It is time to give a “State of the Blog” message. Here is the gist of what I want to say today:
Internet Monk has always been a personal blog that has reflected the personal journeys of its authors. As our lives change, the blog changes. There are particular themes we try to maintain and regular access to the Archives helps keep us on track, however, as in any long-term relationship the seasons and circumstances we go through will lead us to emphasize certain aspects of “Jesus-shaped spirituality” at various times and in a variety of ways.
Now, let’s talk…
I received this email recently from a regular reader:
Can I express a few concerns off the record about Internet Monk. And I’m saying this as a friend. I’m really concerned that the blog has drifted from its original purpose. I know you’re not Michael Spencer and it would be wrong of me to expect that but I look at the posts we had a couple of years ago and the posts that exist today and its almost two different blogs. Remember posts like these?
It was the Internet Monk blog where we discussed Ken Ham, the SBC, John MacArthur, etc… from time to time. I don’t see those posts any more and I’m concerned because when I look in the archives I see a lot of posts that explored those problems in theology. Maybe I missed it but Rachel Held Evans released a significant book called A Year of Biblical Womanhood and I really thought we’d tackle it, but unless I missed it, the blog didn’t touch it.
I’ve been spending some time thinking about all this and I wonder if maybe the ELCA has prevented you from writing posts like the ones above due to how it would reflect on the ELCA. I am not sure and I am not trying to put words in your mouth either. If you feel this email is being difficult then please call me on it. I’m willing to listen and hear. But as I check the blog on a regular basis it seems like the blog has drifted into becoming a Lutheran blog. And I’m happy that some people found a way out of the problems by embracing Lutheranism, etc… But each person has to find their own way, and what works for one person may not work for another. …And I just want to raise this concern.
I appreciate it when readers raise concerns. I’m not always able to answer every comment or email, but I asked permission from this author to answer these concerns publicly and was given the OK to do so. The email brings up several issues that are voiced by IM readers and it gives me the opportunity to answer them at one time. So, here goes…
First, an easy one — as to the specific question of reviewing Rachel’s fine book on “Biblical Womanhood,” I still plan to do that. Actually, I planned to write a review as part of our First Testament emphasis in January, but ran out of time. Look for it soon.
Second, the question: “Has Mike’s affiliation with the ELCA prevented him from writing certain posts?” Answer: absolutely not. However, I will confess that I am in a different stage of my own journey. What does that mean, and how does it affect my writing?
I would ask all of our readers to realize that the most significant issue regarding my writing has nothing to do with theological perspective or affiliation but with the simple, mundane matter of time. Since the fall I have been involved in an ordination process with my denomination and this has required a much greater time commitment, including travel, taking a seminary class, doing independent study that involves reading and writing, participating in churches and doing preparation work necessary to that, and getting more involved in my own congregation as I get ready to take over additional pastoral responsibilities this summer. Along with a full time job that includes extra on time call every other week and trying to find leisure to be with my wife, children, and grandchildren, the demands have been almost overwhelming at times, especially when day turns into evening and I realize it’s time to start writing the next day’s blog posts.
So far, with lots of help I’ve been able to keep my head above water, and at times that has meant combining material from my studies and activities (hence, perhaps a bit heavier “Lutheran” emphasis). I have not had quite as much freedom to do any extra research necessary to seriously explore certain issues in writing. I realize no one likes to hear, “I’m busy,” but sometimes “facts is facts.”
I would also say that I have had some changes in perspective that have shown up on the blog. Internet Monk is not and never will be a “Lutheran” blog, but I am a Christian practicing my faith in the Lutheran tradition now, so that’s going to come through once in a while, especially when I share my own journey. Remember, we have a whole team of writers here: evangelicals (Jeff, Lisa Dye, Dan Jepsen), Roman Catholics (Martha, Damaris), Presbyterian (Craig), and we make it a point to bring in guest writers from various denominational and non-denominational backgrounds. That will not change.
Third, in keeping with Michael Spencer’s commitment to chronicle his journey, we who are writing now will do that as well. Michael started this blog writing about a lot of cultural and political issues. That changed as he changed. Michael was affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and used to write a great deal expressing his opinions about what was happening in the denomination. That changed. Michael went through a period where he embraced Calvinism, called John Piper his hero, and wrote favorably about Mark Driscoll. That changed, and he had a prickly relationship with all things Neo-Reformed ever after. For a time, Roman Catholicism became an important matter for his consideration and he wrote about that until he came to terms with it. To the end of his life, he remained in the post-evangelical wilderness and never found a tradition to call home as far as a church or denomination, and so he continued to write critically of the culture of evangelicalism, even predicting its collapse. In his book, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality, he suggested that people may need to leave the institutional church for at least a time to find Jesus.
When I, Chaplain Mike, became the lead writer after Michael’s death, I was in that wilderness too, and wrote about it. I was more post-evangelical than Lutheran at that point. I was still working through many of my issues with the culture of evangelicalism, and that led me to write more about what I was leaving than where I was heading. As my journey has taken shape and my destination became more clear, that balance has shifted.
Plus, I would urge our readers to remember that we don’t simply “take on” people without reason. We are “occasional” critics here at IM, always have been and always will be. When Ken Ham says or does something outrageous and worthy of critique, we give it. When John MacArthur or Al Mohler takes a public stand on an issue and suggests that those who don’t toe their line are not true Christians or on a dangerous slippery slope, we’ll answer that. When some Pentecostal megachurch pastor makes a big public display advocating something completely out of line with historic Christianity, I will guarantee we won’t be shy about expressing our opinion.
Jeff just completed a great series on evangelicalism that pulled no punches. Soon, we’ll be featuring some posts by guest authors on some of the scandals that have been troubling prominent evangelical ministries in recent times. As I get more involved in the mainline world, I’m sure I’ll be exposed to matters of concern in those circles and that means you will too. With a new pope coming, I see us including some pieces on Catholicism that will explore its future, including how it will deal with its troubles and scandals.
I would also say that I try to keep abreast of the best websites that keep their fingers on the pulse of ministries that need policing, and we include them in our Blogroll and Links list. I don’t feel a need to do what these sites do better and more extensively.
The emailer suggests that the “original purpose” of the blog was to play critic, but that is not precisely correct. The original purpose, as I see it, was to chronicle one man’s journey toward a “Jesus-shaped spirituality” — though that phrase came later. We who have been entrusted with Internet Monk are committed to fulfilling that purpose by building upon Michael’s remarkable insights and sharing our own journeys.
I am happy to report that our readership is higher than ever and the conversations as stimulating as they have ever been.
For that, we thank you. And we urge you to keep reading, keep discussing, and keep challenging us to do better.