Talkin’ ’bout my generation (part 3): On giants’ shoulders

This is the third post in this series; you can read part one, and part two.

There is a famous phrase about intergenerational dependence: that ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants’. It reminds us that whatever we have we owe to those greats before us. But let me remind you of Isaac Newton’s specific use of the phrase: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. In other words, the upshot of standing on a giant’s shoulders is that you tend to have a better view than the giant himself does. As we build sensibly on the greats of previous generations, we also have the privilege of seeing better than they.

The reformed church is always reforming. We don’t stand on giants’ shoulders so we can stomp on them; we stand on their shoulders because they put us there. But to extend the imagery again, while they put us on their shoulders so that we can see what they could see, the effect is of course to have been given a better view—a view that we ought not be silent about. And we pray that the next generation would so use us.

The problem is that we live in a society used to adversarial rather than collegial critique. To seek to reform what we’ve been given sounds like a fight rather than taking up the baton—especially if the ones passing the baton don’t want to let go, don’t trust us to hold it, and can’t see where we may run with it because they too think reformation by definition sounds like a fight (in this case, with them). As in a relay, we pray that the previous generations will run with us a part of the way—that space in time in the race where both are running full speed and both are holding the baton. To be set on the path and to continue further down it.

I have met a genuine fear in some ‘youngers’ about speaking up. They love and respect their elders so much that it would seem a critique and a ‘fight’, a parting or separation of ways, to dare critique their elders. That’s a myth of churchmanship promoted by the model of religious writing endorsed by secluar media: everything is a confrontation, division, and fight. But we know better. We know that we strive together for the truth, we know that we each seek to safeguard the gospel, even if we disagree for the moment on how. And we listen to one another.

We need to move beyond an adversarial model of critiquing, and even of worrying that the newspapers will call our model of critiquing divisive no matter what we do. We need to embrace a model where we seek to push higher together, to bring one another closer to the knowledge of God. It would be a shame if those who have taught our particular generation so faithfully thought of this growth to maturity as betrayal and so silenced us (exasperated us); it would be a shame if we thought of it as betrayal and so failed to speak, or only spoke in the ashes of conflict and the dishonouring of our elders. But the greatest shame of all would be if we failed to speak simply because we were afraid.

27 thoughts on “Talkin’ ’bout my generation (part 3): On giants’ shoulders

  1. Hi Scott
    I have for some reason found this series of articles frustrating.

    In my early twenties I was on a church council and it was then that I received my first ‘hate’ mail for a suggestion made regarding an organisational change to improve group Bible learning. It happens.

    And let me assure you that I long to see young people being trained in godliness and ministry by the grace of Christ. It is one of my loves. However, their courage will come from their confidence and knowledge in Christ and His word rather than from a generational perspective.

    You said: We need to embrace a model where we seek to push higher together, to bring one another closer to the knowledge of God. How does a person get a closer knowledge of God? Where does the word of God fit into this? What is your theology of the knowledge of God?

    Does the younger generation necessarily have a ‘better view’ – a better understanding of God? To assume this places the younger generation in great danger. Where does God and His Word fit into all this?

    We should not stand on any shoulders other than Christ’s. Some of my teachers (not all) were ‘giants’ only in as much as they spoke the word of God and therefore I learned from scripture never to treat them as giants.

    Ephesians 2: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

    1 Corinthians 4: I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favour of one against another.

    The scriptures are plain about rebuking, correcting, when to exhort, how to treat a father…
    1 Timothy 5: Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

    Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching.

    1 Timothy 4:  Command and teach these things.  Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

    Surely the boldness of youth should come from a conviction of God’s truth and if it does, then they are to/will speak humbly in ways that adorn the grace in which they are growing.

    Scott, I would love to hear how you think scripture should inform our thinking on all that you’ve written?

    And please feel welcome to correct any foolish thinking on my part.


  2. I’ve met with Christians in all sorts of places over time – grandiose buildings to the Aussie backyard shed, from glorious liturgies with soaring music to match,  to places with no music at all (because no one could sing), with bible and prayer and a basic sandwich together.

    Each involved the wonders of man’s ideas for change and reforming, but in the end, for all the plans and schemes that abounded, I’ve seen it is the quiet and powerful word of the gospel that changes hearts and bears fruit.

    It is all very simple really. A man can proclaim from a great pulpit or alongside someone while sweeping a floor, anyone can teach anyone the word of God, and have the same result, because it is God at work calling his sheep with his voice whenever, wherever, however he chooses.

    So to young people, I would urge them to grab any opportunity they can get – don’t use the older generation as an excuse for not getting on with the task – only be gracious and love all people in the process and pray to our Father, who is the giver of opportunity.


  3. Hi Di,

    If you have a skim through Scott’s past posts you can get a pretty good idea about what Scott thinks about the place of Scripture. To put it clearly, he thinks highly of it, both in terms of its character and its centrality to the Christian life and ministry.

    What he seems to be saying (without exactly spelling it out in the article), is about the larger leadership challenges found in relational differences between generations in church structures – and no doubt including in a large organisation – like the sydney diocese.

    Generationally leadership is a two way street, yes the young (let’s face it we are actually talking about people who are around 40 – they aren;t that young!) should live lives that are godly.

    Older leaders like wise need to be godly including being willing to observe and commit to generational change.

    I guess, Parents at some stage need to realize their children have grown up, they will always be there children, but their relationship needs to mature, including learning to relate to their offspring as fellow adults.

    I think Scott is hinting at the question, ‘Are we doing generational change well in leadership in our church/disocese?’

    And I don’t think Scott would be alone in this observation.

    From a review of the recent ‘a fresh look at mission conference’

    <cite> The organisers – who included David Hohne from Moore College; Alan Lukabyo, rector of Dundas; Greg Clarke, CEO of Bible Society Australia; Andrew Nixon, former Connect 09 director; Andrew Katay, rector of Christ Church Inner West; and John Dickson, rector of Roseville – suggested a range of ways Sydney Anglicanism needed to grow. The group of friends and ministry partners believed it was time to take leadership. According to David Hohne, “We’re getting to the stage where we’re grown ups so we’d better start doing important things with the opportunities we have.” <cite>


  4. sorry just to ad, I think Scott is hinting at the question of generational change, but also the mode of relating.

    Are we as a group a little trapped in an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality when issues need to be discussed.

    Are we able to let someone say, ‘this isn’t going well!’, and understand that they do it from a position of care not a desire to see it fail.

    I suspect we relate as ‘a tribe’ a little more adversarially than is warranted at times.


  5. Hi Andrew

    Thanks for your comments on behalf of our brother in Christ. 

    I’m assuming that Scott does consider the scriptures to be the sole authority in all matters of life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ, which is why I was asking him to express this in his series and show how the scriptures inform on such generational issues that are being raised.

    Asking questions and making comments is a critical element of this forum – seeking the mind of Christ on matters together from God’s word.

    re the ‘Fresh’ Anglican conference you mentioned – Personally, I have concerns about some of the talks I listened to in regards to theological matters. We must always be weighing words of man against Scripture.

    And we need to keep remembering the deceitfulness of sin in intergenerational ‘conflict’ and leadership issues.

    Hebrews 3:But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


  6. Scott – it isn’t only the secular media that pitches everything as a ‘fight’. In fact, this militant language has been characteristic of the older generation of evangelical leaders. If the secular media sees us as adversarial… it could be because we are.

  7. Hi everyone, and I think Michael is right (and others have said it too), we have been adversarial at times.

    Sometimes “a little more adversarially than is warranted at times” as Andrew put it.

    But sometimes an adversarial tone is warranted.

    Though I am not as frustrated by this series as her, I really appreciated Di’s appeal to keep trawling through Scripture to process all this.

    Adversarial language is used quite often in Paul’s Epistles at least.

    For example, I am preaching through 2 Corinthians with my fellow preachers at St Michael’s at present.

    This weak I am in chapter 6, and I note part of the character of Paul’s ministry is to have “weapons of righteousness in the right and left hands” (v7).

    In chapter 10, he says this in vv3-5…

    3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

    We learn not to fight in worldly ways, certainly not with worldly weapons. But we do note that there is a deliberate, rigorous, dare one say “aggressive”, demolition job being done on false ideas which oppose the knowledge of God.

    And the context in 2 Corinthians is not just totally secular opponents of Christianity, but the false teachers and super apostles and those still flirting with idolatry within the church.

    I think God knows (as I have grown up a little) I have often counselled gentleness in rebuke, and the avoidance of quarrelsomeness, and the realisiation that neither I nor anyone else today has the authority of an Apostle.

    But the reality is still that sometimes false teachers need to be silenced (Tit 1:10-11); sometimes even honoured Christian brothers will need to be opposed publicly (Gal 2:11-14).

    Now how does that apply to us, if at all?

  8. HI Sandy,

    I think the point the article is heading toward is not an issue of false teaching or directly theology (I say knowing the bounds and dangers of that kind of statement) but more organisational or about personal preferences in leadership and in particular how to have a difference of opinion. Same theology – different view on what to focus on next.

    So in leadership we all know at times we make decisions that aren’t necessarily sinful or false – it just turns out over time with best intentions they were just wrong. Sure, we always could have done things better (even when we get it right). It seems one of those things we could be in danger of not doing, is listening to people who think differently to us (not theologically but in personal preference, ministry style, gender, or even age).

    I think there is a real perception (you can argue for or against the merit of it) amongst the ‘younger’ leaders, that our leadership is in danger of a preference to absolute unity of voice on every issue, to reduce the capacity of any difference of opinion. Or to have an opinion you have to be willing to stand up and state it in an adversarial way to get a hearing, and many people would rather talk, than argue about it.

    So in choosing a preference of engagement, do we sell short the creativity and abilities we have been given as a larger body?

    In particular the perception of a culture where to have less than 100% enthusiasm for the next top down project/idea, means you feel in danger of being labeled ‘them’ not ‘us’ by an adversarial way of engaging.

    It seems that the ‘fresh look at mission conference’ that really sort to answer ‘why be anglican’, has picked up well on the mood of a number of people in/around college years – and it seems from asking around – the frustration with Anglican, is not just a directly theological one!

    I could be wrong, it could be a passing phase. It does seem to me that each generation does have a preference for a mode of relating, and being adversarial does not engage the younger generations, and could in fact cause them to opt out.


  9. Michael

    We are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. This is why I am begging for scriptures to be discussed in such issues. We are to all listen to Jesus Christ our Lord and take comfort knowing his sheep will hear his voice.

    If you perceive that some of an older generation are being ‘militant’ then what is the godly stance to take? By the way I assume militant means: ‘vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause’. Interestingly ‘contend’ which is what some may think they are doing is to: ‘maintain or assert’, ‘have an argument about something’, ‘be engaged in a fight’.
    What you see as ‘militant’ may be in the eyes of some ‘contending’.

    However assuming some have crossed the line to militancy (I have no idea of the actual people you refer to), then how are you to respond from scripture?

    I would suggest that people sit down with individuals with Bible wide open and listen with all humility as the word is discussed in relation to the matter, for God rules through his word.

    God is always working his purposes out through what seems like to us ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ situations. If anyone becomes too institutional in their thinking then they will be bound for disappointment. As helpful or otherwise an institution may be it will have its limits and fail some gospel people badly. But God never fails people.

    God is always faithful. However, we must make sure if we suffer, it is for doing good and not wrong, and even more so when Christian brothers are involved. We all need to strive to do what is right and entrust our souls to a faithful creator.

    We can’t control the sin of others but we must seek and urge one another to keep turning from sin and ensure we act in God-pleasing ways towards others.

    Not much room for inter-generational discord in these verses!

    1 John 1: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

    1 John 4: We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.


  10. Hey Andrew, thanks for your comments. I get what you saying about maybe different generations having different styles.

    I feel am in an interesting position in our Sydney Anglicans circle (understanding it is not the circle of plenty of SP readers here).

    In age, I am in the middle of the “fresh look” blokes, in fact at least half of them are older than me. I know and respect all of them, and would have liked to go to their conference, except for being too flat out and unwilling to give up a day off. I really want to work out how to help people see Anglican Churches can be a great place for ministry!

    But I graduated from Moore College before all of them (of those who studied there). Only one of them was in first year when I was in fourth. The rest arrived some time after I’d gone. And I have been a Senior Minister longer than a decade, and in more than one parish unlike any of them.

    What does that mean? Nothing at all in terms of qualifications. But a little, in terms of experience, although maybe I’m also a little more institutionalised!

    I think I am the only one of these guys to have been to Synod (at least as an ordained minister) under a previous Archbishop (another evangelical, of course, but a different personality and style). I think I am the only one of these guys to have been to the General Synod (3 times) and seen the wider Anglican situation in that context. The debates about women’s ordination and lay administration and new flexible patterns in ministry were largely (not completely) over, with positions being well worked out, before some of these brothers arrived, at least in their current senior roles.

    At least in those contexts, perhaps I have seen first hand a little more the reasons why things have been adversarial at times. Not always pleasantly. But sometimes needed.

    Another result is that many of my friends and peers in ministry are the next age group up: I’ve been relating to them longer, since College, at Synod and so on.  And I haven’t found many problems speaking my mind or taking a different view on something, and maybe it just comes from knowing them longer. Personally I have found them mostly encouraging, even when they disagree with my views.

    For example, I know Bruce Ballantine-Jones thought I was a naive and a bit silly for how I handled a debate at my first General Synod (against his advice). But though he said so, he kept encouraging me to participate.

    I disagreed early and publicly with the push from Phillip Jensen and Matthias Media for the ESV to be adopted. That has never seemed to do me any harm. (In fact, I end up here blogging for Matthias Media and they recently published my remarks which were again critical about that matter.)

    I don’t know him all that well, never having gone to the same church, for example, but Phillip has continued to encourage me, even though I continue from time to time to disagree with his view at Standing Committee or Synod. Same could be said for John Woodhouse or Robert Forsyth and so on.

    Personally, I have never found my elders wanting mere yes men!

    Avoid being adversarial and take a gentle tone wherever possible. But I think we need to worry a little less about which generation we are from, and be unafraid of the rough and tumble of vigorous discussion and debate.

    Let’s have the courage of our convictions and speak up, if we think we have good and biblical reasons for doing so.

    Don’t worry too much about what everyone else might think about us, nor about finding we disagree sometimes, especially on tactics.

  11. If one thinks a person is inappropriately being ‘adversarial’ then one should raise it with that person, prayerfully, humbly, confident in Christ, in a non-adversarial manner, treating an elder with respect and encouraging him as a father. It is not about getting your own way, rather that the other person may be saved and you also.

    God cares more about how we treat our brothers than any style or generational taste differences. 

    In my experience, which may be different to others, I’ve found most divisions in churches to be more of a theological tension and far less generational. Those who loved the word of God were in fellowship, no matter what the age differences. And so it should be, for we have the one Spirit. And it is a wonderful and joyous unity, fellowship.

    I found from my teenage years as a Christian that Gospel hearted seniors are such a delight and an encouragement.

    Andrew, do you have some examples of issues that are not theological but are inter-generational that you are concerned about? I would think that how we speak to one another is a theological matter. Is this what you are talking about?

    I imagine in a Bible College that great sensitivity would be needed as some brothers in Christ might be choosing the often harder ‘non-anglican’ path (no guaranteed house, car and less or even no salary) for genuine gospel reasons. For example, if you want to be an Anglican minister in the Canberra region you now have to agree to submit to the authority of women in a church. Not good! So quite understandably there can be reasons for not being Anglican for the sake of the spread of the gospel in many regions of Australia and overseas.

    It is to be the gospel that is to drive desirable changes, not inter-generational forces, for we are taught by such grace that we are to love others as Christ has loved us and also to seek the advantage of others so that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:33).


  12. Just to clarify from my point of view:

    I wasn’t saying ‘adversarial’ wasn’t often necessary or even the right thing to do… only that we can’t say ‘we are depicted by the media as adversarial, but we aren’t really’.

  13. HI Sandy

    thanks for taking the time to write such gracious response.


  14. Hi everyone,

    Thanks for the comments while I’ve been away.

    Michael – yes, I was a bit too limiting on the issue of adversarial critique … I guess what I meant was that sometimes we buy into the myth that the media encourages (and at times fairly depicts of us): that the only way to speak out about something will involve an adversarial – us and them – mentality. And so we either don’t speak at all (because we’re afraid of being perceived as such) or we do speak (and adopt what seems the only option open to us: a fight). Certainly Sydney Anglicans have engaged in that before, and sometimes (ofttimes?) a bit too eagerly.

    Have you written up your reflections on ‘fighting’ anywhere yet? Could you share the link if you have?

    What I was trying to suggest is that there are other ways to raise issues than just ‘fighting’. So, likewise to you, I’m not suggesting that adversarial critique is at all times wrong – not at all. (And Sandy, I’ll return to this in a moment with a question I wonder if you – and Michael and others – have thoughts on)

    And Andrew at least has recognised this: what I’m asking is for us to explore wisdom for how one generation can inherit / bequeath gospel ministry from / to another generation (2 Tim 2:1-2) – where both generations are mature, responsible, evangelical, reformed, etc. people.

    In particular for this third post, I’m trying to raise wisdom for this in the context of a reality that, in some issues, a younger generation may see more clearly (by virtue of the fact that they’ve been matured / taught well by their elders) than their elders: in this context especially, an adversarial way of critique doesn’t help anyone. Do we always have to pick a fight? On an ordination / denomination level, is the only alternative to not picking a fight to leave the diocese, and / or anglicanism? At a church level, is the only alternative to leave that church? If there is another alternative, what is that alternative?

    And in this I’m trying to suggest that both the elder and the younger can fall down, and both need to exercise humility in this ‘handing over of the reins’.

    And it’s at this point, Di, I think you need to see where you’ve perhaps missed the point of these posts (and hence may explain your frustration): I’m trying to explore wisdom emerging from biblical principles – not lay the biblical ground-rules from scratch. The Bible teaches me to honour my elders (1 Tim5); it teaches elders to bequeath the gospel to others who will are in turn to be elders (2 Tim 2) … that’s not the issue. The faith as the thing we are entrusted with, teach, and entrust to others by teaching, is not the issue I’m raising here. The issue I am raising is, in our present contexts, how we go about doing this in light of Scripture. It’s not enough that we merely state what the Bible says, we must explore what that looks like in practice in our context (ie, wisdom). I’m trying to encourage self-reflection (and collegiate reflection!) on whether our practices are the wisest. And forgive me for pointing out the obvious: these are supposed to be short posts; the medium of a blog is not designed for full systematic reflection. I ask you not to take me to task for what I didn’t say (which I clearly believe) for the sake of being able to say something about what I have chosen to say: wisdom for preserving the gospel across generations. I think you (and Sandy) need to wear your own frustration on that. I fear you have expectations or associations for this series that it’s not designed to meet. Others clearly have coped with it; and there is little need for me to reiterate Andrew’s – as ever Andrew is – insightful, incisive, calm summation of what is really going on here.

    Not that it matters to me, but it’s probably helpful at this point to raise the fact that I wrote these posts before certain conferences in Sydney – both ‘Nexus’ and ‘Sydney and Anglican’. Given the fact that I’m 17000kms away – and was on holidays! – it’s a little unfair to associate what I’m saying with whatever did (or did not) get said at those places. I have no idea what was said. I conceived of these posts 18 months ago – and given that my time is almost up here I thought I’d finally get them going.


  15. As Andrew pointed out, however, Sydney Diocese is a very easy target for a lot of what I’m saying, and has a lot of resonance for the 30 somethings we know. But please hear the posts clearly: I very deliberately broadened the scope (despite having a lot of sympathy for what Andrew said specifically, and a whole lot more besides) in that I’m trying to generalise it to all ministry contexts where intergenerational leadership occurs, from the youth group to the episcopacy. Partly because most of us reading this aren’t involved in Sydney Anglican churchmanship of that nature; partly because it applies to the youth group (which has a very short generation) as much as it does to other areas. Maybe what I’ve said resonates with some of the things at that those conferences: my posts over the last while certainly implicitly promote a return to the heart and best of Anglican theological heritage as the best way to move forward as a Diocese, and the rejection of pragmatism as a mode of operation; but you can’t read the conference (its negatives or positives) into what I’ve written here.

    Di, I won’t respond to your many frustrated comments in detail. Let me explain again, however, what I’m doing and not doing – and please bear in mind that the sola panellists are supposed to keep their posts below 700 words. Andrew has been right on the money, and I’ll only echo his comments: he says it better than me anyway.

    This isn’t a series about whether one generation is about the ministry of the word and prayer or not; it is about how generations bequeath / inherit the ministry of the word and prayer to and from each other . It’s about deriving wisdom given we know what the Bible says on this issue. How does one evangelical elder make sure under God’s hand that there is another elder to follow him who’ll continue that work? How do those two generations interact as they do that? It’s about whether anyone really thinks about long-term, intergenerational ministry preservation and subsequently conducts their ministry in light of that. In that sense, the ministry of the word and prayer as the fundamental staple of what we are about is a given as far as this series is concerned: do we need to keep reaffirming it generally? Yes! And I would have thought I just did that at the end of last year with the Bible reading series. But you can’t say everything in every breath. Thomas Torrance could, but it does make for some very heavy and convoluted reading! smile

    In the first post I suggested that we need wisdom for intergenerational hand-over of ministry, and that that is also where my last post will go. Most of the post was about history as a wisdom-producing activity: that the way a certain model of intergenerational gospel activity is used at times does obscure the biblical realities about blessing / cursing between generations. I suggested that we need to learn wisdom from historical specifics, not generalities, if we are to safeguard the gospel through generations.

    In the second post, I suggested that how we conduct our ministry needs to be done in a way that mentors the ministry of others: ie, to be present as someone gains <em>experience<em>, and to be giving experience to people before we depart. Experience is another aspect of wisdom. You helpfully mention the false dichotomy between teaching and training: that teaching is how we train. Yes, and well said! But it’s not only how we train (ie, my life, and giving someone experience under my tutelage). Teaching is also more than the pulpit: how is my time in reflecting on a committee meeting over coffee (in light of Scripture!), the way I conduct my conversation with the ‘trainee’, how is this not both teaching and training? A different context to be sure, but both nonetheless.

    I guess an analogy that is suitable is learning to drive a manual car. I watched my parents drive a manual for 16 years, I heard the lectures and read the book – but I was still bunny-hopping everywhere for ages. It wasn’t until an instructor sat beside me and patiently coached me that I got the concept of gears at all. Experience is an intrinsic aspect of learning wisdom. I can hear all the preaching in the world, but when it comes for me to take on a ministry for the first time, I want all the help I can get. I want the more experienced person to give me their wisdom so I can be wise myself. And that takes time.

    But after I’ve learnt from my elders and become mature there should come a time when I see something more clearly than they (and I pray that my sons and congregations will see the light of the glory of God more than me): I am wiser in some respects. How do we deal with this in the transfer of generational leadership? That’s where the third post goes.

  16. So, then, about ‘fighting’: Sandy, at no point do I disagree with you about the presence of ‘warfare’ language for ministry in Scripture – and certainly at times I, as I’m sure you have too – have engaged rightly in adversarial critique.

    But here’s my abiding question, that I think I passed on to Michael a few months back, but never chased up myself: Who is my fight against? As I reflect on the New Testament, I only see Jesus, Paul, Peter and John ‘go for the jugular’ (to put it crassly) of one type of person: the false teacher. As far as the church is concerned: it’s about patient instruction (in all its forms: exhortation through to public open rebuke) to people who are fundamentally on our side . As Paul says: our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:10ff). Our struggle is against, in that great phrase: sin, the world, and the devil. And the Corinthians are a great example of this: despite everything they do and say to Paul, he retains the stance of a colleague / partner (ie, someone in fellowship / partnership in the gospel) offering critique as such, and not as an adversary. And, of course, Jesus remains our best example of this in that, despite the horror of our natural selves, he yet remains ‘for us’ with the Father, even though he continues to reform us by the Spirit.

    The problem is that ‘sin, the world, and the devil’ tends to be embodied: so you and I are fighting together for one another against the presence of these things in each other (including our minds that are not wise, but foolish instead). But I ought not to be fighting against you, and nor you me. We fight together, so that we may stand firm together. A false teacher, however, is a different story – and is not what I’m talking about in these posts.

    Do you have further thoughts on this distinction about ‘who’ we are fighting? It of course gets murky when ‘one side’ is fighting for the other (Paul) whereas the ‘other side’ really does think they are on different sides wink

  17. I’ll be interested to hear what more you each may say, but will bow out here for the sake of life.

    Marty & Andrew – thanks for encouragement smile

  18. Scott,

    Thanks for responding.

    As far as I can see, you have or are in the process of arguing for an application model. I am questioning some of the assumptions of the model.

    I sense a failure to account for the sin of man and the judgements and ways of God. It would seem very risky for any person to be asked to adopt a model that has failed to give its theological underpinning in a very clear manner.

    And I base my concerns on things you have written:

    For example, you say:

    But after I’ve learnt from my elders and become mature there should come a time when I see something more clearly than they (and I pray that my sons and congregations will see the light of the glory of God more than me): I am wiser in some respects.

    How does one know when they are wise? What is the basis of evaluating ‘wisdom’? What is the basis for assuming that a later generation ‘sees more clearly’?

    Another example:
    I don’t think 2 Timothy 2 is about, as you say, ‘handing over the reins’, rather I think it is about getting more labourers onto the harvest. That is, it is not ‘replacing’ (as you said: Replace yourself, don’t perpetuate yourself. Step aside so others can step up) or maintaining existing structures. Rather, it’s about reproducing to spread, to send out, to multiply the teaching of God’s word. There are just so many lost people in the world.

    Paul says: You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2Tim 2)

    The task was so huge that neither Paul nor Timothy were telling each other to step aside.

    Your abiding question (Who is my fight against?) is somewhat addressed in the context of 2 Timothy 2 which you quoted.  ‘Share in the sufferings as a good soldier of Christ Jesus’.

    When a person speaks the truth in love and the listener starts fighting with them as a consequence, what can we say? There is fighting? Who is adversarial? How do we discern as a third party?

    Sometimes there are divisions that sadly just have to be and I doubt that such divisions are pleasant. (1 Corinthians 11:18). For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. We are called to contend for the faith with wolves in sheep’s clothing amongst the flock.

    Scott, with respect, my concerns are about theological underpinnings in the areas of revelation, scripture, wisdom and knowledge.  And I know I can easily be wrong and welcome debate on the theological foundations that I am concerned about so that my fears can be set aside.

    I believe with you that what scripture says should be the basis of considerations for practice. Which is why I am questioning on this.


    (By the way, it was Andrew who raised the ‘fresh’ conference. I simply responded.)

  19. Di – what is the ‘model’ I’m proposing? I thought I was just exploring an issue. You persist in making more of what I’m saying and don’t say that what I do.

    Re: 2 Tim 2 … do you think Paul’s knowledge of his certain and imminent death has nothing to do with his command to Timothy? (2 Tim 4) Does it have to be an either / or? Can’t it be both?

    Intergenerational hand over of ministry is just plain reality for so long as Christ doesn’t return. Are you saying that it’s a useless question to explore? Are you saying that we should only be concerned about the spread of gospel ministry and not the preservation of it to the next generation? I don’t assume that you are, but that’s twice now you’ve pitted ‘multiplication’ of ministry against ‘intergenerational’ ministry.

    If you do believe that we should seek to preserve the gospel through generations, how do we do that? And I’m not saying *what* should we do (as fundamental and important as that is … the word and prayer and lives modelled on it etc etc) … I’m asking you, how would you shape your ministry to produce mature leaders for the next generation? What is *your* wisdom for how a church should conduct its ministry week-to-week? Would you run a children’s program? Would you run training courses? Would you insist on any formal theological commitment for your elders? What would *you* do? ie, you can’t simply answer ‘teach the word’ … you need to flesh out *how* you would do that. And how would you do that over the course of a decade? You’ll see some clearer examples of what I mean in the next post. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, I suggest you don’t jump to conclusions.

    Once again you fail to understand me because you persist in an unnuanced, flat reading of what I’m saying and the concepts involved. And of insisting that, because I haven’t said something, I therefore don’t believe it.

    Eg, re: nuance: The wolf in sheep’s clothing *is* the false teacher, whom we must fight. And did you miss the point of the division in 1 Cor: to know what is right / best? ie, unity of mind? Division in that context is for the sake of knowing an answer …

    Or again re your aspersions: I don’t give sufficient weight to the judgement of God and sin of man???? Did you read my first post properly? You don’t know me (I only know one Dianne Howard and I’m pretty sure you are not her – I could be wrong). Please, desist. You are being spectacularly unfair, despite your ‘with respect’. Do I accuse you of not giving sufficient weight to the grace of God, the power and efficacy of his word and Spirit to transform the hearts and minds of his people into his likeness? To mitigate sin and its effects in our lives and the lives of others? Of course not.

    And of course not every generation sees more clearly post-Christ: but I never said that they did. But you *can*, for example, point say to the early church and acknowledge that the first Nicene creed was a huge step forward in the ability to articulate the deity of Christ, and the *next* generation was able to build off that and transform the Nicene Creed into a far more robust trinitarian statement. A subsequent generation *can* build off the first … in God’s grace.

    Re: a younger generation having more wisdom than the previous … the difficulty in determining which generation is exhibiting wisdom does not nullify the reality that such a scenario might exist. Nevertheless, what I am suggesting is that it’s not going to be determined one way or another if the younger generation insist on picking a fight (ie, we’re right, you’re wrong), nor if the older generation simply exasperates the younger by abusing power (ie, without discussion to insist that they are right).

    I’d said that I would bow out, and so I now do. Thankyou for your comments.

  20. Thanks for these wise and gracious words Scott. I think your central point is a valid one – that a critique of some practices of the previous generation is not the same as a declaration of war.

    Regarding generations… I’m turning 40 myself this year, and it is not young! My eldest son is 18, and drives and votes and has a job. He is young… I am not.

    But I can also understand, a bit, that old cliche, that life begins at 40. As I’ve discovered at work, this time of life represents a great juxtaposition of experience and energy.

    It is a time in life when you can really get things done, really make a difference. It doesn’t surprise me at all that our GenX leaders are stepping forward into positions of influence and leadership at this time.

    And for what it’s worth, I think we are doing ok on the “handover” of power front. Pieces like this are helpful on that front, and help keep things visible and accountable.

  21. Jumping catfish! Scott, I hear that I’m annoying you. I’m a sister in Christ with all my intellectual, spiritual weaknesses, and flat reading ability – I guess that makes me a ‘flat-brainer’.

    I do regard you as a brother in Christ. And I invite you to critique any opinion or assumed theological view that you perceive that I have so that I might grow in understanding.

    I’m trying to join along in your ‘exploration’ of ideas.  If you find me unfriendly and a fruitcake, then feel free to ignore me. I’m trying to interact with what is written, not what I know of you personally.

    I’m not questioning your commitment to scripture, but am trying to discuss theological issues and how they might inform the ideas you explore and propose. I tried to stick to your quotes and/or ask a question before I made each comment to avoid misunderstanding you.

    I (obviously wrongly) assumed you were proposing or working towards a model because you said: ‘We need to embrace a model where we seek to push higher together, to bring one another closer to the knowledge of God’. And also:  ‘Stepping aside (not out) so others can step up (not in)’. My apologies for any wrong assumptions on my part.

    I’m wary of any ‘automatic’ generational hand-overs and generational stereotyping and caricaturing. Therefore I was concerned by some of your comments. I think not so much in ‘age’ categories but more in ‘faithful’ categories. This doesn’t negate the great importance of training those younger but I do wish to elevate the wisdom of God that recognises the importance of appointing ‘faithful’ men. And the need for proclaiming the gospel. Structures (and their power) come and go, but it is the word of the Lord that remains. 

    If a generation is off with the fairies adopting church growth principles over gospel growth principles or embracing charismatic teachings or emerging church diversity or skill and management oriented ministries or whatever, then I would be putting my money into wheelchairs to role out some golden oldie faithfuls to keep teaching.

    And I’d be equally keen to by-pass a generation if there was a mature youth (eg Spurgeon was a ‘child’ preacher) who more faithfully handled the word of truth and lived it than others of an older generation.

    As Paul said: when I am weak, then I am strong. To ensure the gospel for the next generation? Teach it now. Teach it everywhere there is opportunity. Teach people so they can teach others. It is about living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It’s not about having human power, but submission and humility. It’s about humility before the Word. Even if a man is locked up in solitary confinement, he can still pray for the spread of the gospel and his prayers will be answered. The word can even be spoken by enemies – God is always working here and there. Power in denomination is of little significance – it is the power of the word as it is preached and multiplies.

    So we train by teaching so that others can also teach others. A good servant will teach: ‘being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed’. (1 Tim 4)
    The word is powerful beyond our wildest dreams. ‘Specifics’ of practice, method, age, ‘speck in eyes’, denominations fade into insignificance.

    Organise,in each church context (flexibility, creativity), on the principle of proclamation and multiplication in God’s grace.  And maybe if in Sydney we have so many gospel workers then perhaps we should be sending heaps of these eager ‘in their prime’ 40 year olds to the world. ‘Appointing elders’ is about multiplication and spreading.

    The irony is that sometimes the perceived less powerful positions give more opportunity to teach. It’s about faithfulness to Christ and His word.

    We sow the word here and there and watch and see:

    In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. (Ecclesiastes)


  22. Is it just me – or is it officially ‘adversarial’ in here now wink

  23. Just for thought (said with a large smile and friendly disposition…)

    a quote from the Australian Law Reform Commission: ‘The adversarial-non adversarial debate simply obscures effective reform’.


  24. @Sandy – I don’t think anyone who has ever read your thoughtful contributions would peg you as a “yes-man”! I’ve always appreciated your comments over the years, and I give weight to your opinion.

    I would, however, place you in the same “thought space” as the retiring generation of leaders. If their vision is to prevail for the next generation as for the last, then it will be through people such as yourself.

  25. It’s been almost 4 weeks since the last post. Is the Sola Panel an ex-blog, or are all the contributors just resting?

  26. Definitely not an ex-blog, but I think the bloggers have a lot on their plates at the moment.

    There are going to be some changes in the next month or so related to the new Briefing, and you should see more steady posting after that.

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