I’m zooming over from the Word Alive event in Prestatyn Pontins to the be in the Liverpool studios of Radio Merseyside. Please pray for safe travel but also this will be a genuine opportunity to talk meaningfully about the good news of Christianity on the radio.
I will be talking about the paradox of Judas; here’s a little snippet from Paradoxology that introduces the themes:
I have been wrestling with the question of Judas since the very first time I read the story for myself. His name has become a byword for betrayal. Was he intrinsically evil, or did the devil make him do it? Even more controversially, did God plan for Judas to betray Jesus? Was Judas born for damnation? Was his future already mapped out when he was an embryo? While he was a toddler learning to walk and talk, was his fate already decided – was it predetermined that he would betray the Son of God? Is Judas a tragic hero of the providence of God, a man to be pitied more than any other, or is he the master villain of the gospel story? Had God pre-programmed him as the robot assassin of the Son of God? If he had no choices, was Judas truly human?
Really excited to show you this little video ( some may even say its a mini-movie). We made it to help people realise that asking big questions about your faith is a good thing.
You can pre-order Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be simple right now or if you are at Spring Harvest or World Alive you can buy it right away from the bookshop.
We had great fun making it so special thanks to:
Lucas who plays young old me.
Zach who plays the friend.
Ruth who plays my Sunday School Teacher.
Joel who is plays a medic.
Special thanks to visionary film maker John Bowen.
What people are saying about Paradoxology:
“a thought-provoking, compassionate, and courageous book” Dr Lucy Peppiatt, Principal Westminster Theological Centre
“A must-read for the countless folk, both inside and outside Christian churches today, whose faith,or search for faith, is shot through with unresolved questions” Bruce Milne Author of Know the Truth
“In his characteristically engaging way, Krish shows us how the paradoxes of faith are not to be feared or reasoned away but believed and actively treasured.” Adrian Reynolds Director of Ministry, The Proclamation Trust
“Paradoxology is neither overly dense nor simplistic and yet it is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. If you are looking for a book to help you wrestle with some of the most difficult questions of our faith, you have found it.” Andy Croft Associate Director of Soul Survivor
“After reading Paradoxology you may think that some of the doubts and contradictions you were so certain disproved Christianity were a result of seeing the world in two dimensions, rather than the robust 3D nature of the Gospel.” David Kinnaman, Author unChristian and You Lost Me, President Barna Group
Krish questions simplistic answers and offers thoughtful answers to
sincere questions. This celebratory approach elevates our view of God beyond religious monotone, and will help many people – whether or not they call themselves Christian – who want to understand the great characters and themes of scripture without kissing their brains goodbye. Pete Grieg Founder 24/7
This book has been a labour of love for the past 18 months and has been in parallel with my work on Confidence in the Gospel at the Evangelical Alliance.
I have been asked to respond to the challenge of the male gender deficit in church attendance. I wanted to make sure there really was a problem first. The most extensive research I could find (thanks to the wonderful EA information officer Kim Walker) revealed this table:
Peter Brierley working off of the 2005 census argues for a discrepancy figure of 14% with female churchgoers in England at 57% and male churchgoers 43%. This is a scary imbalance but look what happens when it is broken down according to age range. The following table is from the recent 2013 Capital Growth publication which looks at figures just for London.
20-29 years old
I’m not brilliant with statistics. Perhaps the main problem is that 41% of those that attend church are over 45 years old so is it possible that some of the gender discrepancies could be due to difference in death rates?
The Tearfund survey of 2007 saw a bigger deficit at: Women 65% and men 35%. (They measured regular churchgoers as those who attend monthly at a service on any day of the week whereas the census was looking at weekly Sunday attendance so it is not unusual that the figures don’t match up). This could be because of the difference in work patterns which still sees more men going out to work so more women are likely to visit a church during the week. As I say stats is not my favourite subject – so feel free to correct my reading of the numbers.
So should we be worried? It is true that I can think of more instances in my pastoral experience where women attend church services and their husbands don’t. Most of these situations were not men dropping out of church – but rather men never having connected with church. The wives coming to faith and the husbands not responding yet. But I also know lots of women that find church very difficult because of the gender imbalance in Church leadership. I was only given a few words to respond so here’s what I wrote.
Love to know your feedback friends…
We need better research into the numbers. Figures from the last English Church Census in 2005 seem to indicate there is an in-balance with 57% of churchgoers being in female and 43% male but more recent research published last year looking at churchgoing in London presents a much more even spread. If there is a problem; that isn’t based on birth and death rates or including midweek church attendance, this happened while churches are run predominantly by men. Despite this I have heard arguments for gearing the Church more towards men. Personally I think we need a greater involvement in decision-making for women as I believe the Church should model to our culture both the equality and complementary nature of female and male relationships. I believe that a Church confident in the gospel will call men and women to the kind of discipleship that challenges the consumerist attitudes that make participation in church life dependent on whether services are provided in a way that I want. The answer is not to be more macho.
This important book is a hard one to read. Not just because the subject matter is global poverty or that it reveals the complicity the western world and the aid business have had in making the two-thirds world poorer, but because it is unremitting in its style and content.
Ken Gibson is the Executive Director of The Leprosy Mission Ireland. It might seem surprising that the leader of a development agency is daring to write a book that encourages less aid to be given to the poor. But Gibson is writing predominantly about intergovernmental aid (otherwise known as multilater aid) which represents 96 per cent of all aid that is given. Gibson is careful to distinguish between good aid – he cites the Expanded Programme of Immunisation which saw a radical decrease in the number of children dying from preventable diseases and save around three million lives a year. Gibson’s main concern is to challenge the way that western aid – especially that of the US and to a lesser extent the UK – have been using aid payments to their own advantage.
Gibson gives a lot of space to a critique of the Official Development Assistance (p.76), which confusingly is listed as Overseas Development Aid (p. 160) in the glossary which cites the 51 abbreviations used in this 160 page book. The ODA was established at the end of the second world war primarily to rehabilitate the devastated European theatre of war. In President Truman’s plans the ODA was to help “bring the underdeveloped majority of the world’s population to the point of being developed”. Perhaps President Nixon summed up the rationale behind the aid programme:
“Let us remember that the main point of development aid is not to help other nations but to help ourselves.” (p.87)
Gibson then systematically exposes almost every example of intergovernmental aid as serving the national interests of the donor rather than the best interests of the receivers. The World Bank, the IMF and ODA come in for heavy criticism. There appear to have been so many strings to the aid that it was a massive form of global manipulation and power politics. Gibson even sites occasions where countries were literally held to ransom as aid was withheld just as countries faced severe famine and more stringent conditions were placed on the receivers knowing they couldn’t refuse as people were literally starving to death.
The final chapter includes suggestions from Gibson on better ways forward. Suggestions include:
- redefining aid as “Compensatory Finance” which would involve the west repaying its debt to the rest.
- Encouraging protectionism in underdeveloped countries where trade tariffs were introduced to help infant industries.
- Protection of local food markets by stopping the dumping of food developing countries’ food surplus in under-developed countries.
- Prioritisation of debt relief.
- Devolution of IMF operations to regional blocks such as the African union.
This book is harrowing reading. It is hard work as there are lots and lots of figures and abbreviations. The book does not have a specifically Christian audience in mind despite being written from someone who works from a historically Christian development charity. There is no mention of God, scripture or any explicit theological analysis. You could argue that a Christian worldview is assumed but is this because of the latent borrowed intellectual capital of the legacy of Christendom or because of a deliberate application of Christian values on a global tragedy? It seems impossible to tell from the book itself.
There is no real call to action in the book either – the aim seems to be informing a wider group of people as to the flaws of the majority of intergovernmental aid which may inform the way we engage politically. But sadly I think the truth that this book exposes will remain read by a small minority as a result of its writing style, narrow focus and lack of application to most readers.
Friend ” I have been thinking a lot about God lately.” You “Which god is that? Is it the God as revealed in the Bible?” Friend “I’m not sure. I just can’t get the story of Noah out of my head.” You “Well if your thinking doesn’t match that of Genesis 6:9 and the following verses then you have strayed from God’s revelation.” Friend “Oh I thought you’d be happy I was thinking about God.”
I spoke with a 14 year old English boy today and I asked him what he knew about the Noah story and he told me nothing. I gave him a few hints…
- its a story that involves a lot of water …
- there’s a boat in it…
I drew a complete blank. He had never heard of the story at all. With an increasingly biblically illiterate culture, having a mainstream film engage with a major Bible story is a real opportunity to help a new generation engage with scripture.
3. Fresh riff on a biblical story
I have read a lot of people arguing that Noah is least biblical biblical film ever. Having seen the film I understand a little where they are coming from. Yes there are things in the film that are not in the Bible – for one thing Noah speaks; which he doesn’t do in the biblical narrative. If you are going to make a 2 hour hollywood movie about this story you are going to give your lead character something to say.
Aronofsky has made a film inspired by the Noah story. He has taken artistic license; just as every film adaptation of every piece of literature does he has introduced new elements and rearranged some parts of the story for dramatic effect. My 15 year son and I read the whole story of Noah together before watching the film last night and it was great to have a discussion on the way home about which bits we thought were true to the text, which bits made us rethink how we had understood the story before and which bits we would like to politely disagree with Aronofksy’s interpretation. To be honest my son does (and should ask ) the same questions of the sermons he hears – even / especially my ones
4. There are some profound theological questions being asked
If you can get past the Nephilim being portrayed as a cross between Bionicles and Transformers. If you can look beyond the weirdness about using a snake skin as a spiritual relic. If you can get over a slightly strange reliance on magic in the anti-dilluvian world. If you can get over the Abraham meets The Shining moments in the film then I found some fascinating theological questions being asked by the film.
- What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
There’s an interesting conflict of interpretation coming from Noah verses Tubal Cain one arguing for a Green-stewardship model the other for a Wayne-Grudem-dominion model.
- How did Noah cope with the ethical dilemma of surviving a genocide?
- How do we reconcile a gracious and loving God with a God of Judgement?
I loved the God’s eye view of the flood you are provided half way through the movie.
I loved the clever way Aronofsky allows the animals to co-exist on the ark.
I really enjoyed the retelling of the creation narrative in a way that would either get young and old earth creationists both cheering or booing.
The fall of humanity is told in a powerful way that helps us understand our current world situation.
Some of the special effects were brilliantly done.
When was the last time that you saw a major hollywood director face up to the judgement and grace of God in a $130 million budget movie?
Imagine if Jay Z did a remix of the Joshua Tree (which is one of my favourite albums of all time by the way). I would listen to that remix with some fear as for me there’s nothing anyone could add to Lanois and Eno’s production. But I would be excited that someone could help the album be heard by a new audience, I would be excited that someone valued the original so much they wanted to do an homage to it. I am sure bits of the album would be astounding and bits would be things I was interested to hear the first time but wouldn’t want to listen to again. I guess coming out of watching Noah last night that is how I felt. I want to encourage everyone to go and see it and then check out the original in scripture.
Just this morning standing on the touchline watching my foster son play football Noah provided the opportunity for a conversation with another dad about the grace of God. Noah provides an amazing opportunity that is too good to miss.
Noah goes on general release on Thursday and is certificate 12a. It does have some disturbing scenes so this is definitely not a film for younger viewers.
Pastor Mark had written a letter to Mars Hill stating:
To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.
I will also be doing much less travel and speaking in the next season. In recent years, I have cut back significantly, but I will now cut back even more. I have cancelled some speaking events, and I am still determining the best course of action for a few that I’ve committed to, as they are evangelistic opportunities to invite people to salvation in Jesus Christ, which is something I care about deeply. I will be doing very few media interviews, if any. Also, I’m communicating with my publisher to determine how to meet my existing obligations and have a much less intense writing schedule.
I wanted to encourage these first steps of apology. But as I reflect on my tweet I am wondering if this really is the beginning of a process for Driscoll or if he feels he has done all that is necessary now to put things straight. The challenges that Driscoll and Mars Hill are facing seem to warrant more than just a fasting from social media and less travel…
1. Create a healthy leadership culture
Here are some clips from sermons where Pastor Mark talks about leadership. I think they date back to 2007. They are controversial in themselves, but some senior members of the Mars Hill team Brent Meyer and Paul Petry were apparently fired and threatened straight after this talk.
Hope this is a joke but it appears to be a real excerpt from the kids programme material of another church lead by Steve Furtick called Elevation. I am not convinced this is helping to raise discerning children.
I have experienced a style of leadership very similar to what we seem to be seeing here in Driscoll. In my situation I saw a cult of personality being built around one gifted individual. There was a sycophantic corporate culture that sought the total affirmation of the leader. There was such a high degree of idolisation that gracious critique was not welcome. It lead to a very toxic situation with lots of casualties . The accountability structures that were in place completely failed.
Lesson 1: we need to ensure we have accountability structures that actually ask the critical questions. Accountability structures that don’t allow a person to become the brand but instead that we follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist who declared of Jesus “He must increase, I must decrease” John 3:30. We need accountability structures that recognise we are all fallible therefore we need good governance. We need accountability structures that recognise we are all equally in the image of God and therefore operate with grace at the centre. We need accountability structures to create and preserve a healthy leadership culture.
2. Learn how to deal with criticism
I am guessing a big challenge to Mars Hill was distinguishing the haters from the genuine victims. There are a whole group of people who feel they have been wounded or damaged by their experiences with Mars Hill. The tone of their writing; in my opinion, does not reflect a group of people who are simply seeking to defame or deride Pastor Mark but instead these men and women who are trying to do the right thing, they speak in a measured and graceful manner and are looking for positive ways forward rather than just trying to sling mud.
There are of course other people out there who are just looking for a way to take down evangelicals or even conservative evangelicals that want to take down ‘successful’ innovative approaches to church life. In defending yourself against the haters one reaction is to ignore all criticism.
Lesson 2: a wise friend of mine used to urge me to listen to the grain of truth in every criticism. This is a difficult lesson to learn as it is far easier to ignore people that disagree with you and to surround yourself with people that will applaud you.
3. Take special note when even your close friends are raising issues
Pastor Mark has, in my estimation, been distancing himself from the so-called “neo-Reformed” movement or the gospel-centered tribe for a few years. Stepping down from the council of The Gospel Coalition and from the presidency of the Acts29 Network and aligning more and more with voices in the “attractional” or “church growth” crowd, he has been communicating his shift away from one tribe and into another (perhaps a new one of his own cultivation) for quite some time. I am not insinuating sin in any of that at all; the attractional guys are our brothers in Christ. We tend to do ministry differently, of course, and I won’t lie in saying I think they largely approach church – or preaching specifically and the worship gathering generally, at least – in a distinctly wrong way, but it is certainly Pastor Mark’s right to partner with whom he wants and find his ministry kinship wherever God leads him.
Lesson 3: the old proverb comes to mind: “An enemy multiplies kisses but the wounds of a friend are trustworthy.” Sycophants don’t help, real friends love you enough to point out your weaknesses and your sins. Strangely we live in such a tribalised world that I know very few Christians who have friends outside of their tribe. It leaves us susceptible to the same blindspots. I am grateful to my friends who have different views to me on everything from gay marriage, to the role of women or to politics. We disagree often but we can do so and maintain genuine friendship. They are a very patient bunch to put up with me.
4. Build discerning congregations
There’s a style of teaching that produces clones. Here’s the truth. It’s my way or the high way. In every sermon I have heard Driscoll give – and there are a lot. I have never heard Driscoll equivocate. He speaks in a direct and often very engaging way. But in all the times I have heard him he leaves no room for dissent. For Driscoll scripture is clear-cut on everything whether it was the role of women, caring for the environment, sexual conduct in marriage, watching Avatar or dealing with negative people in the church. Driscoll was adamant that he had a clear word from God on the subject.
The problem is that sometimes Driscoll is not preaching scripture. As we all do; without recognising it sometimes, he is injecting into the Bible his own worldview and his theological presuppositions. Stylistically the impression is given that if you disagree with Driscoll on a subject then you are on the wrong side of orthodoxy. Sadly this kind of Bible teaching doesn’t actually develop discernment, it just clones the opinions and presuppositions of the preacher onto the congregation.
How do we model to a congregation that scripture alone is infallible not the preacher? It is Catholicism that argues for an infallible Pope. Reformed Christians believe in the concept of being “reformed and always reforming.” If our theology and practice was infallible then nothing would need reforming. We need to demonstrate hermeneutical humility when it is appropriate. There are things that are very clear in scripture and there are things that are harder to understand and Christians can come to different opinions on. Over the years evangelicals have agreed to disagree on a whole range of issues from baptism, age of the earth, styles of worship and leadership and even the leadership roles of women. Rather than anathematising one another we have learned to be humble about these things whilst being crystal clear on the core doctrines of our faith. There is room for humility. There is room for being open that Christians disagree on things and we can help skill up the congregation to understand scripture to come to different conclusions to us on secondary issues. We can help Christians hear both sides of an argument and conclude for themselves.
I am hoping to learn and make changes in my life as I reflect on these issues. I recognise in Mark Driscoll huge gifts and skills and passion and I pray that his plans to reset his life will bear the fruit he hopes for.
Paradoxology aims to help Christians to life-proof their faith by pressing into the deeper and more difficult parts of the Bible. Parts that are usually skirted round or ignored all together – the parts that cause us to face some of the paradoxes in our theology. By deliberately pursuing these difficult parts we can open up the scriptures to people by dealing with some of their biggest fears or challenges.
The book could easily form the basis of a teaching series – perhaps broken into two: chapter 1-8 are Old Testament while 9-13 are New Testament. I have preached all of the chapters over the years – and they do work well as a series. I am a big fan of positive reinforcement of the preaching so having people read through a chapter before meeting for small group will help people grapple more fully with some of the big ideas they are encountering.
I am toying with making some small group questions available. If you are interested let me know.
Claire is a fighter. She doesn’t give up easily and its a good thing too. Claire is definitely someone you want on your side when the going gets tough. I have seen Claire in action – its because of her tenacity championing the needs of children in care that Care for the Family got excited about Home for Good.
Claire’s adoption story is a powerful one, it should come with a health warning. Claire and her husband Alan, already had three birth children when they felt lead to adopt a child with additional needs. Watch it if you want to be inspired and challenged, skip it if you like playing things safely.
Rachel and Jason have been dear friends since we were in a church together in Harrow. Rachel told me recently that Mothers’ Day was a really difficult day for her as she and Jason had been trying for a child for some time. Rachel explained to me that she would either not turn up at church at all that day or try to stay out of sight helping out in creche or youth ministry on that day.
With Mothers Day coming up this weekend, its important for those of us in church leadership to be careful about how we handle the pastoral implications of this day. But it is also important we put before the church the need to find adoptive mums for the 6000 waiting children in the UK. Many of these children have experienced some pretty terrible things in their lives already and to keep them waiting for a new mum seems to be adding insult to injury. We must handle mother’s day sensitively but we cannot let the needs of the children in our towns, villages and cities go unheard.
One way you can help is to watch Rachel’s powerful story, share it as widely as you can and if possible show one of our Home for Good Mother’s Day videos in a church service or small group meeting.
This is Rachel’s first Mothers’ Day as an adoptive Mum. Lets pray for more adoptive mums like Rachel can celebrate Mothers’ Day next year with their children . With your help we can make a difference to all the #6000waiting.
My latest book Paradoxology is out. I wanted to let you know a little about the reasons I had for writing it. The most important motive behind the book is that I am eager that we help our churches engage with the deep things of God. Too often I have come across believers who have at best a surface understanding of their faith.
Believers who have no depth to their understanding face three problems.
1. Vulnerability in the face of suffering
If our understanding and experience of our faith remains shallow we lack the resources to withstand the storms of life. We need to dig down into the rock by knowing and obeying scripture.
In Paradoxology I am seeking to face head on some of the biggest challenges to faith. We wrestle with suffering, the unpredictability of God, disappointment with God and his church .These challenges come framed in paradoxes as we try to reconcile two apparently competing beliefs.
God is good but bad stuff happens.
God is powerful but often inactive.
God is compassionate but painful things happen all the time
2. Timidity in evangelism
I am so excited that across the UK we are seeing churches doing more to reach out into their communities. But strangely at the same time we are struggling to find the words to articulate the gospel. One reason is that our grasp of the gospel remains too shallow to cope with the complexities of our own lives let alone those of the people we want to share the gospel with.
In Paradoxology we try to dig deeper into the gospel so we don’t settle for pat answers or simplistic formulas. We work hard to face some of the challenges being raised by the new atheists: for example what do we do with genocide in Joshua, child sacrifice in Abraham’s story and freewill and determinism in the Judas Paradox. Again paradox prevails. How do reconcile:
Human free will and a sovereign God.
The grace of God and the judgement of God.
The fact that God loves the whole world but has his own chosen people.
3. Lack of depth necessary to discipling others
You can’t give what you haven’t got.
It’s hard to help others to maturity in the faith if our own understanding and practice is stunted.
Paradoxology forces you to think outside of your comfort zone. It deliberately targets the more difficult passages in the Bible to help you gain confidence in the whole of scripture. It encourages you to up your theological game without getting too technical.
Close yet distant. Kind but fierce. Thunderous in speech yet often silent. While we’re often told the God of the Bible is knowable, He is as equally perplexing. Unlike many who side-step God’s more difficult-to-discuss qualities, Krish Kandiah rushes headlong towards them. What he finds is mystery, yes—but also windows through which to see some of the toughest questions of life and faith in new light.
Writer, speaker, broadcaster, and author of Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings