Apparently, it’s not Christian for a Christian school to limit positions of Christian leadership to Christians. At least according to Matthew Bach, Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Education and Child Protection.
An article by Bach, published in The Guardian last week titled, ‘Kindness should be at the heart of Christian teaching – including towards LGBTQ+ students,’ claimed the Presbyterian Church is essentially ignoring Jesus’ teaching about “love and kindness” by restricting positions of Christian influence to those modelling Christian living.
Instead, Bach proposes a higher Christian path, which he argues is “much truer to the way of Christ.” This path exhibits a “true Christian ethos,” he claims. And it’s also, apparently, “what Jesus would do.”
So, what exactly is the Shadow Education Minister’s well-considered, biblically consistent, theologically robust, W.W.J.D. Christian alternative? Don the Christian headmaster in a sequined pink shirt and have him lead students and staff in an LGBTQ+ Pride celebration.
Yep, that’s it. That’s Bach’s brilliant take: Christian schools should join a Pride parade because that’s what Jesus would do. Just trust him on this one, guys. And The Guardian deemed it worthy of publication. Astonishing, if it wasn’t all so boring and predictable.
It’s a lazy argument for lazy readers. Simply define “love” as affirming a certain thing, then accuse Christians of disobeying Jesus if they do not affirm that thing. This new definition of “love” can affirm everything and anything, except of course the biblical definition of love.
According to Bach, “Whatever the Old Testament might say, those of us who are Christians should always turn first to the teachings of Christ himself,” which he says are “synthesised” in Christ’s command to “love one another as I have loved you.”
Now, either Bach is not familiar with Jesus’ teachings, or he’s hoping his readers aren’t, because anyone who’s taken the time to read the Gospels before commenting on their contents would notice that Jesus repeatedly affirmed the authority, continuity, and divine origin of the Old Testament (Jn. 10:35; Matt. 5:18; 15:3; Mk. 7:13).
But if Bach is familiar with Jesus’ teachings, then he’s being dishonest and has no business writing theological articles. If Bach isn’t familiar with Jesus’ teachings, then he’s uninformed and has no business writing theological articles. But he’s the Shadow Education Minister, and he should be concerned with what schools want, instead of telling them what to do, or what to believe.
Despite what’s implied, when Jesus denounced “immorality,” he wasn’t speaking in a vacuum. He was an Old Testament-affirming Jew, speaking to Old Testament-affirming Jews. Moral concepts and the definition of “love” found their basis in the Old Testament Law, not some arbitrary sense of affirmation and positive vibes, which appears to be all that Bach has to offer.
As such, according to Jesus, the Old Testament, which Bach so readily dismisses, can be summed up in a word: Love (Matt. 22:40). This means, to love God “with all your heart, soul, and strength,” was to love him in accordance with the commandments he had given (Deut. 6:4-5; 10:12-13). To love your neighbour as yourself, was to treat your neighbour the way in which God prescribed in his statutes, and to do so from the heart (Lev. 19:18-19). That’s why the Apostles taught that love is not celebrating what the Bible deems wrong (Rom. 13:6), but rather, it is the fulfilling of the Old Testament Law (Rom. 13:8,10; Gal. 5:14; Jam. 2:8).
“Whatever the Old Testament might say,” as Bach put it, is exactly what Jesus affirmed. Christians are not at liberty to redefine love any more than they can redefine God, because ultimately, God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). To define love in a way that is contrary to the Bible is to define God in a way that is contrary to the Bible, and there is a word for that: idolatry.
Of course, this is an inconvenient truth for those who’d rather define Jesus’ terms for him than allow him to speak for himself. Bach attempts to do exactly that by suggesting that Christians are failing to obey Jesus’ command to love when they refuse to celebrate what the Bible deems unloving.
It is a fundamentally hypocritical and inherently self-refuting argument. Bach appeals to the biblical command to love while attempting to scold Christians for holding to the Biblical definition of love. He says Christians are to love because Jesus told them to, but apparently, they are not to love how Jesus told them to. And why not? Because it’s unkind, not according to the Bible, but according to Bach.
Yes, “love is kind,” as the Apostle Paul affirmed, but that does not mean it “rejoices in wrong” (1 Cor. 13:4-6). As such, love cannot celebrate what God deems “unrighteous.” For Christians and Christian schools, Jesus Christ, not Matthew Bach, is the arbiter of what constitutes right and wrong, true and false, loving and unloving.
If Bach has an issue with that, he’d do well to spend less time speculating about “what Jesus would do” and more time studying what he actually said.
But Chesterton’s adage continues to ring true: “These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”