July 12, 2020

A Few iMonk Gems (2)

A Few iMonk Gems (2)

We have become people who must be in a crowd or at a special event to feel we have fellowshipped with God or known the power of the Spirit. We must have products to buy to feel we are following Jesus. We must decorate our cars, walls and bodies with slogans and art to reassure ourselves we are Christians. We want Christian entertainment, and we call it “worship”, but that is almost nonsensical in any ordinary sense. When we must have a stadium, a six-figure audio visual set up and a major league praise team to have worship where “God shows up”, who are we fooling?

The simple disciplines of the inner life escape us. We rarely pray, but we have all Stormie’s books on prayer. We rarely evangelize, but we’ve been to all the seminars and can use the Evangecube with skill. We can’t stop complaining about the boring worship at church, but we’d drive 500 miles to hear Third Day. We don’t read the Bible and we don’t read books about the Bible and we don’t train our minds, but then why should we? Pastor Rick has been to the grocery store and brought home all the verses we need on every topic, illustrated and alliterated. We aren’t talking to unbelievers, and we can’t turn off television- Christian or otherwise- long enough to read a book. We can go to a Beth Moore study, but we can’t go to the scriptures on our own for 15 minutes a day.

We’re pitiful. I’m pitiful. What are we doing with our lives? And how the heck did we convince ourselves that membership in the mall and the amusement park is following Jesus, loving God and serving our neighbor?

• • •

Before you start praying for my deliverance from the demons blinding me to the truth, I want to make it very clear that C.S. Lewis’s version of demonic activity in The Screwtape Letters is one I can confidently affirm and follow. Lewis shows demons suggesting behavior, bringing thoughts into consciousness and working within divine limitations to bring souls to the “Father below.” But Lewis does not deal with demonic possession or causation, and this is wise. He stays within the boundaries of a cautiously conservative view of scripture without throwing out the insights of science or the truths of human development.

Screwtape advises Wormwood to keep the patient unaware of his existence, and to work to keep the patient in conflict with his mother, at a distance from serious discipleship and attracted to peers who despise religion. A person reading Screwtape is sensitized to the “schemes” of the devil Paul warned the Corinthians to consider, but without the tendency to go into areas of Satanic explanation that are unwise and unwarranted. There is a great deal of pastoral wisdom in Lewis’s book, but it won’t make for much of a conference on “Power Encounters.”

I would urge those who find spiritual warfare to be a valid category to believe what scripture says, but to also believe that scripture does not tell us to resort to the demonic as an explanation for what is plainly ordinary or simply unpleasant to consider.

• • •

So…if the culture war cafeteria line has a left and right side, what side am I on?

I’m a conservative in most ways, but I am not concerned if am labeled a liberal on issues where I deviate from the norm. I’m an evangelical Christian who intentionally identifies with the Liturgical worship of Presbyterianism because evangelicals have become pragmatists at the mercy of merchants. I have no use for the word inerrancy, even though I love the Westminster Confession’s words on scripture. I believe the best way to read the literature of the Bible is as literature. I am totally comfortable with Biblical criticism, as long as it is honest about its presuppositions.

I really don’t care much for what is usually called evangelism. Some of it I completely reject as manipulation, but I believe that the Gospel message must be communicated in every way possible. I think that social action, missions, living a vocation, art, family life, justice and mercy ministries all combine into evangelism. The false choice between evangelism and social action seems childish to a student of church history.

I am pro-life, but I don’t want laws making moms and doctors into criminals. I can live with civil unions. I am not afraid of homosexuals in public life. My experience tends to confirm a belief that key elements of homosexuality are nature more than nurture, but it is a complex phenomenon with many components. Evangelicals are obsessed with homosexuality. It’s weird.

I’m a libertarian sympathizing Republican who could conceivably be a Democrat if a lot changed. I’m a bad Calvinist who can appreciate good Arminians. I love C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias and many other Arminians. I’m for the war on terror and the defeat of terror states. I can live with anyone as a pastor because I read the Bible to say that subjection of women to men isn’t the creation order, but the result of sin.

I support public schools, but I work in a private Christian school. Why don’t we support whatever parents believe is right for their kids? I reject Young Earth creationism. I can accept some aspects of evolution, but not others. I listen to every kind of media and every kind of entertainment. Secular entertainment is better. Conservative media is sometimes more effective, but often knuckle-headed and obnoxious. I’m a blogger, and so are a lot of other idiots.

I want less government unless we need more in order to survive as a nation. I think people ought to be free to do what they want and Christians should quit protesting everything that offends them. I like Dobson on a few things, Piper on most things, Capon of anything related to the Gospel and Jim Wallis more than I did a couple of weeks ago. I voted for Bush, and I like him because I can understand him. He wants to do the right thing.

I graduated from Southern, but I think I would be mostly happy at a liberal school that takes a more progressive view of the Bible. I’m into a lot of modern scholars, but I don’t buy all they say. I treat the scholars I read as people worth listening to, but I don’t expect them to line up with everything I already believed. What would be the point?

Baseball.

Submission in Ephesians 5:21. Egalitarianism in Galatians 3:28.

Every translation has something to say. The ESV is on my desk. The Greek is in my computer. I can preach from anything.

Am I buggin’ ya?

As I said before, it isn’t important to me to line up all my beliefs with the rest of the team. I have my doubts. I have my questions. I am obstinate and stubborn, but I also might be right that we should be true to our own journey, and not true to some team in the culture war.

• • •

A lot of people have a “mission statement” for life. I have something I call a “Life project.” I’m more of a project-oriented person. It helps me think in very practical terms. My current life project can be described like this:

I am deconstructing everything in my life that is not vitally connected to Jesus as King and Messiah.

Why “deconstruction?” Am I just trying to sound postmodern? No…I really am better at tearing things down than at building things up. Like Graham Greene said in The Destructors, “Destruction is a form of creation.” That’s very true for me.

The issue for me is not relating to Jesus. All kinds of people relate to Jesus in some way. The issue is for everything in my life to relate to Jesus. The issue is how does Jesus relate to the total package that is Michael’s world?

When I approach that question, I find that I have to tear down all kinds of things. It’s like discovering a wonderful, valuable painting on a wall, but it’s under coats and layers of other paintings. Those layers have to be removed and then the original painting, once it’s revealed, can be restored to what it should look like.

Comments

  1. senecagriggs says


    We’re pitiful. I’m pitiful. What are we doing with our lives? ”
    _________

    Sadly true – to often spending my free time watching NCIS re-runs.

  2. “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” — Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

  3. Blithe contradictions are the excuse of lazy minds.

    I HATE that Whitman quote, needless to say… 😛

    • See also: Emerson on foolish consistency, though the “foolish” part is such a loophole that I’m not sure the quote actually says anything. Who gets to say when consistency is foolish? I have a sneaking suspicion that the answer for everyone who uses this quote, from Emerson himself on, is “Me.”

    • I’m actually not fond of the quote either, but it does express something iconic about the American spirit, for better or worse. Our pop stars, snake oil salesmen, politicians, and religious leaders all subscribe to it in one way or another. It is not, however, quite fair to Michael Spencer’s words above, which are the expression of someone in transition. But someone in transition might easily feel as if they are being pulled in several directions at once by contradictory and countervailing forces within.

      • I still do, on occasion, but I am enough of a rationalist still to know that they are either *all* wrong, or at least some of them are. 😉

  4. “I’m for the war on terror and the defeat of terror states.”

    I’m pretty sure that is a VERY early quote. We’re another 10 years into that mess since Michael died, and I have to wonder what he’d think about the subject now. I have to wonder what he’d think about a LOT of the things he was thinking then. At the time, I tracked very closely with him. Since then, I have moved left – and evangelicalism has swung even further to the right…

  5. ?????

  6. Burro (Mule) says

    I used to miss Michael. Now I miss the world he lived in.

    • The 2000s… the last of the “good old days”. 🙁

    • –> “I used to miss Michael. Now I miss the world he lived in.”

      Good, witty line, but everyone who’s ever lived could’ve said the same thing. Truth is, history repeats. Just read the Book. And the Book also tells us to bring hope and light and Good News into whatever world we find ourselves in, whether it be in exile or in feast.

  7. James Timerson says

    MORE !! More !! monk quotes! PLEASE

  8. Michael Bell says

    Hi Chaplain Mike,

    The source of the quotes would be really appreciated.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    So…if the culture war cafeteria line has a left and right side, what side am I on?

    With todays’ Purity of Ideology litmus tests (both sides more into Absolutes than a Sith Lord), he’s a Traitor and Thought-Criminal to both.

    Evangelicals are obsessed with homosexuality. It’s weird.

    Tell me about it. There’s a side-thread on Wartburg Watch where one commenter is “praying” about whether he sould report a sexual-harassment incident at work. He seems fixated on the harassing manager being Gay(TM) and the harassment being same-sex, which outside the Evangelical Bubble would weaken his case. (Sexual harassment from a position of power is sexual harassment no matter what the orientation, isn’t it?)

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    There is a great deal of pastoral wisdom in Lewis’s book, but it won’t make for much of a conference on “Power Encounters.”

    “Power Encounters” as in X-Treme Spiritual Warfare(TM)?
    i.e. what my writing partner (the burned-out preacher) once called “the Occult Woo-Woo of the NAR”?

  11. “I am deconstructing everything in my life that is not vitally connected to Jesus as King and Messiah.”

    Boy, Michael would have so much more to deconstruct these days. And I’d pay for his take on the “platforming” of those who earn their money by talking deconstruction.

    But he would also be THRIVING on the Kingdom/Messiah driven scholarship from the likes of N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, et al.

  12. “I want less government unless we need more in order to survive as a nation.”

    wish our republican senators had a backbone

    • Agreed. And because they don’t, I can craft you a scenario that plays out in as a Republican’s (and my) worst nightmare: A left-wing socialist at the helm. And the reason I can craft you that scenario is because Trump’s antics have so enraged the Dems that they will put forth that Republican’s worst nightmare as their candidate, and he’ll win.

      When you decide to sleep with the devil, don’t be surprised if your enemy decides to do the same.

      Lord have mercy.

      • Satan is for universal health care?

      • I don’t see Bernie winning . . . . people are tired of extremism wherever it is found.
        If the Dems want to oust Trump, their best candidate would be Biden with Amy Klobuchar as veep. . . . my opinion, but also shared by some I know and also some family who won’t be voted ‘Republican’ in Nov. but likely couldn’t support another extremist either.

        • –> “I don’t see Bernie winning . . . . people are tired of extremism wherever it is found.”

          I hope you’re right, but extremism tends to breed extremism, and that’s my fear. And ironically, I think the Republicans’ support of Trump’s extremism is fueling the left’s extremism.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I hope you’re right, but extremism tends to breed extremism, and that’s my fear.

            Until we’re all in 1933 Germany, where the choice was between one extremist Party and another.

          • I’m not even a Bernie supporter and definitely not a socialist but to call Sanders an extremist is nuts. He doesn’t have a single idea that’s not already successfully in place in other western countries that sport the highest standards of living in the world. The only thing the US leads the western world in is infant mortality and gun deaths.

            • I call Bernie an ‘extremist’ in the sense that he is not an acceptable candidate to many who are abandoning Trump to vote for a moderate in November.

              I agree, Stephen, we can’t see Bernie as comparable to Trump in the ways Trump is trying to dismantle our democracy, no. And I support the ‘socialism’ models of the Nordic countries, which are VERY supportive of new life and parental leave policies . . . so I do understand what you are saying.

              Sorry to be confusing. I am looking at some family who voted Trump in ’16 but now think he has gone way outside of anything remotely ‘American’ in his attacks on our shared norms.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                I remember an essay that if the Dems could ever get away from their Total Abortion Rights Fanaticism, they’d be winning elections right and left. That that’s what’s keeping a lot of voters away from them. But to an Idealist Fanatic, Ideological Purity always trumps Reality.

                And the More-Woke-Than-Thou Ideological crazies that got all the publicity in the early part of the campaign sure didn’t help.

              • But Bernie is pulling ahead now, and is the strongest, most coherent Democratic candidate. If the Democrats find some phony excuse to shoulder him aside for the sake of giving Biden the nomination, not only will they lose big, they will deserve to lose. They will probably lose anyway, but better to go down with integrity than with nothing but second rate political calculation all over one’s face — which in addition will result in disillusioning young Americans with the Democratic Party for a decade or more.

              • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                And I support the ‘socialism’ models of the Nordic countries, which are VERY supportive of new life and parental leave policies

                Nordic/Scandinavian countries have one advantage over the USA.
                Smaller countries with more ethnically and culturally-homogenous populations.

    • Michael Bell says

      The province is which I live (Ontario), is hugely in debt. But… there are many things that are still needed. Hospital wait times, autism therapy, nursing home beds, pharmacare being among them.

      Our premier, while preaching fiscal restraint, is like a bull in a china shop, and has alienated so many different groups by plunging into areas without considering the consequences or the best way to do things.

      What is needed is someone to say, “here is the money we have to spend, what are our priorities going to be.”.

      My guess is that in the U.S. the savings that could come from the military consortium could fund many of those things that the right wing deem “too expensive.”

      • pretty good guess, but DT is wanting military money for his ‘wall’ . . . but there is some resistance to this for now

  13. Clay Crouch says

    I wonder what Michael would have thought of the Trump phenomenon and his stalwart, evangelical supporters. Maybe I’m wrong, but I get the impression from the Trump supporters who comment here that they think that either he would have supported him or just ignored him altogether. Sadly, we’ll never know.

    • No, we’ll never know, but I can’t craft in my head any scenario that says Michael Spencer would’ve supported Trump and his antics. I just can’t.

    • David Greene says

      Yes it is hard to know. But folks are always trying to pull heroes from the past into their own camp: “Peter was the first Pope,” “Paul was the first Calvinist,” “Bonhoeffer was an evangelical,” everyone fighting over who really owns the spiritual legacy of C. S. Lewis.

      As for Michael, the grounds on which he walked have shifted quite a bit since his passing and it is hard to know where he would have landed had he remained with us but I imagine he would be appalled at what has transpired since his passing.

  14. senecagriggs says

    At I-monk, sometimes out in the open but always in the shadows – President Trump. You guys got it bad.

    • Hello senecagriggs, I’m sure I’m guilty of being VERY interested in the current attacks on my country’s system of law and on our country’s allies and on the US Constitution, you bet. And here’s one reason why:

      a guy borrows millions from many banks and defaults on all his loans, so after a while no banks will loan to him

      except for one

      Deutsche Bank will loan him many more millions, but when one of their loan investigators tells their brass that the man doesn’t have complete and accurate documentation to borrow all those many millions, the brass tells her not to worry about it . . . to give it a pass . . .

      we find out that ANOTHER bank is underwriting Deutsche Banks loans to this man . . . . a bank which is used by Putin’s oligarchs and approved by Putin

      follow the money . . . . . a LOT of money . . . . and connect the dots

      any wonder this man is simpatico with Putin? any wonder this man is attacking our alliances and allies, including NATO?

      we need to follow the money . . . . the drum out there is ‘compromat’ and the Deutsche Bank case goes before SCOTUS soon and that involves another story of even worse corruption

      good to know people are watching . . . some are questioning and others . . are trying to shame them into silence

      but this is the way it is for now, until either the truth comes out OR all questioners are finally silenced

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And when all questioners are finally silenced, the Christians will rejoice.

        Like the two Author Self-Inserts on the last page of Left Behind Volume 12, walking away from the Last Judgment as winners. According to Slacktivist, their last line of dialog is “Now we can finally build a Christian Nation.”

        They have just been in the Timeless Halls Beyond the World. They have just received a New Arda — no, a new Ea — from the hand of Eru Iluvatar Himself. And all they can think of is achieving their Political Agenda.

        (And according to Nyssa the Hobbit’s review of Volume 13 — set during the 1000-year Reign of Christ — their Millennial Christian Nation is about as Righteously heavy-handed as the above two paragraphs would indicate.)

        • their ‘Christian nation’ will be a fascist he!!-hole

          • “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
            (1 Samuel 8:18)

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              “Don’t pray to Me — pray to Trump.
              You chose him as your God; let HIM save you.:
              — God

          • All the horrors of the Inquisition and worse…
            All brought back with a banal and hellish relish by those so inclined…

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              And after a generation or two of living in such a Righteous Christian Nation, the name “Jesus Christ” will have acquired the exact same baggage as the name “Adolf Hitler”. (Except among God’s Anointed on top holding the whip.)

              “So me and mine all got to lie down and die so you can have your Perfect World?”
              — Capt Mal Reynolds

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            But if you’re one of the Anointed Commanders of Holy Gilead (i.e. the ones on top) The System Works Just Fine.

        • Christiane –

          Whatever else might be said, one thing that IMonk would NOT be in favor of is having voices in the wilderness silenced. He was one himself. And whatever else Internet Monk is, it is a place where people who do not have folks in their real life who share their concerns can connect. Are those who are just fine with how the world is going to carp and complain for our pointing that out? Yes. But I am no longer worried about changing their minds, because they have proven that they will not. But we can – and MUST – speak our concerns. Those who do not share them, despite their persecution complex, have PLENTY of venues – in churches, on TV and radio, and on the Internet – to validate themselves. We have IMink, and if they want to join us here, they have to listen to US – we should not have to silence ourselves to accommodate them.

          • Eeyore, thanks

            I know Imonk doesn’t have a problem, thank God.

            I was speaking of the new ‘persecution’ policy that Trump has for whistleblowers which is on-going as I type.

            Hard to think this is happening in THIS country. We used to be ‘the United States of America’ and now we are a trumpian banana ‘republic’ . . . . in under four years, this change

            and Putin, our mortal enemy, is said in the White House to be ‘a good guy’ and the ‘AG’ is a total boot licker in service to his fuehrer . . . too weird for this old lady

    • 4T5 support by Evangelicals highlights Spencer’s Collapse perspective. Evangelicalism in general has lost sight of the Christ path.

  15. Based on todays and yesterdays articles it seems Mr. Spencer was a sincere pilgrim and seeker of truth with a faith of
    believing Jesus was/is King and Messiah. Based on what he professed and his life I believe M. Spencer is with God and that is the blessed assurance he left his loved ones with.. His concerns in some areas now seem dated but his faith foundation will never be outdated. Did not follow him at the time but surely his life produced worth and he had a profound impact on many. He spent the time God allotted him in his world wisely in my opinion. I think he would be honored and humbled by the affection and thoughts he still generates by many at this site. Certainly a good legacy, carried on by the Chaplin Mike in a very gracious manner.

    • we loved Michael Spencer and are very grateful to Chaplain Mike for what he has done to preserve Michael’s legacy

  16. senecagriggs says

    A little therapy – The Spinners Rubberband man

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXcFFNx0_g8

  17. Michael Spencer — a man in transition, on the way, changing in his understanding of himself and his God, not at home in his old locations ecclesial or personal, stretching himself painfully and paying the price of alienation from his former self and communities, striving for honesty, writing of his journey from his own depths, excruciatingly self-critical, unsatisfied, capable of great anger and passion, moving from station to station. And if our faith is true, his journey continues even now with an intensity and depth we cannot even begin to imagine.

    • well-said !

    • Clay Crouch says

      All of those characteristics and experiences you listed are evidence of the metanoia of, as Rohr calls it, falling upward. Michael was and is still a man in transition. May light perpetual shine on him.