October 22, 2020

Open Forum: March 4, 2015

exhuasted-woman-sleeping-at-work_webI’ve been working my fool head off this week, and simply don’t have time or sense enough to come up with a post today. That means the table is yours, my friends. Today, it’s Open Forum on Internet Monk.

The rules are:

  • Use common sense.
  • Follow the law of love.
  • Know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.
  • Conversation is a gift. Enjoy and savor it.

As for me, I am on my way to get some sleep, hoping I won’t have to go out in the middle of the night again.


  1. I’d just like to share an excellent Lenten message on “dying to self”.

    It could also be titled, “The Hidden God”


    For all those so inclined to give an ear…

  2. “Remember man that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return”

    Oh yes, I DO know, Lord, every day I see it anew. Every day that I fall short. Whenever I disappoint others, as well as myself. Whenever I sin against my neighbors, my family, my coworkers, my employer. But most of all I mourn for sinning against YOU, my Lord!

    Who shall deliver me from this body of death? I earnestly wait for YOU, Lord, to show the way through your Resurrection. Please give me the strength to follow you in your death so that I may be released from this burden of corruption…

  3. Robert F says

    I’ve made a mess of my life. I’ve chosen destructive and self-defeating paths, hurting myself and others near to me again and again, scuttling the potential my life had to be a blessing, and instead turning it into a wreck and curse. I have nowhere else to look for hope but to you, Jesus Christ; everywhere else I turn my gaze is nothingness. I pray that you would accept me, despite my impure and divided heart and my unclear mind. And, Lord, please give hope and healing to all those whom I’ve hurt and diminished. Amen.

  4. Thoughts on Andy Stanley’s recent series, as summed up by Christian Daily?:
    “For the past few weeks, Stanley has been exhorting Christians to ditch their traditional “temple model” ways and go back to the one command Jesus prioritized — to love your neighbor as yourself.
    The “temple model,” as defined by Stanley, “grants extraordinary power to sacred men in sacred places who determine the meaning of sacred texts.”
    While the arrival of Jesus signaled the end of the temple model, the pastor said, Christians have continued to create versions of the temple model with rules and rituals that essentially placed the focus on themselves.
    “The temple model is you-centered,” Stanley explained. “The heart of the temple model is this question: what must I do or believe to make things and keep things right between God and me?
    “Because at the end of the day, my religion is all about me. Your approach to religion and your approach to Christianity is really about you.”
    But that’s not what Jesus intended for His followers, according to Stanley.
    “The Jesus model is centered on the you beside you (your neighbor),” the pastor said.” Eventually in your Christian faith, you have got to move beyond ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘how do I keep God happy with me’ because Christians believe, Jesus taught, the New Testament followers of Jesus … taught … that once you place your faith in Christ, you are fine with God and God is fine with you. So to spend the rest of your Christian experience trying to get God’s attention, keep God happy, … get God to answer your prayer is total temple thinking and never moving beyond what will ultimately lead you the wrong way and embracing the thing that will lead you to maturity.”

    • A friend on facebook has been posting about this. Is there anything, outside of the message, that seems to indicate that this is anything more than another “sacred message” from a “sacred man” in a “sacred place”. On the surface it seems encouraging that someone with the attention of as many eyes and ears as he has would be saying these things, but if nothing changes… and he surely has the pull to change SOMETHING… then they are just words.

      • I’ve been talking about this for at least 25 years, and that’s because I read Richard Halverson, who wrote about it in the 1960s. The “temple mentality” of evangelicals has been a regular topic here on IM – see https://internetmonk.com/archive/my-issues-with-evangelicalism-3-mission.

        The problem for Stanley and other mega-pastors is that no one is going to be willing to dismantle the institution and all the perks it offers affluent Christians so that they will stop devoting their lives, money, and loyalty to it.

        The church in the U.S. needs a 70AD.

        • I guess that is my issue with it. It rings so hollow when it is spoken from someone like Andy Stanley.

          I will have a friend “triumphantly” sharing what this “known” pastor has to say, but as you say the ones wo would have the influence to make a very visible change in the way that they conduct themselves would seem to have too much to lose by going through with it.

          So it’s a nice teaching, maybe we can add some good quotes to his GoodReads page, but if it doesn’t change anything it is ultimately meaningless.

          If a preacher gives a message on sexual purity, I would assume that he would like the unmarried teenagers in back row to stop having sex. If a pastor gets up and says that the show he is putting on is not what God has intended for His people… I would expect that show to chnage or stop.

          If it doesn’t … vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          The church in the U.S. needs a 70AD.

          That can be arranged by the nuclear missile silos in Russia or China.

          • OldProphet says

            …….or Iran

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I’m old enough to remember the Cold War. Lecture after lecture about Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War, Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War, Inevitable Global Thernonuclear War. (To those too young to remember this, imagine today’s Global Warming hysteria multiplied by 10 to 100. And EVERYWHERE, fueling Activist Agenda after Activist Agenda.)

            And the Christians jumped on the “Me, Too!” bandwagon with Hal Lindsay and Christians For Nuclear War; “It’s Prophesied, It’s Prophesied.” With the only hope offered an Escape Route that God would Beam You Up to safety just before the warheads detonated — IF you Said the Magic Words and were REALLY REALLY Saved. Others used this bandwagon to “Scare ‘Em Into the Kingdom” — I remember hearing a “Nuclear War Version” of Kumbayah once on Christianese radio; while a choir of voices sang “Kum-Ba-Yah” in the background, a spoken voice-over intoned a long prayer about the Horrors of Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War, “LOORD Spare Us From That Awful Day Where the Living Will Envy the Dead” and the like. (Again “If you can’t Love ’em into the Kingdom, Scare ‘Em Into the Kingdom”.)

            A steady diet of this in the Seventies really messes up your head.

      • Is there anything, outside of the message, that seems to indicate that this is anything more than another “sacred message” from a “sacred man” in a “sacred place”.


    • The “temple model,” as defined by Stanley, “grants extraordinary power to sacred men in sacred places who determine the meaning of sacred texts.”

      Speaking of temple model, could anyone direct me to resources regarding the Pentecostal idea of Tabernacle worship? That you have to start in the outer courts and make your way into the holy of holys, with the idea that by the end of the worship set you are literally spiritually in the throne room of God before him?

      “literally spiritually”…sounds like an oxymoron

      • That’s not an idea that I have come across before. It would seem that if the veil is torn, then that model would be pretty worthless. It would be like instructions on getting into an above ground pool.

        1. Open the gate.
        2. Ascend the stairs to the deck.
        3. Lower yourself into the water by descending the ladder.

        When, in fact, there was a big whole in the pool and you are presently standing in your backyard up to your knees in water. There is no more water in the pool than out of the pool.

        There is no more God in th holy of holies than there is in the outer courts… or the world as a whole for that matter.

        • The way I’ve heard it, since the tabernacle was modeled after the heavenly realm, wouldn’t there still be a Throneroom of God, ie, Holy of Holys?

    • Hmmm…Contradictory thoughts coming from a fellow whose idea of church planting is to lease/buy a building, then staff it with a 3d hologram of himself….

    • Stanley’s message seems to fit with last week’s “bounded-set / centered-set” message by Ortberg, so I’m surprised some iMonkers are criticizing the man for speaking a similar message. I guess it’s easy to see the speck.

      • Not criticizing him for speaking the message. The words are good. Just extremely skeptical that any meaningful change will actually occur, because everything about the world he and his listeners are in works against his message.

        • My thoughts about Pope Francis exactly. Change first and then exhort others.

          • Rick Ro. says

            I think you guys are being too hard on people (both with the Andy Stanley critique and the Pope Francis critique.) Yes, maybe they’re in an unhealthy spiritual setting, and yes, maybe the unhealthy setting is their own creation, but if the words they speak are good and truthful, I think we should cut them some slack. The words they’re saying may, just may, affect a hearer and begin to put them on healthier spiritual path. I mean, c’mon…if you put Stanley’s words in front of me and didn’t tell me who said them, I’d say, “Right on.”

            Plus, we’re all hypocritical at some point – at least Jesus seems to think so – so unless someone is spouting purely heretical stuff, then even

          • Rick Ro. says

            (Oops…didn’t finish my thought…LOL.)

            Plus, we’re all hypocritical at some point – at least Jesus seems to think so – so unless someone is spouting purely heretical stuff, then I think we need to be careful with the stone-throwing.

          • Sorry Rick Ro., with all due respect, but it’s because millions of people have the same attitude you do that these powerful and influential spokesmen are able to get away with just talk. Certainly these folks should be held to a higher standard. I’m not throwing anything. Just paying attention.

    • “Eventually in your Christian faith, you have got to move beyond ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘how do I keep God happy with me’ because Christians believe, Jesus taught, the New Testament followers of Jesus … taught … that once you place your faith in Christ, you are fine with God and God is fine with you.”

      Stanley has some interesting points, but I’m not convinced that there’s any fundamental difference in what he’s proposing. It seems to me the way that “faith” is used in this context is naturally and unavoidably going to lead back into a type of “temple model”. “Saving faith” is inevitably wrapped up with other religious language, and given the context of the gospel as legal forgiveness/imputed righteousness with ETERNITY at stake, it’s inevitably going to become a you focused “what’s in it for me”. It can and will become a “temple model” with “faith” at the center – faith as defined by whatever way the sacred men in sacred places with sacred texts define it.

      I think that an entirely different paradigm for thinking about faith and the gospel is needed to move past the temple mentality. “In Christ you ARE right with God who is making all things new so believe it!” is different than “if you believe correctly God will sort of change his disposition towards you.” Which one is the gospel?

  5. These lines….And I don’t want the world to see me
    ‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
    When everything’s made to be broken
    I just want you to know who I am….Goo Goo dolls…. heard it a lot then the other day the line when everything’s made to be broken fell on me with weight I said to myself that is good line. A week or two ago now but the line it stays. Somewhere in it is a depth I am looking for that seems out of reach to me on how profound it is.

    I have heard people say to me you might want to get help for that depression. Well at least somethings still make me laugh. Last time I sat with someone who charged hundreds an hour I walked away thinking I’m not sure who is the bigger jerk here. Myself for paying or him for charging but I don’t need to talk to someone that bad.

    Yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive. I looked down at the places I took the razor blades and would cut myself just to watch the blood spill out. It somehow took me out of the spiritual pain I was in at the moment and I didn’t want the world to see me. Those scars are there to remind me of where I was. Self is the hardest thing I ever had to do. I tried everything at one time or another and found there is nothing there. He met me there in all that mess again 30 years later after first hearing His voice. I don’t have to do self anymore. Yet I still do at times and I feel broken. I looked down at the scars. I’m not alone.

    I don’t understand why everything is made to be broken or why my Lord made himself to be broken for me. I wish my pet dog would last forever. I love looking at him and eternity would be enough. There are so many wonderful things here but they all wear out. The twin oaks on the hill which have been there since way before my birth now one is disease and I mourn inside for it. A tree, boy I took a lot for granted in my life.

    Oscar you said it well, so well. Yet still I wonder why I was put where everything’s made to be broken. I wonder do you understand here or are these just letters on a screen. Today my knees will ache as I do my job making it hard to stand up at first but I am no stranger to pain. That won’t change tomorrow or the next or the next. It’s okay I am thankful for the one good thing my father left me. A way to work. I look out the window of what I would see as a mansion, a place that goes beyond my dreams to be in, to look at trucks I never thought I would drive and I feel grateful but that’s not it. Today I am not alone and my God loves me and I feel like Oscar.

    • Wow, w, I don’t know you but you are the most transparent person I know, if you know what I mean. You tell it all — well, maybe not all but much more than most of the rest of us would be willing to divulge — and you tell it like it is. And light flows through you from Him to the rest of us.

      Thank you.

    • Yes, thank you, w, for your words. They are the words of a poet and a wise man. “I don’t understand why everything is made to be broken or why my Lord made himself to be broken for me. I wish my pet dog would last forever. I love looking at him and eternity would be enough. There are so many wonderful things here but they all wear out. The twin oaks on the hill which have been there since way before my birth now one is disease and I mourn inside for it. A tree, boy I took a lot for granted in my life.”

      That almost made me cry, it is so true. Thank you for your openness and for your courage.

      But is there any comfort to be found?
      Man is in love and loves what vanishes,
      What more is there to say? –W. B. Yeats

  6. This:



    “The problem is that the basic ideology itself is exactly the same. In the very worst of scenarios, a culture of male-dominated authority leads to horrors like what is depicted in 50 Shades of Grey (and worse). The most perfect possibility that complementarianism can offer is a safe, life-giving relationship resting in the capable and loving authority of a man who is at all times just like Jesus.”

    “Except even the most godly man simply is not Jesus, and does not have the unwavering selfless love or the omniscience required to lead perfectly.”
    (End quote).

    This is not about “egalitarian pleasure feast”, in the words of Douglas Wilson. This is about the age-old lie that a women wants to – and needs to – be dominated. If 50 Shades can corrupt the church, it will be through this common theme which already infects the church.

    • Fifty shades of Grey has been completely driven by women. Its not men rushing out to buy the book or watch the movie, it is mostly women. And of course that can’t be because they have their own issues with sin or sexual immorality, it must be because they are victims of this terrible culture of patriarchy we live in. The gender that is currently in trouble is the male gender, as the younger generation of males is falling behind in everything. We’ve had thirty years of preaching that girls can do anything and promoting girls to get involved in traditionally “boy” activities, encouraging girls to do better in school, and it has worked, they are doing better. Now along with that, there needs to be some focus on boys, encouraging them in something other than sports, teaching them they are worth something and can do anything. This is something I almost never hear from egalitarian people, with the exception of Roger Olson. I about the only message that comes out is “girls are equal to boys, except when they (the girls) are better.”

      • Males need to be encouraged to do better, yes. But there also needs to be an entire reeducation on how men and women can be better partners together. Because, ultimately, that is what “egalitarianism” should be about. Full and equal partnership.

        • Pendulum swings, but agreed. We’ve got to get there.

          Fun fact: half those “encouragement” type posts I read that are written towards women apply equally as well to quite a number of men I know, including myself. They are filled with things WE need to hear, not just one gender needs to hear.

          But “it’s not about you, quit making it about you”.


      • And yet it’s mostly women I see who are decrying and condemning this book. The smartest women I know all hate it. That meme going around about if the guy wasn’t rich and this took place in a trailer park it would be an episode of CSI or something is absolutely correct.

        But just try sticking your foot out and engaging 50 Shades properly with your fungygelical friends. They don’t even have a concept of healthy sexuality, let alone BDSM stuff. So you can’t even critique 50 Shades properly; they just don’t have any way of relating.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          It’s not just 50 Shades; Fundygelicals don’t have any way of relating to anything or anyone other than other Fundygelicals. They’re pinched off behind their own Event Horizon.

      • Yes, Roger Olson is very much on top of this issue, and I commend him for it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fanfic, and the Grey guy took the My Abusive Soulmate meme one step beyond Sparkling Eddie. A woman wrote it (again like Twilight, having her sexual fantasies published) and it’s pitched to the Bored Housewife set like Harlequin Romances.

        • The real sin here is bad writing. Now because I believe in mercy I don’t think bad writers are beyond hope and redemption. Certainly they should expect an extended time in purgatory.

          • This raises another question. If these books are so bad, why aren’t Christians writing good books? The “Christian” bookstores are plagued with bad writers clogging the bookshelves. The Dostoyevskys, the George MacDonalds and Lewis and Tolkiens seem to be the last of the dinosaurs.

            This is a conversation Lewis and Tolkien had so many years ago. They complained that the books they liked to read weren’t being written anymore. Then they got together and said “Why don’t we write them?” We all know what came of that. There needs to be people like that getting their heads together. I’m a writer myself, (nothing published yet) who would love to get something started.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            This raises another question. If these books are so bad, why aren’t Christians writing good books?

            This has been covered in detail many times here at Internet Monk. The major root reason is the Christianese Bubble, where everything has to be Fundygelical CHRISTIAN(TM) and only to proselytize converts and nothing else. This results in cheap propaganda for the Cause and nothing else. (Others have likened it to Socialist Realism under Stalin or Mao — Party Line or Gulag.)

            There’s also the Tyranny of the Professional Weaker Brethren. When you have Church Ladies going over every word with a microscope just to find something they can get into a snit about and scream “BOYCOTT!!!!!”, big-bucks publishers will NOT stick their necks out. Play it safe with Sanitized Christianese Knockoffs of Heathen best-sellers, Altar Call Endings, Checklist Apocalyptics, and Amish Bonnet Romances. Like 50 Shades in the mainstream and porn in Furry Fandom, THAT’S WHAT SELLS.

            “Where are today’s Lewises & Tolkiens?”
            You drove us all away, over your Berlin Wall to the freedom of the West.

  7. Desert Storm Libertarian says

    Do we have to willfully engage the Holy Spirit to act on our behalf or is the Spirit always working in the individual lives of Christians to conform us to Christ’s likeness?

    • I just had a power surge and lost a response to this; I’ll try to reconstruct it.

      I love the subject of the Spirit, even though I’m always worried that when we talk about him, we’re talking about him too much…strange conundrum.

      It’s important to realize that the Spirit is the corporate power-giver, and not just present to the individual. In fact, perhaps the Spirit’s primary goal is to make the church like Christ and unite them. So the individual Christian reads “walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” and thinks “oh, well, I’ve got to get ahold of this mysterious force called “the Spirit” and then use it to dismantle sin in my life.” But the problem is that that letter was written to the church in Rome, not to each individual to take aside into their personal lives and sweat away trying to find and obey the Spirit. Depending on who you talk to, this method lays the groundwork for various personal improvement projects and magic tricks that we attribute to the Holy Spirit, and all too often Jesus’ own work and character are sidelined as we attempt to divine what the Spirit is up to in us.

      But we ought to equally ask “what is the Spirit up to ‘among’ us.”

      If we see that to “walk in the Spirit” basically means, “walk with the Church in the Spirit,” and not “get your personal problems under control…” than we have an entirely different project on our hands. I am now my brother’s keeper. My problems are the problems of my fellow members/workers in Christ. This ought to lighten the burden, albeit maybe it’s scarier. Also, since the presence of Christ on earth is the Church, when ‘the other’ is our focus, we are taken out of ourselves more easily. The corporate act of a crowd of Christians being mutually disinterested in their personal state begins to look remarkably like a singular organism animated by supernatural power, and adorned with acts of self-giving love. This cannot be simpler in principle, but it’s so rare, and our paradigm for individualism is so different from that of the NT writers, that it’s almost never talked about. In fact I would love to do a study to see how often the Spirit is used in the NT with the assumption that the Church is in view, rather than personal decision-making or inspiration.

      So I apologize, I just said a whole lot and didn’t much answer your question, DSL, and maybe you wanted that part and maybe you didn’t. (I guess I just like the sound of my own keyboard clicking away.) Let me return to it- the short answer to your question is “yes, we do, but it’s a willful obedience that is aimed in a slightly different direction than we are prone to think.” When we are putting others first, we are in the Spirit. When the joy of the Gospel comes upon us, we’re in the Spirit. When we are lost it glory of who Jesus Christ is, together, we are in the Spirit. The Spirit surely groans with intercessions that we can’t fathom, but we also, I believe are given direct conscious opportunities to obey his voice. (That’s the latent charismatic in me.) But it’s not announced as “I’m the Spirit! Obey me…” it usually looks, smells, and tastes like Jesus, and is walked out on the playground of church life. Yes, we have responsibilities often enough, but that’s actually good news, not a burden…but that’s a subject for another thread.

    • The role of the will in sanctification is zero. The role of the will in love for neighbor is 100%. But only the Spirit can strengthen our hearts so that we desire to love our neighbor. I’m not aware of any way we can make the Spirit do that. How do you “engage?”

  8. Thanks be to God that our willingness or lack thereof, is not a barrier to the Spirit conforming us to Christ.

    • Desert Storm Libertarian says

      Steve, thanks for your insight as I continually struggle with the Spirit’s role in those times when I willfully sin. So the Spirit does not prevent us from suffering the consequences of disobedience but does intercede for us when we can’t find the words or strength to pray for wisdom, foregiveness, or healing. Very mysterious, this Spirit thing!

      • I’ve often heard the illustration used that Satan is the one who tempts us to sin, and condemns us when we fail. There is a lot of nuance that I think that statement leaves out, but it serves as a nice counter to the ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit encourages and points us in ways of righteousness, but also intercedes for us and our forgiveness when we go astray.

      • when I willfully sin

        Don’t frame it like this. This way leads to mental anguish and death. Quit using “will”, “voluntary”, and all other types of similar words.

        “when I sin” / “when you sin”

        It’ll happen. “willfully” or not.

        So the Spirit does not prevent us from suffering the consequences of disobedience

        I read this and all I think then is that grace ONLY saves, and definitely has no impact on the rest of our lives.

        God I hope not.

        • Dana Ames says

          Before receiving the Eucharist, Orthodox folks pray together during the Liturgy for forgiveness of transgressions, “both voluntary and involuntary, of word or of deed, of knowledge or ignorance.” That seems to cover everything…


          • Either ALL your sins are forgiven….or they aren’t. In this case, all definitely means all, as you don’t need forgiveness for any sins you commit after salvation; Jesus already forgave those sins. But you should still confess them.

            No Christian needs to “get right with God” from a justification/sin standpoint after conversion.

          • Dana Ames says


            Of course all of our sins are already forgiven; God’s love for us never changes. And…if I have no kind of awareness of what those sins are, how can I appropriate that forgiveness into the depth of my being? And it’s not simply about transgressing legalities. We are either becoming more like Jesus… or we are not. It’s important to be as aware as possible, so that we can rearrange our thinking about things, and make course corrections – two ideas that are found in both the Hebrew and Greek words in scripture for what’s usually translated as “repentance.”


          • Dana, seeing the gospel outside of a purely forensic paradigm has been a game changer for me. I always value the thinking that you bring to the table.

      • Read the beginning of Luke’s account, say from the beginning of chapter one through chapter 4. I’m amazed at how much the Spirit is mentioned and is active, even in the case of working in Jesus’ early life and leading him. I’m thinking without the Spirit, even Jesus might have wobbled.

    • But are you sure of that, Steve? (“our willingness or lack thereof, is not a barrier to the Spirit “)My daughter is an alcoholic; my teen-age grandson a meth dealer. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit surely desires otherwise for them. I cannot see that God’s Spirit is in charge of our will unless we let Him be. (Or maybe you meant something different?)

      • Desert Storm Libertarian says

        Good point, H. Lee…My family has mental illness and crimes of moral turpitude to answer for. I don’t think the Holy Spirit was involved in these conditions but maybe the Spirit allows these “thorns in the flesh” to persist so that the individuals afflicted with these maladies can deepen their dependence on Christ and the Holy Spirit to overrule their decision-making and poor life choices.

  9. What’s the best way of breaking a lifetime of thinking in penal substitution atonement and similar theories, and embracing a Christus Victor model?

    • Ooh. And I’d like to know, right alongside that, what’s the best way to verbalize this to friends (when necessary) who are either convinced that PSA is either the most important, or even the only, theology of the cross out there?

      • Don’t know if you can, because now you are just denying TRUTH, aren’t you? lol

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Thing is, PSA is also the alphabet-soup for a Prostate indicator in the blood. Since I have a LOT more occasion to get involved with that PSA (especially since last year’s prostate cancer scare), it gets confusing.

    • AsMyHeavyEyelidsFlutter says

      Do you want to know the best way, or the way that will require the least inconvenience on your part?

    • One might consider engaging various Eastern Orthodox sources for a long-established non-PSA understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection. I suggest this because PSA is not something the East has to unlearn.

      Better yet, show up at around, oh, 10:00 PM or so at an Orthodox church on the Saturday evening before Pascha (Easter) to see the theology enacted liturgically. If by the 17,000th rendition of “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life” you haven’t gotten the impression that Christus Victor is probably a good Latin way of describing what’s being said then I don’t know what to tell you.

    • Eastern Orthodox theology sees Jesus’ death and resurrection more as a rescue mission of sinners than a penal substitution.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And stressing that is a needed counter to penal substitutionary atonement.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Question: WHO CAME UP WITH PENAL SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT in the first place?

        I suspect it was a Lawyer.
        Law Law Law, tit for tat, and Boolean logic.

    • Either penal substitution or Christus Victor? In the immortal words of Tony Stark, “Is it too much to ask for both?” Especially since both models are supported by Scripture.

      • Dana Ames says

        Both models are supported by certain ***interpretations*** of scripture.

        No, you really can’t have both. In the one, God is constrained so that he must act a certain way, both in the punishing and when someone converts. In the other, God acts freely and from love that never changes. More than that is too involved for a blog comment.

        Find a copy of the Lenten Triodion and read through the services for Holy Week and Pascha/Easter. Perhaps that will help you see how wide is the divide.


      • I’m going through that now with sovereignty “vs” free will.

  10. What’s the best way to internalize the positive aspects of Prosperity Theology while ditching a lifetime of Prosperity Gospel thinking, as defined below?

    Prosperity theology is not prosperity gospel. Prosperity theology is “God loves us and wants what is best for us because it glorifies Himself”. Prosperity gospel is “right now your life sucks because you’re making the sky-god angry… do good things, get good karma”.

    • Well, I think a start is to realize that “God’s best for us” is insanely different from what our own concept of what is best for us.

      As a practical piece of advise, I would maybe point you to reading of those who have truly been persecuted and martyred for their faith. If “God’s best for us” can lead to our gruesome and painful death, then the lives of those who have experienced that, probably have a lot to say about what it really looks like.

      • Since we are sinful, our desires are, at least in part, twisted. So our concept of “best for us” is in part twisted. Then we are finite, and far too focused on the finite portion of our existence that is this life, so don’t give enough attention to the long run. And even within the finite subset of things we attend to, we are incapable of seeing, knowing, and considering enough to know what is best. So there are multiple reasons to believe that our concept of “best for us” is inaccurate.

        One thing I see is that God often believes that it is best for us to stop focusing on ourselves and pay more attention to those around us. That helps shape us for an present in community and an eternity of loving relationships.

        “Best for us” and “good” are nearby concepts. Since my path as a seeker to become a Christian was routed by way of the ethics texts on the philosophy bookcase at a local bookstore, I came by a route less traveled. But one of the big questions I struggled with was what does the statement “God is good.” mean? Is that defining God, goodness, or expressing an identity between things with independent definitions. Fortunately, I was able to get past that question and become a Christian several years before I could answer the philosophy question.

      • So “God will give you the desires of your heart”…as long as your heart desires just Him? or He’ll change the desires of your heart, so that you only desire what He desires, and then God will give you the desires of your heart?

        weird circular thinking

        • LOL. It’s like some sort of spiritual Catch-22!

        • I mean that is at least the way that I have always read Psalm 37. I don’t think that it is so much that we “only” get what we want if all we want is God, but I think that our desire for God will work in us un such a way that our other desires are rightly ordered. Some desires will take a back seat to our desire for God, others will be washed away completely.

  11. Francis Chan – opinions? Good, bad, mixed?

    (I ask because my wife and I are going through a couple’s study using “You and Me Forever”.)

    • I don’t agree with everything that the guy teaches, and don’t keep a close enough eye on him to know if there are some hypocrises hiding out there, but what I have experienced of the guy is a heart that really and truly is seeking after what God wants in his life, and he also seems to be willing to put his money where his mouth is.

      If others have seen otherwise, I would be interested to hear. A great deal of what I hear about the guy is good, but a balancing opinion would be nice.

    • Our church did a study of his last year on knowing how God loves you. We basically tore the thing to shreds, at least in my class. He had enough information to make a nice sermon and stretched it out into a 6 week study with videos. The worst one was when he was questioning the salvation of certain members of his church. I’m sorry, as far as I know, that is God’s prerogative and His alone. None of us can see the state of another person’s heart and judge whether they are actually saved. I had heard he was good, but was very disappointed.

      • The questioning salvation thing is something that I have heard as a common complaint against him. I have heard him say things that could be misconstrued as that, but never that sentiment itself. An attitude that I have heard him express is a reflective one about whether what you say you believe is reflected in how you actually live. He may take that too far, I’m not sure, but that is the closest I have heard to what you are saying.

        • OK, I’m putting pieces together in the puzzle. Having googled this complaint against Chan (questioning salvation), I recognize it in a couple of sermons preached by someone who subbed for our pastor. The sub’s son, not too coincidentally, started this semester at Eternity Bible College, which Francis Chan founded and heads. Here’s the quote I found:

          As typical of other Lordship Faith teachers, Chan challenged his Christian audience to look at themselves introspectively to see if they were really saved, based upon their behavior, attitudes and lifestyle. This speech was similar to one given by John Piper to another large gathering of Christian young people

          Also not coincidentally, I’ve read half of Piper’s book Five Points today, as material for a class on Calvinism & Arminianism (bias toward Calvin) that just started at our church. The puzzle pieces are fitting nicely together.

          BTW, Francis Chan is a graduate of John MacArthur’s Master’s College, also Master’s Seminary.

          • Interesting.

            I could be misreading this, but it seems like there’s a bait and switch where “works” and “faith” become indistinguishable. But within that, there is a bias to see that failures exhibit a complete lack of faith or a worthless “lukewarm” one moreso than any “works” exhibit that a person DOES have even a mustard seed of faith (all other considerations aside). This would seem to create a fearful and self-condemning type of faith.

          • Mike H, I could be misreading the same thing. It does seem like a bait and switch, turning Grace on its head. I too am concerned about a fearful, self-condemning faith, or of turning God into a monster.

            The Piper book is interesting (and thankfully short), but I’m trying to decide if he’s celebrating paradox or merely contradictory—or worse, bait and switch.

          • Ted,

            I’m not sure what Piper would be celebrating. 5 points Calvinist theology pretty much is what it is. I find it appalling and fundamentally wrong, but at least you’ll get a non-caricatured look at the claims with a book like that one.

          • Mike H, I’m afraid caricature pretty well describes it. I’m nearly through with the book, and I think Piper paints himself into a corner with his dogmatic, legalistic view of salvation, particularly in Chapter 7 where he seems to trip over himself on election, perseverance, obedience, and whether believers can fall away.

            In Chapter 6 he refers to Acts 13:48, “as many as were appointed to eternal life (elected) believed,” and in Chapter 7 he says that God’s elect cannot be lost. And yet he says that there will be a falling away of some believers, that if it persists it will show that their faith was not genuine and they were not born of God (elect).

            Is this a contradiction or a caricature?

            I wouldn’t mind if Piper weren’t so sure of himself. I mean, I like a good paradox, or a bit of mystery.

          • Ted,

            Yes, there are many things that I disagree with there. I suppose that what I meant by “non-caricatured” is that you’ll get a look at what 5 point theology states – warts and all. Piper doesn’t hide his limited atonement or double predestination views the way that some do. I’d rather see the arguments just laid out for all to see than have someone thunder on about God’s holiness (which is basically just will to power) and inexhaustible wrath, try a little sleight of hand or “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” – it’s difficult to understand what the arguments actually are with all of that. I’d rather have someone state that they flat out believe that God created people for the express purpose of torturing them (aka to manifest holiness) and I’ll form my own opinion of that in light of Christ.

          • Gotcha. Thanks, Mike. This is all very helpful.

    • Appearance aside, it seems to be the standard evangelical theology with a moderate Calvinist bent to it.

    • Not a fan of any “do more, try harder/most of the church is apostate/nominal” type of speakers.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says



        Just like Acquire the Fire, Teen Mania, etc.

    • Rick Ro. says

      I really liked his “Crazy Love” book. Some keeper thoughts in it, and some of it helped me re-think and re-examine my walk with Jesus. I understand the push-back from some folks here at iMonk – much like the push-back against Andy Stanley today – but I see the value and truth in some of what he says.

    • Thank you everyone!

  12. I’d like to share a thought I’ve had recently, on the subject of the same-sex marriage.

    For the last year or so I’ve identified myself as a supporter of SSM. My reasons – love is love, two people of the same gender can have a loving, committed relationship, and my problem with using ancient behavioral codes as a guide for 21st life. Thanks in part to the firstthings statement in marriage, I’ve been trying to understand the arguments opposing same sex marriage, particularly the argument about the ‘divine’ pattern in creation – the male/female family unit.

    The argument seems to take 2 texts from Genesis as its justification – ‘in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them’, and ‘for this reason a man will leave his mother and father and become united to his wife.’ Alongside this, it finds evidence that the ‘normal’ pattern of human sexuality in most societies seems to have been between men and woman – television shows this, advertising shows this, most literature and love poetry seems to be heterosexual. With this in mind, it’s not hard to find in reality a ‘divinely-ordained pattern’, mysterious in its origins, but true, good and inviolable, of heterosexual relationships as the only accetable variety of sexual relationship.

    With this in mind, one might look at a same-sex couple and think – this is against the pattern. It can’t be right.

    My question is, do IM readers (supporters of same-sex marriage or otherwise) see this pattern? Is it true, or is it an ideologically driven fiction? what arguments are there to counter it?

    • Yes, in general, historically, biologically, etc., male/female are the best fit. But as was pointed out in the discussion about the ECT marriage statement last week, male/female sexual partnerships are not the be-all/end-all of human relations. Both Paul and Jesus advocated celibacy, and placed their views of marriage solidly in an eschatological framework. In some sense, humanity’s future is “trans-sexual”, in the sense that sexual/gender roles will in some sense be made much less relevant (“they will neither marry or be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”).

      Frankly, the evangelical decision to fight and die on this hill, when there are so many other ecclesiastical and societal issues of much greater urgency, tells me that evangelicalism is much more concerned about maintaining the trappings of traditional mores even as our economic and natural environment comes crashing down around our ears.

      • Or perhaps the progressive and mainline Christian’s decision to capitulate so quickly on this issue shows that there is no issue they won’t be willing to to capitulate on in order to keep society’s approval and remain “relevant.”

        • Given the conservative evangelical captivity to the Republican party (especially WRT economic issues, which are given much more weight in Scripture than in most preaching nowadays), I’d suggest holding off on throwing the stones at the house’s glass walls. Neither wing of the American church has exactly covered itself with glory of late.

  13. If Jesus were telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan today, who would be the main characters (The 2 that pass by and the 1 who stops to help)?

  14. The one who stops to help would be someone our society in general and our religion in particular abhors, maybe a gay or transgendered person, or some able-bodied guy on welfare.

    The priest who passed by would now be represented by our modern corporate priests: a Wall Street banker.

    The other one who passed by would be me, I’m sure. Too scared to get involved. (But I might make a 911 call on my cell phone.)

  15. Rick Ro. says

    Favorite zombie movies. Go…

    • Rick Ro. says

      Mine, in some basic order:
      Zombieland, World War Z, Shaun of the Dead, ORIGINAL Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Dawn of Dead (remake), Warm Bodies, Planet Terror (from Grindhouse), Resident Evil: Afterlife (my fave of the series), Re-Animator.

    • Army of Darkness. “Hail to the King, baby.” 😉

      • Rick Ro. says

        I’m not sure I put that in the “zombie” category, but “AoD” is one of my favorite movies, so if it IS considered “zombie,” I’d put that near the top of my list.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Zombies are badly overdone these days.

      Just like “Elves, Dwarves, etc” in Tolkien-in-a-blender fantasy.

  16. ItTakesMoreThanMilkToGetRidOfTheTaste says


  17. I found imonk just 2 months before Michael Spencer died; I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled up the blog, but when I did, I knew I had found a ‘home’, a safe place, a place where I wasn’t the only one saying/thinking what was being posted here. That morning was pivotal–and I will never forget it. I kept thinking to myself–how did I get to this site? It had already been a long journey to that point, and if felt good to be able to read others’ posts and know I wasn’t alone anymore on this path.

    (Side note: the last 15 months have been working my way out of depression, and I did)

    The last few years during Lent (at the time, in between churches, but basically, post-evangelical, and searching) I have been focusing each year on different things (giving up something, gift giving, thankfulness). This year my focus is on repentance (what Lent is about, anyway). Reading Catholic and authors, and searching into Anglicanism, while temporarily attending a Lutheran Church at the moment, along with imonk, has changed my way(s) of thinking in so many areas. It has been very freeing to stop being so dogmatic about things I cannot/should not be dogmatic about.

    I married a Catholic 30 years ago 🙂 and almost converted prior to the marriage because I loved the liturgy, etc, but Mariology hung me up. Seven years later, we left the Catholic Church for a Calvary Chapel, then a Baptist Church, and now, searching. Now, 30 years later, I doubt I can get my husband back to Catholicism, but Anglicanism is on the radar. Funny, how we can come (almost) full circle?!

    Basically, I just want to thank M.Spencer, Chaplain Mike, the other contributors, and the all those who post–THANK YOU! I haven’t expressed it prior to this, and with Open Forum, I felt this was the appropriate moment.
    The posts and the ensuing discussions are great food-for-thought, challenge my thinking, and encourage me.

    Did I say….THANK YOU!! I mean it.

  18. Wretched Urgency is the most provocative article I have read on the internet in10 years. Frankly, I am surprised there wasn’t more blowback about the article when it first appeared. It was written at least five years before Love Wins took the evangelical world by storm. As far as I know, Michael Spencer never came close to embracing universalism. Yet the article still strikes a nerve with me. The article is part autobiographical and part theological analysis. Do Christians have to constantly “witness”, or can we be ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us?

    • Rick Ro. says

      The need to “constantly” witness is, I think, a burden placed upon us by man, not Christ. If the Holy Spirit isn’t working through us, then most (all?) witnessing falls flat. We need to reflect God’s love for the world to see His light. I think that’s mainly done through the Holy Spirit, in deeds as small as giving a thirsty person a cup of water.

      It’s like the end of this song by Paramore, titled “Part 2”:

      “Like the moon we borrow our light.
      I am nothing but a shadow in the night,
      So if you let me I will catch fire
      To let your glory and mercy shine.”

      And what does “constantly” mean, anyway? All the time, walking up and down the road, proclaiming the end times? Or just ready and willing and obedient when you sense the Holy Spirit lead you to say something about God and Jesus…?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        All too often, the first.

        Especially when your Wretched Urgency stoked with “LUKEWARM! I SHALL SPIT THEE OUT OF MY MOUTH!” and Ezekiel’s doom on the Watchman (“If you do not warn him and he die in his sins, THE LOORD WILL HOLD *YOU* RESPONSIBLE!!!!”)

        Put all this together and you get really crazy desperate, and some really crazy high-pressure “Witnessing” tactics and tricks. Because “If You Don’t, God Will Punish YOU!” To the point of a panic attack when you sit down next to some stranger on a bus or plane.

  19. What are some of the most influential books you’ve read that you’d recommend?

    • Rick Ro. says

      Hop on Pop.

    • Rick Ro. says

      But in all seriousness, “other than the Bible,” probably Philip Yancey’s “Disappointment with God.” It was THE book that helped me out of my 5-7 year long walk through a spiritual desert.

  20. Been reflecting on penal substitution atonement theory lately (several comments about it above too). Something that’s really troubling me is how do we grasp various instances where Jesus makes references to weeping/gnashing of teeth/etc (things that imply ‘punishment’ in the future)?

    • David, perhaps some of these references were indeed future when they were spoken, but were played out in horrible reality in the several years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple at the hands of Roman soldiers in 70 AD. Not just the Roman soldiers but a raging civil war within the besieged city, roving gangs stealing food what little food there was, mothers cooking and eating their infant children, anyone managing to escape the city walls caught and crucified by the thousands, read the first hand accounts of Josephus. All this within the generation spoken of by Jesus as to when this would happen. Weeping and gnashing of teeth indeed.

      The problem with penal substitution atonement is that it is based on legalism and retribution and judgement and punishment, all contrary to the grace of God as taught and demonstrated by Jesus. Doesn’t mean that people by their choices can’t live out hell on earth or take it with them on to the other side. Doesn’t mean that bad things can’t happen to good people. In my view the legalism of this view and of fundamentalism in general is part of the world view of beginning levels of spiritual growth, and can be dropped off as excess baggage as we follow the Way Jesus showed and told.

      • Charles–thanks for the response. I had never seriously considered that historical interpretation, that’s rather insightful.

        I suppose as a follow-up, how else can we interpret when Jesus teaches things like “not everyone…will enter the kingdom of heaven”?

        • David, I would say that Jesus was speaking of reality here. You can see for yourself that some respond positively to Jesus and some do not. It may also be from God’s point of view that some self-identified Christians have missed the boat, but that is a can of worms if we start judging others. It seems to me that this all involves free will choice and intent, and that there are levels and grades involved, tho again we can go astray judging others.

          It also seems to me that Jesus is mostly speaking of present reality in this lifetime when he talks about living in the kingdom, and not something we have to wait until we die to experience. As he explains it thru many illustrations, it seems to involve doing much more than believing, tho obviously you would start out by believing it was open to you here and now. However this all plays out, you are the one responsible (response-able) for your own part, not ultimately the part of others, other than to relate to others in God’s love, easier said than done.

          • Charles: again, a well-reasoned position that once again had not really occurred to me in all these years in the faith. This is exactly why I frequently visit IM, not only for the encouragement, but the insight and challenge to my own ideas!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The problem with penal substitution atonement is that it is based on legalism and retribution and judgement and punishment, all contrary to the grace of God as taught and demonstrated by Jesus.

        Again, I’m pretty sure a Lawyer must have come up with it.
        A Lawyer who could only think in Boolean.

  21. Christiane says

    ‘so, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, how did you like the play?’

    why this comes to mind is a mystery, likely something to do with advanced cabin fever and snow-blindness mixed in with late-winter doldrums,
    but all shall be well soon . . . which is what I thought LAST month . . .

    is next month REALLY going to be April ?

  22. Late to the party (dead laptop) but had to come back after reading today’s post about Temple mentality….but that is not what caught my eye.

    I would only add to Stephen that much of what Pope Francis says is interpreted poorly, but deeper than that, there are themes and words that are problematic to those, especially Evangelicals, who do not “speak Catholic”. It is unfair and perhaps silly to critique the media portrayl of the Holy Father if one is not familar with the teachings of the Church–in some sort of depth.

    Sooo……”You keep hearing that word~~it does not mean what you think it means!!”