Andrew Thorburn and a world in rage

Andrew Thorburn and a world in rage

History has defining moments, and this week may have been one of those moments. You have no doubt seen the headlines: Andrew Thorburn, former boss of the National Australia Bank, was appointed to the role of Essendon CEO, and the next day resigned. What makes this a history-making moment is not so much that a man resigns from a high-profile position, but the reason he resigned.

Within hours of announcing Thorburn’s appointment, the media had found, what they believed to be, damning evidence against him, making it untenable for Thorburn to lead the Essendon Football Club (EFC). What was this evidence? Extortion? Assault? Impediment to justice? No, rather, he was a Christian who is in leadership at a church that believes homosexuality is a sin and abortion is murder.

Many publicly bared their teeth and declared their outrage. Even our Premier, Daniel Andrews, said such views were “absolutely appalling.” He added, “There’s no place for bigotry … That kind of intolerance, hatred and bigotry is just wrong.” When criticized for his statements, he maintained that he would “always speak out against that kind of thinking”. As a result, the EFC gave Thorburn the ultimatum: step down from your leadership at church or resign as CEO of Essendon. Thorburn resigned as CEO of Essendon.

What is clear from this saga, despite the continual rhetoric about tolerance and inclusion, is that, as our culture moves increasingly away from any connection to God, Christian beliefs and values will neither be tolerated nor included. There is much that could be said, but for brevity’s sake, here are four simple implications for the Christian living in Melbourne, Australia, in 2022.

Firstly, don’t expect tolerance will be enough. Despite Andrew Thorburn’s acceptance of the LGBTQI community, as seen in his role at NAB, tolerance is not enough. It was discovered that Thorburn was linked to views contrary to the progressive culture, and this could not be tolerated. This culture demands nothing short of approval, celebration, and promotion. It reminds us of the ordeal Daniel’s friends faced in Babylon. Despite Nebuchadnezzar’s affirmation of Daniel’s wisdom and the mighty works of Daniel’s God (Daniel 2:26-49), Nebuchadnezzar demanded Daniel’s friends worship an image of gold or face the “burning fiery furnace” (3:15). Only full worship would be tolerated. Don’t think that somehow we can live our private Christian life and the secular culture will be satisfied with this. The Thorburn saga shows us that we not only have to honour this new secularism, but that we must bow down to it.

Secondly, don’t place your hope in a political party. We may believe that if only we can remove the current government at the next election, then we will get back to how things were. Think again. The state opposition leader, Matthew Guy, while quick to condemn Premier Andrew for making his opinion public, stated that the views presented by the church were “hate speech”. Likewise, federal opposition leader Peter Dutton declared that “the views that have been expressed by a pastor at this church in relation to gay people, or to the issue of abortion – they’re an abomination and I condemn those points.” Remember the words of David in Psalm 20: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” It has always been this way. The Christian places his hope in God, not man.

Thirdly, don’t expect rationality to win. Despite removing Thorburn from his position because of his religious affiliation, the EFC piously declared in a statement: “We … support wholeheartedly the work of the AFL in continuing to stamp out any discrimination based on race, sex, religion …”. One of the judgements God brings upon a people who suppress His truth is futility of thinking and a debased mind (Rom 1:21, 28). The one who builds his own god stands opposed to the true and living God and will do everything they can to serve their own purposes, even if those things are irrational and illogical.

Lastly, the only safe path forward is a full and unwavering commitment to the truth of Scripture. All of us are going to face times when our Christian beliefs and practice put us in direct opposition to the secular culture. At that point we have a decision: do we stand on what God says and face the wrath of man or do we yield our convictions and try to navigate some middle road, which is not a road at all, and face the wrath of God. Thorburn made that decision on Tuesday and chose his soul over his job. Daniel’s friends made that decision and yielded themselves to the flames of the furnace and into the hands of their God (Daniel 3:16-18). Their own comfort and physical well-being were not the goal of their faith. Rather, it was the worship and glory of their heavenly Father.

Beloved, we are called to live with the same conviction and bear the same resolve (Luke 9:23-25). Now is not the time for fear and capitulation, as the masses fall before the gods of our secular culture. Rather, it is time for wisdom, courage, and faith to stand firm in the midst of the fires of opposition, knowing that Christ faced the fiery furnace of God’s wrath for us. And now, we stand confident that we do not stand alone. Christ, the fourth man, stands in the fire with us. What a privilege to serve Him – no matter the cost.


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