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The mistakes of Phillip Jensen

Tony Payne: Phillip, you’ve been in ministry for quite a long time…

Phillip Jensen: Well, ever since I became a Christian; that’s when you start ministering, and that was back in ’59.

TP: You’ve often said that you learn from your mistakes in life, and in ministry.

PJ: Which is why I know so much. I’ve made so many.

TP: Well that should make for a decent length interview, because I’m going to ask you about your mistakes. I want you to look back and think about your blunders. Let’s start, Frank Sinatra style, with regrets (“I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention”). Looking back on your ministry, do you have any major regrets?

PJ: No, none. I don’t think regret is really a Christian characteristic; it’s an atheistic characteristic; it’s a Sinatra characteristic, because he lived for himself. But if you live for God, and God is the sovereign God who cares for us, loves us, forgives us, pardons us, then we move on, forgetting what is in the past. I press on to the goal of the future, so I don’t live in regret, and I don’t think we should.

TP: Perhaps it’s going to be a short interview after all…

PJ: Ah, no, because you started out talking about mistakes, and that will make a very substantial interview, because I’ve made lots of mistakes. But I don’t regret mistakes. I say sorry, I ask for forgiveness, I fix what can be fixed, and I move on. I try to learn from mistakes, but I don’t live in regret about them.

TP: Okay, let’s start with theology. Theologically speaking, and in your understanding of the Bible, how have you changed your mind over the years? As you look back, what things do you think you’ve got wrong?

PJ: Lots of things. For many years I was an Arminian. It took some kind, loving friends to bash me over the head for some months to get me out of that kind of thinking. I was and I still am a teetotaller, but I used to believe that alcohol itself was evil, whereas clearly that’s not what the Bible is teaching. So there were those kinds of mistakes—some of them really fundamental, like Arminianism; some of them more marginal.
I was a pacifist for some years, and again that’s a hopeless position, because you can’t really be a Christian pacifist and worship the ‘God of armies’ (which is what ‘Lord of hosts’ means). And you can’t make sense of punishment or of the cross if you’re a pacifist, but for years I was a pacifist and it took me a while to work that out.
Most of those errors were in my early years as a Christian. And I had the benefit of good fellowship, good church teaching, and the great benefit of Moore College to help me sort out the big issues, the big fundamental issues. Since College, I’ve changed my mind on lots and lots of little issues. I’ve also changed my mind about lots of Bible passages—so I learnt the framework of expositional preaching and exegesis of the Scriptures, but I thought I knew what was in the passages before I actually did the exegesis. But then I discovered in a great many cases that the passages didn’t say what I thought they were going to say; they said something different. And so I needed to change my mind. And I’m still doing that and I’m still learning. I’m preaching a new series on 1 John at the moment, in which I’ve come to quite a different understanding of 1 John which, blessedly, my son has taught me. But that’s a discovery I’ve only come to in the last little while.
I should say that nothing of huge significance has changed since coming out of college. I still believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

TP: It’s really interesting that your experience was after receiving that training, that theological framework, it actually equipped you to keep growing and changing your mind. The perception might be that you go to somewhere like Moore College and you learn a body of knowledge that is fixed forever more. But in fact what you learn is a framework and a set of tools to keep learning and growing.

PJ: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s the exact reverse of expectation. My youth fellowship group took me through Louis Berkoff’s Systematic Theology. And so I went to Moore College thinking I knew it all. But instead they dismantled much of what I’d learned—especially the sense that here’s the question, here’s the Bible verse, here’s the answer. They said, “Well, what does this proof text verse say in its context, and what does the book say?” And it just didn’t actually prove the point that Louis said it proved. What Moore College did was radicalize my mind to think biblically and creatively, rather than giving me all the answers so I didn’t have to think any more. I had that before I went to College. College freed me from it.

TP: As you left College, and went out to apply your newfound understanding in ministry, you found yourself dealing with people, because ministry is people. Thinking back on your relationships with people and on the pastoral issues you’ve dealt with, what mistakes stick out in your mind? Things you wished you’d done differently, things you’ve learnt from?

PJ: Well, people are an inexact science! You can wish that every relationship is going to work perfectly—but they don’t and they’re never going to. And so there are certain people that I’ve hurt and people who have hurt me. And they would wish, hopefully, that they hadn’t hurt me, and I certainly wish that I hadn’t hurt them! And so there are just mistakes that we all make in relationships.
But in general, with people, I think I was too naïve and trusting of people, especially early in my ministry. I took people too much as I found them.
I didn’t really believe enough in the doctrine of sin. And so I took people on face value, which in one sense you have to if you’re going to trust people, and if you’re going to have a relationship with people. But over the years you learn that the enthusiast, especially the newcomer enthusiast, is often the shallow soil that will burn out very quickly when the opposition comes. And you need to be wary.

TP: You made mistakes in trusting people too quickly, in other words?

PJ: That’s right. And it’s really a delegation problem. In Christian ministry you’ve got to delegate to people. I didn’t spend enough time on that, because I didn’t know to train people properly before I delegated to them. So I met them, I liked them, they seemed good people, and I got them to do things. Then down the track I discovered that they didn’t actually believe the same things I believed; or didn’t live with the same lifestyle that I expected of a Christian. I remember setting up a couple of church plants in my early church planting days. And I talked to a couple of enthusiastic people who were all fired up to establish this church. But three months down the track, after we had put in a lot of effort, and gathered people in, it became quite apparent that this couple I had trusted actually had huge marriage problems. They separated, and the whole church disappeared. And in hindsight, I simply didn’t spend enough time with them. I didn’t get to know them, and didn’t understand how they functioned as people. I just took them at face value.
I also did it institutionally. The first missionaries I sent out, I sent with a missionary society that didn’t actually screen people properly, didn’t train and equip people properly. I had thought, “Well this is a missionary society. They know about the third world. I know nothing about the third world. Here’s a missionary who wants to go. They want to take them. Perfect.” But it was dreadful, and disillusioned a lot of Christians in support of the mission field. There was hardly any good to come out of it, other than the dear missionary who was a very fine Christian person and survived through it all. But that was the kind of mistake that I made, just trusting people—although the mistake is not really trust. It’s lack of discernment. You have to trust people, but you need to do so discerningly.

TP: Speaking of discernment, one of the things I’ve always appreciated about your ministry was your willingness to disagree when that was necessary; to have a fight when there was a fight to be had. As you look back on your conflicts, what have you learnt?

PJ: I can think of several lessons. The first is that as a young man I enjoyed a fight too much. I grew up in a family of brothers. We fought a lot, and I grew up through debating and arguing, and I liked a good argument. A very kind senior academic came and talked to me years ago, and pointed out that when the Bible urges us to “flee the passions of youth”, it’s not talking about sex. It’s talking about argumentativeness, if you look at the context (in 2 Tim 2). The Lord’s servant must not be argumentative, but teach patiently and pray that God may change your heart. So as a young man, my own personality and argumentativeness was too strong. So that was a lesson to learn.
All the same, God uses even our mistakes and flaws for good. Down the track, I think I was able to cope with the conflicts that I went into or had thrust upon me much better, because of what I had learnt in the scrums of yesteryear.
The next problem was this lack of discernment in trust. I grew up in a very loving family, a very caring family, with a certain degree of naïve trust in the institutions of our society and our world. So I trusted the Anglican Church, I trusted the Sydney Morning Herald, I trusted the university and educational system. That was an incredibly misplaced trust. Those institutions were nothing like I imagined them to be. So I thought the university was a place of learning, open enquiry, genuine intellectual robust discussion, truth-seeking… and there are people like that in the university world. I’ve met them. But that’s not really what the university is about. I only discovered that when I tried to teach the Bible at the University of NSW. As long as I was marginalized, as long as I kept my head down and was out of the way, as long as I didn’t speak or draw a crowd, I was tolerated.

TP: But when you did?

PJ: But when I did I was pilloried and attacked and persecuted consistently.

TP: By the university authorities?

PJ: Sometimes it was the authority structure itself; sometimes it was just individuals within the system. The university is a complex community. Sometimes it was the student union, or sometimes the university newspaper. Sometimes it was the enrolment office. It was generally anti-Christian people in the system. But they never attacked you for preaching Christ as such. They attacked you for handing out a leaflet in the wrong place.
Each year there was another way in which people within the system at the university fought against me gathering Christians on the campus to hear the word of God. Every year there was conflict—over giving out water to students, over room bookings, over activities in Orientation Week, or over whatever it was this year. That was difficult. But it made me realise that the university was not a place of free and open debate and enquiry about the truth, but a political game that was played according to certain rules—and the rules were made and changed by those in power for their own purposes.
That was a very different world to the university I grew up imagining. But it was good for me, because I learnt. And so I lost my respect of universities.

TP: Throughout the 80s and 90s, there was significant conflict within Christian circles over the charismatic movement. In fact, as a young charismatic arriving at your church many years ago, I found your strong stance on those issues a difficult thing to wrestle through. Do you think you made any mistakes in the way you responded to charismatic issues?

PJ: This may sound strange, but I think we should have fought harder quicker. By the time we understood what was going on, we had already lost a lot of ground and a lot of people.
But I also made mistakes by taking too long to realise that there were two basic kinds of charismatics. There were the ex-evangelicals who became charismatics, and who were moving away from evangelicalism. And then there were non-Christians who were converted in a charismatic or Pentecostal church, and were moving towards evangelicalism. The problem when you met a charismatic was that you had to work out which direction they were travelling, in order to know what to say.
Rarely did the ex-evangelicals ever come back to the Bible. They tended to keep going into more and more charismatic extremes and often out of Christianity. But for the non-Christian who became a charismatic… usually that was their first ever taste of the gospel of Jesus, and when they had it explained more clearly to them they continued on a trajectory away from charismatic theology. So there were several years in which I was preaching as if the congregation were ex-evangelicals, when they really were ex-non-Christians. I was being too harsh in what I was saying because I was misreading the people who I was speaking to.

TP: Let’s think about church life more generally. Looking back on the various things you’ve done over the years (and you’ve always been someone who’s tried things, who’s experimented) what have you learnt? What blunders did you make in the tactics of church life and church planting?

PJ: Oh, sometimes travelling too slowly. By 1982, we had filled St Matthias church on a Sunday night, and then we couldn’t work out what to do. For two or three years we ran with a full church, until we worked out that we could take the students out and start a new church on Friday night in a lecture theatre. Now it’s hard to imagine how radical an idea it was to move out of a church building and into a lecture theatre, or to move away from Sunday night onto a Friday night. But as soon as we did it, we started building a new church. Within three or four years we had two congregations the same size. But the thing is, we lost three years, just because we were too slow to work out what do to and how to do it.
Another mistake is to use the wrong venue. Venues do matter in churches. In the early 90s, we combined three congregations and went into Unisearch House, which I don’t think is there anymore. It used to be a bowling alley, and had a very low ceiling. We had about five or six hundred people, and it was oppressive. It’s profound the effect architecture has on you. Nobody liked being there. And I didn’t like being there. I liked being there with the people, but it just wasn’t a pleasant building to be in. Your spirits dropped when you entered it, I don’t know why.

TP: They probably had one of those big machines in the basement that sucks the life out people.

PJ: Yes perhaps that was it! Sometimes God also turns your mistakes into unlikely successes. One of the congregations we folded into that larger meeting in Unisearch House had originally been a Wednesday night congregation. That was one of our brilliant mistakes. We had set it up to reach city workers, and the whole pattern, the way we did it, the serving of a meal beforehand—it was all to reach city workers. And we got about, I don’t know, 40 or 50 city workers to come and plant it together. Within two years, hardly any of them were in the church and, although the church had grown to 100, none of them were city workers. They were shift workers, and all kinds of people, many of whom were marginalized in society. And so we completely failed to reach the people the church had been planted for; so that’s a mistake. But over the years we found that there were more people converted in that congregation than in almost any other we ran. It never grew beyond 100, because the kinds of people it attracted were the kinds of people who needed a small church, who could not cope with a large church. So as soon as the church grew beyond a hundred they left. And other people would come in. So it looked like a failure, and struggled to be self-sufficient. But in terms of seeing people converted it was a huge success—just not the success we had aimed at. So it was a brilliant mistake.

TP: Let’s talk politics. You’ve been actively involved in Anglican politics over many years. I don’t mean that negatively, as if politics is a bad thing. Politics is just the way humans organize themselves in a group. But looking back at all the ins and outs of that involvement, are there things you wished you’d done differently?

PJ: Once again, I would say naivety was a major failing, especially early on. I trusted the Anglican Church too much. I was raised on the 39 Articles and the Prayer Book of 1662, and on the idea that as a denomination we were constituted by law, and that we had all the safeguards of constitutional authority. But of course, that was a nonsense, because I discovered that the Anglican constitution was only ever used to hold back evangelicals from the work of the gospel. It didn’t hold back other people—you could believe the most outlandish heresy and wind up as an Anglican bishop leading a diocese. You could practice certain immoralities and still wind up in positions of power. But if you wanted to change a jot or tittle that might advance the cause of the gospel, you would find all kinds of people against you.
I went to General Synod—which is the governing body for Anglicans around Australia—and that was a mistake. We discussed a new prayer book that they were putting forward and I thought that those proposing it believed what they were saying (when they said that they stood by the 39 Articles and the 1662 Prayer Book). But they clearly didn’t believe what they were saying, because when I pointed out major inconsistencies between the new prayer book and the 1662, I was shouted down and overruled. At one General Synod meeting, people stamped their feet and scraped their feet on the ground as I spoke—the kind of rudeness that you wouldn’t even expect from a non-Christian, but this was the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.
The Anglican Communion around the world is full of lovely Christian people. But it’s also full of people who are Christianized by culture, but have moved so far away from their understanding of Christianity that they will approve that which is sin and deny that which is truth. Which is the total antithesis of Christianity.

TP: Thinking of Sydney Anglicanism and its politics, one of the most significant periods was the 1990s—I’m thinking of the founding of the Reformed Evangelical Protestant Association (REPA), your involvement in that, and the archepiscopal election that took place… Looking back on all those events, what mistakes do you think you might have made?

PJ: I made the mistake of not spending enough time with people, explaining myself to them, listening to them carefully, and re-explaining myself in their terms so that we shared a common mind. It’s a mistake I keep making. You mentioned REPA. I didn’t understand how much people saw it as a political movement, because for me it was spiritual. Our diocese was suffering from a profound spiritual malaise—of complacency and self-satisfaction—and we were not confronting the evangelistic needs of our society by changing in a way that could reach our community. I formed REPA to address that issue, and to drive change. But in the process, my friends nominated me for the role of archbishop in 1993, and I allowed them to do that. But I didn’t understand the degree to which people then thought that the whole REPA thing was a political move to get me elected. When I stood for archbishop, it proved their point, and so they then didn’t have to listen to the spiritual challenge that I was trying to bring because, after all, it was just an attempt to get me elected. I never thought that the spiritual change necessary in our diocese could be done by an archbishop. If my friends thought that this was the best way of using my gifts and time, I was willing to allow that to happen.

TP: But looking back you wish you hadn’t?

PJ: Yes, in some ways I wish I hadn’t. It was a very hard decision at the time. Was it a mistake? Yes, because it derailed people from hearing what I was saying. That was the mistake. The important thing is not the message sent but the message received. And if you don’t spend enough time explaining your message, correcting misperceptions, and explaining again, then you might send the right message but it’s not heard properly. And I think the REPA message was not heard properly because of the political processes that were involved.

TP: Well, knowing what you do now, thinking back over decades in ministry: if you were talking to a young man or woman in ministry just getting started, what would you say to them?

PJ: You’ve got to take up your cross and follow Jesus. So this is no career move for the faint-hearted. This is no career move for someone who wants an easy life or a nice life. You’re not going to be accepted, and you’re not going to be liked: you are following the crucified one.
So grasp that reality before you start. That’s not an invitation for nasty people to join the ministry. If you enjoy conflict you have a spiritual problem. But if you withdraw from conflict, or think you’re going to win people over by niceness, you have a major problem because you’re not actually dealing with Christianity. People like using the suffering servant of the cross as an image of loving service. It is that. But it is also an image of painful martyrdom and alienation and rejection. That’s what Christian ministry is always going to be about.
Secondly then, it’s really important to be at one with your spouse about it. Family life is really important, and without a good wife beside me I could not have survived the years that God has given me in the work that I’ve been doing. Helen’s strength has been massive in enabling me to do what I do.
The third thing is: expect to make mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, it’s good to make mistakes. A person who hasn’t made mistakes hasn’t tried hard enough. You can’t be in a people ministry without making mistakes. You can’t be in something as complicated as Christian ministry without making mistakes. But you’ve got to learn how to deal with mistakes. You’ve got to be able to say, “Yeah, I got that dead wrong. I need to say sorry, and to fix up the things I can fix up, and to leave the rest to God. I have to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.” Mind you, some mistakes have consequences that you bear for the rest of your life. You can’t avoid that.
And finally, I would say: make sure you go to Moore College and be trained properly—trained so that you can keep learning, and growing in knowledge and understanding, and not be locked into a closed framework of mind.

TP: Thanks for talking to us today.

PJ: Pleasure!

97 thoughts on “The mistakes of Phillip Jensen

  1. Pingback: Phillip Jensen Interviewed About A Lifetime Of Ministry Mistakes at The Briefing | mgpcpastor's blog

  2. Thank you Phillip (and Tony)!!

    Your honesty is refreshing; we youngsters need more of this from our seniors/ Christian role models (talking about mistakes). It’s humbling reading your failures and seeing where I’ve yet to learn the very lessons that you’ve grown through.

    There were two things you talked about that struck me as potentially being on the ‘rise’ in our generation and movement: Naivety and Argumentativeness.

    The first is something that is compounded among young people because our generation is less ‘risk adverse’ when it comes to gospel growth by virtue of our increasing levels of confidence in ourselves (we are less ‘humble’ as a generation I think).

    The second seems to be accelerating because our generation has inherited the spoils of so much ground breaking work that our Fathers have done for us, but then fight over the finer details re the territory we’ve inherited. It’s no longer good enough to have the gospel straight; we need to sort out what we believe about ‘parenting’ too etc.

  3. Btw. That’s coming from an ex-Pentecostal who prior to that was an evangelical Christian. I.e. I was heading from evangelicalism ‘into’ Pentecostalism; but then experienced a personal change in the tide well after developing deep commitments to the Pentecostal system, theologically as well as practically.

    To borrow a Pauline phrase and paraphrase out of context: ‘did God reject his people? Not at all; I am now a ‘reformed’ evangelical myself!’ :-)

  4. Pingback: Phillip Jensen’s advice to young man or woman getting started in Christian ministry « Jue's Journal

  5. This is a wonderful and very helpful post. I’ve shared it on Facebook etc, and people have found it very encouraging. I particularly love this one: “”Ministry…is no career move…for someone who wants an easy life…: you are following the crucified one.” It’s been running through my mind. Thank you, Phillip and Tony.

  6. A wonderful insight into a great man. Thanks TP. PJ, thanks for showing us ‘The Way’ in Word and deed. I was one of the Charismatics moving toward evangelicalism in the 80s. I am so glad there were good people explaining scripture to me and directing me towards Jesus despite my youthful enthusiasm for distractions.
    I went to SMBC and found it equally helpful in getting me started on the pathway of learning. Perhaps the most significant is the framework of Biblical Theology. What a debt we owe to people like Graeme Goldsworthy – his books and insights are worth gold!

  7. I’ve posted an extended comment (titled ‘Reaching the charismatics’) with reference to and in relation to Phillip’s comments about ‘misreading charismatics’ (too much to paste in here I think):

    http://talkingchristianity.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/reaching-charismatics.html

    However to summarise what I’ve said there:

    “Although Phillip may at present be generally right in his approximation, that “rarely [do] ex-evangelicals ever come back to the Bible,” it must be said that it in fact is not as rare as he implies that ex-evangelicals do come back. And it would be awful if these sentiments were to discourage earnest ministry to the Pentecostal movement with the aim of bringing holy and evangelical reform.”

  8. Pingback: What does following Jesus entail? « L3inC

  9. An excellent article. I must now try to calm down after reading the account of General Synod and the attitudes of some of its members.

  10. Pingback: Community News « Northmead Anglican Churches

  11. It is a refreshing interview. Thanks for posting it.

    But I’m not with him on regret being an atheistic attribute. I’m not sure why he makes it such a big thing. Especially in light of:

    Gen 6:6 – the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

    Gen 6:7 – Then the LORD said, “I will wipe off from the face of the earth mankind, whom I created, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky—for I regret that I made them.”

    1 Sam 15:11 – “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions.” So Samuel became angry and cried out to the LORD all night.

    1 Sam 15: 35 – Even to the day of his death, Samuel never again visited Saul. Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted He had made Saul king over Israel.

    Jer 8:6 – I have paid careful attention. They do not speak what is right. No one regrets his evil, asking, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone has stayed his course like a horse rushing into battle.

    2 Cor 7: 8 – For even if I grieved you with my letter, I do not regret it—even though I did regret it since I saw that the letter grieved you, yet only for a little while.

    • Alistair, re ‘regret’ … as I read it (if it is not too presumptuous to suggest I understand), Phillip seems to be with Paul, for example in 2 Cor 7:8, as you have quoted. Phillip says “I don’t live in regret”.
      In most of the texts you’ve quoted, the word ‘regret’ is conveying something like ‘repent’, an action, a response, rather than an ongoing state of dissatisfaction.
      In a number of places in the interview, Phillip acknowledges having come to points of repenting. But then, freed by God’s grace, he moved on:
      “God who cares for us, loves us, forgives us, pardons us, then we move on, forgetting what is in the past. I press on to the goal of the future, so I don’t live in regret, and I don’t think we should.”

      • Hi Andrew

        Thanks for your reply.

        I’ve re-read Phillip’s comments and, in particular, the part where he says: “I press on to the goal of the future, so I don’t live in regret, and I don’t think we should.” That is a very helpful. And you pick up on that as well.

        But to say that regret is *only* an atheistic characteristic seems to go too far. I’m not persuaded by Phillip that I need to jettison “regret” from my vocab. There’s a difference between regretting what we’ve done and living/wallowing in regret.

        If you’re interested I say more about it here: http://paradoxspeak.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/regret-and-christian.html

  12. This is a dreadfully self-serving article. Almost all the mistakes he mentions are about not identifying the failures / shortcomings of others quickly enough. Not one of them goes, separately, to his own behaviour towards, or treatment of, other people (eg failing to show respect to people who have a different point of view).

    As for his failings of exegesis, it is scary that he could come to “quite a different understanding of 1 John” after so many years. One could be forgiven for thinking that it is the very Moore College education that he so treasures that has contributed to his understanding not improving sooner…

    • Peter, I think that’s a pretty unfair assessment. He talks of his failure to train, his argumentativeness, his inaction.

      And regarding his reading of 1 John, there’s 2 problems I see here. Firstly, you don’t know what the difference is, and given that he says “nothing of huge significance has changed since coming out of college”, it’s probably not something you’d regard as ‘scary’. Secondly, suggesting that Moore contributed to his slowness in changing is not only directly contrary to what he stated, but (as David says below) sounds to me very much like hearsay and unsubstantiated rumour. Substantiate or retract, please.

    • Hi Peter,

      Phillip said in the article that he had been taught his new understanding of 1 John by his son. The son in question studied at Moore College, has been a lecturer at Moore College, and (unless I’m mistaken) conducted his investigation of 1 John through the PhD program at Moore College. Since you obviously weren’t aware of these facts, you might be forgiven for mistakenly assuming that Moore College was to blame for Phillip’s slowness in coming to a new understanding of 1 John. But now you know the facts, and there’s no room for you to continue making the assumption.

      PS, you need to tell us your full name too; the commenting policy which appears at the head of the commenting form clearly states that full names are required. The editor seems have to have been generous to you by not “summarily deleting” your comment according to site policy. Still, you should really tell us who you are.

  13. What Peter said re: Philip’s “mistakes” being ascribed to the “moral failings” of others.

    Re: concluding sentence, Moore College and open mindedness. Moore College is well known as the “Cloning Factory”, a reputation that seems well earned.

    • Re: concluding sentence, Moore College and open mindedness. Moore College is well known as the “Cloning Factory”, a reputation that seems well earned.

      Really? That doesn’t sound like the Moore College that so many of us spent many years in and are familiar with, but it does sound like the Moore College of hearsay and unsubstantiated comment that many of us are also familiar with.

      Could you put some actual flesh on the bones of your accusation? In what way can you demonstrate Moore College has a “well-earned” reputation of being a “Clone factory” and of not promoting open-mindedness?

      I ask, since your accusation is a heavy one and it really deserves substantiation. Or a retraction.

      • Oh goodness! I seem to have ruffled more than a few feathers have I? Betwixt yourself and a Mr. Sam Freney who sent me a private email in regards to this, and gauging from your reaction that I must either substantiate, retract *or* my post will be deleted (Mr. Freney’s threat) proves my point. Mr. Freney delete and you prove that Moore College cannot take criticism and makes moves towards its critics. Ergo “closed minded”.
        I have accused the College of teaching cliestogamy and inculcating a culture that enforces cliestogamic tendancies which are then spread onwards towards its parishioners. I have *not* accused the College of the performance of illegal, illicit and/or despicable acts.
        Know the difference.
        Not everyone comes to write a Hagiography of your dear leader(s) and/or institutions. The hallmark of a mature person or institution is how it handles criticism.
        Exactly how does one substantiate claims about “closed mindedness”? Do you have an objective measure to go by, or is it based entirely upon your subjective view?
        To begin with, since arriving in Sydney well over 2/3 of sermons from either catechists or newly graduated ministers have been more of a script being recited than an actual sermon. If it were isloted cases, one could make allowances. Unfortunately these are closer to regurgitated tracts, and are practically verbatim. The only difference is the person up front speaking the words. As one friend called it: The Gospel According to St. Graeme.

        Trying to read his books continually reminded me of a poster in my high school chemistry class that portrayed a round peg being whittled into a square with an Arthur Conan Doyle quote: “The problem my Dear Watson is when we make the facts suit our hypothesis, not our hypothesis suit the facts.”

        The single most striking example of this occured well over 14 years ago — so please forgive that I cannot give the exact verses, all I remember was how gob smacked I was when this event occured, and have not had a chance to contact my friends who were also stunned by this event to confirm the passages. The young minister, took a passage that was rather straight forward. However, the reader came to verse 31 and concluded reading at 31A *not* all of v31, but 31A. 31B said some very revolutionary things for Sydney.

        At first we though this was unusual. Why stop mid-verse? Then we found out why.

        The sermon and the passage up to 31A were completely on Moore College message, which would have been fine, as the passage actually said those things up to but only up to 31A.

        HOWEVER, 31B changed the meaning and tone of the *entire* passage. This wasn’t a verse in the next chapter, or even two or three verses away. 31B was what the entire passage was heading towards. 31B was the message of the passage. Yet as it didn’t follow the script, it was omitted.

        My friends and I got some rather displeased looks as we *involuntarily* choked on our weetbix in unison over this.

        This is not just limited to the pulpit, but also conversations with many young catechists and ministers. Either in formal homegroup settings or informal social settings. It is also not entirely my own view, but that of number of persons I have met throughout Sydney also have.

        This dependance upon heavily “scripted” material does not seem to appear in students at SMBC or other Bible colleges either in Sydney or the world that I have met.

        Again, these are not just my observations, but those of many I have come in contact with.

        I and others have noticed a marked improvement in preaching quality since Dr. Woodhouse became principal. It appears that lightening the course load enables the students to have time to go sit in Victoria Park and synthesise what they’re learning, with what God actually has to say. Coincidence?

        On a related side note, next catechist that wants to quote that silly story of the Admiral and the lighthouse, had better do some research. Because
        A) Anyone who’s an Admiral let alone in charge of a battle group knows what a lighthouse looks like.
        B) Were you actually aware that each lighthouse has a unique pulse rate? It helps navigators know where they are, and what chart they should be using.
        Don’t, because believe it or not, we’ve heard it more times than we care to remember. Go develop a hobby, and from there draw your own conclusions about how that relates to God’s Word.

        • Yep, as senior editor of The Briefing and the website administrator, rather than calling you out in public I sent you an email asking you to adhere to the site policy, and gave you an opportunity to respond. I apologise for my generosity.

          Thanks for providing at least some level of substantiation, although the detail (as David notes below) is still lacking. The reason that we’re going on about this is that apart from being antagonistic without many details, it’s a pretty significant side-track from the article itself. You really can’t claim that the single data point of Phillip Jensen justifies a ‘well-earned’ reputation for Moore College (especially from someone who was a graduate several decades ago). Deleting such a comment doesn’t prove any point about inability to take criticism, it would have been about keeping the discussion on track and ‘not a flame war’ (that comment policy again).

          Since you’ve come back again, I’ll let the discussion stand, but you’ve still failed to move the discussion past hearsay.

          And do tell us who you are.

  14. Francis, David’s request of you was perfectly reasonable. You were using what Wikipedia calls “Weasel words,” i.e. the kind of rhetorical flourish which “present[s] the appearance of support for statements but can deny the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint.” By claiming that your own condescending slogan about Moore College (“Cloning Factory”) was not just your own opinion but rather was something that was “well known,” you were lending extra credibility to your own opinion, without giving people the opportunity to test it. Also, I think Sam has been remarkably generous to you in not “summarily deleting” your post, since you had already ignored one of the basic, and quite clearly stated, rules for commenting here: please use your full name.

    Thanks for providing a bit of evidence now. But the evidence you’re giving isn’t particularly coherent. You seem to be going beyond simply claiming that Moore College produces boring preachers; rather your words are suggesting that well over two thirds of current students and recent graduates of Moore College are essentially plagiarisists. Is that really what you’re trying to suggest? If so, it really is a very serious accusation.

    • Lionel,

      “Plagiarists” as in someone who commits the act of plagiarism? That’s a rather big jump from cleistogamy.

      Plagiarism outside of academic and literary circles has little to no bearing. Particularly as a weekly sermon, Bible study or social interaction requires considerably less rigidity. Otherwise one would have site every single word one ever utters.

      How are you defining “current”? I couldn’t possibly hear 2/3 of all of catechists of this or any year speak.

      We are talking about the utilisation of a hermeneutic system that is both narrowly defined, and is easily and well recognised, used subconsciously and is not one’s own. Well over 2/3s of sermons delivered by catechists and young ministers have been highly formulaic to the point of being scripted or a “regurgitated” or “parroted” tract.

      Thereby leading the speaker to come to conclusions that are clearly not in accordance with the text at hand.

      This is observation by myself, and by others. The term “Cloning Factory” was not my own. Having repeatedly heard sermons ignore the thrust and point of the text at hand, has lead credence to this accusation. Peter Ross states it far more succinctly than I below.

      Having heard WJ Dumbrell being interviewed once in 2001, he stated how he failed a student. The student though he argued his point very well, hadn’t come to his (Dumbrell’s) conclusions on the subject.
      Again, this student was failed not because the student had come to either a very erroneous or heretical position, but specifically because he hadn’t arrived at Dumbrell’s conclusions. If that shouldn’t raise an eyebrow, what should?

  15. Francis [?]‘s rather condescending phrase “Cloning Factory” (above) is, of course, intended to imply that most Moore College graduates are unthinking conformists. Since Francis has made a serious accusation, and potentially a very damaging one, I thought I’d take a bit of time to respond it from my own reflections and experience (being a Moore graduate myself).

    Firstly, let’s not forget that “conformity” in itself can be a very good thing. The Christian life is, in fact, all about conformity–conformity to the likeness of God’s Son Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). The apostle Paul also urges the Philippians to act–and even to think–the same way he does; i.e. as a servant of Christ whose life is soaked in the word of Christ crucified and risen, who perseveres in suffering and strives for heaven (Phil 3:15-17). Furthermore, when the Bible speaks about training leaders, it also expects conformity–conformity to the gospel and to the teaching about Jesus Christ. Teachers are supposed to teach that which conforms with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1), and anyone whose teaching does not “accord with godliness” is opposed in no uncertain terms (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

    Nevertheless, there’s also a bad kind of conformity which Christians should avoid. I’m talking about that shallow conformity to the teachings and the trappings of the Christian life; a conformity that might look Christian on the outside but is ultimately empty because it hasn’t been soaked in God’s word, is not continually repentant, and doesn’t produce any growth or change. There is such a thing as a “clonish” conformity that is content simply to parrot certain acceptable phrases and to emulate certain acceptable ministry structures. Is Moore College guilty of producing this kind of conformity amongst its graduates? Well … I guess so, sometimes. But as far as I can see, that’s a problem common to every training institution that’s ever existed. Every institution has its own distinctives, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. There will always be people who adopt these distinctives just in order to “fit in”, or who are complacent and who end up conforming unthinkingly. In fact, we all do it to some extent, don’t we? Moore College is no exception to this rule. But that just makes it a normal human institution, like any other. It doesn’t, by itself, make it a “Cloning Factory.”

    I’ve got to admit, too, that Moore College isn’t a “sparkling preacher factory.” The current students or recent graduates of Moore aren’t, as far as I know, paricularly well known as great speakers. But I have two comments about that. Firstly, preaching isn’t just a technique you can learn in a classroom; it’s something you need to learn “on the job”, as you interact with people and share your life and joys with them. If you want to assess the preaching ability of More graduates, don’t look at the current students or recent graduates; look at the people who’ve been out of college for years or decades. Furthermore, don’t just look at their public preaching style; look too at how they’re sharing the word personally and how the word is being heard and responded to.

    I also have a second comment about the preaching thing: be very wary whenever you or anybody else wants to assess Christian ministers simply by their ability to speak well. On the one hand, you might have a legitimate gripe if you’re finding that a preacher can never be bothered to come up with an original illustration, etc. On the other hand, if this issue is very important to you, it may well betray a wordly viewpoint which opposes the gospel of Christ crucified, because it shows that you care more about worldly wisdom, worldly rulers, and worldly ideals than about Christ (so 1 Cor 1-2).

    My own theological education has taken place in two institutions: I attended Moore College from 2002-2005; and I am now close to completing a 3-year postgraduate degree at Durham University, UK. While these two institutions are quite different from one another, I have benefitted greatly from both of them. Whenever I reflect and compare my present experience at Durham University with my previous experience at Moore College, Phillip’s words (“trained so that you can keep learning, and growing in knowledge and understanding, and not be locked into a closed framework of mind”) ring very true. In my experience, Moore College is really no more guilty of producing unthinking conformists than Durham University is (or any institution, for that matter). In fact, I’ve often found my foundational training at Moore College to be immensely valuable during my experience at Durham University. I’ve discovered that my Moore College education has given me insights and ways of thinking and responding to issues which aren’t necessarily considered by others. Indeed, a lot of my “original” PhD research has involved following up, developing, and at times rejecting various ideas that have been generated by the Moore College lecturers.

    So yes, I went to Moore College. And yes, I’m a sinner. And yes, I haven’t always sparkled as a preacher, and I’m trying harder. And yes, I’ve been guilty of “clonish” tendencies. But really, to describe Moore as a “clone factory” is just over the top.

    • Lionel,

      Conformity is one thing in the Christian life. Christianity is all about being conformed into the image of Christ. This form of conformity is expected. Our attitudes towards God, our view of trinitarian and christological issues must have an orthodoxy. All else is gross heresy, and should be treated as such.

      How these theological points then impact our lives is telling. I am continually chastened by messages of how do I speak and act bring glory to God. These are different from going along with the group to fit in and be liked.

      This kind of Christian conformity is a far cry from being what can best be described as “a party line by an empty suit”.

      For myself and others the issue is not about preaching style, or being a skilled preacher or boring. Not everyone can be as engaging as a Driscoll or Piper.

      What I do expect is that the Minister has and really wrestled with the text. Sat down and worked his way through with what he has been taught, and what God is telling him. Both with the passage at hand and the over arching message of the Bible. How do these things fit together.

      A very good example of this would be [redacted]. Having heard him preach on numerous occasions enables me to get a very good picture of his growth. While I may disagree with many conclusions that he may have arrived at, it is obvious that he spent time with the text, and worked his way through the text. He has taken what God is teaching him through the Bible/passage, what he was being taught at Moore, and his own life experiences and synthesised these together. While his conclusions were in keeping with standard conservative doctrinal belief, it is obvious he had worked his own way there. He was preaching in a way that would please God, not some “master”.

      It is when a catechist/minister, is either being intellectually lazy, is trying to “play the game” to get good marks — there are many examples of people who are just as ambitious in Sydney churches as in any secular organisational structure — or has been overwhelmed by a tremendous course load and has not had the time to sit and contemplate all that they are learning that trouble arises.

      More often than not in years past, it seemed more like it was a case of my final point than to for a malicious reason. As I stated earlier, since the per term course load has been lightened, there has been an obvious improvement in preaching quality.

      I define preaching quality not necessarily being scintillating or engaging, or as being factually correct. Though the first helps, the second is a necessity. But rather does the preacher understand the why behind what they are saying is true or not. It’s one thing to know by wrote that 2+2=4, its far different to understand *why* and *how* 2+2=4. This enables one to be “creative” to understand how to adjust their thinking to 0.3+2.7+2-1=4, or when the numerical base (eg. binary, trinary or hexadecimal) measure has been changed.

      Whilst there is an increase in current catechists displaying this behaviour there is still some way to go.

      • Sam,

        In retrospect, in all fairness to the young minister that I’ve mentioned. I’m of a firm belief I may have impinged upon his privacy. Is it possible for you to remove his name from my posts? Even though I am lauding him, he is being drawn into fight not his own, and I do not believe he would be appreciative of this. Of this I’m sorry and humbly repent.

        Kind regards,
        Francis

  16. Sam – Phillip’s comments on failing to train and on inaction are both made in the context of failing to respond “quickly enough” to other people’s failings (ie the ‘failings’ of other people as identified by Phillip), so my point still generally stands. I take your point about his comments on argumentativeness, though, which are perhaps the one bright point in article….

    In terms of 1 John, thanks – Lionel – for providing the context.

    I have quite a bit more to say about this whole thread, and particularly about the accusations of “hearsay and unsubstantiated rumour” that have been made above, but time has beaten me for now. What I will say now, in brief, is that the apparent disjunction between the experience of those who have studied at Moore, and those who have “merely” observed its fruits, is something that Moore would do well to reflect upon rather than simply dismissing out of hand.

    Cheers

    Peter

    • Hi Peter, it will be interesting to hear your comments. It seems that you want to address an entirely new topic: that is, you are implying that Moore College itself is dismissing “out of hand” criticism from non-graduates. Moore College’s own response to criticism is not, of course, the issue we’ve been discussing; but I’ll assume that you have information to that effect, and await what you have to say about it.

      • Lionel – just to clarify the last sentence of my last comment. It would have been more accurate for me to say “the other participants on this thread”, rather than “Moore”, but I do think that the type of response that I have received so far on this thread is symptomatic of a broader mindset-issue which would perhaps be best adressed by Moore College deciding to “lead by example”.

  17. The hallmark of a mature person or institution is how it handles criticism.
    Exactly how does one substantiate claims about “closed mindedness”? Do you have an objective measure to go by, or is it based entirely upon your subjective view?

    Not handling criticism of your claim very well, are you? ;)

    You should be the one who works this out, being the one who made the claim. I see you go on to retell something anecdotal which, sadly, you are unable to specifically remember. That always tends to be the way – accusations of this sort get thrown around a lot and yet when it comes to specifics there’s never anything solid. Names/dates/places all seem to be lacking. You even have a specific Bible verse in mind – but the experience made such an impression upon you that you have sadly forgotten it.

    Fair enough. That’s always the way it seems – it’s much harder to squeeze some facts into the account than just run loose with your accusations. If I may be so bold, you should take some time to consider whether the issue really is an insistence on conformity from Moore College or more along the lines of a resistance on your part to what you are hearing.

    As Lionel pointed out, for many of us our experience of Moore College was of a place that challenged our preconvictions and taught us to examine every argument put in front of us. Yes, there were some (and they would be a few) who would have been far happier just being spoon fed. But the vast majority of my peers were the exact opposite.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong. It would go a long way to helping us to know which Bible passage this was whose meaning hung upon half a verse. But, sadly (and fortuitously) you have forgotten it. So while all you’re doing is flying very loosely tethered kites you’ll not be surprised if we don’t take your prejudice with anything other than a pinch of salt.

    • David – if you want a very recent example of the kind of thing that I suspect Francis is talking about, have a listen to Paul Grimmond’s Friday night talk at Katoomba Men’s Convention this year, including his mis-handling of Psalm 8.

      • How did he mishandle it?
        What did he say that was incorrect? What was the correct “handling”?

        And how come, yet again, all we get is a “go listen to /read this and you’ll see” answer rather than specifics.

        • David – I am happy to go into this in more detail, but I will need to get hold of the audio recording and find the time to listen to it again, as I didn’t take notes the first time around.

          In the meantime, if you are genuinely interested in progressing this discussion, I suggest you do likewise.

        • Lionel – will do, though it may take me some time to get around to it (see my response above to David).

  18. While commenting on this particular “Briefing” article has moved from the article to the merits or otherwise of Moore College, I’d like to add my two cents …
    As a (theologically) uneducated layman, I would much prefer to sit in church listening to sermons from people trained at MTC than from any other Australian theological college (that I’m aware of).
    I know that I can be confident in them having been taught God’s word faithfully and also been taught the importance of passing on that same teaching.

    • Andrew

      Strange as it my sound (and others please take note), I actually almost agree with you on this, except that I would rank Ridley in Melbourne ahead of Moore.

      I would much rather that Moore continue to exist than that it cease to exist, otherwise I wouldn’t be even bothering wasting my time taking part in ths thread! It is just that I get dismayed, far more often than I would like, at a fair amount of the output that comes from it.

    • Andrew,

      I concur with you on your point.

      That despite its being a human institution (fallible), I’d rather learn from Moore’s graduates than those of General Theological in the States. Many dioceses in ECUSA prohibit their seminarians (catechists) from attending it.

  19. My experience of people coming from Moore College, admittedly over many years but including the present, is men of considerable diversity in all sorts of ways, including the details of what they preach and teach.

  20. Friends, late to the discussion but a few thoughts to add.

    1. I am sure Phillip gets hurt by criticism to varying extents like everyone else. Sometimes very hurt, I’d guess. But I think he is big enough to cope with it. He knows as well as anyone the truth of 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

    As one who has defended Phillip in public and private (and has also sometimes spoken against his opinion on this or that), I say to my friends, I don’t think those of us who admire him need to react too defensively here. Likewise for Moore College.

    2. I am also tempted to mount a point by point rebuttal. For example, I generally expect catechists/student ministers to be more formulaic and pedestrian both in content and presentation than more experienced preachers. Criticism doesn’t prove quite so much when made of those still learning their trade.

    And it is worth pointing out that critics here used the strategy of rhetorical flourish, hyperbole, gross generalisation, unsubstantiated criticism, undocumented examples and so on. But once that general point is made, realise that most people reading this thread can also see that for themselves, and will be mature enough to weigh (and at points, discount) the value of the criticisms of Phillip or Moore College accordingly.

    3. I have heard and read Phillip Jensen a couple of times on responding to criticism. Here’s a sample from an article he wrote in the Nov 2008 edition of the Briefing (#362 – not sure this article is online). The article was called, “Driscoll and listening to criticism”. It was helping us (like me) who were (very) annoyed by some of the unfair things Driscoll said about us in Sydney when he visited and spoke to ministers here, including at St Andrew’s Cathedral (I even blogged about it here)!

    There are three obvious mistakes that we can make concerning such a message and such a messenger. The first is that of reactionary defensiveness. Mark was hard-hitting and critical. He said things that made us feel very uncomfortable, and he said them with force and vigour. He was calling upon us to change our ways. All of this can create defensiveness within us, and it makes us want to argue with him and explain ourselves. There are many ways in which we can defend ourselves: we can find fault with his manner or his choice of words; we can look for holes in his logic, or point out the minor errors of fact—especially about Sydney; we can qualify what he has said—to the point where we have domesticated his main points; or we can complain about what he failed to address [...] We could also find fault with his rhetorical use of hyperbole, generalizations, stark contrasts and lack of nuanced discussion. But in all this, he is not dissimilar to Jesus’ preaching. He is a man who confronted us with hard questions, and we must be very wary of our own defensiveness.

    The second mistake is to become a sycophantic follower. Mark is a remarkable man with many clear and great insights. But he is not the only one, nor is he always right about everything, and nor would he want people to follow him instead of Jesus.

    [...] Mark is not the only voice to listen to and learn from, and it is immature to think that any single person is the answer to all our problems.

    [...] The third mistake is to do nothing. It is manifest that if we are going to reach our community, we must change. [...]

    I think we would all do well to listen to how Phillip would like us to respond to criticisms made of us (or him or College).

    Perhaps it was different with Driscoll, in that he was a guest, whom we knew was a friend, and he was openly invited to challenge and stir us.

    But it may be that there is even a kernel of truth amongst the (considerable, in my opinion) amount of chaff we wish to blow away from what Peter and Francis have said.

    As a discipline, summarising what you hear as the core criticisms of you (or your friends), and then articulating where you think there might even be a little truth, is not a bad exercise to undertake, before defending against the unfair parts.

    • Sandy, this a very gracious response. It is certainly right to weigh up and listen to criticism – especially when it’s criticism of oneself. However, there’s also a place for identifying and dousing hyperbole – especially when, as in this case, it’s hyperbole about other people or institutions, expressed in a forum with an international readership. Slogans like this can be passed on and spread and do damage, even amongst the mature. For example, I’ve heard statements like this (and worse) spoken and passed on and taken up by people here in the UK, even by those who have no real clue about what Moore College is or does. Here, it’s not so much a question of wanting to defend a particular person or an institution; it’s trying to help make sure that the message they speak isn’t drowned out by the hyperbole.

  21. “Not handling criticism of your claim very well, are you? ;)”

    No sir, I am trying to understand by what canon we are using. This is particularly true when were are venturing into a realm where definitions are malleable and can be highly subjective.

    Take for example colour. Colour for a number of reasons is highly subjective. How do we know that we have arrived at the same conclusion of a colour? Ie, the green that you perceive and I perceive are the same. For this reason, companies like Pantone have gone through considerable effort to establish a standardised colour system. This way, when you are presented with a series of colour swatches, you and I can agree to the colour desired and how to achieve desired colour. We now have and objective standard that we are working towards.

    How does one objectively measure a charge of cleistogamy?

    I do not get criticised, I receive feedback. Feedback enables me to learn and grow. Sometimes feedback can be as painful as a punch in the face (literally and figuratively). Sometimes it can be big promotion. Most of the time it’s closer to perhaps if I use a bit more of this ingredient and change that ingredient this dish will work out way better.

    And sir, your striking out of “prejudice” shows poor form. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Either call me on my perceived “prejudice”—a big call sir, a very big call, as it’s easy to paint someone as prejudiced who disagrees with themselves, a group or an institution— ie. prove it, or do not make the accusation. To that I expect an apology.

    As I state, the term “Clone Factory” is not my own, but evidence of the fruit over a number of years lends credence to this moniker. I did not have this perception of Moore College prior to arriving in Sydney, and only encountered it afterwards. I do not bandy about such a pejorative lightly. I am taking to task a broad claim by Rev. Jensen, where there is contrary evidence.

  22. Although I think it is a wonderful thing to have Moore, I too cannot help but agree with calling it a “clone factory” – in some respects.

    Based on the many Moore Graduates I know, two characteristics easily come to mind for the “typical Moore Graduate”: they will not speak out against evolution, and they will probably accept Covenant Theology. I don’t think the problem is that a Moore Education forces you to believe certain things, but that our Australian evangelical culture has certain expectations: a good Moore Graduate will not criticise evolution (regardless of what they believe), and a good Moore Graduate will believe that baptism (and other issues such as eschatology) never have gospel significance (ie, are never “inflexible” issues – see Church: Just imagine.) It leads to stuff like this: http://sydneyanglicans.net/life/daytoday/baptise_those_babies/
    I can’t help but believe that “infant baptism testifies that our children are real, genuine members of God’s kingdom” is a denial of the gospel. (Not that Craig wants to deny the gospel – we all have our cognitive dissonances.)

    To some extent I would expect this is partly due to selection bias – Moore’s position on many topics is widely known and those who strongly disagree will avoid it. But I’m sure that Moore has many nonconformant students. The problem is this fear to publicly disagree.

    • But I’m sure that Moore has many nonconformant students. The problem is this fear to publicly disagree.
      On the contrary. I didn’t see much fear at all, although there was a large amount of non-conformity.

    • Danii – just to speak on the baptism issue.

      To take Sandy’s graciously made point above – I’ll accept that theology of the sacraments often isn’t as thought-through by Moore students as it could be with a resulting confusion.

      But please realise that Moore will of course have a general tendency to produce students who believe in infant baptism, since it trains Anglican clergy. Anglican clergy are all required to assent to the 39 articles (this is true of all Anglican clergy in Australia, not just Moore graduates).

      Nevertheless, adult baptists exist in relatively large numbers at Moore and are welcomed, as far as I remember. In fact, both my Moore College thesis supervisor (on the topic of “covenants”) and also some of my best fellow-student friends are adult baptists. Indeed, I’m godfather to the child of one of an adult baptist who graduated from Moore (!)

      And please realise that at this it’s now you, not Moore, who is using potentially fear-inducing conformist phrases like “denial of the gospel” when it comes to positions on baptism.

      • So there’s no freedom in Anglicanism to reform past infant baptism then? :P The 39 articles are not perfect, and seem quite useless to me for determining orthodoxy considering what some Anglican ministers teach.

        I’m glad you know many adult baptists who’ve come through Moore. Maybe it’s just that none of them have come up to Brisbane.

        What I worry about is that evangelicalism in general has somehow decided that baptism cannot possibly be of gospel denying significance. I’ve heard many people talk about flexibility/inflexibility, open/closed hand issues, negotiables/non-negotiables, but I cannot ever recall anyone even suggesting that baptism might be one of those inflexible/close/non-negotiable issues. I guess this is because we all know many faithful Christians on both sides of this fence. But any topic that touches on what the “people of God/body of Christ” means should be considered to be of primary importance, and baptism is clearly one of those. We must be cautious. We are all heretics, and we could unknowingly be heretical about any topic. We should be afraid – of ourselves.

        • Finally, Danni, and this is quite a genuine question that is of interest to me and is hopefully also of interest to other Moore students and graduates – what’s your recommendation for the best thing to read on this issue, i.e. something (a book, perhaps) that argues for the believer baptist position and/or against the infant baptist position?

          • It’s a hard question, and I don’t have an answer.

            There are lots of books that do what you say, and lots that argue the other way. And I think they’re probably both equally unhelpful. I believe that for most people their position on baptism a symptom of their doctrinal framework, just as eschatology is.

            What we need are books that discuss covenantalism vs non-covenantalism, and that do so fairly with both sides being portrayed accurately. Without doing that your anti-adult-baptism and anti-infant-baptism books will be thoroughly unconvincing to the other side because they won’t address any of the other side’s concerns. They may not even make any sense to the other side.

            I can’t really recommend any books that do that because I’ve never read a good one. It’s hard to even think of any that attempt to address the issue. the closest would be anything written from the New Covenant Theology perspective. What I’d suggest is talking to any reformed baptist friends you have – they may have wrestled with these issues. Mainline baptist churches generally aren’t reformed and may not even have heard of covenant baptism.

        • Dannii, just on this, the Gospel Coalition website just hosted a discussion on this topic which included a Baptist who would refuse membership to paedo-baptists, and Presbyterian who would refuse membership to credo-baptists, and a Baptist who would permit membership (but refuse eldership) to paedo-baptists. The three articles were posted about 7-10 days ago I think.

  23. Here are my further thoughts that I didn’t have time to type up this morning (and taking into account the various other posts that have been made throughout the day):

    1. Sam – given the comments that Phillip made in the last paragraph of the transcript – about Moore College not locking people into a closed framework of mind – I think that discussion of the truth (or otherwise) of this statements is an entirely legitimate topic, and that your statement about it being a “pretty significant side-track” is unwarranted (especially when given as a reason for contemplating shutting down the debate).

    2. The accusation of “hearsay and unsubstantiated rumour” is also unfounded. I am basing my comments on having listened to probably hundreds of sermons by Moore College trained preacher in various Sydney churches over a number of years (which means, amongst other things, that the details of any one particular sermon tend to blur into the background after a while). My comments are therefore based on my own observations, not on hearsay or rumour. It is also important to note that I deliberately qualified my initial comment on Philip and 1 John by saying “one could be forgiven for thinking” rather than purporting to state a fact. More specifically, given the theological grid that I can see in much of the Moore-college-trained preaching that I have heard, I can readily see how adherence to such formulas could lead to many other biblical insights being missed, even by someone of Philip’s longevity.

    3. It is true that I haven’t studied at Moore College, and therefore can’t comment on the attitudes and views of individual Moore college lecturers. The reason I have never contemplated studying at Moore is that, as I have stated above, the quality of biblical exegesis that I see coming out of there (as measured by the sermons that its alumni preach) is often, in my view, very poor (which is sadly ironic – for an institution which prides itself in teaching the scriptures, it would be nice to see its alumni actually doing so more thoroughly “out there” in the wider environment of the local church).

    4. It its possible, perhaps, that a large part of the problem lies with the students rather than the lecturers – a combination of selection bias (Dani) and inexperience (Sandy). I really do question the wisdom of drawing the majority of students from a mid 20s cohort (ie young and gung-ho) who either enter Moore college straight from uni, or with, at most, 1-3 years of junior “real world” work experience behind them, and who therefore have little or no understanding of how the bible speaks into the real-life situations of most people in the pews. There might also be an element of wanting to impress their future employer (ie the diocese) by being seen to say the right things, but that is pure conjecture on my part, or – alternatively – it may just be a matter of wanting to try to keep the message simple (which I have more sympathy for, but not at the expense of accurate and faithful exegesis).

    5. In terms of the content of the theological “grid” that I see being promulgated (unconsciously or not) by Moore college alumni, I agree that that so-called “biblical theology” has a very important foundational contribution to make in helping people to understand the scriptures, but I also think that it carries with it a serious danger of over-reach, particularly by obscuring the importance of reading the Old Testament on its own terms first, rather than immediately jumping to the fact that Christ fulfils it. In my experience, a cynic who was doing a survey of sermons preached in the Sydney Anglican could be forgiven for thinking that the entirely old Testament consists of Genesis 1-3, Genesis 11-18 (Abraham,) and Isaiah 40 and 53, with possibly the occasional story about David and Jonathan thrown in along the way.

    6. I am also dismayed by the “pull up the drawbridge” and “shoot first, ask questions later” approach that several people adopted at the start of this discussion, and I think Sandy’s post is right on the money here. A key mark of maturity is to listen carefully to those with whom one disagrees, rather than to jump immediately to the worst possible construction of what they have to say. Unless you are dealing with a known hostile (which I am not), then cautious but respectful listening is the right initial approach.

    7. My final thought is that, if those who have defended Moore College here are right about the qualities of the staff of the College, it would seem to be in Moore’s College’s best interests for the staff to show some leadership in trying to break down the apparent “siege mentality” that I think has been on display today, and to encourage students to be more confident in expressing and articulating different points of view (all based on rigourous exegetical endeavour, of course) not only in the lecture room, but in the pulpit as well. If that were to happen, then you might well be in for a pleasant surprise or two….

    Cheers

    Peter.

    • Peter,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

      I am another graduate of Moore College, more recently than the others who have commented above. While I disagree with you on some of the details, I certainly hear the criticism—and it’s not the first time, either. My peers and I were well aware of these sorts of issues before, during, and after our time at MTC, and sought to find the best path through the maze. Imperfectly, yes. I know the sort of sermons you refer to, and I’ve been guilty of producing similar sorts of stuff.

      You might just have to take my word on it, but engaging with, graciously listening to, and hearing the criticisms of those from different backgrounds (amongst the diversity of the student cohort itself, around Sydney, and further afield) was pretty key the whole way through my time at MTC.

      Knowing other commenters personally, I can also assure you that characterises them and their ministries too.

      Perhaps why this wasn’t immediately apparent here today is due to the nature of the initial comments, which as I’m sure you can appreciate were pretty high on emotion and low on substance. In the initial “shooting first”, there wasn’t a lot to actually listen to – the call was to put some flesh on the accusation, so that it could be considered properly (which you have done, so again, thanks.) The conversation has improved significantly the more both sides have had their say.

      • Sam

        Thanks for this gracious reply – I am heartened to hear that there is at least some acknowledgement and awareness of these issues amongst recent Moore College graduates. Hopefully, a sign of better things to come….

        I will say some more about the reaction to my initial posts in my reply to Mark below.

        Thanks again

        Peter

  24. Been interesting reading where the thread has gone since I last read through it.

    Can there be a ‘pull up the drawbridge’, ‘shoot first and ask questions later’, and ‘siege mentality’ among people in Moore’s (and the Sydney Diocese’s) orbit? Sure.

    But sometimes that is right and proper. Francis, Peter, and Danii have not come across in this thread as friendly critics, along the lines of, “strong supporter of Moore college even though I disagree with it a lot in a few places, and here’s those areas that I particularly think they could lift their game”. They’ve come over as either overtly hostile from the start, or as taking a leaf out of Humphrey Appleby’s playback that you have to get behind somebody before you can stab them in the back – going through the formal motions of acknowledging some good about Moore before quickly moving on to the Really Big Issues, all of which are shots across the bow.

    In that situation, ‘siege mentality’ is, in my opinion, correct because you are actually under siege. The criticism is not fundamentally constructive – “you’re doing well, and here’s some things that might strengthen it further”, so much as negative, “you’re fundamentally offbase and need a wholescale change to what you’re doing”.

    The overall pattern is so wearily predictable. Phillip Jensen describes warmly his own experience of Moore and commends it to others. And so we have to have people make fairly global and highly rhetorical criticisms of Moore, and then, when people come to Moore’s defense, add to the crticisms that people are touchy, defensive and full of a siege mentality.

    If Peter Adams did something similar regarding Ridley College as Phillip Jensen did with Moore College, or David Cook with SMBC, or Dave Starling with Moorling College, and spoke warmly of its impact on them and commended it for what they thought it could do for someone considering theological training for ministry, what do we think the chances are that the thread would become, first, an airing of people’s fundamental criticisms of those colleges, and second, repeated statements that those who disagree with the criticisms can only show their maturity by just taking them on the chin and letting them go through to the keeper?

    Moore, and the Sydney Diocese, is under regular and constant attack from both nonevengalicals and other evangelicals in a way that I think is unique in Australia. What other college, and the denomination associated with it, has book after book written against it by evangelical and non-evangelical? Or even whole websites dedicated simply to exposing its ‘heresy’?

    In such a situation, ‘siege mentality’ is warranted, and is not paranoia. Those who want ‘Sydney’ or ‘Moore’ to listen to genuinely constructive criticism need to recognise that ‘they’ are under the kind of attack that the rest of us manage to avoid because we are not the tallest nail in the wood and/or have few distinguishing traits that mark us out from generic Australian evangelicalism. Consequently, if we have something genuinely constructive to say as friends then reading this thread is a textbook example of how *not* to go about trying to share those concerns with people who are under siege. It’s one thing to have as points 6 and 7 on your to do list for another group, which you don’t identify with, that, “you guys have a siege mentality and you should fix that”. It’s another thing entirely to think, “these guys are sick of being shot at by their overt enemies and often by people who call themselves their friends – I’ll have to take that into account if I want a hearing and not presume on them having a staggering amount of godliness and maturity for them to listen to my concerns constructively when I throw their ‘seige mentality’ in their face.”

    I’d go further than Phillip after having read this thread. With tongue half-in-cheek: If you’re thinking of a college, why go to the college that ‘everyone speaks well of’? Be counter-cultural and take on board the Beatitudes and go to a college whereby people will say all sorts of things against you simply for your association with it.

    • I might just throw in a comment about the “siege mentality” and alleged aggressive early response to the comments of Peter in particular, which I felt were a fairly personal attack on Phillip Jensen.

      It might help such people to understand that there are many of us who read and contribute to this forum who have a great affection for Phillip. This is not just because we hold him in very high regard*, and not just because he has been a great influence on our lives, but more significantly because of his personal care and love for us and our families over many years. So for many of us, when you attack Phillip it is like you are attacking a member of our own family. And if you’ve ever had a member of your own family criticized, you’ll know how hard it is to take.

      Likewise, that personal affection extends to many of the Moore College faculty, especially amongst those who have been their students. So when you move from attacking Phillip to attacking Moore College, you really are stirring some of us up emotionally.

      Of course, that doesn’t excuse any ungodliness in the responses (not that I saw any). But I think it does make it more understandable.

      [* And like family, we know him well enough to know that he is far from perfect -- it is not some starry-eyed worship.]

    • Stinging counter critique!

      Do you think there is a way I could have voiced my observations and appeared to be giving constructive criticism? I don’t know how anyone could give constructive criticism to the huge institution that is Moore, especially by posting on the Matthias Media blog. I was really trying to criticise our Australian evangelical culture, not the college.

      • Hi Dannii,

        Well, if you’re really wanting to make a contribution to Moore, then the ‘high road’ is what it would be for doing that with anyone in that kind of position: earn the respect of some stakeholders, and develop a personal relationship that means that it is the ‘wounds of a friend’.

        But even a comment thread can be a vehicle. How exactly you do it will vary from me, but this is my rough flow-chart when I’m doing this kind of thing:

        1. Am I basically speaking as a friend or as an opponent? Get that clear in my own head, and make it clear in my communication. So, when I did my series on complementarianism and egalitarianism, there were things I was saying that I knew that some egalitarians would read even though they weren’t the primary audience, and I wanted it to be constructive – albeit contested and aggravating for some – part of doing that was to be clear that I was speaking as a complementarian who is deeply opposed to egalitarianism. But if I’m speaking as a friend, get my head into the space of being a friend and think about my words so that they communicate that. Work out what my stance really is, and then communicate that is basic, in my view. Either a friend, or someone speaking to a noble opponent, both can make constructive criticism.
        2. If I’m a friend, I speak strongly and positively and concretely about specific things that I really like. It has to match or exceed the number and strength of the concerns I’ll be raising. I’ll then float the concerns but put them as non-rhetorically, and as conditionally as I can – aiming to take as much sting out of them as I can, and to save as much face for the person as I can. I’ll usually float them as questions rather than statements – open questions, not rhetorical or closed ones or leading ones – as they encourage a more reflective frame of mind, which is often going to be more open to considering something not yet considered.
        3. If I’m an “enemy”, I do what I just did in my previous comment and shoot across the bow, but again, with a minimum of personal attacks or melodrama (or unexplained obscure polysyllabic botanical references). I state my concern, I argue my case strongly, but try not to take extra cheap shots or sticking the boot in unless the behaviour has been outrageous.
        4. In either case I don’t anticipate people not ‘hearing’ me – that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, but neither do I assume that it will be easy for them to hear me. I write anticipating that I will be heard, but I think about what I say to make it as easy as possible – recognising that criticism is generally the hardest thing to hear and take on board.
        That’s off the head, but should give an idea. My method is partly a result of the feedback I keep getting that I am soooo intimidating online (and in person) because of my staggering intellect, ability to phrase things, great smile, hilarious sense of humour, and love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (had to get that in somewhere). Accordingly, I seek to shrink my ‘footprint’ when criticising as a friend so as to reduce that effect, but amp it up when speaking as an ‘enemy’ – as I think it is a necessary strength in the latter case (because it’s about the only thing I’ve got going for me), but a potential weakness in the former. To the degree that your impression of how others receive you might differ from that, you might want to tweak the method I’ve outlined even if you basically agree with the logic of it.

        Honestly, my personal experience is that I’ve found ‘Sydney’ and ‘Moore’ to be, hands down, the best at giving me a hearing when I’ve gone around making criticisms or not signing up to shibboleths. I’m an iconoclast, not a party person, a fundamentally independent thinker who struggles to identify with any group and ‘Moore’ and ‘Sydney’ embraced me with open arms. They wouldn’t have done that if they were the clone factory or siege mentality they are often made out to be.

        My experience is that ‘they’ genuinely value constructive criticism. It is just that they receive a huge amount of criticism, and most of it is of questionable value from people with axes to grind, and comes with an ‘edge’. They rarely get critical feedback from people who are offering it genuinely as an act of service to them, and that’s pretty key in any criticism, in my opinion. To get a hearing in the midst of that ‘background noise’ requires thought, patience, and trial and error.

        • “minimum of personal attacks or melodrama (or unexplained obscure polysyllabic botanical references)”

          Really?

          Sir, that I believe is considered starting a flame war.

          I now draw your attention and the moderator’s attention to the “Rules” as stated, and I am calling you on it.

          • Francis,

            If you think that describing multiple uses of “cliestogamy” and its correlates as “unexplained obscure pollysylabic botanical references” is starting a flame war after your statement about striking a nerve, then we are in a “people in glass houses” situation.

            The rules (at least the relevant one here) is to do with being godly. When I’ve asked Tony Payne to check over my stuff in earlier threads where I’ve played hardball, he’s been very happy with my behaviour in that guideline. I could be having a bad day today, or Sam might have different norms he wants upheld, and I’ll accept such a determination from him either publicly or privately.

            In your case, this is pot and kettles.

          • Mark,

            It’s not his criticism. It’s how he did it.

            If he had stated directly to me that my use of polysyllabic botanical terms made me sound pretentious, and even if it was followed by gyt, would have been fine by me.

            It was his burying of the insult that was the issue. Just as David used struck out characters, rather than being forthright in calling me prejudiced.

            Say it or don’t say it.

            I chose that word specifically because it conveys exactly what I mean. If you can suggest an easier way of stating: being closed minded, while at the same time passing on the closed mindedness to future generations from within a closed system. I’m all ears. Given the level of scholarship here, I also feel that it is an acceptable word for the situation.

        • Francis,

          Okay, I can see how that can cause offense. I wouldn’t necessarily react that way myself, but it’s an entirely reasonable complaint. (It was me, and not someone else who wrote the offending phrase in question.)

          I apologise for how I said it, and will seek to say things more directly to you from here.

          While the main contributors in this phase of the conversation are, in the main, ‘pretentious gyts’ who use big words, a large amount of the readers are not. Some of them resent commentators showing off large vocabularies, others simply feel completely disempowered by it. We’ve had comments in other threads to that effect.

          This isn’t a ‘rule’, but if you have to use a word that is unusual, or a technical term, explain it first clearly is my personal rule of thumb, even if the person you’re talking to probably knows it.

          Comment threads aren’t quite the same thing as a private conversation, and so you can’t just move the conversation to the vocabulary and technical precision that the main commentators might be able to do privately.

          And, obviously, I think that if you’re offering a lot of free criticism and want to get heard you don’t use all resources your vocabulary might offer. In that situation I think clarity and simplicity trump precision. And yes, that’s because of the pretentious factor. If you think that’s not the case, then you’re free to act differently – that’s not a ‘the Briefing norm’ I was gesturing at, just my take on things to Dannii.

    • In response to Mark’ Baddely’s suggestion that adopting a “siege mentality” was appropriate here, and to the comments that both you and Ian have made about the level of criticism that Phillip Jensen and Moore College receive more generally:

      1. Phillip Jensen is a high profile public figure. As such, it is appropriate for the things that he says in public (whether via the web or elsewhere) to be subjected to rigourous scrutiny and debate. The fact that some people may take such criticism more “personally”, due to their private associations with him, is beside the point.

      2. The comments that I initially posted were based solely on the things that Phillip had said in the interview itself, coupled – in the case of my second comment – with my own observations about the ‘output’ of Moore College (which I have since fully explained). There was nothing in my comments that was intended as a personal attack on him, and (for the reasons set out below) I do not accept that making a claim of this nature against me was an appropriate first response.

      3. I continue to stand by the first of my comments, subject (ironically, perhaps) to acknowledging Phillip’s comments about his own prior “argumentativeness”. I still think that the rest of the article comes across as extremely self-serving and lacking in humility, given that most of the “mistakes’” that he talks about are really no more than his failure to recognise other peoples perceived “mistakes” quickly enough. Again, I emphasise that this comment is based on the content of the article alone.

      4. To pick up on Danni’s point above, I think she is right to query whether there is in fact any way at all of voicing criticisms of Moore College, or of Phillip, in a way that will avoid the aggressive reaction that my initial posts received. Even if I had started off with the kind of affirmation that Mark suggests, the very way that Mark himself has interpreted her post leaves me with very little confidence that it would have had any effect. To put it another way, people wanting to voice, alternative points of view are either damned if they do (Danni), or damned if they don’t (me). Faced with such a choice, there is a strong temptation (which got the better of me, perhaps, on this occasion) to dispense with the “niceties”, or the “positives” altogether.

      5. Following on from my previous point, I also think that the Sydney diocese (and its most staunch defenders) is suffering from a “chicken and egg” problem when it comes to receiving and responding to criticism. That is, the more defensive the response, the more that the critics will think that it has something to hide, and the more vocal and strident this criticisms will have a tendency to become. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. I accept that there are some people, particularly those who are coming from a non-evangelical starting point, with whom no (mutual) progress will ever be able to be made, but an initial presumption of hostility of the kind that was made towards me will get everyone nowhere. I also fail to see exactly why I should have to demonstrate myself to be a “strong” supporter of Moore (whatever that may mean) before what I have to say will be met with anything more constructive – that, to me, is setting the bar too high.

      6. Mark – I don’t know what you mean by Moore having had “book after book written against it by evangelical. All the “critical” books that I have seen seem to me to come from an essentially liberal perspective. I’m not suggesting that you post their titles here, of course – I am simply making an observation.

      7. in all of the above, I am not suggesting that criticisms should just be “taken on the chin” or “let through to the keeper”. That would be an equally extreme and un-nuanced response. As I have said before, I think Sandy’s post above has got the approach almost exactly right.

      8. Finally, and to return to where I started this post, Moore College itself is (like Phillip Jensen) a high profile public “figure”. It behoves high profile public figures (and those who represent them) to be exemplary when responding to those who disagree with or criticise them, rather than to a behave in a way that simply adds fuel to the fire and tends to simply confirm the critics’ worst suspicions (if not prejudices). In my view, Peter Adam (who I admire immensely, I should say) would almost certainly not find himself in a similar situation after making a similar post, as he is well known for his gentleness of manner, not his aggression.

      Kind regards

      Peter Ross

      • “1. Phillip Jensen is a high profile public figure. As such, it is appropriate for the things that he says in public (whether via the web or elsewhere) to be subjected to rigourous scrutiny and debate. The fact that some people may take such criticism more “personally”, due to their private associations with him, is beside the point.”

        Of course Phillip is a public figure and should be open to rigorous scrutiny. Nobody has suggested otherwise, Peter.

        But the personal reactions of some people is only “beside the point” if you don’t care about understanding those people and why they react the way they do to something you say. I raised those personal feelings to shed light, not to argue for a moment that Phillip should therefore not be criticised.

        “…most of the “mistakes’” that he talks about are really no more than his failure to recognise other peoples perceived “mistakes” quickly enough.”

        Good to bring it back to your original comment.

        So Phillip admits that he failed to understand and assess people (and organisations) in his ministry. For someone in pastoral ministry, that seems like a pretty major (and humble) admission to me. Hardly self-serving for someone in a job where people skills and discernment are key.

        • Ian

          Thanks for the clarification about why you made your previous comment. Accepted.

          However, I don’t see the particular admission that Philip made as being either particularly major, or particularly humble. It could equally be interpreted as saying “I was slow to recognise that these people don’t agree with me, and are therefore wrong”.

        • No Ian, it is how he presented the individuals in regards to himself.

          A statement along the lines of:
          I didn’t spend enough time getting to know and properly train a couple to lead a church plant. Because of this, they were not ready and ill equipped for the role of leading a church plant and it ended as a disaster.

          From this hypthetical statement we get: I was the leader. As the leader it was my job to select and properly prepare the people for leading a church plant. Because I did not do these thing, it was a failure. For this I take full responsibility.

          In other words, the take away is Philip owning the failure. Because he was the leader.

          Instead, Philip tries to shift the blame on to the couple, because they were having marital difficulties. In other words it was their “moral failure” (this sentiment is derived from statements Philip made prior to the story in question and the story itself). Though I wasn’t there to see this event happen, I can smell a barn even if its over the hill when the wind is right.

          So what I take away, and I’m guessing Peter is taking away as well is that Philip is trying to pull an “Adam”.

          If you want to let him get away with it because he’s someone you break bread with, then fine. However, like Paul, I’m calling him out on it.

          The millstone in this situation is entirely Philip’s.

          And Ian, when you’re coming late to the fight. Learn to read the situation, especially on-line. I believe the flames were dying down, and that something constructive could come from the ashes. Just because you’ve got several litres of petrol and match doesn’t mean you should use them.

  25. Seeing baptism and Moore College has been discussed, here’s a little 5 minute talk with 10 points from a graduate on the matter!

    Baptism

    cheers M&D

  26. Personally, I’ve received quite a lot of very valuable criticism of my ministry, from various quarters, and have been glad of it (even if it’s sometimes been painful). The kind of tone that has been adopted here about Moore is close to the most unhelpful end of the spectrum of criticism. Since you (Peter and Danii) told us that you couldn’t understand what you were doing wrong, here are some tips for you:

    Firstly, abide by the guidelines of whatever forum you choose to use (Francis and Peter initially didn’t provide their full name, despite the fact that this is stated clearly on the form. This gave them an air of anonymity and implied, rightly or wrongly, they weren’t really serious about being constructive).

    Secondly, don’t start your criticism with pithy, unsupported derogatory comments (Francis: “Moore College is well known as the “Cloning Factory””)

    Thirdly, give concrete feedback on actual things you have observed. Don’t just air conjectures with escape clauses (e.g. Peter’s statement beginning “one could be forgiven for thinking that…”)

    Fourthly, stick to the facts, and avoid ascribing emotions or motives to people that you can’t possibly discern: (Danii: “I’m sure that Moore has many nonconformant students. The problem is this fear to publicly disagree.”)

    Fifthly, if you make a claim, be prepared to support it yourself; don’t put the onus on the person receiving feedback. (Peter, you referred cryptically to Paul Grimmond’s “mis-handling” of Psalm 8, but then couldn’t remember any details, said you hadn’t taken notes, said that you’d get back to us, and then basically made it David’s responsibility to listen to the talk too! This is equivalent to a book review that goes: “This is a terrible book. I can’t remember why. Read it yourself and you’ll see what I mean.”)

    I hope that helps you in your future efforts at constructive criticism.

    And please realise that the main reason that I responded to your posts is not because I feel personally under seige, but because (as I said before) of the nature of the forum. You were making quite generalised, public criticisms, criticisms which are being read by lots of people who don’t have the faintest clue about what Moore College is like. Such people need to see what the limits of the criticism are, to get a context for the criticism, to read alternative views. I was trying to provide some of that.

    • Lionel

      No, no, and no.

      Choosing to only give a first name carries none of the implications you suggest.

      Putting forward a conjecture is a perfectly legitimate method of opening up a discussion.

      And asking someone who wants to have a discussion about an example that I have given to have a look at that example themselves is entirely appropriate for ensuring that all participants properly understand the example that is being used.

      • Peter,

        Lionel is a Sola Panelist. Unless Sam speaks up to say otherwise, or another Sola Panelist disagrees with Lionel, then Lionel is gesturing towards the kind of norms that apply in this part of the internet. How about trying something like, “Those aren’t the norms I’d choose, but now I can see some of why people were reacting badly to my comments. I apologise for the inadvertent offence and will try to follow these norms in this forum in future”?

        • Mark

          Those are far more restrictive norms than are found on most other online forums. You have just proved, perfectly, that the objective of this forum is to shut down legitimate debate and discussion. I rest my case.

          Peter

          • Yep, you found us out, Peter. The conversations I’ve been part of about divorce and remarriage from Michael Paget’s fine article, and the ones on forgiveness and repentance, impassibility, and complementarianism and egalitarianism were all stiffled by norms intended to prevent any serious conversation.

            What are we going to do now to hide Matthias’ goal of having a comment forum in order to shut down legitimate debate and discussion?

          • Mark

            Your sarcasm, and your feeble attempt at deflecting the issue, does you absolutely no credit whatsoever. (I am talking about your reply immediately below).

            The existence of other discussion threads is beside the point. I am talking specifically about this one, where it seems that the rules that some people seem to want to apply are directed at stifling legitimate discussion and comment.

            I also note that, somehow, your post below does not have a ‘reply’ button on it. Yet another way of stifling discussion perhaps?

            Peter

          • Yes, you are talking about this thread, but the rules you’re bucking operate on all the threads, with minor differences between the authors hosting the conversation.

            My point is that many of us have proven that these rules are quite supportive of rich, sustained, and even hotly contested discussions. We’ve done that by having those conversations. So to claim that they’re designed to stop this particular conversation is demonstrably false.

            And what a surprise that you opted for conspiracy on a simple question of how the site operates. Sam can speak better to this, as he midwifed this much better system than the old Sola site. Nonetheless, as I understand it, once you get several rounds of replies, then all further replies must be done off the immediately earlier comment, and are simply listed in chronological order irrespective of which futher comment they are responding to. I take it that’s because at some point you don’t get enough text in a line to make further embeddeness worthwhile.

            But gratz on going for the most gracious and generous possibility in your speculations about how Sam runs the site.

    • Fourthly, stick to the facts, and avoid ascribing emotions or motives to people that you can’t possibly discern: (Danii: “I’m sure that Moore has many nonconformant students. The problem is this fear to publicly disagree.”)

      Hmm. Here’s my thinking, whether it’s right or wrong:

      1. Moore must have many nonconformant students, it’s too big not to.
      2. None of the Moore Graduates I know appear to be nonconformant in the issues I take notice of.
      3. Therefore either I just don’t know any, or I do, but they keep quiet for some reason.
      4. Considering the ridicule that I’ve seen heaped upon evolution questioners, statements by such influential people as Dickson and Clarke saying that they don’t think its worth anyone’s time to even think about the Millennium (in 666 and all that), and most Australian denominations being thoroughly frozen and unable to continue the reformation, I think it is quite plausible that some Moore Graduates feel pressure to keep quiet about their nonconformisms.
      5. This is terribly sad and I wish we could change it.

      • Dannii,

        I think that’s a pretty good example of how to go about things. And much needed in this conversation. Thanks for persevering.

        I think my basic response is that no institution is going to enourage noncoformity about everything, and a confessional college will be tighter than others in the areas it sees connected to its confession.

        There are going to be areas where the graduates display a lot of conformity – being evangelical, Reformed, probably paedobaptist (although I wasn’t on graduation, that came later, and Moore was quite happy to hire me as a believer’s baptist). Not being particularly anti-evolution (and often reacting strongly to people who want to make anti-evolution a key point in Christian evangelism and/or apologetics) and not being anywhere near a pre-mill position are also in that bag – I know one or two who share your views there, but not many.

        I’m not sure that that is a sign of openness to noncormity or closedness. I think it’s more a sign that you like some of what characterizes Moore graduates, but not other bits. But that’s true of most of us about each other. We can stand together on this, but divide on that. Any college that has an actual ‘footprint’, and you can say something about what characterizes its graduates, one will make that kind of call irrespective of its openness to nonconformity.

        • Yes there are flexible and inflexible issues (but not everything we may call flexible would be considered so by God, and vice versa.)

          Let me put it one last way, and bring the critique on our culture back to a critique on the college.

          It seems to me that there are many issues which Australian evangelical culture hates to discuss. While we love to discuss how to do ministry, sexuality, “worship” and Calvinology, we hate to discuss stuff like beginning times, end times and baby washing. It’s rare to hear balanced discussions on beginning times and I’ve never heard one on end times or baby washing. I’ve suggested two reasons why this may be: there could be a fear to discuss these things, or people are so convinced that these issues must be flexible ones that they won’t discuss them (maybe to avoid offending those who disagree.)

          But discussion is important, for all of us. The search to discover the truth of God in all topics should be something we all have. I honestly don’t know what to believe about end times and baby washing (well, I have half formed ideas) and our culture’s unwillingness to discuss these doesn’t help. I’m sure there are many other people with these unpopular questions too.

          If these discussions are happening with Moore, then great! But something is wrong if Moore Graduates refuse to carry the discussions on outside the walls of Moore. And that’s my experience.

    • To be clear, I’m not asking you to justify yourself or your own thinking. I’m just telling you how you’re coming across to me (and I presume to others), and giving you advice on how you might be able to gain a more sympathetic hearing if you want to give constructive criticism in the future. You asked the question, I answered it. If you want to reject my answer and/or try to continue to justify yourself point by point, OK, you’re free to do that. But I’ll be quiet now.

    • Lionel,

      Personally, one of the issues that I have with your and David’s request is to give concrete examples. Particularly when the example is another person’s fact that was either said in private, or in a social context.

      This means naming names, and “outing” people. I do not believe that you are so naïve as to not know how small a world a diocese can be. This could cause considerable embarrassment to individuals unnecessarily—you may have noticed, I realised that even though I was lauding a certain minister, I may have impinged upon his privacy and asked that it be removed from the record.

      Given the power and sway that a minister has over their congregation, this could cause an individual considerable complications in their church life if they were “outed”. Even the best, most Godly ministers are sinful.

      So to placate your need for “evidence” should I cause harm to others? Would that be Godly? Or because I cannot give names and faces, I now have to stay silent? So the system silences its critics and continues to roll along unabated.

      Giving only initials would not be satisfactory as you could claim, “I’m making these up.” Giving first name only, would not satisfy your need for more data, let alone preserve the anonymity of the individuals. Because one is required to give full names, people reading this could think Francis Hansen mentioned Siri. Well there is/was a Francis Hansen at my church, and a Siri at my church and I’ve seen them talking, therefore its Siri! She’s a witch! Burn the Witch!!! Did Siri, want to garner such notoriety? No!

      So yes, you are left with faceless people.

      So what motivates this behaviour on our part? Fear. Again, diocese are small places, and you are naïve to think otherwise. I didn’t grow up here, and there are people that I know many things about, and have *never* met them. Because I know people who know them. So yes, Lionel I have heard of you. This is particularly true when you have unusual names.

      The other “fear” that Danii mentions is one of being forced to wear the “Scarlet Letter” (social pariah), or for Moore students not being able to graduate or as Peter pointed out, not being able to find a job with their future employer i.e. Sydney Diocese. Australia is a small country, and it rather hard to get “lost” in it. It’s not like the UK, the US or Canada where you could up stakes and land on your feet in some other diocese easily.

      As I have mentioned. That term, is not of my own making. It is one I have heard for a number of years. The first time I heard it was from a transplanted South Australian, and evidently that was what they were calling Moore back in SA and in the ACT. This moniker has been heard from West Australians and Victorians as well. The reputation precedes.

      Given these factors (time, geographic spread), it is fair to assume that an attendee of said institution would be fully aware of this particular moniker. Therefore, laying out the charge as I did should be self evident, and illicit a response of, “Oh, yeah. We do have that reputation don’t we?” If I hadn’t referenced the final para, you would be fair to ask how I arrived at my conclusion from the article.

      I strongly agree with Peter, that starting with conjecture with an escape clause, is an excellent rhetorical device to begin a dialogue.

      • Francis,

        This means naming names, and “outing” people. I do not believe that you are so naïve as to not know how small a world a diocese can be. This could cause considerable embarrassment to individuals unnecessarily—you may have noticed, I realised that even though I was lauding a certain minister, I may have impinged upon his privacy and asked that it be removed from the record.

        No, in fact, working hard to keep those details hidden is appreciated. A concrete example can be given without ‘outing’ the people involved. People aren’t asking you to name names, they’re asking for something concrete that they can interact with. Give the example but change enough details so that it’d be hard for anyone to guess who you’re talking about.

        The other “fear” that Danii mentions is one of being forced to wear the “Scarlet Letter” (social pariah), or for Moore students not being able to graduate or as Peter pointed out, not being able to find a job with their future employer i.e. Sydney Diocese. Australia is a small country, and it rather hard to get “lost” in it. It’s not like the UK, the US or Canada where you could up stakes and land on your feet in some other diocese easily.

        Actually, getting rejected by the Sydney Diocese is almost a prerequisite for being received into several Australian Dioceses for someone raised in Sydney. As for the Scarlet Letter (heh), yep, a lot of people are scared of it. I’ve seen it. I’ve also seen students at Moore treat the Anglo-Catholic student, and the lecturer who occasionally spoke in tongues (at least, I’m pretty sure he did that once or twice in front of me), with a lot of respect and courtesy.
        The best I can work out, as someone who was part of the scene for nine years and who joined as someone from outside, is that the culture of Sydney itself as an inward looking global city tends to encourage that “Scarlett Letter” problem. People in Sydney tend to think that Oz begins and ends in Sydney. That’s not a Diocesan problem, that’s a Sydney problem, just like the other places in Oz have their issues. That makes things a bit of a hot house and people get a bit more worried about what other Sydney people think of them than they should. They don’t tend to care what the rest of Oz thinks of them, but they really care about what other Sydney people think of them. (The opposite problem in many other parts of Australia is the cultural cringe – always looking beyond our shores for the Great White Hope that will provide The Answer. And that most of the rest of Australia doesn’t like Sydney for being the tall poppy and are too ungracious in dealing with Sydney. So there’s problems enough to share.)
        Add to that, that working for the Sydney Diocese is arguably nicer than working anywhere else for a certain kind of person, and that Sydney will actually try and work out if you are roughly somewhere near the 39 articles, and have a reasonable chance of being godly and competent before ordaining you, and yes, there’s some stress for folks who want to work in churches in the Diocese, but aren’t quite in that ballpark theologically. They want it, they’re scared they mightn’t get it.
        The approach of other Dioceses is sooo much better, and doesn’t cause all that terrible stress on potential ordination candidates. As it was reported to me from a conversation that an ordination candidate had with the Diocesan guy whose job it was to witness people signing to say they believed the articles and the Prayer Book in that Diocese – “I don’t mind what they believe as long as they don’t laugh while signing. I get upset about that as it is disrespectful.”
        If you’re going to have a doctrine test, that’s going to cause stress. You don’t know if that test will be applied fairly, or even if you think the right test will be applied to you. But, speaking for myself, I think Sydney does a good job there, even though, like all places, it makes mistakes. I was far more impressed by the process, and the people involved in it in Sydney than what I’ve observed or heard about elsewhere.
        And needing orthodoxy to pass at Moore? I think Dumbrell’s testimony, even if you exactly captured what he was saying is an outlier. As in all the non-science subjects, there is a degree of personal subjectivity in marking, and, in my observation, that varied from lecturer to lecturer (including me when I was one). But it was so much better than what I’ve heard from elsewhere – examiners not passing a thesis on John’s Gospel because it holds to Johannine authorship and not the specific historical reconstruction of its origin held by the marker is pass for the course in a lot of NT scholarship in the university system, from what I can make out. A degree from Moore is no indication of orthodoxy. Unless things have changed in the last five years, they’ll pass any heretic who can argue their case in a scholarly way, and fail any orthodox student who can’t. I know, because I did both, and saw others do the same. If you want to know what ‘Moore’ thinks of a recent graduate’s orthodoxy, you can’t look at their degree, you’ll have to ask one of their lecturers or chaplains personally.

        As I have mentioned. That term, is not of my own making. It is one I have heard for a number of years. The first time I heard it was from a transplanted South Australian, and evidently that was what they were calling Moore back in SA and in the ACT. This moniker has been heard from West Australians and Victorians as well. The reputation precedes.

        Yes, but that’s a two way street. By the measure you use it will be measured back to you. That tells you that some people in those places think that about Moore. It doesn’t tell you that they’re right. I had a guy here in England sound me out about possibly applying for ordination (or at least licensing) in Sydney. I indicated that they’d want to know that he was basically around the 39 articles, especially on things like justification by grace through faith. His response, “I’m not interested in joining a cult.” The guy’s an evangelical, not a liberal. Do we just run with his view that holding people to the doctrinal standard of the thirty nine articles is to be a cult, or does that response tell us something about him? He clearly wasn’t happy, so I’m sure he’ll add to the background noise of the Terrible Evil That Is The Sydney Diocese. But do we just agree with him because he’s pretty confident that’s a right judgment and we can find some others who agree with him?
        I think separating the wheat from the chaff from these kinds of criticisms is actually pretty hard work, and requires a lot of prayer and wisdom. It’s nowhere near as easy as you and Peter seem to think it is.

  27. Peter,

    1. Phillip Jensen is a high profile public figure. As such, it is appropriate for the things that he says in public (whether via the web or elsewhere) to be subjected to rigourous scrutiny and debate. The fact that some people may take such criticism more “personally”, due to their private associations with him, is beside the point…There was nothing in my comments that was intended as a personal attack on him, and (for the reasons set out below) I do not accept that making a claim of this nature against me was an appropriate first response.

    What you said originally was:

    This is a dreadfully self-serving article. Almost all the mistakes he mentions are about not identifying the failures / shortcomings of others quickly enough. Not one of them goes, separately, to his own behaviour towards, or treatment of, other people (eg failing to show respect to people who have a different point of view).

    This may be a ‘you say tomato’ moment. But classifying an article as ‘dreadfully self-serving’ is, in my view, a personal attack. You didn’t say, ‘Phillip is self-serving’ or even ‘in this article Phillip is self-serving’, but by describing the article as self-serving there was a clear and fairly direct implication to the person.

    And that was your opening gambit, your introduction of yourself to the thread. It is going to color everything else you say from that moment.

    4. To pick up on Danni’s point above, I think she is right to query whether there is in fact any way at all of voicing criticisms of Moore College, or of Phillip, in a way that will avoid the aggressive reaction that my initial posts received. Even if I had started off with the kind of affirmation that Mark suggests, the very way that Mark himself has interpreted her post leaves me with very little confidence that it would have had any effect. To put it another way, people wanting to voice, alternative points of view are either damned if they do (Danni), or damned if they don’t (me). Faced with such a choice, there is a strong temptation (which got the better of me, perhaps, on this occasion) to dispense with the “niceties”, or the “positives” altogether.

    And this from the guy who wrote about Phillip:

    I still think that the rest of the article comes across as extremely self-serving and lacking in humility, given that most of the “mistakes’” that he talks about are really no more than his failure to recognise other peoples perceived “mistakes” quickly enough.

    ‘perhaps’, ‘got the better of you’, ‘on this occasion’. That’s a ringing modeling of owning one’s mistakes from the dude exercising his right to rigorously subject a public figure to scrutiny and debate. I mean, is there a qualification that you didn’t employ so as to ensure that the reader would realize that ‘most of the “mistakes” that you talk about are really no more than your failure to realize the effect that other peoples “mistakes” would have on you’? Oh wait, that’s a bit off-message isn’t it? That’s Phillip’s problem isn’t it?

    Despite what you claim, Phillip is entitled to say that it was a genuine mistake to trust people too readily and that he needed to change that in both his immediate pastoral situation and in his broader political situation. That’s not putting the ‘real’ mistake elsewhere. That’s saying he was wrong in his approach to other people and that some other people paid a fairly steep cost for that. And he was man enough to put it bluntly, with a concrete (and depressing) example or two to illustrate the point without three qualifications to distance himself from it and shift it off to others.

    5. Following on from my previous point, I also think that the Sydney diocese (and its most staunch defenders) is suffering from a “chicken and egg” problem when it comes to receiving and responding to criticism. That is, the more defensive the response, the more that the critics will think that it has something to hide, and the more vocal and strident this criticisms will have a tendency to become. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, ad infinitum. I accept that there are some people, particularly those who are coming from a non-evangelical starting point, with whom no (mutual) progress will ever be able to be made, but an initial presumption of hostility of the kind that was made towards me will get everyone nowhere.

    So you can see that there is a ‘chicken and egg’ problem (which I fully agree with) and you opted to just go full steam ahead and damn the torpedos? Just fire away at will and say, “public figure so its all legit”, “you guys just need to get over it and listen to my criticisms”? You never once thought, “I need to think carefully about this and take responsibility as the speaker to break the cycle as best as I can and not just put all the onus on the hearers to do all the work? Please, don’t ever become a preacher.

    Where, in this entire thread, do you demonstrate any signs that you shaped how you went about saying things in light of this dynamic that you perceive? Oh, I know, it’s when you said:

    To put it another way, people wanting to voice, alternative points of view are either damned if they do (Danni), or damned if they don’t (me). Faced with such a choice, there is a strong temptation (which got the better of me, perhaps, on this occasion) to dispense with the “niceties”, or the “positives” altogether.

    It’s when you just threw your hands up in justification of your approach because, well, no-one was going to give you a fair hearing anyway. So that makes it okay then.

    Even when Sandy demonstrated his characteristic grace, maturity, and wisdom did you reciprocate by being equally gracious? Did you say something, like, “Faults on all sides, I really went about this the wrong way given that I think there’s a chicken and egg problem here”? Of course not, the problem was everybody else. You doubled down. You then added Sandy’s comment as another string in your list of talking points. Did you ever think that Sandy’s comment might apply to you as well? That maybe you shouldn’t be writing multi-point defenses of yourself to every criticism of how you’ve conducted yourself here when you are criticizing other people for being too quick to rush to the defense? That the siege mentality you see, the chicken and egg that you see, might reside in your own heart as well and be a factor in the conversation?

    I also fail to see exactly why I should have to demonstrate myself to be a “strong” supporter of Moore (whatever that may mean) before what I have to say will be met with anything more constructive – that, to me, is setting the bar too high.

    Okay, you think that is probably is too hard for you. Start small. Try saying something genuinely constructively positive that isn’t either a backhanded compliment or damning with faint praise. Something you would appreciate if someone said it about you. Anything at all, really.

    6. Mark – I don’t know what you mean by Moore having had “book after book written against it by evangelical. All the “critical” books that I have seen seem to me to come from an essentially liberal perspective. I’m not suggesting that you post their titles here, of course – I am simply making an observation.

    Dr Giles’ writing career kind of springs to mind. But I could add some others, where a thump specifically towards Moore was an important element. I could also mention the strategy some other theological colleges in Australia have been using to promote themselves by running down Moore – hardly a secret, although few people seem to want to acknowledge the elephant.

    The idea that basically it’s only liberals who are deeply anti-Moore and evangelicals are basically onside is rubbish. Evangelicals oppose each other for all sorts of reasos, often with great passion. I know from people’s reaction to me as soon as my link with Moore is made clear, and from stories from other graduates working outside the Sydney Diocese, that there are a lot of evangelicals that despise the college and oppose its influence however they can, often while not being upfront about that (and others will less strong negative attitudes but still opposed).

    I have no problems about the opposition, that’s part of the glory of evangelicalism, we all do what is right in our own eyes (sorry, “we all obey the Scripture as we understand it”, back on message now).

    But it’s clearly a factor in communication. If you truly are a friend, you have to put some thought into communicating it. ‘Sydney’ and ‘Moore’ are one of the few places in Oz that have to guard against attacks by those who should be their friends as well as against those who are clearly their enemies. The rest of us don’t experience that to the same degree, and we need to imagine what that’s like if we want to communicate well to people who do experience that.

    • Mark

      There is so much misinterpretation and misunderstanding of my previous post in this that I hardly know where to begin. I suggest you go back and work through the logic of it afresh.

      Peter

  28. Hi Peter,

    Can I suggest that if you find my comment full of so much misinterpretation and misunderstanding of your previous comment that you don’t know where to begin, it might be good to follow its logic afresh? Goose and ganders and all that, you know. You might be, once again, inadvertantly confessing your own log in identifying the speck in someone else?

    • Mark,

      Maybe take the same advice I gave Ian. Showing up late to the fight with a molotov isn’t the way forward.

      Frank

  29. Peter,

    yeah, I saw the advice. It seemed like still more examples of your ability to apply, with great skill in communication and analysis, a set of standards to others that you don’t seem to apply to youself. Much like your ability to apply a very high standard to Phillip’s words when the best you could come up with for yourself was that others people’s actions created a temptation for you that perhaps, in this occasion, got the better of you.

    And yes, I figured that when I played hardball that it would wreck the increasingly civilised tone that Sandy, Sam, Lionel and others had worked hard to move things towards through relentless, patient, turning the other cheek.

    I wasn’t happy about that, but in this case, I wasn’t happy to let you (and to some degree Francis, it seemed) do the things I flagged in my opening comment and follow-up comment to you, and then use the graciousness of Sandy and others as a platform to reinforce and expand your original approach. Sure, you were nicer and calmer about it, matching Sandy’s and others tone, and gave some more thoughtful comments. And you always made sure to thank them for their graciousness. But you never reciprocated that graciousness, nor, in your comments, have you indicated any thought that maybe you should – even though Sandy’s and others’ graciousness was gently inviting you do a self-check among all the other fine things they were doing. You used (and continue to try and use) their graciousness as a way to ensure that your (fairly-but-not-at-all-points-entirely) inaccurate comments continue fairly uncontested (and just watch you beef them up when Ian challenges you on them to see just how committed to them you are) and that the only word of exhortation to godliness that stands in the conversation is a word directed away from you.

    In that situation, one has a choice. One either does what Lionel has just done and graciuosly bow out. Or one directly shoots across the bow. I’m doing the latter, and I think it’s fairly irrelevant whether I do it ‘late’ in the conversation or ‘early’.

  30. and just watch you beef them up when Ian challenges you on them to see just how committed to them you are

    Actually, the comment in question was by Francis, and so, in context was quite okay. So I withdraw that bit of things completely, and apologise to you both for that misreprestantion.

  31. Now then. If we can finish, shall we move forward?

    An interesting point that Rev. Jensen brought up as one of his “mistakes”. Evangelicals who were “heading for the doors”—if you will—and going towards charismatic churches then shooting out the other side.

    This brings up many questions:
    Why? Why are people doing this? What are they looking for? Why aren’t they finding it in Evangelical churches? Why can’t we as evangelicals deliver the goods? So on and so forth. Most importantly what if anything can be done about it?

    One thing is to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. So many people are going in the direction God chose for them.
    Secondly, we have to accept that people are choosing to go these ways of their own accord.
    However, to merely accept these and do nothing is theological laziness. Requiring little or no reflection upon ourselves as to how we may need to change. To think we don’t, is the sin of hubris.

    So are the frameworks that we’re using correct? Are we training ministers for the needs of parish life and pastoral work or for academia? It’s great we have ministers who can conjugate “to be” in Hebrew, Biblical Greek and Aramaic. Probably pretty useless whilst consoling a man who’s wife and child just died during birth. Do we train ministers who, can speak in excellent 3 point sermons on a text, but miss the point of the text and teach people how to apply it to their own situation—not to mention bore them to tears. While our ministers can deliver an excellent “why you need Jesus” sermon, what are they doing for the other members to grow them? Are the people getting what they want?

    I’m not talking about better dog-n-pony shows and slick oration, but better ministry. A friend who came from CCC said he came to the Anglicans because he was tired of “cherry pie”, and wanted some meat. Unfortunately, the ministers had cooked the steak to boot leather.

    Sandy,
    I disagree with you that ministers cannot learn to preach until they’re out in the field. Preaching is a skill that can be learned by most. They need to be taught how. Instead the attitude is closer to “we’ve taught exegesis, and solid theology, now go figure out the rest yourselves”, is just a cop out and lazy. While they’re “learning” people are leaving. So if they’re not learning at college, when?

    While not everyone can be as good in the pulpit as Driscoll, there are some lessons to take from him. Is he theologically inaccurate? No. He certainly shows how the passage equates to our lives today. That’s what’s important. How do I live under a sovereign God when things go south?

    I think Philip’s “mistake” is a good departure point for these questions to start to be addressed otherwise we’ll be like the Bourbon kings.

  32. Just as David used struck out characters, rather than being forthright in calling me prejudiced. Say it or don’t say it.

    I thought it was a very forthright way of calling you prejudiced. At least it seems to have been since you got the message loud and clear.

  33. OK, I’m going to shut this down, because we’re moving past the point where this is a useful discussion. No doubt some will take this as an inability to hear criticism, or admission of defeat. Whatever. Fruitful discussion is good, name-calling, hyperbole, and rumours are not. So as of now, comments are closed on this article. (If you want more on why comments on The Briefing are not necessarily open, read this.)

    But I’m going to have the last say, since that’s my prerogative.

    For the record, yes it’s possible to start a discussion with conjecture and rhetorical flourish. It doesn’t mean it’s a good start. Especially if you want a sympathetic hearing. Lobbing an inflammatory comment that is critical of an entire institution, without support (anecdotal or no), then being charging those who call for further comment with being unduly defensive—well, I’m honestly surprised. Furthermore, turning up early to the discussion doesn’t give you a right to the conversation.

    Lionel’s and Mark’s comments on the general norms of giving (and hearing) criticism are excellent. They happen to be the norms here, but I think it’s great advice elsewhere on the internet. And any given site, this one included, quite fairly reserves the right to set the norms of discussion. We don’t allow anonymity here, to discourage ungodliness. Other sites do, but we don’t.

    I don’t expect that all (or even a substantial portion of) commenters here will be great friends of Moore College, or the Sydney Diocese, or Matthias Media, etc. I’m sure many will have more criticisms than not. You don’t have to start of by softening me up by saying good stuff, and then rip in.

    If you want a sympathetic hearing, though, regardless of where you are on the spectrum of supporting the above institutions or individuals, you’ve got to speak in a way that can be heard sympathetically. That’s both in terms of content and manner. Mark’s made this point above in a number of ways, but again for the record of how all of this started off, essentially calling me close-minded and disrespectful of others with no reason I can tell from the comment or context doesn’t give me much to listen to sympathetically.

    Finally, one point that’s been missing from all of this talk about MTC producing closed-minded graduates, etc.: engagement with what Phillip actually said about MTC has been pretty lacking.

    TP: It’s really interesting that your experience was after receiving that training, that theological framework, it actually equipped you to keep growing and changing your mind. The perception might be that you go to somewhere like Moore College and you learn a body of knowledge that is fixed forever more. But in fact what you learn is a framework and a set of tools to keep learning and growing.
    PJ: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s the exact reverse of expectation. My youth fellowship group took me through Louis Berkoff’s Systematic Theology. And so I went to Moore College thinking I knew it all. But instead they dismantled much of what I’d learned—especially the sense that here’s the question, here’s the Bible verse, here’s the answer. They said, “Well, what does this proof text verse say in its context, and what does the book say?” And it just didn’t actually prove the point that Louis said it proved. What Moore College did was radicalize my mind to think biblically and creatively, rather than giving me all the answers so I didn’t have to think any more. I had that before I went to College. College freed me from it.

    My initial thought about this was amazement that his youth group (at a Sydney Anglican Church, note) took him through Systematic Theology. But talking about the merits or otherwise of that approach of MTC, or how in certain places/churches/experiences that’s not particularly evident—that would have been a good start to putting forward criticism.

    The commenting rules and norms are basically about getting people to not be jerks, to listen to one another, and engage with the arguments. That’s been the case elsewhere on this site, but here it looks to be less about giving constructive criticism and more about having a fight. So, comments closed.

    That’s all. See you next time.

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