Archive for August, 2009

Why are young people not coming to the traditional church? An apology for reaching young people

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

“Why are 20-year-olds not responding to the Gospel and coming to church?” This was the provocative question asked by Rev. John Roth[1] in his Good Friday sermon in 2008. The following was my email response to his question with a few additions.

Many years ago J. Gresham Machen (d. 1937) wrote a booklet, “Christianity and Culture.”  I don’t have the booklet (which is only 15 pages) but I am reading quotes from this book in William Lane Craig’s, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics.  Machen wrote, “The chief obstacle to the Christian religion to-day lies in the sphere of the intellect. . .  The Church is perishing to-day through the lack of thinking, not through an excess of it” (Machen p. 13, in Craig, p. xv).

William Lane Craig is one of the foremost evangelical apologists in the world today.  He is addressing intellectual issues of our day.  See his homepage HERE.  Some of Craig’s debates and articles are HERE.

Craig states the following that, I think, addresses some of the problems in engaging 20-year-olds today:

Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral.  As Christians, their minds are going to waste.  One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. . .  They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is logical and fits the facts of experience. . .  If Christian laymen don’t become intellectually engaged, then we are in serious danger of losing our children.  In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted on every hand by a barrage of anti-Christian philosophies and attitudes.  As I speak in churches around the country, I continually meet parents whose children have left the faith because there was no one in the church to answer their questions.  For the sake of our youth, we desperately need informed parents who are equipped to wrestle with the issues at an intellectual level (William Lane Craig 1994, Reasonable Faith, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, p. xv).

I know how destitute I was in 1984 when I was pursuing doctoral studies in the USA at university and the professor said to me in front of the class when I questioned a theory: “Your views are b-s” (and he didn’t abbreviate).  From that very moment I have spent a lot of time equipping myself to defend the Christian faith against challenges to the faith.  My churches did not equip me to do that.  They should be doing it on the basis of Eph. 4:12.

Then we have to counter the trash from some pulpits and the mass media.  Did you read the anti-biblical challenge from within the church from clergy such as the Rev. Dr. John Evans, Uniting Church minister at Church of All nations, Carlton (Melbourne) “Ditch Good Friday as holiday.”[2] Then there is the heretical material coming from people such as John Shelby Spong, Barbara Thiering, John Dominic Crossan and the Jesus Seminar.

Therefore, I suggest that we are not reaching 20-year-olds (and others), because we are not answering the questions they are asking about God, the world and even in spiritual matters.  How can we overcome this problem?   These are my suggestions:

1.  Equip the people in our churches to be defenders of the faith.  Surely we have examples of this approach with Paul at Athens (Acts 17:16ff) in reasoning in the synagogue with Jews, devout persons and in the market place with those who happened to be there (v. 17), as well as Epicurean and Stoic philosophers (v. 18).  Then we have Paul on the Areopagus (Acts 17:22ff) addressing one of the issues of the day, “To an unknown god.”  We don’t seem to be doing this much today.  In fact, I don’t know of any church locally that has an outreach ministry of apologetics that is answering the questions 20-year-olds and others are asking.

2.  We have resources by the droves to help pastors and teachers to equip God’s people for ministries of apologetics.  William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler, John W. Montgomery, Winfried Corduan, John Frame, Cornelius van Til, R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, Craig Evans, Gary Habermas, Douglas Groothuis, Douglas Geivett, N. T. Wright and others have helped me with answers to the questions of our day.

3.  As we equip God’s people in apologetics, have focus groups where young people gather: high schools, universities, skate parks, etc.  In fact we have an ideal opportunity to do this in high school with RE (religious education, although there are limitations here) but I don’t see it being done.  We could ask high school teens questions such as these?

a. Do you believe in God?  If not, why not?  What is stopping a teen from believing in God?  Explore this in open, honest discussion.  Most lay people teaching RE are not equipped to do this.

b. Why is there so much evil in the world?  How can your good God allow genocide and even contribute to it in the time of Noah?

c. What’s the big deal about God?  Why even bother with him?

d. That religious stuff in the Bible is unbelievable (raising the dead and casting out demons’ crap – that’s what a person said to me).

e. In the world of science, can Bible stuff be believed?

f. I’m living alright without God.  Why even bother with him?

4.  Then we have outreach to address these needs with mass media advertising—even use the classifieds in newspapers and billboards.

5. I engage with atheists on the www to help sharpen my skills and answer their penetrating questions.  One of them stated:

    • Please show me where your religion counts as proof. Can you prove that babies are aware of sin or not?
    • Some things are wrong regardless if they are sins or not. Sin is only an action contrary to religion.
    • Sin doesn’t equal wrong. Sin is contrary to religion. For example genocide is wrong regardless of religion. Gay marriage is not wrong regardless of religion.
    • Your religious laws do not apply.
    • Personhood is not proof of god. Nature is not proof of god.
    • Anyone, even a creator, who creates beings, gives them free will and then commits genocide on them if they disobey is a TYRANT. Sentient beings are different than an object. As soon as people had free will then they were not owned by god. God cannot do as he sees fit. If he kills them then he is a tyrant.
    • Using the bible to prove your point is meaningless to me. Your bible means nothing to me. Sin is an action contrary to a religion. If a person doesn’t follow your religion then they are not sinning (by your religion).

6.  Francis Schaeffer did this kind of thing magnificently.  We all don’t have the gifts of Schaeffer, but we all must engage secular young people and others to begin to answer their penetrating questions.  When we start to do this, I think that the young may begin to take notice of Jesus, God and the church.  To this point, most of our answers are stereotypically Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, etc. However, if we are to engage our culture and attract young people, it will mean outreach activities with a sharp apologetic edge. How long is it since you, as a pastor, were engaged in a debate (either public or in your church) with a local young adult? We have a local university. Why debate one of its students on a hot topic for the young? What about debating topics such as the following?

    • Why does vandalism attract young people?
    • The truth about illicit drugs.
    • Why does premarital sex not make sense?
    • The abortion death squad.
    • How to make marriage work.
    • Why defacto relationships don’t work.

7.  Please understand that I am NOT advocating a seeker-sensitive contemporary approach to marketing Christianity.  Take a listen to what Bill Hybels thinks of the very model that he helped to invent and promote with vigour. Hybels, one of the seeker-sensitive church gurus has made this confession:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for (“Willow Creek Repents,” (Christianity Today, 18 October 2007)

After 30 years of promoting seeker-sensitive programs and investing millions of dollars in the venture, he says:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own (“Willow Creek Repents,” Christianity Today, 18 October 2007).

What I’m suggesting is vastly different from that.

8. However, I am of the view that a church can have solid biblical lyrics in its songs without maintaining a hymn style of 2-3 centuries ago. I was raised on traditional hymns but that does not reach today’s generation. We could sing the great hymns of the faith accompanied by contemporary instruments rather than be anchored in another era of a pipe organ, electronic organ or piano. You can still have guitars and percussion in your music, maintain a moderate level of sound, and sing songs of substance biblically.

9. Too much that comes from our pulpits does not answer the questions that people are asking.  We can begin to do this by application in our sermons. Why not address topics like these?

    • How can I believe in God with so much suffering in the world?
    • Surely it’s arrogant to believe that there is only one way to the best of life after death.
    • What makes Jesus different from Muhammad?
    • Too much of Christianity is unseen. We live in a scientific age that requires empirical support.
    • Many within the church say the Bible is myth. Is it or is it not? Can you trust the Bible?
    • Who made God?
    • How can I believe in God when there are so many hypocrites in the church?
    • What can we do about the march of militant Islam?

There is another dimension to why the church might not be attracting all people, including 20-year-olds:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Tim. 3:1-5 ESV)

These are some thoughts from a believer who is also concerned over why we are not reaching all people, especially the young.

Appendix A

Ditch Good Friday as holiday: cleric[3]

March 20, 2008 – 2:32PM

Sydney Morning Herald

Good Friday should be dumped as a public holiday and replaced with a national reconciliation day recognising Aborigines as integral to Australia’s identity, a Melbourne cleric says.

The Reverend John Evans, the Uniting Church Minister at the Church of All Nations in Carlton, said Good Friday had lost its religious significance outside the Christian community.

He also said Australia was becoming a more multicultural, multifaith society and having Good Friday as a public holiday may no longer be appropriate.

Dr Evans applauded Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s public apology as a major step towards reconciliation, but said a day such as Good Friday should be set aside to mark the recent steps forward.

“We have done a great thing with the national apology but when you look at our public holidays there are no public holidays that recognise the role and place of Aborigines as the first people of this land,” he said.

Dr Evans said any day, not just Good Friday, could be suitable for a national reconciliation day.

The exact day should be put to the Aboriginal community, he said.

In a statement released today, Dr Evans said: “Whether Good Friday is a public holiday or not will not change or challenge the day’s significance. In fact, in the place of Good Friday, there should be a national holiday to mark our endeavours towards Aboriginal reconciliation.”

When asked about the statement, Dr Evans said: “That would be the gift that I would be prepared to make, that if the only way we could get a public holiday for national day of reconciliation is that it’s Good Friday, I’d be for it.”

He said Good Friday would not lose its name or significance as a result.

“We will never not have Good Friday. The question is should it be a public holiday,” he said.

“And I would welcome it to be a public holiday but I would also observe that it is not being treated as a holy day.”

Dr Evans said a national reconciliation day fits in with the message of Easter, which he said was about reconciliation between individuals, God and each other.

But Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Christopher Prowse said despite the importance of reconciliation it would be inappropriate to have such a day on Good Friday.

“Aboriginal issues are very important for Australia, however the Good Friday observance has a different focus and that focus should not be deflected by other issues, however important.”

But another day could be set aside for reconciliation, he said.


[1] Rev. John Roth is the pastor of Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, Denman’s Camp Road, Hervey Bay 4655, Australia. It was in his Good Friday sermon on 21 March 2008.

[2] See Appendix A.

[3] Available from: [21 March 2008].

Whytehouse designs

God and Gambling

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Video Poker by casino - Video poker machine


Spencer D. Gear

We live in an age in which Australian State governments promote poker machines, the TAB, Lotto & Scratchies as a means of “entertainment”. Thoughtful Christians may ask: “Does God support gambling? Is it OK to gamble and believe in the authority of Scripture?”

The pastor of a church I once attended said to two of his parishioners who spent quite a bit of time and money on the pokies, “That’s fine as long as you don’t let the poker machines control you.”

I was doing some blogging when a sceptical person asked, “What does the Bible say about gambling, if anything?”[1] Others have left the gambling issue open for Christians because of the “casting of lots” examples in the Bible.

Australia’s love affair with gambling

Australia has a love affair with gambling. Almost 21% percent of the world’s pokies are in Australia.[2] For most people, gambling is a pleasurable activity. Sadly for some, it has become an addiction that they cannot tame.

Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has stated, “I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families.”[3] Former premier of Queensland, Wayne Goss, whose party introduced poker machines to that state, has been doing some rethinking. He told the Brisbane Courier-Mail, “I wish I’d never brought in poker machines, I think they’re a scourge. . . The problem with poker machines in my view is that the people who mainly play them are the people who can least afford to do so. I wish I hadn’t done it.”[4]

Gambling devours people’s savings and hopes at an astonishing rate. The BBC reported that “more than 80% of its [Australia’s] adult population gambles, the highest rate on the planet”[5] and 40% of these play at least once a week.[6] The majority of them seem to gamble with self control.

However it is estimated that about 2% of the population, about 330,000 Australians, have a severe or moderate problem gambling habit. Of that number, for “about 70 per cent, their major activity is poker machines.”[7]

Associated with gambling addiction is an increased level of suicidal thoughts and actions. The Wesley Mission reported that

up to 60% of problem gamblers will experience some level of suicidal thought. This may be vague (often after major losses), or serious intent with a clear plan. It is also common for clients to have had one or more failed suicide attempts.[8]

A survey in the USA in 1995 found that 20% of compulsive gamblers had attempted suicide and 63% had seriously considered suicide. These figures are 50 times higher than “within lifetime” estimates for the general population.[9]

Australians spend more on gambling than they do on food.[10] In the financial year 2006-2007, Australians spent almost $91.5 million on food. That’s about $4,350 each for the year according to Bureau of Statistics figures.

However, in the previous year, 2005-06, gaming industry figures showed that adults spent $148 million on gambling. That’s an average of $9,491 each spent on gambling, which includes figures from tourists.[11] Of total expenditure, we spent 61% more on gambling than we did on food.

How much of this gambling money goes to the venue? “The average actual gaming ‘profit’ (before tax) is about a tenth of turnover.”[12]

Two people shared an $80 million Powerball jackpot in July 2009 in Australia.[13]

There are social effects of gambling. One estimate was that for each person who engages in excessive gambling, 5-10 other people around them are affected.[14]

How does this Australian love affair with gambling fit in with a Christian view of gambling? Since 80% of adults gamble and 40% do it weekly, do you think that Christians will be exempt from considering gambling as a viable option for extra cash and for entertainment? This could be a special attraction in these tough economic times.

Casting lots and gambling

Does the Bible’s use of the “casting of lots” provide a precedent for Christians to practise responsible gambling?

What was involved in the practice of casting lots? We know that it was a way of determining the will of God in the Old Testament primarily. The exact method that was used is not clearly defined in the Old Testament.

Some scholars believe that the Urim and Thummim (Ex. 28:30; Deut. 33:8; Ezra 2:63) were the objects involved using

small round pebbles, which were placed in the ephod of the high priest. One signified “Yes,” and the other, “No.” When the priest reached blindly into the ephod and took out one stone, the question was answered either affirmatively or negatively by the stone which he found in his hand.[15]

The problem with this explanation is that there are OT passages that indicate the casting of lots was used for other important decisions. These included

    • for Aaron’s choosing the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:7-10, 21-22);
    • division of the land of Pal after the conquest (Josh. 14:2; 18:6; 1 Chron. 6:5ff);
    • service of the Temple including the music and doorkeepers (I Chron. 25:7-8; 26:13ff);
    • supply of wood for the altar (Neh. 10:34ff);
    • the guilt of suspected criminals (Josh. 7:14; 1 Sam. 14:42).[16]

The principle underlying these actions is stated in Prob. 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

Let’s briefly look at a sample of the use of lots in Scripture.

In Numbers 26:52-56, the Lord told Moses to divide the land for an inheritance, using the casting of lots. This was also the case with Eleazer and Joshua and the land on the west side of the Jordan River where the inheritance was distributed by lots (Joshua 14:2; 18:6; 19:51). The cities and pastures were given to the Levites by the casting of lots (Josh. 21:8).

In Psalm 22:18, the Messianic prediction was, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (ESV).[17] This was fulfilled at the death of Christ and recorded in Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34 and John 19:24. Was this a chance happening and an example of gambling that could justify our use of poker machines and other sorts of gambling today?

To decide on a replacement apostle for Judas Iscariot, Acts 1:26 states, “And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Was this a biblical example that could be used to support gambling in the 21st century at the race track, in casinos, at poker machine venues, on Scratchies and the Lotto?

Other examples of the casting of lots are in passages such as I Sam. 10:20-21 and I Chron. 24:5; 26:13-14. Henlee Barnette noted,

The casting of lots was a means of ascertaining the will of God. It should be noted that after Judas’ successor was chosen by lot, this method was not employed again by the church. Decisions thereafter were made in relation to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.[18]

However, the modern concept of gambling by transferring something of worth (generally money) from one person to another based on chance is not supported by the Scriptures (see below). The 21st century concept of gambling at the TAB, casino, pokies or on Powerball is foreign to biblical thinking.

The Bible does not support games of chance

five colored dice by mariotomo - five dice in four colors


I cannot locate a Scripture which states, “Thou shalt not gamble,” but the concepts of chance, luck and fortune should not be in a biblical world and life view. Support for gambling as we understand it today is foreign to the Scriptures for these reasons:

1. The Christian view of godliness

According to Matthew 6:33, believers are to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things [material things] will be added to you.” We are exhorted to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). How is it possible to use gambling for help with daily necessities and still rely on God to supply our needs?

2. The Christian view of work

Ephesians 4:28 says: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Could it be said that the modern concept of gambling, reaping many dollars for a small investment, is akin to stealing from others – legally? The Christian work ethic is one of labouring with one’s own hands or abilities to raise money or goods to maintain one’s individual life and family, and to share with those in need. Receiving $40 million as a gambling jackpot for spending only a few dollars sounds more like a “rip-off” of other people than an honest day’s work. But, of course, it is all done legally and governments receive their share of the “rip-off.”

3. The Christian view of stewardship

Hebrews 13:5 states that believers are to “keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” This is in contrast to the ones seeking big bucks from all sorts of gambling, with the investment of an infinitesimal amount.

The gambler seems to be like the greedy person. What is the biblical view of greed? The greedy are “the unrighteous who will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). But there is good news for the greedy. They can be redeemed by being washed by the blood of Jesus, justified and sanctified. “Such were some of you,” said Paul of the greedy (I Cor. 6:11).

The common jargon these days is that gambling is supposed to be for fun – entertainment. Second Timothy 3:4-5 warns us that Christians are not to be “lovers of pleasure.” Instead they are to be “lovers of God.” Those who love pleasure are to be avoided (v. 5).

4. The Christian view of love for your neighbours and enemies

Jesus told us, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). How can we as Christians truly love our enemies (Matt. 5:44) while we contribute to taking money away from them? Approximately half of the revenue at poker machine venues in Australia comes from problem gamblers according to the Productivity Commission Report in 1999. How can we justify gambling when it is causing devastation to the individual and 5-10 other people associated with the problem gambler?[19]

5. How the Christian views his/her influence on others

How can Christians be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14) while greedily wanting big bucks and ripping others off – legally, of course – through 21st century-style gambling? How can you “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:39) while at the same time taking money from him/her through gambling?

Biblical Christianity promotes the view of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), which is a life-style that, it seems to me, is impossible to reconcile with a 21st century approach to gambling that is promoted by governments.

6. Luck and fortune are not part of God’s kingdom

Isaiah 65:11-12 warns:

But you who forsake the Lord, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword . . . You did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.

Luck, chance and fortune are not in God’s worldview. Neither should they be in ours. These are essential to the gambling kingdom! Christians should set a godly example and not participate in any games of chance.

Pastors and churches that approve of gambling should be called back to biblical Christianity.

What about the “good” that gambling does?


Pollock to Hussey.jpg

Cricket: Bowler to batsman (courtesy Wikipedia)

When I first uploaded this article, a person responded, “There is a lot of good done from  gambling too.”[20] How do we respond to what seems to be a valid point?

About the only “good” things I see coming from gambling in Australia are:[21]

  • Cheaper meals at the clubs and pubs (subsidised by the massive income from pokies);
  • The Community Benefit Fund, Queensland,[22] which in my view is conscience money offering up to $30,000 one-off grants to not-for-profit organisations;
  • Sports’ clubs & sporting fields linked to some clubs.

Perhaps some would say that the revenue gained by governments from gambling provides a “good” result in general revenue that provides for the government services.

But the harm far outweighs the benefits.  I have counselled problem gamblers as a professional counsellor and not one of them has gambled with money that was responsible use of his/her resources.  They have drained bank accounts, maxed out credit card limits, hocked household goods, stolen from anybody including employers, and helped to destroy families.

A response could be: “That’s only for a very small number of the Australian population, 2% of the adult population – 330,000 people.[23] For most people, gambling is fun and entertainment and they do not abuse themselves or their families.”

Why should this “good” ethic of gambling be rejected? I do not support this utilitarian approach to ethics, the end justifies the means, for these reasons:
The Christian deontological ethic means:

    • The rule determines the result;
    • The rule is the basis of every ethical act;
    • The rule is always good, no matter what the result;
    • The result is always calculated within the boundaries of the rules.

By contrast, with the teleological ethic of utilitarianism:

    • The result determines the rule;
    • The result is the basis of every ethical act;
    • The rule is always good because of the result;
    • The result is sometimes used to break the rules.

Within genuinely Christian ethics, the results are all within the rules or norms (the absolutes of Scripture).  Thus, no end result (the “good” that gambling does) can be used as a justification for breaking God’s law.
As I state in this article, God’s moral law contains rules of:

    • God’s norm of godliness;
    • God’s norm of work;
    • God’s norm of stewardship;
    • God’s norm of loving both your friends and enemies;
    • God’s norm of Christians being the light of the world & the salt of the earth;
    • God’s norm that luck and fortune are not part of kingdom values;


Australia has a love affair with gambling that is making millions of dollars for governments. The Queensland state government expected to earn about $578million from gambling in the 2008-09 financial year.[25]

The casting of lots has no parallel with contemporary gambling. Lots were used sovereignly by the Lord to determine some decisions, but this principle stopped with the choosing of Judas Iscariot’s replacement as an apostle.

Dr. Peel rightly states that

all forms of gambling involve gain to the few and loss to the many without the creation of any real product or benefit, save perhaps a questionable thrill. The promoters and managers have to appeal to the sinful motivation of covetousness in order to make it repay their own very often considerable investment. Gambling violates the principle of fair return for labor and investment, and the ethics of stewardship and work (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:9-12). Gambling also can lead to neglect of family responsibilities, a grievous sin in the eyes of God (1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Cor. 12:14).[26]

There are many good reasons for not gambling. These include the Christian views of godliness, work ethic, stewardship, loving our neighbours, the manner in which we should influence others, and the Bible’s condemnation of anything to do with chance.

I know that it is possible for a person to be generous, love his or her neighbour more than himself or herself and trust the sovereignty of God in “casting of lots”. However, human beings are too easily drawn to covetousness and dishonesty when gambling is involved.

Are you committed to ripping off people or building them up?

One of the fundamental principles of biblical Christianity that gives a knockout blow to gambling is, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).


[1] Don Tom, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “Don won’t pray – don’t ask him,” #111, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[2] “Russell Crowe rallies against gambling,” China Daily, 2008-01-03, available from: [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[3] Ibid.

[4] Melanie Christiansen & Steve Gray, “Wayne Goss regrets bringing poker machines to Queensland,” Courier-Mail, 20 September 2008, available from:,,24375592-23272,00.html [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[5] Nick Bryant, “Australia in thrall of gambling mania,” BBC News, Sydney, 30 January 2007, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[6] Anna Gizowska in Sydney, The Telegraph [UK], “Beware! Australia’s addict gamblers warn Britain,” 17 October 2004, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[7] Maxine McKew, 19 July 1999, 7.30 Report, ABC television Australia, “Productivity Commission exposes poker machine culture,” available from: [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[8] Wesley Mission, “Suicide in Australia, a dying shame,” Suicide Prevention Week, 6-10 November 2000, available from: [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[9] In ibid.

[10] The following details are based on Peter Jean , June 11, 2008, “Australians spend more on gambling than on food,” Herald Sun¸ available from:,21985,23844130-662,00.html [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[11] Ibid.

[12] Betty Conn Walker, 2003, “Vilified pokies not the root of all evil,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, available from: [Accessed 15 November 2003].

[13] “Melbourne man wins a share of Powerball $80m jackpot,” Herald Sun, 31 July 2009, available from:,21985,25859727-661,00.html [Accessed 23 August 2009].

[14] Senator Jeannie Ferris 2000, 3rd National Gambling Conference, Rex Hotel, Sydney, 12 May, available from: [Accessed 15 November 2008].

[15] F. E. Hamilton 1976, “Lots,” in Merrill C. Tenney (gen. ed.), The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 988.

[16] In ibid.

[17] Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible, Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 2001.

[18] Henlee H. Barnette 1973, “Gambling”, in Carl. F. H. Henry (ed.), Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 258.

[19] See reference to Senator Jeannie Ferris above.

[20] Don Tom, 27 August 2009, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “God and gambling,” # 2, available from: [Accessed 27 August 2009[.

[21] I posted this in ibid., #3.

[22] Gambling Community Benefit Fund, Queensland Government (Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing), available from: [Accessed 29 August 2009].

[23] As in Maxine McKew above.

[24] The following contrast of the deontological and teleological ethics is based on Table 1.1: Two Views of Ethics, in Norman L. Geisler 1989, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues, Apollos, Leicester, England, p. 24/

[25] See Melanie Christiansen & Steve Gray 2008 above.

[26] R. N. Peel, 1987, “Gambling,” in R. K. Harrison (gen. ed.), Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, p. 165.


Copyright (c) 2009 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at date: 8 July 2014.

Life after Death: Current Controversies

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009


(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

There is an increasingly active presence on the Internet of those who oppose the orthodox doctrine of the intermediate state. What happens at death for believers and unbelievers? If these writers are on the www, they are possibly active in your community and may turn up in your evangelical or charismatic congregation. We need to be aware of their errant teachings so that we can refute them.

My wife and I visited a local church in Australia in 2007 to hear an international speaker. He made this statement, “Unbelievers die but believers go to sleep.”  There was no further explanation.  When he made a raw statement such as that, he was not being inaccurate (see I Cor. 15:18) but he left himself wide open to the accusation that he believes in soul sleep.

If “believers go to sleep” at death, what does that mean?  Where do they go and what is their intermediate state?  If he is against the false doctrine of soul sleep, he should not make statements like that, without further explanation and a refutation of the soul sleep false doctrine

What are the issues at stake? There are three making a strong presence on the www:

a. Opposition to immortality of the soul,

b. Promotion of soul sleep, and

c. There is no hell, but annihilation of unbelievers at death.

To give an example of how these are presenting themselves on the www, I will illustrate with a conversation that I had with Harold, a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I have been debating with him on the “Christian Fellowship Forum.” I had written on this Forum that these SDAs were “promoting false doctrine, based on the Bible.” By that I meant that in their understanding of the Bible, they were presenting false teaching. An SDA member responded:

What ‘false’ doctrine’ do we promote, based on the Bible? I didn’t
know that there could be any such thing. All of our doctrines are
based on the Bible. I am sorry to say that this is more than you
can say about all of your doctrines. I’ll name two.
The immortality of the soul
The sacredness of Sunday.
Try as you might, you can not find any support for either of those
in any Bible.

I replied: [2]

To understand the meaning of “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” [Ezek. 18:4, 20], we need to understand what happens at death.  Ecclesiastes 12:7 explains that beautifully [“and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God”]. . . You are wanting this to mean that the human breath returns to God who gave it.

You don’t want to get a handle on what the Bible is teaching very clearly about what happens to a believer’s soul/spirit that survives death (Luke 12:4; Eccl. 12:7)[3], is consciously present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), [and] is in a better place (Phil. 1:23).  This is a place where other souls are speaking (Matt. 17:3).  Please don’t spin me the yarn that Moses’ and Elijah’s breaths were talking with them.

These departed souls were even praying [they cried out with a loud voice – surely that is desperate prayer] (Rev. 6:9-10). . .

For unbelievers who die, the soul is in a place of conscious torment (Matt. 25:41; Luke 16:22-26; Rev. 19:20 – 20:15).

So what is your [Harold’s] response to all of this biblical evidence for the immortality of the soul after death?  He wrote: “You keep preaching that God gave you your immortality already.  Keep preaching that your ‘soul’ is immortal.  Satan did that, already, so just keep it up.”[4]

What blasphemy to attribute to Satan what God declares! What is at stake here? Orthodox biblical teaching that has been established in Scripture and accepted by evangelicals throughout the history of the church on life after death (with a minority of exceptions), is being attacked by this SDA person.

These doctrines include: (1) Immortality of the soul, (2) Rejection of soul sleep, (3) The nature of heaven and hell, (4) What happens immediately the last breath leaves the human body?

What makes these topics challenging is that we don’t have as detailed explanations as we would like in the Bible. However, there are sketches that provide us with certainty about the broad sweep of these doctrines.

Let’s tackle just one of these teachings that is under threat.

The immortality of the soul

At first you might not consider this an important biblical teaching. In fact, many of the evangelicals I minister among, have rarely heard anything about human beings having an immortal soul.

Some regard the teaching of the New Testament that a person has an immortal soul to be a misunderstanding of Scripture and the promotion of a Greek idea rather than Christian doctrine. Others speak of “the heresy of man’s immortal soul.”[5]


What do I mean by immortality when applied to human beings and death? “Immortality means the eternal, continuous, conscious existence of the soul after the death of the body.”[6] Can this be substantiated from Scripture?

Job asked: “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (14:14).[7] Jesus provides an answer in his response to Martha after the death of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

So, are human beings immortal or not? Do they have a continuous existence even after physical death? The answer is, “Yes,” but with qualifications.

A qualification

Paul wrote to Timothy that God “is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality” (I Tim. 6:15-16). Yet, Paul also taught Timothy that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

How can God alone have immortality and yet Jesus brought immortality to light for human beings through the Gospel? It depends on our understanding of immortality. God

alone is life’s original Owner and never-failing Fountain. His immortality has been called “an original, necessary, and eternal endowment.” In God’s being there is no death and not even a possibility of death in any sense whatever. Now immortality (Greek athanasia) means deathlessness. . .

But although only God is immortal in the sense of being the original Owner and Fountain of life and blessedness, in a derived sense it is also true that believers are immortal. In II Timothy 1:8-12 it is clearly stated that our Savior Christ Jesus on the one hand utterly defeated death, and on the other hand, “brought to light life and immortality [literally incorruptibility] through the gospel.”[8]

What does this mean in a practical sense for believers and unbelievers?

Because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross, the believer no longer experiences eternal, spiritual death. Physical death, while sorrowful for the grieving relatives who are left behind, is really gain for the believer. Phil. 1:23 states, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

What can we say about immortality for the Christian? Through his death and resurrection, Christ brought to light the incorruptibility (immortality of the soul in a derived sense) of the soul of human beings. We see this is Jesus’ promise according to John 14:19, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

Immortality is not endless existence. Endless existence belongs only to God.

So, are human beings immortal? A good answer to the JWs and the SDAs would be something like this: “Yes, but only in the sense that their existence never ends; but in the Bible only those are called immortal who have everlasting life in Christ Jesus, and are destined to glorify him forever as to both soul and body.”[9]

What happens to the souls of the righteous dead at the Second Coming of Christ? I emphasise again that our knowledge from the Scriptures is brief, but this we know: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (I Cor. 15:22-23). At the Second Coming, it appears that the souls of believers will be reunited with their disintegrated bodies and “made alive.”

William Hendriksen explains the verse,

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:44) to help us gain an understanding of what happens to the body at the resurrection:

At present our bodies are soul­-controlled bodies; that is, they are dominated by our invisible essence, viewed as the seat of sensations, affections, desires, all of these polluted by sin. But in the future our bodies will be spirit-controlled bodies! . . . By means of these bodies we shall glorify God forevermore.[10]

Smoldering Candle

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Is immortality an idea from Greek philosophy?

Plato and others did teach on immortality for human beings in general, but it had no parallel with the biblical view that the soul is indestructible, returns to God, and then is joined to the resurrected body (e.g. Eccl. 12:7; I Cor. 15).

Also, philosophers such as Plato taught on immortality of the soul alone. The soul was delivered from the prison of the body at death.

For the believer, the body is a temple of the soul (and Holy Spirit). Immortality, in the Christian sense, applies to the whole person, body and soul/spirit. In the final consummation, the soul/spirit and the body will be reunited according to I Cor. 15:44.

What about the souls of believers at death?

For my birthday in May 1997, my Christian mother gave me as a gift a book I had suggested, Erwin Lutzer’s excellent popular-level book, One Minute After You Die.[11] Three weeks later, Mum had entered her eternal destiny described so clearly in this book. Did she have a sense that her time on earth was ending? I will never know. Where did my mother go at death? Did she experience soul sleep, purgatory, or something else?

The Scriptures, although not detailed, are clear that Mum’s spirit “returned to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). According to John 11:17-26, to live and believe is followed by never dying. Jesus was crystal clear that everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never ever die ultimately. Death for the believer does not interrupt this eternal life that began at the point of commitment to Christ while on earth.

Paul stated that “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). To the thief on the cross, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The SDAs & JWs want to remove the comma to say, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise,” meaning that Jesus said it to the thief on that very day and that it had nothing to do with the thief being with Jesus in Paradise on that very day.

There were no punctuation marks, breaks between words, or clearly defined sentences (as we understand them in English) in the original Greek. Therefore, how do we interpret this statement? Greek scholars have called the SDA/JW interpretation various things, including “grammatically senseless”[12] because it was obvious that Jesus was speaking to the thief on that very day. Jesus could not have been saying it in the past or in the future. Christ was giving assurance to the thief that on that very day they would both meet in Paradise.

Why is the final destiny of the redeemed variously described in the NT as heaven (Col. 1:5), Paradise (Luke 23:43), and Abraham’s bosom/side (Luke 16:22)?

We have no difficulty referring to a house as a residence, mansion, dwelling, and perhaps a palace for some. God has no difficulty referring to heaven by these various designations that mean the same place (see also 2 Cor. 12).

There is a need in the church for clear teaching on the nature of heaven.

What about the souls of unbelievers at death?

Ladies and Gentlemen: The idea of a hell was born of revenge and brutality on the one side, and cowardice on the other. . . I have no respect for any human being who believes in it. I have no respect for any man who preaches it. . . I dislike this doctrine, I hate it, I despise it, I defy this doctrine. . . This doctrine of hell is infamous beyond all power to express.[13]

These are the words of a prominent defender of agnosticism and antagonist of Christ in 19th century USA, Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll.

Jesus stated in the story (parable) of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 that the rich man, the unbeliever, went to “Hades, being in torment” (v. 23). The “wicked servant” will go to the place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51).

Teaching on Hades, hell, and soul sleep are critical for believers in these days of doctrinal decline in the churches.


For believers and unbelievers, when they die, the soul and body are separated. The souls go to their respective places and are alive. For believers, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord.

Loraine Boettner’s definition at the beginning of this article, is biblical: “Immortality means the eternal, continuous, conscious existence of the soul after the death of the body.”

I understand that there is an old tombstone in a cemetery in Indiana that has this epitaph:

Pause, stranger, when you pass me by

As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, so you will be

So prepare for death and follow me.

Underneath these words, an unknown person has scratched these words:

To follow you I’m not content

Until I know which way you went.[14]


[1] Harold, Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “More about Seventh-Day Adventists,” no. 56, at: (Accessed 29 July 2007).

[2] Post by OzSpen (my non-deplume) to Harold (an SDA) at Christian Fellowship Forum, Contentious Brethren, “More about Seventh-Day Adventists,” no. 71, at ibid. (Accessed 29July 2007).

[3] The following two paragraphs are based on information in Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992, When Critics Ask, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 195.

[4] Christian Fellowship Forum, post no. 70 (URL above).

[5] Cited in William Hendriksen 1959, The Bible on the Life Hereafter, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 45.

[6] Loraine Boettner 1956, Immortality, The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, p. 59.

[7] Unless otherwise stated, all Bible references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version 2001, Crossway Bibles, a division of Good news Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois.

[8] Hendriksen, p. 46.

[9] Ibid., p. 47.

[10] Hendriksen, p. 173.

[11] Erwin W. Lutzer 1997, One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination, Moody Press, Chicago.

[12] Lutzer, p. 49.

[13] In Hendriksen, p. 79.

[14] In Lutzer, p. 11.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 22 October 2016.


Gambling with Families

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

When Dad or Mum stumbles through the front door drunk several nights a week, children pick up quickly that booze might be a problem. But when Dad is away for hours, Mum and Dad fight over money and there is severe marriage conflict, children don’t readily think that Dad has a gambling problem.[1]

But the effects on the kids can be just as devastating. Gambling problems are often clothed in secrecy. The problem explodes for a parent when there is not enough money to pay for the rates, house mortgage, the electricity, or the telephone account. Children can be severely negatively affected by a parent’s gambling.[2]

Some problem gamblers leave the family home and skip out on the marriage relationship over and over again.[3] Children grieve over the loss of the parent and the family is left with fears and insecurity because of not enough money to pay the bills. Taking swift steps to safeguard family finances is top priority in dealing with problem gambling.[4]

When family find out about the gambling, it is common for them to have outbursts of anger, even rage. Like the person with a drug addiction, lies, deceit and theft can become part of the gambler’s lifestyle.[5] An extreme example of gambling’s family impact was the July 2004 report of one man accused of selling his five daughters into prostitution to pay for his gambling debt.[6]

Australians are keen gamblers, spending over $13 billion dollars in the year 2001 on gambling.[7] Most do not become problem gamblers but about 2% of adults do experience problems.

Appendix A

According to the Government of Western Australia, Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor, these are the statistics:

· About 290,000 people in Australia (that is approximately 2% of all adult Australians) are considered to be experiencing significant problems associated with gambling.

· It is estimated that in Western Australia, problem gamblers represent 0.70 per cent of the adult population.

· Western Australia has the lowest rates of problem gambling and this can be attributed to the relative availability of gaming machines in comparison to the other states and territories.

· The average duration of gambling problems is nine years.

· Problem gambling is most prevalent with regular players of gaming machines, racing and casino table games.

· It is estimated that in 1997/98 problem gamblers spent (lost) $M2 673, 80 per cent of which was expended on gaming machines.

· Between five and ten “other” people are affected by the behaviour of a person who has a gambling problem.

· Each game played on a gaming machine is independent of results from past games – machines that have not paid out for some time have no higher chance of paying out now or in the near future.

· If a gambler “reinvests” their winnings, he or she will eventually lose the lot (available from:, cited 11 May 2005).

For a report on the Western Australian Gambling Industry, 2002-2003, see the Status Report at: [cited 11 May 2005]

Appendix B

“For every gambler with a gambling problem, there are about ten other people who are directly affected. They could be partners, wives, husbands, children, friends, parents, business colleagues, anyone”[8]

Appendix C: Gambling in Australia

“Key findings from the investigation [Productivity Commission 1999] found that around 330,000 Australians (2.3% of the adult population) had gambling problems, with 140,000 experiencing significant problems. The 330,000 problem gamblers on average lost nearly $12,000 per year from gambling activity with many problem gamblers experiencing emotional difficulties – one in ten problem gamblers said that they had contemplated suicide because of gambling.”[9]

Appendix D: Gambling 2001-2002

Australia’s $15bn gambling splurge[10]

23 September 2003

AUSTRALIANS gambled away more than $15 billion in 2001-02, according to new figures released today.

The figure works out at $1,016.85 for every Australian aged 18 or over, a rise of more than $21.95 on the previous year.

Put in other terms, 3.4 per cent of the average household’s after-tax income was lost gambling.

Australian Gambling Statistics, prepared by the Tasmanian Gaming Commission from data in all states and territories, showed Australia’s appetite for gambling continued unabated.

Total gambling turnover rose 6.56 per cent to $125 billion compared with the previous year.

Per capita, Northern Territorians were the heaviest losers, pouring an average $1,576 each into pokies, horses, casinos, lotteries and other forms of gambling.

In NSW, $1,212 was spent, while Victorians lost $1,180.

West Australians, who don’t have pokies in their pubs and clubs, were the lightest losers, at $469.

Poker machines in pubs and clubs swallowed the most money, with $85 billion spent Australia-wide, followed by casinos with $21 billion wagered.

[1] This kind of scenario is what I face in counselling problem gamblers. No confidential details are revealed here. Her husband was complaining about how he was not able to pick up her gambling addiction readily and he wanted to know why. I walked him through the differences between illicit drug & alcohol addiction, and gambling addiction. So the evidence for this kind of statement is subjective, coming from my casework.

[2] Again, the evidence is based on my casework but camouflaged so that it won’t be recognised, but the principle is the same.

[3] Evidence? Casework.

[4] Evidence? This is part of my counselling intervention and in two months with Lifeline, it has been most successful in helping with them move to responsible gambling or eliminate gambling. The choice is theirs. I always present the alternatives.

[5] Evidence? Casework.

[6] This article reporting of a father who sold five of his daughters into prostitution, concerns a Pakistani father, Allah Ditta from Lahore, Pakistan. The mother, Bashiran, appeared in court, seeking protection for her 13-year-old daughter, who was threatened with being forced into prostitution by her father to pay for his drug and gambling habit: “Bashiran claimed her husband is a drug addict and a gambler. She said that he has been selling their daughters to elderly men over the last thirteen years in order to settle gambling debts. Bashiran said she protested when Allah Ditta tried to sell their fifth daughter, 13-year-old Sakina. She said she feared that he would sell their last daughter, Maskeena, who is seven years old. She said she had already demanded a divorce but he refused” (Waqar Gillani 2004, ‘Man accused of selling 5 daughters to settle gambling debt,’ Daily Times, Pakistan, available from: [11 May 2005]. indicated that the date of this article was 3 July [2004], available from: [11 May 2004].

[7] “Australians are a nation of keen punters, spending over $13 billion dollars a year on gambling,” according to Justin Healey (ed.) 2001, Issues in Society, vol. 153, details available from: [retrieved 11 May 2005]. This article also states that “In 1999-2000, total gambling expenditure within Australia was $13.34 billion which is more than the Tasmanian 1999-2000 GDP of $11.6 billion, the national fuel excise collected ($12.7 billion in 2000-01) and more than the tax cuts given to offset the GST ($12 billion in 2000-01) (p.1).” According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Special Article, “Gambling in Australia,” in Yearbook Australia 2002, “Gambling activity in Australia has grown enormously during the nineties. Recent ABS data revealed that expenditure on legalised gambling exceeded $11b in 1997-98” (available from:, cited 11 May 2005).

[8] “When the loser is not the gambler,” Gambling Support Bureau (Tasmanian government), available from: available from: [15 November 2008].

[9] Available from, “City of Onkaparinga,” at: [11 May 2005].

[10] The Advertiser (Adelaide), available from:,5936,7350469%255E421,00.html [11 May 2005].

Whytehouse designs

Gambling Shame

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Betty was so ashamed of the $100s of dollars a week she was losing at the poker machines. She could not face up to telling her husband and children, so she started stealing goods and hocking them to pay for the debts.

Bill would lose his $100s at the race track or TAB and he would not own up to his wife when she asked why so much money was disappearing from the joint accounts.

Shame often prevents people from admitting their gambling addictions.

There is no easy way to break through the shame barrier except by confronting the issue gently. The spouse who sees the money disappearing should speak with the partner. If there is no admission, it is recommended that the spouse contact a gambling help counsellor to develop strategies to keep finances secure.

I recall a problem gambler who told me that he was forced to admit to his problem when his wife and a counsellor “conspired to starve me of my finances” (his language).

Basketball superstar, Michael Jordan, told an interviewer on USA “60 Minutes” that he was ashamed how he allowed betting to take over his life:

“I’ve gotten myself into (gambling) situations where I would not walk away and I’ve pushed the envelope. But my drive to win is so great I just step over that line. It’s very embarrassing. One of the things you totally regret. So you look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I was stupid.'”[1]

For every problem gambler, there are 5-10 other people affected.


[1] “Jordan admits gambling was ‘stupid'”, Associated Press, October 20, 2005, available

Whytehouse designs

Gambling and the economic crisis

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

During these tough economic times, it is tempting to find quick solutions. Gambling is one that some people choose for a financial rescue package. They go chasing money at the races, TAB, Lotto, or on the pokies.

The Victorian government (Australia) admits, “Pokies are not designed to provide you with extra income. They are designed to make profit for others.”[1] Governments that make big bucks form gambling, want you to believe that “the pokies are simply a form of entertainment.”[2]

The problem is that when you gamble, so the responsible gambling message goes, it is meant to be entertainment. It is not designed for you to make money.

For example,

just check out the odds of winning the jackpot in Powerball – one in 54 million, the pokies: one in 9.7 million, Keno the chances of a 10 number jackpot is one in 8.9 million, Lotto: one chance in 8 million, with the best chance of a win with a simple scratchie: one chance in 960,000.

Pretty scary odds when you consider the chances of getting hit by lightning is 1 in 1.6 million.[3]

In total, what do Aussies lose on gambling? The above Today Tonight report stated that “Australians lose more than $16 billion a year on games of chance.”[4] This is made up as follows:

    • Pokies rake in a cool $8.7 billion in pubs and clubs across the country.
    • Casinos with gaming tables offering blackjack, routlette, craps, poker, and keno to name a few rake in $2.5 billion.
    • The old stayer horses, net $3.2 billion.
    • Dogs have a total turnover of $760 million.
    • The trots make about $608 million.
    • Lotteries across the country pull in $1.44 billion.
    • Keno takes in $86 million.[5]

So, in these troublesome economic times, chasing money through gambling is not a good strategy for winning cash to pay the bills.

David Campbell, writing in The Age (Melbourne) about playing the pokies said:

If it’s just for ‘fun’ and not the money, then try slowing spin times; displaying the odds on winning combinations; cutting back the ability to bet large multiples on several lines; progressively displaying the total amount lost by an individual on a machine; making the machines coin-only.

And the likelihood of that happening? Much less than the chance of getting five rhinos.[6]

In its booklet on poker machines, the South Australian government made these startling, but truthful, statements:[7]

  • “Pokies are programmed so that in the end the machine will win.”
  • “Nothing you do changes that.”
  • “Pokies are not designed to provide you with extra income.”
  • “When you play the pokies, don’t expect to win.”
  • “The pokies are the winners.”
  • “When playing a game like Black Rhinos, to have a 50% chance of getting five rhinos, playing one line at a time, it would take 6.7 million button presses and cost nearly $330,000.”[8]
  • “You cannot change the fact that the odds are stacked against you.”

Yet, these are the kinds of statements that governments promoting “responsible gambling” and pokies would like you to hear:[9]

    • Set a limit on how much you will spend for this entertainment. If you want to see your favourite singer in concert, you know how much that entertainment will cost you. For entertainment on the pokies, set a financial limit and spend not a cent more. This may mean leaving ATM cards at home, getting a second signature on a bank account, or leaving your credit card at home.
    • Also set a limit for the time you will spend at the venue.
    • Never borrow money for gambling.
    • Accept that losses are the cost of entertainment. Never chase your losses.
    • Please learn to understand the random numbers of how poker machines work. The poker machine is designed for the gaming venue ultimately to win and not for you the winner. The pokies are meant to encourage you to play. They are not designed to give you more back than you “invest.” The occasional win for you is a big factor in attracting you back to the venue to play again.
    • If you get into trouble, you will find government funded help at Gambling Helpline and Gambling Help Service agencies in your local community.[10]

In these tough economic times, you are going to be tempted to get quick cash. Gambling is not meant for that purpose. Governments say it is designed for fun. Try telling that to families that are devastated by problem gambling!

If you go to a venue, TAB or the race track hoping to get you out of your economic fixes (paying bills of mortgage, electricity & telephone), you generally will be sorely disappointed.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, elected to Australian federal parliament after a “no pokies” platform in the South Australian upper house, said:

It’s a bit cute for the clubs [in Canberra] to say they’re providing the amenity in a safe environment. It may be physically safe but it is not financially safe. This is a product that causes an enormous amount of harm. . . It is a sad situation that you have clubs that are supposed to be there supporting the community being involved in an activity that rips families a part that damages communities. And that’s the reality of poker machines.[11]

Let’s face it: The gambling venues want to suck you in to believe that you can be a winner at the pokies. Gambling is for jokers!


[1] Poblemgambling, “Playing the Pokies,” available from:|8331|poker%20machine%20problem||S|b|3859636626 [22 August 2009].

[2] Ibid.

[3] David Richardson, “Today Tonight,” 9 November 2007, available from: [22 August 2009.]

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] David Campbell, “So the pokies are fun? You must be joking Mr Tatersalls,” The Age, October 20, 2003, [22 August 2009].

[7] The pokies: Before you press the button, know the facts, available from: available from: [22 August 2009].

[8] This statement is from the Productivity Commission 1999, Australian Gambling Industries Inquiry, Report No. 10. See: [22 August 2009]. A new Productivity Commission report on gambling commenced on 24 November 2008. See the press release at: [22 August 2009].

[9] These are my statements and I used them in an article I wrote for a local newspaper. I am ashamed that I was so naïve as to believe this “responsible gambling” party line stuff.

[10] Details are at: [22 August 2009].

[11] Chris Kimball, “Canberra: Pokie Capital?” Stateline, 7 August 2009, available from: [22 August 2009].

Whytehouse designs

Gambling Addiction Hard to Tame

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Australia has a love affair with gambling. Almost 21% percent of the world’s pokies are in Australia.[1] For most people, gambling is a pleasurable activity. Sadly for some, it has become an addiction that they cannot tame.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has stated, “I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families.”[2]

Gambling devours their savings and hopes at an astonishing rate. About 80% of Australians gamble, but 40% of these play at least once a week. The majority of them gamble responsibly.

However it is estimated that about 2% of the population, about 330,000 Australians, have severe or moderate problem gambling habits and about 140,000 have severe problems. Of that number, for “about 70 per cent, their major activity is poker machines.”[3]

Australians spend more on gambling than they do on food. In the financial year 2006-2007, we spent almost $91.5 million on food. That’s about $4350 each for the year according to Bureau of Statistics figures.

However, in the previous year, 2005-06, gaming industry figures show that adults spent $148 million on gambling. That’s an average of $9491 each spent on gambling, which includes figures from tourists.[4] That is, we spend 61% more on gambling than we did on food.

How much of this gambling money goes to the venue? “The average actual gaming ‘profit’ (before tax) is about a tenth of turnover.”[5]

For those with a gambling addiction, families suffer the shame of losing their assets, being evicted from housing, and empty food cupboards. Marriages break up. Back in 1999, the Productivity Commission estimated that there are about 1600 gambling-related divorces and 1600 gambling-related separations in Australia annually. [6]

Work, health and emotional issues are sometimes impacted badly by gambling.

One estimate was that for each person who engages in excessive gambling, 5-10 other people around them are affected.[7]

Gambling is an addiction for some that is difficult to tame.

Please don’t under estimate the impact of gambling on suicide thinking and action – especially for the older generation. A recent USA study found that for adults over age 55 who had been gambling an average of 17 years before they sought self-exclusion (banning oneself) from gaming venues, they had a greater risk of suicide. The research indicated that nearly 14 percent of older adults surveyed sought help because they wanted to prevent themselves from committing suicide.[8]

One of the researchers, Lia Nower, said that “this is particularly troubling because, irrespective of age, problem gamblers have reported rates of suicidal ideation and/or attempts as high as six times those found in the general population.”[9]

What can you do to help yourself with taming a gambling addiction? What can you as a family member do to limit the damage done by gambling in your family?


[1] “Russell Crowe rallies against gambling,” China Daily, 2008-01-03, available from: [cited 15 November 2008]. This article is in Appendix A

[2] Ibid.

[3] Maxine McKew, 19 July 1999, 7.30 Report, ABC television Australia, “Productivity Commission exposes poker machine culture,” available from: [15 November 2008].

[4] Peter Jean , June 11, 2008, “Australians spend more on gambling than on food,” Herald Sun¸ available from:,21985,23844130-662,00.html [15 November 2008].

[5] Betty Conn Walker, 2003, “Vilified pokies not the root of all evil,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, available from: [15 November 2003].

[6] V. A. Dickson-Swift, E. L. James & S. Kippen 2005, Journal of Gambling Issues, Issue 13, March, “The experience of living with a problem gambler: Spouses & partners speak out,” available from: [15 November 2008].

[7] Senator Jeannie Ferris 2000, 3rd National Gambling Conference, Rex Hotel, Sydney, 12 May, available from: [15 November 2008].

[8] Lia Nowerand & Alex Blaszczynski,, 16 September 2008. “Older gamblers may face greater suicide risk than younger counterparts,” Psychology and Sociology, available from e Science News at: [15 November 2008].

[9] Ibid.

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