December 13, 2017

Open Forum, with a special invitation to newbies

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UPDATEThank you so much to all the newer commenters who joined us today! You made my day. 

• • •

I plan to return to our discussion of John Walton’s book tomorrow and Thursday, God willing, but for today I think we should have an Open Forum. It has been quite a spell since we did, and I’d like to give the community an opportunity to choose some topics.

I would especially like to hear from new Internet Monk readers or those who haven’t commented before. Participating in online discussions can be intimidating, but consider this an invitation. Even if you just say “Hi” and tell us a little bit about yourself and what you find interesting (or troubling, for that matter) about the blog, you are welcome to make a comment. We know that our blog readership is like an iceberg — a small portion who appear above the surface to speak out, and a much larger and hidden “quiet majority” who are usually content to read the posts and perhaps follow some of the discussion. Why not pop your head above water today and let us hear from you?

Open Forums carry simple rules:

  1. Be respectful.
  2. “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19)
  3. If you disagree, try your best to do so agreeably.
  4. Remember, we’re all on a journey and at different places along the road. Show some grace and forbearance.

It’s all yours today. Enjoy God’s gift of discussion.

Comments

  1. Now having 10+ years of an active Chrisitan faith behind me, in which I tried to find the purest form of the faith a few times over by dipping in different streams, I can say with integrity that “there is nothing new under the sun” when it comes to movements and power dynamics. In all the dustups over various degrees of activism and theology, it still seems that character is what gets left out of the discussion — on every side of the spectrum.

    So I tremble a bit because I recently accepted my first full-time ministry position. Associate pastor. Moving from a trendy village just outside of NYC to a seriously rural area. The folks will be more conservative than me, probably a bit skeptical at first, and with a month to go the “did I pull a fast one on them?” thoughts are kicking in. I worked my butt off for this kind of opportunity and talked a big game about mission and grace and healing and all of the big buzzwords. But I know that it will be the kind of person I am, when I’m in the shadows, that will make me or break me. It’s wonderfully frightening.

    • Robert F says:

      I wish you the best in this new phase in your life. I would offer to pray, but I’m not much of a pray-er. I hope God will count my good thoughts toward you as prayer.

    • I also wish you well, Sean. The high level of honesty and introspection you expressed in you comments will be one of the most cherished attributes with your congregants.

    • Wonderful, Sean! I hope you find those folks as hospitable and patient as the congregation in Vermont that first “pastored” me.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      May the Lord keep alive your faith and the wonderful mystery of His grace, mercy, peace and joy.

    • Congratulations! The congregation will be very blessed by your service. Character is such a huge thing in church work, one that is often overlooked. I wish more pastors (and us music guys, etc…) had better focus on that, the temptation is always to pander to measurable results.

  2. Robert F says:

    My faith is a shaky thing. It doesn’t seem to get stronger or more confident as the years and decades go by. It remains this fragile, tentative thing that flies away often in the face of suffering and difficult experience, and then comes back to hover over my head, just out of reach but there. It won’t stay away, but it won’t come nearer. It is easy for me to think that it’s all just an illusion, one that can neither satisfy nor be dispelled. And I continue to exist in the world of gray uncertainty about almost everything.

    • I totally get it Robert.

      I cannot do the Christian life (whatever that is).

      If there is some standard that must be met, I’ve failed it, and will without any shadow of a doubt continue to do so. What’s more, if salvation is dependent one iota on me getting my act together enough to repent appropriately and in a timely manner, I’m toast already.

      The only hope for me is if God has already taken care of everything so that whatever happens, and whatever wilfully stupid and destructive things I do, I’m home free in spite of myself.

      Which is lucky, because that’s precisely what the Good News of Christ is. It’s all been done. All I have to do is accept it.

      (Rob Grayson, I think…)

      • Did Rob Grayson paraphrase Romans 7 & 8?

      • Robert F says:

        ” All I have to do is accept it.”

        Tom, for me, that last sentence is a killer, and packed with so many complications and implications that I find myself unable to pin it down long enough to see if I’ve accepted whatever it is that needs to be accepted. Can’t we leave that last sentence off?

    • Robert, I feel that I am where you are at most days. The only thing that keeps me going is that my faith has never totally left. I see that the Lord draws closest to me when the only words I can muster is HELP. The best answer I can give is Tom’s. The good news in Christ is what he does and not me. I can so easily fall back into theology rather than love. I am trusting less and less in anything I can do and let the promises of Christ start to surface in my mind and heart. Like Paul, I have no clue most times why I keep doing what I do and think. I keep falling and getting up. Like the Benedictines say ” everyday we begin again”. Its never pretty or tidy but mostly messy but I just keep on trusting in Philippians 1 verse 6 ” I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ “.

      • I haven’t read the Anne Lamott book, but in my opinion “Help, Thanks, Wow” are perfectly precise prayers.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          It’s a great book. I recommend you read it. I love her philosophy and theology.

    • grberry says:

      There is a C.S. Lewis passage from Mere Christianity that I have reread this year that has helped me with this.

      ” I was assuming that if the human mind once accepts a thing as true it will automatically go on regarding it as true, until some real reason for reconsidering it turns up. In fact, I was assuming that the human mind is completely ruled by reason. But that is not so. For example, my reason is perfectly convinced by good evidence that anesthetics do not smother me and that properly trained surgeons do not start operating until I am unconscious. But that does not alter the fact that when they have me down on the table and clap their horrible mask over my face, a mere childish panic begins inside me. I start thinking I am going to choke, and I am afraid they will start cutting me up before I am properly under. In other words, I lose my faith in anesthetics. It is not reason that is taking away my faith; on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other…..

      … I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. … I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

      Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. …”

    • DennisB says:

      Hi Robert,

      I feel rather sad when I read this. I certainly feel this way sometimes but on the whole I think my faith is “on level” & growing slowly. The suffering I experience seems to propel me to go deeper in God. I have tried to put some discipline in my life in developing a prayer habit, attending Christian meditation or Taize, learning from Patristic theology & visiting the Carmelites. This “patchwork” method is because the churches I attend are lacking in a balanced spectrum of “Holy Tradition”. I feel frustrated by this as it is less than ideal. It sort of ties in with my general “disappointment with God” about the path my life has traversed. I had always hoped God would interact in a more “accomodating fashion” rather than allowing circumstances that produce a lot of suffering…

      Anyway, attempting to centre my Christian experience in what I believe is an early expression of Christianity, has given me stronger faith & confidence. Without it, I would slide into despondency, as to me the church has pretty much become a “brothel”. There has to be a few locations somewhere within the spectrum of churches that the “Gates of Hell” haven’t overcome. I mean not only in theology but also just in being decent human beings…how ironic !
      You probably aren’t on the “same page” but maybe try to share your walk with a friend or spiritual advisor. Try doing something practical maybe….I hope this will assist you.

    • Colleen Vermeulen says:

      No easy answers, but I take comfort often in this verse: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 (this is NIV, but it’s a bit more poetic in the KJV).

  3. My faith thankfully is no longer in me or what I think or how should I say can muster up. This forum has helped me grow with the emphasis on grow because it hasn’t stopped yet in fact it is moving to greater awareness. I know who I am and what I mean to the One who made blood covenant with me. I know where I stand with Father because of it.
    I hardly have everything right but I am so moving in the right direction which is a huge difference from this time last year when my sister started her couple of weeks towards death here. Emphasis on here for God is a God of the living.

    Sean…….nice…. you are stretching and it is here that full life is. What I have read from you is good and your heart is beautiful. Go and may the Lord move through you to touch that which he has brought to you to bless you with. My friend Bobby who runs a halfway house and for those moving out of drug addiction has said God brings them to me and they become my blessing because in each is also something I need.

    I was asked to go to healing prayer tonight as one who prays. I haven’t been there for a year or more. Didn’t think I’d be asked again. I have mixed emotions. I was there first as someone that needed prayer and I did get healed not right away it was a walk and no doctors. No medical insurance and yes I paid the fine. Something deep in me wants to try again. I know I am in right standing. I want to be moving in right standing…lol sounds funny.

    Last for those new to commenting, I am one who prays in tongues( this is not bragging or showboating as that is not what tongues are for) and I have taken heat here but this forum goes to those that are on the completely opposite spectrum of this. I have learned here that my box when I place it over some it hurts them somehow. Not something I want. I know how God thinks of us all better than I once did. Over the last year I’ve been awake all night because of comments here. I have asked for forgiveness and blessing for many to God. I have had anxiety really bad. I have struggled to hit post and many times haven’t or just hit cancel. I can’t compete on the intellectual part. Most of the times I’m looking up words and then wiki all kinds of stuff. I’m A 55 year old construction worker with a degree from hard knocks….really hard knocks having barely made it through HS because at 14 I started working full time. I want to testify to what my Lord has done….I love him.

    • Hi W

      I am a regular reader and a very infrequent commenter. Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your input here – I love to read your comments and you always say something that makes me ponder. A lot of what is discussed here is way over my head intellectually as well, but there’s always something new to learn. I hope you go to the healing prayer meeting tonight, and I pray that God uses you as an instrument of healing and blessing to others.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      I’ve prayed in tongues before and do it periodically, when I’m at a total loss to form a prayer into words in English.

  4. Hi!

    I think I have left a few comments from time to time. I have been reading most days for a few years now. This space has been very important in my journey. I’m thankful for all the information, opinions and discussions.

    The next few months will be very transformational for me. I will be moving to a new country (the US), will begin my training in Clinical Pastoral Education and I’m nervous and anxious about it. I always feel like my theological studies are not enough or as deep as Seminaries or Univerities in the US. I try to let go of my insecurities and have faith, some days are easier than others but I’m happy about this new chapter in my life.

  5. Good for you, Andres. It is both unnerving and exciting to be like Abram and leave your father’s house and country for a land that God will show you, so to speak. I’m sure that you will grow and develop in ways that you will not expect, as well as intellectually from your training.

    • Andrés says:

      Thank you, Oscar! I hope so. I know that all of our life experiences are learning opportunities for us.

  6. I don’t mind if the new people talk, but please don’t sit in my pew.

    • Ah, so you’re the one who paid for the new addition to the parsonage to get your initials inscribed there.

    • Now, now. Loosen up Lee. A different pew brings a different point of view and they might even sing on key in that row.

  7. I’m a long time lurker and sporadic commenter, and no matter where I go spiritually, I am inexorably drawn here to at least check in and see what’s going on. Now that I’ve been received into the Catholic Church, I wonder if I have anything to say about life in the post-evangelical wilderness, if I ever did, but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading about others’ faith journeys through the same. Hasn’t happened yet, anyway. This blog is as strange a brew as any I’ve ever seen, and I hope it stays that way.

    • Having been orthodox for years now, there are topics that mean I have nothing to say, both sides of the argument are just outside my current church experience.

      Many things are universal though across the churches, though.

  8. I can honestly say that I don’t know where I fit anymore. I was raised Pentecostal, did my stint in word of faith, dipped in the baptist pool, did a Calvinistic u turn and then wandered way off asylum grounds and became catholic. Right now I’m camped out in the wilderness and at almost 50, I see no end in sight. I do appreciate this place you have here. Hope I didn’t make y’all dizzy with my meanderings! Thanks for listening.

    • Tonya I think we may have crossed paths in our meanderings…. I too have most of the same stops in my journey, just in a different order. I stumbled across IM and love it’s teaching while I confess that sometimes you all go over my head in knowledge, and find commenting very intimidating! I have wandered enough to know, that I may never “fit” in but I belong. I do find that the journey through all the places of faith has made me turn my faith towards Him more.

      • Hi Lori, nice to meet a fellow meanderer! You are right when you say you belong to Him. I know I do as well, maybe I just really need to believe that it’s enough to know that. I guess I’ve never really gotten over the whole “you gotta work to make it” mentality. That’s big in Pentecostalism and Catholicism. I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying that but that has been my experience. Like you, I did learn some valuable lessons from my wanderings.

    • Suzanne says:

      Funny you should mention this. I had a long, wonderful visit this past weekend with a dear friend. We are both late 50s/early 60s age, both life long church goers and both agreed that we are “over it” as far as church. Neither of us completely discounts God, but neither any longer wants to buy what the church is selling most of the time. I am seeing more and more of this among friends my age. Maybe it’s the marketing, the religion infused politics, the huge cultural change in society, the broadening aspects of the Internet, I don’t know. But I run into more & more late Middle Aged people who are “over it” and don’t feel they belong anywhere any longer. And many seem relieved.

      • StuartB says:

        I’m sure lots could be written on how America is not really a post-Christian nation, but is rapidly becoming a post-church nation…an important distinction.

        • Stuart, i think that’s pretty accurate, more so than all the doomsaying about belief being in decline.

          • StuartB says:

            We are thoroughly a Christian nation, from our politics, to our foreign policy, to our FCC regulations, to our extreme capitalism, to our list of sins, to our national pride, to our racism, to our sexism, to our homophobic practices, to whatever else. Completely and thoroughly…Christian.

            We can’t escape it. We are the product of 500 years of Protestantism. Stand and applaud at the grand experiment, the city on a hill, Columbia herself.

            But we are rapidly becoming a post-church nation. The mainlines are declining with some growth from the young. The hardlines are morphing, pursing yet another variation of the revivalist experience. Fundamentalism is eating itself alive. The new Christian sects of “Bible + additional inspiration” are experiencing substantial growth, whether it’s the Pentecostals, Charismatics, Mormons, JWs, or whatever, yet all are divorcing from the core tenets.

            And a whole generation is moving on, so thoroughly Christian they bring their equality and egalitarianism and compassion and alms with them, while ditching the institution that has held them back for centuries. They are being the Church when the church hasn’t been.

            The Kingdom of God is at hand.

        • Christiane says:

          is it possible that,
          in adopting and fostering a Political Party and its agenda that targets women and the poor,
          as well as in calling out ‘enemies’ such as our transgender people, our gay and lesbian people,
          . . . is it possible
          that this ‘Church’ is becoming a post-Christian ????

          • Christiane says:

            ‘a post-Christian’ Church?

          • Christiane – yeah. I think some of the people who are so insistent about these things are following a different god; one that has little to do with the Christ of the Gospels, and the rest of the NT, for that matter, plus all the OT passages about justice, caring for the needy, etc.

  9. DennisB says:

    Hi Tonya,

    I feel a bit the same. Started in a Catholic family, came to faith as a Pente, checked out Presbyterians, had a time with the Wesleyans (probably the best protestant church setup I’ve come across) & now I’m with the Anglicans. However I would identify as semi_Cathodox. The way churches are these days I think a lot of us will remain in a wilderness of sorts. What’s important is that you remain as part of a “functioning” body of Christ, even if you disagree with a fair bit. See my post to Robert above. I would suggest try patching together a discipline of sorts to keep you going & remaining in the faith.

    • Thank you Dennis. I read your post and it is definitely food for thought. Truth is, I found a wonderful family in my former Catholic parish, but transubstantiation never quite settled with me and that happens to be the center of Catholic faith and life. I guess I felt that I couldn’t in good conscience say “amen” when the deacon would say “Body of Christ”. Some may wonder why I became catholic if I had such doubt’s. I thought with time all the wrinkles would fall away, they did not, I even ended up with new ones!

      • Tonya, you might feel comfortable in the right kind of Episcopal or Anglican parish, or in a Lutheran congregation. Just a thought…

  10. grberry says:

    I’m recently into the wilderness. I was 15 years in the evangelical (perhaps most accurately described as non-denominational southern baptist) church in which I was saved and that my wife helped found. Two Sundays ago was my families last time at that church. Two days ago was a wedding of a friend who left that church for life on the other coast. This Sunday, visiting my parents. Then the new church search starts in earnest, visiting a church on our list with some neighbors who are regulars there but will also be moving out of state the next weekend.

    There is irony now in rereading my comment on Mike Bell’s 20 March post about him being launched into the wilderness. I said then that I might sill be at this church another 15 years. God had another plan, which on 27 March I was starting to acknowledge, and eventually my wife and I listened to what he was telling us. It was very tough to say goodbye to my friends there, knowing that we won’t succeed at staying in touch with most of them.

    We need a church that has a ministry that will feed our children. We’d like one that is reasonably convenient for us to get to and be at both Sundays and for weekday/night events We need one where my wife and I are theologically comfortable and comfortable with the practice of worship. I’d like one where we both can become members.

    Despite there being a lot of churches in this major city, there are not many that meet those criteria. We’ve only found four candidates so far, despite there being about 10 churches directly on my bus route to work. Most that look stylistically comfortable don’t have either a Sunday School for kids as old as ours or a youth group (for one to be in and one to join soon). Any ideas for other ways for tweens (10-12) to be fed would be appreciated.

  11. Jerry Goodman says:

    Thanks for the invite: I seldom respond to the site and read most of the writings. I live and attend a local vibrant faith community and facilitate a weekly men’s study. I write this because we are in the Book of Judges. The message of Judges applies not only then to Israel, but to each of us today. We have the weakness of our “flesh” or human failings to wander. (I leave that to you). There is a path that we can choose to travel. Simply put: Toleration, Assimilation, Imitation, and Rejection. These I can face daily and do. So what can I do? Determined to be courageous in God’s Word (believe?), draw my confidence from God, and dare to confront the enemy, not in me but the weapons of warfare as Paul so powerfully wrote to the Ephesian church. I won’t pretend to say that this is original from me but is the direction I think God is speaking through our Pastor to encourage us in light of the world and culture that God wants us to let His light shine to others.
    Thank You for this brief moment together, Jerry

  12. Rick Ro. says:

    Good to hear from many of you who rarely comment!

    • I’ve been a long time reader of imonk but hardly ever comment. I am thankful for the open platform provided here. Maybe I will engage more often!

  13. Like many other lurkers, this site is part of my daily reading. Some of the posts soar way above my realm, but many provide food for thought and comfort on my way.
    My journey in the wilderness is mostly in my thoughts. I’ve been a member of the same church for a long time and while I would be ready to change, my husband is still content where we are. I have no interest in dividing the family so the default setting is staying where we are. I have been attending a Saturday evening Anglican service that ministers to my heart in ways that our Mennonite church does not.
    Thanks for the invitation to comment!

  14. I’ve been reading IM since 2009, something I my brother pointed me to. Not fitting in has been my life MO since I was born into a Chinese family in the American South. That my faith doesn’t fit in isn’t a surprise, not to me anyways. My husband and I call ourselves the “loyal opposition”. When we have joined a church, we have bought into the vision and mission, developed dear friendships, and poked at the leadership from time to time. IM blog posts have been a balm for this contrarian.

    The comments section have not generally been a good place for me. On that one hand it’s not surprising–gathering misfits together will produce mal-formed interactions. There are a few major voices that tend to say the same predictable things, or offer the same predictable solutions. This is not to say that there are no demonstrations of compassion, but as people desire certainty and explore the possibility that they’ve found the answer (even if the answer is that there is no answer) things can get a bit dogmatic. Those are my 2 cents on that topic.

    I read IM daily, have bought a fair number of the books mentioned or reviews, and have been given much food for thought. It has been a blessing in my life, a special grace if you will. God bless all of you, including the commenters that I’ve just insulted.

    • Hi Andie, i hear you about how the comments section can be, but i do hope you’ll drop in agsin. Your perspective is wrlcome and, imo, much-needed.

      It’s also nice to see you and some other women commenting today. The balance here is usually pretty even, but there are some dsys when i feel a bit like a girl who sneaked into a secret hideout in disguise. 😉

      • Sorry for typos. My tablet has a mind of its own!

      • LOL. I love Internet Monk, but some days, it can feel like the boys treehouse with a No Girls Allowed sign.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          LOL. As was pointed out in some comments a few days ago, Internet Monk site has recently drifted at times into a band of old curmudgeonly types.

          This “open forum” is a reminder that we old curmudgeonly types need to keep our mouths shut at times and be welcoming of people whose views we don’t understand or agree with.

          • LOL. As was pointed out in some comments a few days ago, Internet Monk site has recently drifted at times into a band of old curmudgeonly types.

            I enjoy the banter of you curmudgeons, although at times it’s like being a visitor to a large family gathering you share stories and swap memories that leave me like I’m eavesdropping on you. You make us laugh, and think, and question, all good things!
            Thanks for the open forum today, all of us who wander are not lost, we are just perusing the pages of IM!

        • PM – yes, it really can!

  15. Stephen says:

    I’ve been commenting a lot lately but only for a couple months so maybe I’m still a newbie.

    A few years ago after half a lifetime of study my head exploded and I find myself in that condition best described in a Bruce Cockburn lyric-

    “All these years of thinking
    have ended up like this
    In front of all this beauty
    Understanding nothing”

    -Understanding Nothing (On ‘Big Circumstance’ from 1991)

    I love history and arguing about ideas and I can play that theology game if you want but I don’t really take it seriously anymore. I try to follow Matthew 25 and I’ve come to the conclusion that how you treat people is more important than doctrine. Any doctrine.

    I’m no saint and I can live with it. That’s the extent of my wisdom..

    • Robert F says:

      I’m good with how you treat people being more important than anything else. As long as it doesn’t mean that you end up in hell for not treating people the way you should, because I’ve just failed too much in that department, and am more than likely to do so again, to make my eternal felicity depend on getting things right.

    • dumb ox says:

      That is one of Bruce’s best songs. There’s no despair in that song. I think it is an expression of pure sanity and the embrace of this mystery and wonder we call life.

      “Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them…The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.” – GK Chesterton from “Orthodoxy”.

    • StuartB says:

      Amen. That’s kind of where I’m at too.

  16. Sean O Riain says:

    Hello all! I have been reading IM for a few months and have even commented a couple of times. Although I read the posts and most comments, nearly daily, I do not comment myself often simply due to time constraints. With that said, I truly appreciate this site and all of the insightful and thoughtful comments I get to read.

    Maybe if things ever slow down for me I will one day become more engaging.

    That is all!

  17. campfiregirl03 says:

    I am a long-time reader, finding IMonk shortly after Michael died, but I’ve only commented once or twice. I was a non-denominational youth-group kid, until middle school when no one could answer my questions. I decided I wanted nothing to do with the hypocrisy and judgment of the church.
    Because God has a sense of humor, at the age of 41 I found myself in a church I didn’t want to be in, and that is where God spoke to me, in an answered prayer that wasn’t even a prayer, but a thought. I could not stay in that evangelical church, and have found a home in my small town Lutheran church. I don’t know that I “am” Lutheran, but it seems to suit me well enough.
    Much of the IMonk discussion goes well above my head. But the comments stretch my thinking, and more importantly, to me, let me know I am not alone in my beliefs. I often feel I am “tossed on the waves,” but I think I’m at least in the right sea, finally. I have chased down authors and viewpoints that others bring up in the comments, and I love how all are welcomed, how disagreement is (mostly) done respectfully, and I even get a chuckle out of the curmudgeons once in a while (Lee, I’m totally sitting in your pew!) Ladies, please keep commenting; I’m listening!

  18. Robert F says:

    I find myself more and more wanting to believe in universal salvation, and this not because I have a compassionate and loving heart, but because I find it impossible to imagine salvation sweeping me up into itself without getting pretty much everybody else too.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      If Jesus is the way and He’s the one doing the saving, he might, just might, save pretty much everyone. I’m drifting there, too.

    • Damaris says:

      I know your book budget is limited, and if you were nearby I’d lend this to you: The Inner Kingdom, by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. There is an essay in that book called “Dare We Hope for the Salvation of All?” that I’ve found encouraging. He says that at least we can hope. Perhaps you could find it in the library.

    • Robert – you might also like Robin Parry’s book, The Evangelical Universalist, which he wrote under a pen name – Gregory McDonald. He is English and blogs at theologicalscribbles.blogspot.com Very thoughtful and insightful writer, on the whole. Plus it is nice to have a non-US-centric perspective on many issues.

    • flatrocker says:

      One of my favorite lines concerning eternal damnation and scandal of grace….

      “I know there is a hell, and I pray that it is empty.”

    • David H says:

      This has by far been the biggest issue (universal salvation) on my heart for quite some time. I very much would like to believe that as well. And perhaps it is in fact true. However, what I often have to remind myself of though is wanting something to be true doesn’t in fact make it true. Reality is reality (I know, such a philosophically profound statement). The sun radiates light, and will continue to do so, regardless of what we think or personal beliefs we may possess. And similarly, God is who He is, regardless of what we believe.

      This is especially important to remember when I consider how often I’ve had changes in opinions on various issues. My heart can be very deceitful, and has proven to be misleading in many cases before. And while I haven’t outright rejected it, it’s a struggle for me to fully embrace universal salvation when I consider not just a few out-of-context verses here and there, but a seemingly pervading theme (particularly throughout the NT) of there being substantially different outcomes for different people. I presume some of what Jesus talked about was applicable to the here-and-now consequences of those around Him, but that still doesn’t fully settle it for me yet…

      But, perhaps the issue is more complicated than we can imagine. Maybe God still works out salvation for all in some mysterious way in His own timetable (something similar to purgatory, just as a hypothetical example). What “does” bring me solace though is that, while I don’t ever fully understand, I do ultimately still trust Him, and know that whatever He does is good and right, and when I am with Him in the new life, I will have no room within me for displeasure or disappointment of any kind. And while we still ought to love and treat others the same regardless of what the ultimate truth to this issue is, it still certainly makes interacting with others who don’t know God in this life here and now difficult at times…

      • David H says:

        I would rather say “disheartening” than “difficult” at the end there *

  19. How nice what a wonderful bunch of comments to read today. Simply wonderful….

  20. OldProphet says:

    Who’s a curmudgeon? Hey W, haven’t responded to you for a while, but God loves you and I do too! Just between you and me, I’ve had the.gift of tongues for over 20 years. Pentecost is coming!

    • Robert F says:

      Well, I’m a curmudgeon, for one. At least some of the time. And a grump, too.

      Welcome, all new or relatively new commenters. It’s good to hear your voices.

  21. OldProphet says:

    RF. You’re not a curmudgeon,you’re just old, grumpy a d opinionated. I, on the other hand, am totally not a curmu………..oh, yeah I am. “but I’m clean!”. Who can guess what movie that quote was from? Hint, lots of screaming giirls in it.

  22. AdeptOaf says:

    I’m a first-time poster, long-time reader. I found the site back when Michael Spencer was still with us.
    I came out of the Episcopal church as a child into a pretty conservative Evangelical church, but Internet Monk has been one of the strongest influences on my faith as an adult. It’s no exaggeration for me to say that this blog opened my eyes to a breadth of Christian belief I wasn’t really aware of before. It’s probably one of the reasons I ended up in a mainline Methodist church.
    Anyway, I’ve been meaning to start commenting here for a long time. This seemed like a good excuse.

    • StuartB says:

      Welcome AdeptOaf!

    • campfiregirl03 says:

      “…Internet Monk has been one of the strongest influences on my faith as an adult. It’s no exaggeration for me to say that this blog opened my eyes to a breadth of Christian belief I wasn’t really aware of before.”
      Yes! Exactly! I had no idea. I’m not sure how I found IM, I think from RHE (and I don’t know how I found her, either), but I am so thankful!

  23. It’s been a very long time since we had “Liturgical Gangstas”. I miss their varied viewpoints on church and theology. It was always interesting and good teaching. I hope they return soon.

  24. Burro [Mule] says:
  25. Hi

    I started lurking here last fall, directed from Wartburg Watch, and it’s today an almost daily visit. I love how the posts are so thoughtfully composed, while honestly addressing questions that have bounced around my skull, unresolved, coming and going, over the course of my rather short walk on the Way.

    Usually, I’ll readjust the article… occasionally skim the comments… and it often seems like there’s a whole fractalverse of conversation I’m missing down here…

    I’ve posted in one other thread, dipped a shin, and still remember most of the interactions pretty vividly. You guys are maybe a lot of things, but indistinct isn’t one of them!

  26. I’ve only commented here once or twice, usually when the discussions have been about chronic pain or suffering because I have chronic migraine. But, since we’re talking about our “histories” here, I’ll jump in with mine. I grew up Southern Baptist, although not nearly as conservative as the current Southern Baptist leadership appears to be. I got married while I was in medical school and my husband and I joined a PCA church. In residency, we were in a poorly functioning non-denominational church and then an AoG church (oh, that was fun – people fallin’ out all over the place!). Since we moved here to Wisconsin, we’ve been in an Evangelical Free Church. My husband has been an elder for about 11 years.

    I had to quit working (as a family doctor) because of chronic migraine about ten years ago which really challenged everything I understood about the world. And about God. I had already been having questions about the Evangelical “party line”, particularly after a mission trip to Venezuela where I did physicals and set up medical records for the kids at a boys’ ranch. (True story: I prayed the next Christmas that God would take away my materialism. Within two years, I had to quit working and go on disability. Be careful what you pray for.)

    I found Internet Monk and was seriously interested and challenged by what Michael Spencer was writing. Here was someone who GOT IT!! This whole Jesus thing isn’t about having a happy life. It’s about mercy, justice, doing what is right, love, humility.

    But life continues apace for the rest of the world. My daughter is in college studying music and wants nothing to do with the Evangelical church, largely because of it’s horrendous treatment of the LGBT community. I don’t blame her, in many ways. A girl that we casually fostered for six months (about 10 years ago) is a lesbian. She has been poorly treated by many Christians, but she’s the closest thing I have to a second daughter. Well, my daughter hasn’t completely given up on the church and does plan to try the Episcopal church this summer.

    My husband is an elder, but not active since he started teaching high school math this year. And, he’s not sure he wants to be active right now. Our current pastor is taking some strong political stances about LGBT issues. My husband and I are not even sure where we stand on the rightness and wrongness of acting out on those feelings, but we agree that the local church does not need to spend nearly as much energy as it is “combatting” this problem. My husband is much more interested in being an elder when it means figuring out the direction of the church, praying for the church, working with people through their problems, etc.

    My son is finishing 11th grade and wants to be a worship pastor, but wants to get a bachelor’s degree in music at a state university first, which is what we have strongly encouraged. He does want to get some kind of Bible training later. In any case, he’s super-busy at church and loves it. Our church, while nominally complementary (women don’t preach), does have a female worship director and my son is going to be her intern next year which will be great for him!

    All of that is to say that our church is a little conservative and political for me and my husband, but it’s really working well for my son. My daughter has checked out, but is looking for other options, which is fine since she’s almost 20. We live in a town of 2500, but the church we go to is in the nearby town of 6000. As you can imagine, our options of changing churches are limited. Generally, there are three or four churches that the church-hoppers choose from.

    With my illness, we aren’t very involved much in church activities. I make it to Sunday services once or twice a month. So, we’re not part of a small group. But there are people there that we’ve known since we moved to Wisconsin 17 years ago, and some who really understand my illness. We don’t get together very often, but they’re there. I can’t imagine leaving.

    So, we’re staying. I’ll try not to gnash my teeth over end times or young-earth creationism too often. I’m glad our pastor isn’t a hard-line patriarchalist. I’ll work on following the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. And I’m praying that universal salvation is somehow actually true.

  27. Warren says:

    I began visiting IM on a regular basis in 2004 and probably listened to all of Michael’s podcasts as they were released. Looking back, I can say that Michael had a profound impact on my spiritual journey; although I’ve probably commented less than 10 times in the past 11 years (I imagine there are others like me out there). IM has not had the same impact on me since Michael’s death, but it is still near the top of my favourite blog list. It is clearly helpful for a newer crop of readers (some of whom tend to dominate the comments) and I hope it will continue. I have no doubt that generating new content is a challenging and time consuming task and I have much respect for Chaplain Mike and the other regular posters.

    I agree with the iceberg analogy and, if the comments section were a physical conversation, I suspect there would be a large roomful of people with only a handful doing most of the talking. That said, IM still seems to be better than most blogs in this regard and I doubt there is much to be done to significantly broaden the base of commenters. As others have pointed out, some points are made over and over again and I’ve learned to skim past those comments that are predictable. It works for me, anyway.

  28. I enjoy your blog, it is one of the few I keep tabs on. I rarely comment because I have so little time and I’m usually days late to the conversation… so there’s like 84 comments ahead of me.

    • I too am a daily reader. I appreciate IM and the diversity of subjects and conversations. So much of what is said resonates with me in my spiritual experience and I love the exposure to the wide breath of Christianity. Thanks!