January 18, 2021

Visit the Internet Monk Archives

20 Years of Internet Monk

For twenty years, Michael Spencer, Chaplain Mike and a number of other writers described and discussed the post-evangelical life, seeking a Jesus-shaped spirituality, and inviting all and sundry to have important conversations in the Great Hall.

The conversation at this site has come to an end, but you can still access past conversations at The Internet Monk Archives (https://imonk.blog/). For awhile, we will still be working on that site to make sure that it is complete and that all active links work, but as of today, the vast majority of material from Internet Monk has been transferred and is available.

A New Conversation We Recommend

Some of our writers are embarking on a new conversation, toward which I would like to direct you. Pastor Daniel Jepsen has started Mystery and Meaning (mysteryandmeaning.com) and invites all of you to visit there and join the discussion there. Plus, he’ll be serving a weekly SATURDAY BRUNCH!!!

Keeping in touch…

Some of you have asked for a way of keeping in touch. I know Pastor Dan’s new blog will have that feature, so I encourage you to go there. But I will also be happy to put together an email list for Internet Monk readers who would like to communicate with one another. If you’d like to be part of this, send me permission to put you on this roster along with your name and email address by Sunday, January 10, I will compile a list and send it out.

My email address is chaplainmike333@gmail.com and you are always welcome to write me there for this or any other reason.

There are also Facebook groups for fans of Internet Monk who’d like to connect with each other:

The Road Goes Ever On…

Note from CM: This will be the last discussion post on Internet Monk. I will post one more administrative post tomorrow, with information and links about the new archive site and other sites of interest that I will encourage Internet Monk readers to check out. I will also have information about an email list so that readers of the blog can keep in touch with one another in days to come.

• • •

It is thus, if there is any rule, that we ought to die–neither as victim nor as fanatic, but as the seafarer who can greet with an equal eye the deep that he is entering, and the shore that he must leave.” (E. M. Forster)

This was Michael’s final post on Internet Monk: Feb. 10, 2010.

A brief word from Michael

The ultimate apologetic is to a dying man.

That is what all those “Where is God?” statements in the Psalms are all about. They are, at least partially, invitations to Christians to speak up for the dying.

All the affirmations to God as creator and designer are fine, but it is as the God of the dying that the Christian has a testimony to give that absolutely no one else can give.

We need to remember that each day dying people are waiting for the word of death and RESURRECTION.

The are a lot of different kinds of Good News, but there is little good news in “My argument scored more points than you argument.” But the news that “Christ is risen!” really is Good News for one kind of person: The person who is dying.

If Christianity is not a dying word to dying men, it is not the message of the Bible that gives hope now.

What is your apologetic? Make it the full and complete announcement of the Life Giving news about Jesus.

• • •

• • •

This is adapted from one of my earliest posts on IM: November 2009.

My precious Internet Monk friends,

In the classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan pictures his travelers arriving at the “Delectable Mountains,” where shepherds tend their sheep. These mountains have gardens, orchards, vineyards, and fountains of water from which the pilgrims drink and wash themselves. While not the final destination, the Delectable Mountains are described as Immanuel’s Land, standing within sight of his City, a place of relief for pilgrims who are weary and faint on the way.

Joy must not be reserved for the end of the journey. We must also find vistas “within sight of the City,” where we can get some respite from our toilsome trek, where we can anticipate the celebration to come and rest for the journey’s final leg.

Internet Monk has been such an inn on the journey for me, and I’m thankful so many others have joined me here over the years. Here at IM, many have found an oasis in the wilderness, a place of respite and recovery from bad religion and other stresses of life on a long and winding road.

I have learned something of my own propensity for wanting to give up when the journey gets long and hard. My energy wanes. I get discouraged and angry, feeling defeated and hopeless. I withdraw into a cocoon of self-pity. At times I self-medicate with food, naps, alcohol, or time-wasting mindless diversions. The simplest task sometimes appears as if it will require a gargantuan feat of strength. The darkness can get deep, the road long, prospects for arriving at the destination dim.

At such times I need a glimpse of the City. An inn at the side the road. A warm welcome, a hot meal, a pleasant conversation, a friend’s embrace. A few moments of “gaudete.” A song to lift the heart. An encouraging word. A scenic overlook that puts this small patch of difficult trail in perspective.

Thank God for this community that Michael Spencer started and handed off to me in 2010. Thank God for each of you, my fellow pilgrims, who have stayed, who have left and returned, who have popped in occasionally, and who have contributed to the ongoing conversation about what it means to live a fully human life shaped by Jesus.

Inevitably, however, it is time to move on, to embark on the next leg of the journey, to move ever closer to the Celestial City. It is not easy to arise, to say farewell to this hospitable place, to open the door and step onto the path once more. But this we must do.

The Apostle Paul packed a few words to help us on the next stage of our pilgrimage:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In the midst of all the imperatives in this text, you’ll find a sweet center of promise — “The Lord is near.” There is a word to keep us going to the end.

So, on this bittersweet day, join me in taking a few moments to rejoice. Be gentle with yourself and others. Cast your worries on the Lord. Say a word of thanks when you pray. Receive his gift of peace. Above all, recognize that no journey is taken alone. Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

Breathe. Take a quick look back and give thanks. And then, let us move forward in the peace of God that guards our lives in Christ.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

• J.R.R. Tolkien

Chaplain Mike: My Manifesto — The Good News of Jesus for the Life of the World

The Sower. Van Gogh

Note from CM: This is my final full post on Internet Monk. I decided to devote it to what really matters. I’ve been happy to share my journey with you and to learn about the paths on which God has led so many of you. But in the end, it’s not just about my journey or yours. At the heart, it’s about the journey Jesus took for the life of the world.

Tomorrow, I’ll combine a final personal word with one from Michael Spencer’s writings. For today, let’s dig down to the roots of what Internet Monk and my life and ministry is all about: the good news of Jesus. Here is, as Paul might say, “my gospel.” This is my manifesto.

• • •

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of a messenger
who proclaims peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God rules!”

• Isaiah 52.7 CEB

All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well.

• Julian of Norwich

The good news of Jesus is the message that brings life to the world, now and forever. Today, allow me to outline my understanding of what this good news entails.

An Announcement

The good news of Jesus is an announcement, a proclamation of something real that has happened, something which changes the world forever.

The good news did not simply introduce a new religious option into history. It is not an advertisement for a product that one might want to consider purchasing. As Tom Wright says, the good news does not offer a new religious path, urge a new kind of morality, or present a new philosophical system. It is, rather, the announcement that a long anticipated event has taken place. It is public proclamation of the audacious claim that in Jesus, God has done something that has changed the world and its course completely.

Wright illustrates the difference: “It isn’t difficult to see how this worked. When Roman heralds came into a city like Thessalonica announcing that a new emperor had been enthroned, they didn’t mean, ‘Here is a new sort of imperial experience, and you might like to see if it suits you.’ They meant, ‘Tiberius (or Claudius, or Nero, or whoever) is the Lord of the World. You are the lucky recipients of this good news; [and now] he demands your loyalty, your allegiance…’”

That’s the good news of Jesus. God’s King has come and he is Lord of all.

Two Contexts

The good news about Jesus is announced in the light of two background stories and settings.

The first is the story of Israel. Jesus is the culmination of Israel’s story as told in the Jewish Bible. That story was written down in the wake of the Babylonian Exile and was designed to give the Jewish people a future hope.

The Jewish Bible presents it like this: God’s plan, as Bruce Waltke says, is for God’s people to dwell in God’s land with God’s words guiding them under the rule of God’s king, in order to bring God’s blessing to all the world. The actual story as it developed, long and complex for sure, takes the following general shape in various cycles throughout the First Testament:

  • God chooses and blesses his people in the good land prepared for them.
  • God gives them the vocation of being a light to the whole world.
  • They fail to fulfill that vocation.
  • They go into exile.
  • God delivers and reestablishes them in the land.

This pattern begins with Adam, who represents Israel’s first covenant human, her first king. God tasked him with subduing evil and opening the way for all humankind to the Tree of Life. But Adam and Eve failed and God sent them out of the garden into exile.

At the end of the patriarchal era, the children of Israel find themselves in exile once more, this time in Egypt. God, through his chosen leader Moses, delivers them, calls them to be a “kingdom of priests” to all nations, gives them his laws, and leads them to the Promised Land.

Eventually, the nation is ruled by kings, epitomized by David. However, by and large, the kings fail to lead Israel to be a light to the nations and the kingdom splits, with the northern tribes eventually destroyed by Assyria and the southern kingdom of Judah taken captive by Babylon.

It was in that setting that the prophets spoke, promising an end to exile, a return of Israel to her land, and the coming of a Davidic king (messiah) who would establish God’s rule of justice and shalom throughout the entire world.

The Gospels identify these promises with Jesus’ coming: first, when John announced, “The kingdom of heaven is near,” and then when Jesus came, embodying and proclaiming the good news of that kingdom. Jesus, the new Adam, the new Moses, the son of David, the true Israel, did what they could not do and became the light of the world.

The good news of Jesus must be understood in the context of Israel’s story.

The second is the rule of Rome. The New Testament also positions the good news of Jesus as God’s alternative to the claims of the Roman empire.

For example, Luke’s story of the nativity is replete with allusions to Caesar. In those days, Augustus was proclaimed as the savior of the world, whose rule brought good news of peace to all people. However, as Raymond E. Brown wrote, “The birthday that marked the true beginning of a new time took place not in Rome but in Bethlehem, and a counterclaim to man-made inscriptions was the heraldic cry of the angel of the Lord: ‘I announce to you the good news of a great joy which will be for the whole people: To you this day there is born in the city of David a Savior who is Messiah and Lord.’”

The rest of the New Testament echoes this as Paul traverses the Roman empire preaching that Jesus is Lord and that all things in heaven and on earth will one day bow to him. The NT concludes with the book of Revelation, which identifies Rome with Babylon, bringing together the stories of both testaments. These are the two great empires that typify the powers of sin, evil, and death holding the world in bondage. Revelation foretells the ultimate downfall of these powers as heaven comes to earth and a new creation is established, in which God dwells with his people in shalom.

The good news of Jesus is, therefore, to be understood as the coming of God’s rule contra the great powers of this world that advance the dominion of sin, evil, and death, as represented by Babylon and Rome. The good news of Jesus is the announcement that Israel’s promised Messiah has come to inaugurate God’s rule instead, to end human exile under the hostile powers, to overthrow those powers, and to establish God’s shalom in all the earth.

On Earth as in Heaven

The good news is not about how people can go to heaven when they die and leave this life. It is about how God’s rule has come to this world in Jesus, defeating death and bringing the promise of resurrection life and shalom to all creation.

The good news is not about how people can avoid going to hell when they die to be punished by God for their sins forever. Rather, the good news is that God’s judgment has already been pronounced on the powers of sin, evil, and death that enslave people, a verdict that sets them free from bondage to live in a new creation forever.

The good news announces that this judgment took place when Jesus died on the cross and rose again in triumph. Yes, there will be a future divine reckoning when God will judge people on the basis of their works. But the good news is that this judgment will not be retributive nor eternal, but purgative and restorative. Mercy will triumph over judgment. There will be an apokatastasis, a restoration of all things in Christ.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:22)

Making known to us the mystery of his will…to recapitulate all things in the Anointed, the things in the heavens and the things on earth… (Eph 1:9-10, DBH)

The good news is about what God has done in Jesus. It is not about what humans do or must do. When we announce the good news, we call people to trust what Jesus has done and reorient their lives to the new reality that God has established. This is faith.

Those who trust Jesus begin to taste newness of life. They become signs of God’s rule when they live lives of sacrificial love to help their fellow humans flourish, as Jesus did. The vocation God blessed humankind with at creation (Gen. 1:28) is restored. Each one may participate in the Jesus-shaped task of tikkun olam (repairing the world) by living the baptismal life of dying and rising each day, planting seeds of faith, hope, and love for a great harvest in the age to come.

This is the gospel of our Lord.

Go in peace, and share the good news!

Thanks be to God!

Denise Spencer: The Call

Note from CM: I thought it only right for us to hear from Denise Spencer as we get ready to wrap up Internet Monk. She knew Michael best, and understands more than anyone else his heart for Jesus and the ministries to which God … [Continue reading...]

Jeff Dunn: Two Unforgettable Characters

Note from CM: What shall I say of my friend Jeff Dunn? Before Michael Spencer died, he anointed Jeff to administer the blog and asked me to be the lead writer. We were to be partners. Getting to know Jeff, his infectious … [Continue reading...]

Damaris Zehner: The Signpost

Note from CM: On this final week of IM, we will be hearing from some good folks who have made contributions of excellence to this blog. We start today with one of my dear friends, Damaris, one of the most gifted and eloquent … [Continue reading...]

The Best of Michael Spencer: When I Am Weak

Note from CM: Folks, for my money, this is the best piece Michael Spencer ever wrote. I come back to it again and again and again... • When I am Weak Why we must embrace our brokenness and never be good Christians The voice … [Continue reading...]

Open Mic

Saturday the Last -- Open Mic This is our final Saturday post on Internet Monk, and I thought we should give this one to the community of commenters that has made IM so rich over the years. So, the mic is open. Let us hear … [Continue reading...]

Christmas Day 2020: Michael Spencer on Christmas

Christmas Day 2020 Michael Spencer on Christmas (2005) It is the grand simplicity of the Good News that God enters the world through an event that, apart from two Gospel accounts, would be unknown. The life of Jesus, from … [Continue reading...]

Christmas Eve 2020: My Winter Faith

My Winter Faith See, amid the winter's snow, born for us on earth below, see the tender Lamb appears, promised from eternal years. Lo, within a manger lies He who built the starry skies; He, who throned in height … [Continue reading...]