I have been to a lot of conferences in my 45 years, (many of them well worth every cent), but if you asked me which one I’d like to go to next I’d have to say ‘there isn’t one’.

I reckon you could bring the greatest line up of gurus from all over the world to Perth to talk about some of my favourite interests and I probably wouldn’t be bothered attending. I don’t think its that I have lost interest in the issues, but after a while it just seems there isn’t a lot of new stuff to consider.

Of course I understand the social value of conferences and that is well and good, but I can have lunch with a few mates any time I like and get the same result. If I am going to shell out some $$ and spend a few days of my life in a meeting room then I want it to be an exceptional time and one where I am challenged intellectually and inspired to action.

I know there are plenty of great communicators out there and I don’t for a moment think I have finished learning. I am just not convinced that I am going to be heading off to many conferences in the future.

I wonder if anyone else feels similarly?…

Is it an age you get to, or have we just been stung with a glut of conferences in the last 20 years. (And yes I realise I write this as one who spent the last 6 years of life organising learning events for people!)

The line between conviction and arrogance

I sense there is a fine line between theological conviction and theological arrogance, but its an important line.

I am impressed by conviction and drawn to it, but repelled by arrogance.

I am currently pondering the differences (spurred on by an incident this week) because I think we so easily mistake the two.

I am feeling that the primary difference lies in that conviction can be communicated with both passion and humility – and at the end of the day you don’t feel bullied by the person’s point of view, but arrogance almost always leaves you feeling like someone has assaulted you.

I know I have been guilty of arrogance in my desire to live with conviction, however I hope that with maturity there is a greater gap between the two in my own life.

download down periscope online

meet bill movie download

Boys & Biffo

Today Sam came home from school and was very upset.

Sam is 6 and one of the kindest, gentlest little kids you will ever meet. That’s not parental bias because I wouldn’t use similar words of Ellie!

He told us that another 6 year old boy at school had been hitting him in the ‘willy’ and wouldn’t stop. He had clearly hurt him and Sam was feeling scared and distressed as well as a bit ashamed. Sam didn’t run away because he was scared the boy would follow him and he didn’t tell a teacher because ‘you’re not allowed to dob’. He just copped a flogging.

For some reason he hasn’t learnt what is and isn’t appropriate to tell teachers about.

Its the first time something like this has happened so as a parent I have been feeling all sorts of reactions this evening. This post is me thinking out loud about how to help Sam respond to this.

He has a day off tomorrow as we never send him on Fridays (gets him in practice for high school) and I am taking him to McDonalds for brekky. I am not about to dwell on the issue because this stuff happens among boys, but by the same token I have been pondering how to help him in responding to dickheads like he encountered today. No doubt life will bring its fair share of challenges like this one.

There is a part of me that feels I should tell him to simply run away and tell a teacher and another part of me that wants to say ‘if you hit him really hard a couple of times then he will probably back off’.


(Sam hitting the health foods)

While I admire those who can choose not to retaliate I have a feeling that they do it from a sense of strength and inner worth that allows them to take a few hits and not feel like they are losers. This is the first time it has happened, so we are not in dangerous territory yet, but if this was to happen regularly and Sam felt powerless in himself to respond I wonder if it wouldn’t do more harm than good in the long run?

Maybe teaching Sam how to land a couple of hard blows would be the way to go?…

Teaching him to discriminate as to when to use them is another issue.

To be honest I doubt Sam could ever hit anybody, but you get the idea of what I am pondering. If Sam knows he is able to defend himself then maybe he is less likely to grow into a victim who simply takes a pounding any time someone feels the urge.

Maybe he can then choose to not to retaliate from a place of inner strength rather than because he is too scared and has no option.

I have a sense that there is something in a bloke that withers and dies if he regularly cops a flogging from other blokes and never stands up for himself. Its just a gut feeling but I see something of masculinity tied up in this.

Yet I am not comfortable with teaching my son how to hit someone either. Its the beginning of the end if we go that route.

Is there a third way?

Because it becomes a very sad old world if ‘survival of the fittest’ rules the pre-school playground and we’re giving boxing lessons to 5 year olds…

The Primary Unit of the Christian Faith

If we genuinely believe that the church is actually the primary unit of the ‘Christian life’, (rather than the individual) then this has massive implications for how we live our lives and how we follow Jesus.

The ‘I’ always becomes secondary to the ‘we’.

In our individualised western world this is abhorrent. And to be sure, this opens the door to terrible abuses of power, but then it also opens the door to rich and inspiring experiences of community that we have probably never imagined possible.

I am convinced of the truth of this concept, but I am not at all convinced of how I ought to live it, or live it with others.

The implications are significant – huge even. I discuss possible new jobs with my church considering the impact my job would have on us. I discuss my pay rise with my community because that has an impact on us. I share my sin and my struggles with my community because that impacts us.

I think it all sounds very foreign – and it is, but I wonder if it isn’t closer to the plan that the way we currently live?…

What would it require of us to live like this in Australia today?…

Would we even dare to consider it?

As we read the Bible the primary unit of the Christian faith is clearly ‘us’, but I think we have lost that so badly we cannot even conceive of how it may look again.divx big fish

God of the Miraculous (Occasionally)

I’m vegging out waiting for the festival to start. Vawz – who came in on the midnight flight – is asleep in our room while I tap away up here.

Andrew lent me a copy of a very interesting and provocative DVD entitled ‘Finger of God‘ that looks at the miraculous intervention of God in our world – everything from gold teeth and gold dust to healings and dead people coming alive. Pretty wacky stuff… but what if?… What if God really does do things that are so far outside my paradigm that I can’t even comprehend them?

My skepto-meter does go off like a banshee when I hear of gold teeth and similar ‘what the?!’ kind of experiences, but I admit I do the see the world thru a ‘God who doesn’t give gold teeth’ framework.

Its a very well made DVD and well worth a look. But be prepared to be disturbed. It raises the question – does God want to do miraculous stuff more often than we know and we miss out because we are not conditioned to see it or ask for it?

Then there is disturbance in the other way. Cam

has written a brilliant post on his ongoing battle with multiple myeloma. He is ‘terminally ill’. There is no cure for his form of cancer – just a buying of time thru chemo etc. He has been prayed over for healing, but last night a well known big name ‘healer’ came to town and he went along…

Read his reflections hereroad to perdition divx online

Orthodoxy and heretics like Calvin?

Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:

“Today I rebel against orthodox Christianity, as I am convinced that it has distorted the message of Jesus.  He was an Asiatic whose message was delivered through many media, and when it had the backing of a Roman emperor it became an imperialist faith as it remains to this day.”

Mohandas Gandhi, (May 30, 1936) from “Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings” by John Dear, p. 79

I’d like to start this post not just with a quote from Gandhi, but a quote from 3 others:

Quote 1.

“Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.”

Quote 2.

“Anyone who can be proved to be a seditious person is an outlaw before God and the emperor; and whoever is the first to put him to death does right and well. For if a man is in open rebellion, everyone is both his judge and the executioner; just as when a fire starts, the first man who can put it out is the best man to do the job.”

Quote 3.

“If what I’m saying about the centrality of Calvary-looking love is right, we need a major paradigm shift on how we view orthodoxy – which in turn should effect who we see as the “heroes” of orthodoxy.”

If the words of this last quote were written and acted on in the 16th century the writer could expect a second baptism of the involuntary variety where you never come up for air again.  These aren’t the words of some dreadlocked, kingdom-fuelled, commune starting, dumpster diving, fringe-dwelling, freegan, (eco)activist, permaculturalist wanta-be  (but thanks for reading my posts anyway ;)) but of Charismatic-Evangelical megachurch pastor, and theologian, Dr. Gregory Boyd.

So what his problem?

Well… quote 1 and 2 were written in the 16th century.  Not by some crazed peasants fuelled by a violent feudal variety of liberation theology on some crazed apocalyptic crack (but enough about Münster). Rather from the two men that many evangelicals consider the golden boys of the Reformation:

  • Quote 1: John Calvin (after the execution of Servetus for preaching a non-Trinitarian understanding of God )
  • Quote 2: Martin Luther (in a pamphlet one historian described as “boldly encouraging the slaughter of peasants” who held agendas other than that of the Elector of Saxony)

Now Dr. Boyd and I aren’t arguing for a reactionary “they sinned so I’m going to discount their whole work”. There are too much faults in my own life to be able to even want to argue something like that (!!) and there is also too much richness in the work of these brilliant men. On that logic we also have to discount the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, John H. Yoder, Gandhi and… well… everyone except Jesus! 😉 That kind of dismissive approach shows little spiritual maturity and a lack of hard work in coming to terms with, and removing the logs from, our own eyes in our own contexts.

So from a deep desire to first remove our own logs and then assist the church in doing likewise, this recovering sinner would like to raise some questions regarding the bench marks for orthodoxy. Why is it that the litmus test for orthodoxy for many evangelicals has been frozen in the 16th century in the thought of brilliant men who never the less had theologies that made it possible to disobey Christ’s commands to put away the sword, love our neighbour and even enemies like God has loved us (ie. not drowning, beheading or burning those who disagree with us). In particular questions about the bench mark of “orthodoxy” being systems of theology which fail to preach Christ crucified in ways that keep Christ central for atonement AND discipleship.  That have found approaches to preaching Christ crucified in ways that have failed to bear fruits that look like the church refusing to crucify others!! That have failed to continue reforming to an extent that we no longer perpetuate a history of Christianity that looks like the patterns of this world and nothing like the Christ who rejects the sword and goes the way of the cross trusting only in the faithfulness and sovereignty of a God who hears the cry of those in captivity.

Pastor Boyd suggests 16th century magisterial reformer John Calvin of the “worst heresy imaginable” in killing those who were in error. Greg’s argument:

“The New Testament defines agape love by pointing us to Jesus Christ (I Jn 3:16). To love someone is treat them like Jesus has treated you — dying for you while you were yet a sinner… Now follow me: If love [not a sentimental ideal but incarnate in Jesus] is to be placed above all else, if everything else is to be considered worthless apart from love and if everything hangs on fulfilling this one law, how can we avoid the conclusion that refusing to love even our enemies is the worst heresy imaginable? To miss this all important point renders whatever other truth we may possess worthless.”  

I wonder if one of the biggest heresies in the church today is a clever trick where by we keep the centrality of the cross in our understanding of atonement yet have created systems where the cross-shaped love of Jesus is not central to how we understand issues of power, of how we get things done, how we do conflict, how we relate to enemies, our way of being in the world (ie. following Jesus or “discipleship”). And I wonder how any theological system which is blind to this can be considered fully “orthodox”. For surely right belief leads to right practice?  And maybe it’s not until we start to practice what Christ commands of us that we can start to understand our belief. For doctrines (not a popular word but important none the less) such as the Trinity aren’t just boxes to tick but profound realities of who God is to be expressed in our lives.  So it seems that not just Servetus but Calvin was also in error regarding how he understood the Trinity because it didn’t express itself in refusing to kill his enemy because of the kenotic, self giving love, love that is seen in the Holy Trinity.

I recently wrote to our blogging mate Andrew Jones (aka tall skinny kiwi) regarding discussions of the Reformation:

Mate I was thinking the reformation conversation seems very ‘Magisterial-centric’ (did I just invest a word?). I don’t understand why we let Calvin or Luther set the bar for “orthodoxy”. What about the radical wing of the reformation that insisted orthodoxy lay in the witness of the early church and were therefore willing to die but not kill for Christ? I feel embarrassed that the conversation gets so nasty. While we don’t kill our brothers and sisters today over difference (in doctrine… we might still kill them in difference of nationality if asked by our nations in war) we still don’t think loving each other means not attacking each other. Why is that? What about Jesus’ Lordship in this area? If we really think each others in error should there not be tears in prayer for one another not ‘virtual burnings’. I think the church is still in need of a savour who rejects violence, and I think we have one in Jesus. Surely these conversations can be opportunities to for the church to journey deeper in the process of sanctification, of ‘divination’ as the Orthodox have put it, in become more Christ-like. If we can’t love our sisters and brother well how are we going to love our enemies?

Today there is a direct correlation between the theology of these 16th century magisterial reformers and evangelical leaders in the U.S. like James Dobson and Don Carson who actively oppose other evangelical leaders in actions like the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’ to prophetically confront the biggest ecological disaster in human history.  This is the same group that reject much of the work of who I think is one of the most promising thinkers on a ‘Jesus shaped orthodoxy’, N.T. Wright. They do this on the basis that his scholarship challenges some of the ways the Magisterial Reformers have taught us to read the Bible in light of their argy-bargy in the 16th century. And while gifted communicators Mark Driscol are able to use these Reformers to critique some of the stuff that passes for Christianity today such as the “success, self help and saved by rapture” nonsense, until we can let Christ be central to our critique we will not recover the dynamic faith and faithfulness of the early church which challenges the practice of these reformers (and our) comfort with violence.

But I’m not holding Gandhi up as a theological alternative. Gandhi was far from Christian orthodoxy in his beliefs and though I think conversation with his life is incredibly fruitful for discussing the log in our eye as westerners who claim to follow Christ, I have never held him up as providing a theological framework for deepening ourselves in the biblical narrative. Yet the “orthodoxy” which Gandhi rejected I think is no orthodoxy at all. An orthodoxy with an “imperialist faith”, that plays the chaplain to the kingdoms of this world that crucified our Lord is not “orthodox’’ (lit. “Right believe”) but a dangerous heresy. (for those interested here’s a link I put to a short 2min interview with Dr. Cornel West on this subject and photos of our Peace Tree ‘commun(e)ity’ and our initial response to the recent gang killing on our streets). 

So this plea for a Jesus-shaped orthodoxy will not be found in out arguing each other but out living (out witnessing! 🙂 ) each other. We remember the only way we can deepen in orthodoxy is by prayerfully seeking to do so in a way that reflects the way of Christ, after the likeness of the mutual love of the Triune God who is fully revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. In the love we see in the cross and the power we see in the Resurrection. We must learn to engage in ways where we deepen our journey of discipleship. Where we become more aware of our own desperate need for God’s transforming grace that lead us on the exodus journey out of our own captivity to the cycles of domination that can never witness to what God has started in Jesus, the kingdom of God.

ABC’s Radio National did an interview with me and others on parts of the Reformation traditions which insisted that following Christ means living Christ-like lives where we drop our weapons that we may pick up our cross: Here’s the link if interested

and an article on the “emerging peace church movement” and an orthodoxy in keeping with the witness of the early church: click here

Blasphemy & Missional Solidarity

Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:

“My experience tells me that the Kingdom of God is within us, and that we can realise it not by saying, “Lord, Lord,” but by doing God’s will and God’s work… Do you know that there are thousands of villages where people are starving and are on the brink of ruin? If we would listen to the voice of God, I assure you we would hear God say we are taking God’s name in vain if we do not think of the poor and help them.  If you cannot render the help that they need, it is no use talking of service of God and service of the poor. Try to identify yourself with the poor by actually helping them.”

Mohandas Gandhi, (March 31, 1927) from “Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings” by John Dear, p. 81


I don’t think there would be many who would argue that as Christians we can affirm with Gandhi that “we are taking God’s name in vain if we do not think of the poor and help them.”

And while Radiohead’s fans are excited the bands been thinking creatively about questions of economics and how they distribute there next album, what does that look like in our lives as God’s people? (economics and justice that is, not so much our next album distribution) Does it look different from the bands PR exercise (not that I’m not stoked Radiohead are letting me decide what to pay for their next album!)

What does it look like to move from ‘church charity’ run by some sweet old ladies, to being ecclesia of missional solidarity?  (not to disrespect radical nannas everywhere doing awesome stuff!)

For you or your community what does ‘doing God’s will’ when it comes to ‘the least of these’ look like? What are you inspired by, that it might look like? What do you long for it to look like?

Our crew have really struggled with this stuff. I don’t mean struggle in the noble sense. I mean struggle in the sense of it being bloody hard! Nearly as hard as living with each other 🙂  And like much of our life as community, it’s left us with not much to show other than some colourful (and painful) stories and a burning desire for God, for healing, for justice, for the kingdom and an awareness of our own brokenness and sin. Should we all move overseas to the slums we have only visited with our expensive cameras? Should we all just join UNOH?  What does it mean to practice hospitality when you’re continually stolen from, physically threatened and taken advantage of?  When all you’re left with is their used needles, hardcore porn, broken promises, and debt. When you show up in court to support them but they dont. When you’re dumped with other people’s toddlers for days on end while they get high and you have to decided do you ring DCD and your only comfort is the lament of the Psalmist and your sisters and brothers prayers. Only to find out that our parts of the body of Christ are bagging you out without praying for you or seeking to correct or encourage you. Please don’t hear me writting these things out of bitterness. I write as a brother struggling with what “actually helping them” (as Gandhi put it) looks like (anybody else?).  Sometimes I come out of visiting in prison and just feel like crying for a day. Maybe these are the stories we need to tell too aswell as the times we come out feeling totally inspired.

Recently I was contacted by a pastor (of what most would consider a successful mainstream church), who had opened up his home to someone who had lived on the streets for years. This Pastor wanted to talk through the heart ache of seeing someone throw away the opportunities offered to him because he was stuck in cycles he couldn’t break out of. Maybe these stories are as important to share as the “success stories”? Maybe these are the stories that can ween us of the quick fixes and easy answers that we can so often hear to our worlds deepest problems. Maybe if we told these ones too we’d celebrate God’s transforming grace all the more! And real joy would truely be our strength.

Some of our crew were recently hanging out with a similar community to us in the States called ‘The Simple Way’. The Simple Way have a huge public influence through the success of Shane Claiborne’s wonderful book “The Irresistible Revolution” (which I highly recommend!!)  But we were joking if we were to write a book it would be “A how [not] to” (shout outs to Pete Rollins who I also highly recommend!!!!).  Maybe our book would be called ‘The Resistible Revolution’ or ‘The Very Resistible Revolution’. 🙂

So for those of us who believe James 2:15-16 is part of the inspired Scriptures what does this look like in a world where 3 billion of God’s children live on less than 2 dollars a day?

Who are a good example of an alternative?  Is Gandhi a good example?  Is St. Francis of Assisi? Is our Lord? (Seriously!) If we say they are (or if we say ‘Jesus is Lord’) what does that look like for us as the church practically?  Who are the communities or people who inspiring you to see Christ glorified in the churches response to  poverty and ‘affluenza’? What churches in your city have encouraged you in the journey by their witness?

Anybody else need to voice failed efforts 🙂 Prayerfully reading the quote from Gandhi, what does God stir in you?

God Hates Visionary Dreaming… (Bonhoeffer)

Do you reckon he could be onto something?!

“God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.” (Life Together)

(from here)

I don’t question that God actually does give people visions & dreams. I wonder if Bonhoeffer is referring more to that kind of visionary dreaming where we conjure up an idea to justify our existence.

I remember as a pastor having to come up with a vision for the year when occasionally there was no ‘vision’ beyond keeping going on the same track. I do think some of what masquerades as visionary dreaming is the stuff Bonhoeffer writes about – our own ego needs being expressed in the form of a corporate vision. And when we don’t achieve the vision we do so easily blame the community, God or ourselves.

How do you know if your vision is from God or is just something that you would like to achieve – especially when there is an element of pressure to keep on coming up with ‘vision’?



I remember learning about BHAGs – big hairy audacious goals – and their importance in being a visionary leader who people would follow.

But lately I’ve been struggling to come up with BHAGs.

Sometimes I look at my goals for the year (yes – I do set goals at the start of each year!) and they look less than big, hairy and audacious. In fact they occasionally seem rather tame and uninteresting.

I am reminded of William Carey’s words ‘Attempt great things for

jerry maguire free download

God. Expect great things from God’ which is well and good if that is what God is asking of you.

Lately (the last two or three years) I have felt like God has been asking me to keep walking steadily in the same direction and in one sense that is a huge goal for me. I love change, variety, new initiatives and new challenges, but it seems the biggest goal of all at the moment is to keep walking the same line.

I think something has happened theologically to also cause me to rethink the appropriateness of BHAGs. I have no doubt that sometimes God gives people a dream and they must chase it to fulfill their own identity/destiny, but sometimes I wonder if BHAGs are a way of co-opting God to our own plans for self aggrandisement and personal achievement?

Or is that just me looking for a lazy man’s escape route?…

All this is not to say I don’t have a dream or dreams. I do, but annual goals are a little different!

Obscenity, Sin or Just Humour?

Grendel has been asking deep philosophical questions

regarding this post.

The question is “is it sin or just obscene; and where is the boundary?”

I probably show a few pics that some folks wouldn’t, but I would argue they are not ‘obscene’. Perhaps not what you would show your grandma, but probably something you would chuckle about rather than say ‘echhh!’

For me the difference between obscene and acceptable is like the difference between art and pornography where a nude figure is displayed.

As we wandered the art gallery today there were some nudes, but I didn’t find myself feeling guilt and shame looking at them. However if I had picked up a porno mag on the way home that would have been an entirely different proposition.

So how do you see it?

Where is the boundary?

What are Christians allowed to laugh at and what should we turn away from?

I believe there is definitely some stuff that is over the edge, but how do you know?…