Tag Archive: postaday

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.

Changing lanes.


hi there

my name is brett “Fish” anderson and this is my blog…

the FISH stands for Faithful In Serving Him and it is all about the purpose of my life being about trying to love Jesus and love people more and well and better. and to hopefully help them do likewise.

this is apparently my 1095th blog post so i’ve been doing this for a while. i don’t tend to use a lot of CAPS which infuriates some people but i generally like to keep them for highlighting important things like God and people. the beginnings of sentences don’t often feel worthy enough for me to employ CAPS. apparently the word CAPS does, at least in this post.

i also apparently have 279 subscribers to my blog. but to be honest i don’t really know a whole lot of you. and that bothers me a little bit. i don’t follow a lot of other blogs usually because of time but three that i find myself at quite often and which i generally like are those belonging to Don Miller, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary [and bronze olympic hugger if she is to be believed] and Rachel Held Evans… i don’t always agree with everything all of them say [which is good, and hopefully you won’t either, when it comes to me too] but more often than not i find them encouraging or challenging me to be a better me and to love Jesus and people and embrace life more and those are all good things.

but they all have interactions in their comments section. and that’s one thing this blog lacks and i’m not quite sure how to get that right [maybe you need 10000 followers to get 10 comments so i may have a fair bit to go] except by having it implied that i am anti-animal [which i’m not particularly] cos back in the day that used to get people going off.

[1] the one thing i was thinking was that a lot of my posts tend to be sermons or lessons, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but i don’t know if that would make me inclined to comment and get involved…

[2] the second thing is that i was doing NABLOPOMO which is the challenge WordPress has to post a blog a day for a month, which i normally do anyways [or close to] but find that when i’m trying to do one for the sake of doing one then i tend to end up writing blog posts that feel like they’ve been written for the sake of it and that just absolutely SUCKS. so i’m going to stop that.

here is what i am going to try to do going forwards [and you can hold me to it, or maybe remind me from time to time]:

[A] i am going to try and only post what i want to post… and that will probably still be a whole bunch of different stuff, but i am going to try and be more intentional on this front

[A + 1] i am going to try and post some more life blogs, so not messages, just life as i experience it or things i am thinking or experiences i am experiencing

[A + 2] i am going to try and come up with a less ridiculous numbering system for bullet points than this one which felt clever in my head, but really isn’t.

all to say that i don’t know if you will notice a whole lot, but i am wanting in my brain at least to be intentional about changing lanes and maybe there will be more cause for interaction in the months and years to come.

in the meantime if you are a subscriber who actually reads my blog from time to time [and not one who has set their settings to automatic ‘like’ which does tend to make me feel good until i realise you’re liking every single post which no sane person possibly could and so go back to being sad or really really nervous about the kind of person that might be] then i would love it if you would jump in to the comments section below and at least say hi and if you’re up for it introduce yourself and say a few words and if there was any particular post you liked or any specific type of post that you enjoy more please let me know… and every now and then when you read a post and you have an extra minute, add a thought or a comment or start some controversy about me hating animals…

and then if all 279 of you went from there directly to this link and voted on my most incredible Coke Zero sweater which i createdthen there is little doubt in my mind i would make it into the top 100 and it would actually get made and that would be fun. at least for me. so please do that.

but anyways, thankx to all of you who do come in and read from time to time and i hope that some of the things i write or post or video make at least some small difference to your life… here’s to the next 1095 posts…



So part IV of the Brett Andy survey garnished the most votes so far and the clear winners were these two:



which was a little sad for me cos this one was one of my early favourites but didn’t quite grab the crowd support this time round – “I STARTED A BUSINESS DESIGNING AND MANUFACTURING SHOES FOR CIRCUS CLOWNS USING THE LEAD FROM DISCARDED PENCILS. BUT I HAD TO STOP ONCE I WAS MADE AWARE OF THE HUGE CARBON FOOTPRINT I WAS CREATING.” [BRETT ANDY]

which brings us to the last and final round [until such a day as i come up with some new ones] and so please once more indicate by number which your top 1 to 3 selections are from the following list:

[1] ‘As I slowly moved my piece across the board, I quietly but firmly declared, “I think that’s checkmate!” Since then my gran refuses to do jigsaw puzzles with me any more.’ [Brett Andy]

[2] ‘As the noose tightened, it felt like my breath was being forced out of my lungs, and my whole life flashed instantly before me. Wait, not ‘noose’ I mean ‘necktie.” [Brett Andy]

[3] ‘I reckon I can forgive that evil scientist who injected me with that advanced memory serum, but I will never forget.’ [Brett Andy]

[4] ‘Do you know what makes me laugh? A taxidermist filling out tax forms in a taxi. Get yourself an accountant, man.’ [Brett Andy]

[5] ‘I did a search for Spiderman on the web the other day.’ [Brett Andy]

[6] ‘Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then, walk half a mile in their shirt, followed by another full mile in their pants. Walk two more miles in their underwear and then criticise them all you want. Oh and also, they’re naked.’ [Brett Andy]

[7] ‘”Pay a R10 fine or take a chance,” my girlfriend read aloud off the Monopoly card. “Okay,” I said, “Those jeans make you look fat.”‘ [Brett Andy]

[8] ‘I wish I had the balls to do that, I thought, as I enviously watched the juggler.’ [Brett Andy]

[9] ‘I wondered, ‘Is it white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?’, which was all fairly strange as I was looking at a giraffe at the time.’ [Brett Andy]

So there you have it… final individual round – what are your top three? Will you go for jigsaws, juggling or jeans? Leave your selection in the comments section below. And thankx for taking time to vote…

[If you missed out on previous rounds and want to go and add your votes to the rest, click here]


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…

With regards to the fig tree, my friend Niven had this to say which makes a lot of sense:

Check out the significance of the fig tree by how it relates to the religious system the Pharisees were running. Much of what Jesus does is largely counter-intuitive so the real story is often just beneath the surface. The fig tree was representative of the system. The end of the old oppressive regime. Jesus goes to the temple just before Passover and turns one of the most important sacrificial feasts upside down. He is announcing a new way by rendering the old as obsolete. The fig tree was also used as a place of prayer for young Rabbis in training then off course there’s the fig leaves used in the garden of Eden we can throw back to employing the principle of first mention. Just some thoughts around it.

Let’s look at the second part of that story im Mark 11.20-26 and the whole idea of praying for mountains to move… and the urgency of forgiveness.

[For the next passage in this Mark series looking at Jesus dealing with questions intended to trap Him, click here]


i always get slightly nervous when i look at the back of a food product – like this Idahoan Mashed Potatoes packet i am looking at right now – and read citric ACID…

now i’m no scientist [clearly] but i have vague memories of school days where acids were demonstrated mostly burning through things, like metal for example [you remember metal? the substance my stomach is made of a weaker material than]

to really rub it in, they add in brackets, [to maintain freshness], which incidentally on this same packet it declares that sodium ACID pyrophosphate, sodium bisulfate and mixed tocopherals are already contained in this product for the purpose of maintaining freshness so how much does the citric acid actually add [and how freshness-losing is this packet of powder – that i need to just add water to – in the first place?]


this is something i actively try to regularly keep in mind. i just climbed into a giant metal hulk of a thing with hundreds of other people. it took on the force o gravity and won convincingly [except for a few little hiccups along the way when gravity thought it fun to remind us all via a little turbulence that she was still very much out there and ready for a round two any time]. it lifted off the ground [with me in it] and flew me half way around the world.

like really, take a moment EVERY TIME YOU FLY and just think about what is happening. you are being flown from one place to another in a thing made out of that really heavy substance that sometimes you can’t even lift when there is enough of it together. mind-blowing. every time.


And somehow people still claim to live without faith.

Let me tell you this: if you can eat, without thinking too much about it, a product containing the word ACID in its ingredients, then you have some kind of faith.

If you can get into an airplane with as little understanding as i have of how anything works together to make the plane fly, then you are exerting a tremendous amount of faith.

Every single time i fly, i am literally putting my life into the hands of a person i have never met, assuming that they know how to pilot a plane and that they passed the airplane-not-crashing test and that the airplane is airworthy and going to make this next trip.

When i hit the ‘on’ button on my laptop, things happen. I don’t understand personally how a series of 1’s and 0’s allows me to communicate with people halfway around the world or how my cellphone has the ability to bring your voice clearly into my ear. But I believe they do. Because in my experience they always have.


And then there is God. Do i understand Him? Absolutely not. [which i take great heart in, by the way. a God that i could wrap my brain around would be a tiny God indeed]

But i do have faith in Him. Because i understand enough about Him to believe that it will be safe [and certainly there will be turbulence along the way, my journey has taught me that much]. And i have witnessed the effects of God too many times for it to be merely contributed to “coincidence”. To me, anyways. I do have atheist friends who attribute my whole faith journey to the fact that i was born into a family who had Christian faith, despite mine looking a lot different from a lot of aspects of theirs [same faith though] as if i merely robot-accepted everything i was fed as a child and am clinging desperately to those things, because i am not as wise and brain-empowered as these specific atheist friends [i do have other atheist friends who celebrate my belief and are a lot less arrogant in theirs].

But the point is that we all have faith. In some thing. In many things. Every day we demonstrate it – the belief that this thing that i don’t fully understand or know how it works will work in the way that it always has or that i have been led to believe that it will.

We all have faith. The only question is what do you place your faith in?


I read this in my NIV Once-A-Day Walk with Jesus devotional i do on my tablet [i wish once a day]…

‘Listen to the world and you will hear the message: “Greatness consists of how many you lead.”

Listen to God’s voice and you will hear just the opposite: “Greatness consists of how many you serve.”

They can’t both be right. You can push to the head of the line and receive the world’s applause. Or you can give up your place in line and hear God’s “well done.”

The servant of God knows his place. 

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