Tim Costello, COVID-19 and the Australian Worldview

everyone welcome here I’ve got Tim Costello with me we are in his beautiful home I here down by the beach and we’ve just bumped hugh jackman out the road apparently no you Caleb who I’m going with Caleb Tim was every lunch with Hugh Jackman who’s at the fly home because of the coronavirus so we’re here and Tim was going to preach at our church on Sunday morning but um unfortunately because of the virus we’ve had to set that aside but he’s agreed to an interview which is fantastic and we’ve been doing a series lately looking at the Australian worldview and do Aussies have a Christian perspective on life or not and where was all of that at so we’re gonna jump into that today which I’m looking forward to but just to give a little bit of context I’m sure you know Tim well he’s uh my favorite thing about Tim is that he’s a living treasure in Australia which is one of my favorite stories when he tells me about that when he received that honor in 1997 and Tim’s are Baptists pastor and you’ve been involved with World Vision’s probably what you’re most well-known for for about 13 years you’re the CEO and what will he tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now since we’ll be yeah so I began life as a lawyer became a minister passed an instant Kilda I mean it was tough in the 80s ended up mirror of sin killed or start an organization urban seed working in a common Street Baptist Church then went to World Vision for 13 years now I’m a fellow for the Center for Public Christianity so it’s really trying to get into the secular mean media Christian ideas head of micro Australia which is passionate about the world’s poor and vulnerable aid levels and the generosity to those beyond our shores and I’m still causing a little bit of trouble around the issue of gambling we’ve got twenty percent of the world’s pokies and I’m trying to reform that in Australia you know I love that I love that really good and Tim’s been a great friend probably the last 12 months we’ve been able to have a few coffees and or mentor more than a friend and I really appreciated that and yeah it’s great to have you here around town and having a chat to you today so we’ve been talking about this some Christian worldview and worldviews in general how would you Tim how would you describe a worldview like what is that and how do they work in a person well if it worldview very simply is the pair of spectacles you’ve put on and through which you see the world and I need spectacles I haven’t got them one at the moment everything becomes clear when I put on my spectacles and I see things I can’t otherwise see a worldview is as unconscious as the set of spectacles you don’t actually even realize you’re wearing them so all of us have a worldview it’s the way we see the world it’s the default assumptions that we believe just are true in fact they’re just a narrative they’re just the story but given the spectacles of our worldview we just say that’s reality look a Christian worldview is that God exists that God made the world for purpose he made it wondrously with abundance he wanted humans to flourish that sin on idolatry broke up this flourishing and to get it back on track God has had a plan we call redemption for the world to get back into alignment with God’s purposes so a Christian worldview at its basis starts with God exists his character is real that we need as Christians to help the world imagine what it would be like if God is real and if God is a an agent that’s active and alive and has a purpose when I say imagine the world can’t imagine that so a secular worldview is really the opposite it’s that I am self-invented and I create my image and my identity and that through comparative productivity and work and lots of consumption I move from self invention to self fulfillment call that happiness call that security I am self fulfilled I am really the master of my own soul the captain of my own fate that’s just as much a narrative it’s not I think true so which of God is

the contest between God ears and we are created and we are created for God’s purposes versus self invention and self sufficiency and technological mastery and I will be happy and secure through my work and my consumption there that’s the that’s the contest always going on it’s true it’s written and you know Ozzy as well you’re well known in Australia you move around the country a lot what would be your take on the general our Aussie perception if you could put it down to I mean historically were being a Christian nation we’ve probably maybe wouldn’t consider ourself so Christian anymore so what what is the average Ozzy thinking how what is their will view how are they see in the world look I think the average Ozzy is strongly in the secular may be atheistic category self invention self sufficiency it’s all up to me with a few nods to the Christian Judaic past but that Christian story actually let’s act as if God is alive and real and imagine God at work that’s not the Ozzy understanding most Ozzy’s see the Christian tradition is something from maybe a wedding less so even for that maybe a funeral and a few moments of ritual grief where I can’t understand why I’m not self-sufficient in my lives and maybe I’ll turn for some help but by and large the dominant story is a secular story and that Christian humble dependants waiting on God because God is active and at work isn’t there and where do you think we went wrong or where do you think because it wasn’t always like that was it in Australia no I I don’t think it was always like that but I I do think the sense particularly started post the Second World War the Second World War was a crisis Christian Europe went to war with Christian Europe Germany had strong churches and yet they gave over to the Nazis they even said the Fuhrer Hitler has a special plan of salvation for the German people they broke off relations with other churches and said the Fuhrer is a revelation for Germany I fear that we’re seeing that a bit today here let’s make China great again Putin let’s make Russia or great again Trump let’s make America great again and I see often Christians dissolving the radical God into a nation into what I call the gods of tribe the gods of race which happened in Europe post the Second World War there was unprecedented prosperity so the secular idea of self invented self-sufficient self not God not needing to be humble and wait on God sort of got baked in and we just got used to economic prosperity I am fascinated to see how the coronavirus might be a reset we are really vulnerable and fragile and dependent and we’re not self-sufficient we don’t have a vaccine but I think that’s where it went wrong if you if you ask me and and so on the coronavirus I think it is interesting I think there’s definitely the potential there for it to be a reset moment and I think the great thing about the Christian worldview is it has an answer for when we’re fragile for when we’re cut down at the knees for when we’re grieving like you said at a funeral or something like that I suppose my worry is and and I’m sure you’re similarly you know you know people well and I think once it blows over my concern is that we will just be back to business as usual and yeah what so what’s your take on it all what do you think well yeah so look right at the moment physical distancing is important not to infect others but what is so important is not to allow spiritual distancing this is the moment even more to say love casts out fear so we know the virus is real and we need to have social distance and physical distance but our spiritual health actually needs to say we’re dependent on God we’re dependent on fellowship and community and love with others I always try and

see in people image of God worries me if I start to think are they infected are they a risk to me count I don’t want to trust them I don’t I’ll fight them for the toilet roll first so we we have this moment now to actually talk about our spiritual health not just our physical health and what that may mean when we reset who knows you might be right we just snap back into the the the plausible story the richer I am the happier we’ll be it’s so seductive we don’t question I can show you a lot of rich people or very unhappy the Gospel story is in relationship to God being dependent on God knowing God’s purposes the happier we’ll be rather than self-invention God invented rather than the self fulfillment God and his kingdom fulfillment rather than productivity and consumption to be rich actually what’s God’s call for me how do I serve and align with God maybe we’ll go you know that period of self-isolation I slowed down I discovered there were a lot of things I didn’t need that my life was too hectic too crazy too mad actually I don’t have to live that way maybe but I think that’s the opportunity for the Christian Church to say the contesting narrative self or God actually let’s see what the true narrative is let’s actually see what the true worldview should be a Christian worldview I think that you reference the toilet-paper issue before which has been I think it’s an Aussie it’s you know you can’t help but you know smile at that but it’s it’s a fascinating kind of experience experiment almost like people fighting over toilet paper because of yes there’s a real threat and a real virus but well surely we’re not at the point yet of meaning to wrestle old ladies out of their toilet paper what does that tell you about an Aussie about this maybe secular worldview where where that story does really fall over well it tells me the secular worldviews actually all about self and I am on my own and I’m totally responsible for my life and to getting to self fulfillment which means having enough toilet paper even if I’m robbing others and panicking you know the opposite of faith is not doubt it’s panic and fear 365 times the Bible says fear not be not anxious because God is real God is alive the opposite of faith is anxiety and fear and when we believe the secular story of just self why wouldn’t you wrestle someone for the toilet paper when you actually say no we’re all made in the image of God their God the Trinity is a community God Father Son and spirit self giving self surrendering in intimate community relationship it means we are made for community I discovered this watching that great academic film Crocodile Dundee and their make in America is blown away every American has a therapist and he scratches his head and he says don’t you people have mates and the American says well if you don’t have therapists how do you solve your problems oh and walkabout Creek if you have a problem you tell Wally probably over a beer at the bar Wally ends up telling the whole bar soon no more problem now it’s a terrible counseling technique don’t do that but the truth is we are made for relationship because we’re made an image of a community god we’re not made for self we’re not made for self and when you actually have the Christian worldview and see that God made you and gods responsible for your fulfillment and happiness then maybe you won’t be wrestling someone for the toilet paper in the supermarket you might be saying you go ahead yeah yeah that’s right I think I think it’s interesting in these darkness because as a Christian even it’s a great challenge even for US isn’t it despite that faith that we’ve got and despite you’d hope that Christians I hope people in my church focused on God and heaven an eternity and not on toilet paper and natural things but obviously you know we are human and and the temptation is there we get drawn towards self-preservation self-protection I look out for number one that’s it’s a constant challenge even in our own walk of faith to not look at the things of this world and I think the thing that struck me Tim I’d love to hear what you think is just the affluence in Australia like we’re so well-off I often say the young people to my friends like you know my generation millennial generation we haven’t experienced high interest rates let

alone you know lack of food let alone you know proper worldwide Wars or any of these kind of things and we just really don’t know what it’s like to actually suffer we live in the top 3 4 percent of wealthiest people that have ever existed on the earth let alone in the world right now throughout history yep it’s it’s just crazy how do you think that affluence you know has a negative effect on all these or maybe really I suppose separate to us from God well we’ve lost perspective because we’ve believed the secular story which says the wealthier I am the happier I’ll be we have handed ourselves over toward humans are made to worship they will worship something they will worship either the true God or their worship money and materialism they’ll worship sex they’ll worship our they’ll worship self-image I was walking down the street a young woman had a t-shirt on that said Kate is my religion I stopped and I said excuse me is your name Kate she said yes I said Kate are you your own religion she said yes I worship and adore myself Wow all I could think of to say was all the best with your religion okay now I know that self worship is too brittle to actually give you fulfillment the individual self will shatter unless you have community unless you have faith in a God in a purpose he will shatter actually you’ll end up depressed or less resilient to drugs and lots of things so I personally believe this generation you described it well has lost perspective we have confused cost of living with cost of a lifestyle and it’s almost become a fundamental human right for us is to have the holiday in barley will nice to have holidays just down at Ramona as a kid and will perfectly happy it’s why tithing is so important tithing and giving reminds us that we’re blessed and that produces gratitude and perspective that God sustains us and that the needs of God’s world we can give to and that the dominant God picture is for compassion for justice for community for social transformation that includes the broken and the lonely this is the picture the Christian will view its cry when we lose perspective it’s all self yourself self self I worship and adore myself yeah it’s true very good so the fit for the church Christians like but where do you think we are doing well at the moment in our Aussie society where do you think I’d love to ask you well we’re doing well shrimps here maybe where we’re not doing so well in your opinion so I think the secular society completely underestimates how profound it is that 10% plus of Australians get together Sunday by Sunday and have a morally serious topic called a sermon who confess the things they’ve done wrong who pass around a plate and say let’s not just made our needs but the needs in the community that’s very radical yes that doesn’t happen yeah I think as the Australian Church in its level of service whether it’s education or health or caring for the homeless volunteering giving it’s way ahead of secular people because there is that perspective that God that God view so I congratulate the church I think they caught a lot of unfair accusation some fear we’ll get on to the negative things but by and large I think the church has rediscovered what always was Jesus message it’s the reign of God has begun the bookends of Jesus Luke 4 hometown Nazareth opens Isaiah the Spirit of the Lord is upon me what to do Liberty to captives sight to the blind good news to the poor the other book end the last systematic teaching Jesus gave before his arrest trial and crucifixion is Matthew 25 it’s the story tells of judgment sheep and goats heaven and hell nations all being judged and he says when you clothe the naked fed the hungry visitor those in prison you’re doing it to me the bookends are good news for the poor and I think the reign of God theology in the last 15 years churches have started to understand before that a lot of churches were sort of a too much into escape theology I’ve just booked my ticket to the great u2 concert in the sky I’m saved I’m out of

here the world’s going to burn don’t care Vera’s all shifted and I congratulate the Australian Church for how much it’s doing and saying no the reign of God good news for the poor has begun and Matthew 25 we take seriously so I think that’s been impressive yeah great and improvements or where are we struggling look we know with the Royal Commission into all institutions not just the church terrible failure for the church double failure because Jesus clearly said whoever hurts one of these little children better a millstone around his neck we we’re on notice and we covered up not all churches but numbers and shifted ministers or priests and didn’t report and we know the damage look it’s clear that we have to repent and say we didn’t just fail children and for failure fail that the laws of society we failed Jesus yeah and that’s profound the distressing we have to repent if I’m critical you know there’s two mistakes the Christians make with a Christian worldview one is what I call the liberal Christians they say God has no hands but our hands no mouth but our mouth and so it’s all up to us so God is there but he’s irrelevant it’s all just us in the church I believe God is active and alive and at work I’m not a liberal Christian Bible believing Christians often turn God into a pet he becomes their domestic tame to God so God is there just to protect me and just for my business to prosper and my kids to be as successful no God is radically free with a vision for the world the Bible isn’t a vision just for Christians the Bible is the vision for the world God is alive and has a plan for this world to flourish and turning God just into a domestic pet he’d look at some of my dear brothers and sisters in America Paul a white who advises Donald Trump the spiritual advisor she said for me to disobey Donald Trump would to be to disobey God no God is radically free yeah yeah we do not serve Trump or any leader we serve the Living God and we will speak beyond just national by nation being great again we want the world to be great again because Christian faith says neither Jew nor Greek Gentile slave nor free male mafia it breaks down all the superiority and inferiority boundaries and serves this living God with a vision for the whole world so domesticating God and making just a national God or just a political party god that’s a failure so whether it’s making God irrelevant or making God too much a cosy domestic pit who just serves me they’re the mistakes we have to keep a Christian worldview where God is God yeah and we serve that God is shown his face in Jesus so maybe just to finish off on that um so what where do you think for Christians right now where do you think we can be the most effective like you know sometimes part of the challenge and being a Christian is there’s so much to do and there’s so much good in the Gospel story the kingdom is lots of effort we can put you know ourselves into but where do you think we can focus our attention at the moment in Australia for the gospel where do you think things are at in that sense you look I think the the secular narrative is not working and Australians not we’ve got epidemics of youth suicide and drug use in the lucky country where we we’re so well blessed to every other country we have epidemics of depression I think Christians showing in their tone we wait on God we’re humble we do justice we pray we believe we there is a God who is active who gives us hope the waiting on God is really just as Israel was waiting for its Messiah it’s the waiting of faith that says we are waiting for Jesus to return but in the meantime as we humbly wait we are going about his business this rain of God not wagging our fingers at people and saying if you just shut up long enough and listen to us you’d know the truth but saying

personally vulnerably I pray I get anxious but I pray I read the scriptures because I believe God wants this world to flourish sharing our faith in a tone that’s servanthood coming alongside I think it’s about tone I think the distrust of the institutional church is they did not walk their talk they were lecturing us and look there was hypocrisy and we’ve got to go yeah in the number of those areas we failed but personally I give I tithe because it gives me gratitude it gives a perspective it teaches my children to be grateful yeah the best thing we can do for our kids is remind them how blessed they are and that they’re blessed to be a blessing that drug proves your kids better than anything I know depression proofs them you know none of us escaped that bar – no you’re blessed that you have purpose under God view your children to know that I think that’s that’s our task because the kingdom of God has begun Jesus has proclaimed the good news when I say to the poor not just the materially poor the rich who are secular and have no sense of why they’re here what their purpose is no relationship with a God spiritually cool yeah that’s that’s our job it leaves a very meaningless world doesn’t it and that’s where the creeping in as you say of the idols money the pursuit of self it easily creeps in when there isn’t meaning there isn’t purpose and that can only come from God who is gives the purpose and puts that in our hearts absolutely the the truth is if you do not align with the one who made you out of alignment is painful you stumble around and the one who has made us has made us to do what we do in our work to the best of our ability you know whether you if you’re working on roads or sewerage or education or health or whatever God wants you to do that as a calling as a contribution but it’s also to be priests priests just reflect back the mirror image of God that’s what priests do in praise and worship when you aren’t worshiping the true God you’re worshipping idols sex power money self image and when you’re worshiping idols they’re not life-giving so humbly being priests that we are also to reflect back the fact that this is the true God and He has purposes for the world and we can know them I think that’s the task that’s powerful powerful and maybe as we finish like what what for you personally are you focusing on at the moment to to promote the Christian worldview in your own personal calling what do you feel God’s asked you to do in this next phase of your life you know for me it is in this phase being a mentor to younger Christian leaders I’ve been a big bull in the paddock in public life stepping out no longer just being the big bull buts passing over the mandate and where I can advising encouraging nourishing and I feel that there are wonderful young Christian leaders in this nation coming coming forward who have a holistic understanding of the gospel they don’t go it’s only personal not social or it’s only social not personal the gospel has always been social and personal it’s the whole gospel for the whole world and I I see younger leaders getting that and that excites me yeah fantastic we’ll really appreciate this time Tim in your own home and speaking to our church through this video we’ll definitely have to get you back for a face-to-face though at Southern Lights yeah we really appreciate you what you’ve done in our nation and our doing and it’s great to have you in town and thank you for our personal friendship that’s growing a little bit as well really appreciate that and just what you shared it’s been clear godly biblical and inspirational for where we can all go as Christians and as the church so an interest of social distancing [Laughter]