Tag Archive: mark driscoll

Wow, we’re running out of Friday already and this feels like a much slower week than last week which was filled with amazing posts, shares and humouric things…

But there were still some things worth checking out on the internet if you happened to miss them:


The Guy Who Delivers HIV Medicine on His Bicycle – Get to know Sizwe Nsima’s name and read his simple and powerful story



I’m Not a Marxist because i Care For The Poor, I’m a Christian – inspiring Huff Post article looking at the pope’s relationship with money, world systems and the church



Giving that Costs: Sneak Mark Driscoll into a blog title and everybody wants to read the latest gossip, but write a piece that is s obviously going to be challenging just by the title name and suddenly nobody is home [pity, cos i thought it was a good piece]



What Mark Driscoll is up to these days – Which, to be honest, had no direct link to the real Mark Driscoll, but which was an absolutely legitimate piece of email that arrived in my spambox offering me ten million Great British Pounds signed by Pastor Mark Driscoll and was worth the amusement



And you did… We invited some close mates and family round to listen and pray with us as we sought a future place to stay and were overwhelmed by the response



Oh, one more thing: “But THEY act like assholes.”— Me

“And?”— Jesus


“I’ll be over here writing in the dirt.” — Jesus



Muhammad Owl-e



Sometimes when i go to a restaurant, Indian Wolverine just happens to be there as well. #WolverIndian @brettfisha

What about you? What blog posts or articles caught your eye this week? What has been making you think or laugh or be challenged or go, ‘Wo!’? What have you written on your blog that is worth taking a look at?

Leave us a link in the comments for our weekend reading…


So it's been a little while since the Mark Driscoll thing happened... you know the one i mean, or you probably wouldn't be in here reading this...

But what has been up to? i have not really been thinking too much about him. I mean i hope him and his family are well and that he is getting the help he needs and all of that.

So not on my radar at all. That is, until this mail arrived:

Dearest Beloved in Christ,
Calvary Greeting in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace and love be with you; in the marvelous name of our lord Jesus. Hope my humble letter reaches you; may it fine you the best of good health and our Lord blessing

I am Pastor Mark Driscoll and i got your contact on my personal search when am searching for an honest person ,this mail request may seen strange but i crave you indulgence and pray you view it seriously as i am convinced that you would be capable to provide me solution to it i want to willed my money to you which the sum of [ Ten million Great British Pounds to you ,which is the only money left in my account right now.

This is all i have left in my account and have decided to willed it to you.I quite appreciate the fact that this few words of mine are going to meet you as a surprise because this is my first time writing to you. We are excited and energized in pursuit of the mission God has given us, to reach and save souls for Christ and positively impact lives and families in our immediate community and around the world.

At Greater Achievers Family we recognize that God’s Word provides answers to the issues and challenges facing families, married couples, singles, youth and young adults. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, we provide relevant teaching and preaching so that people will live a life of meaning, fulfillment and destiny. Through our 5 different ministries, there is a variety of opportunities for persons to make an impact on the lives of others.
Please reply me back to this email back Thanks you for your understanding.(markdriscoll1960@outlook.com)

Best regards
Pastor Mark Driscoll

Not. Even. Joking.

Best scam email ever. I mean unless of course it's not...

The clues were many:

[1] it arrived in my junk mail box

[2] he offered to pay me the ten million in Great British Pounds [everyone knows real men use dollars]

[3] the 'Dearest Beloved in Christ' [Mark hardly ever refers to me like that any more]

[4] Please reply me back to this email back. [Pure comedy gold right there]

So that was my chuckle for the day. Anyways, i got to get going. Just heard that John Piper is about to wire me $1,000,000,000,000. 
[Really classy of him to send it via Nigeria]

What is the weirdest/best/most creative junk mail you ever received?

This was my funnest reply i ever didn't send...



There have been two stories dominating my Facebook feed the last day or so [i’m not even going to touch on the Renee Zellwegger face thing – we created that circus!] and they are both ones i have tried to keep largely clear of. Until now.


The Oscar Pistorius sentencing saga [because if the Twitterer is to be believed, it WAS that] which has been lurking on news headlines stuck to lampposts, Tweet Hashtags and Facebook status updates, meant that the whole trial soap opera [because it really became that, i imagine that so many of the people glued to their screens might have forgotten at some stage that they were watching a murder trial] from a year or so ago, was brought back ‘for a new season’ complete with media attention and cliff hanger.

Soon there was  commentary happening all over the place on how just or unjust the sentencing was and comparing this case to other ‘less serious’ cases with bigger sentences and focusing on how soon he will be able to get off and so on.

In the midst of it all, there was a much forgotten woman, and murder [or culpable homicide] victim, named Reeva Steenkamp. Who, in many stories had simply become ‘the girlfriend’.

This article by Kat Lister on the Huffington Post provided helpful commentary in terms of reminding us that as much as the media [and many of us] made the whole thing about Oscar, the famous guy, the celeb, the international athlete, at the heart of the story was a woman who was killed – people lost a daughter and a sister and a friend. How this has “ruined Oscar’s career” should not even be up for discussion.

Within minutes of the sentencing there were jokes happening all over the internet, with the delightful Twitterer tag #ThingsLongerThanOscarsSentence leading the way, because ‘humour helps us deal with tragedy’ or some other crap like that.

The reason i avoided [as much as was possible] the trial from the beginning was because of the vile fact that because Oscar Pistorius was a celebrity meant that his case was going to be treated differently. Because, having lived through O.J.Simpson and other celeb murder trials, it was obvious that it was going to become entertainment from early on. Entertainment. A murder trial. Can we just take that in for a second?


Meanwhile, across in Americaland, Mark Driscoll had finally been relieved of his position heading up one of the larger church congregations over there. Another celebrity, some less serious but still completely significant crimes and misdemeanors. There had been a number of incidents over the past couple of years and more so in recent months and eventually someone saw fit to pull the plug on is ministry.

Then today a mate posted this video where Mark was attending a conference and was called on to stage by Robert Morris, who is one of the pastors helping him through this difficult time, with this quote from Morris who says, “We’ve always got two reactions to someone in the spotlight falling…. crucify them, or forgive them, like we’ve been forgiven.”

Having followed a little bit of the Mark Driscoll story, mostly through different articles people post or tag me in, that statement really concerned me to some extent. I finally got to watch the video clip this evening and they basically call him on stage, to a standing ovation, and give him the mic, so he can talk about how badly his family has it at the moment [which is a really tragic thing on the one hand, but after announcing that Mark was humbly attending the conference just like a normal person, they then allowed the spotlight to once again be put firmly on him].

My friend Micah J. Murray summed up my thoughts really excellently in his statement that reads, “When Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he was talking about protecting vulnerable people from abusive religious leaders. He was NOT talking about protecting abusive religious leaders from accountability.'”

Yes, there absolutely must be grace and forgiveness for anyone who messes up [and especially one of our own, regardless of how ‘our own’ some of us might want to see him] but that does not mean giving someone licence to unrepentantly do the same things again.


Because really, the only person i have any control over in this situation is myself.

With scenarios like the Oscar Pistorius trial, do i allow myself to be caught up in it until it becomes an entertainment thing and is that okay? i don’t think so.

Am i sharing, liking or retweeting the jokes that are being made at his [or maybe more accurately nameless Reeva’s expense]?

Do i get caught up in the mistaken belief that this case should be any more important than any of the other hundreds [thousands?] of murder cases that are being brought to court in South Africa [some that were presumably delayed so that Oscar’s could assume center stage]?

With a situation like Mark Driscoll, am i baying for his blood [not okay] or am i screaming that he should be forgiven and shown grace to the exclusion of any form of accountability, repentance, consequence to his actions [also probably not okay]?

Am i getting caught up in judging Mark Driscoll for his actions as if he was any worse than me? Or perhaps judging those who are judging Mark Driscoll and refusing to just let him be?

Both Oscar and Mark will stand before God one day and account for their actions. And i will do the same.

[For Micah J Murray’s post, ‘When we throw stones’ which i believe is very helpful and clear, click here]

[For a post i wrote a while back after a Joel Osteen hoax on Throwing Stones, with some helpful question checks, click here]

2014 brett pool duncs

so today we fly back to americaland and i leave a changed man.

but maybe not in the way you would expect… i don’t feel like i have grown so much as i have regressed, but in a good way though. as in ‘returned to former state’ – or returning at least.

in some Christian senses i guess we have been living the dream – 19 months at the Simple Way [you know, the mecca of christian intentional community… will write something about that sometime], attending Wild Goose Festivals, CCDA conferences and involved in two non-profits… you know, changing the world. or something.

i was having lunch with my new mate Bill yesterday and i heard him say the words… he was talking about living an actively following Jesus life and really taking this stuff seriously and he threw in the line, “But of course you know all this, you’re living it”, which is great to hear of course, but my heart thudded a little bit when i heard it, because i feel i still have so far to go.

AMERICALAND: land of the free… king confused.

oh Africa, who looks jealously across the ocean at Americaland

land of hope, land of plenty

land of money and opportunity and adventure 

land of blockbuster movies and high speed internet and space tourism programs

and really bad mayonnaise. no seriously, i’m talking that stuff needs a new name cos that is NOT mayonnaise.

what the raiSIN-infested-custard were you thinking?

and i will be speaking in generalisations here so please don’t see it through a one-size-fits-all lens, and remember that Americaland is a huge country and our experience of it is largely Philadelphia and Oakland, and the church tribes we have encountered there and online…

but we have noticed that as advanced as Americaland is in many areas [and it is, or maybe developed is a better word because being more developed does not mean more advanced – i remember a glorious time when telephones were not able to be carried around with us and people at restaurants actually looked at and spoke to each other] there are some where it seems completely backward or in need of catchup. mayonnaise is one such area [throw all of yours out and start again] and another is banking systems [so much of backward in many areas of that] and public toilet doors [mind the gap!] and so on.

and your church. while there are incredible church congregations doing incredible things and while we have met some truly amazing and brilliant people and also been super privileged to find a congregation we enjoy being a part of in Re:Generation, your church as a whole [or in large pockets within the whole] feels very confused and in need of a bit of a shake up [and not because it’s not new or post-post-modern or ‘with it’ enough].

the church of Americaland has for a long time seen itself as the Saviour of the rest of the world in many ways – must. save. Africa. [wait, where is Africa? oh, there it is… must.save.Africa] but you seem to largely [remember the generalisations, if this is not you, let it go and move on] be taking your lead from the world and not from Scripture or the Holy Spirit [or the glorious combination of them both].

tolerance has become the big deal where the definition of tolerance has become ‘whatever you want to do or be is fine, anyone who tells you you cannot do or be what you are doing or being is intolerant and judgemental and Jesus who loved and embraced and welcomed all people is sad with those people for not just accepting everyone, however they choose to be. ‘

the church was always meant to be modeling the love of Jesus and the worship of God the Father and the power, love and discipline of the Holy Spirit to the world in a ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me’ kind of way which feels like it has been largely been replaced by a ‘this feels good’ or ‘this will keep people happy’ mentality which is just not evidenced all that much in the Bible.

there is also a strong sense of 1 Corinthians 1 dejavu going on…

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Except that we have replaced Paul and Apollos and Cephas with John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans and Shane Claiborne… being influenced by people is great [follow my example as i follow the example of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11] but when you start following people, that is when it gets dangerous and the cross of Christ starts to be emptied of its power.

church of Americaland – the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing… once our message starts to make sense and be completely acceptable to all those around us, we need to be checking if it is still the same message of God.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

and so, church of Americaland, there is so much good in you and so many passionate and committed people doing some incredible and amazingly creative things, but as a whole, you do seem quite confused and really in need of plugging back into your source and being led by Him. also it wouldn’t hurt for you to take some time in Africa [and beyond] just simply looking and listening and learning… you might be surprised at the work God has been doing there and what they might have to offer you.


so for me, this trip has been so good, and two things stand out:

[1] connecting with people who are passionate about following Jesus – i have been leaning towards staying in Americaland for longer because i love the Re:Gen community we are part of and the opportunities to preach and work with young and older people there. God is doing some good stuff there and it has been great to be a part of it and i definitely feel like i have a lot to offer and hopefully learn from them… but it was one night in Hillbrow [my first, back in South Africa] that changed everything for me and reminded me how African my blood is. and i’m not so sure it was Hillbrow. it was spending time with Nigel Branken and his family, who in the messiest of ways, are trying to re-imagine their faith in Jesus and live where they feel He has called them, as well as meeting some other great people in that community that night. it was reconnecting with my buddy Rob and his wife Nicky who are in the midst of planting a church with some friends. it was breakfast with Bruce and Bex and hearing how they are wanting to have an impact in the community where they are. it was listening to my old youth mate Fezile and how he is wanting to create a program to clean up the township where he lives. and it was lunch with Bill, listening to how he is wrestling with really wanting to follow Jesus completely and how that feels like it looks so different from the regular Sunday church meeting he has been attending and how that affects finances and hospitality and work ethics and beyond. and it was sitting with a bunch of people over a meal discussing how we could give away the pot of money we had all contributed to, to meet the needs of other people we know. and more. conversations, people, ideas, passion for kingdom things and transformation of the world as we know it – seeing the kingdom come on earth and not waiting for the big escape from this messed up world

[2] getting hijacked with worship music – we had an amazing gift from an old youth friend Kerstin and her husband Carl in being gifted the use of their car which has been an incredible present to tbV and me while we have been here. but it took us a while to realise there was more than one cd in the car and until we did, there was this worship compilation that i would just play over and over and two songs in particular stood out for me, the one being by a guy called Ben Howard titled ‘I will be blessed’ [anyone who knows me well knows that that is a unlikely title for a song that would be liked by me] – just a completely haunting song that just overwhelmed me in some ways and the lyrics don’t do it justice at all without hearing it so head off to Uncl Google, but here is the chorus:

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

but just the gift of worship and having it around me every time i have been in the car has been so great for me and an even bigger gift than the car itself. it feels like my very soul [the whoness of who i am] has been bathed in this river of just holiness and love and grace and brought me so much closer to God and helped me focus on Him. a reminder of Who and what this is all about.

i have a plane to go and get ready for although i feel like there is a whole lot more to say, but the focus of this post is that for me this trip has helped me to become a little more unsettled than i’ve been – hence the regression [which is usually seen as a negative thing but can also be describing something that returns to a former state] – one of the biggest dangers of life as a follower of Jesus is that we settle – with the way things are, with the routine of life, with the squeezing down of our passion and belief that God and His church can actually make a difference in the world and actually just kind of semi-give up and start to resemble everyone else, in a kind of boring and bland and grey kind of way…

that is NOT what we have been called to – we have been called to live and thrive and be agents of transformation in a world that is desperately in need of God… i am so glad this trip has rekindled some of the fire in me and so expectant [and nervous] about what lies ahead… we have been in Americaland for a reason – it has been both great and hard and amazing and difficult and frustrating and exhilarating and angrifying and more… but it has been good…

and i’m not sure what is next or how it looks or anything like that [we are committed to church and non-profit work til August] but i want to continue to fan into flame the things that God is starting to work in my life.

if you’re a praying person, i can definitely use a lot of that. we both can.

my nickname is FISH which stands for Faithful In Serving Him – i am definitely not worthy at all of carrying that as a description of who i am, but as a path i try to follow and live out and aim towards, that is something i hold strongly to.

i love Jesus. i love His church. and i believe that when the church starts being the church, every one of us, then the world will be completely turned upside down.

which, ironically, is right side up.


so plagiarism has been on the menu of late, in christian circles anyways…

first up it was Mark Driscoll and various questions relating to work he copied or used from other sources… starting with a radio interview and then exploding into all sorts of articles and even some friendly tweets from ‘I kissed Rob Bell farewell’ tweetster, John Piper.

then David Rudd wrote this piece ‘In Defence of Plagiarism’ which referenced a recent occurrence of Rachel Held Evans work being plagiarised [the person later apologised] and Rachel jumped into the comments section of that to make it quite clear that she was not okay with people ‘stealing her work.’

various other celebrities and non celebrities jumped into the fray in different ways and forms and probably the best comment i have read in the whole conversation slash waging war was the one that said ‘the problem here is not plagiarism, it’s idolatry’ which resonates so closely with me – to me ‘christian celebrity’ is an oxymoron, or should be – any time we put anyone else on a pedestal that is not Jesus, we are bound for trouble soon. so maybe the problem here is not plagiarism, it’s celebrity? [runs and hides]

at the risk of being accused of plagiarising David Rudd, i should say that this will likely sound a lot like his, simply because i think to some extent i think the same thing, but i would love to air my two cents largely because i am just so bored and frustrated and ridiculoused out by all this online conversation and hopefully you have been able to miss the whole thing and so excuse my little rant.

i know this is not a popular opinion rant. especially among those who benefit off being the people able to call “Plagiarism.”

[and let me disclaim with the fact that i do feel that using someone else’s words and pretending they are your own is bad and silly and wrong and illegal for sure]

HOWEVER, my stance on this whole thing as far as i am concerned, is and always has been – if you want to use any of my stuff, go for it.

If it is Godly and worth using then i want as many people as possible to be reading what i write.

If it is all me and not worthwhile then i want as few people as possible to be reading it.

Problem solved.

And i have heard all the arguments and questions of ‘Oh yes, would you like someone to come and steal your car?’ and posturing and logic and so on, or it feels like i’ve heard them all – feel free to prove me wrong – but for me i have to ask what the heart of the writing is about?

If it is for the kingdom, then let go of the pride and the glory and the fame and the need for your name to be on the bottom of it and just celebrate that the kingdom is being preached.

And if it’s about making you look good, then at least be honest about it. Own the pride. Own the good feelings and identity and worthfulness you get from saving the world or transforming lives or whatever it is you are building up or breaking down. But just be honest.

My favourite book is a book called ‘No Compromise’ – the life story of a guy called Keith Green who i completely believe would be with me on this stuff – he used to infuriate ‘good, christian, musicians’ and worship leaders by giving his music away because, i don’t know, he believed [like i strongly, strongly do] that worship should be free. silly man.

i have written a book, which i do hope to somehow get published someday [called ‘I kissed hating [the church] goodbye’] and in the intro i pretty much disclaimed the likelihood of unintentional plagiarism in its covers simply because when i hear a good idea i often grab it and use it in a preach… and then after a while i have used it to often it suddenly starts to feel like it’s mine and i have no idea where it came from. can you imagine Jesus overhearing Paul referencing one of His parables and whispering down from heaven, ‘Hey Paul, don’t forget to mention you got that from Me?’ Nah, didn’t think so.

i love the notion of what Derek Webb has been able to do with Noisetrade in terms of music, where bands offer their music for free or a donation or even just a shout out – and so everyone has easy access to some great and often new music and there is the opportunity to pay-what-you-can or even to enjoy it for free but be telling others about it.

so, in summary:

taking someone’s stuff and pretending it is your own is bad [because i am such a not big fan of lying and that’s what that is, really]

writing stuff or creating art or music or poetry – be open-handed with it and let it get out there – why should just the rich and money-laden and privileged be able to get hold of your stuff

stop putting people on pedestals and christians, stop following the example and pattern of the world – we were called away from that. we can do so much better.

best worship song of the year? don’t get me started…

Brett: Firstly, let me set the scene a little bit. Nathaniel and i do not know each other – we recently connected on Twitter via some conversations that have been happening and when we started a little back and forth on this article titled ‘Intolerant Tolerance’  by Mark Driscoll I suggested to him that this might be an interesting conversation to blog.

So via email we are looking to have some back and forth on it and this will be whatever comes out of it.

While I agreed with the majority of what was being expressed in the article, Nathaniel had some reservations, so maybe that is a good place to start. Nathaniel, thanks for agreeing to have this conversation with me and hope it will be helpful for those who read what we write. What was it about the article that caused a reaction in you?

Nathaniel: I reacted to the title of this article before I read it, because I have heard the “your tolerance isn’t tolerance at all because you aren’t tolerating my intolerance” nonsense many times. People view the word “tolerance” in many different ways, but in my experience the most common interpretation and the one used by many Christian writers and speakers have some key differences. My dictionary (Google) defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

 Mark seems to believe that the “new tolerance” is accepting all other beliefs as equally valid- he explicitly ties it to a lack of moral absolutes. Where is he getting this from? Of course there will be people who define it that way, but is that really the prevailing “new” way to look at it?

Brett: Well firstly, Nathaniel, you are using a definition of a word that contains the word itself, so looking up ‘Tolerate’ on your same dictionary I got this: ‘allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.’ Which in essence is what you are saying, but helps to remove the word from its definition. 

I would tend to agree with Mark that generally [and it is a generalisation, but one that is true for the majority i would suggest] does seem to be the way things are going/have gone. The call is to show tolerance to all forms of behaviour/lifestyle that have previously not been tolerated [within a religious framework] but also with an increasing mindset that “anything goes” [hence the lack of moral absolutes]. Part of that comes from the post-Christian context we now find ourselves in [where before morality was largely defined by the bible but now society as a whole does not deem that to be a suitable point of definition] but if we do not have a set standard from where morality is defined then are we not saying that each person defines morality for themselves?

Nathaniel: I am not sure the “anything goes” attitude is as pervasive as Mark and others might insist. I would also draw a distinction between each person independently creating a set of moral values, versus interpreting a given set of moral values. For instance, a random sample of Christians may agree on the Bible as a moral guide, but vary widely in their interpretations of how its instructions should be applied. Is that moral relativism? For better or for worse, each person has a different set of experiences, motives, and attitudes that will affect the way they act out a common code.

To illustrate this, take a common evangelical perspective regarding our nation’s history – the idea that the Bible and Christian principles were essential to its founding, and that we have gradually fallen away from that standard. It’s pretty clear that realities like chattel slavery and the genocide of indigenous populations don’t mesh well with this narrative. It’s easy to look back now and show how these atrocities conflicted with the morals outlined in Scripture, but what they really show is how each person (and each generation) has a certain degree of choice in how consistently and accurately they apply the teachings of Scripture

 Maybe what Mark would refer to as moral relativism in the church is just the humility to realize that our experiences as individuals are not universal, that we “see in a mirror dimly,” and that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.

 Brett: Nathaniel, while I would personally disagree with you on your ‘anything goes’ stance, I think I can say I agree with pretty much the rest of what you have written here. Healthy interpretation of Scripture [and how some have read it absolutely to say ‘it is our duty to kill people’ and others read it absolutely to say ‘we don’t have the right to kill people’ in the whole capital punishment question… so even the ‘absolute’ of the Bible ends up being very non-absolute once interpretation is applied and we have seen through apartheid and the crusades to name just two, how horribly that can end up looking] and the importance of being led by the Spirit to have any idea of how God is really leading us is of paramount importance. Which is where it gets infinitely tricky as both sides of an argument always claim loudly that they are led by the Spirit [except maybe the cessationists? Hm, where do they stand on this one?

While there is merit in the idea of humility and possibility of error expressed in your description of the ‘mirror dimly’ idea, surely there still need to be boundaries. People having sex with animals? Is that still a safe one to assume that most people will see as completely across the line. And yet already there are government debates and in some countries it is legalised. Surely we will corporately agree that that is a good example of something to be intolerant towards? That is one thing which I enjoyed from the article and which the pastor of my church preached on recently – the fact that we all embrace intolerance in certain ways [intolerance towards litter, intolerance towards drunk driving etc] and so as opposed to blanket tolerance, perhaps what we are needing is a combination of tolerance where it is needed as well as a healthy intolerance. What are your thoughts about that idea?

Nathaniel: Who are the masses of people applying the idea of tolerance to drunk driving or littering? Does the fact that we are a country with laws mean that we have collectively rejected this mythical form of tolerance? 

Of course not, because tolerance as a community value boils down to mutual respect and understanding. Look back at that transcript from their discussion. Does Piers even hint at this “new tolerance” against which the whole rest of Mark’s attack is focused? I don’t see anything from that excerpt that would imply a “postmodern” definition of tolerance. 

 So why does Mark use that as a starting point for this discussion, and why are we having this discussion at all? My assessment would be that conflating moral relativism and tolerance creates an bogeyman against which fundamentalists and dogmatists can defend their positions. Mark took the appearance of a buzzword in one conversation as an excuse to attack arguments that (just about) no one is making.

Brett: Nathaniel, I’m not sure you are seeing my point on the intolerance thing – the suggestion that I am making is that a certain level of intolerance is necessary for society to function well [I am not suggesting people ARE tolerant towards those things but speaking to the postmodern definition of tolerance which I would certainly hold to being more closely what Mark is suggesting than what you are saying “just about no one is making”] I don’t know that Mark took the definition of “the new tolerance” from anything Piers suggested but is using it as an assumed place of where the world seems to be at the moment, so maybe that is a good place to backtrack a little to getting a better understanding of how we both see that.

 It might be helpful to go back to the article and look at the two definitions given for tolerance and give us an idea of which one  feels more descriptive of how things are today [in general, in the world] or would you hold that neither of these are accurate?

The old view of tolerance assumed that (1) there is objective truth that can be known; (2) various people, groups, and perspectives each think they know what that objective truth is; and (3) as people/groups disagree, dialogue, and debate their conflicting views of the truth, everyone involved will have an opportunity to learn, grow, change, and possibly arrive together at the truth. 

The new tolerance is different from the old tolerance. The new view of tolerance assumes that (1) there is no objective truth that can be known; (2) various people, groups, and perspectives do not have the truth but only what they believe to be the truth; and (3) various people, groups, and perspectives should not argue and debate their disagreements because there is no truth to be discovered and to assume otherwise only leads to needless conflicts and prejudices.

Piers was pressing Mark to answer the question ‘Are you tolerant?’ and Mark was responding with a message of ‘Loving your neighbor.’ So a helpful question to look at is, do you think it is possible to love your neighbor without being tolerant of some of their beliefs or ways of living?

Nathaniel: I think tolerance is a posture of the heart and mind towards people, regardless of their beliefs or actions. Put another way, you don’t have to tolerate every action or belief, but you should treat each everyone with tolerance. Whether you believe in objective truth or moral absolutes, you can still treat your brothers and sisters with respect. Is that too simple? I think this definition of tolerance has remained the same regardless of the cultural trends that he sees. 

Brett: Okay I think we might be nearing more common ground here in terms of understanding. The idea of respect and treating a person who believes something completely different to you with love. But I think within that idea [which I imagine we would both hold to] is the more recent idea that suggests that I cannot love you and treat you with respect while also holding on to the idea that I think you are wrong in some behavior you have or action that you are doing? Because then that is not seen as tolerance and even the love and respect will in many cases be questioned [because you believe me to be wrong] Does that make sense?

Nathaniel: How pervasive is that “newer idea” (that I cannot love you and treat you with respect while also holding on to the idea that I think you are wrong). It is probably hard to quantify, since few people would self describe as exhibiting this form. 

This seems to be the key point to me : when a Christian is being accused of intolerance, as I am sure Mark often is, does it provoke us to go on the attack to insulate ourselves from criticism? Do we reflexively rail against “the wordly definition of tolerance” as we imagine it? Or are we open to criticism and to instruction? Are we willing to examine whether under the auspices of loving the sinner and hating the sin we have allowed ourselves to stand in judgment? 
I have the tendency to deflect criticism related to my spiritual journey – if someone has an issue with how I apply my faith,  it’s easy for me to believe that their issue is about the essential nature of my faith, when really it is about my imperfect practice. Often the issue is not my belief, it’s that I am being self righteous or stubborn. 
So my final point would be that I think this talk of “new tolerance” is unproductive without practical examples that also show how it affects the church. I would much prefer some self-reflection on whether we are truly practicing “Christian tolerance,” and loving people without standing in judgment.
Brett: I think you make some good points there, Nathaniel, although i do still think Mark [who i don’t agree with on a lot of stuff] is speaking about something that has become and is becoming more pervasive. Maybe you have not experienced or seen it as much, but i encourage you to keep your eyes open cos i strongly feel that is where we’re heading. You mentioned the old ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ statement which i agree with and have used often enough, but i have recently heard in multiple contexts that a variety of people feel like that is not a possible statement [Tony Campolo posted a video on it on Red Letter Christians which i didn’t get a chance to watch yet as one example but i have heard people speak of it too]. Jesus and the woman caught in sin is a prime example of the combination of ‘I don’t condemn you’ with ‘Go and sin no more.’
We didn’t touch on homosexuality, because I didn’t really want to go down that path in terms of trying to stay focused on what we’ve been talking about. But that is one example where homosexuality used to be viewed as a sin and now more and more prevalently it is being viewed as acceptable in both society and the church. But what i think Mark is alluding to in that area is now it has swung full circle where now the people who call homosexuality a sin are viewed as being sinful in their call.
But let’s end off with that great point you made in terms of responding to criticism and none of us can obviously speak for Mark in that area, but that is one plus we can take from this discussion. How do i respond to how people criticise me? Do I start by assessing whether the criticism is valid or not and maybe ask those around me who know me and who i trust to help me discern whether it is something i need to learn from and accept? Or is my first reaction to brush it off or deflect it or even get defensive in my approach and potentially miss what might have been helpful for me to hear?
Thankx for the conversation. I don’t know that it was all helpful [as you also indicated offline] but hopefully there is something in here worth gleaning and at least the invitation for us to be thinking about what both ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance’ mean and what are the things in life that we should be healthily intolerant towards? And also the joy of being able to have a conversation with someone and not feeling like we have to agree on every single thing.

driscollthe other day i was locked in a room and forced to watch a 45 minute preach by Mark Driscoll [well, not quite locked and forced but strongly encouraged to by the presence of it being shown at a staff meeting i was required to attend] and since i have not been exposed to too much of his preaching [beyond the oh-so-much-smoke which i have heard enough times to realise there are some things about the way he does ministry that i am definitely not on the same page as] i decided to give him a chance and see what he had to say…

and by ‘say’ i clearly mean ‘shout’ cos the man shouts…

which in and of itself is not a sin, and so i tuned in to the shouting…

it was his opening speech for the recent Convergence conference and it was the way he explained different parts of the body of Christ, the church, that i really felt super helpful:

he used the analogy of place and border… the idea that Nation is a description of the boundaries of our faith where crossing them means you are no longer talking about following Jesus, but something else…

if you take that as a starting place then for me as someone who lives in Oakland at the moment, when i go and visit the next town or suburb, so Alameda or Berkeley, nothing changes too much – for the most part the context stays the same and so we will by and large do things the same – in fact people can move from Alameda to Berkeley without noticing too much difference.

then if you take it to the next level, when you cross a state boundary, things start to look different in some ways, but for the most part things look and feel and operate the same way. but there will be bigger changes – ways of doing things, focus of state, it might even have some laws that are different and so certain behaviours and attitudes will look different…

but when you cross a nation border then things look radically different – you might drive on a different side of the road, you will have a different currency, in most cases a different language – we just are not talking about the same thing any more – we will still be civil and loving to those people, but we will recognise that they are from a different country.

he definitely said it better than i’m explaining it here, but hopefully the idea comes through – he refers to different church group or demonisations, um denominations, as tribes and as long as we are in the same nation, then we are about the same thing – as we are in different states there may be some huge differences between how we look and how we do and say things and some of those we will not agree on, but as long as we agree on the basic necessities, we are still in the same family.

and as we come a little closer to within-state boundaries, the differences become even less and we might find ourselves collaborating a little more because our styles and ways of doing things look a lot more similar.

i guess what becomes important is defining the nation’s borders and being able to recognise what following Jesus means [some things like denying ones self, looking after the least of these around us, forgiveness of everyone who has hurt or offended us but also truths like Jesus being the only way to God etc] and to put less emphasis on all the things within the country border that seek to cause conflict between those of us who follow Jesus differently within there…

anyways, try find the talk, cos he did a better job, but like the picture of that and his focus on church unity… in this instance, i think the man speaks the truth…

%d bloggers like this: