October 21, 2017

Site Update: Conversations in the Great Hall

internetmonk_common-hall_day_small

Daytime Banner

This morning, we introduce our new Internet Monk banner. We’ve been having a little trouble with the code the past day or two, so I’ve included the art in today’s post while we work on it. The banner at the top of the post will appear during the daytime hours and the one at the end will be displayed at night.

Many thanks to our friend Michael Buckley for these wonderful pieces of art. Michael is the same artist who created our previous headline art back in 2007, which highlighted “Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.” That was a major theme of Michael Spencer’s and it remains an important part of what we do here. However, some things have definitely changed since we lost Michael five years ago. As Michael himself changed over the many years he wrote the blog, so we have continued to evolve. We’re standing at a different place along the road in 2015.

Many of us who were in the post-evangelical wilderness have now found homes (or at least places of respite) after our desert sojourns. Jeff Dunn found his way into the Roman Catholic Church, as did Damaris and her family. Chaplain Mike found an oasis in Lutheran teachings and for a time even underwent a process of discernment to discover if he was being called to parish ministry in that tradition. Evangelicals who write for us, such as Lisa Dye, have delved more deeply into ancient spiritual practices and ideas from the Great Tradition. It seems we have a significant and growing number of Orthodox members in our community.

Internet Monk has become more of a conversation like that described by C.S. Lewis: a “Great Hall” where people from various traditions meet to discuss life and the faith. Off the great hall are various “rooms” where people find homes in more specific expressions of the faith. Our new banner was designed to reflect C.S. Lewis’s vision and to more accurately describe what happens on the site day after day in 2015: we hold “Conversations in the Great Hall.” That is our new theme.

Here’s the original passage from Mere Christianity:

Lewis1I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions — as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else.

It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall, I have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into the room you will find that the long wait has done some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling.

In plain language, the question should never be: “Do I like that kind of service?” but “Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?”

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. This is one of the rules common to the whole house.

• C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

It is our goal at Internet Monk to represent at least a part of that “Great Hall,” a place of conversation where people from various Christian traditions can meet to talk about the faith. Here’s the way I see us and where we’ll be coming from as we have those talks:

A post-evangelical, ecumenical, pastoral, and contemplative site
devoted to maintaining a legacy of Jesus-shaped Christianity.

Note the key words:

  • Post-evangelical — Most of us have emerged into the Great Hall not from outside the house, but from evangelical rooms where we no longer feel comfortable. Some of us still struggle with that transition mightily. We will continue to write about that, reflecting upon what we see as weaknesses in the evangelical rooms of the Church. This helps us process our journey and provides a necessary critique to that which has become a prominent “face” of Christianity in the United States in particular in the past fifty years.
  • Ecumenical — We embrace the larger Church and seek to learn from other expressions of the faith. Over the years, Michael emphasized more and more that the way forward for evangelicalism and the Christian faith in general was to mine the riches of its past, to learn to appreciate the power of a living tradition. To him, contemporary American evangelicalism had cut itself off at the roots and was, to use Bonhoeffer’s words, like “Protestantism without the Reformation.” We are intentionally ecumenical here at Internet Monk because God has a big family and we all have a lot to learn from each other and from what the Holy Spirit has taught the Church for over two millennia now.
  • Pastoral — When we write about ministry, we emphasize the kind that is local and personal, non-programmatic, not based on fads of the day or trying to stay “on the cutting edge.” We aren’t about building big churches or impressive organizations. We prefer face to face, down to earth deeds of loving one’s neighbor and laying down one’s life for others. It’s about God’s people gathering on Sundays to share the Word and Table, and walking with Jesus between Sundays through our neighborhoods and communities, fulfilling the vocations God has given to each of us. God’s mission in the world is an organic one — it’s about life, not products. It’s about planting seeds, not cranking out widgets.
  • Contemplative — Many of us have found rich resources for growth in faith, hope, and love in historic practices of spiritual formation: community, liturgy, keeping the Church Year, silence, meditation, prayer, service, and sacred reading. We write about what’s going on within us, hoping that our words will find resonance with fellow pilgrims. We are hungry and thirsty for life and true sustenance. The “wilderness” we talk about is not always the one around us, but often the one within us. We want to encourage us all to press on in knowing the Lord.
  • Jesus-shaped — We believe that God has revealed himself preeminently in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and Lord of all. We seek to maintain Michael Spencer’s legacy of keeping Jesus central in all we write and emphasize, because that’s where we’ll find God for ourselves and others.

We count it an honor every day when you join us for conversations in the Great Hall. Our new banner reflects this ongoing purpose for Internet Monk. Thanks to Michael Buckley for prompting our imagination through his art.

Nighttime Banner

Nighttime Banner

NOTE: When the banner is displaying properly, you may notice that, at this time, it is wider than the page on the site. This is in anticipation of a new, wider theme that will make Internet Monk more readable and accessible to mobile devices. The work should be completed in a couple of weeks, thanks to our friend Joe Stallard, aka “Joe the Plumber.”

Comments

  1. Rick Ro. says:

    Love, love, love the banners. Also love the idea of being a “Great Hall.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The background of those banners reminds me of the old train station in downtown San Diego.

      • Robert F says:

        Yes, reminded me of an old train station, too, which in a way seems apropos.

    • Henry Darger says:

      For the life of me, I will never understand the cult of either C.S. Lewis or N.T. Wright. To me they are deeply ignorant, intellectually dishonest men whose works are appreciated mainly by conservative Protestants.

      The “hall” metaphor reflects a very Protestant model of ecclesiology. To Catholics, the Church headed by the pope is the hall, and even though they don’t go around calling Protestants heretics anymore, there is still a sense in which their continued occupation of some of the side-rooms is viewed as squatting. Orthodox have a similar view of things, except that they would be far less willing to accept Protestants as a part of the building. (There is some ambiguity about the place of Catholics and Oriental Orthodox.) It is mainly the Protestants who see themselves, the Catholics, and the Orthodox as “denominations” of a common religious tradition. They in turn are less accepting of groups like the Mormons.

      • DennisB says:

        Hi Henry,

        As someone who admires a lot of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but hasn’t “swum any rivers”, I think your analysis is pretty much correct. However for people who can’t stomach the extravagant “gastronomy” of both these communions, C.S Lewis & N.T Wright (along with Jaroslav Pelikan I might add) provide a solid historical foundation for the faith of some non-Catholics.

        Even though some have fully embraced Catholicism & Orthodoxy here, there are a number of loopholes in the infallible Councils & infallible Papacy ideas, that cause a lot of people pause before “jumping into the river”. I don’t think history follows a neat line validating all that has been done in the name of Rome or Byzantium. Where does that leave a lot of us ? With a broken Christianity, like a broken mirror, that we need to piece together the best we can.

  2. The banners are indeed wonderful, and I too love the metaphor of the Great Hall and the rooms leading off it.

  3. Vinny in Tennessee says:

    Should you include the following on the banners: “Mainline Protestant and/or Roman Catholic thought/theology preferred?” Sometimes I get that drift when reading your posts and replies. Just wondering…

    • Christiane says:

      Hi VINNY,
      As a Catholic, I would always want to come to the table where there were many diverse voices present and welcomed. Diversity is not the opposite of ecumenism, diversity reflects the strength at the core of the Church itself, where all are needed and no one is dispensable. The Body of Christ by its very nature is diverse, and our Christian diversity is not something we can take ‘for granted’.

      I read your statement with concern, this: “. . . “Mainline Protestant and/or Roman Catholic thought/theology preferred?” Sometimes I get that drift when reading your posts and replies . . ”

      and if I have contributed to that ‘drift’ you have experienced here, I heartily repent of it. Sometimes we speak out of frustration and lack of understanding, but VINNY, I can tell you that coming to Imonk has helped me to appreciate the beauty of the diversity of Christian thought and theology within the Body of Christ. Here, we need to remember that ‘it is better to understand than to be understood’, and that is where my heart is, even though I cannot refrain from human frustration from time to time.

      Thank you for the comment. It is a wake-up call to me to be more respectful of those who come from the ‘rooms that are neither Catholic nor Mainstream’. ‘Patience’ and ‘respect for those who see things from a different perspective’: these I need in my own life, these I long for.

      • Henry Darger says:

        I see the “ancient future” label as basically a marketing slogan–used because it sounds better than “neo-Phariseeism”! From this you can tell that it originated among those evangelical groups who are the most marketing oriented. You can almost hear them calculating how much of evangelicalism to keep, and how much liturgical stuff to graft on (they see anti-gay Episcopalians as their fellow travelers), in order to reach out to their target market and make the product more desirable. Of course, every form of Christianity sees itself as following “ancient” practices (whether this means tongues, priestly ordinances, nonviolence, or foot-washing), and every group thinks it best represents the future.

    • I would say many of us are in the “ancient-future” stream of post-evangelicalism. If you click on that category, you will find a number of posts about that in the archives.

      • Henry Darger says:

        (sorry, this posted in the wrong place)

        I see the “ancient future” label as basically a marketing slogan–used because it sounds better than “neo-Phariseeism”! From this you can tell that it originated among those evangelical groups who are the most marketing oriented. You can almost hear them calculating how much of evangelicalism to keep, and how much liturgical stuff to graft on (they see anti-gay Episcopalians as their fellow travelers), in order to reach out to their target market and make the product more desirable. Of course, every form of Christianity sees itself as following “ancient” practices (whether this means tongues, priestly ordinances, nonviolence, or foot-washing), and every group thinks it best represents the future.

        • Henry D: not sure what your angles are, but you come across as very negative and conversation killing. If you choose to stay as negative, and frankly uncharitable, as you currently are, your posts will go largely unread, and perhaps moderated (that’s not my call, I’m not part of that decision).

          Glad to see differing views here at the Imonastery, but could you find a little charity…. please.

          • Robert F says:

            I think this one, Henry Darger, has gone by other names here before, if I’m not mistaken.

    • Vinny, I think it depends on who is in the Hall on any given day. If you feel like speaking up for some those in some other side rooms, feel free. We don’t stop our friends who are mainline from saying what they think. We don’t stop our RC brothers and sisters from commenting from their perspective. And we won’t stop you.

      If your comments elicit questions, they will be asked. If your comments evoke a response, it will appear. The response by be favorable, or it may challenge your assertions. That’s why it’s called a conversation.

      To shift metaphors, step into the pool — the water may be a little choppy at times, but it’s always fine.

      • I want to echo VINNY’s comment. While I have personally moved toward the ancient-future stream, I feel the comments frequently bear open disdain for the evangelical world many have moved away from (including myself). This disdain is sinful and hurtful to those of us who still value what evangelicala bring to the table. It is specifically this open disdain that frequently discourages me from participating in the conversations in the comments section.

        • Andie:

          I echo your thoughts.
          I have deliberately cut down on coming here. The atmosphere just gets too negative at times.

          It seems like when something positive or more in line with Ancient/Future/Contemplative is posted there is at times only the sound of crickets.

          When its time to lynch some evangelical it is all hands on deck.

        • I also agree w/ your concerns.

          And some like the ancient-future stream yet remain evangelicals.

        • Andie and Ken, I think it helps to keep in mind that some former evangelicals who post here regularly were in abusive churches. Recovery takes time, and anger is a part of it. I think it’s directed (mostly) toward those who were the abusers and/or abusive things inherent in many evangelical churches – but by no means all.

          While no longer in the evangelical world myself, I don’t feel overwhelmingly negative toward it, but I do wish I had either been in better, less authoritarian/abusive churches or else never gotten involved in evangelicalism in the 1st place. Unfortunately, given the time period and the various fads and enthusiasms that were sweeping through most evangelical churches at the time, it was well-nigh impossible.

          There’s also the undeniable fact of the deep involvement of many evangelicals (individuals as well as churches) in the culture wars – that has cast shadows over many of us, and a lot of folks who post here are recovering from that as well. But there are a fair few regular commenters who are evangelical – maybe you might want to check in more frequently to see the diversity of commenters and dialogue?

          • P.S.: I have been away from evangelicalism for over a decade, and I have needed all that time to process what happened to me (I was kicked out of an abusive, authoritarian church) and gain some perspective. It is not something that happens overnight, and I still find it difficult to go to church, pray, and read the Bible.

            It is a rocky road, this, out of evangelicalism and into something new – or, in my case, back to the tradition in which I was raised.

            Am hoping you will feel more comfortable about adding to the convos here, and my apologies if I have said anything that you found discouraging or off-putting. Your voices and your thoughts are welcome in this place, even when things get kinda rough.

            all the best,
            numo

          • Well I am no softie on this, don’t get me wrong. I was a fundamentalist for some years. I am now part of the evangelical mainline and find it much more to my liking. I still am in recovery, but not hostile.

            But I do see a tendency here to pile on, especially if people take a more conservative attitude on things. At time I feel like the baby is thrown out with the bath.

  4. Damaris says:

    Beautiful artwork! I’ll miss my friend with the shopping cart, but I’ll just assume he found a congenial room to move into.

  5. Phil Dickens says:

    Love this site. The new banners are great and the metaphor of the great hall is one that I love. Looking forward to many more edifying conversations.

  6. This reminds me of Taizé, where I’ve just spend a great weekend. Taizé is a monastery in Burgundy, France. It was founded by Frère Roger in the early 20th century, and now welcomes hundreds of thousands of young people from across the world every year. They participate in the routines of prayer, meals, and work, and find a space to think about and discuss the christian life.

    If anyone here ever gets a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. The focus ecumenicalism – all traditions are welcomed.

    Here’s some words written by Brother Roger, in a book I’ve been reading recently: ‘The presence of the Risen Christ leads to unexpected moments of happiness; it breaks through your nights. “Darkness is not darkness with you; the night shines bright as day.”

  7. This is great, but not without big challenges. As Scot McKnight recently asked:

    “Pope Francis, I have a question: My Question: Will you serve me the bread and wine in your church?
    Let’s start right there, and that would be a Grand Step in the direction of unity. This is not at all cheeky, but a genuine question. Of all the places where there should be no disunity or division it is at the Table of the Lord. We can begin right there.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2015/06/01/pope-francis-i-have-a-question/

    • It will never happen. Open/Closed communion is a doctrine, rooted in so many other crucial perspectives of each respective tradition. To open the table would be to deny their own teaching on so many levels. This approach to ecumenicism is disingenuous and disrespectful. It’s essentially saying, “When you finally get over yourself and accept MY doctrine (open communion), then we’ll have true unity in the church. Because the real source of division is YOU.” McKnight is essentially arguing “when you treat the Lord’s Supper like a Baptist, then we’ll all get along,” and in doing so, he is simply confessing either his ignorance or contempt for Catholic doctrine and tradition. A genuine olive branch that is not.

      Full table fellowship across Christendom is not the means to unity throughout the church. It is the result of unity. It is the goal. There are many significant bridges to be crossed long before then, but in the meantime, the continually evolving doctrine of progressive and independent ecclesial bodies is constantly erecting more barriers than it removes. We could technically all share a table (along with a hug and a handshake, which would all kind of be on the same level field at that point), and then proceed to go our separate ways to our divergent practices and confessions with not a shred more unity than before, except for a mere symbol. The Supper is far to important to be treated like a mere symbol, unless your theology views it as such. But right now, those views are irreconcilable differences. The Pope will commune with the patriarchs of the East long before the heirs of Zwingli, and when that happens, you can be sure that the ball is rolling.

      • Miguel, you are a brilliant writer. But, as someone who has tried to study how a transcendent and invisible God communicates his truths to an embodied mankind, I can never understand why the deprecatory adjective “mere” is often added to “symbol” here.

        • But I do fully agree with this:

          “Full table fellowship across Christendom is not the means to unity throughout the church. It is the result of unity. It is the goal. There are many significant bridges to be crossed long before then, but in the meantime, the continually evolving doctrine of progressive and independent ecclesial bodies is constantly erecting more barriers than it removes.”

          • Miguel, I am not saying specific beliefs are unimportant, but I do believe that both communion and the body of Christ transcend these particularities and limitations. How can you say that someone who is not of your (or my) school of thought is *not* receiving the sacrament in the same way that you or I believe happens? In fact, you cannot, nor can I, because this is all quite beyond human understanding.

            Christ invites us to the table, and I do not see anything in the NT to indicate that people who do not consciously believe in the Real Presence, Sacramental Union, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or metaphor/symbol are are denied a place at His table by Him. He is th Host (in more than one sense), while we are the ones who partake of Him.

          • How can you say that someone who is not of your (or my) school of thought is *not* receiving the sacrament in the same way that you or I believe happens?

            We don’t. We recognize many other church bodies who have legitimate sacramental practices. There are plenty of other difficulties that separate us still. However, not every church that uses bread and wine for something has a sacrament.

            I do not see anything in the NT to indicate that people who do not consciously believe in the Real Presence, Sacramental Union, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or metaphor/symbol are are denied a place at His table by Him.

            A surprisingly Biblicist argument for someone in the ELCA, but not a historically informed one. Communal fraction is a VERY post-Biblical development. We’re talking half of church history with no communion issues. It all changed in 1054. And then again at the Reformation.
            Believe me, I’m not in favor of schism. It is indeed a tragic thing. But open communion is not the solution to this. Open communion is nothing more than insisting to live in denial of this. It is better to call a thing what it is, in order that we can genuinely work towards true reconciliation and unity.
            I am very grateful for my Cathodox brethren who maintain a genuinely sacramental spirituality. Some Anglicans and Presbyterians too. Let us keep the ecumenical dialogues rolling, and prayerfully consider where they might lead us if we don’t shut them down by skipping to an open table of insincerity.

            The LCMS has developed many altar fellowship relationships with denominations around the world in recent years, and has initiated dialogues with Anglicans. I truly believe Rome has a good chance of reconciling with the East within a few generations. These are genuine steps of real progress, not western rationalist mainlines insisting that issues of altar fellowship are irrelevant because they are unfashionable. You want to commune with me? Let’s have an honest conversation about why that was broken in the first place. Healthy relationships aren’t sustained by sweeping baggage under the rug.

          • Miguel, I don’t see that as “biblicist,” but ecumenical – yes.

            I think that we all tend to overthink these issues far too much of the time. I’m not saying they’re not valid, and I’m not saying that differences in beliefs and position aren’t valid – far from it. But for me, the bottom line is “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” There is no “them, and us, and those other people over there.” It is just plain “us.”

          • Numo, I think that it is FAR more common (and fashionable) these days to simply dismiss Eucharistic theology with Occam’s razor than it is to genuinely over think it. I’ve never seen a person dismiss Eucharistic theology as superfluous who was able to articulate any of it with a shred of competence, so often those uninterested in it are the most ignorant of it (not you, just the general trend).

            Nobody is denying that Christ was sacrificed for us. He takes away the sin of the world! By that reason, should we also invite the unbaptized and unbelievers to our table?

            Closed communion isn’t saying that certain believers do not have the right to commune. It is saying that those believers should commune in the churches whose teaching they affirm. In other words, if you can’t drink their cool-aide, you shouldn’t have any of their cool-aide.

          • Miguel – i am, as i said, pretty ecumenical, but no, i have never said that i think that evetyone in the entire world should be invited to communion, nor do i think that would be wise. It would, I’m sure, be offensive to many who are of other faiths, though i think that a wide-open dinner table *after* communion (and after services) would be a very good thing.

            I don’t want to stretch the analogy too far, but i can’t help thinking of the parable of the great banquet, where servants are srnt to scour the highways, byways and hedgerows for guests, since so many who were invited refused to come to that table.

        • Daniel, I would suggest you look into the ELCA policy of open communion. Not all Lutherans disdain “Zwinglians.” I figure we cannot really *know* what happens during communion, that it is a mystery beyond human understanding, and that holding to x or y theology is not that important in the overall scheme of things, since it is something God gives to us, not something that we do or produce on our own. Yes, I believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the eucharist, but, as with many things, I think we see “through a glass, darkly.” Plus, I’ve been received at the Table in many churches that are “Zwinglian” with genuine love, so why should my small part of the body of Christ not reciprocate?

          • Thank you, Numo

          • Actually, Numo, very few Lutherans actually disdain “Zwinglians.” Some of my best friends are Zwinglians! We just think they’re nuts, that’s all. 😛

            Yes, it is a mystery beyond understanding. But that doesn’t render our belief concerning it irrelevant. Those doctrines which would de-mystify it into a simple rationalist construct are simply over the line. The whole point of dogma and creed is to protect the holy mysteries of the faith. It’s not about “getting it right.” It’s about drawing a fence so that “I’ve figured it out” is clearly on the outside.

            Table fellowship is not about “being received in love.” The flesh and blood of our crucified Savior are about so much more than being friendly and inclusive. It’s about whether or not Christ is truly present among us in a genuinely discernible, tangible form.

            I don’t want to come to church just to think on and remember Christ. I can do that just fine at home. In the supper, Christ offers us something that cannot be gotten elsewhere, and the doctrine of Zwingli denies this. This is why their churches have generally tended to celebrate it so infrequently.

            The whole “it don’t matter what you believe about it, we can still share it” philosophy is rooted in the doctrine that it doesn’t actually do something anyways. Our churches cannot in good conscience go along with this.

          • And nobody explains it better than Hans Fiene:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5pKrwnn_2s

          • StuartB says:

            In all sincerity, Miguel, how is this not gnostic or something similar? If the bread/wine actually do becomes body/blood…what does that say? About God’s creation? About the actual nature of things?

            I’ll be honest, it comes across as medieval superstition to me, but I do want to understand. From my perspective, I have to ask if the bread/wine ever did become body/blood? Where did that thinking originate, as the gospels would seem to clearly indicate Jesus gave bread and wine, and it didn’t right there in the room become an autonomous part of himself, literal flesh and blood. Or did that occur after Pentecost, and a burning in the bosum informed the apostles things had changed?

            Or how about the original OT practice? In what way did taking passover actually affect anyone? Or was the lead meal in captivity celebrated for generations to come?

            This is not a topic I’ve studied extensively, but want to learn what others think, even if I don’t believer there is one single true answer.

          • …what does that say? About God’s creation? About the actual nature of things?

            That in this universe and reality, which was brought into existence by the spoken word, is still upheld and sustained by that very Word, and whose very nature is subject to that Word, and dictated by it. What ever is, is because it was spoken.

            This “Medieval superstition” predates the medieval period. And it is actually quite the opposite of Gnostic spirituality, which would completely divorce things spiritual from the empirical realm.

            The idea that the elements are only symbolic representations, however, is original to the 16th century.

            Where did that thinking originate, as the gospels would seem to clearly indicate Jesus gave bread and wine, and it didn’t right there in the room become an autonomous part of himself, literal flesh and blood.

            You’re expecting it to cease being wine and bread when it becomes flesh and blood. Did Jesus cease being God when he became man? Same concept going on here. Catholics would say “substance and accidents,” but Lutherans just say both/and, you can’t explain it.
            Also, you’re saying that the bread couldn’t be Jesus if Jesus was sitting right there handing out the bread. ….because God can’t possibly be in two places at the same time?

          • StuartB says:

            I’d argue Jesus can’t be in two places at the same time, lol.

            Good points.

          • It’s about whether or not Christ is truly present among us in a genuinely discernible, tangible form.

            How can you prove this one? Is it by your beliefs (which also happen to be mine) vs. someone else’s? It is not science, it isn’t who believes what about how it happens, I’m thinking, but rather, about what simply is. I really do not think there is room for ifs ands or buts on that – if Christ says “this is my body” and “this is my blood,” then it just *is*, no matter what you or I or the next person believes/does not believe about how that happens.

            I mean, I did not gain any understanding of Lutheran eucharistic theology in church. I got it by reading on my own, and (indirectly) from having spent a lot of time with Roman Catholics. (Some of them were priests, and some of them were more than happy to give communion to anyone who believed in Christ and the Creeds.) Hierarchies can argue all they want about the finer points of what is meant by Real Presence or whatever, but that doesn’t change the fact that communion is … what it is. Which, for all our human verbosity over many centuries, nobody has truly been able to explain, nor ever will.

            In this case, I am simply going to go with “in, with and under” because it seems to accord with what Jesus himself said.

          • Numo, I’m not that concerned with “proving” anything to anybody either. It is enough for me to believe what Christ has said. “Is” is “is,” and the non-belief of this has real consequences. Yes, a person who insists that “is” means “represents” does not stop the “is” from being what “is” is, but we would say that they partake to their judgement. If it is not given for you to partake as an eating and drinking of your very forgiveness, then you are left to seek that elsewhere. Somewhere it isn’t promised. I won’t even wish somebody good luck with that, I am convinced that elsewhere cannot be found.

            Like you, I didn’t learn about this in church. I find that many clergy are woefully disinterested in theology. We wouldn’t tolerate that level of professional incompetence from any other field, be it auto mechanics or surgeons.

            I’m a big fan of “In, With, and Under,” but I am told the phrase actually originated with the Westminster Confession of Faith. (!!!!) It does seem to level with the words of Christ, though all he actually said was “is.” “Is” is enough, but especially because it is tied to “for you,” and “for the forgiveness of sins.” THAT is something I will gladly feast on. That is something I need more than oxygen.

            It’s not about understanding it perfectly or “getting it right.” It’s about trusting what Christ has said in order to receive what Christ promises to give.

          • Robert F says:

            StuartB, We are all in more than one place at the same time. Look, there’s my right hand, and there’s my left hand, and right now they are about three inches from each other occupying completely different space. Are my hands not me? If not, where is this me? In my head only? Even the biochemical processes that make up memory and sense impressions and volition take place in more than one place at the same time.

            You could get around this by saying that they all happen in contiguous space, but then you’d have to account for the fact that the distance between the particles that make up your body are enormous, and that what exists between these is energy in the form of forces that keep the particles in relationship to each other. We are composed mostly of “empty” space, filled only with energy/forces that make up our phenomenal existence. If you multiply this truth times the infinite power of God, then you get some idea how Jesus can easily be in more than one place at a time, or how the energy or force that is his resurrected and ascended body can fill all space, or make itself present in any space that he chooses.

          • Robert F says:

            At this point I have no problem grasping how Jesus can be “in more than one place at a time”‘; my problem is grasping how he can not be in every place at every time: that’s the real mystery! But I suppose this is just a recapitulation of the mystery of creation ex nihilo.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Remember: Wherever you go, there you are.”

        • Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of power in symbolism, especially symbolism that “proclaims Christ’s death until He returns.” But if that’s all it does, it’s not really that necessary, we can proclaim just fine with other ways. Our churches believe that it is symbolic, and that symbolism is a powerful, “visible Word” that communicates the Gospel itself. But it is also a symbol that actually gives what it says. Not figuratively, literally.

          Why is it such a big deal? If Jesus were to walk incarnate up on the earth again, not the second coming, just a friendly stroll through the neighborhood, and visit YOUR church on a Sunday, would that be a big deal? Or would you just say, “Meh, he’s here every week in our minds and hearts anyways. No biggie.” That’s what communion is. Christ himself coming to us, his very presence, to give to us all of himself through simple, ordinary means. And it’s not just that we are literally chewing on and digesting Christ: He says that this is his body, given to us, for the forgiveness of sins. Through this means, forgiveness, life, and salvation are delivered to each of us, individually. To deny these things is to say that these gifts come through another means, and usually one we make up. Grace, given apart from means, is works. To say that Christ is not really present in the Supper is to take Jesus away from his people and leave them with just an idea about Jesus. …can you blame us for getting at least a little uppity about that? 😛

          This is tough to explain, even worse to understand. I hope this helps or at least makes some sense.

      • The Supper is far to important …

        … to be made into a barrier, imo.

    • David Cornwell says:

      “Will you serve me the bread and wine in your church?”

      Yes, and I can ask the same question of several Protestant churches in the same neighborhood as my own. I know in advance what their answer will be because they seem to show pride in their denial.

      But I do think its a significant question that can be discussed in forums like this one. This is one of the things our conversations can be about.

    • Michael says:

      Sigh…I understand this sentiment, but it is just way too simplistic–and McKnight should know that. It asks Catholics to violate something that is at the very heart of who we are. Unfortunately I can’t read the actual post (grrr work proxy blocking it), so I’ll just respond to portion quoted in your comment.

      Will you acknowledge that the bread and wine are not just representatives, but the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus? If you will, why aren’t you Catholic/Orthodox? If you won’t–well then, for the protection of your eternal soul, no, you cannot receive. Think of it this way–would you approach Jesus, in the flesh, and tell Him that He is just a man and not God? From a Catholic perspective, this is essentially what would be going on if a Protestant, with Protestant beliefs about the Eucharist, received at Catholic Church. It would be approaching the supernatural–our salvation and our Lord–and saying that this is just bread, but what a lovely reminder it is. It would be patting God on the head, like the safe lion that he isn’t.

      Catholics worship the Eucharist. We don’t worship Mary, but we absolutely do worship that wafer. If you won’t, then no, you may not receive. And frankly, if we are wrong about the Eucharist, we are idolators, and you shouldn’t want any part of our idolatry, which is central to who we are and what we do.

      • StuartB says:

        This would be a good discussion to listen to, and far from the simplistic explanations I’ve heard in my IFB churches.

      • StuartB says:

        If you won’t–well then, for the protection of your eternal soul, no, you cannot receive.

        I’d love to hear you expand upon this part. What harm could come to my eternal soul if I were to receive them?

        • Michael says:

          Short answer: Sacrilege is a very serious sin. Very serious sins do damage to our souls that make it easier for us to continue to commit serious sin, and have the ability to damn us.

          Long answer: Look at 1 Corinthians 11:29: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (ESV) In the KJV: “For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” If the Eucharist is Jesus, then it is unspeakably holy. And if you receive Christ Himself and say “meh, just a symbol,” then I think that qualifies as eating and drinking “unworthily,” or “without discerning the body.” I’m not going to let you eat and drink judgment on yourself. I would also point to the passage where the Ark of the Covenant is brought back to Israel on a cart (not on the poles as specified in the Torah), and someone touches the Ark to keep it from falling–and is then struck dead. The point being, there is darn good biblical precedent for not screwing around where the literal presence of God is concerned, and where communion is concerned. For Catholics, in the Eucharist, we encounter both of them at once.

          • A Simple Hillbilly says:

            I my experience, this passage has often been referenced to in the evangelical and mainline traditions I have attended, often with great variance in it interpretation, but sometimes with similar thoughts that you included. The question really revolves around what “unworthily” or “without discerning” means. If a person is not a Christian (however you define this) and partakes, then what greater judgement does one have than separation from God?

            The idea of “meh, just a symbol” does not reflect many church teachings, particularly Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Reformed, Anglican, Stone-Campbell churches, including both conservative and liberal iterations within each respective movement, and I know I’m leaving several out.

          • I have always been surprised that people interpret 1 Corinthians 11:29 to mean, “unless you have the same understanding of transubstantiation as I do, you are taking the sacrament unworthily”. And yes, i was denied communion in a LCMS church for the same reason.

            The context of the verse is verses 17-34. It is about the unloving and selfish way the Corinthians at their unruly agape meal. The directives against selfishness and self-seeking both begin and end the section; a bracket like this gives the context to what comes between those brackets.

            17.”In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?” What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. 33 “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.”

          • Danile, there are many LCMS congregations that would welcome your participation in communion, though they are breaking the Party Line by doing so. Nonetheless, they exist. I am sorry you were denied communion – to my mind, that just isn’t right.

            But that’s just me.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Communion is the one thing that EVERY believer in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior should participate in together, regardless of “procedure.” It should be the ONE thing that we can do in total UNITY, regardless of denominations and theologies. “Do you believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior? Yes? Drink and eat.”

          • Michael says:

            It’s just not that simple. There are fundamental differences here that cannot be swept aside.

            Take, for example, the last part of your statement: “Do you believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior? Yes? Drink and eat.”

            What does it mean to “believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior”? Define believe. Define Jesus (Man? God? Both? Neither?). Define Lord. Define Savior. Mormons will affirm that they “believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior,” but they mean something veeery different than evangelical or mainline Protestants, Catholics, or Orthodox. Whose definition should be used? And at what point does deviation in one’s definition become too much to allow for Communion? How do we agree where that point is?

            I keep getting sucked into this, and I swear I’m not trying to pick a fight. Really.

          • StuartB says:

            You jumped, from my perspective, from a person wrongly receiving communion to “sacrilege”. I’m guessing there is a lot that needs to be filled in inbetween those two steps.

          • StuartB says:

            If the Eucharist is Jesus, then it is unspeakably holy.

            Was the Eurcharist ever Christ, even when Christ himself was giving it?

          • StuartB says:

            I would also point to the passage where the Ark of the Covenant is brought back to Israel on a cart (not on the poles as specified in the Torah), and someone touches the Ark to keep it from falling–and is then struck dead.

            I’m not convinced that ever happened, so I wouldn’t use it for any proof texting of a concept. But then again, I read Peter Enns and tend to agree with him. When we use half remembered post-Exilitic stories to come up with centuries old doctrine…lots of things may need to be reconsidered.

          • StuartB says:

            The point being, there is darn good biblical precedent for not screwing around where the literal presence of God is concerned, and where communion is concerned. For Catholics, in the Eucharist, we encounter both of them at once.

            Do Catholics by and large also believe that God cannot be in the presence of sin? If the literal presence of God is there during the Eucharist…I’m seeing a potential problem in thinking.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Michael, thanks for your comments and thoughts. I know you’re not picking a fight, and I hope I’m not making it sound like I’m trying to get into one. Some of the theology around communion is way above my pay-grade, so I’m far from an expert, but here’s how I see it.

            We offer communion. We describe what we believe it to be, ask people if they believe Jesus is Lord and Savior, then invite everyone to participate. Whether one participates shouldn’t be left up to the communion giver, but to the communion receiver. If a “giver” of communion says, “I can’t let you take this cup because I’m not sure you believe as I believe,” then they’re overstepping their bounds. I still think communion is the ONE thing any and all believers should be able to participate in together. What do I care if a Mormon sneaks into a circle of believers taking communion?

          • StuartB says:

            Mormons are Christians. Lots I disagree with, but at end of day, they belong under the tent known as Christianity.

          • stuart, not to sidetrack this, but do you know much about Mormon beliefs, especially at the level where people have what are known as “temple recommends”?

            My take (and I have plenty of company per historians on this) is that Mormonism is a new religion – one of many that came out of the religious fervor of the late 18th-mid 19th c., with its own scriptures, its own beliefs and practices, and its own view of what it sees as xtianity. In fact, the movie shown to people who are about to go through the ceremonies required to get a temple recommend (still done as a live play in a couple of temples) depicts (among other things) a farcical xtian clergyman (a type, really) called “Jack Preacher.” It is intended to ridicule xtianity as understood by non-Mormons – and if you’re curious about the movie (which is only shown in temples), check YouTube. Some ex-Mormons have uploaded the entire thing, which encompasses Creation and much, much more.

            I would, informally, call Mormonism the red-headed stepchild (or bastard child, really) of evangelicalism – the one nobody wants to talk about. Yes, they do believe in Jesus, but he is not the Jesus found in the NT. It is a different religion altogether. Ditto Jehovah’s Witnesses and the like.

      • In forums with ecumenical intent, evangelicals are rightly admonished for our lack of charity & openness, our lack of respect for history & tradition, and desire to power grab and control the narrative. May the Lord continue to shine his light on these dark corners.

        Yet Catholics are still allowed to put forth the “you are not welcome at our table” because “we are right, you’re being too simple.”

        Astonishing.

        • Michael says:

          I am not saying that we are right–though of course, I think I am, as you think you are. I am saying that McKnight is being too simple.

          This isn’t just our magic friend bread that we refuse to share or we’re taking our ball and leaving. If we are right, This. Is. Jesus. Don’t muck around with that. If we are wrong, we are idolators. Don’t muck around with that!

          Remember what Lewis said about Jesus. He couldn’t just be a good teacher; either he was the Son of God, or evil, or nuts. Something similar applies here, I think. Do not say that it would be nice if we would share at the Table despite our differences. If we are right about the Eucharist, then you should be scrambling to become Catholic. If we are wrong, you should want no part of our blasphemous bread worship.

          • If we are right about the Eucharist, then you should be scrambling to become Catholic. If we are wrong, you should want no part of our blasphemous bread worship.

            Michael: we will agree to disagree about this, I can imagine several alternatives to these two options. It does not HAVE to be , scramble to believe exactly as I do or run from me, I’m a heretic and dangerous. Like Scot, I see no solid theological reason that would prevent us from approaching the communion table, at your parish or mine (Anglican), and breaking bread. No one at Christchurch Anglican is asking you to waffle on your views of communion. Must I own your views before I can join you at your church home ??? I guess so. this is sad , and in my understanding, totally unecessary. As I said, we will agree to disagree on this.

          • StuartB says:

            If we are right, This. Is. Jesus. Don’t muck around with that. If we are wrong, we are idolators.

            It can’t be that extreme. A sincere mistake, but not idolatrous. Then again, I have no fear of ever being idolatrous, because I’m sure I am that throughout the day at different times…yet, at the end, Jesus is still Lord.

            It’s like being afraid of sinning. We shouldn’t be.

          • This sounds like one of those “the Gospel is at stake,” all or nothing apologetic techniques.

            “Either the earth was created in 7 days or the Bible isn’t true.” Nah.

            I’m just pointing out that the rules of dialogue seem to be different for different traditions.

          • Robert F says:

            As a former Roman Catholic, my experience is that there was definitely that “Either/Or-All or nothing” side to Roman Catholic teaching and belief; not all Catholic priests or laity or institutions adhere to it, by any means, but it is present in the official teachings of the RCC. I assume that the double standard that not too infrequently is exhibited here at iMonk, and that favors Roman Catholicism and other traditions over evangelicalism in this area, is the result of the fact that many of the contributors and commenters here have histories, and traumas, associated with the evangelical churches.

          • StuartB says:

            that “Either/Or-All or nothing” side to Roman Catholic teaching and belief

            Vestiges of having all political power as well? To disagree could have meant death. Or literal banishment.

          • Robert F says:

            When I was a Roman Catholic child, I was taught by the people responsible for my official religious instruction that if I received the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin, I would be compounding my already damnable condition and suffer even greater eternal punishment in hell if I were to die with that unconfessed sin on my soul. I was taught that if I ate meat on Friday, I had committed mortal sin that would send me to hell if I died without confessing, or intending to confess, that sin. Missing Mass was also considered a mortal sin.

            There were so many ways to commit soul damning mortal sin that the Confessional should have been open 24/7, instead of just one hour a week on Saturday afternoon.

          • Robert F says:

            I want to say that it is not my intention to insult the Roman Catholic Church, or Roman Catholics. There is much that I value in the Catholic tradition, but my experience as a member of the RCC was negative. I’ll leave it at that.

        • I just can’t see how “you are not welcome at our table,” because “we are right, you’re being too simple” is a fair summary of Michael’s explanation. He said none of those things.

          • A Simple Hillbilly says:

            Agreed Miguel, probably just a bit too snarky of a response for this kind of forum. That being said, I’ve been at that point of frustration from this conversation before. I was withheld communion at a PCA church I had been visiting (and receiving communion for some time) as they had a requirement of having an “active membership” in a church. I explained that my last church had been a start-up that had dissolved, thus no active membership.

            The experience of having a person declare me to be unworthy and withhold communion (and thus Christ) until I confess my unrepentant sin (again, the sin was not having an “active” membership) is one I hope to encounter again.

          • A PRESBYTERIAN church denide you communion? Now I’ve seen it all. I don’t know how that Reformed practice it, or why, but in this case, it seems to be largely an issue of every believer being accountable to local elder leadership for their spiritual life, often with too much detail and too many rules, kind of like that whole dust up with the Village Church.

            It’s not about being “worthy” to receive communion, and those who deny you are not calling you “unworthy of Christ.” That’s just your sensitivity hearing it through the lens of personal rejection. Nobody is ever “worthy” of Christ, ever, under any circumstance.

            Perhaps this explanation can make some better sense of it:
            http://www.pastormattrichard.com/2015/05/what-closed-communion-is-and-what-it-is.html

          • Well, he did add an *if* clause to his response above. Otherwise, I think he validated my concern.

          • StuartB says:

            Hillbilly, that is such utter bullshit.

          • Stuart, I assume you are referring to what happened to him, not calling into question his tale?

          • StuartB says:

            Definitely what happened to him. Amongst some PCA types I’ve known, I fully see that happening. Not all, but some.

        • Michael says:

          First reply got stuck in moderation. Let’s try again…

          It’s not about “being welcome.” This isn’t our magic friend bread that we only give out if we like you. The stakes are so much higher than getting along.

          CS Lewis had a passage saying Jesus couldn’t simply be a good teacher; he was either the Son of God, or an evil liar, or a nut. There’s something similar going on here. If we’re right about the Eucharist, then it is unspeakably holy; and to approach God Himself, and call Him mere bread, strikes me as sinfully irreverent, and something to be prevented and avoided. If we are wrong about the Eucharist, then we are idolators. And not merely idolators–we have made idolatry the center of our spiritual lives, and for your own sake, you should want no part in participating in our idolatrous ceremonies.

          That’s what I mean when I say that he’s being simplistic. If you think closed communion in Catholicism is only about being welcome or unwelcome, you are completely ignoring beliefs which are at the heart of our spirituality.

    • Michael says:

      Another thought on what McKnight says:

      Of all the places where there should be no disunity or division it is at the Table of the Lord. We can begin right there.

      Sharing at the table, for Catholics, wouldn’t the beginning of unity, but the end. It would be the consummation of the healing of the wounds–not the starting point.

      • Michael says:

        To clarify–“end” meaning endgame or goal.

        • Michael, Miguel and others here have done a great job discussing this oft-repeated argument that Catholics are responsible for the exclusion of other Christian believers from the communion table. As one with more notoriety that I once said, “It all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” Just buying into “real presence” is not enough.

          Asking “why Catholics exclude me?” is the wrong question. “Why am I excluded from the Eucharist?” is the right question. For 1500 years the Church held to the view of the Eucharist that Catholics and Orthodox hold today. The Reformers decided the communion elements were not the body of Christ. Catholics continue to hold to what we see as Jesus’ claims otherwise. During the decades I was a Protestant I was part of a tradition that chose, with my conscious acquiescence, to be self-excluded from the Catholic Eucharistic celebration. That was/is not the fault of Catholic doctrine. If one does not believe what Catholics believe about the bread and wine, why would one want to partake of it? Arguing that accepting the elements as being the “real presence” is far too nuanced to be sufficient. One either believes the elements “are” the body and blood or one does not.

          Wherever one stands on the issue, however does not change the strength of God’s love for all and his desire for full communion with us.

          • Tom C

            The Reformers decided the communion elements were not the body of Christ. </i.

            Not *all* of them, by any means. Can I suggest that you look into both the Lutheran and Anglican understandings of both the Eucharist and the REal Presence? Granted, the Anglican communion is mixed on this, but you will find people who hold the exact same beliefs as you do within the Anglican communion. No joke, no exaggeration intended.

            We Lutherans aren't exactly part of the mass statement you made about all of the reformers, either. Real Presence is a key belief for us, y'know.

          • sorry for forgetting to close the italics tag above.

          • DennisB says:

            Hi Tom,

            I pretty much agree the Church had a united view on the Eucharist for most of its history, & the correct view. Just wondering though about whether St Augustine’s refutation of the Donatists, has a say in this. The Donatists insisted that sacraments weren’t valid when administered by sinful clergy. Augustine maintained that a sacrament is valid irrespective of the life of the minister, thus it is “real” in the context of the Church and, I imagine the Holy Spirit’s action on the elements.

            Wouldn’t this mean that even if people don’t confess Christ physically present in the Eucharist, He is still present ? It’s like calling an Apple an Orange. No matter what you call an apple, it’s an apple. So as long as a Christian has some idea of what the Eucharist is, shouldn’t that person be able to receive it ? I would suggest, unconsciously people are still receiving Christ even if unaware.

          • Dennis, that has been my point throughout this convo, though a bit further upthread, in yakking with Miguel.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      If I am not mistaken, Open Communion is kind of a novum in Christian circles, becoming more prevalent after the total collapse of Christendom and its replacement with the diverse, secular state.

      It would ake sense that Americans would see anything but open communion as an affront and an outrage. Open Communion is the ultimate democratization of Christianity. I and only I have the right to say if I belong at the Lord’s table. Who are you to deny me? Our bishops, I guess, are for decoration.

      • You may not be mistaken in your reasons why some are troubled with open communion; it would, however, be committing the genetic fallacy to argue for the illegitimacy of their opinion based upon this.

      • StuartB says:

        I’m sure communion at one point was a way of proving your citizenry to the Holy Empire…

        • Stuart, after a certain point in history, there’s a lot of truth to what you say, since there was no separation of church and state.

      • Robert F says:

        Open communion has an ancient pedigree; it was first practiced by Jesus when he offered Judas the Body and Blood despite the fact that he knew Judas had conspired to betray him, and was about to hand him over to his enemies.

        • Robert F – yes. It is not a human invention, it is not about “democratization” by any human being, but rather the practice and standard set by Christ himself.

          At least, that’s what I believe, and evidently some others here – from liturgical churches at that! – do as well.

          • Robert F says:

            Jesus would eat with anybody….a scandalous thing then, and now…

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Yes, Robert F. I agree. I think he might have eaten a meal (or maybe even will) with Caitlyn Jenner. Scandalous!

          • Robert F says:

            Yes, I have no doubt he would accept an invitation from Caitlyn Jenner to sup with her; I’m also certain that he invites her to dine with him at his Meal. And it’s a “Come as you are” dinner-party for all of us!

    • Henry Darger says:

      Might as well ask the Baptists to accept infant baptism.

  8. This is descriptive of how the site has developed since Michael Spencer left us.

    It struck me that in the explanation of the mission statement, “Jesus-shaped” was listed last. I would hope that we would make that the first priority and all the other terms would flow from that. That was what drew me to the blog years ago and I keep seeing glimpses of it from time to time, so I keep coming back.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Jesus Juke?

      • Normally I follow what you’re saying, but you’ll have to explain to me what you’re trying to say here.

    • +1. Well said.

    • StuartB says:

      I understand what DebD is saying, but I would gently disagree.

      Jesus should always be the last word on something. If he’s the first word, then we fall into the same trap of the fundamentalists and many other conservatives, where we won’t dream, innovate, move, or do anything until we have a “word from the Lord” or can see it in black and white on the page first. Jesus should inform all that we do, yes, but like the mature adult believers he wants us to be, we should go forth and do, and in all our ways acknowledge him.

      It may be a subtle difference, to some, but to me it’s a large one. At the end of the day, and at the end of the mission statement, we are “Jesus-shaped”. He informs all that we do, and he is the final authority. He is the ground; hence, listed last, and all others flow up from him.

      • Good point, Stuart. It’s just that I feel like the focus on Jesus has diminished over time as we look at the different rooms off the hall and people explain why they love their rooms so much.

        • StuartB says:

          I’d equate it to a lot like art, especially music. We don’t need to mention Jesus often, we don’t need to focus on Jesus often, but who he is and what he’s all about what he’s done for us has so thoroughly saturated our site that we can discuss anything from His perspective, regardless of whether we’re quoting words in red.

          He’s never forgotten, and from time to time he’s all we can talk about. But we don’t have to ask “WWJD” or what did Jesus say about this…not firstly, at least.

        • StuartB says:

          Also, we are literally in Jesus’ house…why wouldn’t we compliment and comment on the various rooms, lol?

          • Robert F says:

            Yes, it’s in those rooms that we worship Jesus as the gathered Church, after all.

          • About there being many and various rooms: seems like that’s already been covered, late in the Gospel of John. I suspect it’s part of the here and now of “thy kingdom come,” but it’s up to us to see that it’s not a bunch of separate, isolated spaces, no? I think all of the rooms are meant to be accesdible to all, and that the spaces (hall and rooms) are actually very much interlinked. It is us humans who keep trying to board up the doors and windows.

    • StuartB says:

      Also worth pointing out that it is not a numbered list.

      A post-evangelical, ecumenical, pastoral, and contemplative site
      devoted to maintaining a legacy of Jesus-shaped Christianity.

      Within grammar rules, in that sentence, Jesus-shaped Christianity is the most important thing. But what type of site is IM? It’s a “post-evangelical, ecu…”, etc.

      A website can’t be Jesus-shaped, let alone Christian, anymore than a business entity could be, but the content and commenters and general purpose certainly can be everything in that list.

    • Henry Darger says:

      I see “Jesus shaped” as another meaningless marketing phrase (like “ancient future”).

      • Henry, the problem with your take is that “marketing” suggests a product someone’s trying to get others to buy for the enrichment of the seller. I don’t see either of the phrases you critique fitting that. I don’t know of anyone who stands to gain by encouraging “Jesus-shaped” faith or “ancient-future” faith. People don’t build big churches or empires on such things. The mere fact of having some kind of a summarizing “slogan” or catchphrase does not equate to marketing.

  9. StuartB says:

    Also loving the banners, and the themes and ideas the banners and the new site direction motto go.

    I frequently read Internet Monk on my iPhone 6, and have no problems with reading posts and comments, but clicking around tends to be problematique. Would suggest to our resident web guy Joe the Plumber to really increase link sizes in the new template, so pinch and zoom to click doesn’t have to be much of an issue.

    Maybe also give the breadcrumb trails a few bumps as well. And consider redoing the outside link graphics (michael’s amazon book/profile, etc), so that they are 2x the resolution as they are currently.

    Also adding links in the footer to Michael Spencer’s bio and the general About Us pages…the Creative Commons stuff could be hidden under site credits…

    (I work in ecommerce, and am currently rebuilding a website onto a Magento platform, so my head is just swimming with site design and UX things…don’t mind me too much, lol)

    • StuartB says:

      FYI, I’ve got a paid license for Screaming Frog…if it would be helpful, I could let it go nuts and then email the results.

    • Please consider using a responsive theme. I support a WordPress server at work and we just phased out all our non-mobile-friendly themes.

      • StuartB says:

        A new theme in general would be a good idea. Colors and banners can remain, but the actual theme needs updating.

      • Since you two are clearly web-theme insiders, could you answer a general question of mine: Why do all web sites suddenly look alike? Is it a multi-platform thing?

        But I’m serious. Look at, e.g., BBC, HuffPo, Salon.com, FoxNews.com, The Onion, YourWebSiteHere.com… They all suddenly have that “clean-look,” with tons of white space to the sides, borderless pics, and some sort of strange font for captions that looks remarkably ugly at certain resolutions. Just for grins, I’ve opened seven or eight such websites in separate tabs and clicked through them all just to make sure I’m not hallucinating this phenomenon. But it’s true: I can’t tell which site is which based on the themes.

        And. That. Color. Blue. Always with That Color Blue, somewhere between teal and sky blue, and with any text within said color necessarily in white letters. You cannot escape this color. Just give up now. I’m pretty sure it’s a UN conspiracy.

        Whatever you do, Joe the Plumber, please don’t make us look at That Color Blue!

        • I am not part of the international design cabal but I would guess that it’s a combination of wanting to look “fresh” (a.k.a. not like we looked last year) plus some design elements that do better when reviewing analytics (this combination of colors, fonts and white space meant that users would do what we wanted more frequently). The mantra now is to design for mobile first and desktop after, which is why a lot of sites just have a menu button (or the dreaded “hamburger” of 3 parallel horizontal lines). This probably leads to big empty margins, which I personally like. And that’s all I know about that.

          • Thanks, DebD. That makes some sense. For what it’s worth, I generally like the look too.

            Just not That Color Blue. I refuse to believe it would even make a cool name for a rock group.

        • StuartB says:

          There are design trends for sure, but mostly it’s just good practice. If it can be demonstrated a design element works, more people will adopt it. Plus, uniformity across all screen sizes and devices is a goal.

          Color design is a fun one. Did you know most blacks online aren’t really black? Too much eye strain in the user.

          http://www.onextrapixel.com/2010/01/22/anatomy-of-colors-in-web-design-blue-and-the-cool-look/

          https://medium.com/@erikdkennedy/7-rules-for-creating-gorgeous-ui-part-2-430de537ba96

      • DebD – I’m with you on mobile-friendly. This site is so hard to deal with on a smallish Android phone, it’s not funny!

        • Joe the Plumber says:

          For everyone commenting on site design, here are some teasers:

          1. Emphasis for the new site is on readability and ease of use.

          2. The new site will be fully responsive, meaning that regardless of the device (phone, tablet, desktop) you should enjoy your visit.

          3. StuartB – retina images are on the list, just not right away.

          4. And just for DebD – yes, the menu will have a hamburger – but only on the smaller devices (gotta save space somewhere).

  10. Dana Ames says:

    Thanks Chaplain Mike and all the team for good work from good hearts. Love the art work. Some change is good 😉

    Dana

  11. David Cornwell says:

    “When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.”

    Yes.

  12. Definitely time for a change. Kudos! I would suggest going a little further. I find the retention of “post-evangelical” to be negative in spirit and unnecessarily offensive to me, to many who hang out here, and to many of the Evangelicals I know or run into who I might otherwise suggest visiting this site if it seemed apt. Yes, that’s how this place got it’s start. But let’s face it, it’s a done deal. Yes, we need to continue pointing out where the church may be lagging behind or blowing it, but the whole church. The Evangelical wing remains strong and still has much to offer of positive value. Those like me who long ago outgrew it have left, those who question are welcome here and elsewhere, those who are comfortable remain. Is it our job to trouble them. to judge and condemn? Should we install a separate drinking fountain and rest room and entrance with signs?

    Much of my forty years of positive education and growth has come thru the Evangelical wing, and much was also left behind. I find “post-evangelical” and “ecumenical” to be mutually exclusive terms, and I believe exclusivity is one of the traits we are moving away from as we find our way together. I would suggest replacing “post-evangelical” with “twenty-first century” and to continue trying to catch up with what’s in front of us. The inclusion of “contemplative” is highly encouraging. Time to move on.

    • ” I find “post-evangelical” and “ecumenical” to be mutually exclusive terms, and I believe exclusivity is one of the traits we are moving away from as we find our way together.”

      Well said, Charles.

      As an evangelical, I don’t have a problem with internetmonk. I have learned so much. Mike is always irenic, even in his criticisms of viewpoints that I may claim. Very few of the commentators fail to display kindness and openness. But you make a good point about words and how they can be understood.

    • I think you are wrong about the term “post-Evangelical.” Spencer had much ownership of the term, and for him, it was a lover’s quarrel. He remained with the Southern Baptists, offering a prophetic critique from within. Much of his writing was to reach out to those who weren’t able to remain and show them they didn’t have to leave Jesus behind, too. For many of us who did leave, “post-Evangelical” is forever a part of our story, who we are. The journey has shaped us for better or worse, and we’ve taken far more abuse than we could ever dish out with a simple label like that.

      I put “post-Evangelical” on my resume. I’m proud to wear that title. Not because I hate Evangelicals or think they’re dumb (crazy, yes, but many are indeed quite brilliant). We were able to loose our religion yet keep our faith, and this is no small feat that we’re going to dust of our sleeve just to be nice.

      Post-Evangelical has also been a very ecumenical journey for many of us. Evangelicalism tended to have very insular tendencies (…past tense, I really see them lessening these days) that viewed the rest of Christendom as non-legit. I was taught growing up in the Calvary Chapel (not by my parents, mind you) that Catholics were part of a cult. Coming out of that has helped many of us embrace a far wider view of the church catholic as a family, albeit a dysfunctional and shattered one.

      “Post-Evangelical” does not mean “Anti-Evangelical” or “Anti-Evangelicalism.” And criticizing a system is not the same as judging and condemning those inside it. Part of sitting at the table for an ecumenical conversation means being able to give and exchange criticisms openly and congenially, for the sake of mutual learning, as well as being honest about our journeys and willing to call a thing what it is.

      • StuartB says:

        The “post-” stuff is really tough. Many of us have been through it, and moved on to the post- part now.

        “Oh, I have this solution for your problem!” Thanks, but been there, tried that, found it doesn’t work for me.

        “You just didn’t understand, give it another chance!” …no…I got it, thanks again, but no.

        “Well then you aren’t really a Christian.” …hey now…

        “Why are you so bitter?” Why do you have a persecution complex?

        I struggle with it so much. Believing the best of my friends, and knowing I’ll reject their efforts almost entirely because of reasons. And sometimes, they ask why, and are shocked at what I show them (sorta like all Mark Driscoll, Duggars, Village Church stuff right now…)

        Oh, and as a single guy who knows a lot of pretty amazing Christian women…it’s doubly tough. I just can’t anymore. You’re awesome, you’re smart, you’re sweet…no, I’m not interested in you peppering Jesus in every sentence, no I won’t listen to the new Hillsong album with you, no that’s not such a blessing, no I won’t raise my kids anywhere near where you go to church…

        It’s lonely. Some times you meet someone who fits similar, but they are rare. And by now, I’m done compromising just to maybe “get some” (in a Christian sense). It’s like salt in an open wound, and their salt hasn’t lost it’s saltiness yet. Or light piercing into bloodshot eyes.

        (Funny how all the metaphors sound painful…)

        • no, I’m not interested in you peppering Jesus in every sentence, no I won’t listen to the new Hillsong album with you, no that’s not such a blessing, no I won’t raise my kids anywhere near where you go to church…

          Well hmm… I’m thinking that you need to be around some of the women who feel similarly, because there are a lot of us out here. (In general – see, I’m old enough to be your grandma, mostly likely. ;)) But seriously – these women do exist. Just the same as you exist.

          I have no interest in being with a guy who would want to do any of those things.

          So.

        • Numo, it’s harder to find IRL.

          Stuart, I was lucky, my wife walked the Wittenberg trail with me. We are both very happy in our new home and have discussed the issues involved at length. She understands things like Law and Gospel nearly as well as our Pastor, and better than anyone else in our congregation besides him. She was raised Catholic and went through an Evangelical phase in High School before we met in college, so when we came into Lutheranism, many of the traditions made sense to her.

          My brother, on the other hand, is fighting the same battle. He has been flirting with Lutheranism, hasn’t quite landed yet, but is very frustrated by the Christian dating scene. He just can’t handle the cultural crazy, it bugs him so much that he’d sooner date an atheist.

          I honestly don’t know what I’d do in your situation. I got off easy. And that Hillsong stuff is such a deal-breaker! I still have to do some of it from time to time, vocationally, and some of my students are diehard fans, but it just bothers me to hell and back. Part of the reason I couldn’t make it as a “worship leader” was because I just hated most of the music people expected me to sing and be excited about.

          • Miguel, i have experienced the same re. “hard to find” per men. We’re all out here somewhere, but connecting id the hardest part.

  13. OldProphet says:

    “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”! Sorry, amigos. I’ll believe in less animosity against Evangelicalism when I see it. In the meanwhile, I really love being allowed to post here at Imonk.

    • StuartB says:

      We see what we want to see. Equally true for both of us.

    • StuartB says:

      OP, in the spirit of ecumenicism, because I do want to get along with you, I should tell you that you represent so much of what I dislike, maybe even despise, and have been hurt by within evangelicalism and the pentecostal world.

      Your age group, your west coast mentality, your brand of charismaticism, it really did a number on me for many years. It ruined my faith, shattered it, utterly robbed me of any joy. It made me want to choose hell over whatever heaven or Christianity their “truth” was promoting. An eternal separation of God was preferred over their fellowship.

      And it destroyed the lives of my friends. Lost faiths, broken lives, all the fun things like wedlock and drugs and whatnot. I have…had… one friend that I’m convinced would still be alive today if it wasn’t for some of the teachings he was exposed to shattering his mind and spirit. Bizarre stuff I won’t get into, all in the charismatic stream. I don’t put the blame at their feet, no, but I saw how it ruined his life for years, and he swept me up along into it as well.

      I know you mean well, just like they did. But at times, it really grates on me, and I try to respond as well as I can. But your religion or brand of spirituality or views or whatever…I have to fight them. They need to be defeated, for my own sake, for my friends…I’ve done a lot of studying, soul searching, whatever, and I see certain repeated thoughts and patterns and ideas that I believe are what’s responsible for so much of that hurt. And I will call them out and challenge them. And I’d hope we’d discuss them. Discuss them, like two adults can and do.

      All that said…I want to get along and talk about things. That’s one of the best things about Internet Monk. And I figure…if I can change and not be the person they made me years ago, maybe you can change as well. And we can grow together.

      I know you aren’t them, OP. But fear can come out of imaginary places, remembering how others hurt me, and at times I hear the same words and thoughts coming out of you as them. And instead of letting it harm me, I punch back now. Self-defense, as I should have all those years before the scars.

      CM, if it warrants, feel free to edit and delete. But I had to write it.

      • Stuart, I hear you. All too well, in fact.

        And OP, that’s what’s behind some of my reactions to your posts – it’s not you per se, it’s the abuse I went through. And it’s those people I’m reacting against.

        My apologies if I have been unfriendly or unkind toward you personally, or if anything I have said has been wounding (and i bet some of it has been, recently, at least).

        • OldProphet says:

          Stuart, Numo. Here is me, not what you think is me I love the RC church. I like the Anglican church. I’ve had a love affair with God’s word for 33 years. I’m charismatic. I’m a Bible lover. I don’t believe in YEC. I don’t believe in Biblical inerrancy. Parts of scripture are poetry and stories bI believe in demons and spiritual warfare. I don’t.like Ham, Mahaney, Driscol, Piper, McArthur, Joiner, 700 club, Hagin, Village Church, Darbyism, Lahaye, Calvary Chapel, San Francisco, NoCal,……. I have had a prophetic ministry to churches for over 25 years but I’m nit a prophet. I’m a charismatic guy trying to serve his God. My issues on this blog is the constant slamming of Evangelicalism with some type of air of superiority from those who have left it. Like they have been promoted. Really, I think its out of pain and hurt from PEOPLE, not the system. I know, I’ve been there. It’s in every church, it’s just a matter of time.

          • I think its out of pain and hurt from PEOPLE, not the system.

            Then you’re just not listening to us. Not saying you’re entirely off, I’m sure most of us can own a nickel of that dime. But our critiques against the system are very legitimate, and not personal problems disguised as issues. More often than not those in the system being criticized are the ones making it personal.

            People criticize my new system all the time. You might think all Lutherans/Cathodox are the same, but around here, my tribe is more outnumbered than yours. I don’t take it as a personal offense, but rather, as a challenge to my thinking. I have a choice: answer the challenge, or be willing to admit that I may be wrong about something. Follow that train long enough, you may be surprised where you wind up.

          • Robert F says:

            “I have a choice: answer the challenge, or be willing to admit that I may be wrong about something.”

            No one answers the challenges better than you do, Miguel. Remember, though, that you may be wrong even in things to which you’ve apparently answered the challenge. Be careful that you don’t lean to heavily on your own understanding; that’s a very real danger for someone with as subtle a mind and as much intelligence as you.

          • Miguel, you are right about hurtful systems. Does it have to be that way? Of course not. But i think it might be harder to see when you’re in the middle of it.

          • Thanks, Robert, but you may be forgetting a few things here. I’ve been “proven wrong” probably more than anybody else around here. The views I hold now couldn’t be further opposed to those I held when I first came. When I say “…or be willing admit that I may be wrong about something,” I’ve done this more times than I can count. I’ll argue stridently to support my ideas, but don’t think for a second that it’s because I’m trying to justify my own views. I’m here to learn, and if I argue strongly, it’s because I’m inviting you to find the weakness in my position. You’re not going to have that chance if I give a weak defense.

            One of the strengths of Lutheranism is being able to hold your reason at arms length. We all have it, and we all use it, but it’s the devil’s whore, and so not to be trusted. I think we make this distinction better than traditions that emerged out of and were very driven by the Enlightenment and its ideals. For the Reformed, reason is king, it is the highest magisterium.

            Numo, of course it doesn’t have to be that way. But often, there are certain beliefs that produce certain tendencies. Sometimes it’s really not that hard to connect the dots.

          • Miguel, i have had to connect those dots, but was unable to do so until after i was booted out of an abusive, authoritarian setup, and even then, it has taken years. I would not be in the place i am now wrre it not for the intetnet, and sites like iMonk.

    • OP, I often cringe here at remarks which have to be hurtful for you and W and others who understandably maintain a lower profile. It reminds me of my stepmother, a product of the Chicago white flight to the suburbs, who feared and hated all blacks because one time a black man running from the police ran thru her back yard, traumatizing her for life. Give me a break.

      Michael Spencer died five years ago and he was growing mightily. Five years is a long time in this fast moving world, and think where he might have been today had he lived. I have the feeling that by now he would have realized that he was flogging a dead Evangelical horse while Jesus disappeared off into the distance. I have been watching Chaplain Mike growing mightily, Stuart B as well, most folks here seem to be growing, and those that aren’t seem mostly to be mired in doctrine.

      It greatly encourages me that you continue to hang out here in spite of insult and offense, sort of like Jesus, tho even he knew there could come a time to shake the dust off your sandals. Along with Rob Bell and the New Testament, I predict that Love Wins.

    • While there are plenty of voices in these comments that are not slow to criticize evangelicalism (I can be one of them), I also think this blog has a disproportionate number of voices that are sincerely measured, compassionate, un-abrasive, willing to critique without being critical, slow to anger, rich in love….in fact I think there are probably more of those kinds of people that post here than nearly any other blog I visit. I’m really impressed by this, and would hate if the whole comments section were written off by someone based on the distaste someone feels for some of the voices.

      We’d be poorer without the voices of stalwart “still evangelicals” here, and frankly I’m glad to have a charismatic around, sir. I’m charismatic also, though my “flavor” of charismatic is different now than it used to be.

      • Nate and OP, even after approximately 30 years in highly abusive charismatic churches, there is a part of me that is still quietly charismatic. But that comes from long ago, when i spent a lot of time with Catholic charismatics. So yes, it is a very different flavor of charismaticism, and i am highly skeptical of many things that i saw and experienced along the way (in both Catholic and Protestant groups). In fact, i suspect that what passes for charismatic in most places is really more about custom passed down, ultimately from Azusa Street, than about the actual movement of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts and minds.

        Fact is, i am far more inclined to think that it a gentle, contemplative kind of “knowing” and belief, not about “manifestations” and the like. Put another way, all i ever got from being “slain in the spirit” was a sore back. But living and worshipping with people whose lives reflected the love of Christ – that’s where, and how, i got something of a glimpse into what God wants for us.. in my case, it came from living – as a laywoman – in a small convent, when i was quite young. (Btw, i was and am Protestant, and never wanted to convert.) The nuns were very human, and also very intent on trying to live for and in Christ the best way they knew how. To me, that is worth scads of “prophetic words,” any day of the week, and is something i reflect on a lot, post-evangelical, post-extremely painful experiences over a long period of time in abusive Protestant churches. I am a revert to my Lutheran background, which, though not perceft, is far saner and more grace-filled than ANY of the evangelical/charismatic groups i was part of.

  14. Mike, I love the new banners, and the thought behind them. Well done!

  15. Thank you, Michael B.! This is wonderful!

  16. I’m going to miss the slogan “Dispatches from the post-evangelical wilderness.” I remember fondly the discussion about adding the hyphen, and how the google translator flubbed it, with or without the hyphen.

    But I’ll adjust.

    Michael Buckley’s art is great, and I love the Great Hall theme.

    Hey, how many Michaels does it take to run a blog, anyway? I will not ask how many to change a light bulb. That could get embarrassing.

  17. Am I the only one who feels like I’m looking at Steve Brown in the daytime banner?

  18. I’m so glad the new art is well received. Thank you. I did write a small post about the new images, which you can read here:

    http://toilandtoil.com/2015/06/cslewis-and-hamms-beer/

  19. I love the banners, and I love the adjusted direction.