September 15, 2019

Some good Michael Spencer quotes — 2004-2009

imonk11

2004 — What about the day after the party?

I think it’s provable again and again that what we are comfortable saying to an unbeliever, we aren’t comfortable saying to a Christian. The Gospel is for Christians, too. We love the story of the Prodigal son. Now, what about the day after the party? What if the son messed up again in a week? What if he doesn’t live the life of a grateful son? Or to be more realistic, what if he sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t? Does that change the Father? Does the older brother get to come back into the story and say “Aha!! I was right!” Christ died for the sins of Christians, and we need to hear that over and over again.

• from Preaching Grace Is a Risky Business, 3/7/04

2005 — Toward an appointment with mass disillusionment.

There is little doubt that the direction of modern evangelicalism is toward an appointment with mass disillusionment. Hundreds of thousands who are currently in the thrall of the seeker-sensitive, market driven, God-lit haze of church growth-ianity are going to one day find that the subtle messages of health, success and prosperity were complete misdirections.

When you find out that the “Ten Principles For Success In Life” and “Your Best Life Now Vol III” don’t work, you just might be a little bitter. When all of your pastors have been feeding you happy-clappy content and happy-clappy theology, you aren’t ready for times in life that aren’t very happy clappy.

The strength of Biblical faith is its deep incarnation into all that is our fallen, broken world, including our stories of disillusionment. It’s significant to me that Colson mentions Roman Catholic authors as those who most honestly map the terrain of the dark night of the soul. It’s hard to imagine the authers of “Purpose Driven” and “Best Life Now” theologies having much to say to us about the absence of God, existential doubt and struggling to maintain belief in God when it seems he is to blame for your torment and the pain of others.

• from Looking Away from the Darkened Sun, 12/7/05

• • •

2006 — To be post-evangelical.

To be post-evangelical is to reject evangelical culture in favor of a more catholic, diverse and ancient expression of the Christian faith, while adhering to evangelical doctrine without becoming part of team or faction operating under the illusion of superiority to others and a closure of the Christian conversation.

• from What is a “Post Evangelical”? (Part 2), 9/8/06

• • •

2007 — I doubt.

You see, doubt is a constant in my life. I’m not put together like a theological block of concrete. If you need a speaker to talk about his absolute and increasing certainties, I’m not your guy. If you need someone to give testimony to how all his doubts have vanished, knock on another door.

No, I wonder if God exists. I sometimes see the universe as an empty place. Oh, I frequently see it filled with the glory of God and singing his majesty with all its created energy. I’m often filled with the assurance of faith. But not all the time. Sometimes tragedy, emotion, age, disappointment, depression, dark moods….they visit me and I doubt. I wonder and question. This is my human experience. God gives me faith. My humanness still gives me doubt.

• from “…but some doubted,” 3/24/07

• • •

2008 — I’m an iceberg, an onion, a mystery.

If I ever tell you that all I do is just read the Bible, then believe and do what it says, you have permission to laugh at me. Pay a small fee and you can smack me and say “What’s the matter with you?”

I’m an iceberg, an onion, a mystery. I’m complex and rarely insightful into myself. Thousands of experiences co-exist in me at the same time. I’m a library of presuppositions and passively accepted versions of the truth. When I write a post, preach a sermon, respond in a conversation or give advice to a student, I am anything but simple. I’m complex and only partially aware of that complexity.

This doesn’t mean I can’t understand the simple statements of the Bible or believe and act on them with integrity. It does mean that I need to stop talking about myself as if I am a blank slate, and begin accepting myself as a human being.

I am a person on a journey. That journey has been rich and diverse. It began before I was born. It’s gone on when I was aware and unaware of all that was happening to me. I’ve been shaped by God through a variety of influences, and in one way, there is a sacredness to how God has chosen to shape my life. At any moment that I present myself to God, I am accepted as the “iceberg” of known and unknown influences that make me ME.

I don’t need to fear my complexity. I don’t need to ignore it or misrepresent it. There’s no point in speaking as if my understanding of truth is unaffected by all that preceded this moment and what is going on at this moment.

The Holy Spirit works with us as the human beings that we are. “Search my thoughts O God” is an invitation for God to work with me and all that makes me a person at this moment.

• from Icebergs, Onions and Why You’re Not as Simple as You Think, 4/24/08

• • •

2009 — The God who knows how to throw a party.

The Gospel is the good news of a gracious God. It tells us again the story of the God who loves us, the God we have grieved and abandoned and the God who has taken our judgment and suffered it himself.

We have far too many people selling religion #1. Like the Pharisees, they are the authorized representatives of the grumpy, ticked off, hacked off, very, very angry God who MIGHT….maybe, MIGHT let you off the hook….MAYBE…..IF–and it’s a very big IF–you manage to believe enough, obey enough, get the theology questions right enough, find your way to the right church, follow the right script and get the details right, down to the last “amen.”

We have too many people who have heard that there is good news about God, and then discovered that the good news was covered in 25 pages of fine print explaining why God is actually quite miserable and its your fault. If you fulfill the conditions of the contract–See “Faith is obedience, perfect surrender and a good witness,” pages 203-298–then you have a reasonable hope of avoiding God’s end-of-the-word temper tantrum.

We have far too few Christians who are overwhelmed at the news that God has fired the bookkeepers, sent home the bean counters, dismissed the religion cops and bought party hats for the grumpy old people. The big announcement is this: In Jesus, we discover that God is just sloppy with his amazing grace and completely beyond common sense when it comes to his love. Just to enhance his reputation as the God who knows how to throw a party, he’s inviting all of us back home, no tickets necessary, no dress code, for a party that will last, literally, forever. With open bar, and all on him. (Oh calm down Baptists. You can go to another room.)

• from The Face of the Gracious God, 1/28/09

Comments

  1. Oh how I miss Michael. I remember saying to my wife. I can’t believe how he comes up these gems, day after day after day.

    He was an extraordinarily gifted man.

  2. Rick Ro. says

    “What about the day after the party?”

    That’s an awesome paragraph right there. Oh, it’s all good, but that’s just wonderful. That preaches, and I mean that in a good way.

  3. Wow, I still remember that unpleasant dust-up between Michael Spencer and that Calvinist blogger whose cartoonist-husband created the image used above as a mockery of the InternetMonk, and how Mr. Spencer’s response to it taught me more about grace than anyone on the internet TULIP bandwagon ever did. I’m so thankful for all of the wisdom that Mr. Spencer put into written form, and that it’s still available to encourage all who are in the post-evangelical wilderness.

  4. There is little doubt that the direction of modern evangelicalism is toward an appointment with mass disillusionment. Hundreds of thousands who are currently in the thrall of the seeker-sensitive, market driven, God-lit haze of church growth-ianity are going to one day find that the subtle messages of health, success and prosperity were complete misdirections.

    This prophecy may be slow in coming, but if nothing else it’s generational. The “nones” have gotten the message at the very least. And the unfolding scandals in the Driscoll/SGM wing of evangelicalism may be just the tip of the iceberg.

    Still, IMonk’s well-crafted words of grace mean more to me than the prophecies of evangelicalism’s demise…

  5. Brianthedad says

    That’s all good stuff, and what got me hooked into coming to this site daily, for the last who knows how many years. Thanks for all the retrospectives. They’re much appreciated, and the continued work of chap mike and the rest of the crew to keep internetmonk up and running and filled with great content is appreciated as well.

  6. Love the cartoon. The goat should be smoking a cigarette. and the quotes are so Michael.

    • Joseph (the original) says

      The goat should be smoking a cigarette…

      …while toting a small keg of beer too! saude! 😉

  7. 2006 — To be post-evangelical.

    To be post-evangelical is to reject evangelical culture in favor of a more catholic, diverse and ancient expression of the Christian faith, while adhering to evangelical doctrine without becoming part of team or faction operating under the illusion of superiority to others and a closure of the Christian conversation.

    • from What is a “Post Evangelical”? (Part 2), 9/8/06

    Why don’t you just shoot me now?

    We have far too few Christians who are overwhelmed at the news that God has fired the bookkeepers, sent home the bean counters, dismissed the religion cops and bought party hats for the grumpy old people. The big announcement is this: In Jesus, we discover that God is just sloppy with his amazing grace and completely beyond common sense when it comes to his love. Just to enhance his reputation as the God who knows how to throw a party, he’s inviting all of us back home, no tickets necessary, no dress code, for a party that will last, literally, forever. With open bar, and all on him. (Oh calm down Baptists. You can go to another room.)

    • from The Face of the Gracious God, 1/28/09

    Why do we have to keep learning this stuff with every generation?

  8. I wonder if the author of Purpose-Driven Life will write a different sort of book considering the terrible grief his family has been through. I am curious how Rick Warren feels about his book now…if he would change anything or not.

  9. If CM were to tire of, or REtire from, writing this blog, I would be happy with recycled Spencer articles from years past….except I’d STILL want fresh Ramblings on Saturday. Can’t go without those!

  10. To be post-evangelical is to reject evangelical culture in favor of a more catholic, diverse and ancient expression of the Christian faith, while adhering to evangelical doctrine without becoming part of team or faction operating under the illusion of superiority to others and a closure of the Christian conversation.

    I wish I could tweet this, but it just doesn’t fit. But it’s so, so good…

    All of these were good.

    Going to be that guy again who sends tons of hyperlinks to all his friends…look! see! read!…

  11. Reading those, I miss Michael. That honesty and reality is what snagged me the moment I turned this thing on.

  12. “God is gracious, loving, kind, generous and open-hearted. He rejoices in us as his creations, and is grieved that our sins have made us his enemies and caused so much brokenness and pain. In Jesus, he shows us what kind of God he is and restores the joy that should belong to the children of such a Father. True to his promises, he will bless all people in Jesus, and restore the world by his resurrection victory.”

    I’m pretty sure that this is going to be the text of the greeting in our worship service next week.

  13. What happens during Church Services is NOT biblical. This is why=> http://wp.me/p4OZ4v-RY