Being questioned on Q&A#1 – on Mr Rudd

Well, to think that I almost didn’t write yesterday’s post, because my relatively few friends on Facebook had said it all… Since then I’ve trawled through over a total of 700 comments (and counting), between this blog, the Drum (on ABC) and various friends’ FB links. Today I am going to attempt a few follow ups.

Firstly, thank you for commenting – whether for or against my views. Mostly people have been frank, direct, and only a minority rude or abusive. Freedom of speech belongs to us all, and that means my defending it for those who disagree with me.

Now to one of the follow up issues. Here and elsewhere, some commenters have suggested I misunderstood (or maybe even deliberately misconstrued) what Mr Rudd meant to say/imply in response to the pastor’s question.

I take that question seriously, and have thought carefully about the objection overnight.

My honest reaction was dismay at what I perceived to be Mr Rudd’s misrepresentation of the book I love, the Bible. My honest intention was to indicate the slavery issue was far more complex, and – if one is inclined to examine charitably – far less negative than the way I heard him construing the Scriptures – even if just to make his point.

Of course, none of us can know Mr Rudd’s intentions for sure, without him telling us openly. I also know it is impossible to read body language and tone perfectly. Though I don’t think his reference to the pastor as “Well mate” twice was done in a genuinely matey way!

But who can plumb the depths of one’s own heart fully for sure? I am sometimes a bundle of mixed motives!

Still I am not persuaded that I’ve mis-read or misrepresented Mr Rudd.

Firstly, Mr Rudd is a experienced politician, clever in working the crowd and well prepared before going on shows like Q&A for such questions. On the balance of probabilities, I don’t think he was caught off guard for such a question.

Now here again is what he said,

“Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition.”

And the context: he was responding to a pastor, asking for Mr Rudd’s views, as a public Christian, in response to concerns from the Christian community. Now the pastor had cited the explicit teaching of Jesus on marriage in the Bible to indicate it was between a man and a woman. I agree the pastor could have cited that teaching more precisely. But his question focused on whether Mr Rudd as a Christian should be believing the teaching of Christ on marriage.

That was “that view” to which Mr Rudd replied – the approach of citing the words of Jesus for one’s definition of marriage. After all, Christianity is fundamentally about following Christ – the pioneer and perfecter of our faith!

So in the context the view Mr Rudd seemed (to me) to be repudiating is that one can quote the Bible – especially the words of Jesus – to help establish a Christian view on an ethical topic.

To illustrate why he thought that was bad, Mr Rudd suggested (a) the Bible also said slavery is a natural condition, and then himself (b) cited, quite closely, Paul’s words from Ephesians/Colossians.

A fair implication is that he thought (a) the perspective on slavery he perceived in Scripture was self-evidently false and (b) the citation was sufficient to establish his claim that the view “slavery is natural” was in the Bible.

Personally, I said yesterday, that I think (a) is an unsympathetic and totally incomplete reading of Paul in the context of the whole Bible from creation, through sin and redemption, to new creation. In regards to (b) citing one verse falls far short of proof of his contention.

But the objectors might be right that (c) Mr Rudd was also or instead making the point that it’s dangerous to quote single verses out of context.

In that case, apart from his quote (b) not establishing the point he alleged Scripture made (a), I don’t think his example was comparing apples with apples.

In fact, I think it was ungenerous of Mr Rudd if he was implying (c) the pastor’s quote was a narrow, out-of-context Bible citation.

Here’s why… Because Mr Rudd is also a regular churchgoer, who has claimed some familiarity with the Scriptures. And he has made a point of letting this be known and seen, in public, in print and so on.

So I would expect he knows from experience that those words of Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6) are central to the liturgies of most Christian denominations wedding services. I myself have read those words in conducting weddings well over 150 times. Most of us, churchgoer or not, have attended such ceremonies, many of them over the years.

Not only that, but for one as informed as Mr Rudd, I would hope he knows those words of Jesus, referred to by the pastor, are quoting the creation accounts of Genesis.

So the words – about “male and female” becoming “one flesh” in marriage – are spoken and reaffirmed in two different times and somewhat different cultural settings.

And given their original context on the creation story, they are presented as trans-cultural in significance. That is, in the Bible’s unfolding presentation, they are are set up as normative for all humans in creation (not just for Israel).

This is a view which Jesus endorses by quoting and joining the words from Genesis 1 and 2 and applying to the question on marriage he faced.

The pastor may not have expressed himself eloquently. And I don’t expect his citation of the Bible to convince those who reject its relevance. But I do hope an educated Christian like Mr Rudd would know it was not an out-of-context reference to a conception of marriage that is only marginal in Scripture.

Rather male and female becoming one flesh in marriage is a central concept that is expressed, reaffirmed, and reapplied in many different places in Scripture.

And I hope thoughtful non-Christians are interested in understanding how Christians have typically construed the Bible. A step towards greater understanding is listening carefully to those with whom you disagree.


As an addendum, may I say that nowhere have I suggested that my objection to Mr Rudd’s use of the Bible should make Christians refuse to vote for him. Obviously it may have an influence as one factor Christians consider. I am aware of that. But I would never presume to direct how Christians must vote.

There are many issues of concern to Christians that we must weigh up. For example, to take just one I have spoken out about repeatedly, problem gambling on the pokies is one that concerns me deeply and both major sides have failed on, though the conservatives appear worse to me.

In addition, can I counsel those who claim to follow Christ to be very cautious before calling Mr Rudd an “abomination” or “pathological liar” (terms I have seen used in comments). Such pejoratives are in almost all circumstances unadvisable and unbecoming of a follower of Christ. Many politicians have broken promises and changed their minds. That may affect how we evaluate their suitability to represent us. But I do not believe we are right to pass judgment on Mr Rudd in such terms.

22 thoughts on “Being questioned on Q&A#1 – on Mr Rudd

  1. People can see Mr Rudd speak for himself at some length in follow up to the Q&A ‘storm’ here on Youtube. There is a full transcript under the Youtube video itself.

    Among other things, Mr Rudd says…

    And in my response to that fellow last night, when people start hurling Biblical quotes at me — I know a bit about my New Testament as well.

  2. I would love for you to tell me how to vote. lol. I am a Christian and really quite perplexed. Just discovered your blog through The Drum. I love it.

    • Thanks Lindy, it has been a privilege to blog here for Matthias Media over the years, and I encourage you to have a look around at the other resources for Christian thought and ministry which they publish.

      If you want a little more help in considering your vote, I still won’t tell you, but you mind consider my review of Christian voting guides published a week or two ago. It was a bit long, but you could jump to the conclusion and then check out the guide or guides that seemed most helpful to you.

      I think you’d benefit more by doing the hard work of thinking it through, than by just being told, anyway…

  3. Some of the comments on your article remind me of 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 and of the need to pray for those who completely misread what is being said.

  4. How do you know which parts of the bible are to be followed and which are not?

    ?For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.? (Matthew 5:18-19)

      • Short answer? That is not an answer of any kind.
        Your wiki article is of poor quality.
        In fact:

        “ This article may need to be rewritten entirely to comply with Wikipedia’s quality standards.”

        Perhaps you should advise people to read this:

        Perhaps what I am asking would be best answered by someone with a little interest in systematic theology and how this is applied via practical theology under the guidance of biblical theology.

    • 2 Timothy 3.16: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

  5. But you still need to look at and consider the context, even of Genesis 1 and 2. When it says “for this reason” that a man will be joined with his wife… what precisely is the reason?

    Some people try to tell me that it’s all about procreation. I find this massively unconvincing as Christians don’t seem interested in protesting against heterosexual marriages that are clearly not going to produce children.

    The reason, as I see it, is fundamentally about companionship. Read the whole process of God creating Eve for Adam, not just those couple of verses.

    Why can’t that same principle apply to a homosexual couple? Why can’t two people of the same gender be each other’s ‘soulmates’ and make a lifelong commitment to each other?

  6. Excuse me, procreation is a major part of the reason. God told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).
    Reading the whole process of God creating Eve for Adam,it is clear that He means marriage for a man and a woman, not homosexuality, which is regarded as wrong (Leviticus 18:22) and a sign of unbelief and rebellion towards God (Romans 1:18-32).

    • That is your opinion of what is meant.

      Your citation that homosexuality is a sign of unbelief and rebellion goes directly towards what the Prime Minister said. He simply doesn’t agree with you (and neither do I) that there is anything abnormal about homosexuality: people who are homosexual are born homosexual. It’s not a sign of something they’ve done during their lives.

      And that was the Prime Minister’s fundamental starting point: if homosexuality is part and parcel of someone, as he (and I) believe the science indicates, then passages such as Romans 1 cannot mean what you think they mean.

      • Trevor, I’d say that in context, “for this reason” in Gen 2:24 most likely refers to the immediately prior verse, Gen 2:23. This speaks of the differing but complementary nature of the woman in regards to the man from whom she was taken, and together with whom, are both equally in the image of God (Gen 1:27).

        And Mark is certainly correct to cite Gen 1:28 as evidence that procreation is on view as a key purpose of the marriage bond.

        Gen 1:27 (“made them male and female”) is the other key quote from Genesis which Jesus connects with Gen 2:24, and the immediate context of Gen 1:27 is the instruction to procreation that follows in the very next verse.

        The texts may be wrong. But I think it’s a pretty fair reading of them.

        Just in passing, I know Christians who are quite interested in encouraging couples getting married to see that child-rearing is a normal and typically expected part of marriage.

        It’s certainly a part of the liturgy of every Anglican wedding, words I have read from the Prayer Book in conducting something like 150+ weddings over the years, e.g.

        In marriage a new family is established in accordance with God’s purpose, so that children may be born and nurtured in secure and loving care, for their well-being and instruction, and for the good order of society, to the glory of God. (AAPB second order)

        And it’s something my fellow panellist here, Lionel Windsor has commented on more than once, for example here.

        • Thanks Sandy.

          I note that Lionel’s text says in parentheses “except when the woman is past childbearing age” – which simply evades the question. Why allow a woman to get married when she’s past childbearing age? Why allow a man to get married when he’s had testicular cancer and is now infertile (I know of a real life example of this)?

          It’s the inconsistency that bothers me more than the notional principle. If people want to say that the purpose of marriage is the raising of children, then I can respect that. What I can’t respect is that this principle gets wheeled out in same sex marriage debates but is quietly shelved at other times when it might get in the way.

          • No worries, Trevor, and I must be brief, but people like Lionel and myself have well and truly considered exceptions such as known infertility due to illness or advanced age (and also other rare exceptions) where a husband and wife may not have children.

            Such a union – with the complementary natures brought by the husband and wife – may still model and uphold the inherent ‘shape’ of marriage as I’ve advanced it.

            I’m afraid that’s a brief answer, as the hour is late, and I am exhausted by reading something like a thousand comments today.

            For an extended treatment of the whole issue, including this particular aspect, from a natural law perspective, you might read “What Is Marriage?” by Girgis, George and Anderson published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (link to PDF).

  7. I’m still not convinced that it is legitimate to call someone a liar for holding a different religious belief or different religious interpretation to your own. This would make a great many people liars according to Sandy Grant. Of course saying that the PM misrepresented the truth makes for a bolder headline than ‘his interpretation does not accord with orthodox belief’. And I would have thought nonetheless it would have been fairer to the PM to have checked exactly what he meant by asking him before launching into a diatribe.

    • Hi Tom, I’m not sure if you read me carefully, or if I have misunderstood you. But in my addendum, I was cautioning people against calling Mr Rudd a “pathological liar” etc!

      I don’t ever recall calling Mr Rudd a liar. I said I was deeply disappointed in how he misused Scripture. That was also the heading of my article here: “PM misrepresents the Bible”. (I did not choose the headline for when it appeared on The Drum.)

      • I think words like ‘grossly caricatured’ and ‘misrepresented the holy book’ under the heading ‘PM misrepresents the Bible’ pretty much does the trick. A misrepresentation is generally understood to be an intentionally deceptive statement designed to trick the receiver of it.

        • “Misrepresent” – verb: “to represent incorrectly, improperly, or falsely” [Macquarie Dictionary, 3rd ed.]

          Is “misrepresents the Bible” the same as calling someone a “liar”?

          I guess everyone makes up their mind.

  8. I have heard a rumour that Matthias Media may be going to publish a definitive book on the Christian view of homosexuality and marriage, but it might just be a rumour of a rumour.

    To the ordinary Christian reading the Bible it is clear that homosexual acts are wrong and that same-sex marriage is a contradiction in terms. It’s interesting to read and hear so many others, including those who don’t profess to be Christians, telling us what the Bible actually does say. I would rather trust my own judgement in understanding such straightforward matters. It becomes complicated only when we start discussing such matters as divorce, at what point are couples actually to be considered married and what is the role of the state.

Comments are closed.