Free Julian Assange

Whosoever believes!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Hi Fighter,

We are back on familiar territory with our Bible reading this week, and this despite that fact that we are celebrating “Trinity Sunday” – that special festival of the church year that focuses on everybody’s favourite piece of church dogma.

John 3:16 suggests that the process of coming to faith is very simple. All we have to do is ‘believe in Him’. Three centuries later, the Athanasian Creed was published, laying out the doctrine of the Trinity in a 493-word Latin document, full of Byzantine complexity, and concluding with “This is the Catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

Which is it? Is faith complicated or simple? Do we have to believe lots of things or just one thing, or is it not so much a matter of believing in things but rather believing in a personTrinity Sunday raises lots of questions, and I’m going to avoid most of them today. I will though say that my understanding of John 3:16 has changed significantly over the years and I’ll share with you something of my personal journey with the text.

I was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant Christian household. If you don’t know what means, it means we were pro-Bible and anti-Catholic. Our heroes in the faith were the leaders of the 16th century Protestant Reformation – Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin -.and our understanding of John 3:16 was tied to Luther’s teaching of ‘sola fide’ (faith alone). John 3:16 was a treasured text as it proclaimed that we gain eternal life through our faith in the Son of God, and not through our own good works.

When I went to seminary in the 1980’s, I discovered that while Luther had indeed battled with people who believed they earned God’s favour their own good works, that wasn’t an issue in the first century. The people Jesus was dealing with believed that they received God’s favour as a birthright. They were the people of Israel with whom God had formed a special ‘covenant’ ’relationship. Once I understood this, my reading of John 3:16 changed as I saw the emphasis as being on ‘everyone’ rather than on ‘believes’. The issue was not ‘faith over works’ but ‘grace over race’.

Forgive me if you’re having trouble keeping up with me here but, more recently, my understanding of this verse has shifted again as I’ve come to appreciate the non-doctrinal nature of traditional religions.

In my book, “Christians and Muslims can be friends”, my starting point was that every religion has two sides to it – a doctrinal side (what we believe) and a tribal side (where we belong). More recently though, I’ve come to appreciate that a lot of ancient religions really had no doctrinal dimension, or, at least, that knowledge of the teachings of the religion weren’t at all necessary for someone to be a part of it. It didn’t really matter what you believed.

I’m thinking of the religions of the ancient Greeks and Romans, or equally, the religion of Baal, Molech, or any of the other Ancient Near Eastern religions we are exposed to in the Hebrew Scriptures. Certainly, Greek and Roman religions had their stories about the gods, but you didn’t sign up to either of those religions because you believed the stories. Indeed, you didn’t sign up at all. You were part of the Roman or Greek religion of the first century because you were born into it. If you were a Roman, Rome was your tribe, and the religion of your tribe was your religion. You participated in the feasts and the sacrifices and so demonstrated that you were a patriot. That’s how religion worked. People didn’t change their religion any more than they changed their nationality.

My mind goes to the Old Testament book of Ruth where Ruth, the Moabitess, says to her mother-in-law, Naomi, “Your people will be my people, your God will be my god; where you die, there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16). Ruth wasn’t having a religious conversion in any modern sense of the word. She was changing tribes. Your religion was a dimension of your tribe.

With this in mind, my appreciation of John 3:16 has evolved again. Could it be that when Jesus promised salvation to “everyone who believes”, His point was that we didn’t have to change tribes but simply had to embrace God’s promises and believe in God’s love for the world?

I’m going to restrain myself from reflecting further today beyond saying that I think our dear brother, Saint Athanasius, did overcomplicate things. I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, and I believe it was an important step forward in helping us understand how we can authentically speak about God. Even so, I don’t believe embracing the faith is as difficult as the Athanasian Creed suggests.

It is simple. Believe in God’s love for the world. Embrace that truth and embrace Jesus, for “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but will have eternal life.” 

Our Sunday Eucharist

I really enjoyed having Andrew Logan and Karyn Hemming with me on the Sunday Eucharist panel last weekend. Indeed, I enjoyed it so much that I went overboard extracting ‘shorts’ from our Bible Banter and (after many hours of work) ended up with SEVEN of them! One of these shorts (pasted below) addresses the same issue I raised in my reflection above on John 3:16.

I’ll paste the other six clips at the end of today’s missive, along with the uncut recording of our service. Do me a favour please and listen to the shorts (which are less than 1 minute long each) and please then share them with anyone you think might benefit from them. God willing, this will help us grow our online community to the point where we can both increase our positive influence and meet our costs.

This Sunday I’m looking forward to having Andrew Madry and Doug Pyeatt back with me on the panel, and we’ll hopefully have another pre-recorded offering from Father John Ashfield to throw into the mix as well. I’ll be at Binacrombi along with Andrew Logan and his partner, Gigi, so it could be quite a high-powered panel discussion. Do join in and contribute your wisdom at, or on Facebook , YouTubeTwitterLinkedInor Streamyard.

I do hope to share this Eucharist with you. We start at midday (or just before).😊

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What’s On?

Free Julian Assange rally

I want to conclude today with some comments on the situation facing our dear brother, Julian Assange.

As you no doubt have heard, Julian was granted the right to appeal his extradition to the US this week. This is being reported as a victory for Julian and, indeed, his wife, father and brother have all expressed relief over the decision. Even so, whether this decision will ultimately benefit Julian is unknown. All it means for the moment is that his torture will continue as before.

I wish I felt more positive about this development. From my perspective it seems that the most convenient option for Joe Biden and other power-players in the USA is simply to kick the ball further down the field so that someone else can pick it up. Biden will be criticised and vilified if he puts Julian on trial, and he’ll be even more unpopular if he chooses not to. His best option is to avoid the dilemma by delaying the case for as long as possible. With any luck, Julian will die quietly before the court makes any decision.

Chris Hedges puts it succinctly in, “The Slow-Motion Execution of Julian Assange”: “Prolonged imprisonment, which the granting of this appeal perpetuates, is the point. The 12 years Julian has been detained — seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and over five in high-security Belmarsh Prison — have been accompanied by a lack of sunlight and exercise, as well as unrelenting threats, pressure, prolonged isolation, anxiety and constant stress. The goal is to destroy him.”

My prayer is that our Australian PM will stand up for Julian and play hard-ball with President Biden. I don’t see any other way forward. I know that Anthony has expressed support for Julian and has made his position clear to the US government. Even so, he needs to do more. What a proud legacy he could leave – being remembered as the Aussie PM who stood up for free speech and liberated Assange! I will text Anthony and urge him to do the right thing. Pray please that he gets the text and takes action.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Boxing at Legend's gym

Dave & Scottie

Free Julian Assange

Free Julian Assange

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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