Tag Archives: Kutz

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Manipulation and the fine art of persuasion…

Right. I’ve been meaning to put some thoughts into writing for a few weeks. Doing so now was prompted by a possibly throw away line in the Q&A at the Moore College School of Theology as collated by my friend Kutz. I wasn’t there. But this line resonates with a position I’ve been trying to articulate lately (the line is from Peter Bolt):

“Manipulation can be positive. If you’re doing it to align people to the word of God then it’s a good thing.”

Manipulation and persuasion are essentially seeking to do the same thing – move a person from point a to point b. So what’s the difference? I’ve settled on this distinction…

Persuasion is the transparent act where two parties enter a dialogue with one hoping to move the other from point a to point b.

Manipulation is less transparent and involves one party trying to shift another party from point a to point b, probably without their knowledge.

I’ve settled on this because in my experience if you catch somebody trying to shift your position when they haven’t told you that’s what they’re doing you feel annoyed and accuse them of “manipulating” you, where manipulating is a pejorative. There are heaps of ways to manipulate, and most of them fall outside the classical tools of persuasion – pathos (emotions), logos (facts and words), and ethos (how you act/live). Tools of manipulation tend to involve tugging really hard on one of those threads, where persuasion is a more subtle movement, kind of like a puppeteer with a marionette.

I reckon manipulation is fine. I know we hate it. But it’s a great art, until you get caught. Like pickpocketing, not Oliver Twist style, but like the TV guy who takes your watch while you’re talking to you and then gives it to you later. Manipulation, honest manipulation, probably involves pointing out what you’ve achieved to the person after the fact, so they recognise they’ve moved from point a to point b, but during the process your mark should be a bit like the proverbial frog in a gradually heating pot of water…

This all came up, for me, when I was told I needed to engage a little more with the emotions when I preach (because I’m a pretty rational/stoic type of thinker). So the summaries of the Moore College Lectures on Kutz’s blog have been interesting. I react against this suggestion, not because I think tugging on the emotions is “manipulation” as though that’s a bad thing, but because I think I’m more likely to get caught out if I’m doing something that isn’t within my normal character. I’m all for subtle chord changes, a little bit of emotive muzak in a movie, and all the other little “manipulative” tools – I’m also for putting a bit of emotion into a sermon, like a tear jerking illustration, I’m just against doing it in a way that means I’m likely to get caught.

Persuasion is pretty safe ground, but doing both is potentially more effective, I’m just not sure what that looks like. Most people in the pews are there hoping to be persuaded (or taught), so there’s implied consent there for being “manipulated,” providing your end point is something you’ve implicitly agreed to (essentially the ends identified by Peter Bolt in his quote). It’s a little murkier when it comes to PR and marketing, but manipulation is where the fun is. It’s making ads that are more than just a boring presentation of a product, it’s also harder to do thanks to the Gruen Transfer and market awareness about the tools advertisers employ. Anyway. Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

Ten thoughts on the subject of sin

Simone wrote about a post church conversation last night (in real life) that was a continuation of a couple of posts from Simone and Kutz (part one), (part two). I’ve spent today trying to articulate my position on sin. It’s not like Simone’s (looking to the new creation to resolve sinful desires) nor is it like Kutz’s (looking to the original created order to salvage the good thing that sin twists). I don’t tend to analyse my sin. I find that can be pretty crippling.

Here are some of my thoughts about sin in list form…

  1. I think sin, by definition, is our expression of autonomy. It’s our rejection of God’s rule. It’s disobedience. It’s not meeting God’s standards. I think the last one is the key – if we do something that doesn’t meet God’s perfect and holy standards – as he as described them to us – then we have “sinned”.
  2. I think there are different values to different sins – I know some have interpreted passages to suggest that all sins are equal. I think all sins are equally deserving of condemnation – but I don’t think all sins are equal in badness. There are sins with external victims – these sins require an extra level of repentance because you should, I think, repent to the victim as well as to God, and there are sins that are essentially internal matters for you and God to deal with. Let me give an example, when you commit some form of idolatry, putting something else in God’s position – you are wronging God, but no necessarily other people. But when you murder someone you not only commit an act of disobedience to God, you not only commit an act that effects the victim, you commit an act that has multiple effects for the victims family – you cause them to sin as well – they will no doubt feel malice, they will probably curse God for letting you take their father, husband, or son (or mother, wife, or daughter). You rob these people of a significant other. Some actions carry with them many sins, others do not. All sin is worthy of death and judgment when God, the holy, holy, holy God sits in judgment and judges by his holy, holy, holy standards. The accumulated sin of a lifetime is a pretty massive barrier between us and God.
  3. I think the language of conflict between our new nature and our sinful nature, our flesh and the spirit, our slavery to sin and slavery to righteousness, are all Biblical analogies for the same internal struggle that occurs, and will continue to occur, until the new creation. We’ll never – no matter how mature we become – rid ourselves fully of the taint of sin. Which I think even spreads to our good, righteous and obedient actions.
  4. I think trying to determine whether an action is “sinful” or “Godly” in and of itself is almost a complete waste of time. A conversation sprang up about whether being drunk is a sin the other day. I think it is. I think eating fatty food is probably a sin. I think drinking instant coffee is a sin. I pretty much think that everything we do, stemming from our sinful nature, is a sin. We can eat fatty food for God’s glory, but I tend to think if we’re not eating it specifically for his glory, but rather for our own purposes, then that’s an expression of our autonomy. I’d pretty much say that I think everything we do is tainted by sin. Even the good stuff… even the God stuff. I think this is part of the battle between our sinful natures and our new spirit enhanced natures.
  5. I think it is more helpful to think of sin in terms of nature than actions. Sinful actions are those things we do that are born out of our sinful nature. The Bible certainly spells out that certain actions are sins. Both sins of comission and omission.
  6. Almost all “Godly” actions can be sinful. I’m thinking of the way Jesus talks to the rich young ruler – even keeping the rules isn’t enough. We’re sinful by nature, and we never meet God’s holy standards. We can not possibly do so. We’re wired to sin. I think sinful actions are actions born out of our sinful nature – and I think Godly actions are actions born out of the spirit working within us (and those “good” actions performed by non-Christians are as a result of God’s spirit working throughout humanity in the guise of common grace).
  7. I think even when we are obedient to God we are obedient in an incomplete way – I think this is the picture we see with Israel and its inability to ever meet God’s standards completely. It’s important that we, as God’s people, seek to be obedient. Even if we know we’ll do it generally, but not specifically.
  8. When confronted with a decision our job is to try to discern the obedient, or most obedient option. Some decisions will in fact be decisions between two equally tainted options. An extreme example would be a choice between lying to save the life of one’s child (or an innocent) or giving them up and becoming complicit to whatever happens as a result of your taking the moral high ground. Life is full of impossible decisions, because everything is tainted by sin.
  9. Sin sucks. I hate its effect on the world, on relationships between people, and on myself. I don’t wallow in my sin because I realise it has been paid for in full. I realise it’s inevitable. And I realise we’ve got a job to do. So I’d rather just get on with that job. Without distractions. Without paralysis by analysis. My job is to try to be obedient to God wherever possible – and I think the point at which this obedience is most important is the Great Commission. I think any Godly living is Godly living for the purpose of winning the lost, more than for the sake of redeeming myself (either bringing myself closer to the pre-fall or new creation versions of me).
  10. Because I see sin as an inevitable product of our sinful nature I’m not keeping score as though God is Santa Claus. I’m not wracked with guilt. My debt has been paid. While I am pursuing holy living, maturity and ongoing “sanctification” (though I think technically sanctification is part of the package with justification that occurs at salvation) I don’t do this by dwelling so much on the times I miss the mark, I do this by getting on with the job. I love Luther’s “sin boldly” quote from a letter to a guy named Melanchthon (included below). This translation is slightly different to the one I’d originally heard.

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

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A summary of Gary Millar’s visit to Queensland Theological College

Gary Millar came, he talked, he conquered. We all now want to be deep thinking Irish men who love preaching the gospel.

He is a man greatly gifted by God as both a thinker and a pastoral worker. He shared some insights into some of the trials he has faced in ministry that would send a mere mortal crazy. He has been around the block a few times and he is still faithfully toiling for the sake of the gospel – and still making sure that he preaches the good news of Christ crucified week in, week out, despite the opposition.

In the interest of providing a nice resource for posterity here is a summary of all the posts that I have read reviewing his time at QTC.

Night One – Song of Songs

QTC Day One – Preaching

QTC Day Two – Deuteronomy

QTC Day Three – Preaching again

Mad Skillz: Kutz on how to play international roller hockey

Of all the people in all the blogosphere Kutz is the only person I have lived with in Brisbane. Tim also blogs, and Mattias used to. I also work with Kutz. And go to the same college. And we play futsal together, and very soon we’ll play football together.

For a guy who almost staged a coup on my only claim to presidential authority (QUT Christians in 2005) we get on surprisingly well and spend a lot of time together. Kutz is a deep thinker, who I think sometimes thinks so deeply he gets lost in his own thoughts while trying to articulate them. Lots of people know Kutz – both online and in the real world. His two greatest personal achievements are convincing his wife to marry him and playing international roller hockey – that’s my assessment not his. How many sporting internationals do you know? I can count them on two fingers. While the cynics out there might think that picking an obscure sport to play is kind of cheating – Roller Hockey is hard core (I watched a tournament once) and Kutz was a standout.

Anyway, here are his tips on how to be awesome at Roller Hockey. He gets extra points for diagrams – though I suspect he was making them when he should have been writing a sermon.

I’m Kutz and I’m an ex roller hockey player. Hoquei em patines, for those Spaniards among you.

Roller hockey is awesome. You take 5 steps, and then all of a sudden you’re already going fast. Seriously. You don’t need to keep running. You just roll. Your legs are still. And yet you’re still going fast. A beautiful concept. Add to this the feeling of smashing someone into the wall, flicking a ball into the top corner (probably on the keeper’s stick-side) and getting to hit a ball (and, on occassion, other people) with a stick and how can you go wrong?

Now, I used to play with a team of guys: Michael, Les, Dion, Matty, Serge (my bro), Chris, Peter and some others.

Michael’s top 5 rules were:

Rule #1 – Hit Dion
Rule #2 – Hit Dion
Rule #3 – Hit Les
Rule #4 – Hit Dion
Rule #5 – Hit Les

Fun rules they were too. They aren’t, however, mine.

My Five best* tips for playing roller hockey. (And these are genuine, and hence will interest only a very few of you.) (They will also mostly be team, not individual, principles. That’s because that’s all my dad taught me.)

  1. In negative sports**, a strong defence that puts some pressure on the opposition is the key to winning. So defend tightly, and communicate well.
  2. Don’t give away the ball close to the halfway line. Breakaways goals are imperative to avoid.
  3. If you’re trying to score, the hot-spots to skate to are here. (see diagram)
  4. When defending man-on-man (ie, you’re marking a specific player, not defending in a zone) skate in straight lines, roughly parallel to your penalty box lines. Skating in straight lines gets you there faster than skating in curves.
  5. Try to make your team-mate look good. If everyone on the team has this mentality, hockey is a beautiful thing.
  6. 6. (Unofficial, but vital) Don’t drop the soap in the showers.

Nathan’s asked me to tell you now how applying these 5 tips will change your life. I would suggest that after intense thought and application these principles will simply confuse you if you try to use them while learning to play hockey. Our coach Eduard Karayan (ex-pro in Italian league) just let us go and have fun. So we did. :)

* May change after more than 10 minutes of contemplation.
** A ‘negative sport’ is my short-hand for a sport where in any given attacking phase it is more likely that the attacking team will not score than that they will score. Ie, football(soccer). A ‘positive’ sport would be something like basketball where the expectation is that more likely than not the attacking team will score from their attack.

The man of your dreams

Over at Ben’s blog during the inimitable Monday Quiz your host, Ben, asked a question about reoccuring dreams.

Kutz admitted to having a dream about a randomly appearing head that would pop up all over his parent’s home. Freaky.

What’s freakier is that people all over the world report seeing the same man in their dreams. This man. Have you seen this man? If you have you should check out that website.

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The father of all links posts

Ah, another week, another post chock full of links from the narrow sector of the world wide that I like to call the blogosphere.

I thought I’d get a little bit geographically specific with this little link edition. Just to give you an idea of the spread of blogs that I read (that you should too). This is by no means comprehensive – but here are some of the homes of regular commenters, people I know, and people I reckon you should discover (along with some choice posts from their sites).

Right-o. Lets go.

Starting with those in my own neck of the woods – the Townsville scene… (in no particular order). 

  1. Tim – doesn’t post often and when he does it’s usually a YouTube video.
  2. Leah – is the Andrew Bolt of the North Queensland Christian blogosphere, or perhaps the Tim Blair. She also covered North Queensland’s lost and found saga this week where a local lad from a local church went missing in the bush, and was found a couple of days later.
  3. Stuss – has picked up the pace a little, though most of what she’s saying is about gardening and decluttering. Which is fine. Because both are good things.
  4. Phoebe – hasn’t really said anything for 21 days. I just counted. But no list of bloggers from Townsville would be complete without her.
  5. Joel – if Leah is the Tim Blair of the Townsville blogosphere then Joel is the Piers Ackerman.
  6. Carly – is an education student and gives some interesting insight into the female psyche with pieces like the one she wrote last week about Oprah.
  7. Chris barely posts enough to rank a mention. But he’s a blogger. In Townsville. So he sneaks in.

If you’re in Townsville, and I’ve missed you, let me know in the comments.

Moving south, here are some of the notables in Brisbane…

  1. Kutz – I mentioned his new endeavour last week. It’s been trickling along. I’m sure more comments from nice friendly readers would keep his motivation levels up.
  2. Tim and Amy – The same could be said for these two. They’ve kept a pretty steady pace and you should go over, read what they have to say, and say hello.
  3. Simone – well, I’ve talked about her blog enough for you to know what goes down over there. She gets a prize for being the third blogger to mention my dad* this week. Her little piece of speculation about narrative in the new creation was interesting enough to get my hippocampus firing today.
  4. Will Henderson – gets the prize for being the first to mention dad*, and also for being the first Acts 29 affiliated church planter in Australia – a story that apparently hadn’t received all that much coverage before I mentioned it the other day (based on some posts like this one from Jeff Attack)… check out the website for his upcoming plant. Unfortunately it’s a bit grungy. And we all know how I feel about grunge.

Now, on to Sydney. The city of my birth and home of many good blogs.

  1. Izaac is back from a holiday and taking on the challenge of posting about Christian love and social justice.
  2. Ben celebrated his birthday yesterday – and I promised him a link. Then he posted a story about how the Governator has the Conan sword in his office – that I was all set to feature in my next little string of “Curiosities” posts.
  3. At the fountainside Soph asks the important questions about train etiquette – something we’ll have to (re)familiarise ourselves with next year.
  4. Ben (of the Bathgate variety) lists five things that made him tough(er). I score one on his list.
  5. Dave Miers managed to scoop Mikey Lynch by posting an interview with Andrew Heard, one of the Geneva Church planting crew (another post on the network from Dave), before Mikey could wrap up his series of similar interviews with church planting figures (including Will Henderson and Al Stewart).

Mikey (from Tasmania) was also the second person to, somewhat vicariously, mention dad this week because his name came up in one of the posts from the aforementioned series of interviews.

It has also become apparent – from what Andrew Heard said on Dave’s blog and what Al Stewart said on Mikey’s – that the Geneva portmanteau was only a vicious rumour, and that the name is actually a reference to Calvin’s work in that city. Which is a good thing.

And to conclude, here are my favourite ten posts from my blog this week (including bits from Robyn and Benny).

  1. Benny on Ministry
  2. Robyn on Grammar (PS – you should all encourage Robyn to blog more – she needs some comment love…)
  3. Good bad haircuts
  4. Bad relevance
  5. How to pick a cafe
  6. Cool stuff to do with your photos/iPhone
  7. Tips from a guru (my dad – since he’s the flavour of the blogosphere these days…*)
  8. The one about being wrong.
  9. The one about yawning.
  10.  The one about being a PK, and the follow up about being a PK being a bit like being Harry Potter.

* I should point out that these constant mentions of dad being mentioned are a mixture of patri-pride and because I think it’s slightly funny that he feels a sense of discomfort about being in the spotlight. It’s not because I think he’s super special (though he is). And if you want to join the fan club here’s the video I made for his 50th.

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Kutzy, Kutzy Coup

Slowly and surely the people I know who I think should have blogs are starting blogs. And why not? Blogging is great. First there was Izaac. He’s been going strong for a couple of months, and he’s well worth a read. Then I managed to coax my sister Maddie into writing occasionally here.

Now my long time philosophical sparring partner, former housemate, good friend, and potential future workmate Kutz has started a blog. He did ask me not to mention this, but that was a week ago, and he’s since published it to his myriad friends on Facebook. So here’s the link.

He’s opened with a worthy contribution to the conversation about country ministry and where people should go.

There’s a bit of meaty stuff already, and I’d expect more of the same.

Now if only Dave Walker would start a blog…