Ask Max Jeganathan (June 3-7, 2019)

(Kathleen) #1

G’day, all! (@Interested_In_Ask_RZIM, @Interested_in_Government, @Interested_in_Business)
I am stoked to announce that one of my favourite Australians, @maxjeganathan, will be fielding our Q&A this coming week. Max is the Regional Director for RZIM Asia-Pacific and frequently speaks, preaches, debates, and lectures all over the world. He is also a respected hot wing connoisseur, who, nowadays, can be found revelling the flavourful delights of Singaporean street food.

He is one of the clearest and most compassionate communicators I know, so don’t let the opportunity to reach out to his this week pass you by!

Here’s a sampling of some of his speaking and writing for your enjoyment:
Can I Find Fulfilment in the Age of Anxiety?
How Do We Flourish in the 21st Century Workplace?
Why Prosperity Does Not Promote Flourishing
How In God’s Name Should I Vote (podcast interview about faith and politics in Australia)

Max’s bio

Born in Sri Lanka, Max’s family moved to Australia as refugees in the mid 1980s. He has worked as a lawyer and a political and policy adviser in the Australian national parliament, including time as an adviser to a senior Cabinet Minister and as Senior Social Policy Adviser to the leader of the Australian Opposition. Max was educated at the Australian National University and the University of Oxford. His research interests relate to the relationships between faith, politics, public policy, economics, and moral reasoning.

(Abby Narvaez) #2

Dear Mr Max
I am currently finishing 1 and 2 Kings. I can’t help but notice the similarities with todays Western culture and that of the Israelites. Our culture has not only rejected and forgotten God but ridicule those who worship him. The idols are many in todays world. Am I too harsh in reaching this conclusion?

(Max Jeganathan) #4

Thanks for the kind intro Kathleen. Look forward to connecting with you all this week and to helping out with some responses, as best I can. Blessings, Max

(Max Jeganathan) #5

Thanks for your thoughtful insight and for your question Abby. That stage of history as recorded in Scripture certainly bears many parallels with what we’re seeing globally today. A culture that has lost its grasp of absolutes; the deification of humankind; the need for leadership and the consequent search for ‘saving’ through human effort. All of these things and more are playing themselves out today…all over again. Accordingly, I don’t think your conclusion is too harsh at all. The only additional point I would make is to suggest that today’s times are not politically, historically or sociologically unique, and neither were the times depicted during the struggles of early Israel. Rather, these dynamics are constantly present. The reason for this is because the struggles we see in 1 and 2 Kings (and throughout Scripture) are simply a societal reflection of the broken nature of humankind. It was Augustine and then Luther who defined sin as people ‘curved in on themselves.’ They are correct; and this is what we see throughout history and in our world today. Our natural sinful tendency is to make ourselves the ‘god’ of our own lives. We deify ourselves, we glorify ourselves and we mock those who don’t conform to the self-determination model of human identity. While this is something we see in our world today, we must also remember that it is a struggle that exists in every human heart as well. Societies that lose their acknowledgment of God find themselves spiralling out of control. However, societies begin with people, and it is when people fail to recognise God in their lives, that broader societal and historical problems begin. To summarise: The parallels we see between the world today and the struggles depicted in the Old Testament, come down to two simple mistakes of the human heart and the human kind: an underestimation of the brokenness of humankind and an underestimation of the majesty of God.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #6

Hello @maxjeganathan. In the Philippines, it seems that we’re living in Marx’s world, in a sense that everything is political. To be silent about a certain issue is assumed as being an enabler of the status quo. In light of this polarizing political climate, how can we be good citizens of our country (which includes sharing our political voice as civic engagement), and also be good citizens of heaven (in a sense that we don’t lose our focus about the gospel being primary)?

(Max Jeganathan) #7

Thanks for your sharing and for your great question Omar. You correctly identify one of the great blessings and challenges of walking with Christ: balancing our integrity as disciples with our responsibilities as citizens placed under civil authority. The first thing to say - somewhat controversially - is that this will necessarily look different for different people in different communities at different times. For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his walk with the Lord included being part of an assassination plot. For Wilberforce, it meant running for political office and engaging in legislative reform. For Martin Luther King Junior, it was a call to civil activism. For others, it might manifest in raising a godly family and obediently and quietly living out their call as an employee in a corporation while voting and advocating for certain issues as opportunities arise. Somehow, we must balance our call to integrity (2 John 1:6) alongside our call to civil obedience (Romans 13).

During my time working as a political adviser, I was blessed with a few lessons on this. The first is that we all have a responsibility - as disciples of Jesus - to be aware of the needs and challenges of our communities and the consequent political struggles we collectively face. Generally, politics is tribal, hostile, adversarial and divisive. To this, we have an opportunity to bring both truth and love. We must stand for what we believe as Christians and to the extent we are empowered, present Christian moral reasoning in the public square not just because God said so, but because the Christian moral framework offers the most effective blueprint for human flourishing. Alongside this, we must remember that our primary call as Christians is not to legislate morality.

Morality is primarily a matter of the heart, not exclusively a matter of the law. The grey area comes when the two intersect. There are certain issues on which biblical principles and public policy are clearly discernible - for example, on issues relating to the value and sanctity of life (and we must always hold strong on these issues). However, while a part of the Church’s call is to speak prophetically and biblically into the public square, the more important part of the Church’s call is to call people to the person of Jesus Christ and to help ensure that the freedom of thought, association, speech and religion exist, to enable the Gospel to be freely practiced, preached and sought. Augustine correctly identified the challenge of living in both the City of God and the City of Man. Let’s not lose our cool by focussing exclusively on trying to turn the latter into the former. The Gospel is more about the invasion of human hearts than the invasion of human laws.

(James Hunt) #8

Hi there Max. We met at the EAP in Sing in Nov. I’d like your thoughts on the conditionalism view of hell, which does seem to be strongly supported by the OT. What’s the alternative to eternal life?

(Max Jeganathan) #9

Nice to hear from you James, and thank you for your question. Obviously, this issue is not one that can be comprehensively dealt with through a short RZIM connect post. However, there are some things that can be said by way of overview and response.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that there are followers of Jesus Christ who disagree on this issue. My response is in no way a moral or intellectual judgment on those who might disagree with me. However, my view is that a conditionalist approach is not supported in scripture.

References to everlasting contempt (as per Daniel 12:1-2) and the eternal nature of the consequences of sin (as per Matthew 18:6-9) are just a couple of the multitude of examples that reveal that the weight of scripture points to the human soul transcending natural life, whether one accepts Christ as their Saviour or rejects Him. These references – and others – are capped off by the direct words of Christ himself, who declares and confirms that the consequences for rejecting God are eternal (Matthew 25:31-46).

It is also important that we acknowledge and respond to the main counterpoints made. Admittedly, the use of words like ‘destruction’ in scripture (such as in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10) have been used as fuel for the counterclaim to the eternal nature of the human soul. However, when we consider the basic principles of language, we must always interpret any adjective as adding a certain quality to a noun that the given noun would not otherwise possess. Using this reference from Thessalonians then, the question must be asked: If ‘destruction only’ is what the author intended to convey, why bother adding the adjective ‘eternal’? Clearly, the adjective ‘eternal’ is expressly intended to add an otherwise absent quality to the word ‘destruction’ – in this context, the quality of the eternal. Therefore, the most common-sense interpretation of this and similar verses is that destruction does not necessarily refer to non-existence.

Another point sometimes posited is that an infinite consequence seems incongruous for a finite sin (I.e. rejecting God). A number of strong counter-arguments have been made in response to this. One is that a rejection of God– the almighty, all powerful, all loving and eternal creator and sustainer of all – amounts to an eternal sin because of the eternal nature and majesty of the God being rejected.

A final point worth noting that stands against the case for conditionalism is the doctrine of the Imago dei. The fact that we are all made in the image of God strongly suggests that we would share His characteristic of immortality.

There is of course much more to say, and my overview of the issue doesn’t claim to be holistic in relation to either side of the debate. However, the overwhelming weight of both scripture and traditionally accepted and substantiated doctrine points to human souls that are immortal and therefore, created to live forever. The imperative for us as evangelists and apologists is all the more important in this context – calling on us all to point people to the transforming and eternal love of God through Jesus Christ, as the means to spending eternity in glory with Him.

(James Hunt) #10

Thanks for your thoughts Max. I’d forgotten about the reference in Daniel.

(Charles G. Pewee) #11

Hi Max, I am glad to have you engaging with this week and to know that you have interest in politics.

What pieces of advice would you give to a christian working in a corrupt environment especially in the public sector? I will be glad to hear them.

(Max Jeganathan) #12

My pleasure Charles. Thanks for tuning in.

My first piece of advice relates to perspective. All working environments (from politics, to the civil service to the private sector), are corrupted, because they are made up of people, and it is from the human heart that all corruption flows. As Solzenitsyn famously wrote, (paraphrasing) the line that divides good and evil cuts through the heart of every man and woman. Accordingly, the first thing to remember is that all people in all areas of work in all sectors of the economy, are sinners (including you and me). This is a reality that I found often ignored during my years in law and in professional politics. Understanding our brokenness and the brokenness of those around us (Matthew 7:5) will help give us perspective in dealing with many of the moral challenges we face at work. I found it very helpful to start by remembering my own failings and to acknowledge my disqualification from passing moral judgments on those around me (John 8:7).

That being said, as followers of Christ, we are commanded to live out the moral and ethical blueprint that the Lord set down for us (Philippians 2, Galatians 5:22 and Matthew 5-7 amongst countless other references), as best we can. This will necessarily require a balance. We will need - on occasion - to put up with moral imperfections in our governments, our companies and our colleagues, but the reality of a broken world does not give us permission to abdicate our duty to stand up for biblical truth. There does exist a moral line that we should refuse to cross, no matter the cost.

I remember my early years as a political adviser. There were a couple of policies that my party held that I didn’t agree with. I considered resigning but after some prayer and thought, I realised that these issues were not sufficiently significant. I also realised that all political parties - in some sense and to some extent and on some issues - violate the Biblical vision for society and government. Accordingly, taking a morally literalistic approach would mean that I would not be able to work on any side of politics (nor would any Christian for that matter), and that is clearly not a biblical position. We are called to submit to civil authority (Romans 13) and to God’s authority (Romans 1:5). I decided to remain in my job and as time passed the Lord blessed with me professional advancement through which I was able to influence much more of the policy agenda, including effecting change on aspects of the policies on which I had previously taken issue.

Of course, there is also the personal angle. The more we live out the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5), the more Godly the impact we can have on those around us (John 13:35). Even amidst the most hopeless corruption, all there is are people who need Jesus. Our job is to be walking talking examples of Christ’s love, compassion, forgiveness and integrity.

The world is messy and we are messed up. Accordingly, moral obedience and Christlikeness in the workplace can not be simplified to rules that we are called to follow. This was never the Lord’s intention. Rather than trying to develop a set of rules for Christian behaviour in the workplace, the Biblical model of discipleship calls us to become Christlike. That is to say, rather than derive rules to follow, we are called to become - ontologically - the kind of people for whom Christlike behaviour is the natural outworking. Then, when we are faced with the inevitability of moral ambiguity in our work, we will naturally be better equipped to make thoughtful, prayerful and Godly decisions, and the way we live will we a perpetual pointer to the countercultural beauty of the person of Jesus Christ.

(Charles G. Pewee) #13

Hi Max, thanks so much for your elaborate answer. It’s indeed helpful.

(James Hunt) #14

Another quick question Max: The Bible speaks of God’s providence, with God controlling all things and providing for his people. With that in mind, does ‘Lady Luck’ exist? Or is God micro-managing every aspect of our lives like a divine puppeteer?

(Max Jeganathan) #15

Good question James.

There are obviously several definitions of what ‘providence’ means. While biblical providence is multidimensional, included in its meaning is the idea of God’s foreseeing care and guidance. In my view, these are the most helpful ways to understand the term. Providence is not simply God giving us everything that we want when we want it. Rather, it is the assurance that God knows what we’re going through, understands what we need and walks with us through the joys and the valleys of life. Our decisions still matter, our choices still have consequences and our moral and practical agency is real. However, if we draw close to Him then He draws close to us (James 4:8) and we are assured of the ‘Daily Bread’ of his presence and intimacy we so desperately need (Matthew 6:11). As followers of Jesus, the outworking of God’s providence manifests in us knowing that whatever He leads us into, when we walk with Him we are assured of His grace and provision to get through it. As was famously said, God’s will never takes us to places to which His grace doesn’t accompany us.

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(Kathleen) closed #16

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