September 2, 2014

Internet Monk: The State of the Blog

state-of-the-union

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:

Chaplain Mike-

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.

QuillThird, 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.

Comments

  1. Good thought Chaplain Mike. Thank you for continuing Michael Spencer’s work. I look forward to reading Internet Monk for many years to come.

  2. I just want to put in my two cents worth and say that I have been an Imonk reader for several years, starting when Michael was still with us. I continue to look forward to logging on each day to see what you have to say. Keep it coming!

  3. I believe it has changed. I have little interest in discussions or rants about folks like Ken Hamm or John MacArthur. I tended to overlook these even back in the day. Michael seemed for the most part to have been a disilusioned or at least frustrated SBCer. I wasn’t SBC but I’ve been wrestling and wandering. He was in the wilderness but you seemed to have found your place and it seems the blog has taken a Lutheran turn more than any other and that sometimes seems to come across a little selective or eclusive so I don’t frequent your blog so much any more. That’s OK. The point is not to stay in the wilderness and there are those who will resonate with the new shape of Imonk.

    • I’m with mick. Yes, the blog has changed. Yes, it is different. But then so have I.

      I’ve come to terms with my post-Evangelicalism, but unlike CM haven’t left the tradition. I am thankfully a member of a church that isn’t involved in denominational politics or shenanigans because the pastor is too busy caring about the community around him. I wish all could find a place of such solace. Do I agree with or follow everything? Hardly. I would no longer call myself a dispensationalist and I favor conditional immortality over eternal conscious torment, but both of those beliefs stem from a deep evangelical commitment to biblical exegesis. It’s hard for me to leave the tradition that gives me the tools to evaluate it.

    • I have to agree with mick and rick. By no means am I suggesting that it is a bad thing that the blog has gone the direction it has. It is a wonderful thing that you have come out of the wilderness and found a place you can call home! And certainly you are seeking to carry out the ongoing mission of Jesus-shaped spirituality. But there is a second subtitle to this blog: Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness. And I think that’s where the original writer and we see a change. It seems to me Jeff is the only major contributor still wandering in that wilderness. Nothing wrong with change, of course; but it is worth us all acknowledging.

      It reminds me of the old joke that women marry men assuming they’ll change and they don’t; men marry women assuming they’ll never change and they do.

  4. I think that you could safely reduce your combined bloggings to one post a day. Would that help to relieve the pressure a bit?

    The one major improvement that I think iMonk needs is a better commenting/forum system, but this is a long-term goal. This new one looks promising, but is still in its infancy: http://www.discourse.org/

    • Thanks Ben. We ebb and flow with number of posts per day. This will be the only one today, for example.

      • Chaplain Mike,
        Would you consider (re-)running Michael Spencer’s posts more often than once a week? It might take a burden off of you and let new folks get reacquainted with his voice as well.

        I sense that the blog has changed, but I think it’s a good thing that the “post-evangelical” wilderness is not a permanent destination, and I’m glad you’ve found a home. While I plan to stay in the evangelical world, I now feel freer to supplement my spiritual feeding from other Christian traditions without having to prove that one tradition is write and another is wrong.

        I do wish (and I’m not sure how you’d do this) that when the articles are emailed to subscribers, it would include the author’s name. I often read the articles first thing in the morning from my phone and until I figure out who the author is I have a hard time placing the article in context.

        Thanks for all you do.

  5. I’m a new reader. I’ve never been an Evangelical, although my wife left the Evangelical ghetto a long time ago; her Evangelical family still questions whether, as Episcopalians (and conservative ones) she and I are really Christian at all. We get tracts along with cards at Christmas. So I have some appreciation for the trauma that both living in the ghetto and leaving it can cause. Although the wilderness is not a permanent abode, we are wayfarers in this life, and we will continue on the way until our time on this mortal coil is done, even if we find a church home. But at some point those in the wilderness need to stop looking back toward Egypt with either nostalgia or bitterness, and start looking ahead to the land of milk and honey, even though they die in the wilderness; it seems to me that’s what Chaplain Mike and this blog are doing, looking ahead. There is no other way. Let us venture forth together.

    • Glad you’ve come aboard, Robert.

      T

    • My mother-in-law wrote her former pastor, Warren Wiersbe, to find out if my her son and I were ever saved when we shifted to the Episcopal church. I feel your wife’s pain – and also her joy. Glad to meet another Episcopalian here.

    • You get tracts with Christmas cards? Wow. And you’re not even Catholic!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’m curious what kind of tracts. Jack Chicks, Campus Crusade/Four Spiritual Laws, Romans Roads, what?

        And the kicker is, A CATHOLIC INVENTED TRACTS. At least that’s the tradition in my church’s oral history. St Alphonsus Liguori is credited with inventing tracts when he was a missionary priest in a part of Europe that did NOT like Papists. Since no local dared be seen taking instruction from a Romish priest, Liguori started using small concealable written tracts for covert catechism.

        • HUG,
          I throw the things away as soon as I see them, and my wife throws them away even more quickly than I do, so I’m unable to answer your question.

          • But I can offer you a disturbingly funny story: My father-in-law was the senior pastor of a small independent Baptist church in the South. A few years ago he died after a protracted illness, and my wife and I made the long trip by car to attend his funeral. Before the memorial service, my wife, brother-in-law and a few others stood outside the sanctuary in the narthex (is that a proper term to use when referring to a Baptist church?) and spoke with the assistant pastor, who would be officiating at the service. During the conversation, he told us of an adventure he’d had when he was doing mission work in Italy some years prior. One Easter Sunday, he and a fellow missionary rented a plane, which they flew (he said) over Rome near St. Peter’s Square. As they traversed the sky, they proceeded to drop thousands and thousands of tracts, some of which he insisted fell into the Square among the overflow Catholic worshipers gathered for Easter Mass. A twisted little smile spread across his mouth as he said, “Well, we got the Gospel to them that day.”

            Was he telling the truth? Strangely enough, I somehow believe he was. I imagine it was something like the Four Spiritual Laws that they papered the Vatican with, HUG, though I confess that, in my shocked state, it never for a minute occurred to me to ask.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            These guys never realize that the only reason they HAVE a Gospel to preach (and Gospel-Blimp tracts for) is that the same Romish Popery (and the EO — they were one and the same back then) prevented all the contemporary Shirley Mac Laines and Raelians from rewriting the Gospels in their own image back when years AD were still in the low three digits. Who do they think collated their Bible in the first place? God dropped it out of the sky or recited it word-for-word like the Koran, except in Kynge Jaymes Englyshe instead of Classical Arabic?

          • WOW!! A tract in a Christmas card?!? 8-O Even my Crusade chapter didn’t do that…and we didn’t even consider the mainstream Protestant to be Christian.

  6. MelissatheRagamuffin says:

    No, I don’t like the blog as much as when Michael Spencer was writing it, but I do still like the blog. Not everyone can be like Michael Spencer.

    • ditto, Melissa. I would add that NO ONE can be like Michael Spencer.

      iMonk is usually my first stepping-stone of the web in my mornings. I think my IE browser automatically loads it without having to be told.

      T

    • I sympathize with your stance, Melissa and Tom. For my part I find it very difficult to read all the way through a Michael Spencer essay, much as I appreciate his thoughts, and far prefer Chaplain Mike’s writings. I’m glad there has been something for both of us.

    • I’m just terrified at being classed as a “writer”, particularly in such excellent company. For me, it’s a case of “For instant expertise, just add Wikipedia!” :-)

      I miss Michael, as well. The blog would be very different if he was still with us and still writing. I don’t know where he would have ended up along his journey; he seemed happier when preaching at that Presbyterian church, but would he have permanently settled anywhere in a liturgical tradition? We’ll never know.

      God rest him, and I’m very grateful for all he did and for the opportunity to meet you all.

      • And when Michael wasn’t preaching at the local Presbyterian church, you would often find him worshipping in an Anglican church in Louisville. As you can see, he never did find a comfortable spot to land in this world. I think many of us are on that same path …

        • “he never did find a comfortable spot to land in this world”

          You should do a blog post just on that sentence. What is a comfortable spot? What would that look like? Should we ever expect to land in such a spot before His return? etc….

        • Wasn’t that an AMIA church?

  7. I wonder what Michael would have been blogging today. Can’t remember how many years I have been visiting IM but pre and post Michael, IM continues to challenge me that it ‘all points to Jesus’ True, there will only be one Michael Spencer but I am just as content that there is one Chaplin Mike and one Jeff continuing the legacy of a Jesus shaped spirituality. IM is a daily rest point and launching pad. Things change and I can live with that. More importantly will I change and allow transformation in my life? Keep up the great work. I reckon I still hear echoes of Michael in the writings here and with any legacy time changes things. The spirit lives on

  8. I could see that you were sharing from your studies as you prepare for ordination. I just assumed it was a way to sort of “kill 2 birds with 1 stone” because of the time issue.

    SO MUCH has changed in the Evangelical Churches since Michael Spencer’s death that, even if he were still with us and writing, the Internet Monk would change also. I see other sites and articles about the “demise” of the evangelical church etc. I was in a “Christian Bookstore” on Saturday and saw a new book about the “coming crash” of the Evangelical Church. The church is a living entity and as such it changes. But it will prevail as Jesus Himself said. In this crazy world we have too many changes to cope with and seek somewhere or something that doesn’t change. It is always scary and sometimes painful. So as the church has been changing so has the Internet Monk. Our journey isn’t static.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I was in a “Christian Bookstore” on Saturday and saw a new book about the “coming crash” of the Evangelical Church. The church is a living entity and as such it changes.

      Thing is, a lot of Evangelicals think Evangelicalism (and sometimes their particular church) IS the entire Church. Like Landmark Baptists with the labels switched.

  9. pastorkbeyer says:

    I stumbled across this blog about a year ago while looking for something else and have appreciated it’s honesty, it’s critique of the church and it’s challenge to be faithful to Christ in our faith walk; all without pulling any punches it seems to me. Do I read every post; of course not, just as I do not read every post on any other blog and to be honest, the Michael Spencer posts are often some of the ones I skip. I appreciate the currency of the posts by those writing about what is happening in our world, in Christianity, in the church today and I especially appreciate being able to journey along with other Christians as they seek to live out a Jesus-shaped spirituality. Thank you to all the writers for taking the time to share your journeys. Blessings!

  10. CM, you are doing a fine job, standing ovation!!! I am astounded that anyone can keep so many plates spinning at the same time. Hospice work by itself seems overwhelming to me.

    I think it is evident that the Holy Spirit guides this blog. From that we should expect change and growth and new directions. At the same time there is a constant flow that keeps us heading toward something that may not always be evident or easily put into words. Maybe what holds us together is not wanting to get stuck in a rut. Hopefully we share a love of Truth which is stronger than the need to focus on error.

    Keep up the good work. Sharing the load amongst such a fine group of thinkers and fellow pilgrims is a win/win solution. Blessings on your new turn of the road.

  11. Good stuff here. Good work here.

    Helps to keep us sharp and grounded in Christ.

    Thanks.

  12. Judy in Canada says:

    I came across IM a number of years ago and have appreciated knowing I am not wondering in this wilderness alone. For the most part the discussions and comments over the years have been learning tools and a source of inspiration. Though I tired a long time ago of the ‘mega-church” mentality that seemed to take over the denomination I am a part of we have not been subject to as much of the extremes and outrageous teaching/behaviour that seem to color American Evangelicalism, for that I am very grateful.

    I belong to a small church plant experiment of mostly post – evangelical wanderers and we are slowly trying to set a new course in Jesus shaped spirituality based on faith, spiritual renewal, a Christ centred way of reading the scriptures, and social justice. We are taking a long hard look at the last 2000 years of Chrisitanity and incorporating that which has been good and lasting and tossing out the rest. 7 years in we are thriving and making a diference in our community and denomination. As has been stated in previous posts this faith journey is not static we don’t find the right ‘doctrine’ and then park there though it is a wonderful thing when we find healing and a place to call home. If it is “the truth, the way and the life” we are seeking the road goes on into eternity.

  13. Personally, I can’t believe the high level of output that comes from the writers here, just from what I know about their busy schedules. CM doesn’t just write good, he writes fast and often. That, imo, is a rare gift that people like me often envy.

    As to that second point, I think that was a rather silly concern to bring up. I really don’t think that belonging to the ELCA has ever prevented anybody from saying anything ever. Mainlines aren’t like that: they’re quite open-minded, to a fault even.

    While I personally am much more narrow and dogmatic in my views, I really enjoy the diversity of perspectives I encounter here. This place is a hub for those in transition, and you’l find nearly every version of Christianity represented between the writers, commenters, and links. As much as I am at home in my tradition, echo chambers can begin to stink after a while, and coming here is always a breath of fresh air where I can learn from those I disagree with.

    I wonder if it is possible that the continuing increase in readership is partly due to the CEC predictions coming to pass.

    • Isaac / Obed says:

      Once again you said it better than I would have, Miguel. I don’t come here as often as I used to, but that’s largely because I have found my home and am no longer wandering the wilderness. It’s nice to pop in for diversity once in a while, though.

    • “CM doesn’t just write good”

      :P

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “As to that second point, I think that was a rather silly concern to bring up. I really don’t think that belonging to the ELCA has ever prevented anybody from saying anything ever. Mainlines aren’t like that: they’re quite open-minded, to a fault even.”

      I was initially startled, then amused, by the suggestion that Mike was self-censoring due to the ELCA Big Brother. It is possible to get into trouble, but you really have to work at it. It would be very odd for someone to consciously join the ELCA if he held some stance to contrary to it. I don’t know what Mike’s plans are for after he is ordained. If he is planning to be a parish pastor, then he is undoubtedly aware that a call committee might read his posts. They would undoubtedly consider his situation of being a man of mature years recently come to Lutheranism from an Evangelical background. This is hardly the classic career path for a Lutheran pastor. Whether it is a plus or a minus would depend on the call committee.

  14. I came upon Internetmonk way back after I had finally internalized the fact that I was no longer a Christian. I liked Michael’s honesty and could respect his deep belief and also the fact that he was knowledgeable about his Scriptures and church history. I obviously didn’t always agree with him, but I could respect his position.

    Chaplain Mike, I have a lot of fondness for you, as I have interacted with you quite a bit, and also, we share the fate of being Cubs fans. And we are both fond of Chicago.

    I suppose I keep coming back here partly to argue and partly to remind the community that faith is fluid in these United States. If you abuse the flock, or make it too hard, they will leave for other pastures.

    • Oh, and I’ve enjoyed learning about the Lutheran faith. It’s one I never explored, unlike non-denom evangelicalism, Catholicism (Latin Rite) and the Episcopal church. I guess I always thought it was German or northern European ethnic based (I do have a German name, but it’s Ashkenazik).

  15. Michael Spencer often referenced Martin Luther, but he wasn’t shy about pointing out Luther’s feet of clay. He had a unique perspective to see merit in many disintiguous doctrinal views, be it Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley, or the Pope. It is actually the same character that I found admirable about John Wesley. But he saw both the good and bad and was willing to point out both. I actually struggled when Michael Spencer had GOOD things to say about Rick Warren or Piper, but that was the kind of guy he was.

    I don’t have a problem with a Lutheran perspective being brought to the table as long as it is done with balance. Anyone is at risk of blindspots. Having said that, I have full confidence in the CM’s leadership. I have no concerns of iMonk becoming the mouthpiece of the young, restless, and Lutheran.

    • “..the young, restless, and Lutheran.”
      … would would probably say that Chaplain Mike is neither. :D

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      For what it is worth, we Lutherans are also aware that Luther had feet of clay. His writings on the Jews are the most spectacular example, but hardly the only one. Fortunately, the mere fact that we are named after him does not require us to imagine him to be infallible.

  16. I am thankful for the work that Chaplain Mike and the other writers have done. After Michael died, I struggled with some of the changes here. After awhile though, I realized that the blog must change. Michael was on a journey and was changing personally himself. (Some folks may remember in his last year or two Michael deeply explored Lutheranism, even inviting Josh S. and myself to write guest posts. He never bought off on our view of the Lord’s Supper, but he appreciated many of the things in the Lutheran tradition and thought them worthy to share with his readers.)

    I think Michael picked well when he asked CM to continue the blog, knowing that he was on a similar journey and would care well for his readers and those who would visit.

  17. The only criticism I have is Lisa doesn’t post enough and I miss some of the old features, liturgical gangsters, for example. (I should say, that’s my only criticism other than my standard one about historical critical methods of interpreting scripture being promoted as if they are something new and trendy, instead of being a worn out and failed project that will fade with the liberal mainlines, especially as Rome turns from European rationalism toward third-world revivalism.)

    • Interesting. I am reading a book where the author states that it is more “rational” to believe Moses wrote the Penteteuch, rather than buy into the complex notion that it was written over a span of time with multiple contributors. I personally don’t think it’s a worn-out failed project but question its logical conclusions; however, I do question the conservative response to it over the years. Rationalism seems to be somewhat in the eye of the beholder. If historical criticism is patently wrong, what is the alternative? Or possibly is there an element of truth with misguided conclusions?

      • What book? Sounds interesting.

        I say it’s worn out and failed as a project useful for the church, because, since the enlightenment, there have been numerous attempts to get behind the texts and find some alternative source to the traditional narrative, and there is no coherent alternative narrative, just a hodge podge of different schools of thought. As far as the study of history goes, that’s pretty normal. Once the evidence runs out, rampant speculation starts, and the trends ebb and flow as each generation of scholars comes and goes.

        But that’s no good for the church. The church’s job is to continue the teachings of Christ, and it’s basis for knowing Christ’s teachings is Scripture. In that, we have Christ’s approval for the OT. If Christ is God, that’s an unimpeachable endorsement, but that belief in Christ’s Godhood depends on faith. That being said, the evidence against taking the OT at face value is pretty unconvincing if the typical “contradictions” are given a little thought.

        • “Names of God” by Nathan J. Stone (Moody Publ.).

        • boaz,
          How I wish I could agree with you, but my problem with taking the Old Testament at face value, for instance, is a moral one rather than one hinged on textual contradictions; I simply cannot believe that God ordered the Israelites to wipe out entire peoples, or that he demanded the death sentence for those involved in homosexual acts or for adulterers or those who cursed their parents or that he tolerated slavery. And the fact that there are Christians in the wave of Two Thirds World revivalism who are agitating for laws condemning homosexuals to death or imprisonment illustrates that taking the ethical worldview of the OT on face value has seriously negative, even life and death, consequences for people in the present. If a little “rationalism’ puts the brakes on such a development, I’m all for it.

          • Luther has the answer for that, as he correctly understands that we can’t import anything from the Old Testament into Christian moral teaching, including the Ten Commandments, except insofar as they embrace natural law, the law of love, and do not try to circumvent the created order. It’s the stupid kind of Biblical literalism that doesn’t put Christ at the center that thinks Abraham is a moral example, and not proof of justification through faith and not works.

            The laws given to Israel were for their specific circumstances, and I think it’s simply impossible for us to wrap our heads around what it would be like to live in a tribal shepherd society with extremely high mortality rates, while surrounded by pagans who practice barbaric rituals like child sacrifice.

          • Natural law, law of love, not circumventing the created order. Using those criteria, Luther felt justified in persecuting the Jews and Anabaptists and supporting the brutal suppression of the peasant rebellion. My own understanding of proper use of those criteria would involve leaving the Jews and Anabaptists alone and supporting the justified demands of the peasants to be treated humanely and decently by the princes. Apparently, the criteria you enumerate can not produce a single coherent ethical praxis.

          • Now you’re just being argumentative. Nobody holds Luther up as a infallible, especially Lutherans. The fact Luther misapplied the Law in his own life just shows of original sin infects everybody; nobody follows the Law perfectly even if we correctly understand it. The problem of sin isn’t one of lacking knowledge, it’s having a corrupt will that seeks glory for itself instead of trusting that God’s will will be done. Luther fell into that as well, and wrongly acted to protect his movement and please the princes.

          • I apologize for being argumentative. But I’m also trying to make a point. Let me try another tack. The Christians in Uganda who are trying to establish severe legal penalties for practicing homosexuals probably are using a concept of natural law in conjunction with a certain understanding which views homosexual activity as contrary to the created order; in addition, they probably feel as if they are acting from motives of love, tough love, in attempting to curb what they view as a vice that they feel has extremely destructive effects on the social fabric of their culture. It seems extremely unlikely to me that they are simply trying to apply Old Testament law to the contemporary world; rather, I think they are working within their own understanding of the very criteria that you enumerate for those ethical principles that can be imported from the Old Testament into Christian moral teaching: natural law, law of love, regard for the created order. And, in my opinion, they are completely wrong and in serious moral error. Even though they are refracting the moral worldview of the Old Testament through the filter you enumerated, they are still in grave moral error because their starting point is morally defective. And their starting point is morally defective exactly because they take the Old Testament at face value.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        ” I am reading a book where the author states that it is more “rational” to believe Moses wrote the Penteteuch, rather than buy into the complex notion that it was written over a span of time with multiple contributors.”

        Including the account of Moses’ death and the events that follow?

    • I second the motion to bring back the Liturgical Gangstas.

      • We tried over the course of a year to get posts from our Gangstas, but few could ever participate. We may need to recruit a new generation of them. If anyone has ideas, please email.

        • In addition to liturgists, a variety of exegetes from different traditions would be interesting. Throw up a passage and have 5 or 6 different takes on it.

        • Thinking back, part of what made Michael so interesting to read is that he didn’t fit anywhere, and had unique and non-obvious observations about the good and bad of different traditions, so he could by himself cover a lot of ground. All of the authors here seem relatively stable in their current situations, so that feeling of wandering in the wilderness, or the idea of the church as a muddled and struggling institution, doesn’t come through as much. The panel posts aided that a lot as well, as he had picked an interesting and winsome crew for discussions.

      • I’m signing the LG petition too. I know they didn’t receive a ton of discussion the last few times, but panels like that are rare and insightful.

  18. 2 cents-

    Thanks for putting the focus on Christ on not ourselves. The posts / comments here give me hope that its ok to not be a robo-Christian, ok to not have things figured out all the time, ok to be anxious/down about my own numerous flaws.

    Thanks peeps

  19. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    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.

    Including the recent/ongoing sexual abuse coverup scandals currently being covered by Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, and Calvary Chapel Abuse? Dominionism & Reconstructionism, i.e. going from Culture War Without End to Handmaid’s Tale for real? Complementarianism, an eight-syllable mouthful that in practice all too often translates to “male supremacist”? The Hypercalvinists, more Calvinist than Calvin?

  20. This post is indicative of why the iMonk site is so good. Willing to be open and honest with critique it has received, open and honest with dialog and conversation. Yes, it has morphed since Michael Spencer’s passing, but so have its other bloggers, so has its readers, so have I. There are times I think it drifts from its “purpose,” but usually by the time I get worried some issue will come up and be presented that pulls it right back again.

    Whenever I reference this site for my Christian brothers and sisters, I still call it, “My favorite Christian blog site.” And I have to say, I get nuggets of wisdom here just about every week, often multiple times.

    Kudos to all of you who blog here, and to all of you who respond with comments.

  21. Where did that post on Scandal and Gospel Testimony just disappear to???

  22. Chaplain Mike, you’re doing a great job along with Jeff and the others. I think the division of labor is a good and much more sane way to do this blog than Michael Spencer’s method of cranking out a major theological essay each and every day, and then moderating the comments with an iron hand. He appeared to thrive on it, but I’m afraid it may have been part of what killed him.

    I started to tune in to iMonk about a year before Michael died and was pretty fascinated at the community that had developed around his “cult” (if I may call it that). He invited dissent and even cultivated it but could get pretty cantankerous at times when dissent offered too much resistance.

    Much as I loved the old iMonk and gained a lot out of Michael’s essays and moderating, I’m probably more comfortable with the new iMonk. This could be because I’ve been around a while, but I think also because the community here knows and respects one another, enjoys sharing ideas, feels that it has something to protect, and therefore has become pretty self-governing. Under Michael, it was his iron hand that governed—and I don’t really blame him as he had a lot of his life invested.

    But, even though you have divided the labor with Jeff and others, by posting Saturday Ramblings and weekly Michael Spencer classics, and inviting essays from Jeff, Damaris, Martha and many others, I’m still in awe of the time you spend writing essays, poetry, and moderating. I don’t know how you do it and if I could counsel you on one thing it would be not to let yourself burn out.

    • much more sane way to do this blog than Michael Spencer’s method of cranking out a major theological essay each and every day, and then moderating the comments with an iron hand.

      I know he didn’t watch much TV but where did he get all the time. He taught high school English and religion to mostly kids from other countries, read almost anything to do with religion, pastored ate 1 1/2 churches, wrote a book, and ran this blog. Oh, yeah, participated in a continuous discussion at the tavern. All the while expecting the Ky SBC to get him fired.

      Makes me tired thinking about it.

      As for the iron hand, I didn’t notice it so much. But maybe I was more in line with his thinking than others.

  23. Okay….

    I’ve lurked here all day and read people’s thoughts. For the sake of transparency let me say that I wrote the email featured above in the post. I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I have a deep love for CM, the blog and everyone that calls this blog home. I just noticed a few things and voiced them in a private email.

    I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I read a whole host of blogs. I lurk at Scott McKnight, Roger Olson, Greg Boyd, Peter Enns, RHE, “The Gospel Coalition” (where I always have to take a shower afterward….because I feel dirty), and The Resurgence sometimes. (There I just bring Tums or Pepto Bismol). However of all the blogs I am most plugged into its I-Monk and The Wartburg Watch. I read, comment at both spots daily.

    This blog is an incredible community that is rich, diverse and open. Just surfing the blogosphere I see that. You have any ideas how many of my comments get deleted from “The Gospel Coalition?” Make me wonder what are they afraid of? But why I still post I still wonder… But this is an incredible blog to me and its nurtured me in both spirit and physical health (when I was in the hospital last August) A number of you sent me cards when I was ill and that touched me so deeply.

    I’ve been slowly moving forward in crafting my own way. I’m actually attending an evangelical church (what has this world come to :-P ) where I sit, and monitor from the back. I’ve met with a couple of pastors and have talked about the problem of evil, getting reformed theology (Fundamentalism 2.0) out of my system, and the other doubts that I deal with. I have been very shocked and surprised in how they have dealt with me. Lots of love and grace, and they have no difficulties with my questions. So I am taking baby steps forward. I’ve sometimes wondered if I got involved in the wrong churches and organizations….if so with what I dug myself into…it takes a lot of talent to derail your faith life.

    But when I wrote that email I wrote it out of love, compassion, and heart. All of you mean so much to me. This is an incredible community online. And you have shown me love and grace when frankly I didn’t deserve it.

  24. Eagle, you are part of the reason I keep coming back—also the reactions people have to some of your challenging topics. .

  25. I like this blog. I too found it while looking for something after my L’Abri blog seemed to dry up, and someone there mentioned this. So many smart articulate kind and good people. I always feel so edified. I am sure that Christ is speaking to me, answering my prayers even, through CM’s blogs and the posts. I enjoy others, even the oneor two who denounce everyone and everything! I can get tired of that, though, thanks all