October 29, 2020

Fridays with Michael Spencer: January 20, 2017

Blue Nail. Photo by Scott Robinson

From a classic Michael Spencer post. May, 2008

There are some places that Christians will allow you to stand up and say “the sermon is pop psych” or “I’m not a young earth creationist” or “why do we act like we just invented Christianity this year?” What a gift it is to be able to speak truth and be supported by a community of the one who IS the truth.

In the church I grew up in I always heard that we believed in freedom of conscience, the right of private interpretation, the priesthood of the believer, soul competency and the sacred right to differ from the majority.

I heard about all of that, and I heard that it was other denominations, with their bishops and their hierarchies, that were hung up on conformity all the way down the line.

Well….let’s just say that it’s a good thing they don’t give awards for “Ironic Reversals of Reality” anywhere. Someone would need to build a shelf. A long one.

…There are still doors in Christendom where the truth needs to be nailed, and some of them aren’t far away from where you are.

We need to talk about what is and is not happening among real Christians living real lives.

We need to hear the truth about the Christian experience, not just the scrubbed and glowing testimonials.

We need to have the assumed wisdom and answers of denominational leaders scrutinized, just like every pastor has to face his critics in every healthy church anywhere.

We need a vibrant discussion of the “whys” and the “what fors” in the things we require of one another in church, denomination and ministry.

We need courageous writers who will tell the stories that can’t be spoken among Christians who are determined to create a culture of secrecy and religious conformity.

There may be a price for honesty, asking questions and telling our stories. But there will never cease to be a need for someone who has the courage to ask tough questions and tell honest experiences in the midst of organized religion. We won’t ever get the truth of our human and Christian journeys from the official spokespersons or the press releases. We have to speak it to one another and support one another in the consequences.

We can’t speak falsehood to ourselves, one another and our children. Even if the truth is clumsy, painful, inconvenient or unwelcome, it is still the truth and we should love it for Jesus’ sake.

• • •

Photo by Scott Robinson at Flickr. Creative Commons License


  1. We need a lot of things. But will we get them? Will we (not someone or something else) be them? Will we be the change we seek? And if not us, then who?

    • Good questions, Robert F. My guess is sometimes we need “them” to be coming from someone/something else and sometimes “them” needs to be us. (Kinda like the relationship between Jesus and us. He brings us grace, then we need to be the grace.)

  2. There has never been such a drought of candor as now in America. Always, we have had the tendency to avoid the honest truth in our lives because it can be uncomfortable. Christianity, because of the popular, but erroneous view of sanctification, often has taken pretense to an art form. If we believe we are better than we really are, and if the Christian community demands that we are better that fallen humans can possibly be, we start to build a world of mirages around the small core of reality. Many sources have called this election year, the year that truth died. Truth has been sick for a long time, but yeah, it was taken off the ventilator this year. I am not positioning one political side against the other in a favoritism (although I have my personal “lesser of evils”). But the general thinking of the masses has drifted deeper into the world of fun-house mirrors. We distort. We fake it. We are now living in a reality show, where even the grass and the hair are plastic.We must push against this As Christians it is our calling to stand for authenticity. We must resist this cultural trend and seek honesty and truth. Michael’s words were never more needed than now. Truth must be returned to its original meaning of that which is, not that which my group wants to believe or is told they must believe.

  3. Ronald Avra says

    Handling the truth requires work and patience. I have many memories of where I imagined my grasp of it to be greater than the actual fact and application was ‘clumsy’, to speak kind of it. My memory also reminds me that many of my better moments entailed keeping my mouth shut.

  4. ‘Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.’ -Blaise Pascal

  5. Christianity is by nature communal. We are members one of another. Paradoxically it is at the same time an intrepid individual journey.. Hidden in the tension of those opposites is a recipe for growth. The calling of each individual to stay true to the voice of the spirit within them jeopardizes their place in the social uniformity that disguises itself as unity. Unity and uniformity are different animals. The pressures of social uniformity can work to snuff out the voice of the Holy Spirit. That voice is our deep and essential unity, not uniform behavior. We grow bigger if we can break the shackles of uniformity, not simply for rebellion’s sake but when and where it is compromising our character, but find the creativity to hold fast our unity.

  6. We need courageous writers who will tell the stories that can’t be spoken among Christians who are determined to create a culture of secrecy and religious conformity.

    Michael was one of those writers. Mike Mercer too, but he’s way more polite than Michael (that may be a good thing).

    Others include Dee and Deb over at The Wartburg Watch, Julie Anne at Spiritual Sounding Board, and Jeri Massi at Blog on the Way.

    • Christiane says

      yes ….. I’m learning from Dee and Deb just how badly some people have been hurt by 9 marks churches with their ‘membership contracts’ and ‘church discipline’ fiascos. Very sad business. Dee and Deb do good work.

    • I invite honest discussion and honest doubt about the modern American approach to the practice of Christianity. I’ve come a long way from my 5-point Calvinist days when I began to document abuses against children in Fundamentalist churches. Yet I am still in the faith, still believe that Bible is the rule for faith and practice, and yet I increasingly I think that what we accept as “Biblical” isn’t Biblical at all.

      Jeri Massi

  7. William H. Martin Jr says

    We need, we must, we should and those people over there. Sorry not one of the best…….. Paul said some will just barely make it. You know what I’ll take that. He also said that if someone doesn’t eat meat then it is no big thing for me not to when I’m with them. I believe Jesus when He said I will reconcile all things to myself. Sorry all you Holier than thou people and all the great fruit you believe your making and all your great learning because you have been pampered your whole life. The prostitute got mentioned but the great learned people didn’t. By the way it didn’t say whether she returned to that way of life or did a 180. Even if she did either or Jesus doesn’t go back on His word.

    I wonder about here a lot because here in modern society we have it pretty much made. Even when we are poor we have it better then so many. I sin….. I do it more than I want……Still it’s sin…..maybe not as bad as some but sin. I have my doubts as to how many here don’t. Maybe we need to cut some people some slack and if you can’t then go ahead judge your own children.

    Then in the last about truth. Well now I just told it a little uncomfortable as it is. Sorry I know it was his blog and all but it doesn’t mean he got everything right. What we need is to learn how to love which means mercy, grace and forgiveness as much as it does respect and honor. So when we judge assuming we know the truth who are we doing that for. Jesus said what does it matter to you what I am doing with him.