Archive for the ‘Xtras’ Category

Mark Driscoll at Thrive and a sharp double-edged sword!


Mark Driscoll spoke at a leadership conference recently. He began with the sad story of his family’s experience during and after the events that led to his ministry at Mars Hill ending in shame and the closure of the church. This story is sad and my heart goes out to him and especially his children. No one should be treated that way!

His topic was forgiveness, and he focused on the need for “struck shepherds” to forgive those who have hurt them. So the introduction telling of his family’s experience was strong. The talk is a powerful reminder of the centrality and importance of forgiving to Christian living. It is made more real by Driscoll’s desire to forgive those who hurt his children.

Several people have already commented on the strange fact that Driscoll never asks for forgiveness or acknowledges his fault in all this experience (apart from  a rather trite aside about “struck shepherds” sometimes hitting themselves in the head). That despite his experiences and his desire to forgive Driscoll’s talk is still self-centered is sad, but sadly not untypical of Western Christians in the early 21st century.

What I have not seen commented on is Driscoll’s use of Scripture. The phrase “struck shepherds” runs like a refrain through the talk. The refers to a verse from the Old Testament that Jesus quotes in which he reads “Strike thou the shepherd and the sheep scatter.” The passages are Zechariah 13:7 and Mark 14:27 || Matt 26:31. I am not sure which passage Driscoll read nor which translation, because he seems to misquote. For the original verse in Zechariah all the translations I looked at had something like:

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.

While the gospels read something like:

 Mark 14:27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'”

Matthew 26:31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “`I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Far from offering comfort to a “struck shepherd”, as Driscoll seems to think,  what I notice in both the prophet and in Jesus quoting of the prophet is that the agency of the striking is God.

In these Bible passages the shepherd is struck by God.

And, unless Driscoll thinks he is Jesus struck by God and crucified he presumably ought to identify himself with the struck human shepherd/leader(s) of Zech 13. This is not at all comforting for Driscoll, for this chapter proclaims God’s action against the false leaders who led his people into idolatry!

Beware lest your misuse of Scripture cause the weapon to turn in your hand and bite you. For the words of the Word of God as like a sharp double-edged sword!

Revelation 1:16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

Visiting “Israel” today

From Sacraparental illustrating Chris's post

Chris Chamberlain is an interesting guy (see the neat short description at the top of the post I’m linking to). He was taken to Israel and the “Occupied Territories” recently with WorldVision.1  His reflections on Facebook were so good that Thalia and others of us persuaded him to write them up for a wider audience. In the first one (published today) he acknowledges his biases, but the writing is an interesting balance between anger at injustice and a gentle human concern for (all) others.

Having twice (1986 and 2000) made brief visits (focused on archaeological sites of Old Testament interest, not on justice) to Israel and having an Israeli friend as house guest at present, I recommend Chris’s reflections to everyone whatever political knees they are inclined to jerk when “Israel” is mentioned. This is a hard, hurtful and dangerous conflict and it is bound to be more complex than you or I think. Please read ‘We Refuse to be Enemies': A Christchurch Minister visits Palestine and Israel if nothing else your understanding of life today in the land where the Bible stories happened will be enriched, and your humanity should get some exercise too!

  1. Original text error corrected 18 April 2015. []

“Mission Trips” and sanctified holidays

It was near here we were first offered (and accepted) rat to eat.
The photo above shows the countryside near where we were first offered rat to eat :)

The issue of “mission trips”, and the appropriateness of this arrogant terminology, has been raised again in the circles I frequent on Facebook. I’ve aired my thoughts on this before, first pointing to Vinodth Ramachandra’s fine post Who Says “No” to “Mission Trips”? And then a few days later venturing some of my own thoughts in Further thoughts on “Missions Trips”.

The topic is germane for me at present as we are planning a (hopefully “sanctified”) holiday later this year when Barbara is on sabbatical.

  1. I refuse to call our trip a “mission trip”,1 real mission implies incarnation and we do not speak the language(s) of any of the places we might visit. (Though we have visited each and have friendships to renew.)
  2. I hope that, after our visit, the people who receive us will feel we have given to them something of value, more than just the teaching that will (since we are both teachers) provide the excuse for our visits.2
  3. I intend to have a holiday (this is after all not a “mission trip” but a sanctified holiday) but expect that in each country we spend longer on visiting and teaching than we do as tourists, and that while we are touristing we continue to learn about the places and the people so that we can more meaningfully support their missions in prayer and interest on our return.
  4. I hope and pray that on our return we can share something of the experience and learning with others who do not have the blessing of being able to make such visits.

PS: In the post in 2010 I said that although I expected that visitors on such sanctified holidays would eat with their hosts I did not expect such visitors to eat snake or rat, I doubt we will this time be offered either, but can report that snake soup is nourishing and rat is tasty of rather boney!

  1. Hence the reference to a sanctified holiday. []
  2. This was my greatest disappointment in our two visits so far to CTS, that we did not have much chance to begin to get to know the staff. One of the greatest joys, was that some of the students were courageous enough to break down the barriers and invite us to begin to get to know them! []

New website

The NZ Baptist Magazine has a new website. It looks good, and looks interesting. This is a good start. I have not played with it enough to see how easy it is to find something interesting (except that several of my articles are currently on display ;)

It lacks a search function, but readers here surely know they can google “[searchterm]” don’t you?

What do you think of the design? I’m hoping and praying people start toi use the comments feature – this alone to my mind makes it better than the paper edition, let alone being browsable on a phone :)

Happy Christmas (and byebye 2014)

Happy Christmas to all of you.

2014 has been a busy year, leaving little time to prepare posts here. I hope 2015 may leave more time. I’m farewelling 2014 now as tomorrow I head for Auckland and then on to the UK (for mum’s funeral) and so will almost certainly not post here again this year.

If anyone have topics, passages or other ideas of things you’d like me to write about do say. Ideas are the hardest part of writing for me!

Two in the top twenty (so it is prophesied)

Annibale Carracci “The Stoning of St Stephen” from Wikimedia

Peter Kirby has posted an audacious prophesy of the top biblioblogs by traffic in six month’s time (Top 50 Biblioblogs: Spring 2014 Report). I have two reasons for hoping that this is accurate, first both Sansblogue and 5 minute Bible made the top 20 (just) but even more because if it proves false I am sure some “take the Bible literally” types will be organising a stoning. I would hate for the gentle Peter to become the first martyr of Biblioblogaria!

New publication: Spiritual Complaint

I’m delighted, one of the two edited books I’ve been working on is now available and I have my copy :)

Miriam J. Bier and Tim Bulkeley, eds. Spiritual Complaint: Theology and Practice of Lament. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013.

“Does Jeremiah Confess, Lament, or Complain? Three Attitudes Towards Wrong.” In Spiritual Complaint: Theology and Practice of Lament, edited by Miriam J. Bier and Tim Bulkeley. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013.

Well, that WAS nice! Adobe installs rogue software :(

Adobe as rogue software installer

I allowed the Adobe Flash player to update. Without asking Adobe also installed something called “McAfee Security Scan Plus”. I already have virus protection. Unless someone convinces me I need different protection I do not want more, slowing my machine and “doing things” in the background.

How come there is no campaign I can join to persuade software manufacturers to ask politely if they want to install “extra” programs? Personally I think the time is near when I will uninstall Flash. It is used more often for rubbish than anything else now, having once been (almost) the only way to have a graphically rich interactive web…

What do you think?

Thoughts on Alpha

For a long time I’ve had ambivalent feelings about Alpha courses. They seem from all the figures and accounts to be very effective tools for evangelism. But, some people suggest the scheme works best in places with a residual Christian Culture (like the UK) or for Anglicans in NZ (who have a higher pool of people with a nominal or loose family connection). When our previous church ran Alpha we were way too busy to be involved, so my only impression was from the short promo videos. These gave the impression of something like Open Air Campaigners with ardent Christians being encouraged to accost strangers on park benches and ask “If you died tonight would you go to heaven?”

Now South City are running Alpha (and I’m running Know and Love Your Bible alongside so there is something for newer Christians as well) I’ve been going to the training sessions. The way these sessions present Alpha is quite different. The only “hard sell” is the video people watch and if Nicky Gumbel’s style there is anything like the training videos that will hardly be OAC stuff. Then in the small groups the host and helpers are asked/expected to keep quite and respond to questions and even rabid atheist attacks with things like “That’s interesting, what do others think?” Basically as the training videos present it Alpha is a scheme to allow and encourage a bunch of seekers and atheists to persuade each other with the help of the Holy Spirit into faith.

But, I imagine you asking, about the need to either badger my friends into attending, like some spiritual Tupperware party, or hardly better jumping on unsuspecting strangers? Basically Alpha NZ (at least) recommends a much lower key approach, a low demand we are doing this would you like to try the first week…

Operation Starfish: Tessa’s Story, Inviting Friends To Alpha from Alpha New Zealand on Vimeo.