Last updated: Thursday, 11 July 2013

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Australian Politician Swears on Koran Instead of Bible 

Nationwide attention has been drawn to the fact that while the Australian Prime Minister took a Bible for the swearing-in of his new government, his Parliamentary Secretary decided to make an oath on the Koran instead. Although various reasons have been broached for the lack of community enthusiasm over this innovation, very little coverage has been given by newsmen as to the meaning behind the symbolism.

So let’s allow ourselves to think a little deeper just now, considering why we have traditionally drawn attention to the Bible in the public sphere, and whether non-Christian texts make suitable alternatives. 

Conscientious swearing on a Bible indicates a profession of firm belief in the truth of its contents and in the justice, goodness and truth of its Author. Given the marked difference between the foundational principles of the Holy Bible and those of non-Christian religions (including Atheism), any Australian politician’s decision to avoid the Bible in oath-making becomes an issue of some consequence.

If swearing on the Bible is a public affirmation of the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our society is founded, swearing on another book instead surely reminds the public of the distinctive practices of other religions and their cultures.

Most people probably agree that men in high office ought to promote genuine moral values. However, the moral code enshrined in the Bible as Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and summarised by love for God and for our neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:10) is by no means identical with the laws of other religions. Thus even the political differences between Christianity and other systems are major and are mutually exclusive.

While the Bible does advocate forcible defence of the oppressed and the just punishment of criminals by government (Luke 3:14; Romans 13:4), the whole intent is for peace on earth and ‘good will toward men’ of all races (Luke 2:14; Acts 17:26-27). So the Gospel itself is described as being entirely void of physical violence or political manipulation: ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

In the Holy Bible, all the religious, political and personal enmity of the generations is negated by a simple command: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). Impossible by nature, this glorious way is opened for us by the life, death and resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ, promised when our first father and mother fell into sin by disobeying God’s command (Genesis 3:15).

Human guilt and misery result from our sin, which we are powerless to overcome by any good works, ‘holy’ wars or religious zeal of any kind. Unlike other religious texts, the Bible teaches that salvation and holiness and everlasting happiness are to be received by faith alone, as a gift from God: ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).

S J Tanner, July 2013