinful nature.

2. Now he gives the positive reason why this is a work of the Holy Spirit alone:

2.1.    God specifically promised that he would come to “take out the stony heart and put in a heart of flesh”. He takes away stubbornness, pride and unbelief.

2.2.    The bible tells us that all conquering of sin is a gift to us from Christ and all gifts are mediated to us through the Holy Spirit. So the point is made that without him we can do nothing. Also, he quotes Tertullion that he sent the Spirit to “do the works that he had to accomplish in us”, ie, it is Christ working in us and through us.

In summery Owen rounds up with answering two concluding practical questions:

  1. How does the Holy Spirit mortify sin?

1.1.    By causing grace and the fruits of the Holy Spirit to abound. This is a point emphasised by Tim Keller in recent years. That there is an expulsive power in the work of the Holy Spirit. Owen picks up in Galatians 5 where he shows that the fruit of the Spirit is contrary in nature and so will work against the flesh.

1.2.    By “real physical efficiency” – that is, he directly goes to work chopping at the roots of these sins in our lives.

1.3.    By Faith he brings the cross of Christ to us and facilitates real communion

 

If this is all the work of the Holy Spirit – then why does the bible teach us to do the work. Shouldn’t we just ‘let go and let God?

2.1.    Firstly Owen quotes a number of verses which show that we ought not to make such a sharp division between our working and the Spirit’s working. He “works in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure” Phil 2:13. So our working and the Spirit’s working are in some ways inseparable.

2.2.    This is really interesting. Owen argues that the way that the Holy Spirit works is not to keep prodding us to fight sin when we don’t really want to – creating conflict within. No, he rather he “works upon our understandings, wills, consciences and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us and without us”. Her works in us creating genuine Love for God, understanding and a desire to fight sin. Armed with this and the continuing strength of the Spirit – we get victory.

Owen concludes that the most miserable person in the world is the one who feels the convicting weight of the law but has no power to deal with sin. The paragraph is well worth the read.

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Mortification of Sin – Chapter 2

  1. Even the very best Christians need to make it their duty, to their dying day, to mortify the deeds of the flesh. The fight will never be over until we get to glory:
  • Great quote: Be killing sin or it will be killing you.
  • Note: Owen strongly urges his readers on to do this duty. For those of us who are reformed (theologically) there can be a tendency towards “quietism” – let go and let God. But here we are called to action – we must see this as a duty for us to do.

Reasons why we need to always be mortifying:

1.1   Indwelling sin will always abide while we are in the world

There are some that would argue that we can reach perfection in this life but this is mere foolishness. There are texts which point to the reality of growth and renewal – these point to the reality that we are growing from corruption being renewed from corruption. Indwelling sin will always live in us to some degree in this world. There are also texts which explicitly lay it out: “the flesh wars against the spirit and spirit against the flesh”

1.2   Indwelling sin is always acting – it never calls for a truce, it is always at war.

“The spirit that lives in us lusts to envy”. Indwelling sin is relentless – it never stops. Therefore, if we stop mortifying – we are lost. Even our most sincere prayers and religious work is tainted by sin. George Whitfield said I cannot even pray without sinning.

1.3   If we do not take this duty seriously indwelling sin will go on to create great, scandalous and soul destroying sins.

David is, of course, a clear example of this. Paul lists in Galatians 5 what the works of the flesh are such as adultery, witchcraft, murder. We are fools to say ‘it will never come that’. Look how eminent David was in his Godliness and yet his complacency brought terrible catastrophic failure. Sin is so crafty in its progress – we can be sunk before we awake to the danger!

1.4   One primary reason for the giving of the Spirit is to fight the flesh

Paul points out that the flesh lusts against the Spirit – but (praise God) the Spirit lusts against the flesh.

Praise the Lord – fulfilling the flesh is not the only instinct that we feel. If we are saved then we will be also driven toward holiness. It is great foolishness to see two men fighting and bind one man up so he can’t fight. If we don’t use this instrument of the ‘new man’ that’s what we are doing. We are also sinning against the goodness of God in that we are not using what we have, God may withhold further strength because we are refusing to use the weapons he has already given.

1.5   To neglect mortifying puts us in a terrible state of misery

The Christians life is supposed to be marked by Exercise and success; there is supposed to be a growing strength, holiness & progress. When a Christian fails to mortify, the soul withers and becomes like a man who takes blow after blow, wound after wound, foil after foil. The soul becomes weak like a man with broken bones. How sad it is to see souls that were once humble, gentle and kind now carnal, cold and wrathful.

1.6   The duty of “perfecting holiness”, “growing in grace” cannot be done without mortification.

***********

So then, this is the first principle; despite the final work and merit of the cross, despite the great blow the sinful nature received when we were regenerated, the fact remains that even the very best Christians have indwelling sin which we must be actively mortifying to our dying day.

Owen finally (before he leaves this first principle) shows his concern for those of his day who profess faith and talk much of religion but do not have a significantly changed life.

There are two areas where we can see what a mere Christian ‘professor’ is like:

  1. In himself

One sure sign is that they think little of the seriousness of sin. They are able to eat and digest sin without getting a sore stomach!

2.   Toward others:

  1. They become arrogant in relation to others. “I’m as good as the next man” is their motto. They may even set themselves apart from the world but they set themselves apart to selfishness. They forget what it is to be tender and loving toward others. They boast of forgiveness from sin but won’t forgive others. In other words they display little love toward others.
  2. They give the impression to others that all these people have to do is measure up to them to be accepted by God. They make themselves the yardstick to be measured by
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Mortification of Sin – Chapter 1

John Owen wrote this book because he saw so many Christians struggling and failing in their battle with personal sin. The entire book is an explanation of Romans 8:13

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

In chapter 1 he lays out the groundwork and goes through the verse word by word explaining it’s meaning, as follows:

  1. “IF…”: Owen takes the word “if” and explains that this isn’t a conditional clause bringing in uncertainty. Ie, ‘If you mortify …then you will live. If you don’t then, watch out, you will lose your salvation’. He says no – Paul has already said that his readers are now under no condemnation. The word ‘if’ is here to show that there’s an unbreakable bond – eg: if the sun comes up it will be daytime. There is an unbreakable connection that if the believer puts sin to death they will live.
  2. “..you..”  To who is it addressed? Owen answers – to Christians, those under no condemnation, those not in the flesh but in the spirit. He says it is folly to press this duty on the unsaved. Yet he says: “The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin.
  3. …but if by the Spirit…”  The efficient cause (ie, the thing which does the mortifying/ killing of sin) – he marks this as the Holy Spirit – he does the mortifying. In reality it is the Holy Spirit who really does the work.
  4. …mortify the deeds of the body…

4.1.    What is meant by “the body”? Owen equates the phrases Paul uses elsewhere – the flesh, old man, body of sin. He says this is speaking of the residual sin remaining in our natures and it is called body, flesh etc because the physical body is the main instrument of it.

4.2.    What is meant by the “deeds of the body?” Even though Owen says that the deeds refers to the outward actions of the body he argues that what is really intended is the inward heart and intent – the flesh always “aims to bring forth a perfect sin”

4.3.    What is meant by “mortify”? This is the old fashioned word – to kill. He says that Paul is using the picture of a ‘a man’ – as if your sinful nature was a person- and the only way to deal with him is to kill him. A body cannot work if it is dead. Therefore, to mortify the deeds of the body you are laying an axe to the root – you are chopping at its power, strength, life and vigour. It seems that there is a contradiction (which he promises to explain further later on ) when Romans says that we are “crucified with Christ”. Owen explains that this is speaking about the merit of the cross (meritorious – a completed work) and the example also. In other words we stand in the victory of a sure thing, we have the merit of it – “but the whole work is by degrees to be carried on to perfection all our days”

5.   “…you shall live…” – Owen suggests this is firstly speaking of eternal life in Christ – it is placed in contrast to “If you live after the flesh, you shall die”. But he further suggests the possibility that this is also speaking of “the joy, comfort and vigour of it”. As he says “Now I live, if you stand fast” 1 Thess 3:8. In other words – “the vigour, power and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh”

Summery

The flow of Owens thinking on this verse is that it is speaking to forgiven, redeemed Christians. The intention of the verse is not to cast doubt on the security of the believer; “once truly saved, always truly saved” applies here as it does everywhere. The “if” here is to show an absolute definite logical certainty – it is a “self evident” logical thing:
2 + 2                   =    4

If you mortify… =   you will live.

He explains that what we are mortifying is the corruption we still carry with us. The Old man is described as crucified, this means that it is a “done deal”, it is speaking meritoriously of the work of Christ, a victory that we can finally and perfectly claim when we meet him.  In the here and now before we get to heaven – we have to fight for every inch of progress.

Finally and most wonderfully – as we do this – the reality is that it is the Holy Spirit who really does the work; in Owen’s vocab – the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause. We are called to obey – he does the work. This will expanded on in later chapters.

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Mortification of Sin – John Owen: 1 – Introduction

“If ye through the Spirit shall mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live” Romans 8V13

I have recently read through “The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen and found it to be a book that constantly brings the reader to prayer. Theologians like Owen (especially the puritans) were masters of scripture. Unlike so many theologians of the modern era who teach scripture from a frame of reference of sociology, epistemology and psychology; the puritans were soaked in scripture, their frame of reference was scripture. I think that’s why their writings are so rich and breathe so much life, I think that’s why I find myself on my knees so often when reading them. To read the puritans is often like stepping from a confined room into a wide open country.

I’m intending to put these posts up for the good of the church people (and anyone else who would be helped). It comes from my own dulness, in that, having read through the book, I’m left with the feeling that I often lost the “wood for the trees”. In my defence John Owen is a dense writer – every sentence is like a well packed suitcase. So the following is a synopsis, a making of sence for the modern reader.

Each chapter has a multilevel list which matches that found in the banner of truth complete works.

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The Transforming Power of the Gospel

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Read this book – it will change your life! The incredibly simple but life transforming truth of what Jerry Bridges says is that, as those who are already Born Again, we lack peace, assurance, power and vitality on our Christian lives because we are constantly prone to lose sight of the gospel. His argument is that we constantly slip back onto the “performance treadmill” of thinking we have earn God’s favour. Like a master craftsman who knows his subject inside out Bridges takes us through the gospel again. Instead of trying to “soft soap” us he strongly argues the point that Tim Keller is constantly emphasising: “We are much more wicked than we can imagine and yet we are much more Loved than we dare to believe”

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GE 2011

Below is some content which I planned to give at the bible study. It is intended to give us some biblical foundations for a christian way of thinking about politics. I’ve also added in content from the Christian Institute and the responses given by three of the major parties to questions posed by Athiests Ireland at the end. The below content is a bit rushed so please excuse any bad grammer or disjointed thinking. It was prompted by a paper given by the Laois Bible Church entitled “God and Government”. (If you can hold of this – do)

Christians & Politics

How should Christians think about politics in the face of such an important general election on our doorstep? We have been the recipients of endless debate between the parties on the merits of them being in government. The one issue that all parties and voters care about is the economy – and why not, since the current economic crisis impacts on our very way of life? However, are there more important considerations for the Christian when they come to vote? Well, the answer must be a very loud – YES. Here’s a great verse from the bible “Pr 14:34  Righteousness exaltes a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

What about the money?

I’m not saying that it’s a non issue, part of the “righteousness” in proverbs 14:34 is that we expect our government to be wise and moral in the way they deal with the public finances. However, we ought to remember that we are merely stewards of the Lord’s money. That is – everything we have we receive from the Lord – even if we are working for a wage. The fact that we are physically able, that we have the job in the first place is that the Lord has given it. Therefore, in the realm of money, we are to be a people who look to God and trust him rather than thinking our national and personal financial troubles are purely a result of naturalistic (human) cause and effect.

God & Government

What are the principles which govern who we should vote for and even – should we vote at all? Christendom has long since been divided on the question of involvement in politics ranging from the Anabaptists who believe that that “My Kingdom is not of the this world” applies to every area of Christian living in this world, ie, disengagement; to the Roman Catholic view that the church has authority (The Keys of the Kingdom) not only over it’s own affairs but also the affairs of the state, as exemplified in European middle age history.

To unravel things a little we need to lay down some bible background:

Getting a New testament perspective

In beginning to get a biblical approach to the question, one of the big issues we have to face is: How does the Old testament relate to the new. This is important because the Civil Society of Israel was very different from today:

Israel was a theocracy: It was a nation governed by God. And his government was very strict. Religious pluralism was not tolerated in Israel (“you worship your God and I’ll worship mine”). Neither was there any ethical pluralism (“you believe in marriage and I don’t – but we can still get along can’t we). It was a very different place from modern day Ireland. LBC – God and Government

Is ancient Israels form of government desirable/ applicable for Ireland today? Would we really want to take out an adulterer and stone them to death? What is the New Testament way of coming at the question of Government? The most popular formulation applied to the question comes from Thomas Aquinas and was picked up by John Calvin. Thomas saw the Old Testament law as being divided into three:

  1. Civil Law – not applicable today since the national structure of Israel is gone
  2. Ceremonial Law – not applicable today since the temple and its sacrificial system is gone
  3. Moral Law (10 commandments) – applicable today.

I’m not saying this formulation is wrong (who am I to argue with Aquinas and Calvin) but just that it’s a little too neat. I would point out that this threefold way of looking at the Old Testament isn’t found in the new testament. (for those interested listen to lectures delivered by Don Carson at the European Theologians Network) A more helpful way of looking at the OT from the NT is found in the words of the Lord: Mt 5:17  “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” The progression of the Old Testament to the New Testament is one of promise to fullfillment. When we think about the Old Testament think about the process of birth. At first an embryo is planted in a safe environment, for nine months it will not be capable of surviving outside of the womb. It is a real baby! It grows arms, legs, ears, internal organs yet it still isn’t ready to survive outside the womb. Then the great day comes – out into the world the baby comes – he/she takes its first breath… Think of the ethnic nation of of Israel as a womb for righteousness. At the time the nations of the world had utterly turned from God and his righteousness. The “nations” were practicing terrible attrocities in the worship of their God’s, eg human sacrifice. Righteousness was kept safe by the all encompassing law of God which covered every area of life (worship, society and morality) of a specific ethnic people group the Hebrews, the Jews. But one day “the baby was born” – Jesus Christ came into the world. He was the very thing which all of the OT was foreshadowing. He set up the church with himself as the head and we as the body (that is everyone who is truly born again by the Spirit of God from every tribe), this church is the new Israel. When the disciples spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost it was a signal that righteousness was no longer specially confined to ethnic Israel – the “baby” was being born into the world. When ethnic Israel was at it’s very peak under the rule of David it was but a pale reflection of the Spiritual reality of a Kingdom over which Jesus Christ is the king made up of Jew and Gentile, bond and free.

1: The Church

How then does this transition from Old testament to New Testament work for the church?Those who are in Christ’s Kingdom (in the proper sense, under the Kingly rule of Jesus Christ as the Israelites were under the kingly rule of David under God) are those who are saved, converted, born again. Jesus has fulfilled the Old Testament for them (Moral, Civil and Ceremonial). Therefore, because we are joined to Christ the fulfillment of that law is applied to us. God’s moral standards were met by him, the ceremonial requirements were met by him and laws governing society were met by him. So then the Christian now doesn’t just blithely say “I’m not under the law but under grace”. They say ‘I am under grace and I now love the Lord Jesus Christ and I love the things that Jesus loves’ Rather than throwing off all the OT law the Christian now embraces and loves that law, not because they need to earn their way into God’s favour but because they know that to break the law grieves God. For example I know that all the murder in my heart has been forgiven by grace but I don’t take a casual attitude toward it – hatred and murder grieves God and my love for him stops me from breaking that law. As Dr DM Lloyd-Jones put it:

“If the grace you have received does not help you keep the law, you have not received grace” Serm on Mount Vol 1: P197

You may say, ‘well, that bit is obvious but what about civil/ceremonial laws which cannot hold relevance for today – eg, not eating pork?’ I would argue that such laws belong to the scaffolding (to mix my metaphors) or to the womb of the OT civil law. When the Lord came and established the church, the scaffolding was no longer needed. The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the necessity for the existence of those laws. I think I can illustrate how this works with example of Acts 10. The Lord, in a vision, tells Peter to kill and eat animals which would have been unclean for a Jew to eat. It seems that the obvious conclusion is “God himself annuls a considerable part of the Mosaic legislation, for which people were prepared to die” Comment on the NT use of the OT – Beale and Carson. This physical requirement for the Christian is removed but the significant lesson for the Christian is not removed. In the OT the Jews had to learn the difference between clean and unclean, even the things they ate taught them that lesson. To be a clean person meant you were a Jew who followed God’s code or you were a gentile who converted to being a Jew and followed God’s code. If you were a principled gentile, you were unclean, you were outside. Things like not eating pork were markers along the boundary to show the difference. When God spoke to Peter he was telling him ‘the boundary has been removed, the curtain has been torn, righteousness doesn’t belong to the Jews only anymore’. This is what Peter understood  because when he relayed the message to a stunned party of Jewish Christians in Acts 11 his whole emphasis was on God accepting Gentiles as Gentiles into the Kingdom without the need to convert to Judaism and keep Judaistic practice. God has removed the marker (not eating pork) but the significant lesson remains for us Christians today – there is a difference between righteousness and unrighteousness – cleanness and uncleanness.

2: The Church in Society at large?

Recap:

  • The question: should Christians take an interest in politics and what should determine how they vote?
  • In the Old Testament God’s laws ruled all of society with an iron rod – is that applicable today?
  • ans no – Jesus has fulfilled the Old testament law
  • the church is now the new Israel under the rule of King Jesus
  • we obey Jesus not out of motivation to get right/ be right with God – but out of love

But what about the rest of society, those outside the church. The message is that they are outside of the Kingdom proper, they are in rebellion and God calls them to repent and be converted. But does that mean that God has no dealings with this world, that he has decreed ‘hands off’. No -it could never be – if God left this world to its own devices it would descend into horrific anarchy beyond our imagination. God still cares, still controls – all things. One of the ways in which he does this is that he has instituted human government. Romans 13:1 – 7 is one of the main texts in the New Testament which teaches how the Christian church is to relate to the state:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

These verses are plain. God is not only interested in politics – he’s in charge, it is ultimately he who will appoint the next Irish government! If God is interested and involved – so should we be.

However, before we loose interest in evangelism and mission let’s temper our thinking:

The themes of Civil Government and Christian responsibility to that government are minor themese in the New Testament. But Christians have been provided with principles that can apply today. What is important about this teaching in the context in which it was given. The lives and writings of Paul and Peter show us that mission was more important to them than politics. God’s Kingdom advanced not through political agitation but through gospel proclaimation. – Laois BC

Romans 13 is teaching that God institutes governments and his desire for them is that they behave according to his righteousness – they are supposed to hold no fear for the one who does good – but punish the one’s who do wrong. When they do not behave in a fair and righteous way – God holds them to account.

Summery

The great love of God’s heart is toward his church, the Lord Jesus Christ died for her and we are to work and pray for her health and expansion throughout this world. This does not mean that God is uninterested in this world; his common grace extends into all areas of life and governments are especially his “servants”. At times he brings governments into power which persecute and are unrighteous; in recent years China has been an example of how God sovereignly used the bad intentions of a government to further the growth of his church. The expulsion of the missionaries in the 50’s made the indigenous Christians go into overdrive.

However, what we vote and pray for are the parties who are the least antagonistic toward the Faith, who are the most moral and who seem to demonstrate the greatest wisdom in the way they conduct their affairs.

The thing we can do which is of infinitely more influence and value than just voting is to pray. We remember that it is our God who raises up and brings down governments. The economic tidal wave and the demise of the Catholic Church in the affections of the people is ultimately from the hand of God. Pray that God would continue to work in society in such a way that he is preparing this precious nation for a revival of true religion.

Appendix 1 – Responce from the Christian Institute

This the content of an e-mail sent to me by request outlining some of the issues we ought to be thinking about:

[1] Abortion – there is pressure from various lobby groups to legalise abortion on demand in Ireland. Often the lobby groups are subtle and don’t use the term “abortion”, rather they say that they are promoting for “reproductive rights”. It would be good to ask the political candidates what their views are on this issue, and whether they would support the current law in Ireland or seek to liberalise it.

[2] Adoption of Children – there are various groups campaigning in Ireland to make it legal for homosexual couples to jointly adopt children. This is often presented in the press as simply extended equality to same-sex couples. However the demands of homosexual couples to adopt children, trumps the rights of children to a mother and a father. It would be good to ask political candidates where they stand on this issue.

[3] Sex Education in Schools – in the UK there has been a big push in recent years from groups like the Family Planning Assoc, for increased sex education in primary schools. Many teaching resources which are explicit and which promote homosexuality as an equally valid alternative to marriage are being recommended by some local authorities and health trusts. The Family Planning Assoc also operates in Ireland, and there is a push for increased sex education in Irish schools, as well as the making available of contraceptives to school children. While this issue has not been pushed in Ireland as fast as it has in the UK, it is an issue that the political candidates should be asked about. It’s important to make sure that any sex education programmes adopted are modest, not explicit, and encourage abstinence before marriage.

Appendix 2 – Atheists Ireland

Below is some content taken from http://www.atheists.ie. The put the same questions to each of the political parties (not to Fianna Fail for some reason??)

Fine Gael Party response

1.      Will you work to reform the education system so that all children in your constituency can access publicly-funded schools which have no religious ethos? –

Fine Gael supports diversity in our school system and do not feel that the current patronage model reflects modern Ireland. Parental choice must be at the heart of how the patronage model develops and we will hold a national forum on education to debate the issues involved with all stakeholders so that parents and organisations with a view on how the system should evolve, have an opportunity to discuss the issues in an open forum. From there, we will plan a way forward, which will respect the views of all involved.

2.      Would you support a referendum to remove religious references from the Constitution?

Fine Gael’s immediate priority is reform of the political institutions in the Constitution in order to make the political system more effective and accountable. Nevertheless, if elected to Government, Fine Gael will consider the continued relevance of religious references in the Constitution as part of our programme of Constitutional review.

3.      Do you believe that blasphemy should be a criminal offence?

No. Fine Gael does not believe the blasphemy should be a criminal offence and made this point repeatedly during the debate on the Defamation Act 2009.

4.      Would you support legislation to prevent hospitals from having a religious ethos?

Fine Gael has no plans to publish legislation to prevent hospitals from having a particular religious ethos. Our immediate priority, as outlined in our FairCare health plan, is to reform the delivery of health services and to create a strong public health service. This involves implementing a new approach to waiting list management, developing primary care services and introducing Universal Health Insurance (UHI) for all. Once UHI is introduced the unfair and inefficient two-tier health system will be eliminated allowing fast access to improved services for all.

5.     If elected, would you vote to ensure that religious bodies are treated the same as other organisations under equality and employment legislation? – Yes

6.      Do you believe that religions should have to pay their fair share of tax on income that does not come from charitable activities?

Fine Gael has no plans to tax the income of charitable organisations.

Green Party response

The Green Party has provided the following statement on behalf of all its candidates –

1.      Will you work to reform the education system so that all children in your constituency can access publicly-funded schools which have no religious ethos?

The Green Party believes that education is vital to personal, community, societal and economic development. We will promote a flexible and transparent system aiming to value diversity, meet individual needs, cherish the environment and fulfil the highest standards of international performance.   The Green Party will review the Education Act to look at issues such as Boards of Management, patronage and enrolment. Reform school Boards of Management to be more open and transparent to parents students and staff, with student feedback.

2.      Would you support a referendum to remove religious references from the Constitution?
The Green Party is in favour of major constitutional reform and is proposing the drafting of a new constitution. Replacing our current constitution would have huge legal, political and historical significance. Therefore we believe that the Irish public should be consulted before such an undertaking is begun. Allowing the public to vote on affirming the process by which the new draft constitution would be created would significantly increase its legitimacy and also the chances of the subsequent draft being passed by the public. The status of religious reference would obviously be debated as part of this process.

3.      Do you believe that blasphemy should be a criminal offence?

The Green Party believes that a referendum would be preferable to resolve the constitutional issues surrounding blasphemy laws.

4.      Would you support legislation to prevent hospitals from having a religious ethos?

The Green Party endorses the view of the World Health Organisation that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition”.  The Green Party recognises that universal access to primary health care delivered in the community is the central pillar of an effective and affordable health care service. The Green Party is committed to the goals of equity of access to and outcomes of health care services. Health care delivery systems should reflect the diversity of society.

5.      If elected, would you vote to ensure that religious bodies are treated the same as other organisations under equality and employment legislation?

The Green Party believes that all people should be treated equally.  Equality and employment legislation should be applicable to everyone equally regardless of religious or secular belief.

6.      Do you believe that religions should have to pay their fair share of tax on income that does not come from charitable activities?

The Green Party’s approach to taxation is driven by the principles of equity, fairness, efficiency and sustainability.  The Green Party believes that all earners should contribute fairly to the tax system.

Labour Party response

The Labour Party has provided the following response on behalf of all its candidates –

1. Will you work to reform the education system so that all children in your constituency can access publicly-funded schools which have no religious ethos? –

In relation to Education we believe there is a compelling case for moving towards a new system of schools patronage.  This will take into account evolving views with regard to religion and education.  We acknowledge the increasing numbers of people who want to opt for non-denominational or inter-denomination education for their children.  Our Spokesperson, Ruairi Quinn TD, proposed extending the patronage of Vocational Education Committees (VECs) to cover primary schools and in general broadening the role of the local community in this regard. This would see the orderly transfer of existing patronage of some primary schools to other patron bodies, and would reflect modern day practice and observance.  It would enable parents to exercise choice.

Some time ago Labour Senator, Ivana Bacik, proposed that a Forum on Education Reform be established to address all relevant issues.  This would involve the major stakeholders such as parents, patrons, teachers, principals, students where appropriate and others.

Labour in Government will ensure Educate Together is recognized as a patron at second level by the Department of Education and Skills.

2. Would you support a referendum to remove religious references from the Constitution?

With regard to the Constitution, we propose the convening of a Convention to prepare a new Constitution fit for a 21st Century Ireland.  This must take into account that our country is now more diverse and multi-cultural than when Bunreacht na hEireann was adopted.

3. Do you believe that blasphemy should be a criminal offence?

Our Party Conference has previously agreed to hold a referendum proposing to delete the word ‘blasphemous’ from Article 4.1.6 of the Constitution and to repeal any legislation that made reference to blasphemy as a form of defamation.

4. Would you support legislation to prevent hospitals from having a religious ethos?

On the issue of the religious ethos of hospitals, the Labour Party appreciates the role that religious institutions play in our health sector.  However, we also believe that the diverse nature of Irish society must be respected in the provision of public services that respects the rights of all citizens.

5. If elected, would you vote to ensure that religious bodies are treated the same as other organisations under equality and employment legislation?

We believe that all organizations, religious or secular, should be treated equally. We acknowledge the enormous amount of work that many organizations undertake in this society. In relation to  employment legislation we simply believe this should apply equally to all.

6. Do you believe that religions should have to pay their fair share of tax on income that does not come from charitable activities?

The Labour Party believes in fairness.  In that respect we believe that the burden of this economic crisis must be borne by those who can most afford it.  The wealthiest sectors of our society must pay their share if we are to protect the marginalized.

Sinn Fein response

Sinn Fein has provided the following statement on behalf of all its candidates –

1.      Will you work to reform the education system so that all children in your constituency can access publicly-funded schools which have no religious ethos?

Yes. Sinn Féin believes that the separation of Church and State must be completed. Church control of primary schools is a legacy of the old era of ecclesiastical power and control. This must change and we must move to a democratically controlled education system, truly representative of the community, respecting the rights of people of all religions and none and totally child-centred.

2.      Would you support a referendum to remove religious references from the Constitution?

Yes. Sinn Féin would establish an all-Ireland Constitutional Convention, directly elected by the people.  The Forum would involve consultation at grassroots level and ensure participatory governance.  Its remit would be to have an initial draft within 18 months of its establishment.  It’s goal would be to produce a new constitution, fully reflective of the values and aspirations of the Irish people today, soundly based on democratic principles and international human rights standards, and which would form the basis for a future 32-County Republic

3.      Do you believe that blasphemy should be a criminal offence?

Sinn Féin does not believe that blasphemy should be a criminal offence.  During the debate on the Defamation Bill in 2009, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD put forward amendments to the Bill including the removal of the offence of blasphemy.  There is no place in a democratic secular society which practices free speech for a criminal offence of blasphemy. That said however, Sinn Féin would urge all publications to pay special attention to the views and sensitivities of each and every religious and cultural group that makes up Irish society.

4.      Would you support legislation to prevent hospitals from having a religious ethos?

Sinn Féin wishes to introduce a universal health care system with publicly funded hospitals governed by medical ethics and would support legislation to prevent them from operating based on a religious ethos. In the context of private hospitals, we do not have a specific position on this issue, but we will examine this issue further in light of your concerns.

5.      If elected, would you vote to ensure that religious bodies are treated the same as other organisations under equality and employment legislation? Yes.

6.      Do you believe that religions should have to pay their fair share of tax on income that does not come from charitable activities?

This is an issue that certainly merits further consideration and we are willing to listen to all interested parties in order to develop a position on this.

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