‘Not a Christian’: Folau’s ugly religious divide
Christians are fiercely divided over Israel Folau as he prepares to enter the most significant mediation hearing in Australian rugby history on Monday, with lobby group boss Martyn Iles defending his controversial bushfire comments.
Iles's support of Folau comes as leading theological academic Dr John Dickson said the former Wallaby who is seeking $14 million from Rugby Australia cannot be considered a true Christian.
Folau and his legal team will hold mediation talks in Melbourne on Monday, where he will seek the biggest termination payout in Australian sport because he claims he was terminated for expressing his Christian beliefs when posting homophobic material on social media.
But Folau's small parish, The Truth Of Jesus Christ Church, denies a key tenet of Christianity - the Holy Trinity - saying Jesus and God are one and the same and anybody who does not believe it will go to Hell.
"As an intellectual statement I would say that someone who denies the Trinity does not believe in Christianity," Dickon told The Daily Telegraph.
Dickson is a Christian author and historian who lectures at Sydney University, and says the teachings of the Folau church are at complete odds with the Bible.
"No one can read Folau's mind, so any direct critique should be mild and provisional, but there is no doubt that the Trinity has been universally central to Christianity from the beginning," Dickson said.
"Many New Testament passages emphasise that the one true God is eternally three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As weird as that sounds, mathematically, the first Christians were compelled to believe it because of the teaching of Jesus about it.
"And what it meant practically is that God is not an eternal lonely being; he has existed forever, even without any created beings, as a loving community. This is who God is - eternal love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
"Denying this idea about God makes someone something other than a 'Christian'.
"No one can judge someone else's salvation. That's up to God. But there is no getting around the fact that the Trinity is one of the definitionally central ideas of Christianity, agreed upon by Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches."
Folau drew widespread condemnation for a sermon last weekend in which he suggested Australia's deadly bushfires were God's punishment for law changes to same-sex marriage.
"Look how rapid these bushfires these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time. Do you think it's a coincidence or not?" Folau said.
"God is speaking to you guys. Australia you need to repent and take these laws and turn it back to what is right."
Folau went on to say: "The events that have happened here in Australia, in the last couple of years - God's word says for a man and a woman to be together … they've come and changed this law.
"Abortion, it's OK now to murder, kill infants, unborn children."
Iles, whose Australian Christian Lobby group raised $2 million to fund Folau's legal case, says after speaking to Folau he backs the triple-code sportsman.
"Firstly he said 'bushfires are no coincidence', secondly he said 'Australia is a sinful nation', thirdly he said 'Be warned of these fires by the judgment of God for we could likewise perish',' Iles said in a YouTube video.
"Now those three statements stand-alone, are they accurate or are they not? And was he trying to make that further connection? No he wasn't.
"Are bushfires a coincidence? Well newsflash, nothing is coincidence in God's world."
Iles goes on to explain of Folau's sermon on sin: "He goes on to give a whole range of examples of Australia falling into that trap, he says 'Well there is the same-sex marriage law, there's the abortion law, there's various other things.
"I'm sorry to say it, it grieves me as much as anyone, Australia is a sinful nation that's turned away from God.
"The final judgment of God is likened to a fire, it's a lake of fire, and it's a terrible thing.
"Justice will be done in this universe. And if justice is to be done, judgment must fall, that's the reality of our world.
"Now God is long suffering, he doesn't judge hastily, he's waiting, not willing that people should perish in their sins, but it will happen one day and that's a good thing because if there's no justice in this universe all the horrors of this world are just a bad mistake."