January 16, 2021

iMonk Classic: Real Apologetics

This weekend, as we mourn Michael Spencer’s passing, thank God for the hope of eternal life, and comfort one another in our time of loss, IM will feature classic posts from the Internet Monk.

Mike’s Final Post on Internet Monk
February 10, 2010

The ultimate apologetic is to a dying man.

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. “If Christianity is not a dying word to dying men, it is not the message of the Bible that gives hope now. What is your apologetic? Make it the full and complete announcement of the Life Giving news about Jesus.”

    It is wonderful that these were Michael’s last written words to his thousands of readers across the world. Thank you, Michael, for these words and for sharing your life with us.

  2. I have been searching for a way to say ‘thanks’ for all that this site has made to me. I never met Michael and we worked in different contexts (me- rural N.Yorks, GB Methodist minister) but his words meant so much to me. In some ways they anchored me and I felt I was no alone in the post evangelical wilderness- here was someone else; very different, but like me.

    I am glad I encountered his words and his ministry. I hope this site continues as a loose collective of wayfarers who express similar thoughts, who find church difficult, but who will not give up.

    I give thanks for Michael’s life and express condolences to his family and friends.

  3. This article has haunted me over the past couple of days and I am forced to break from the comfort of it all.

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

    I cannot seem to accept this fatalist view of life that Michael seemed to hold. It is as if Michael is saying, “The only thing a Christian should want from life is its end.” This, I believe, is NOT the message of the Bible. We suffer a mortal death to be sure, but I see life after the resurection as a revitalized continuation of this life, a life that God has granted me by His love and grace. This is my Father’s world and He will fully redeem His creation.

    So I will one day “sleep,” but it is my hope that sleep will be temporary and when I awaken I will be in a body and a world no longer ravaged by the devil’s works and my sin. But let me be clear. I believe I will still be in this world.

    Michael had done a great service in his work as Internet Monk, but I must respectively disagree with this particular idea.

    • MWPeak, I am reading what Michael wrote very differently than you are. He made the point of capitalizing the word “resurrection” and resurrection is what he believes in. He believes that our bodies will be resurrected and I know he believed that God loved his creation and would redeem and renew that creation. It makes what we do now very important, so Michael says it is Good News for dying people that Christ is risen, because then they know that life is not really over. So it’s Good News for all of us, but particularly good news for those who are actively in the process of dying.

    • @MWPeak, you need to read the post from April 10th, I think, to get the other half of the story.

  4. I am a lurker who has been reading iMonk for some time now and who’s going to un-lurk after seeing this post pop up for the second time, and because I’m going to miss Michael Spencer greatly.

    The one and only time I’ve offered an apologetic, if it can be called that, to a dying man happened in 1992, some two years after my younger brother died.

    I was a student at Seattle Pacific University at the time and being shell-shocked by grief at my brother’s passing would wander down to the Lake Washington Ship Canal, which ran behind campus, to sit under the trees and watch the water and try to put things together in my mind about how my life could possibly go on now.

    One day in the spring, I was sitting by a tree when I noticed a man with black, thinning hair dressed in an olive-green, Army-issue winter coat who was sitting about 30-50 feet away from me. He had a beautiful small dog with him with burnt orange colored fur, and he was chain smoking. Rapidly. After the 30 or so seconds it took him to finish one cigarette passed, he’d light another. I think he went through two or three as I watched him.

    I felt a powerful urge to go and speak to him but I had no idea what to say. I didn’t feel I had anything to offer, feeling bereft and helpless as I was and in no way interested in talking to a stranger. His dog settled things by coming over and investigating me. The stranger remarked on this, saying “She likes you.” I asked the dog’s name and he said it was Michelle. His name, it turned out, was Michael, as was mine.

    He needed to pour himself out in conversation, it turned out, so all I had to do was listen to what he had to say. He told me that he had been in combat, in Vietnam, and that for years he had struggled with what he had seen and done there. He had wrestled to come to grips with his own homosexuality and had finally been able to come out to family and friends, and had found someone he could make a life with. Then, both he and his partner had gotten THE diagnosis. HIV/AIDS. For all I knew, it had happened a week before or earlier that day.

    His partner, Michael said, was shopping for a gun to make things easier on himself. Michael was working on the deeper question, which he asked me: after all he had seen, done, and been through, did I think, he asked me, did I think that we still mattered to God?

    As I listened to Michael pour himself out like this, I realized two things: 1) Michael’s lifestyle, whatever that was, was not up for debate. It was to be left between God and Michael, the two people whom it most concerned. I was not to offer anything by way of judgment. The second thing I realized was the one that I was able to say out loud. “Absolutely, I think we matter.” “Really?” he asked me. “Absolutely. I’d bet my own life on that.” I replied. And that was all I was given to say and all that I could say. That was the question being asked. Did I matter? Not, who is/was Jesus, or what were/are the Four Spiritual Laws. “Do we matter?”

    Michael’s eyes got wide, staring and moist. He kissed my hand in gratitude and then he and his burnt-orange dog left, never to be seen by me again. My friend Martin, after hearing this story, asked me to tell it again at an SPU chapel related gathering called Group. We were going to be hearing from Rebecca Pippert, an evangelism expert who had written a book at the time called “Out of the Salt Shaker and Into the World” and who was touring it about as part of the evangelical focus on growing converts in the early 90’s. Martin thought my story would be right at home there. So I went and I told my fellow students about my encounter with Michael just as I’ve told it here and then I left, being uncomfortable with acquiring some sort of celebrity on the back of a dying man. Martin stayed for the whole thing and apparently Michael and I were the hit of the night. Ms. Pippert kept referring to that story as an example of good evangelism.

    I’m only telling it here because it’s the one and only place I’d start to offer an “apologetic to the dying”. It’s the root of any religious question. Do we matter? The questions, Why are we here? Why are we so cruel to each other? and all other related points to me center on that. If we do not have a strong sense that we matter so much to the God who created us that He would become one of us, to share our lives and live them under the same conditions as we do but with so much more grace and beauty and courage on his part, then we have absolutely nothing to offer to anyone and should rightly be ignored.

    May God’s peace and comfort uphold the Spencer family. I’m not a part of any church family at the moment, but Jesus is still Jesus to me and may His compassion dwell with the Spencers for a long time to come.

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