High, low, everywhere we go


Me, in kinda of a dress with † Bishop Bruce Evans in the background at St Alban's Cathedral in Pretoria.

At one stage the pungent smell of the incense made me want to vomit. 6 year olds have little appreciation for tradition. Me, in kinda of a dress (I know, I know), with Bishop Bruce Evans in the background at St Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria. Click image to enlarge.

I started out life as an Anglican. Here’s the proof, the kid in the front of the procession, the Boat Boy or junior Acolyte, is me. This is a fond memory of a wedding service held at St Alban’s Cathedral in Pretoria. Nostalgia.

The nice thing about being Anglican is you have a sense of belonging. It’s a massive communion and there’re people all over the place. You can go to any city, town or village, even Pofadder, and there will be one or two Anglican churches to pick from.

There’re two vibrant and growing Christian blogging communities in South Africa and I’ve realised that this time I’m the outsider looking in. I feel like I’m back at school wishing I was “down” with the cool kids. Basically the Methodists (Jenny, Dion, Pete et al.) and the Emergents (Steve (is this a fair categorisation? I know you’re Orthodox but you seem to be so many things to so many people), Graeme, Roger et al.) own the space… and I think I know why.

They’re often times so much more missionally focused than folk like me. And because the internet is really just a big idea megaphone it’s the perfect vehicle for missionally geared minds to have something to say. They dominate the conversation because of early adoption and saturated use. The emergents appeal to the Post-Post-Modern world and the Methodist are, well, they are… Armenians [sic] :).

Why is this an issue for me? Well in some ways it’s not. I’ve enjoyed the dialogue with Christians that are not exactly cut out of the same mould as me. Although, on the other hand I’m feeling a bit isolated. For now, Psalm 119 nicely summerises a good place to kick Christian friendships and interaction off, online or not,

63 I am a companion of all those who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts.

Want to hear the verse in context? Psalm 107 – 121
What is this about?

Three things bashed together tonight to get me to this place. Firstly I commented in my About section about a person I didn’t want to associate with online. Secondly I was reminded of my roots by a passerby. Lastly I’ve been constantly turning over a conversation I had with Jenny and Thomas regarding a distinctive I hold to (it wasn’t vestry shelves).

Am I being overly sensitive? Is the depth of the various Christian communities on the web actually a whole lot more superficial than that? Would like to know your opinion. Oh, btw, I have a new job which is taking up a whole lot of my time which is why I’ve been less active of late. Can’t see myself writting more than once a week for the foreseeable future.

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12 thoughts on “High, low, everywhere we go

  1. We all tend to forget – God calls us a family, and need to love each other in truth.

    Heard a great analogy from Ross Lester, pastor at BBC (www.bbc.org.za) we are like a family going on holiday in the car, Dad driving in the front and all of us in the back, the charismatic kid singing to loudly the Brethren kid cramped in the corner with his hands over his ears and eyes closed, the Baptist kid standing telling all the other kids what to do… etc

    What we forget is the we are in the same car going to the same destination, we got to hope that Dad doesn’t stop to kick us out along the way because we fight to much or don’t listen to Him.

    What we really are is just forgiven and praise God for that!

    • Hi David,

      I like the analogy. You made me chuckle.

      I was thinking though, how do we navigate around our obvious differences? Take baptism. I believe in dunking, you believe in sprinkling. I believe that woman shouldn’t preach to an audience of men, you’re the female pastor of the big church down the road. I’m a dispensationalist you’re a covenentalist… the differences go on and on. Is the statement “What we forget is the we are in the same car going to the same destination,” really fair when there are tangible differences in our interpretations of Scripture and these interpretations affect our practise?

      Do we never disagree? Never challenge? Never refine? Never correct?

      When we preach from the pulpit do we preach our distinctives and warn against doctrine which is out of line with our own? Or do we present every perceivable interpretation to a flock hoping they will choose the correct one by mistake?

      I know my answer to the questions above is rather complex but thanks for sharing yours.

      • In response to your questions-

        I’m a simple guy trying to figure out a sometimes complex truth!

        We are going to the same destination on the basis that we hold to the same core doctrinal truths e.g. below.

        We must absolutely question, challenge, disagree, refine etc!

        While acknowledging scripture only has one correct interpretation and sometimes we understand it differently (hence the many different denominations of Christianity) and I believe there are foundational/core doctrinal truths that are non-negotiable e.g. – Jesus is the son of God and salvation is by grace through Him alone etc.

        I REALLY believe it would be so much more productive and the worldwide church as a whole would be so much more effective if we, as the greater church family would rather focus on what we believe in common and love each, meet and engage with each other and serve and seek the lost rather than focus on the often secondary and smaller issues that separate us.

        We are human with fallible minds trying to figure out infallible truths and it is very unlikely that we will get it all right in this lifetime, so l believe, rather than waste time on the smaller issues we should rather be spending that time focusing on the greater commandments (while not neglecting the other commandments) and share the gospel with those that don’t yet understand it while we have the chance!

        Let’s leave the separation issues till when we can sit around the table with Jesus and He can tell us exactly how we should have interpreted them!

        Here’s a question > what are the effects/contibutions and end results to a broken world from Christians arguing amoungst themselves vs the time we could rather be spending loving the lost?

        And as a disclaimer I say all this respectfully as I have spend time with you and know your heart!

        God bless

        David

        • Oh, that David :).

          But that’s the point isn’t it? It’s good that you and I can sit down and have a mature conversation around a mature topic from the starting point of our mutual faith.

          And our differences? I’d say that you and I probably don’t have many, but what we do have we should be able to talk about rather than ignore?

          I like that you read through what I write. When you’re not in the air sometime (have I pinned you correctly?) or if you’re near the Dimension Data Campus give me a call and let’s have a coffee and a chat.

          In Christ,

          Mrk

  2. Hi Mark – I also ask these questions! I wish Stephen Murray was still blogging regularly, because I think you two would have got on very well. (www.stephenmurray.co.za)
    I don’t think there is a clear cut answer – for me, I am happy to dialogue with anyone who holds to the centrality of Jesus and the foundation of Scripture. There’s probably a bit more than that, but as a starter. So I can handle your position on women because I can see that it is genuinely derivable from Scripture. I don’t agree with you, but for me that’s ok. I find it difficult though to find common ground with people who say that Scripture is outdated. I will listen, but I’m not sure that I can dialogue with them. You might find my position more difficult to accept if you can’t see how it is derived from Scripture . . . I guess theology is always a journey.
    Just trying to express some fellow-feeling!
    And thanks for the link to my blog, I appreciate it!

    • Hi Jenny,

      You’re spot on.

      Two things. First, you do know me well. I’ve been following Stephen for the last few months. He has just visited Redeemer Church and we’re using some of Tim Keller’s content in one of our small groups.

      Secondly, I agree with you on the centrality of Christ being the foundation of our interaction. You and I would disagree on more than just a woman episcopate or laity (I meant to say pastorate) but we’re in agreement on what’s important: one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

      Amen :).

      Finding the middle ground and interacting with integrity balanced by love is what really interests me.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Mark

  3. Hi, Mark – small correction: the doctrine you ascribe to the Methodists is Arminianism (from a Dutch theologian named Jacobus Arminius [1560-1609]).
    Wiki gives this definition of the doctrine:

    Arminianism holds to the following tenets:
    Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation.
    Salvation is possible only by God’s grace, which cannot be merited.
    No works of human effort can cause or contribute to salvation.
    God’s election is conditional on faith in the sacrifice and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
    Christ’s atonement was made on behalf of all people.
    God allows his grace to be resisted by those who freely reject Christ.
    Believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace through persistent, unrepented-of sin.

    The Armenian Orthodox Church traces its origin to the first conversion of an entire nation to Christianity.
    The Armenian people call themselves Hayk, and their country Hayastan. It was originall about twice the size of the present-day Republic of Armenia.
    The other half fell into Turkey. In 1916 the Turks expelled all the Armenians and marched them off to the south. Two million Armenians died on that march.
    Turkey was never subjected to any international sanctions following this massacre, which was an encouragement to the Nazis.
    Shalom,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      I really appreciate you peaking in. Very few amateur bloggers get to have an editor of your standard keeping them on their toes.

      On the “Armenians”. Did the [sic] and the smiley face (:)) after the word not provide a key to the tongue-in-cheek joke?

      Thanks for giving me the opportunity to make sure it’s clear.

      In Christ,

      Mark

  4. Hi Mark,

    I remember the moment (depicted in the photo) very well. You haven’t changed a bit – except for the hair!

    Thanks for this subject matter and for those who have contributed to the discussion. It is a conversation that we are more and more compelled to explore as Christianity comes under greater pressure from what you have referred to as a post-post-modern. We WILL come under “persecution” from the liberal position and those who will group themselves against orthodoxy. As you know – but for the benefit of your readers – I am part of the Anglican tradition and we are grappling seriously with all sides of the growing debate at various levels.

    I urge all your readers to hold to the centrality of Holy Scripture and to then continue the conversation. If the Spirit of God was poured out to lead us into all truth then through our interaction around the Word we will surely all be drawn by that same Spirit into the truth of God’s plan and purpose for salvation and eternal life.

    (As an aside, in reflecting on this “macro-purpose” of God I have to wonder ultimately whether or not the quantity of water – or even the words prophesied at Baptism – will have too much bearing on the purposes of God for those whom he has chosen and called according to his purpose. How’s that for opening another can of conversation).

    May I end by continuing to encourage you by commending your writing and your thinking. It is vital and significant even for those of us with a slightly different “distinctives”.

    Yours in Christ Jesus and in our love for each other,

    Rob

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